Food for Thought, My Cucumber Realization

I had an ah-ha moment making lunch today.

I love the crunch of cucumbers on my sandwiches. For a change this week I bought the mini cucumbers. Well when I cut them sideways then I ended up with little circles of cucumber that are so small they kept falling out of my sandwich. Today I realized I could cut them lengthwise and they’d stay in the sandwich. Such as simple change and a great solution!

That got me thinking, what are things that I’m doing that are making things harder or more frustrating for me? What simple changes can I make to those things to completely change the experience?

What are you doing that is making things harder or more frustrating? What simple changes can you make to completely change the experience?  Pick one you’d like to change now? What will that change be?

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Emotions and Business: How do they work together?

Wonder what the buzz around Emotional Intelligence (EI) is all about? What do emotions have to do with business?

Here’s a quick exercise to help you understand the importance of emotions in the workplace. Either individually or as a team, list the top 3 to 5 skills that are required for your job. For example, a sales professional might list: presentation, networking and closing skills. Once you’ve identified them, think about what percentage of each skill is emotional and what percentage is cognitive.  For example, change management is at least 75% emotional, dealing with the emotions of those effected (including yours), redirecting people from the negative to the positive and reacting to situation.

Now imagine having the ability to harness and empower your emotions by being aware of your own make up and simply by employing the “Right Emotion at the Right Moment.”® Imagine how you could improve performance, interactions with others, and ultimately, business results.

When was the last time you thought about how you were feeling and thinking when approaching a challenge at work? How did you respond to the situation? How did you relate to others involved?  Bad situations can have better outcomes if you respond positively to the situation and quickly and effectively deal with others’ emotional responses.

The better your emotional awareness, the more likely you are to have a positive and powerful outcome. Let’s look at a common situation. You are preparing to negotiate a supplier contract.  What emotions are required? It’s important to be empathetic toward your supplier’s situation while at the same time you must ensure that your needs are understood and met. Both parties need to have flexibility and openness to alternative solutions.

  1. Stop: Next time you are preparing for a meeting or a discussion, stop and think about what emotions are at play in the situation. Consider your own and the other person’s points of view.
  2. Think: Now ask yourself how you can ‘Power Up’ your emotions to ensure the best outcomes. How can you redirect your emotional reaction to produce a winning outcome?
  3. Act: Create a mental plan for your next meeting. What will you do differently? How will you relate to the other party?

Once you understand and direct your emotions, you will drive Powerful Results.

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What do you do with your day?

Has this ever happened to you? It’s Friday afternoon, you’ve had a very busy week and you are wondering where did the time go? It’s the beginning of March and wasn’t New Year just yesterday, where did the time go? What did I get accomplished?

As professionals and particularly business owners we can get so busy with demands that we don’t know where our time goes and if we are using it effectively. When this happens it is important to step back and ask yourself a few key questions.

  • How are you spending you day?
  • Are you working effectively?
  • Are you focused on the right things?
  • Are you doing tasked that you really should be delegating to someone else?
  • What are the top 3 things that you should be focused on and how much time are you spending on them?
  • What are you avoiding?

I’m in the process of asking myself these questions to understand and improve how I’m applying myself.  I’ve built into my day a simple time tracking process so that I can identify trends, areas to improve on and monitor my own work habits.  Interestingly, just the act of recording my time has made me more conscious of my choices and I’ve seen immediate improvement.

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First Impressions

What is the first impression a potential customer or business associate has when they walk into your business? Have you thought about that lately? Do you monitor it?

The other day I had a meeting at a business associate’s office. They are located in regular strip mall and their signage is visible and well presented. No different than many companies in the area but when I opened the door I was surprised and impressed. The lobby area was extremely well presented; it was impeccably clean, despite the amount of people traffic coming and going in a snowy winter climate. The receptionist was friendly and helpful, and you could tell that she enjoyed her job. The facilities were modern, professional and, due to the nature of the business, had a high level of security. If I was a client I’d want to do business here, I’d inherently feel that my business would be handled professional, competently and with respect.

In contrast, later that day I visited two other businesses as a consumer. In the first case when I entered the business there was no one there, I couldn’t find anyone and didn’t know what to do. I wandered around the space looking for someone and finally found a person in the back that could help me. In the second case I couldn’t find the door to get to the business, there were a few signs that said “use the other door” but where was the other door? I did eventually find “the door” around the back only to find that the business was unexpectedly closed for two days without any explications.  I was not impressed and will be reluctant to do business with either. In both cases I wonder how much business they lose on first impressions.

