Lonely Leadership

OK, the title of this post is a bit misleading, but the truth is, if you’re lonely as a leader, you’re probably not leading.  Within it’s very nature, leadership requires you to be surrounded by other people.  If you’re a lonely leader, it’s time to take some notes (and then some action).

Looking up: Yes, there should be someone that even you are accountable to.  Maybe it’s the board of directors, maybe it’s your partner, maybe it’s God, maybe it’s a mentor.  Regardless, you should have someone above/beyond you that, while you may lead them some, they’re also helping you lead.

Looking down: There should be a gathering of people following you, these would be considered your customers, congregants or clients.  People will come and go, that’s part of a healthy life cycle.  But there shouldn’t be a time when you look around and wonder where all the people went.

Looking around: this is one of the most important parts of you as a leader: the people around you, or your team.  Maybe it’s the person who answers the phones for you, maybe it’s your bartenders, maybe it’s your virtual assistant; regardless of who is around you, these people often come into contact with your most valuable asset, the customers and clients.  If you don’t have a good team around you, get one!

Leadership isn’t something you can do if you’re all alone.  Leadership requires you to interact with people and guiding them to becoming the best they can.  I encourage you to do two things this week.  First, celebrate and recognize all the people around you, they make you into the leader you are.  Second, if you couldn’t find anyone to recognize, get out there and start connecting!

The Character of Children

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

This week we honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the USA.  He did many great things for the country, including inspiring dreams and helping everyone understand that every human has value, regardless of the color of their skin.  There are many things he said that we could talk about, but I love this quote about the character of his children.

Dr. King knew what it was to raise kids in less than ideal situations.  He knew that all kids have good days and not so good days. He knew that his kids weren’t perfect.  But he believed that he could raise his children, regardless of the situation, in a way that they would grow up to be great people.

Are you up to that challenge?  Will your kids be of great character when they grow up?

Character is comprised of morals, ethics and reputation, which includes actions.  As a parent, it’s less your responsibility to make sure they go to the best schools, do their homework, and have friends, and more so that they’ve got a foundation that speaks loud and proud about them.  That foundation is comprised of the lessons, experiences and values you teach them as their parent.  I think it’s more important that you teach them these essentials and basics, than that they get into the best schools.  I’ve known tons of people who have done great things with their lives even without going to college or having the best (financial) experience growing up.  They’ve made a name for themselves because their parents, or those in their lives when they were very young, helped them create a foundation of strong character.  Money can be made later, good character must begin from the cradle.

What I think Dr. King would say to all the parents is: worry less about the numbers and more about the heart.

This week I encourage you to step up as a parent.  Make sure you’re instilling good values, good morals and teaching your kids what it means to have a good reputation.  They will thank you for that in the future.

Do Your Employees Know Your Goals?

Recently I read a statistic from Stephen Covey which stated that in a poll of 23,000 employees, only 37% said they had a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why.  That’s pretty scary to me.  Let’s make sure that sank in: less than half of the employees surveyed knew what their organization’s goals really were.

For example, let’s say your company’s goal was to save the rain forest, and your way of doing it was selling coffee and using all the profits to purchase plots of land and turn them into either nature sanctuaries or natural parks.  According to this survey, 63% of your employees would say that the goal of the company is to sell lots of coffee, or they would say they didn’t have any idea.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while or have worked with me, you know I believe that a mission or vision for the company is just as important, if not more, than what you’re selling.  The mission and vision are there not only to look nice and help people relate with you, but to actually guide the company and the employees.

Using the example of the fictitious company from before, your mission of saving the rain forest should be evident in each of your stores, in your branding, throughout your social media and other marketing, and essentially ingrained into your employees’ minds.  A good portion of your employees should have chosen to work for you because of that mission.

So, what does this all mean?  First, we have a communication problem.  Employers aren’t getting the message across that they believe is so essential.  Second, they’re not creating a culture where the mission is so evident it’s almost impossible to forget.  Finally, and perhaps most important, employers aren’t teaching their employees the value and importance of that mission, and encouraging them to make it their own.

As a business owner you’ve got a couple of choices once you find out what percent of your employees really know your organization’s goals: one would be to drop the mission since no one knows about it anyway, and the other would be to start educating your employees.  Personally, I vote for the second, because there’s so much that a mission can add to an organization, stuff that can’t be added in any other way.

To make sure you’re clear on your organization’s mission, I invite you to share it in the comments below, and we can begin the education process.

Remembering Relationships

This week the love world lost a great writer, the woman who inspired many and helped many hearts, “Abby,” of the Dear Abby column.  Today I thought I would share a few of her words of wisdom to inspire the families and relationships she cared so much about.

“Loneliness is the ultimate poverty.”

