Communicating Who and What’s Important

This weekend there’s a lot of talk about rest and work, how it’s important to recognize the hard work people do day in and day out as well as take a rest from doing that hard work. Work is important because it provides for our needs and often plays a role in fulfilling us on a personal level as well. Of course we can’t ignore how important work is to the existence and progress of our world because without work being done daily or on a regular basis the many infrastructures and components that are essential to our lives would quickly break down or become dangerous or outdated.

Work can be consuming, especially if you’re either completely overwhelmed by or totally in love with what you do. It’s normal to have periods of time where you have to devote more time than usual at work, but that should be abnormal and not something you do on a frequent basis. Work should be balanced with fun and family and personal time in our lives. When we aren’t making an effort to have that balance in our lives we run the risk of damaging those other aspects of our lives. Once a relationship has been damaged or we aren’t really caring for ourselves, it’s hard to get back to healthy and whole again.

Between Labor Day and all the hours each day we invest in it either doing it or thinking about it, I think there’s a pretty clear statement that work is important to us, but do we make the same statement about the people in our lives who are supposed to be equally or more important, including ourselves? Are you making healthy decisions for yourself, making the changes to your schedule to spend time with them when they’re free, creating regular events in your calendar to be with them, and especially communicating with them about how much they mean to you?

Each week we’re given 168 hours. If we sleep 40-50 of those hours and work 40-50 hours each week, we’ve got about 70 hours to devote to the people who are important to us and to caring for ourselves. Surely we can make time for a few phone calls, Skypes, text messages, coffee shop visits, dinner parties or date nights in all of those hours.

There’s no underestimating or understating how valuable, treasured and important those moments with your loved ones are. Have you told your loved ones lately that you loved them? What about showing them?  You’ll never regret making time to care for yourself, or telling others that you love them and are thankful for them being in your life.

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.” Aurde Lorde

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The Impact of Positive Leadership

This month the book I read is The Power of Positive Leadership by Jon Gordon. As the title indicates it is a book on leadership, and throughout the book Jon echoes something that I’ve repeatedly shared with clients and on this blog: you can’t be successful without people. It may look like everything is done online, you may never see your customers or clients or talk with them nor they with you, but behind each and every transaction there is a person (typically two since there’s one on the sales side too). Let’s take a look at a few things this book shares about the potential of positive leadership.

One of the most important points made in the book is that you have to believe if you’re going to succeed. That means being an optimist, leading with positivity, limiting the complaining, and seeing potential rather than problems. But Jon was very clear to explain that it’s not just about being positive, it’s about seeing and removing the negative as well. Positive leaders and their teams aren’t immune to negativity or problems, they’re just better about weeding out those issues and addressing them before they become debilitating problems.

The book also talked about the importance of vision and purpose, something that we’ve seen talked a lot about in business trends today. People today identify with businesses that have a purpose because it makes them more human. And having a vision and purpose as a business is great, but Jon explains that that purpose and vision has to have meaning to each individual person on the team, it can’t be just a corporate vision. Yes, they have to agree with the corporate vision and purpose, but then that vision and purpose has to become personal, and they have to have their own meaning for the vision and purpose and be able to bring some portion of it to life in their own special way.

I’ll end with one final tidbit, although there are many more in the book: give people excuses to say yes. The goal as a business owner and leader is to get people to contribute well to your team, to buy your stuff, to share about you with others. How often do you find a business that goes out of their way to make it easy to say yes to what they’re offering? How easy is their sales process, how clear are their product descriptions, how much leeway do team members have to make wins for potential customers or customers with issues, are they sending deals and offers to sweeten the potential purchase? What is the business (and you as a leader) doing to make it more likely that people say yes?

As we head into the autumn season and back to school time, I encourage you to take a look at your team and business and be honest about what type of leadership you’re bringing to the table and what impact the choices you’re making are having on your team and [potential] customers. Even if all you do is better address the negativity, you’ll be instantly improving your business, the business culture and what customers experience when they connect with you.

Ready to Run

One of the questions you hear most frequently from police officers is “why did you run”? Sometimes there’s an understandable reason like they killed someone or stole a ton of money and don’t want to get the really long jail sentence they’re looking at. But more often than not it’s inconsequential, nonexistent, or certainly not worth the extra charges they get for running. When you hear the stories you have to shake your head, especially after you hear again and again that they would have maybe gotten a little ticket had they just pulled over and behaved.