In a world of competition are you sending the right message when a prospective client or business associate walks through the door? Today, walk outside your company’s door and walk in as if it is your first time. How does it make you feel about the business? How can you improve the first impression people have? Are you handling people who walk in the door “like everyone else does in my industry” or are differentiating yourself? Remember the little thing make all the difference.

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Your 2011 Action Plan

Happy New Year and welcome to 2011. Are you ready for a new year?

Did you book time for yourself to reflect on 2010? If you haven’t it is not too late. Give yourself an hour or two and reflect on 2010 used the questions in my last post as starting point.

Now what are your professional goals for 2011? Have you written them down? It has been proven over and over again that if we are specific and write down our goals we dramatically increase the likelihood of meeting them.

A practice that I have found extremely useful is my Yearly Action Plan. It is a one page view of what I want to achieve professional. I update it at least twice a year, in January and during the summer. I keep it posted beside my phone so that I’m easily reminded of my goals.

One Page Action Plan

Professional Vision – What is your professional vision for the next 2 to 3 years? Have you thought about this and written it down. Examples:

  •  I am self employed with a profitable business that challenges me professionally and allows me to give back to the community.
  • I am a well respected executive in my firm with regional responsibilities.

Objectives – What are your top 3 to 5 professional/business realistic (with a little bit of stretch) objectives for 2011? Examples:

  • Be a senior manager by the end of 2011.
  • Increase review from 2010 by 10%.

Strategies – what are the strategies that you are going to employ to achieve your objectives? Examples:

  • Create a social media marketing strategy.
  • Take 1 or 2 development courses.

Behaviours – Which behaviours are you going to continue, eliminate, change and add? Examples:

  • I will be on time for all meetings.
  • I will attend 2 to 3 networking events per month and set up at least 1 follow up meeting from each event.

Support – Who is going to support your in achieving your goals? Examples:

  • I will engage an executive/business coach.
  • I will work with my manager.  

Accountability – how will you be held accountable to acheive your goals? Examples:

  • I will share my goals with a close friend and report back quarterly.
  • I will share my business goals with my leadership team and report on them monthly.

In the first couple of weeks of January take time to create your Action Plan for 2011. Place it some place that you will see it frequently as a reminder of what you want to achieve.

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Year End Reflection

As the year comes to a close are you running around closing business before the end of the year and doing last minute preparations for holidays? Have you had time to breathe and look back at your year?

I find it a great activity to schedule/plan a time to reflect on the past year from a professional perspective. Put it in your calendar, schedule a time for yourself. Go to your favorite spot, a coffee shop, your office, a walk in the woods, wherever you are able to think and reflect.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What were the bright spots in the last year?
  2. What were the pleasant surprises, the things you didn’t anticipate?
  3. Did your business/career move in a forward direction?
  4. Did you achieve/exceed what you were expecting this year?
  5. If yes, what were the success factors?
  6. If no, what happened? What can you learn and improve for the future?
  7. What do you “wish” you had done differently?
  8. Who were you champions, your cheering squad?
  9. Who have you met that you want to build relationships with in 2011?
  10. What do you want to leave behind in 2010?
  11. What do you want to change for 2011?
  12. What do you want to do new in 2011?
  13. What do you want to keep for 2011?

Consciously think about each question, celebrate the successes and learn from things that didn’t work. Bring forward what important for 2011, be honest and challenge yourself. Perhaps it is time to be planning for a career change. For business owners perhaps it is time to update your marketing plans, retire or introduce a new product.

Right now, pull out your agenda or your smart phone and book an appointment with yourself in the next 3 weeks.

Do it right now, you are important!

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Tis the Season To…

Believe it or not Christmas Eve is only 3 weeks away!! How many events/parties/celebrations could you attend in the next 3 weeks?

I personally have invitations to over 10 events in the next 2 weeks and I’m sure that I’m missing a few in that number. The temptation is to go to all of them as they are going to be interesting, festive, and is some case educational. Realistically, I just can’t attend all of them; each event is an investment of time and money. So how do I choice? How do you choice?

As a business owner I asked myself the following questions:

  1. Which event(s) are “don’t miss” event? Is it because it is an organization that I support, and/or event I just love to go to.
  2. Which events(s) are monthly events? Do I need to go every month? Is the topic/presentation important to my business? Will there be other opportunities to hear this topic?
  3. Which are new event(s), why am I considering going to them? What is the potential value to my business?
  4. Most importantly what is my budget for going to events this month? How many hours can I afford to give towards events?

