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What (or Who) is Managing Who (or What)?

What (or Who) is Managing Who (or What)?

Recently, I heard from a gentleman who feels as though his business is managing him instead of the other way around.  He said that if he had to do it all again, he’s not sure if he would grow his business to the size it is now. Who is ‘in charge’ here?

Unfortunately, I don’t believe it’s him.

As business-owners, we’ve probably all felt that way periodically—who’s managing who? Our time is out of control.  We’re constantly playing a balancing game between business and family and trying to wedge in a little time for relaxation and/or volunteer work. We just can’t do it all! But yet…we continue to try.

When we started our businesses, many (most?) of us were ‘all things to all people’: marketing, sales, delivery, accounting, public relations—whatever the business required—we were the one and only go-to person. (If you’re like me, you also vacuumed the office(s), and washed windows—not often, but when it happened, it was me with the Windex.)

The remedies for the challenge of who is managing what is certainly not the same for everyone; they are a function of the nature of your business, the family and social obligations you have, and financial considerations. There’s a whole litany that makes your situation unique. But there are a few solutions that appear to be common to all of us.

That one is…

Know when you need help and get it! There are aspects of your business that only you can manage. But does that mean everything or everything that you’re doing today? Not likely. There are qualified marketers, social media, accountants, and yes, cleaning people. Look objectively at how you spend your time. Is it on value-added tasks?  Are you primarily focused on activities that contribute to your business growth and/or enhance the quality of your life? If the answer is “no”, and if those non-contributory actions are getting in the way of what only YOU can do—it’s time to get off the “too much, too often” roller coaster.

None of us can do it all—certainly not all the time. You have the right to say, “I need some help.” After all—you are in charge!

Defend Your Time!

An “open-door” policy is excellent for encouraging communication and fostering relationships, but it can slam the door on your personal time management. Whether you work in an office, or a cubicle, you should be able to find some valuable tips to keep the door from slamming on your productivity clock.

Summarizing from the start—learn to say “No!”  Your time is important. Defend it!  Take control of your time by scheduling interruptions to the greatest extent possible. Plan meetings or prolonged conversations to take place during one particular time, and try to deal with all the issues at once. If your job requires frequent consultations with colleagues, schedule a specific time on your calendar.  Let it be known that you’re always available from, for example, 11:00 to 12:00 in the morning or 3:30 to 4:30 in the afternoon.

If you have a “regular” office (with a door), you can still maintain an open-door policy by keeping your door partially open. This generally signals that you are occupied with something important and will discourage some of the “social” visitors.

A technique that works well to shorten the time of the interruption is the appearance of excessive thirst. Always have a coffee or tea cup (or a needs-to-be-refilled water glass) on your desk. When you’ve decided that the interruption has gone on too long, or is no longer productive, pick up the cup, and begin to move toward the door. Your visitor will go with you.  Just like magic!

If someone asks, “Have you got a minute?” answer by saying, “Yes, but barely. Is two minutes enough or would you like to schedule a time to discuss this later?” An alternative is: “I’m tied up at the moment. Can you come back at (suggest a specific time) and we can talk about it then?”

If you can, arrange your desk and chair so that you are not facing the casual passerby. If they have to shift around to see you, they might think twice about interrupting you. Also, if possible, try to avoid having a comfortable chair, that is too inviting, right next to your desk. That’s a temptation that’s hard for the casual visitor to resist.

Open communication and contact is important to building great relationships. But your time is also important. Work to make sure that you’re not trading one for the other!

Don’t Mix Pizza and PowerPoints!

How many people do you know that regularly eat lunch at their desks.  Chew and  type…wipe the ketchup off the keyboard and answer another email…grab a bite of bagel or pizza and answer a call. Is this kind of multi-tasking efficient?  Maybe. (For sure, it’s messy and then you have to clean your desk in addition to everything else that needs to get done.)

It may be efficient once in awhile, when you absolutely cannot stop…but despite its appearance of staying focused on the task at hand—if you do eat lunch at your desk more than once a week, you will pay too dear a price. It’s been tested and proven that people who do not change their environment mid-day experience a tremendous energy lag in the afternoon.  It’s not the food (or lack of) that causes the drop in energy—it’s the environment. The same space, the same posture, the same air all day, and your body, and spirit, rebels.  The time saved by not stepping away to…anywhere else to eat is offset by the time wasted later on.

