Be Yourself

If we all were the same, the world would be a boring place. This is a favorite saying of mine. And it’s true. There always are “in” jobs and professions. I am sure most of us think of the tech space as in and seem impressed when someone has a job or internship with a Google, an Apple or similar tech related businesses.

For instance, you hear terms such as entrepreneur or startup all the time. Sometimes you hear them along with “incubator” or “co-working space”, which are in vogue at the moment.

Even if those terms describe you, your business or where you work, it is your individuality that makes you stand out to others. It also is your creativity and the ability to think outside of the box. Can you do that? It is hard to do something new or different. The ideas that seem so obvious weren’t to most of us. If you are an entrepreneur or in a startup, what makes you and your business stand out?

As part of the curriculum, colleges should teach creativity along with entrepreneurship, business, etc. It is good to be unique. It is good to think differently than others in your space.

Doing what others have done is safe and we need people to do many jobs that are decidedly not hip or “in”. Being safe or working one of the unhip jobs may make you a success. Being creative, unique and different has the possibility to make you a trailblazer, a visionary.

So are okay with the status quo or do you want to blaze your own trail??

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Two people. One conversation. Did you make sure you both left with the same understanding?

We hear and read a lot about listening fully, i.e. listen to what is being said instead of thinking of what to say next or in response; pay attention. This is easier said than done, which results in many people having a conversation and unknowingly walking away with differing understandings of what was spoken about or agreed to. This can lead to many issues, wasted time and work, and erode trust between the people who were part of the conversation.

This goes for conversations in person or by telephone. The other person on a call may be driving, surfing the Internet or otherwise not fully listening. Of course the result is the same that differing understandings may result, which then takes time (and money, because time is money, even if it is your personal time) to resolve the resulting issues and (hopefully) to get on the same page.

To avoid the issues, let alone the time it takes to resolve the issues, you need to trust the other person in the conversation understood what you intended, but verify. That’s right, it is the old cliché “trust, but verify.” The best way to do this is to ask the person you are speaking with to repeat back to you their understanding of what you just said. This will allow you to know they understood you, didn’t understand you or were not listening to you. Hopefully the result is the opportunity to leave the conversation on the same page with no misunderstandings.

If they cannot tell you what you just said because they weren’t listening to you, well, that is a subject for another day…

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Don’t forget to give back

Life moves fast. We all have so many commitments in business and personally it can be hard to find time to sit back and relax. Despite this, it is important to commit to give back to your community and those in need. We all know this intuitively, but following through and committing our own time can be difficult.

But not only is your time and assistance needed by numerous non-profits and those they benefit, you feel good when you do it. This was brought home when my family all volunteered recently related to a sixth grade project my daughter is working on, which required volunteer hours. Doing so together was a great experience. The same is true regarding the numerous volunteer opportunities my firm provides to do good on our community.

And you don’t have to join a working or fundraising board, committing many, many hours per month and year. You can volunteer to walk a dog, paint a home, serve meals, etc., which are one-off volunteer opportunities likely taking a few hours of your time.

Even when you plan in advance the time likely won’t be convenient when you get there. But the time and service you provide is priceless to those you and your actions assist (the non-profit and its employees/lead volunteers) or benefit (children, the homeless, animals, etc.).

So plan a volunteer activity today. It is easy to finds non-profits and contact them to find out about volunteering. Do it now because it is easy to forget how lucky we are to be in the position to be the volunteers instead of one of those in need of assistance.

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Culture Matters in the Workplace

Does your business have a specific culture? Of course the answer is that it does whether it is conscious or not. For instance, at my firm we have the JW Way (http://www.jaburgwilk.com/mission-statement). It is a mission statement consisting of twenty one fundamentals. We believe that since making these fundamentals of our firm’s culture a conscious part of our firm it has improved what already was a good place to work and guided us to better hiring decisions, all of which has had a positive impact on our bottom line.

This should not be a shock, though if you ask most business owners about the culture of their company it is not so easy to put into words. Sometimes putting it into words honestly may lead to the realization changes are needed. Change is hard, but if you invest in doing so the results will reflect the time and effort.

For instance, I read last year about Incheon Airport in Seoul, Korea. It is ranked No. 1 by passengers every year. When one employee was asked “What is it? What’s so magical?”, he responded as follows: “It’s because everyone – airport and airline personnel, security, concessionaires – we all share the same vision and we all deliver the same level of customer service.” They have a culture at that airport that allows that to happen. They all are pulling the rope in the same direction.

When that happens it is no surprise that success follows. When there is culture like that it tends to weed out those who don’t or refuse to follow the culture. That is what you want because it allows you to bring on people who appear better suited to be part of the culture and thereby help improve your business.

On a side note, a number of years ago my wife and I had a pretty long layover at Incheon Airport. Still to this day it is the best (and cleanest) airport we ever have been in, which sure made that long layover easy to make it through.

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Seize the Moment!

If you have my attention, blow my mind. Impress me and make me want to know more or invest in you or spread what you have shared. Opportunities are everywhere, but you need to treat them like they can be life altering.

This can be something general like just being nice to everyone. Was that millennial dressed more casual than you think she should be and seemingly on her phone too much a slacker or a tech innovator with a company more valuable than you can imagine. It is impossible to know and judging people on dress and looks will hurt you in today’s world. Talk to someone and see what happens. Worst case you cut the conversation short. Best case is the sky is the limits.

