Taking Time to Prepare

Whether you have a spiritual practice or not you’re probably familiar with the celebration of Easter which happens later this month. For those who celebrate Easter as a spiritual holiday, they’re currently going through a period called Lent, or some 40 days of mental and spiritual preparation before the actual celebration of Easter.

Preparation is something that should be a regular part of all of our lives, spiritual or not. We aren’t born ready for most things in our lives, we have to learn them or get ready for them. Sometimes that takes years of preparation and experiences to get to the point of being prepared to do something or be someone. There’s a reason that we vet the big leaders and people we hire (or we’re supposed to), so that we know we’ve got someone qualified and not just some random individual off the streets.

Part of preparation is planning ahead.  Sometimes that means just anticipating how things may happen in the future and being mentally (and financially) prepared for that, other times it means doing certain things first or doing things in a certain order so that you’re ready.  A great example is baking bread.  Bread isn’t a one-step process, you don’t just mix all the ingredients together in a random order and it’s done, you’re never done until you bake it, and most breads have several steps including a rest period and have to be baked.

I know we sometimes wish we could skip all the preparation and planning steps, but in many cases they make it easier to work through things when they finally happen and make it easier to deal with everything else that’s going on in our lives at the same time.  Don’t ignore the necessity and importance and value of taking the time to prepare. Taking that time can make things go easier and more successfully for you in the future.

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The Future of Your Business

Lately I’ve been coming back to a topic that isn’t one that we really like to think about, but is something that affects us personally and professionally: death. At some point in time all of us will die, and just about every business will go out of business at some point in time. Very few businesses stand the test of time, often because the world changes and either they can’t keep up with the changes, or there’s no one to continue on after the current owners are done with the business. So today I thought we’d take a minute to talk about next steps with your business, whether you’re hoping to sell, planning to pass it on or some day going to close up shop.

Whether you’re planning to sell or planning to pass it on one of the most important things you can do to not only make your business appealing to the next person, but to ensure that you pass along the best version of your business that you can, is to keep good records. This means that not only is everything recorded in a way that people can easily figure out what you’re sharing, but the information can be used to make important decisions in the future and the information shows that you’ve got a great concept and the customer base to support the business.

If you’re planning to close up shop some day one of the most important things you can do now and when that time comes is have good resources that you can pass your people off to. I’ve been connected with several individuals and companies who decided to close their doors and left absolutely no way for people to keep in touch with them or suggestions about who they can connect with that offers the same heart, quality and services that they did to now replace them. I understand if you want to be done with your business (or need to be), but you’ve spent a lot of time building trust with people and they’ve gotten to know you and see you as a valuable resource, so to just toss them out like garbage just because you’re done is inconsiderate. You’ve got a new future you’re moving on to, but they were relying on you for parts of their future.

But the fact is that paying attention to detail, keeping good records, building a network of reliable customers, having data to consider, and having a network of people you can recommend people to are things that can be invaluable now while your business is being built, growing or thriving, not just when you’re closing that chapter of your life.

The one last thing I would encourage you to keep in mind is that everything does come to an end at some time. It’s always better if you’ve got the control to finish things out as you want them to go, rather than working through a mess or leaving the mess for someone else. What plans do you have for the future of your business?

Secrets to Success: Schedule It

Today we’re continuing our look at little secrets to success with one of the things many find to be challenging: scheduling. The issue though isn’t really that we don’t like scheduling necessarily, but more often that our nice, neat schedules get messed up, adjusted, moved around and pre-empted. So it makes it understandably frustrating when we try to make schedules because they just don’t work out. Even though I have those same issues I still believe that having a schedule can be one thing that will help you be successful.

One of the things I think is noteworthy about schedules is that they reveal a lot about our priorities. If your schedule always has fitness and if something comes up during your regular time you don’t just skip it but move it to another space in your day, that says to me that fitness is very important to you. If your schedule includes a date night with your partner every week, that says to me that your relationship is something very important to you. If you consistently get up at a certain time every day so you can have a couple of minutes to look over the day ahead and have a cup of coffee so you’re somewhat sane by the time the kids are up, it tells me you’re a focused and organized person.

The lack of a schedule also reveals a lot about you as well. It’s not “wrong” to not have a schedule and to let the day take you as it will, but I think even those of us who consider ourselves free spirits probably do have some type of schedule, even if it’s just a list of things that we do at some point in time every day, or something like moving through the natural process of breakfast and getting ready for the day then work then lunch then work then dinner then bed, with some activities and engagements in between. You may be a very productive person with this type of free schedule, but today we’re kind of going on the assumption that you’re not as successful as you would like to be, and that having a schedule would help you be more successful.

