I Dream of Dates

This week we’re finishing up a look at 3 things you can do to improve your relationship with your partner. We’ve already talked about communication and meeting each other’s needs, so this week we’re talking about the importance of a regular date night.  I’m a huge believer in date nights.  No, I don’t believe you have to go out every week and spend tons of money on extravagant shows or restaurants, or even stay out more than 3 or 4 hours. You also don’t have to go out at night if your schedules don’t allow it, day dates are lots of fun too. But a date is designed to somewhat isolate you and your partner and give you the chance to strengthen your relationship, appreciate each other and be grown ups.

Date nights are especially important when kids join the picture.  Kids are great and I don’t believe that parents should dump them on schools, afterschool programs or nannies and leave the teaching and raising to them.  But no one can parent alone and kids do add complications to your relationship that make it necessary to take a break sometimes because while they’re part of your relationship they can’t be the whole thing.  When that line is crossed it can cause long lasting damage to your relationship because it’s no longer your relationship, but a relationship that is overly influenced by others.

Dates give you and your partner the chance to be yourselves again and be adults, not adults with kids.  If you don’t take the time to be adults and enjoy adult pleasures you’re missing out on living a truly full life.  Kids make your life very full, but there is more to life than just other people.  Sometimes it’s necessary to be selfish and take some time for yourself and get some perspective, not to mention relax.  Going out gives you two the chance to strengthen that connection that brought you together and keeps you together and strong despite the challenges you face.

When you are no longer intentional about making time for you and your partner to be alone, do fun things or just be quiet together the chance of fights, broken relationships and divorce dramatically increases.  Your relationship can only thrive when you put actual time and effort into it.  When that’s not there, there’s nothing to keep the relationship healthy and strong.  You will always have a bond because of your child, but it won’t be enough to truly satisfy you in your relationship and keep it going healthy and strong.

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Doing Less to Do More

I’m a big believer in options.  I don’t encourage clients to focus on one thing and one thing only in their life or business or have only one product or service they offer.  Why?  Simply because it’s like having a job, you lose it and that’s it.  There’s no safety net, no options, no backup plan.  Balance may be a myth, but I don’t believe you can put your eggs all in one basket and expect that there will always be eggs there.  If you’re 100% focused on your business for an extended period of time  you can’t seriously expect to pick things up with family and friends as if nothing has changed when you finally leave the office.  It’s like expecting the seasons to not change just because you really enjoy summer.  So I always encourage that you find time for the other stuff in your life, as well as in your client’s and employee’s lives too.

But having too many options or responsibilities in your life also can cause big problems.  When you’ve got too much going on many areas begin to suffer.  When your employees can’t handle all the work you’re giving them their output, attitude and passion for your business will suffer.  We can only push at 110% for so long before there’s a train wreck.  So with that in mind, here are a few tips and action steps for you to take to find some of that mythical balance.

1-have an open door policy and be in regular contact.  No, I’m not suggesting you have super long meetings every week checking up on everyone, but I am recommending that your employees and clients know they can come to you when stuff is hitting the fan and they can’t do it all.  This isn’t an invitation for employees or clients to be lazy, but a reminder that the culture of the work as well as company recommendations will suffer when expectations or responsibilities are too high.  Working hard is good, overworked is bad.

2-take time off.  Have a solid policy in place for yourself and your employees and recommend your clients adopt one too.  I have set days in my schedule that I take off or only do work on my business and don’t see clients. Taking days off and establishing a semi-regular schedule each week helps you stay focused and sets up boundaries for employees and clients.  If you don’t care for yourself or about your business, why should they?

3-always know what matters most.  People are at the top of that list for me.  Money, possessions, fame, success, these all have to take a backseat to making sure that people are valued and taken care of.  Know what your priorities in life are and set up policies and procedures to make sure that the priorities are in order.

Having options but not letting yourself get overwhelmed in them is the first step to making your dreams a reality.  What step will you take today?

