Tag Archive | business

Is it just your job?

How-to-keep-communication-flowing-in-the-workforceHave you ever worked for a company that gave you a job description when you hired on, continued to add responsibilities but rarely let you know how you were doing unless, of course, you made a huge mistake? In other words, if the job got done, no one said anything. They expected you to do it. After all, it’s your job.

Although most businesses are moving to correct this lack of communication with performance evaluations and other forms of recognition, most managers haven’t bought into the simple concept that regularly affirming good behavior means it will be repeated. It’s not rocket science, but they must figure they don’t have time to do anything but get widgets out the door. Maybe it’s a more difficult idea to grasp than you think because so few practice it or at least do it well.  Many think this warm and fuzzy stuff does not belong in the workplace, but the funny thing is that affirming another person, even for regularly performed tasks, belongs everywhere. It builds relationships, and people from all walks of life will respond – though some to a higher degree than others. It will work at home with your spouse and kids, at school or work and even with strangers at the market.

Think about it. Most people don’t wake up in the morning planning to sabotage their day with misdemeanors. They like it when things go well, so they apply their energies in that direction. But if no one notices a job well done, some feel they have no reason to continue and will begin to slack off. It takes integrity to keep doing your best when no one seems to care, and honestly, you don’t see as much of this character quality as you used to. On the other side of the coin, if no one says that you’re doing something incorrectly, you’ll keep on doing it the same way as you have always done and again, quality will decline. Honest communication is necessary.

So how can you sincerely and genuinely affirm someone and make a difference? Catch them doing the right thing well – even if it is on their job description – and tell them so. Make sure to avoid generic sentiments like “way to go,” “good job,” or even “love, love, love it.” If they have done something outstanding, tell them specifically what it is you like and how it affected you. “Thanks so much for staying after hours to finish up that report so that it would be ready for the meeting in the morning. It calmed my jitters to know you had everything read,” means a lot more than “Thanks for the effort.” And guess what, the next time you have a project requiring a little extra effort, you know who will be willing to go the extra mile.

At home, cooking meals, doing the laundry, mowing the grass and repairing broken fixtures don’t just happen. A little appreciation and affirmation will go a long way with family members too. Again, be specific and explain how the effort added value. It’s also a great way to teach your kids without a long lecture. Ever wonder why they behave so well at someone else’s house – likely because someone there affirmed their good behavior.

Oops! I think I forgot to mention there might be a little side effect – no small print or hushed voice necessary. When you see the positive response in the other person, it will do something in your heart as well. You’ll feel good, deep down inside. You’re creating endorphins, and they’re an excellent remedy for stress. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

Can you find the perfect cheese?

I am still in the process of removing the stacks from my home office, but in so doing I found an insert from a book by Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese? In this quick read, Spencer spins his tale of two little mice that awaken one morning to find their cheese is missing. The cheese is an allegorical representation of those things we hold as a high priority for life like your job or perhaps an important relationship. Through their adventures to discover a new food supply, Spencer engagingly outlines the steps we all need to turn the challenge of change into the true opportunity it is. The insert contains 7 bullet points as a reminder of his key points. I think you’ll get the gist of the message. If not, you can get the book. The points are copied below:

  • Change happens – They keep moving the cheese
  • Anticipate change – Get ready for the cheese to move
  • Monitor change – Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old
  • Adapt to change quickly – The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese
  • Change – Move with the cheese
  • Enjoy change – Savor the adventure and the taste of new cheese!
  • Be ready to quickly change again and again – They keep moving the cheese

Spencer had a goldmine of an idea with this one. Today, not only is the original book still in demand, but he has created a specialized training curriculum for corporations using this material. Some of the more prominent companies use it with their employees. He’s also come up with specialized editions for teens and kids.

Now the book was very helpful as are the points listed above, but here’s the real question. Is it easier to learn from a story than it is from a list of points? It gets my vote because the bullet list triggered some detailed recollections of the tale, and I read it over 10 years ago. (Sometimes I cannot recall what I had for breakfast, so I’m thinking this is a stellar teaching tool.) Patrick Lencioni also uses this method of teaching business principles by illustrating them in a fictional format. Perhaps there are some who prefer Dragnet’s “Joe Friday” approach of “Just the facts, ma’am,” but the narrative accounts hold my interest and hence boost my retention.  If I understand the plan from the experience of two fictional mice and can remember it, I think I’ll be better able to adjust to change and find the perfect cheese.