So why should we use schedules? A schedule allows you to predictably and more consistently have the time you need to do things. It means you’re intentionally setting aside the time to do things that you think will bring you to success or bring you happiness or add value to your life.  Schedules also give you the opportunity to plan things out and make sure that you’ve got the time and resources in place for what you want to accomplish.

Not sure you’re ready to go full-blown scheduled life? Then start with writing a to-do list of everything you need to do over the next few days or weeks and setting up a chunk of time each day to work on that to do list. This will give you a way to get used to having a schedule in your life and see results very quickly because each day you’ll be crossign things off your list.

As far as how to schedule, you can of course use an app program on your phone or just the calendar app, write on a white board each day (and/or for the week), or have a paper planner or calendar that you use, or use a mix of all of them.

Do you use a schedule and what are the benefits you find in having one?

Productive Priorities

One of the things we struggle with is productivity.  We’re good at getting distracted, find other things that need our attention, and are often overbooking our schedules.  I get it-we want to keep everyone happy, take advantage of all the great opportunities for ourselves and our kids and fully experience life.  However, as scattered and distracted as we are it’s seriously hurting our quality of life, not to mention the stuff that we actually end up accomplishing at the end of the day, and how we feel about what we accomplish.  Sometimes we’re so over-committed we’re not only overbooked, we’re not getting the important stuff done, and sometimes we’re not getting anything done at all.

The first step is to realize that you’ve got an issue and decide to get help, and maybe it’s as simple as admitting it to a trusted colleague or your partner.  But most people need to reach out to a strategist or organizer to help them restructure their life and make tough decisions.

Once that first step has happened the next thing that needs to happen is prioritizing.  What is truly a priority?  What are you pretending is a priority?  What are you ignoring? Who are you letting down?  These are some very difficult questions to face and answer, but they’re necessary.

After you’ve decided what’s important, it’s time to start making changes in your life and scheduling in the things that are truly priorities and putting to the side things that aren’t.  These changes won’t happen over night but do take time.

Finally, now that you’re more productive and prioritizing what’s actually important, there’s one more step: learning to say no.  One of the reasons you got into the mess in the first place is because you were filling your life with things that were and weren’t good for you.  Learning how to say and mean no in your life is one of the biggest keys to truly having a life you love, and a life that’s productive as well.

Reflection Time

I’m still doing some reflecting and considering as we work into this new year.   2016 felt like being in a cement mixer at times for some of us, it certainly didn’t seem like a smooth ride personally or in the world.  As I’ve been reading a number of posts at the end of the year and the beginning of this one, I identified with what a number of people were saying about the year that just ended and how they felt about it, what they ended up doing in that year and of course where they’re headed in this new year.

For many 2016 ended up being a year of personal growth, not so much professional, although plenty of people and companies did have a very successful year.  For some 2016 was so bumpy that it was hard to even identify or understand that until new year reflections happened.  So if your year was anything like mine, I’m going to encourage you to work through these questions over this week before you give up on your resolutions and/or before you make final decisions about where you want this coming year to go:

What was your best memory?
What was your worst memory?
What was your biggest accomplishment?
What was your most satisfying victory?

What goals do you have for 2017?
What relationships are you going to create or work on in 2017?
What do you want to stop doing in 2017?
What needs to most change in 2017?

Just how good can life get?
Will this be a courageous year for me?
What will make you happy?
What will you love?

As I do my own reflecting and consider where I’m taking things this year, I’d love to hear from you what you would like from me in this blog and/or in what I offer in my business? How can I best help you make more victories in your life and what are you struggling with?

Asking A Better Question

As business owners one of the best ways to have a breakthrough in our business or with a client is to ask the right questions.  It’s not always easy to know what questions to ask, and sometimes we think we’re asking the right question only to keep getting frustrated because it turns out that we’re not asking the right question.  So today I’ve got a whole bunch of questions that may be new to you that you could try when you get stuck with an issue.  Some are questions you an ask to someone else, others are those you can use in your own thought processes.

What should questions do?

They should empower, challenge assumptions, re-frame issues, stretch the person/people asking, and encourage breakthrough thinking.