Leave your desk and go somewhere!  Anywhere else!  Just don’t look at the same papers and the same work while you’re supposed to be eating, and relaxing.  This is part of taking care of yourself, and doing what you need to be a whole, happy, successful and Joy-ful person.

Learn How to Reignite Passion in Business

Learn How to Reignite Passion in Business

Have you lost your passion in business?

attitude is everythingAre you feeling burnt out and exhausted?

At one point or another, even the most passionate business owners feel some sort of disconnect from their excitement about business. Sometimes this may be attributed to working too much, not having the right support, or feeling stuck in a rut. Regardless of the reason, losing your passion for a business results in lost focus and motivation.

If this is where you are right now, here is a helpful article from, titled, “5 Ways to Rekindle the Passion in Your Business,” written by Jane Porter. In her article she talks about how to bring back the excitement in your business and become re-energized.

Whether you are a business owner or not, her tips may provide you just what you need to bring back the joy in your career.

5 Tips to Bringing Back the Passion in Business

1. Discover the power of personal time. Regardless of how much you love and enjoy your business, you need to take time for you. Often business owners are working long hours and forget the importance of ‘me’ time. Spend time doing your favorite activities, even something as simple as reading a book or kayaking in your favorite location. If you can’t find the time, add it into your schedule, so you don’t have an excuse.

2. Build your support system. A great support system can help you through the ups and downs. Whether your hire a business coach or find a mentor, there is always someone out there that can help you in good and difficult times.

3. Delegate, delegate, delegate. It is easy to become overwhelmed or frustrated when you are trying to do everything on your own. Regardless of whether it is at work or at home, there are moments when delegating or outsourcing is your best friend. You don’t need to do it all. In fact, when you outsource your weaknesses, you can focus on what you enjoy.

4. Don’t hide from the people you love. Often times when you are feeling out of character in business, you are also feeling it in your personal life. This is one of the most important times to focus on all relationships, personal and professional. Friends, family, and partners are great motivation and support. Seek out the positive energy from those relationships to keep you motivated and passionate.

5. Change it up. Sometimes the reason for the disconnect is that it is time for a change. Maybe you need to innovate or change directions within your company? Maybe you are seeking a new career path altogether? Regardless of the decision, listen and pay attention to where you need to go from here. Often the most exciting things to do are creating something new. Maybe now is the time?

It happens to the best of us–the loss of motivation and passion in business. However, what you do with it when it strikes is up to you.

How about you? When is the last time you felt disconnected from your business? Tell us how you pushed through below. We’d love to hear.

Networking. Friend or Foe?

Networking. Friend or Foe?

348800fa8lo7j8cWould you agree with this? Networking is one of the most intimidating parts of business. Whether you are looking for new clients or a new job, it’s almost a “given” that you’ll be concerned about how you  should look, talk or act when you’re out there “among them”.

However, regardless of how we feel about it, it’s a vital part of our business success. We need to turn that “foe” into a “friend”—maybe we can become less anxious and actually enjoy it?

Full disclosure here: I love networking! It is one of my favorite activities as a business owner. And, not to ‘toot’ my own horn or anything (well, maybe just a little)—but I think I’m pretty good at it too.

If you find networking intimidating or want to spruce up your skills, here are some tips from a “serial” networker that just might help you out.

15 Do’s and Don’t of Networking Success

1. Do go to an event with a specific goal in mind. Before you go (even better, before you commit to attend), think about what will make you say, at the end of the evening, “This was worth my time.” Work toward being able to say that throughout the entire event.

2. Do make sure that you make three to five  new connections. Don’t immediately qualify the immediate benefit-to-you of having met and connected with new people.  All new connections are valuable to you.

3. Don’t work the entire room—unless you are a butterfly. Really making a connection requires spending some time to listen to each person you meet. Give that person the time they deserve.

4. Do focus your attention on the person you are meeting.   Listen.   We rarely remember the person who talked and talked and talked. But we do remember the person who listened to us.

5. Don’t talk about yourself the entire time. See number four above. This point is so critical to your success in networking that it deserves two spots on the list.