What do you do with cracked pots?

Before you think I’m crazy or using the term loosely to refer to those who disagree with my point of view, I’d like to clarify. I’m really talking about all of us because in one way or another, we’re all flawed human beings, and these imperfections, whether congenitally- or experientially-related, influence our lives. The way they impact us, depends a lot on how we choose to view and deal with them.

Few of us would judge a little boy who experienced a double amputation of his legs below the knees if we watched him sitting in a wheelchair or on the sidelines watching other children compete in running games. We’d understand that he had a justifiable reason to watch the world go by. We’d have compassion on him.

This is the story of Oscar Pistorius, one of the South African runners in the 2012 Olympic Games, who experienced this situation because he had been born without a fibula in either leg (fibular hemimelia). Yet the scenario painted above does not reflect Oscar’s life. Greatly because of his mother’s influence, he overcame an attitude that could have crippled him for life. Instead, with the help of specialized Flex-Foot Cheetah carbon fibre transtibial prostheses he overcame his handicaps and went on to achieve great things. We could name others like Joni Eareckson Tada and the late Chuck Colson, who started outstanding ministries because of what happened in their own lives, results of accidents or poor choices. Although you and I may not have suffered to the degree that these folks have, the point is that these challenges helped them to find their niche because they chose to allow God to use it.

Life comes at us from all directions – health, finances, relationships …, and we can choose to be blown over or take courage and stand up again. What we learn from these experiences will help to define who we are as well as shape who we are becoming. And, it may provide another aspect to consider when discovering where we fit – our niche for business, job search, ministry, service, writing, etc.

So what’s in your past that’s changed you, created a new sensitivity or heightened awareness and passion? Write these things down and see if a pattern develops that might direct you to future endeavors. See if you can find a spot for your cracked pots.

Take another view

My daughter-in-law and her closest friend are stepping out in faith to open a new boutique in a small town in the Adirondacks. They are working hard to open this Saturday, and I have no doubt they’ll be successful, but this is not an unpaid advertisement for Pretty & Chic. Rather it is an observation that may be of help to any who are moving from enjoying a hobby to developing a business.

My daughter-in-law excelled at sewing and began crafting aprons as gifts for family and friends. As the recipient of one of the finished products, I can testify to both their beauty and quality. Because of the encouraging response she received, she wanted to offer them in her new store, but this meant having a supply of them on hand on opening day and required a brand new perspective. Instead of making one at a time and finishing it completely, she had to change up her process otherwise it would not be cost effective. Beginning slowly she discovered ways to streamline the way she cut out the pattern and assemble the pieces. Concentrating on the more difficult aspects first actually made the whole job easier.

Whether it’s sewing, writing, art, music, woodworking, tinkering with a new invention or some other favorite pastime, the point to all of this is that when you move to the professional category, you must experience a change in the way you think and the way you do things. You do not need to sacrifice the quality of your product, but you will need to reinvent the process so that you can make an income from your endeavor.

This may stretch your creative mind in new and different ways and be totally different from the way you started. Keep in mind the first time through may not be the best. Just persevere and try again. You may need to stand back and think it through several times before you realize the results you hoped for.  Yet once you achieve them, you’ll be glad you took another view.

Winning combinations for freelancers

What’s the best thing about taking vacation? You might say it’s getting away from work, but if you have a home-based or freelancing business, you might find it advantageous to combine some work with your pleasure.

Last week we headed to the Adirondacks for a family graduation. Not only did we enjoy celebrating the occasion with family and friends we had not seen in quite awhile, but by spending a few extra days, we were able to spend quality time with some of our Takes3 Marketing clients as well as advance my sewing business. Besides both of these add-ons, I also obtained some fantastic ideas for my new e-zine (coming soon).  You can find ideas anywhere.

A summer visit to Speculator, NY provides a plethora of material for writers, artists and photographers. Besides the ambient splendor of the lakes and the mountains, you could explore the trails and mountain peaks, local eateries or merchant shops. Taking time to investigate the town might result in some interesting historical fact or personage. Ever hear of French Louie? He’s buried there. You could compare living in a tourist town to other places you have been or search out jewelry or other crafts prepared by local artisans. Getting to know their stories could provide even more leads for future stories. This summer there are a couple of new businesses to attract you. Pretty & Chic, a boutique featuring jewelry, handmade items as well as other items, is one that will be opening this weekend.

