Facing Your Fears for Victory

Have you visited a haunted attraction before, whether one of those “authentic ghost tours” or a Halloween transformation of a roller coaster or related park? Maybe you went on a dare from a friend or because all of your friends were going, and maybe you even convinced yourself to work one, and on the small chance you haven’t been to one or been part of one, you’ve probably seen some of them on TV. Maybe you ended up enjoying it, but maybe you went through the attraction just because you didn’t want to look like a wimp or to prove to yourself you could do it.

Sometimes we have to be willing to take on our fears or do things that we really don’t think we want to do. Sometimes it’s about proving to ourselves that we’ve got the courage, or to get over a fear, or because we really care about or want to support the person who asked us along. Sometimes though, it’s just about having fun and seeing the creativity that other people come up with.

The same is true for victories, sometimes we have to go through the tough stuff to get to the good stuff. Sometimes we have to do things we’re not necessarily so interested in to get to success. Sometimes we have to kiss a few frogs before we find the prince. Of course we all wish we could skip the issues and just get to the victory, but in many cases, then the victory wouldn’t really seem like one. Of course you can shorten the hills you have to climb by hiring other people to do the less awesome stuff or to help guide you, and you can learn from other people’s mistakes and not do what they did.

So this week I would encourage you to take on something you’ve been avoiding or afraid of doing, or have that conversation you’ve been skipping, in the spirit of Halloween and facing your fears.

Are Parents the Problem?

I was talking recently with a nanny who comes from a family of many children and currently manages a family with 4 children. We got to talking about her experiences and her challenges, and she said something you may have heard before: the kids are a product of their parents. You may have heard something along those lines before, but probably not in the way that she means. For her, as a nanny when considering new families she always takes into greater consideration how the parents are than how the kids are, because she knows that the real issues and challenges (or fantastic experience) will come from the parents, not the kids. Yes, of course it’s challenging to work with kids who are unruly and throw tantrums and aren’t polite. But they often are that way because their parents have allowed them to be up to this point. That doesn’t really mean that the parents have failed, just that they really need to step up and take responsibility, or give responsibility to someone else (and not take over or micromanage).

Initially it’s not easy for the parents or kids, but over time kids do learn to interact differently with different people and in different situations. If you think about two classic examples, school and church, kids act much different at school and church than they do at home. At school you’re expected to use your brain, listen to adults and not be a bully and at church you’re expected to be quiet as a mouse and be on your extra best behavior (even at church picnics and fun events). However at home so many of the “rules” go out the window. In some ways it’s necessary to let go of some rules and give kids time to be kids, but the leadership from parents and respect for adults needs to stay in place at all times, and it can be difficult to be a leader and be respected when they’ve seen you down on your knees making train sounds during play with them.

So how do you get from being an unruly household to one that’s got usually well-behaved kids? Start with love, affection and attention. These three are super important because they show your kids that you do indeed care about them and want them to be part of your life. Follow that up by setting a good example, for example: if they see you disrespecting others (including themselves) when they’re talking by being on your phone, they’ll get the idea that it’s OK to ignore others too. Setting boundaries and time limits consistently can also help because you say that you need 5 minutes to do stuff and then they can have you for a game or to do something (or that you can play for x amount of time but at a specific time you need to go do your thing). Finally, don’t be afraid to screw up and make changes. What you teach them as you work through your mistakes can be as valuable as not making them in the first place. Employing a give-it-a-try attitude can make a big difference in how they approach problems and relationships of all kinds.

If you’re struggling as a parent, this week I would encourage you to make one small change in your relationship with your kids and that would be to love more, be more affectionate and give them your full attention. I’m not asking you to implement any real rules or make any big changes, just be more present for them and with them. What difference will a little love make in your life and theirs?

Let’s Explore Your Business

This month one of the topics we’re talking about is exploring. If you’ve been in business for several years it may seem like exploring isn’t something you should be doing, you should already have all the answers, right? Wrong. If you’ve been around for several years there’s a good possibility that your customer’s needs or wants have changed or at least varied and a strong probability that the marketing tools and practices have changed or at the very least updated since you started.

Exploring isn’t just for those getting started, it’s for everyone who runs a business. When was the last time your products or services were reviewed to see if they’re being made in the most cost effective, earth-friendly, customer-requested ways, let alone if you’re offering something people still really want? Do you really know your customers? Get to know your customers, explore their interests, wants, and needs, both those related to your company and offerings, and those in their personal lives. Know your customers not so you can be intrusive or overwhelming, but so that you can do your best to serve them. What about the wants and needs of your employees? Do you really know your people and do they really know you and your passion for your business? What about your suppliers? Are they providing the quality product you desire and your customers pay for? Is there a better supplier out there that lines up more with your company culture and needs?