Getting Beyond Failure

The past few Wednesdays we’ve talked about the unfortunate fact that many leaders are failing in their positions and as a result they’re failing their companies.  Those who see failure as the end-all, be-all are missing out on a big portion of what failure is.  Failure isn’t the end.  It’s simply an indication that you need to try something different.  You’ve heard from plenty of people that you need to try new things; from vegetables as a kid to drinks as an adult, people are always suggesting new things for us to try.  It’s good to try new things because new experiences give us more knowledge and we all know that knowledge is power.

I’m not sure who decided failure was evil, but that person has ruined a lot of lives.  What do I mean? Well, by declaring failure as evil we’ve been given a direct challenge to who we are: people who aren’t perfect.  If we’re not perfect how can we be expected to not make the occasional mistake or have the occasional failure?

What we need to start remembering is that failure is a natural part of life, just like thunderstorms and snow, birth and death.  There is no way to get around these things, we’re all going to die one day and it always snows somewhere in the world, so why are we trying so hard to not fail?

There are a few things we can do.  First we have to accept that failures will happen.  Second, we have to stop jumping on people as soon as they fail.  Failure feels bad enough, do we need to make it worse? Finally, we have to look at other people’s failures closer because if we learn from their failures there’s less of a chance of us repeating that failure.  Will you choose to see failure as a bad thing or a good thing this week?

“An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he’s in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots.” Charles Kettering

Everyone Has Needs

Last week I started discussion of 3 keys to relationship success, starting our conversation with the topic of communication.  Today we’re continuing with talking about meeting each other’s needs.

It’s important to preface this discussion by sharing my firm belief that you cannot depend on someone else to make you happy. Others can contribute to your happiness or unhappiness, but they don’t have the final say, you do. If you’re not happy it can only be in part because of what someone else did or does, not fully.

A truly happy relationship is only possible if both partners contribute. So it would make sense that if you do your very best to make someone else unhappy, yes some people do that kind of thing, your relationship will not be a happy one. It is almost impossible to be part of a relationship in which one partner is unresponsive, doesn’t participate or does the opposite of what you’ve asked, which is one reason why there are so many divorces and miserable couples in our world today. Yes, it does go back to communication, but there comes a point in time that communication has been clearly ineffective and a decision has to be made if you’re going to stay, go or do something drastically different.

One of the other reasons relationships struggle in this area is because the partners don’t learn what does make them personally happy and how to help each other be happy. This means knowing your tastes, your likes and dislikes, and your preferences as well as theirs, communicating those preferences to each other and most importantly being willing to take action on those interests. It’s about more than just compromise, because sometimes you’ll give and sometimes you’ll take in the relationship, and that’s OK, as long as it reverses itself as well and your partner gives and receives too.

Your relationship shouldn’t be a tug of war between the two of you, it should be something you enjoy.  But there can be no enjoyment if you’re not working together to do what’s best for all involved, which includes meeting each other’s needs.

Fixing Leadership Failures part 2

Last week I shared some of the most prevalent issues leaders are facing including:

Emotional issues

Vision/mission/conviction

Setting the example

Distance from business

Overachieving/Underachieving

You’ve probably seen these in leaders you’ve been exposed to and seen the failed businesses that can result if the issues aren’t corrected.  But the worst thing you can do is see a problem and not try to correct it.  So today we’re finishing the conversation about what you can do to avoid, resolve and clean up from these 5 pressing issues.

Avoiding: of course avoiding these debilitating issues in the first place means that you have good communication with your team and clients, you’re all on the same page when it comes to expectations and responsibilities, you are present in and knowledgeable about the business and all that goes on, and you show trust and genuine care for your employees.

Resolving: if you’re at the point that resolution is necessary, you first have to realize that you can’t undo the past.  You can only move forward with the lessons you’ve learned. First you’ll have to clearly communicate the new rules and expectations.  Second you’ll have to follow through for a significant period of time so that your customers and employees know you’re serious about the new direction.  Finally, you’ll have to make sure that the tools and support are in place so that these things don’t happen again.