If you have a home-based business, you’ll want to make this extra effort to help your work because you may be able to make it pay at tax time too. Check out Ron Mueller’s book Home Business Tax Savings Made Easy.  If you keep good records and follow the rules, you may be very pleased.

Vacations are wonderful times to get away, and sometimes that extra rest or change of pace will trigger some fantastic benefits for your writing or other business. Vacation and work can be a winning combination for freelancers.

Get a quote

How do you improve your writing, presentation or conversation to prove a point or engage your audience? One way is to add a quotation.

Using a quotation from a renowned and reputable source to introduce your topic can enhance and strengthen your message whether presented verbally or in written format. When you use this technique, it brings the credibility of the  author of the quote to your words almost as if that person were standing beside you resting his/her hand on your shoulder in support.

The operative word here is renowned. If you plan to use a quote, make sure the person’s name is almost a household word. Jesus, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Walt Disney can serve as prime examples of names most everyone will recognize. Other people who may have held prominent positions in business, government or religion may not be as readily recognized. In this case you may need to qualify their name by using a title as in Calvin Coolidge, 30th President. The title of President should resonate with your audience, and his words will then substantiate your own.

One word of caution, which is a fundamental step in preparing any material: consider your audience. In today’s global market place, you may be writing primarily for those within the United States, and in this case, the title President is sufficient. If, however, you are using the quote for something like web content, you will want to provide the name of the country to help your readers understand without further research. You do not want them scratching their heads wondering, “President of what?”

This brings a third group to the forefront. These are subject matter experts with proven track records but with a lesser-known name. (Your mother might fall into this category.) In this case, you may need to supplement the title with a few details to demonstrate their expertise. Online, you can also link the name to an appropriate site containing biographical or pertinent information.

Using quotations can be an effective means to establish credibility to support your ideas and engage your audience quickly. Although you may not choose to introduce every written piece or presentation with a quote, it is a valuable and timeless tool. There are online resources, but you might want to begin your own file of worthy statements so you can easily get a quote to fill your need.

What should you look for in a hospital?

Let’s face it. Choosing a hospital is likely not the highest priority on your list of things to do today – or any day for that matter. Yet when your health requires specialized care beyond the confines of your doctor’s office, you’d like to know you’re in good hands. Obviously, you may not always have a choice, but if you need some things to consider, check out this article from US News and World Report on How to find the best hospital near you. 

Although the quality of medical care you receive should hold the highest priority, value can come from another side of the equation that excellence in medical science cannot address. That side of patient satisfaction arises from treating patients as people. What a novel idea – combining the best in modern technology and scientific approaches with old fashioned compassion and personalized care. It’s a type of pay it forward concept.

It would appear that some hospitals are getting the picture and the Internet has enhanced their efforts. Now you can not only go online at a hospital’s website to find a doctor for your specific health need but you can also send a greeting to a patient, “Like” them on Facebook or watch a video about their efforts in-house and in the community. If you like what you see, you can make a donation or pay your bill – all from the comfort of home. You’ll notice if you’re on their premises, they have stepped up their efforts to train their staff in professionalism and patient safety yet they don’t neglect customer service and plain, but always appreciated, common courtesy. They also instruct their staff to smile more – as is appropriate, of course.

Hospitals are also employers, and they’re getting the picture in that arena too as they strive to engage their employees to set the example. Morris Hospital outside of Chicago, IL decided to encourage their staff, volunteers and visitors to get some exercise and take the stairs instead of the elevator with a special campaign. They enlisted local students to paint outdoor scenes in the stairwells to encourage people to take that route. It’s an interesting concept. Click here to see a video of what they did.

With the exception of the maternity ward, no one enjoys going to the hospital. Hospital executives, however, seem to be grasping the connection between quicker healing and better health with their proactive efforts. It makes good business sense, too. Though most patients hope they don’t have an occasion to return themselves, they understand the need for these facilities is a fact of life. Hospitals understand this too. A satisfied patient will spread the word.

Do we have a date?

Dave Ramsey is one of my favorites in both business and the financial world. Based on Scriptural principles, he takes a no-nonsense approach to finance, leadership and life (just ask his kids). He draws a line in the sand and strives (nobody’s perfect) to walk what he talks, and it works! I took advantage of some travel time in the car on the way to a meeting and listened to one of his CD’s on leadership. The concept he shared about making decisions proved simple, but profound.