Take time this week to explore your business a bit. Take a look at anything that you say “the way things have always been” regarding and see if it’s time for an update. Most businesses I connect with have something good to work with, but have some rough edges, have lost their way a bit, or are just a bit out of touch with things that would help them grow and move forward to better serve their customers and support their employees and community. So you may not need to do a complete overhaul, maybe that just means some tweaks here and there, so that you’re in 2017 and not several years earlier, or even better, ready for 2018. And it may turn out that exploring your business will help relight the fire you had for it if it’s burned out or gone low, too. Have you explored your business lately?

Interested in Success?

This weekend in reading one of the daily news headline newsletters I get I read an interesting statement:

“”A few weeks into training, Lulu began to show signs that she wasn’t interested in detecting explosive odors.” The CIA, in a statement explaining why Lulu, a Labrador retriever, failed to make the cut in its explosive detection “puppy class.””

What really stood out to me in this quote was one word (aside from the fact that we’re talking about a dog here): interested. I can give you a list of things that you can do to be successful, businesses you could start that could be successful, or ways to make your relationship successful but if they don’t interest you or you’re done with the relationship, you’ll have a difficult time really seeing things through or seeing the results you want to see.

That’s not to say that Lulu doesn’t have a fantastic future ahead of her as a search and rescue dog or therapy dog or even just as a family pet, she just isn’t cut out to be detecting explosives, and it’s an important lesson for all of us to learn. There’s not one definition of success that fits for everyone or that everyone follows. Just because I find success through one path doesn’t mean that you’ll find success the same way. Are there things that many people can use or do to become successful? Yes, including communication, learning and taking action. And there’s a lot we can learn from each other and even to an extent copy from each other. But there comes a point in time that you have to step up and be there or do it or try again.

There’s only so much faking you can do before you either make it or try something different. If you really think you are going in the right direction personally or professionally, I’d encourage you to make some time this week to relight your interest. Maybe it’s just a serious discussion, maybe it’s doing better with delegation, or maybe just standing up for yourself, but recommit yourself to that interest and get the support you need to follow through.

Motivated to be Organized

Over the past week I’ve been doing some organizing in my office. I enjoy organizing and it’s something I do on a regular basis for clients, but if I’m completely honest there’s something comforting about the piles and having things around you, so I get why some people get sucked into the disorganized trap.  I enjoy seeing everything in a place though and knowing that everything has a home. It’s also nice to have a clean desk and and neat shelves to look at. So it got me thinking about the motivation and inspiration behind organization and getting everyone in the family more on board with being clean and clutter free.

Organization means that you can easier rotate through kids toys so when they’re bored with some toys you’ve got others you can bring out that they haven’t seen in a while. Organization also means less clothes in the closets and drawers because you’ve got everything for the cold/hot season that it’s not boxed or bagged away, and if you don’t have hot/cold seasons then you can follow the concept of the toy rotation and rotate your clothes that way as well. Organization also means that it’s easier to find things because you’ve got only the stuff you need and it’s all in a home where you always know you can find it.

So what about motivating people to be organized, whether adults or kids? It’s a little easier with kids because you can add cleaning up their toys and putting clothes in a hamper or their closets/drawers as part of their chore list or as part of the list of ways they can earn money. You should make it as easy as possible for them, whether having a storage system that’s low to the floor so they can reach it all (think low bookshelf height) or spending some time with them while they clean and getting the boxes down for them from taller shelves and then helping to re-store them after cleaning.

If you’re motivated as an adult to get clean and organized you can either make the time to do it yourself, a little every day whether at the end of the day or as part of your morning routine, or hire someone to tidy up on a daily/weekly basis. If you can’t get your partner to do their organizing, then you should do the organizing and give them one of the other tasks you typically do that they’re more inclined to do so you don’t have to do both it and organizing.  As far as hiring someone, there’s no reason to feel shame or as though you’re lacking if you can’t find the time to do it yourself, you just have priorities that are more important than cleaning up. The only way shame should become a factor is if the “priorities” that you’re putting ahead of cleaning up are just watching TV (something you could do while organizing) or going out with friends every night or surfing the internet and YouTube.

Once you’ve got a system in place it takes a lot less time to clean up as long as you’re consistent about doing so. So as daunting as it may seem right now to get organized, once you’re over that hurdle, as long as you’re committed to consistently cleaning up it’s really not as bad or challenging as it could be if you let things keep going as they are. I encourage you to make time this week to work with an organizer or set up a system yourself that works for you and your family.