Cleaning up: damage control is never pretty, but the best way to move forward and clean up is to take educated action.  This means that not only will you do an inquiry into why the issue happened, you’ll then take action to not only clean up or fix the issue, you’ll do what it takes to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  During the clean up you’ll want to make sure that you’ve heard the feedback and suggested courses of action from all involved.  Don’t be deaf to the people who were hurt by or involved with the situation, and don’t just make a scapegoat to pacify people.

What recommendations do you have for resolving leadership issues?

The Real You

There comes a time that we have to make the decision if we’re the person we want to be and if not what we’re going to do about it.   Maybe you’re there.  Maybe you are tired of the life you have.  Maybe you like your life but you want more.   Maybe things have never seemed right for you.  Maybe you’re tired of being reminded about and dragged through your past.  Whatever the reason you’ve reached this point you’re wondering how you got here and how soon you can get to where you want to be.  This is actually a good thing, because rather than fighting (or continuing to fight) the feelings you’re ready to make changes in your life.  When you’ve reached this point you’re open to what it will take to change your life to make it a life you’re happy with.  Maybe it will be easy and maybe it won’t, but you won’t know until you get going.

Often we get stuck in what we know the past to be.  Why? Because it’s familiar and we know how it works; there are few surprises.  Of course it probably won’t get much better than it is.  So we’re stuck with the familiar and what we have until we just can’t take it anymore.  Sometimes little doubts and lies sneak into our brains and we wonder if this is really all there is and it will just be too much work to separate from our past or get to the future we desire.

What I do know is that your past isn’t an indication or indicator of what your future has to be.  Your future will be what you make of it.  If you don’t change things they will remain as they are.  If you make bad choices things will probably go poorly.  If you make good choices you’ll end up close to, where or better than where you wanted to be.   Yes, it will take some work to get past the past and heading to your future, but very little that is really worth it is effortless.

“A man, as a general rule, owes very little to what he is born with – a man is what he makes of himself.”  Alexander Graham Bell

Communication in Your Relationship

I believe that one of the biggest reasons for successful relationships is the effort you put into it. No, not necessarily how much time you put into it or how perfect you each are or how many kids you have or how successful your jobs are or how much money you have, but the effort you put into your relationship. Sure all of those things and others are factors that contribute to the strength and health of your relationship, but effort can help you succeed even when other areas are struggling.  That effort is revealed in how well you’ve learned to communicate with each other, if you’re willing to meet each other’s needs, and having a regular date night. Over the next 3 weeks we’ll be looking at each of these and how we can better cultivate these important aspects in our relationships.

Today we’re starting with communication. I’ve shared about communication many times before. Why? Because it’s one of the most important aspects and so many people know this and yet they don’t do anything about learning how to be better communicators. No, you don’t necessarily have to take classes, but you do have to practice good, clear and concise communication with each other. This means knowing how often your partner would prefer to hear from you, not using shouting as an “effective” communication method, and learning how to be a good listener.

Making an effort to communicate clearly and efficiently with each other means that there will be fewer misunderstandings, fewer assumptions made and fewer issues to clear up; 3 things that can easily kill any romance. Yes, there will still be some miscommunications and crossed lines, we are busy people and sometimes we get scared and don’t share what or as much as we should. But if we’re making a more consistent and conscious effort to communicate with our partner these times will be fewer and farther between. We’ll also have fewer fights and healthier relationships with our kids, and our kids will learn how to be good communicators from our examples which will benefit them immensely.

How do you and your partner communicate, and what have you learned works for you and doesn’t work for you?

Fixing Leadership Failures part 1

I’ve always said that leadership is one of the key aspects to the success or failure of a business. When the leader is good the business will succeed, when the leader is not leading well the business will struggle or fail. Today we’re going to talk about some of the failures leaders are struggling with, and next week we’ll talk about how we can resolve those issues and be better leaders.

Some of the most prevalent issues include:

Emotional issues

Vision/mission/conviction

Setting the example

Distance from business

Overachieving/Underachieving 

Emotions: when it comes to emotions some leaders aren’t willing to get emotionally involved in their businesses or employees, and others get too emotionally involved which can make decision making more complicated and less effective.

