Assumptions and Honesty

I watch a lot of cop shows. I enjoy some nature and educational programming as well, but my go-to are things like CSI and Cops. More often than not they’re background noise, and I’m not actually watching them, but even with just listening to them as I go in and out of a room or read emails or do paperwork, you learn a lot about the people that we share this world with. I certainly have a greater understanding for the work those who protect and investigate do, and today I thought I’d share a few lessons I’ve learned that we can all apply to our lives and our success.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone run from the cops or commit a crime or lie because they made a false assumption. Sometimes it’s that they think they have a warrant or don’t think they’re that drunk or think someone took a couple of dollars from them, but regardless of what they’re assuming, often they’re wrong. And if they’re not wrong, it’s often something so insignificant their actions end up turning an ant hill into a mountain.

It’s dangerous to let assumptions play too large of a role in your life. They can be helpful in giving you a baseline to work with, but if you choose to operate by assumptions you’ll often end up in trouble or consistently apologizing for being wrong or blowing things out of proportion.

One of the other things that you see occasionally on the shows and you hear about in the news are cops being aggressive. Especially in more recent programing you hear them explain to people why they were so aggressive, and it’s because they want to go home at night. Now, I’m not suggesting at all that violence is the answer or that some in law enforcement aren’t too aggressive, simply that they have a little more leeway than others do when it comes to how they respond towards others.

All of these shows are about people who have lives, want to have lives or want to live. It turns out that that’s what we’re all about too. I assume that I’ll be able to see tomorrow, enjoy food tomorrow, see my partner tomorrow and make a difference in the world tomorrow. It’s an assumption that I’m fairly confident in being able to make, but I just don’t know for 100%. Life truly is a gift, one that can change or be taken from us at any time. If we were to respect each other a little more, listen a little better, be a little more honest, we’d all live a little longer, happier and better.

In the Business of Data and Privacy

On many of the lists that came out in the beginning of this year regarding the direction that business will take this year was the topic of privacy. Last year saw a number of data issues, and an increase in people being more aware of the digital decisions they’re making. More emails, more social posts, more audio, more content of all kinds is being created every day, and on an increasing pace. Today I thought we’d talk about data, privacy, and how all of it ties into ads and marketing.

Whether we’re talking personal or professional, no one really wants their information stolen. So it goes without saying that people and businesses need to be more conscious of the information they’re putting out into the world, that protections are improving and kept updated, and that people’s information is respected and not taken advantage of when information is shared.

From a marketing and business perspective I think it’s great that we’ve got so much data to tap into, it gives us the ability to spend our marketing dollars smarter because we’re able to tap into the people we want to target and not those who would never buy from us. The other side of it is that we have to be more respectful than ever of the information we’re given or able to tap into, because it’s easier for trust to be broken and for us to lose a potential life-long customer because we spammed them or were disrespectful of their trust.

From a customer perspective, they’re still willing to provide their information, as long as there’s a clear reward and their information and privacy is respected. It’s one reason why it’s so important to have not only an unsubscribe button in all emails but also a link that will allow them to update or remove information including email address and physical address. If you’re requiring information more than name and email up front, make it clear why you’re requiring that information, and consider if it’s really necessary at that moment or if you’re just trying to squeeze information from them.

So what are your thoughts as a business and a consumer when it comes to data and information? What is your company doing to help protect your customers and take advantage of the information that’s available?

Talking About Time

Today I want to talk about a topic that is both an opportunity and a challenge for many of us: time. Everyone has the same amount of time in a day to get things done, sleep, heal, build relationships, have fun, go places and learn. I thought we’d talk about some frequently shared beliefs about time as well as a new perspective on a particular aspect of time that I recently heard that was a bit of a reality check and perspective shift for me.

Unlike some people I don’t subscribe to the whole “get up before everyone” theory completely, I feel that it’s also possible to be as successful or productive if you stay up past everyone else. Over the past few months I’ve alternated between the up early/up late schedule, although for many years I’ve been an ‘up late’ person. I feel like I miss less in the morning than I do if I don’t stay up at night, but sometimes on the days I’m up early I get stuff done and feel like there’s more time left over in the day.

I’m all for speediness but sometimes there’s no replacement for giving things their time. I love lists and writing things down, it helps to keep me on track with what I’m doing but not forget what else I think of. While I don’t think it should be the rule of thumb, recently I was reminded of a productivity technique that says that if it’s going to take less than 5 minutes to do something you should just do it. I don’t think it should be the go-to default because if we keep doing all the “short” activities it can get to be a procrastination issue and we won’t get those activities that take longer done. Which brings us to the idea of scheduling and how beneficial it can be to block out times of your day to do those time-intensive activities as well as a separate set of time to do those quick-and-done things.

Finally the perspective shift. One of the biggest issues with time is that some people pack their lives so full they’re late for things on a regular basis whether doctor’s appointments or scheduled phone calls or picking kids up from school. The way I recently heard it discussed is that not being on time for appointments is indicative of a lack of respect for the individual or group you’re meeting. You’re saying that your time is more valuable than theirs, that they really don’t matter, that they should just rearrange their life to fit yours. If you agreed to a time you should do your absolute best to be on time, even if that means leaving earlier than the GPS tells you that you really need to leave.