The truth is that running rarely pays. Yet we seem to pick running as a default in many areas of our lives, not just when faced with police. We run from hard situations at work, from relationships that need work, family situations that frustrate us, and homes that need some TLC just to name a few. Yes, sometimes running is the right answer and we should run as fast as we can, for example in abusive relationships, but often we choose to run rather than put in the time and effort to fix things. And there’s nothing wrong with needing a fresh start, but it’s not a good reason for running.

Of course the best advice is to not do anything that will get you into a situation that would inspire you to run like committing a crime or letting any situation in your life get so bad you just want to throw in the towel. Sometimes we just get overwhelmed, and that’s OK. But when we’re starting to feel overwhelmed it’s time to ask for help, to stand up and accept the situation we’ve gotten ourselves into, to stop putting off dealing with the situation, to start taking actions however small to conquer the situation rather than running from it. I encourage you to choose courage today and face your life and the people in it and choose to build a better future.

Making Health Happen

Health is something that’s so important and you definitely notice when it’s lacking. It’s hard to have health issues as a parent because not only do you feel bad, you’ve got kids to take care of in addition to trying to manage your health challenge. It’s also hard to watch your kids go through health issues, because you want to do something for them but there’s little you can do to help. As we head into back to school time and the season change, there’s opportunity for health challenges as well as getting healthier. Even if you can’t avoid health issues, you certainly can do some things to make it easier for you and your family.

Start by making it a practice to live a healthy lifestyle. This means getting out with your family to exercise. Exercise can include hiking, swimming, playing sports, and generally being physically active, encouraging that physical activity certainly in balance with relaxation and the technology that we all love.

It also means encouraging healthy eating practices. Introducing your kids to a wide variety of foods and balancing the sweet treats along with the healthy foods that help our bodies run well and keep us healthy is important but often challenging. There are lots of companies coming up with more appealing versions of healthy foods, but at home you can simply try a variety of recipes until you hit on something that makes a challenging food not only palatable but tasty. Cooking classes may even be something to look into that would be fun for everyone and help with encouraging healthy eating practices.

When the health issues do pop up, encourage rest, relaxation and doing what it takes to get well. It’s rare that any of us can truly stop our lives for long enough to get well, kids or adults, but we can do better about giving our bodies what they need to heal. As an adult if you truly can’t take days off, take half days off or work from home. Kids always get work sent home when they’re sick, so balancing time sleeping, resting, and watching TV and movies with doing homework, cards, puzzles and other thinking activities can help them get well and not be too bored or get too far behind.

As we move into the fall I encourage you to prioritize your health and that of your loved ones. Don’t let it fall by the wayside or wait for something to happen, actively choose to live healthy, mind, body and spirit.

Open and Honest Business

Years ago my eye doctor suggested I change the contact brand I was using because it was sure to be discontinued soon. I didn’t follow her advice (I don’t see her anymore either) and today, some 10+ years later, I’m still using the same brand as I was back then. So why would she tell me that? Was it sales motivated? Was it motivated by her belief that mine are of lesser quality? I don’t know, but I often think about that conversation when I get out a new pair and happily put them in.

This week I was checking out the social profile for a charity I follow and they posted that they’d earned a GuideStar Gold Seal of Transparency. What this means is that they share goals and strategies about their work, information about their capabilities and vision and provide meaningful data to help potential investors be reassured that the organization is a great one to invest in. Charity Navigator, another popular non-profit review organization, also has a similar rating system. I understand why non-profits really need organizations like these, so that they can’t steal money that should go to good causes, but I have to wonder why there isn’t a similar system for for-profit businesses? What difference would be made if they had to provide transparent information so they couldn’t provide sub-par services and products?

And then there’s the talk that’s been going on for the past while about removing likes from Instagram. Just so everyone is on the same page, as I learned this week that doesn’t mean the like button is going away, it just means that non-account owners can’t see how many people have liked a post (and yes, the account owner can see numbers like shares and like counts). I understand the idea here, and in some ways I do support it. But the other side of the coin is that this is social media so will this encourage us to be more or less social and interact more or less frequently with each other? If it just ends up being more organic and authentic interactions I’m great with that, but if it ends up destroying engagement as a whole, it’s not very authentic to the vision and purpose of the business (which is connecting people, not making money).