6. Don’t throw out sales pitches. You’re there to meet—not to sell. Just realizing that you’re not likely to sell anything—that you’re not even supposed to sell anything at a networking event, should remove lots of the anxiety.

7. Do have an elevator pitch to keep you from having a ‘deer in a headlight’ look.   Write it and practice it.   When someone says, “What do you do?”  What is that—in words that really mean something.

8. Don’t be a wallflower.  The other people attending the event may also be ill at ease. Focus on making them feel better by being the person who says, “Hi, my name is _____, and you’re….?”  They will be so pleased that someone else took the first step.

9. Do show enthusiasm about what you do. You do that work, so it means you must like (love?) it? Let the people you meet see and hear your passion.

10. Do invest in great business cards. We’re not all digital yet. When you walk away, it’s your card that new person will refer to when they’re remembering the person who listened so well.

11. Do ask questions and show interest in the people you meet. Yes, it’s coming back around again…more listening to the other person, less talking.

12. Don’t scan the room when someone else is talking. That’s just rude…and hurtful to the other person.

13. Do follow up immediately with new connections. They’ve made their three to five connections at that event also.  Make sure that you’re the one they remember.

14. Do keep your word if you tell someone you are going to do something for them. Good business, ethical, polite…all of those things that lead to success.

15. Do stay confident even if you are a nervous wreck.  And how do you do that?   By remembering that the “other guy” is probably a nervous wreck too.    Look out for him (or her or them) and you’ll also take care of yourself.

Networking doesn’t need to be scary or intimidating.

The more you do it successfully, the less worry you will feel. The most important things to remember when networking is to be yourself, lighten up, and listen, listen, listen.

So take a deep breathe and get out there!

Two Essential Skills of Highly Effective Leaders

Two Essential Skills of Highly Effective Leaders

questionsLeadership seems to be the buzz word these days. In fact it appears that many of us are wondering what skills need developed to become highly effective leaders.

Chances are you will receive a variety of thoughts on this subject. However, two of the most powerful skills are listening and questioning.

When we are in a leadership role where we are helping to develop a team, it is essential to enhance our listening and questioning skills. By taking these skills to the next level, we will rapidly propel our team towards success.

In a recent Fast Company article: “How to Ask — And Listen — Like You Mean It” written by Kevin Kashman, it is discussed how listening and questioning provide a loop for a continuously growing conversation. Kashman writes that in order to deepen the level of questioning, you need to deepen the level of listening–resulting in trust, collaboration, and co-creating.

A requirement for innovation is the ability to develop creative solutions. As leaders, we need to understand that our teams are full of these solutions, we just need to help bring them to the surface.

What you need to do to ask the ‘right’ questions:

1. Ask open ended questions. What are open ended questions? Keep in mind that any question that requires more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response is considered an open ended question. These types of questions invoke thinking and creativity to respond.

2. Probe deeper by layering questions. Hold yourself back from responding to their answer. Instead, ask another open ended question. Sometimes, the creativity is down deep and needs several questions to bring it into the open.

3. Be open. When your team begins talking, don’t stop the creativity by being judgmental. Approach this brainstorming with openness and possibility. Nothing is wrong at this point or in need of critiquing. Be curious about who is speaking and continue the questioning process.

Asking these fabulous questions are pointless if we are not listening for the responses, right? This is often the most difficult skill to develop, requiring each of us to slow our minds and focus on who is speaking. Active listening requires discipline for the us as listeners.

What you need to do to actively listen:

1. Take off your expert hat. When you are in the role of a listener, you are not an expert. This is perhaps the hardest part of the listening process, but the most important. If you are always in the role of an expert, your team will be afraid to share. Don’t provide information or feedback until you pause for a minute or two after the person is finished talking.

2. Keep frustration at bay. Often when we are in a listening role it is easy to get frustrated or bored with the person who is talking. You may find yourself thinking of how you could do it right or even about all of the items on your to do list. Slow down and really focus on what is being said.

3. Listen to what is not being said. Sometimes there is information behind the response. When you are listening, pay attention to what is behind the words. This means observing body language and reactions. When you are able to bring those to the surface–that is when the magic happens.

To become the best leader possible, enhancing our listening and questioning skills is a must. Whether you want to practice with family members or need to enroll in a workshop that teaches these skills, the rewards are worth it.