Safe At Work

This past week we’ve been hearing lots of stories from women about the unwanted attention in work situations. Of course, there’s the bullying that goes on in schools and with young people around the world, and the unwanted attention or violent actions women (and some men) face outside of the workplace as well, including too many domestic violence situations, and I talked about that on my other blog today. According to Facebook, over “45% of the people in the United States are friends with someone who’s posted a message with the words ‘Me too'”, and that’s just the people who are willing to talk about it! So this is a serious situation that really needs to be addressed, and here today I want to talk about the importance of making the workplace as safe for everyone as possible.

Work safety starts with the boss and management. I can’t tell you how many stories I hear about bosses that spend time screaming, yelling, berating, ignoring and fighting with their employees, not to mention the employees who are just unappreciated by their boss(es). If you want your people to feel safe working for you, you need to be the best leader and human possible. You need to remember that we’re all human and mess up on occasion, give them the education and tools they need to do their jobs, and let them know you appreciate them doing their jobs.

Second, there needs to be an amount of respect between all of you. They may not have your title or your education or your finances, but that doesn’t mean they’re worthless or worth less than you are as a human being. They may be replaceable, but at what cost? If you treat them like trash there’s a high likelihood that they’re not going to say anything positive about your company, and some may even go so far as to tell their friends and family or even companies they work for in the future never to buy from you (who may pass on the word to others not to buy from you).

Finally, while it doesn’t have to be something you shout to the world, as a business you should have a plan and resources that your employees can tap into if they face unwanted attention or violence through work or their personal lives. This isn’t about having the required sexual harassment seminars that people joke about afterwards or a file at the back of a file box from the first day the company opened however many years ago. This is about genuinely offering support that people need as well as letting all your employees know that violence and unwanted attention aren’t going to be allowed. In some cases you can work with offenders if they’re willing to honestly get help for their issues and commit to acting differently in the future, but no one should feel unsafe going to work. You can share resources through a page on your website that employees have the link and password for or an email you send out on a regular basis depending on the turnover in your company (but at least yearly). If you really want to stand up as a company in the community you can offer career training and support at local shelters and donate to domestic violence organizations and other organizations that fight or raise awareness about these situations.

The fact is there’s a larger majority of people who have a job than have a significant other. Work is something that most people do on a daily basis, so the workplace should be the place that people feel most comfortable and are safest. So as businesses we need to step up in a big way to show that unwanted attention isn’t OK and that women (and men) everywhere have the right to come to work without being harassed or mistreated. I encourage you to take a good look at your business before the end of the month and make sure that you’re making your workplace the best it can be for your employees.

Are You Satisfied?

Today I got to thinking about what it means to be satisfied. We live in a world where good seems to never be good enough, where many people are unsatisfied in their relationships and their jobs, not to mention financial situations. Before we can talk about taking action, we have to talk about what it means to be satisfied.

First, you can’t be satisfied in a bad situation. The word “satisfaction” means that you have to be ok with the situation, you can’t be unhappy or displeased. Satisfied doesn’t mean perfect though. If you have satisfaction in a situation or about a project, it means you know you’ve done your very best and that while more work could be done, it wouldn’t ultimately greatly improve the outcome or performance.

I believe that it’s best to be satisfied with a situation before you move onto a new one, or at the very least come to terms with it. What do I mean by this? Well, if you’re in a bad relationship or hate your job or your business is failing, don’t just give up and switch gears. This will only cause problems for you and others years from now.

Satisfaction requires an understanding of what has happened and why. I don’t suggest that you pick apart every failure or bad moment to find the turning points and things you should have done differently, I think that we all need to spend a little time in reflection of the past and present before we move onto the future.

But, just because I’m satisfied with the outcome of something, that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit back and not make any new goals or dream bigger for the future and next part of my life journey. Yes I’m satisfied with who I am and where I am, but I still want more! This is healthy and nothing to be ashamed of.

This week I encourage you to take a look at your life. How are you feeling right now? Are you OK with where you are and what you’re doing? Now take a moment and make plans for the rest of this week, the rest of this month and the rest of this year. What are you going to do now, what do you need to be doing in the next few weeks and months to really be satisfied with your life in 2017 when January rolls around in a few months?

Life with Loss

The month of October makes people think about things like death and fears. They’re not easy topics to talk about or think about, but all of us are affected by them. Some people have fears that become debilitating, while others of us are mildly bothered by things that we call our fears. What I’m thinking about today though is in the family of the death topic, that of loss.

