How aware are you? Do you notice when things change on your street or in your home or building? Do you notice when people get hair cuts or wear something new and different? Do you notice the birds singing in the mornings and the animals scampering around outside? Are you able to pick up on the underlying issues or tensions with customers? Do you notice when coworkers have a lot on their plate or when things are happening with the bosses? Do you notice when your partner or kids are struggling? Sure, some of us are able to hide our challenges to a degree but there’s a lot that goes on in our lives and in the world as a whole that can’t be hidden, and it’s this stuff that we’re talking about. Why? Because the amount of awareness that you have can impact how successful you can be.
If you’re an aware person naturally you consider the costs to others over the benefits to yourself when you make a decision, you consider the impact of your choices on others, you take time to think before responding in emotionally charged situations, you own up when something is your fault, you address and work on things that go wrong even when it’s challenging, you think about the words you use before you say them, and you consider long term and short term benefits and costs when making big decisions, just to name a few.
What can being aware do for you and the world we all share? We can be more conscious about our decisions, for example choosing to do all our errands at once rather than spread out over several days to reduce emissions, or choosing the most green method of delivery for our online purchases. While we don’t know exactly what the future holds, being aware we can try to make decisions that we think will be better for us both in the present and the future. Being aware means being considerate of others and looking out for your elderly neighbors, or staying home if you feel sick rather than infect your extended family or coworkers. Being aware also gives you the opportunity to see and experience some pretty cool things that others miss out on because they’re not looking.
Being aware, much like practicing common sense, love and compassion, isn’t really difficult, and with a little practice you can turn it into a habit that will empower you to notice things that others don’t and take smarter actions and make wiser decisions for both your future and the future of the world we all share. Do you consider yourself an aware person?
One of the things that is exciting for some of us about this virus that has completely upended our lives, is how it has forced us to ask questions. I’m a big believer in asking questions, among other things, and I appreciate that we’ve all been stopped in our tracks to really consider some of the finer points about how we’re living and working. Asking questions is interesting because they can lead you to other questions, to consider things you’ve never thought about, and sometimes they help you realize that you had it right all along.
As much as we stop at the beginning/end of a year or on our birthdays to consider how the past year has gone and what we want from the year ahead, I don’t think that most of us really take the time to invest in it to the depth that we have with this virus either personally or professionally. No, asking questions and taking time to consider doesn’t mean that you have to do a full stop on life or work. Just like you would never stop eating for an extended period of time until you’ve reconsidered and decided on a new diet, or you wouldn’t stop sleeping (or trying to sleep) just because you can’t find a pillow that really works for you, asking questions doesn’t mean everything has to stop.
So here we are, with many of us at a full stop, and others of us knowing that at some point in time when the craziness settles down it will be necessary to ask some tough questions. Questions about why we’ve always done things a certain way, or why we didn’t think of that in the past, or why we weren’t prepared, or what we could have done better; tough questions that don’t necessarily have easy or immediate answers. These are also questions that can help us all lead a better life going forward, a life that is more considerate of each other and our impact on each other.
It’s time to get out the hard questions like what do we really want out of life, are we really investing in the people that mean the most to us, are we living and working in ways that make the most sense for us and the planet, what is the best use of our time and resources, how can we support each other better, how can we better protect each other, and do I have enough fun in my life? Maybe they’re not new questions to you, but I hope that you’re thinking on them a little more seriously than you might usually. What questions has this virus prompted you to ask?
One of the biggest challenges to being a successful leader and business owner are all the distractions you could face in a day. Of course, there are certainly people, who I hesitate to call leaders, that just avoid all of those and as a result have very high turnover in their organization, both with customers and with employees. They let the distractions get the best of them and as a result have more struggles than the average business owner, and do poorly managing the struggles they do attempt. Part of being a leader and business owner is having the skills to manage all that comes with a business, including having the right people in the right places, time management and communication. If you aren’t able to do all of those things and you only have a drive for the product or service portion of things, you need to partner with someone who can support that aspect of the business.