Question Disclaimers:

Sometimes you’ll get an answer you weren’t expecting or wanting to hear.  Sometimes you’ll need to ask another question to get deeper into the heart of the matter.  Sometimes a vague question is good, other times you want to be specific.  Not everyone can give you an instant answer, don’t be afraid to wait for the answer (unless you’re looking for that first impression). You expect a response when you ask a question, and those who are giving the answer expect to be given some kind of feedback on their answer.  Sometimes ‘I don’t know’ is the answer you get.

Let’s talk about some questions to ask yourself to ask the right question:

Do I need a factually correct answer?

Do I need an expert opinion?

Do I need a well-reasoned judgment?

Do I want the truth or the answer they think I want to hear?

Is yes/no sufficient, or do I want more?

Do I really want an answer?

And now some questions you might try:

What’s the RONI — the Risk of Not Investing?

When did you last do something fun?

What can I do to help you?

Do I want to add value?

Do your core values make business sense?

What do you stand for?

Who do you serve?

What is your competitor’s plan to win?

Is it helping?

What is the one thing you have postponed changing about yourself? Are you prepared to make that change now?

Are you a good friend who keeps your word all the time?

Would you offer a good friend much needed (uninvited) advice when you can see he/she is headed for disaster, or remain silent?

Are you open to receiving uninvited counsel from a good friend if the situation were reversed?

Is it more important for you to win the power game or to know the truth?

What is more important to you – wealth or love? (No, you can’t have both so far as this question is concerned.)

Have you explored your creativity to your satisfaction?

What do you need to stop?

Do you dismiss your creative ideas based on financial thinking or lack of time?

Which would you prefer: Losing your creative energy and spark or gaining more free time in your life? (No, you cannot have both so far as this question is concerned.)

Can you actually name a creative project or dream that you would like to pursue now?

What do you notice about the reasons for your success?

What are you trying to accomplish?

How are you being helpful to your team?

What are you doing that hurts your team? (Insert customers, employees, manager, yourself, or organization?)

What’s working for you?

What could be better?

What matters most to your customers? (Insert you, team, employees, manager, or leaders?)

What are the most impactful things you do?

If things were going perfectly, what would it look like?

How does this support the company’s mission, goals and projected success?

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve learned along the way?

If all jobs paid the same, what would you be doing?

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

What does my (audience/customer/employee/partner/teammate) need to hear from me?

What kind of leader am I?

Do you know what I see in you?

How could we do that differently?

What are people concerned about, but no one says?

Did I help someone else succeed today?

What do we want to sustain?

What questions would you add to this list that have helped you in the past?

A Legacy for 2016

The new year is here!  As you know I’m excited about what the year ahead holds, I’m always excited when we get this fresh slate in front of us ready to be colored on, used, worked with and tried out.  Yes, there will be failures and mistakes, that’s inevitable, but there are also lots of chances for improvements, redos and changes.  If 2015 wasn’t your year, you’ve got a new year to thrive in.

As we start this year I want to think about something that we don’t usually associate with new years: legacies.  With a new year, with the exception of making new years resolutions based on what happened in the past year or what we want to change from the past, it’s all about moving forward and new opportunities, not about dying, legacies or being finished.  A new year isn’t an end, it’s a new beginning, but if we take a moment to think about how we want to end the year rather than just what we think we want in the upcoming year maybe we’ll have a better chance of actually getting there this year.  No, you can’t anticipate all that the year will hold, but there’s a commitment that you can make: a commitment to do better each and every day.

It’s always my goal each day to do something that makes a difference in the world.  Maybe that’s donating to a charity, maybe it’s volunteering my time for children in need, maybe it’s giving advice to an entrepreneur just starting out.  Whatever it is my ultimate goal each day is to make the world a better place to live in for myself, my friends, my family and everyone else.  There’s no guarantee that you’ll make the right decision all the time or always do the right thing, we’re not perfect after all.  But you can commit to doing your best to make each day better than the last and always leave whatever part of the world you’re in a better place when you leave.

What will you do with 2016?

“When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.”  Jim Henson

Planning for Problems

As a business coach I talk with lots of business owners who are struggling. Let’s face it, depending on the day any of us could be struggling with something, whether it’s a frustrating customer, a product failure or a timing snafu that screwed with our marketing, plans or productivity. So the struggle is something that we all face, it’s not unique to just those of us who have physical businesses or are trying to succeed with an MLM. The thing that frustrates me most with business owners I talk with, as well as life coaching clients, is that more often than not there were plenty of red flags that showed up and were ignored and now they’re falling off the cliff without a parachute and expecting a miracle.