All of us experience losses over the course of our lives. We’ve heard stories of people and pets who pass away after they lose the person they loved. We’ve seen how drastically the loss of a person in our life because of divorce or separation or distance can negatively impact a person, maybe leading to destructive habits or depression. It’s funny because we’re so insistent upon doing things for ourselves and being able to stand on our own to feet, and yet we are so affected by the ties that bind us.

Unfortunately, with the way that life is right now we are faced with losses. We do get separated from our pets or loved ones or people who we may not really love any more but played a significant role in our lives for a period of time, that’s the reality of life. The question is what will you do after that loss? Will you choose to stop living because they do or because they’ve left you? Or will you choose to see that you’re more than that person, that you can learn from your time together, even appreciate it, and still be able to move on and keep living? Because I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have something they could contribute to the world. Everyone, regardless of age, health, location or any other factor, has the ability to make a difference in someone’s life. Yes, death and loss are painful, and we should take time to process that large change in our lives. But I can’t think of one situation that the other person would want you, or anyone, to give up on life. Loss is part of life’s journey, where your journey takes you is up to you.

Back to the Brand

Today I thought I’d talk a bit about a topic that I’ve touched on in the past but it’s been a while since I really devoted time to it, because this week a client approached me because they were having trouble with branding, so it got me thinking about what branding is and how we work with it in our individual companies. According to dictionary.com, a brand is “a kind or variety of something distinguished by some distinctive characteristic,” “to impress indelibly,” “a trade name or trademark,” and/or “to give a product a distinctive identity by means of characteristic design, packaging, etc.”

So what does that mean to you and your business? I believe that branding is personal, and if it’s not personal and you (and any partners) don’t like it, the company won’t do as well. You have to be comfortable with, excited about, and connected to the brand you choose. That doesn’t mean it won’t change or develop over time, but whatever you go with now or in the future, it needs to be something you like. And once you settle on something you like then you can get feedback from others to make sure it’s crowd friendly too.

So how do you decide on a brand? From the definitions above your brand can be reflected through anything from the words you use to the images you use to the packaging you have. There are lots of sites you can look at to get ideas as far as what other people have done or how to pick colors that work with the feeling behind your company (and brand), but again, what you put on your site has to be something you’re comfortable with.

Why? Because once you’ve established your brand you have to show or say it everywhere. If I talked about little blue boxes you’d think about a particular jewelry company; they don’t put things in any other color boxes, just blue. If I said “Just Do It,” you’d think of a particular sports company that encourages everyone to get out there and be active and live their lives. If I talked about the ‘happiest place on earth’ you’d think of the feeling you get when you watch a particular company’s movies or going to their theme parks, a feeling they hope extends to other parts of your life as a result.

So what about your company? Have you established a brand and consistently taken it through all of your offerings, customer service solutions and presentations/packaging? If you don’t have a brand, establishing one could help you stand out among other companies in your industry and connect better with potential customers.

A Strong Foundation?

Something that I’m a big believer in is the concept of foundation. In so many situations there has to be a firm foundation before other steps can be taken. Yes, sometimes there are ways around it, but often to get the full and best experience, that only happens when there’s a firm foundation in place and consistently cared for. I believe that we have different foundations in many areas of our lives, including our family, our children, our partner, our work/career/business, our community and even in how we are with ourselves.

Let’s start with what might be the most important foundation: that of your personal foundation. This foundation has to do with how you see yourself, if you believe in yourself, how you treat yourself and if you respect yourself. You may be cringing as you think about your personal foundation, because too often it’s the one that we let slide because we’ve got so much going on in our lives that it seems like we’re the last thing that should be taken care of. But, as is true for so many situations, if you’re not taking care of yourself and making sure that your foundation is strong, it will end up affecting the foundations in the other areas of your life, and the other people who depend on you.

It’s important to take care of the foundations you have, because the foundations are what you build and grow from and what gives you the strength and guidance to navigate and survive challenges. The business foundation you have helps you decide if/when a person isn’t a good fit anymore or an idea shouldn’t be implemented because it’s not in line with your mission/vision/purpose. The relationship foundation you have with your partner means that you’ve established the common ground that you both connect through and identify with, and that you rarely have serious fights. The foundation you have with your kids should be one of mutual love, of your support of them, and of their respect for you as their parent.

The foundation is what everything else is built on, it establishes a starting point and a point to which you can return, it is a reference point when the going gets tough and it should give you a sense of peace even when what you’re building isn’t so stable. How is your foundation today?

“The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty.” Zig Ziglar