Knowing When to Quit

I saw in the news that the Emperor of Japan has decided to step down.  He’s 85 and has had some health issues in recent years, and has decided that it’s in the best interest of the country to pass on the leadership to his son.  Here in the US we elect someone new every 4-8 years typically so we don’t experience anything like this type of life-long leadership, but Great Britain does, at least as of now, and the Catholic Church has historically had life-long leadership but the current pope has indicated he doesn’t want to be pope for the rest of his days.  All of this has gotten me thinking about quitting.

The word ‘quit’ is an interesting one.  It can be defined as “stop, cease, discontinue, depart, leave, give up, or relinquish.”  I think these definitions are interesting because we always see quitting as a really bad thing.  But these words don’t necessarily indicate any type of failure, like we typically think of when we talk about quitting.  Sometimes quitting is the best decision you can make.

Quitting isn’t necessarily about accepting defeat or failing at something, although sometimes that is the case, other times it’s about getting out while the getting is good, or thinking about win-win-wins for everyone, or knowing that you’ve done the very best job that you could do and now you need to pass it of to someone else or do something different going forward.

Sometimes it’s easy to say that you quit, but often it does take courage and some serious consideration to make sure that you’re really making the best decision for yourself and those that matter most to you.  Those in positions of power have extra responsibility to make sure they’re doing what’s best for everyone, but the fact is we all do as well.  The way you live affects others in various ways from the very obvious and significant to the negligible, but the fact remains that we each do have responsibility for how we live, and therefore knowing when to quit.

Change isn’t the enemy, in fact more often than not it’s not changing that’s the enemy.  This week I encourage you to consider if it’s time for a change, time to quit something so you can move onto something bigger and better.

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Let’s Go Places

I’ve read quite a few children’s books, both as a child and in my years of caring for children and working with families, and most of them are either fun to read, share about an experience, relate history, or teach a lesson. Some are just annoying and you never want to read again, but many are those you want to read again and again, even as an adult. One of my favorite authors who delves into lessons for adults and kids is Dr. Seuss. While I sometimes have trouble reading all the tongue-twisting words he used in his books, I still enjoy them and believe they will remain in our literary circles for generations to come.

In one of his famous books, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”, Dr. Seuss wrote: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

As leaders of and examples to children, one of the greatest gifts we can give them is the encouragement to use their brains. This includes knowing how to make decisions, being confident in making decisions, putting actions to decisions, and making decisions for yourself (not strictly based on what others say or do). Both thinking and acting are important to learn, especially knowing how to think, work through and act on complex situations.

What I love about this Dr. Seuss quote is that it makes thinking and acting sound fun! Sometimes we can get overwhelmed by situations and it certainly doesn’t look or feel fun to think or act, and that’s what the kids in our lives see. I’m not saying it’s wrong to show the overwhelm, just that we also have to show how to work through the overwhelm and not get defeated by it.

We all could use a little more fun in our lives, especially as adults. It shouldn’t feel like we’re escaping life or skipping out on our responsibilities or being un-adult. Fun is something we enjoy regularly as a kid, as an adult we just have to learn to balance the fun with the responsibilities. It’s important to show the next generation that there’s room in our lives for both fun and responsibility. Teaching them this can help them embrace their responsibilities sooner, as well as encourage them to never give up on fun.

So how do you balance responsibility and fun in your life?

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?

Choose Your Responsibility

As we finish out this month over the weekend I wanted to share one more thought on the topic of responsibilities, this time with an eye to kids. Part of our job as adults is to teach our kids about responsibility so that when they’re adults they can handle the pressures that life (work, family, relationship, health etc.) puts on them as they grow up and become adults.

There are a variety of ways we can teach responsibilities, like talking about ours and helping kids understand why we do things. Traditionally chores have also been used to help teach responsibilities, and they’re a great way of having your kids participate in caring for the house and themselves, and can also help teach financial responsibility and management if you attach a monetary reward to completed chores.

Part of teaching them responsibilities is teaching them how to use the power that comes along with them, and giving them the opportunity to make choices for themselves.  One of the ways you can do this is by giving them options (that really aren’t options) to give them some control and power over their choices.  For example when they have to pick a snack after school you can give them a selection (at least 3 options) of fruits, vegetables and other healthy options to choose from.  If they have homework to do and need to shower before bed you can give them the choice of which they do first or if they do some of the work and then shower and then finish the work.

Yes, some of these choices/options means that you have to be prepared to have a little more variety in your life, for instance buying more options at the food store, but it gives them the ability to make some decisions and you to de-escalate a situation that could be much more difficult to resolve or handle if you just made the decisions for them.

What are your tips for teaching kids responsibilities?

Relationship Responsibilities

This month one of the things we’ve talked about is the topic of responsibility. Unless you or your partner is an abuser, serial killer or some other type of evil individual, and as long as you’re both in agreement with being in the relationship, you both have a responsibility to each other and your relationship.