Vision/mission/conviction: if you don’t believe in your business and have goals for your business that are more than just monetary goals it is very difficult to encourage buy-in from both employees and customers.  Visions and missions that are in name or words only are equally damaging, and often encourage mockery of the business.

Setting the example: all too often employees feel like the leadership in the business have no clue what really goes on.  Unfortunately it’s true: some leaders are clueless.  When leaders stay in their corner offices all day they aren’t aware of what goes on each day to run the business and make it all work which can lead to high employee turnover and general unhappiness.

Distance: we’re all familiar with people who have to have their hands in everything, the control freaks, the busybodies, the micromanagers.  There’s a line between telling people what needs to be done and outlining each and every step that must be taken for that to be accomplished.  Other leaders are totally unaware of the havoc their employees raise in the business and the true health or lack thereof of the businesses culture.

Overachieving/Underachieving: it’s good for a leader to have goals, but to try to accomplish everything all at once isn’t possible, nor is it possible to get much done without having the right help.

What are your thoughts on some of the areas that leaders are failing in right now?

The Fear of New

People today have a serious aversion to change. Most of us do all we can to avoid changes, new things and new experiences. Ironically, only through new things can we really grow, prosper and be fulfilled as people. Yes, change and new things can be scary, and in some cases we’re right to fear those changes. There are some people out there who try to fill the world with bad stuff and strike fear into people through their words and actions. Fortunately, there are lots more people using change for good (we just don’t hear about them in the news too often).

But for most of us to get where we want to go we have to make some changes, after all I haven’t met anyone who is perfect yet (and I’m not holding my breath). The really successful and happy people are those who are willing to try new things, make changes, and go for it even when they feel fear. No, they’re not fearless, they feel the fear and work through it. They may fear failure, changes, problems, people with grudges, those who can’t understand passions, or not having all that is necessary to make their goals a reality, but they don’t let that stop them.

So what if the key to success wasn’t a lack of failures, but a willingness to try new things and be open to new ideas? What if in addition to doing one thing that will bring us closer to our goals each day we tried one new thing? There’s no guarantee we’ll like the new thing, but by trying new things, meeting new people and being exposed to new ideas you’ll gain an invaluable perspective on the world, your goals and how to achieve the success and fulfillment you desire.

“The most important thing people did for me was to expose me to new things.” Temple Grandin

A Touchdown for Moms

Last night I was watching a bit of the NFL draft on TV and was again struck by how many people are involved in the things that go on around each of us.   For a football team there are the people who build and maintain the stadium, there are people who coach the team, there are the different players with different roles out on the field each week, and there are fans who attend games, and read and watch everything they can on the sport.   If you’re not a football fan you’ll probably understand if I share about a supermarket.  For a supermarket to function there have to be people who make/grow the food, people who shelve the food, people who sell the food, people who buy the food and people who eat the food.  The point is that very little happens without other people being involved.  The draft, especially round/night one is especially exciting for the players who are chosen because it’s a public statement that someone else in the world thinks they’re valuable.

The people who get picked in the first round aren’t solely responsible for their success.  They’ve had many coaches and teammates who have supported them up to that moment and helped them develop their amazing talent.  The draft is really focused on the people who have the potential to become greats like Joe Namath, Michael Strahan, John Elway, Deion Sanders and many others.  But behind each and every one of those great players is a mother.  They each have someone who birthed and raised them, maybe several someones if they were blessed with an extended family or supportive neighborhood.  Last night was a special gift for each of the people who had a role in raising those men.  I’m sure that quite a few of those men made phone calls last night that started something like “I got picked Mom!”

It’s not easy to be a mother and go through all of the challenges that children today face.  We can’t do it alone, but neither should the mothers of the world be forgotten for their role in shaping our world.  With the extra responsibility mothers have it can be easy for us to pick out their mistakes and blame them for all that has gone wrong in the world, and there is lots of opportunity for improvement.  But just for today, just for this weekend, let’s take time to celebrate the moms who have made our world so special.    Wish a mother in your life Happy Mother’s Day.