How about you? Do you have someone in your life that has developed these skills? Notice the level of conversation that occurs with these individuals.

Share below your experience–I’d love to hear.

How to Cultivate Business Passion From Your Team

How to Cultivate Business Passion From Your Team

110 percentAs a team leader are you creating passion from your team or dread?

Creating a workplace that enables creativity and passion to flow is up to you–the leader. You may be thinking you are doing all the right things, but actually it is easy to slip into bad habits that can cause more harm than good. In order to increase productivity, happiness, and excitement from your team, the environment you create is key.

Are you ready? Check out the list below to get your business moving in the right direction.

15 Do’s and Don’t to Keep Your Work Environment Innovative, Healthy, and Creative

1. Do speak authentically and openly.

2. Don’t speak when someone else is talking.

3. Do listen and be open to ideas from others.

4. Do hold yourself and others accountable.

5. Do admit mistakes.

6. Don’t think small or allow others to think small.

7. Don’t take others for granted.

8. Do show your appreciation.

9. Do provide honest and genuine feedback.

10. Don’t give less than 100%.

11. Do show you care and are interested.

12. Don’t gossip or allow others to gossip.

13. Don’t stomp on anyone’s idea.

14. Do allow others to use their strengths.

15. Don’t be afraid to give up control.

Building a business that you and others are proud of starts with you. Create an atmosphere that enables your team to be passionate about where they work, which ultimately leads to your success.

Do you need to make changes? What kind of atmosphere are you creating? Share your thoughts and comments below–we’d love to hear.

Is Common Courtesy Lost for Good?

Has a world that is driven by technology caused us to forget what it means to be courteous or respectful?

writingThere is no denying that we are living in a fast moving world.  We can have pretty much anything we want at our fingertips in an instant. Through the expansion and development of technology, we have grown by leaps and bounds. The unimaginable has become our reality. However, I’m curious if the simple act of treating others as you would want to be treated has been left behind.

What we have gained in defying the odds, we may have lost in simple human connection.

When is the last time you wrote a  thank you note? Not an email or a message on social media, but an actual note that you sent in the–wait for it–<gasp>MAIL?  Or, how about a phone call to say thank you or to just see how the other person is doing?

These approaches may be  uncommon in today’s society, or if they do exist, they only occur rarely. Let’s make it even simpler. What about responding to an email, especially when someone’s offered a perspective or shared a resource with you? Or, how about sending a personal message directly to a person instead of broadcasting to the world on social media? Do we do that promptly, with authentic, from-the-heart regard for the other person?

I’ve done my best to keep the idea of simple, straightforward person-to-person connection on the forefront of my communications.

Does this sound like you? A colleague or connection sends you an email. This email can be a recommended resource for you or even a quick hello. As you read it, you think, “I will respond to that later. I’m just too busy right now”. Of course you know what happens then, right? You receive a hundred more emails that day and the one you were planning on responding to gets lost in the shuffle. Then when you stumble upon it a week or so later it feels a little awkward to respond. Instead, you just ignore it.

Sound familiar?

What I’m really interested in learning, is if this is what actually occurs? Is the email really lost, or is something else going on?

It is so easy today to sit behind a computer and feel as though we are having personal conversations.  We are chatting away on social media and sending emails back and forth all day long, so why wouldn’t it be personal? Except it is not. Don’t get me wrong, these methods are fantastic, yet they seem to have replaced real forms of communication.

Even more, I’m wondering if the real reason for the loss of common courtesy is an increase in paranoia.

Let me explain: We are on complete Internet overload, especially when it comes to sales and marketing methods. Maybe we don’t even realize that they are there, but open up a Twitter feed or even your email inbox and notice the amount of marketing that is taking place.

This increase in marketing may have left each of us paranoid and wondering, “Why do they want to talk to me? I bet they want to sell me something.”  So we might hesitate to respond to emails or to make social media too personal. We could be building walls between ourselves and don’t even know it.

What if we reintroduced the simple act of common courtesy? What if we broke down the walls of paranoia and really trusted in the gift of genuine connection?

Hmmm, not sure, but I’m thinking that we would all feel a heck of a lot better and more connected.

What are your thoughts? Do you think the act of common courtesy is lost in today’s world? Share your thoughts, I’d really love to hear them. And, I will respond. Person-to-person.