You’ve got a responsibility to communicate with each other, to treat each other with sensitivity and compassion, to be respectful of each other, to consider each other’s opinions, to be open to each other’s needs, to support each other, to encourage each other, to be confident in each other, to grow the relationship, and to take care of each other through thick and thin. You also both have the responsibility to speak up if something, including the relationship, isn’t working for you.

All that may sound overwhelming, and something else to add to the responsibility plate of your life, but if your relationship with your significant other is truly one of the most important and valuable things in your life, shouldn’t it command appropriate responsibility as well? If it’s feeling too overwhelming, either your relationship needs to be evaluated or you and your partner need to have a serious conversation about responsibilities and reworking the relationship. Yes, there should be some sense of weight because it’s an important relationship in your life, but it shouldn’t be so much that you feel you can’t handle it or don’t want to.

This week I encourage you and your partner to have a conversation about the responsibilities in your life, and to each other.  Don’t be discouraged if the conversation brings up a lot of stuff, instead be encouraged that you can now make a plan for improving the health of your relationship.

Making Life Safer and More Peaceful for the Next Generation

The words “back to school” are echoing around the country. For some school is a welcome time, for others there’s a lot of apprehension. Both parents and kids can struggle with back to school time, and one of the challenges that has been increasingly becoming a greater point of concern is the safety issue. Whether from outside sources or inside sources violence and bullying has been increasingly on people’s radars. But it’s not exclusive to schools, as you may know, violence and threats can happen anywhere and at any time, whether an orchestrated attack or driving incident that happen between two parties that have zero connection, or a natural disaster that is more serious than anticipated.

Safe is a term that we throw around but aren’t always able to follow through on. Why? Because there are too many variables to be able to fully anticipate all potential dangers. The best way to be safe though is with planning and honesty. The first thing I think as adults we need to do is be willing to admit that there are dangers around, and not to be oblivious to them. This is a first step that not everyone takes, because who really wants to think about this stuff?

The next step is to be honest about some of the potential things that could go wrong and outline some kind of plan for them. While you don’t have to have precise steps that should be taken in the event of certain things happening, it’s a good idea to at least have things outlined as to financials and last wishes and even online account information so that in the event of something bad happening your wishes and information are made known. You should also have an emergency fund (and specify what that fund can be used for) that can cover expenses for 6 months or more. You should also have at least one discussion with the family about these things so that everyone is at least aware of where the information is, what plans are if something happens and who the contact people are outside of the family should something happen.

Of course the third step is to be smart about how you live. That doesn’t mean that you don’t take some risks or don’t have any fun, but it means that you don’t drive recklessly, you don’t do drugs, you get help from a therapist or counselor if you’re struggling with anger or hurt or depression or something else, and generally think before acting in life.  Your better habits will teach your kids to have better habits as well.

No family ever likes to think about the dark side of life, but it’s a reality. If you want your family to be safer, do what you can to make it more likely that you’re all protected. But even though safe isn’t a guarantee, a greater sense of peace can be a reality if you take the time and effort to do a little planning. What are you doing to make the world a little more peaceful, and hopefully safer, for the next generation?

Facing Frustrations

Today I’m dealing with a little frustration, I’m sure you’ve been in this situation and can identify. I talked with someone about an issue I’m having at my home and they told me that they would follow up in the next 24 hours and deliver the decided solution to the issue. About 2 months ago I had a similar issue and spoke with this person and they told me that they would deliver the decided solution in the next 24 hours as well. I’m sure you can guess where this is going, yep, they didn’t show up.

Could I come up with the decided solution on my own? Yes, and in the first case I did because I got tired of waiting for this individual to show up, and clearly they decided not to show up. In this new situation I could come up with a solution as well, but if I’m paying them to deliver the solution I shouldn’t have to, should I?

This whole situation has really been a reminder to me about the topics of responsibility and maturity. I know that some people are over committed and keep committing, but what they really need to do is take things off their plate. I agree that it’s great to be helpful, but there has to be a point that you either delegate things or you stop saying yes. Maturity isn’t about how old you are, a large part of it has to do with how responsible you are for yourself and the people you’re responsible for. I’ve met 20 year olds who are more mature and responsible for themselves and their lives than 45 year olds, and you probably have too.

This isn’t about being the boss or being a great leader, although if you’re the boss or a leader you should be mature and responsible. Responsibility and maturity are something we’re all accountable for, whether we’re the top dog or the lowest lemming. While parents hold responsibility for teaching their kids about responsibility, ultimately it is a personal decision about whether you’ll choose to be responsible for your life or not. Sometimes life does get in the way or throw you curve balls, but that’s where your maturity comes into play, or you’re left hanging.

Today I encourage you to be just a little more responsible or mature, even if that means saying no, follow through on the commitments you’ve made and show people that they can trust you, and apologize to those that you’ve let down in the past if you will be interacting with them in the future.