Distractions come in many forms, from the very obvious to the not so obvious. Very obvious distractions include people who want your attention all times of the day and you never have time to do what you need to do, emails, social media and family. Less obvious distractions include the inability to make decisions, the inability to communicate and the inability to manage your time, all of which are connected back to a focus issue. I get it, we are very busy and there never are enough hours in the day, especially if you’re making time for family or sleep or health like you should. Which is why it’s more important than ever to be able to focus when you’re working and effectively manage not just distractions but all aspects of your business.
One of the most typical ways to manage distractions and your business is to hire people who can be your gate keepers, and in general giving your team the right amount of unsupervised delegation. You should always be checking in with your team, but if you don’t have people in position that you can trust to do right for the business and your customers, you’ll never be able to get done what you need to. Another way to manage distractions is to be greedy with some of your time each day or week. Lock yourself away and let people know they can’t disturb you then, and really buckle down and get stuff done. Another great suggestion I heard recently was to have office hours rather than having an open door policy. This lets people know you’re accessible, but that you respect their time and would like them to respect yours as well. Finally, don’t shy away from the benefits of having a schedule. Yes, we often run a business because we want more freedom, but creating a schedule can help to give you the freedom you wanted in the first place.
What distractions are most challenging to you in your business and how do you deal with them?
This morning I was doing a little more cleaning than I usually do on a weekly basis. As I tried to clean up some of the nooks and crannies that create lots of character and detail on older buildings like the one I live in, I was reminded how easy it is for some things to become “out of sight and out of mind” as the saying goes. It’s easy to pretend that the dirt couldn’t get under the stove or beneath the drawers in the refrigerator or that the tops of doorways collect dust because while you may see all of those things each day, you’re not seeing them from the perspective of where the dirt may be hiding. I’ve also said before how even a tiny bit of tidying or cleaning can make a huge difference, like just wiping down the cabinets with a wet cloth makes them look brighter, not to mention cleaner.
It got me thinking about what else is “out of sight and out of mind” or out of our line of sight or not how we see things. For example right now we’re seeing the leaves on many trees change color and drop off. We can easily forget what the trees look like without leaves of any color, and how little there really is to trees when they don’t have leaves on them.
Another example has to do with people. It’s really easy to see someone as a mother or father or accountant or teacher or baseball player or painter, and forget that they’re made up of many more layers, not to mention dreams, desires, passions and interests beside the thing they’re best known for or as. They’re also not the sum total of their failures, imperfections or inabilities. Just because your kid can’t do math doesn’t mean they won’t grow up to have great discoveries about an ancient civilization or lead a town. Just because you’re not the greatest cleaner doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother, triathlete or gardener.
Don’t let yourself be so blinded that you can’t see the truth or the need or what’s really going on in your life, in the lives of those you love and the world around you.
This month we started off talking about the focus of a business: the customer. Today I want to talk about a couple of other things we should focus on as a business to succeed in 2018 and beyond.
Focus on clear communications. There are tons of ways you can get really confusing with the words you use, and sometimes it feels like businesses intentionally choose to be confusing with their communications just so customers can’t truly understand what they’re agreeing to. Yes, occasionally there are some terms that need to be used because they are the legal words that have to be said. But more often than not businesses use words that are industry specific or for those with in-depth experience and knowledge. If we want customers to buy from us why wouldn’t we make it easy to understand what they’re getting into? Some businesses do, even going so far as to include those simplified explanations as part of their marketing.
Focus on being fun! While it’s not always fun to buy some of the things we have to buy (i.e. diapers, printer ink, shower curtains, business cleaners), that doesn’t mean that you can’t create a healthy, upbeat environment for your employees and customers. One great example is the Girl Scouts, who could have chosen to sell anything but choose to sell cookies, and do so with a cheery demeanor and cute outfits. It’s really hard to resist their plea for you to buy just a box of their tasty cookies (they freeze after all!). Not sure how you can have some fun in your very not-fun business? Just add a little holiday magic for the 5-10 holidays throughout the year to your storefront and online presence.