By asking myself these questions I’ve been able to pair down the list to a few high quality events which best fit my business and personal needs at this time. I’m meeting my “event budget” for the month, I’ve freed up time to focus on other aspects of my business and personal needs.

How are you managing it? Spending a few minutes planning this month events can reduce your stress and add quality to the time you are spending out and about during the holiday season.

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Trust The People Who Believe In You!

Are there times when you are given a new job role or function and you are wondering “am I ready to do this?” or “They’ve got the wrong person, I can’t do this.”  This week I had 2 clients who were in that situation.

One client was being asked to move to another country in an equivalent or probably higher level role.  He’s insecurities were leading him to say I’m not ready, I haven’t learned enough. My question to him was do you trust your boss? Answer “yes”. Does he believe you can do it? Answer “yes”. Would he be putting the investment to move you if he thought you’d fail? “No”. Then trust you boss(s) and believe that they see you in a objective light and they see what you are accomplishing and what you can accomplish.

Personally, had I not trusted my bosses I would not have gotten on a plane to Melbourne Australia in November 1999. It was a last minute request to represent the company/business unit on a complex and high value proposal with several other companies involved. I didn’t feel I had the experience and knowledge for the assignment. My bosses believed in me and encourage me to take on the project. The project went extremely well. As a result I was promoted and asked to move to Sydney Australia for 2 years and I had the opportunity interact with customers and manage people across Asia Pacific. An amazing experience! 

Trust the people who believe in you. Trust them, allow them to believe in you when you aren’t ready to believe in yourself. Let them push you to take chances and you’ll be amazed at the opportunities and experiences that can open up for you.

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The Rush!!

You are a business owner, manager or an executive in a large firm. Do you have a time of year that is your “rush”? Is there a time where there is a huge increase in demand for your products or services and things get a bit crazy?  How have you learn to manage these peaks? What brings it on? Is it predictable? What can you learn from others?

As I write this I’m sitting at my mechanics waiting to get my winter tires on and it crazy! Why? Snow or the threat of snow! Tires are piled up everywhere, phone is ring, and the parking lot is overloaded with cars and it sunny out, wait until it actually snows and stays.

Winter is an expected event and yet we, the consumers, tend to be surprise when it snows. Like oh it snowed, we need tires, NOW!  Mechanics/garages need to manage around human nature, Mother Nature and product availability, a huge challenge.

I’m in and out in 30 minutes.

How do they manage it? By staying with 4 guiding principals:

  1.  Maintain an exception team
  2. Scheduling, scheduling, scheduling
  3. Focused on the customer and exceeding expectations
  4. Have a can do attitude

What is your challenge time? When are your rushes? How can you plan for it? What attributes are important to you? The 4 principals used by my mechanic can apply to any business. Knowing what to expect and planning for it are key to your success.

Are you ready for your “Snow”?

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What is Your Personal Brand?

What is your brand? Are you aware of yours? Is it what you want? How do you go about managing it?

Whether you are a business owner, or professional working in a large organization we all have our own personal brand or image. For business owners our personal brand/image is often lost in the brand of our business and we forget to focus on it. As professionals we often establish a brand or image but don’t evolve it as our careers advance.

It can be simple and yet we rarely think about it. There are a number of things that contribute to your brand for example:

  • How you dress – does it suit your role? Is it professional? Does it suit the position you want to move into?
  • How you address people – Do you project openness, friendliness or closed and unwelcoming?
  • How you interact with clients/co-works – Do you share your knowledge? Do you listen to them?
  • How you manage your time and workload – Do you always seem rushed? Are you inflexible? Do you seem in control? On top of you schedule?

To advance in your career or to grow your business it is important to understand how you are perceived and to periodically ask yourself if it still is what you want. For example if you’d like to move to the next level of management are you starting to dress to that position? Are you taking ownership of issues?

I was recently working with a client who needs to change their image/brand, currently they are perceived as hands off and not carrying about all aspects of organization. It is limiting their ability to advance. They’ve come to realize that they need to change that perception. They need to been seen as at least aware and interested in what is going on. For them this can be achieved by have more frequent conversations with peers and employees. Asking how things are going and being interesting in other aspects of the business. For my client it is a small change and they are already seeing people reacting differently to them.

Take a few minutes and ask yourself what is your brand? More importantly ask yourself what do want it to be and what do you need to change it?

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