Ready for Responsibility?

This week I’ve been thinking about the topic of responsibility. It’s something to think about as important for both kids and adults. As adults we’re supposed to be responsible and we have to teach the next generation about responsibility as well. Some people never learn the responsiblity concept, others learn it after a wake up call like a serious car accident or health scare, and some people seem born with responsibility in there genes.

As adults sometimes I think we are sometimes so involved in doing life that we don’t think about it in terms of being responsible, or about all that we’re doing as part of being responsible. For instance, you pay your bills and go to work because that’s what you do each day/week/month, you don’t do it so you can check the “be responsible” line on your daily to-do list. You make sure your kids are clothed and fed because that’s what you do as a parent, you don’t typically do it to be a “responsible parent.” Sometimes I think we get so focused on getting it all done that we don’t always take time to consider what’s really best or most responsible in that situation.

As a parent or role model for the next generation you’ve got a lot of boxes you’re trying to cross off. You’re trying to get them educated, to be culture smart, to be able to dress themselves, to be able to tie shoes, to have some idea of right and wrong, to develop personal values and morals, to have a can-do attitude, to plan for the future, to have confidence and to be able to navigate the challenges of relationships with others, just to name a few. You teach them lessons about responsibility with putting books and papers back in their backpacks after doing homework rather than leaving them everywhere, putting dirty clothes in laundry baskets instead of on the floor, earning an allowance to learn good saving and spending habits, cleaning up dishes after eating, and even in time outs or other types of punishments for poor behavior and attitudes.

If we really want the next generation to be better leaders and people we need to make sure they understand the importance of responsibility and learn how to be responsible not only for themselves but also for the people in their care and the world we all share. There’s also time for most of the people of the world to choose to be more responsible as well, it’s not just something we leave for the next generation. Does your life need a responsibility check or do you need to work more on teaching responsibility to your kids? If you need a responsibility update, I encourage you to make time to make some of those changes this week.

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.

Open and Honest

One of the greatest challenges to being in business is keeping your secrets while still managing to be open enough, as open as your people need you to be. I don’t share samples of documents that are included in some of my offers because it’s my template, my idea. Just about every restaurants and foodie has a secret sauce or secret spice blend. Technology companies keep lots hidden under the hood of proprietary software and hardware. And then there’s the other side of secrets where people and companies don’t like to share when they’ve failed or something has gone wrong.

But the fact is if you’re not willing to reveal anything about your business you really can’t be successful in traditional marketing methods, you’re extremely limited to how you can gain clients/customers and who will be willing to work with you. If I know you’re a Mexican restaurant and that’s it, I’m probably going to skip eating there, unless I’m absolutely desperate for Mexican, can’t go to the grocery store and cook my own and aren’t near any other restaurants I’m more familiar with that would be OK. If I know you’re in marketing but that’s it, I’m going to look for someone else. If I know you’re a life coach and that’s it I’m probably going to move on. If I know you’re a cleaner and that’s it I’m probably going to move on. There have to be enough details that people can understand who you are, what you offer, what your difference is from people who offer similar things, where you work if appropriate and how you can help them.

But going back to the other side of the story, the scary side. What about the side that most people ignore or bypass or hope they’ll never have to think about? I’m talking about things like ingredients, privacy policies, terms of service, contracts, orders, or even accidents? One of the things that we have to stop hiding are these things that can get people disqualified, kicked out, killed, hurt or even just frustrated. Don’t hide the fact that you’re going to require your customers to do work, don’t hide the fact that there are things that will get people disqualified based on what they do or don’t do, don’t hide the fact that you only give a very limited warranty, don’t be shy about letting your customers know that you use ingredients that some people may be allergic to, and don’t make it impossible for people to get in touch with you. Some of the biggest corporations in the world make these issues, of course so do some of the smallest.

So what can we do to keep our secrets but better communicate with our customers? As a restaurant post on the menu a simple statement that you use some ingredients that people may be allergic to, and they should ask their server if that ingredient is used, or to not include that ingredient in their order. If there are things the customer has to provide or have in place in order to move forward with something, make that very clear, and also make clear if/why their order could be cancelled. Go ahead and protect your company with terms and a contract, but create them in a form that will allow people to get a quick overview and read sections, if they so desire, in more details (use an outline then longhand). Let people know that you’re understanding about things that happen beyond their control (like a hurricane) and that you’ll work with them on new payment terms if need be, and that you’ll communicate with them about things that happen beyond your control (like data breaches) within a reasonable amount of time and with as much information as you can provide, along with solutions or next steps. None of these mean that you’re giving away your company secrets, but they are giving your customers a much clearer picture of things they might need to know about, or would have concerns with.

Yes, this can be a lot of information to provide to them, which is one of the reasons I always recommend that a business has a website. On that website you can have all of this information. It doesn’t have to be front and center, it just has to be find-able. What does your company (or you) do to be open with your customers, but without giving away the bank?