Many decisions in life are easy to make – what to have for lunch, which container of milk to buy, how to subscribe to an e-zine, or whatever other similar choices affect your life. Hence, you needn’t spend a lot of time on the process of making your decision. On the other hand, if you have saved for a long time to buy a new car, you want to ensure you spend adequate time to make the right selection.  Your choice will be with you for a long while, hopefully.  In other words, small impact decisions require less thought than their weightier counterparts because they have a greater long-term impact. The amount of time you take to make your decision should be proportionate to its impact.

As one of those people with a million ideas, I can get bogged down in the process which sometimes leads to procrastination, a sense of being overwhelmed or a good idea falling through the proverbial cracks. Ramsey suggests when you have to make one of the heavier decisions or if you feel like you’re spinning your wheels, grab your calendar and set a date to decide. Don’t drag it out. Weigh the pros and cons, decide and move on. Setting a date relieves the stress because, if nothing else, there is an end in sight.

Your date may reflect a deadline that is either real or self-imposed. Either way, you’ll need to evaluate the facts, opportunities and challenges and then act. Based on your decision, you can adjust if the results are not immediately satisfactory. Whether you’re purchasing a new home, a piece of equipment or determining if you should open or close the doors on a business, Ramsey’s method has worked for him and countless others. I think I’ll give it a try. What do you think? Do we have a date?

Can you learn from an 8-year old?

Have you ever seen a large-ticket item you feel you’d like to have, maybe even needed, but have no idea where to start to make it happen?

Some people seem to be born with focus. They know what they want and go after it, usually with success. Those on the opposite side of the continuum seem to float their way through life aiming at little and becoming confused by the less than desirable results. Although you can pay a lot of money to find and read a host of books, get training or attend seminars on setting and achieving your goals, you might also like a more simplistic approach.

Instead of trying to remember what each letter of a SMART goal stands for, you can follow journalism’s 5 Ws and an H – What, Why, Where, Who, When and How. With these questions you can define

  • what you want
  • why you should have it and what challenges will need to be addressed along the way
  • who needs to be involved
  • where to find resources
  • when it should take place
  • how to make it happen

You can adapt the questions to your specific purpose.

Without any help from adults or older siblings, my 8-year old grandson came up with his business plan to obtain a trampoline and prepared it in the form of a proposal to his parents. You might like his method. The last I heard, he’s still working on the second phase. I think you’ll chuckle at his wisdom.

ETHAN’S TRAMPOLINE

Why we need a trampoline is because:  It will help with heaLth. How it will help is it will give us leg muscles and we will play outside.

Where will we get the money? How we will get the money is it will be a birthday present from Dallas, and Michael, Sabrina, and Grandma, and Grandpa, and you guys (his parents).

Where will we put it? The options of where we could put it if we got it is:  In the back yard or on one of the sides of our house.

Safety: Make sure it has a net and has unlimited weight.

Other: We can move the basketball hoop towards the trampoline. We can save money because we won’t have to go to the workout gym.

You can’t beat writers

Say what you will about writers, I think they’re among the best. So what if they work in their pajamas, wield their craft unshaven or keep irregular hours? They have some, in fact quite a few, redeeming qualities.

Writers think. Regardless if their passion is fiction or non-fiction, they combine their creative talent and language skill as a master builder. They construct a foundation of sentences and paragraphs until they communicate their idea or story, one that could potentially change the world. Like a renowned artist, writers apply colorful language to the blank page and educate, engage or entertain their readers beyond themselves. For good or for bad, writers make you think, even for a brief time.

Writers understand the process can be slow and tedious including a lot of waiting time that may lead to rejections, yet they do what they can to help their writing siblings to avoid their pitfalls. They often meet together both online and off to share their works in progress seeking both affirmation and feedback for ways to improve. In this forum, they also communicate lessons learned about the writing process or making a go of it as a business. Writers share resources and tricks of the trade to save others the hassle of going it alone.

Writers aren’t perfect, but most care about their craft and its impact on others. Those who’ve achieved a measure of success have also experienced rejection – likely a lot of it. Yet with the fortitude of their character and the encouragement of their writing partners, they forge ahead and get better.  You just can’t beat writers.