There’s also the marketing email I got this week asking if I had made a purchase and if I was still interested or not. It’s a fine email, except I had made a purchase 2 days earlier. So clearly there’s a breakdown in communication between departments, that the sales department didn’t communicate with the sales development department (or whatever departments they actually are), and as a result I’m probably not the only one getting confusing emails, emails that make me question if my business was really appreciated or not.

So today our question is one of transparency and honesty. Are you clearly and efficiently communicating with your people? Are you making a serious effort to give accurate and helpful advice and insights or just trying to make a sale? People don’t like to have the wool pulled over their eyes, to find out that the deadline they were given wasn’t really that firm or didn’t even exist after all, to find that the sale price is more than the regular price. Honesty and transparency are rewarded, where does your business and your leadership stand?

Facing Fears

Ah fear. It’s frequently a topic that gets brought up in late September and October with Halloween, but it’s rare that we only deal with fear in our lives for only one and a half months out of the year, let alone schedule it like that. Fears are something that all of us deal with at one point in time or another, sometimes on a daily basis. Some of us are better at conquering fears than others, whether because we’re naturally ballsy and adventurous, or because we’re stubborn and refuse to let anything get the best of us.

But most of us struggle more than we would like to admit or have to deal with when it comes to fear. Maybe it’s fear around change, the unknown, failure, or loss, maybe it’s fear because of a previous experience that was terrible, or maybe it’s just a fear that has no real foundation in personal experience yet cripples us or holds us back (i.e. fear of drowning).  Part of the key of beating fear is knowing what you’re afraid of and deciding if the possible results are really as scary as they seem.  For example, yes, drowning really is that scary, but maybe it’s not so scary to try a new dish at dinner or meet a new potential client or buy a new house, and maybe there’s only a really small percentage possibility that you would drown in the given situation you’re questioning.

Fear is interesting because there are 2 different sides to being successful when it comes to fear.  There’s success in choosing to acknowledge the fear and heed its warning (tying in to the drowning example we’ve been using).  Then there’s success in being able to do something even though you’re afraid, and break through that fear to something potentially really awesome.  There’s also a line between these two types of success and that’s when someone like a herpetologist who has a healthy respect for something fear-inducing (snakes or spiders) but handle or care for them anyway.

As we head into the autumn I would encourage you to work through at least one of the fears that’s holding you back but isn’t likely to be nearly as scary as you think it might be.  You’ll certainly learn from the experience and hopefully build some stronger relationships and personal respect and confidence as you go along.

Rest And Rejuvenation

Lately it’s seemed like the older I get the smarter I have to be and more conscious of how I treat my body (or it lets me know what it thinks). Sometimes I forget that there are working, connected parts and they can be affected and respond in ways that I’ve never experienced. It’s a reminder that they are not stationary and neither should we be in our lives, and that we have to respect and care for them if we want them to last us for our whole lives and not break down more than any genetics or medical conditions (cancer etc.) may cause them to.

In this age of going (and how active and busy/committed both we and our kids can be) it can be hard to stop and rest, but rest is an important part of healing and being healthy, and not taking the time for rest means that we won’t heal as quickly, won’t feel as rejuvenated, and won’t be able to process all that goes on in our lives. Vacations are great for many reasons, but they can be very stressful. Making sure to have several buffer days on either side of the vacation can be helpful in not only preparing for the vacation and returning everything back to rights, but also in giving you the mental and physical time and space you need to rest and rejuvenate.

As we look at going back to school not only is it good to schedule in rest times to the fall schedule, but also to make sure you and the kids take a break before things get crazy again. Even if it’s been a pretty restful summer it’s good to have the time and space to mentally process the changes that are coming up in your life because with every new season there are changes that happen. So whether that’s making (more) time each day for something like meditation, taking longer walks, relaxing on the deck/beach/backyard, doing puzzles or coloring or some other mostly quiet activity, take time to physically rest as well as mentally process all of the things that have gone on in your life and the directions you’re going. How do you rest?