“There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who walk into a room and say, “There you are” and those who say, “Here I am.”

“If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we’d all be millionaires.”

“The less you talk, the more you’re listened to.”

“Fear less, hope more. Eat less, chew more. Talk less, say more. Hate less, love more, and never underestimate the power of forgiveness.”

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”

“Kissing power is stronger than will power.”

“JUST FOR TODAY, I will live through this day only. I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow. I will not set far-reaching goals or try to overcome all of my problems at once.
I know that I can do something for 24 hours that would overwhelm me if I had to keep it up for a lifetime.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If my mind fills with clouds, I will chase them away and fill it with sunshine.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will accept what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things that I can correct and accept those I cannot.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will improve my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration. I will not be a mental loafer.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will make a conscious effort to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, and I’ll not speak ill of others. I will improve my appearance, speak softly, and not interrupt when someone else is talking. Just for today, I will refrain from improving anybody but myself.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will do something positive to improve my health. If I’m a smoker, I’ll quit. If I’m overweight, I will eat healthfully — if only for today. And not only that, I will get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it’s only around the block.
JUST FOR TODAY, I will gather the courage to do what is right and take the responsibility for my own actions.”

Thank you for your wisdom Pauline Phillips.  What have you learned from her writings?

The Catch-22 of Going Viral

Lately I’ve been asked a lot of questions along the lines of “How can I get my business to go viral” or “How can I reach super fanpagedom and have tons of fans yesterday?”  My answer is usually something a long the lines of a good product/concept, lots of luck and maybe a connection or two.  It’s very hard to go viral or achieve stardom in the business world, especially with the ability for basically anyone to start a business thanks to the internet.  Today I’m not going to share with you the secret to going viral, because I don’t have it and I don’t think I want it.  But I do have a couple of other thoughts for us to consider about going viral or achieving stardom.

The biggest gain of going viral or getting a lot of press about your company is that your ideas get in front of lots of people, people who could contribute to or buy from your company.  The hope, of course, is that your idea is actually worthy of going viral.

Catch number 1 with going viral is that once you’ve gone viral you either got to keep playing with the big dogs, or be a one hit wonder.  Now, if you’re lucky some people will stick around to see what else is going on after the big show, but most won’t, unless you’ve got more than one viral video in your back pocket.  You’ve probably heard about the concerns with Apple, because people are worried they’re not going to be able to keep coming out with new and great products anymore.  Which leaves Apple with a choice: keep getting creative, or change what people know you for.

Catch number 2 goes hand in hand with catch number 1.  Going viral is really only worth the work (or having the luck) in the long term if you’ve got something fantastic waiting in the wings.  A viral video is a great way to introduce a band who has a fantastic new album on the way that people can buy.   A Facebook page with tons of likes is great if you’ve got the products or services to back up the community.

My take is, I’m happy if you go viral.  Viralness, like many other things in 2013, is typically fleeting.  So I’m not going to pay much attention until I know that you’re going to stick around, or that your short term benefits are totally worth the effort.

So, if we’re not going viral, what do we do?  How about we go back to making connections, building companies, supporting communities and doing a little old fashioned work?  If you get lucky enough to go viral, celebrate. But spend most of your time on the bigger picture.

What do you think about going viral as a business?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Energy for Living and Loving

One thing I love is the enthusiasm that kids bring to the table regardless of what’s going on.  Yes, sometimes that enthusiasm gets overwhelming and you wonder if they’re ever going to calm down.  But as you probably know, it’s harder to be that enthusiastic as you get older.  How can we as adults capture some of that enthusiasm for ourselves?

1-spend time with kids.  Yes, this sounds obvious to the parenting community, but I’m sad to say I meet many families that don’t spend much time together.  But if you really want to be a great parent and you want to feel as good as your kids seem to, spending time with them is a great way to do it.  The only technicality to mention here is that texting on your iPhone while the kids play in the adjacent room isn’t really spending time together, nor is fighting, arguing, or stuffing your faces with food before you run out to the next appointment.  There has to be laughter, fun, talking (not yelling), games and activities.  Maybe you’re making a mini-pizza snack together and then watching an hour of TV together, and reading a few books before bed time.  Maybe you’re taking a walk on a hiking trail one Saturday morning.  The point is you need to make time for each other, and quality time at that, to be gifted with some of that enthusiasm.

2-relax.  We’re super busy as adults these days, working multiple jobs or putting in extra hours just to make ends meet so we can feed our kids.  This is an unfortunate trend that has trickled into just about every home and has interrupted many families and romances.  How many times have you said to a family member “oh, something has come up…” in the past month?  If you take time to relax and aren’t constantly on the go, your body will naturally have more energy to help you live and feel better.