This month as we talk about health it’s important to recognize that health is done by sticking with healthy habits or changing bad habits into good ones. We’re not perfect, so more often than not we have work to do when it comes to our habits, and it’s not realistic to assume that we’ll ever attain perfection and not have things that we’ll have to work on.

The question of success comes in with when there’s something wrong, and in our reaction or response to it. Do we wait for all systems failure or do we make the time on a regular basis to tend to things so that it never ever gets that bad? I believe in yearly, monthly, weekly and daily maintenance rather than waiting for stuff to hit the fan. By preparing ahead of time, planning my day/week/month/year out, and leaving room every day for issues that pop up as well as personal time, I’m not facing an unmanageable struggle when bigger issues come my way and force me to move things around by a day or two. But it’s only because I’m prepared personally, financially, relationally, and business-wise that when issues happen I’m not usually dealing with as big of an issue, and I’m more capable of dealing with them if they are.

Your business and your customers depend on you to be on top of things. One of the only ways this happens is if you’re prepared and working ahead rather than catching up. You’ll accomplish more and feel better about yourself, your life and your business and be able to better serve your customers when you take the time to anticipate the issues and have fall-back plans for if they do appear.

“…that it is the neglect of timely repair that makes rebuilding necessary.” Richard Whately

Present Preparations

As I’ve been making changes in my life this month and thinking about what the rest of this new year holds and our topic of preparation this month, I’ve been thinking about goals and destinations in our lives.  Naturally, because what’s the point of preparing if you don’t have some expectation of a destination or event, right? Those of us who really think about goals usually think about goals that we have because we want to attain them.  We don’t go around saying “my goal is to be in jail by the time I’m 20” or “my goal is to be morbidly obese by 45.”  No, we make goals of having lots of money or a big family or health or a great job/career, or save the world, things that we think will improve our lives.

However, there are some of us who don’t seem to think about where our actions are taking us, or don’t care where they’re taking us.  Like those who smoke, eat really unhealthy foods all the time, or are nasty to other people.  They may be completely oblivious to the true destination they are heading in with every puff, bite and curse.  It’s the times that we’re unaware of what we’re doing, are unconsciously doing it or are doing it without a care that we experience the biggest risk.

You’re probably heard people talk about being “present” in the moment.  Simply, this means being aware of what’s going on in your life, the choices you’re making, the people you’re involved with, the way you’re running your life, and what’s going on right then and there, not yesterday or two weeks from now.  Being present means that you’re there with your kids, not on your phone all the time, it means being aware of what you’re eating, not just shoveling it into your mouth while you’re doing 18 other things and it means that mind and body you’re where you physically are and not miles away.

This week I encourage you to check in with yourself often and make sure that not only are you present with what’s going on in your life, but you’re happy with the direction the choices you are making is taking you.  If you find you’re not happy you’ve got a chance to change direction!

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”  Lao Tzu

Prepared to Lead

This year we’ll continue to talk about leadership as an essential aspect of running our businesses, and as I think about this month’s theme of being prepared, there’s no better topic to talk about when it comes to our businesses than leadership because essentially that’s the job of a leader: to prepare their people and organization to get to the goal and beyond.  One of the things I love about being in business for myself and the type of work I do is that I get to help other people realize and unleash their potential. I get to see past the things that you’re focused on, frustrated by, limited with and see the bigger potential of who you are and what you can do in the world.  Whether I’m working with other leaders or their employees and team I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t have room to grow and potential to meet.  The greatest challenges I face have to do with people who are unable to accept that they can be (are!) that awesome, or aren’t willing to do the work and make the necessary adjustments to fulfill that potential.

The thing that so many people don’t see as valuable or see as common place in this world of social media and self-help is one thing that helps to break that hold, cross that bridge or bridge that gap: inspiration.  As important as it is for a leader to take action and lead the people who follow them, the encouragement, inspiration and motivation needs to be there as well.  Why?  Because most people need an emotional connection to get on board.  For example if someone told you to donate to a random charity unless you are the type to give to any/all organizations you’re probably not going to give.  But when your close friend asks you to give to an AIDS charity in the name of their family member who just died of AIDS you’re a lot more willing to be part of that movement, because it’s personal for you.

So this week my leader friend you have 2 challenges: first to see the best in those around you rather than just the problems.  And second to inspire them to reach for that potential, that greatness that you know is just waiting to be unleashed in them.

“Your job is to see the greatness in people who have yet to own the greatness within themselves.” Robin Sharma