The Slippery Slogan Slope

Whether you use audio or text, communication is one of the most important aspects of your business and directly impacts your success. I can’t tell you how many times I personally have clicked away from a page and potential purchase because it just didn’t have the information I needed to establish if it was the right purchase for me. If it’s a serious or big or necessary purchase that can’t be put off I’ll do the research and visit a couple other websites to find the answers I need to decide if I’m going to make the purchase or not. Often it’s a case of lacking information, but all too frequently the information that’s provided is confusing, contradictory or just plain strange.

I read an article recently by Brooke B. Sellas about 3 marketing slogans she’d change (Apartments.Com, Time Warner, Victoria’s Secret) and I agree with her thoughts on some of the issues that the current slogans have. Slogans change all the time, especially when they’re not central to the brand. But even logos and names which are typically more permanent have been known to change as the business grows and develops.  Reading the article by Sellas got me thinking about some other marketing communications that aren’t helpful to the brand either.

One headline that I recently asked “what does that even mean?” about is a credit card offer that reads “Another credit card that’s not just another card.” Another card that’s not another card? Why not lead with a line about specifically why it’s better/different than some other cards like about the best mileage deal they offer, best cashback program they have, lowest fees they have or something else that sets them apart, instead of trying word soup. Another of my favorite confusing lines are the drug commercials that say “if you’re allergic to x drug, don’t take it.” How do you know you’re allergic to it? Do you have to take it first? Why not just say that you’ll be tested to confirm you’re not allergic?

I have no issue with having a headline or slogan to help you stand out, but I think you get the point that it’s a really easy way to screw up your brand and create a disconnect with your clients and customers. If you know that slogan or those first lines are your opportunity to really catch the attention of your potential buyer, why aren’t we more attentive to what they communicate (and what they say about us as a business)? Don’t choose a headline or slogan just because you think you need one, invest instead in doing your very best to communicate specifics to potential customers.

A Little Compassion

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be beginning the week with a reflection on going back to school. Many of these insights can be applied to how we adults live our lives and how we interact with others, not just insights to help our kids navigate a new school year. Today I want to reflect on the words of the Dalai Lama:

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

It can be scary and intimidating to begin a new school year, even if you’ve been at that school before much has changed with the new year. There’s new people, new schedules, new homework, new topics to study to navigate, not to mention everything that goes on outside of the classroom. Stress tends to make people frustrated, raises tempers and increases fights and disagreements, and if we’re not careful we can easily pass that stress and those feelings on to others.

If instead we as adults chose to practice compassion, consideration and patience, we’d be able to ease some of the stress that kids go through. We wouldn’t over schedule them after school so that they didn’t have time to do their homework. We’d give reasonable amounts of homework. We’d better communicate with them about anticipated questions and issues, letting them know how we can work with them when issues arise. We’d work with them when issues, mistakes and failures happen, focusing less on guilt and more on doing better next time.

If compassion is a road that leads to happiness, it would serve everyone well to work on choosing compassion over other emotions when we’re faced with challenges and changes.

Fighting Hate with Good

Every so often people surprise me in a good way. We’ve been having a bit of a difficult time over the past few weeks with shootings and violent attacks, it’s raised the typical questions of what can we do to prevent this in the future i.e. better control over who can have a gun, which is a good conversation to have. The most recent attacks have raised questions not of mental illness but of hate, which is frustrating because it seems like nothing is changing regardless of how many violent attacks have happened in the years since Columbine and Waco.

It’s hard to explain the concept of hate on this level to the next generation, especially if you don’t understand it yourself. It’s hard to give them reassurance that they won’t have this happen at the next event they attend or school they go to, because you can’t tell what will trigger someone to choose that place for their attack. It’s heartbreaking that we still aren’t understanding the pain that is caused as a result and making the changes so that fewer families have to suffer through losing one or more of their loved ones.

And yet an 11 year old boy is doing something. He’s behind a recent going-viral movement called the #ElPasoChallenge in which he challenged his community to do 22 good deeds for others in response to the recent attack on August 3. In response people are doing simple things like handing out 22 bottles of water to the homeless, 22 packs of gum with an invitation to smile, popcorn and movie coupons and more. The response from kids who are participating is to request to be able to do this more often.

If we raise the next generation on doing acts of kindness and giving back, maybe they’ll never be able to understand the hate that some have and won’t increase the number of deadly shootings that happen in the US. Maybe instead they’ll keep their focus on doing the right thing, on building a better world and making the world a better place for others.  What are you doing to help good win in this fight?