Focus on continually innovating. We’ve seen a lot of upheaval in lots of industries over the past few years so it’s more important than ever to be refreshing your offerings, trying new things, and talking with your (best) customers about their pain points and needs. Having a focus on innovating means that your customers and employees won’t get bored, your employees will be able to see the progress you’re making in your industry, and you’ll be able to stay competitive in the rapidly changing business world.
Ultimately it’s about being focused on bringing the best and brightest business you can to the world. What are you focused on today?
Over the past week I’ve been seeing a recurring theme and conversation topic, that of being focused on yourself. This focus isn’t about being selfish or about being ignorant of the needs and lives of others, but of choosing to put yourself first. Putting yourself first means that you’re committed to caring for yourself so that you can better care for others. But it’s also about making sure that you’ve got enough for you, that you’re satisfied with your life, that your life and relationships fulfill you, and that you’ve got a career or job that supports you and your future.
I know it can be hard to focus on yourself when there are so many other demands on you, especially if you’re the boss of a new company or parent of a new baby or parent of a special needs child, but even if you pick just one thing that you do for yourself each day you’ll feel more in control and better able to handle all the other things going on in your life.
If you do have more flexibility and more ability to give yourself time but seem to run out of time for yourself and the things you’re interested in doing or need, start by scheduling in yourself to your calendar. Schedule in 10-60 minutes each day that is just for you, whether that’s time you exercise, read a book, meditate, learn a new skill, take a bath, do a puzzle, create a craft, clean and organize the house, or whatever it is that would make you feel better or more fulfilled or less frustrated, or just make you happy. What do you need to make time for in your personal life?
There are lots of things that we should focus on in our businesses, but at the center of that focus should be one thing: customers. By saying the customer is your focus that doesn’t mean you do everything possible to please every customer or that the customer is always right. Rather it means that you’re always working on and in your business so that you can better serve your customers. Sometimes that will mean saying no to some customers, especially those who have unreasonable requests or are disrespectful. Why? Because if you’re busy trying to deal with those issues you won’t be able to give your best service to your best customers.
So how do you really focus on caring for a customer? You do consistent marketing so people know how you can help them or make their lives more interesting or better. You consistently review and improve your customer service as well as the service any team provides. You consistently check if you can update your product offerings so that you’re offering the best possible product to them. You consistently educate yourself and any team so that you’re offering the best possible service to them. If you’ve got a physical location for your business that customers shop at, you consistently keep it neat, tidy, organized, clean and welcoming. You consistently support and empower your employees and give them feedback and praise.
You do all this so that you can be a 5-star business and have happy customers. Having a focus on the customers can be the motivation and inspiration you need to do all those other things, things that aren’t always enjoyable or easy. This focus also can help you prioritize your to-do list, and be more proactive about addressing questions, challenges, issues, requests or complaints, even if it means you have to delegate more. What will you focus on today to best support your customers?
This month is the beginning of many things. It’s the beginning of the holiday season for 2018 and it’s often where people begin the countdown to the end of 2018. You can also call it the beginning of a new month, and it’s the beginning of a new theme for us on the blog and social media too. All of this speaks to the fact that our lives are filled with many things, and are influenced by even more things, things that we’re not even always aware of or prepared for. And your head may be spinning like mine thinking about all that is going on and you want to do before the end of the year.
Which brings us to this month’s topic which is focus. I know I just listed all the things we’re focused on for these last 3 months, which almost sounds like we’re not really focused at all. And that’s OK, because we need to focus on both the big picture as well as the details of our lives.
But as I was thinking about focus today I was considering how I wanted to start this month out, where focus really starts, and how we can focus better and what I came up with was that we start with one thing. So maybe that means that you’re going to make a list of all you want to clean in the house, or maybe it means cleaning just one of those things on the list (your bedroom), or even part of one of those things on the list (your bedroom closet).
Taking the focus off of the entire, potentially overwhelming, list of things going on in your life and focusing on just one thing at a time isn’t about ignoring the other things or saying that you don’t care about them, it’s giving you the opportunity to dedicate your resources, time and energy to that one thing and to do it well and get it done. Slowly but surely you’ll see that list of to-do’s go down and you’ll start to see the progress in your life. What one thing will you do today?