3-do fun things.  No, I’m not accusing you of being boring!  I’m saying that sometimes we forget to have fun, as caught up in TV, problems and work as we get.  It’s important to have a hobby or plan for at least an activity/night out every 2 weeks, minimum once a month, that can let you focus on the fun of being alive.

4-eat right.  You’ve probably heard it before, but what you eat has a lot to do with how you feel.  Eating right is mostly about eating in moderation.  Yes, some things are really not good for you and should be consumed infrequently, but for the most part, you should just eat smart.  Fill your body with what makes it function well.  You’ll know what works for your body as you try different, healthier, things.

What helps you get going each day, and what can you do to have more energy?

Building a Better Business

I have to say that my favorite businesses and clients to work with are those who are building a better business.  Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of good businesses out there, but some are a cut above the rest.

Let’s start out by defining a good business.  They have a clear service/product offering, have quality service, care about their customers and are good at what they do.  This fits the bill for the millions of businesses out there that make an average income, maybe even a good one.  So what makes a business better?

Better businesses are businesses who are working to fulfill a vision or provide their services or products in a unique way.  For example, there are tons of business consultants, toy stores and jewelry designers.  Individually they all provide the same types of services/products, but what often makes customers choose to work with or identify with a company is how they distinguish themselves from other similar companies.  I’d much rather buy products and services from people who display not only quality services and products, but do it in a way that I can personally identify with what they’re offering.

Think of Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.  Both have good products, at pretty reasonable prices and service with a smile.  But I most often visit Starbucks because I relate more with who they are as a company and how they present themselves to me the customer, than Dunkin Donuts does.

Some companies are able to share their special spice, if you will, through a vision statement.  Others use stories or position themselves in a specific way (think organic food, Apple products, artist style apartments etc.).  Others create an experience for their customers that can’t be replicated yet is amazing each and every time and different from what others in their field offer.

If you’re a good business, I challenge you to make 2013 the year you become a better business.  Do people know why they should choose you over other businesses that are similar to yours?  Why not make it easy for them and spell out why you’re better.

Fresh Families for 2013

This year we’ll be taking a look at some things that are important for families.  Things like:

Heart: family should be all about support and love.  Yet so many families aren’t able to learn to love or at least acknowledge each other.  It’s not easy to love your family members 24/7, they’re chosen for you, you don’t get much choice in the matter of who. But you do have a choice in how you treat each other, and I believe that we should treat each other in ways that are loving, or at least kind.

Health: our relationship with food and exercise begins at home.  If we raise our kids to respect and enjoy food, and not overeat or eat bad stuff all the time, as well as get out and enjoy nature and physical fitness, we’re going a long way to helping raise kids who will become health-conscious adults.

Relationships:  we’ll talk about both the parent-child relationship as well as relationships between couples and friends.  Relationships are what make the world go ’round and give us a sense of balance, hope and help as we go through the challenges of life.  But a relationship is more than just saying I love you, there’s lots to do to make each relationship we care about a success, and it’s important to get rid of the ones that are hurting us or holding us back too.

Responsibility: I believe this is one of the most crucial aspects missing in family life (as well as personal life and work too) today.  If we all acted a little more responsibly the world would be a better place, and we’d have better lives too.

Thankfulness: I know I’m thankful to be here for another year, time after the Mayan prophesy has passed.  It’s a gift that some people didn’t anticipate we’d have, but a gift nonetheless.  I plan to spend my year being more thankful for what I do have and the opportunities that come my way.

What do you think are important for families this year?

The Business of 2013

Happy New Year!  I want to begin this year’s business thoughts with a few hopes, dreams and maybe even pie in the sky ideas.

~don’t do it or say it if you don’t want someone else to see it, online or offline.

~the only way you make money is with people.  A computer can’t buy a soft drink, a tree can’t buy a computer, a social media page can’t buy that hot suit.  People buy from companies.  When will we start realizing this and treating sales and customers as the people they are?

~sometimes your business and your marketing succeed by pure luck.  Typically though, you need a well thought out and smartly executed plan.

~social media is all about… being social!!  This doesn’t mean all advertising, nor does it mean all sharing your cute kid pictures.  It means sharing, caring and getting involved with each other.

~there are many components of success.  Two are: good thoughts, strong actions.

~you can talk until you’re blue in the face, and complain until the cows try to come home, but if you’re not asking the right questions you won’t get the answers you need.

~quality and care increase the value of anything every time.

~no one is a business.  You need a life outside of your business.  The only way you can keep your business healthy and growing with new ideas is if you are too.

~if something is in the way, you don’t like it or your customers don’t respond to it, change it.

What would your words of advice be as we step into this new year?