We’re one month into the new year, how are you managing your time? Are you further behind than you were this time last year or do you feel as though you’re getting a decent grasp on getting ahead this year?

Are You A Control Freak?

This February we will talk about couples and romantic relationships a lot, since it’s the month that contains Valentine’s Day, but today I wanted to start with something that is really important whether we’re talking romantic relationships, family relationships or even work relationships. This is a topic that most people struggle with, including myself: my way doesn’t always have to be how it gets done.

We struggle with this because we’re all secretly (or not so secretly) control freaks. We like to be in charge, direct all the action, make sure that things get done, make sure they get done right (according to us), and tell everyone what to do and where to be. Sometimes this can be a good thing because it means things will get done, but most of the time this actually hinders things getting done when you’re busy being the slave driver instead of bringing others into the team to get everything done together and letting everyone use their individual giftings to do things to the best of their ability.

I don’t disagree that you probably have some really great ideas about how things should be done, but people are a lot more likely to cooperate and work with you on getting things done (and stick around for longer in your life) if you talk with them about it and then let them help make the final decision about how they get the project you’ve given them done, what the next steps of your relationship look like, the direction their life will go in or about countless other things that could result in wins for everyone.

This week ahead I encourage you to give yourself and your partner a break and work on working together more and fighting and directing less. What small but significant changes can you make together to make this week less about control and more about cooperation?

The Message in Your Marketing

Over the past few years there have been a lot of issues raised in the marketing community, the most recent being GDPR. While I think it’s ultimately a good thing to help consumers be more aware of their options and have some control back, it has presented some challenges for businesses in implementation because many aren’t in line with GDPR type standards already. Other issues that have been raised in the past and continue to be an issue are spam, fake news and clickbait titles/articles. A recent experience has prompted me to write today about some of these topics as well as the bigger topic of marketing.

Let’s start with my recent experience. I’ve owned my car for quite a few years now and over the years I’ve gotten calls, emails and letters from the car company letting me know they would like me to sell the car back to them (so I can buy a new one). While slightly annoying it has been almost an expected thing, but not something that has really annoyed me or made me dislike the company. Recently I made an appointment for service and a couple days before the scheduled service I got a call from someone at the dealership/service facility and they said that they would like to ask me a few questions when I came in for service. That’s it. There wasn’t any clue whatsoever regarding what they had questions about or why they even had questions for me. Turns out it was a sales person at the dealership who wanted to talk with me about selling back my car. I made it clear to them that the part I appreciated least about their contact was the lack of specificity.

Here’s the thing. Marketing is a tool, a resource, a trust building exercise, an awareness raising opportunity and something we as business owners really need to be respectful of. I’m supportive of many of the changes that the industry has been making because I don’t feel that enough business owners are truly treating marketing with the respect, and reverence almost, that it deserves. There’s a definite line between raising awareness and bashing people over the head with your message. The obnoxious intrusions need to cease. There’s been plenty of recent research done that has indicated that people are interested in interacting with companies and receiving marketing from them, but not in a way that’s disrespectful, rude, invasive, pervasive or blind. There’s also a line between teasing your customers with what’s to come and being completely vague.

This week I encourage you to take a look at your marketing. Are you being specific, relevant and in line with what your customers want? If not, I’d be happy to talk with you about getting things back on the right track so you effectively connect with your customers. It’s time we start making marketing good for everyone.

Time for Changes

In thinking about Daylight Savings Time that the US adjusted to this past weekend I thought we might talk about the idea of it being time to make changes. I never can quite remember which way the clocks are supposed to go when they switch, I’m very thankful for technology that does it by and large for us now. Sometimes change is like that: we just feel the need to make changes but we’re not really sure which changes to make. So today I thought we’d take a look at some changes you can make if you’re not sure what changes you’re in need of, and until you’re certain of what changes need to be made in your life.

Clean and organize: many of us are blessed to have lots of stuff and lead busy lives, but with lots of stuff and busy lives it doesn’t always leave a lot of time to clean and get organized. Many of us just do the minimal to get by each week and end up one day with a big pile of stuff that needs to be gone through and more dust bunnies than real ones hopping around. Cleaning and organizing is one way to clear out some of the old and make room for the new, a symbolic welcoming of whatever changes your life is bringing.

What you eat: there’s never a bad time to make a decision to eat healthier, and today is no exception. But you don’t just have to change to healthier food, you can choose to change and try new foods and recipes too. There’s nothing wrong with having some go-to foods that you love, but it’s often fun to try new foods and recipes and mix things up a bit. Maybe it will give you the chance to learn a new cooking technique or try an ingredient you’ve always wondered about but never really knew how to put it in a dish, and this would be the chance to do either or both.

Consideration for others: one of the biggest areas of our lives that could use some changes for most of us are the relationships we have and ways that we interact with others. Maybe you’ve gotten in the habit of being on your phone at the dinner table, you think or say really nasty things about the other drivers on the road, you talk with your mouth full, you don’t give your significant other much of your attention, you ignore employees under you or belittle them, or you haven’t made time for making new friends and relationships or learning about other cultures. It’s not about being best friends with everyone but about respect, learning to listen, being open to others being different than you, and doing better at sharing the space we all live in.

What changes are you feeling inspired to make in your life?

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?

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.