This can be something more specific like getting an audience with someone you really want to meet. Do you mumble and stutter trying to get your thoughts out or did you plan for the presentation or conversation? Practice a presentation, many times. Plan the conversation and possible questions in your head. Maybe practice this too so you can work out answers and what you want to say. This can help you hone your answers and not talk too much. Delivery counts.

Sometimes a certain opportunity only comes along once. Will you be ready??

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Challenge yourself!

Not sure what I mean by this? I will explain. I mean set goals, both short term and long term. And once you set the “goal,” which you should do in writing, write the action steps to get there. If you have no roadmap how can you expect to ever find that goal, let alone reach it. One roadmap you can follow is turning your goals into SMART goals:

  • Specific – target a specific  goal or area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify what you will do.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

This works both personally and professionally. Want to learn to play an instrument? Find an instructor good with beginners and take weekly lessons. And then practice, practice, practice. Even if it is fifteen or twenty minutes a day, make sure you carve out time in your schedule to do so. Putting that time on your calendar is even better because it is much more likely to happen.

Want to write a blog? I set out time to write these posts and to post and distribute them. Sometimes I block out time to write one post. Sometimes I write number at one time because I know upcoming weeks are really busy. Next, I block out time to send and post them. It helps that I enjoy doing this, but if I didn’t take the steps I do, I likely would have stopped years ago after a few posts.

So what is your goal? Once you know, determine the steps to reach it. If you are not sure, talk with a mentor or someone you think can help you formulate goals. It also helps to receive feedback from others on goals and action plans.

If you don’t set goals everything will stay the same. That may be fine with you, but if you think so, you should be asking yourself why. It equates to being a lifetime learner and continually trying to improve personally and professionally. Try it and see what happens.

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Do you manage expectations?

This is so important. In fact, I will venture to say its everything in business and in life. There are three possible outcomes with expectations: (1) exceed expectations; (2) meet expectations; or (3) miss expectations. Two out of three possible outcomes help you maintain clients, customers and business, while the last one likely will lose business or damage relationships.

It is better to under promise and over deliver than to over promise and under deliver. An example of this is when I tell a client I will have draft or project complete by a certain date. If I deliver it before the date I told them I have exceeded the expectation I set for them. If I deliver it on the date I said I met their expectation. If I get it to them after that date, I have missed their expectation, which I was in control of when I gave them the date originally. I know where I want to be when I have set the expectation and we all know what we think when someone else does so, such as when your car will be ready when in the shop to how long a doctor’s appointment will take.

And expectations in other areas, such as cost or fees, are incredibly important to manage. If you tell a customer a number or range, the cost better come in under or up to the number or within the range. Go under and you are a hero. Go over and you are a goat. You will be left making excuses for the cost and probably will end up cutting your bill. If you know the cost is going to be more than what you quoted, call them the minute you know and explain why. And get direction on how or if they want you to proceed. If you don’t, you do so at your own peril.

Sometimes things happen for innumerable reasons and you know you will not meet a deadline. What do you do? You call your customer and let them know, right away. And you then reset their expectations with a new deadline you believe you can and will meet. Having to reset expectations once in a while likely won’t harm your business, but if you make it a regular practice you do so, again, at your own peril.

So manage expectations well and you will have better client and customer relationships. Don’t, and you likely will have less client and customer relationships to worry about.

 

 

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Don’t talk too much!

We all know that person, the one you meet in a business or personal setting who cannot stop themselves from dominating a conversation or room. They don’t let anyone else say much. When the conversation or meeting is over, you know too much about them assuming they spoke about themselves, which most people like that do, or too much of their personal opinions, and we all know the saying about opinions and everyone having one. On the other hand, they may not even remember your name and didn’t let you speak enough to learn about you to have anything substantive to remember.

I read an article recently about annoying personalities on display at all networking events. That author had nicknames for various types of characters she encountered. It made me think of different types of people. The person I describe above can be referred to as the “Chatterbox.” The Chatterbox may be that way for a number of reasons such as (1) ego; (2) lack of self-awareness; or (3) social awkwardness. The reason doesn’t matter, but what you should do does: exit the conversation.

When meeting someone for the first time for business make sure you try learn more about their background and their business versus what you speak about and share. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share about you and your business, but if you focus on asking questions and learning about them, you will put yourself in a place to make a possible connection and know they aren’t walking away thinking you talk too much and don’t really care about what they do or have to say.

A great resource I work with passed on a link to a good article on this subject last year. The author of the article wrote about what he referred to as the Traffic Light Rule. It is another method to use to avoid talking too much. The gist is that the light is green the first twenty seconds you are speaking, yellow for the next twenty seconds and at the forty second mark the light turns red. If you play through that red light, bad things can and do happen.

So don’t be a Chatterbox or run red lights and you will put yourself in a better position to have meaningful interactions.

Here is the link to the article referenced above – How to Know if You Talk too Much by Mark Goulston: https://hbr.org/2015/06/how-to-know-if-you-talk-too-much.

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Success Does Not Happen Overnight

“Overnight success” is a cliché we all are familiar with. But in the real world most overnight successes have put in their time and you don’t even realize it. For instance, most people look at the Beatles as an overnight success. Actually their rise to the top took approximately five years, thousands of hours of practice and hundreds of live performances. To think they didn’t put in the time and sacrifice to get to the top is shortsighted and wrong.

Their first UK number 1 was in May 1963 and their first US number 1 was in January 1964, but John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met in 1957. Thereafter, Lennon asked McCartney to join the Quarrymen, who, other than Lennon, were not very good musicians. In 1958, after lots of practice and many shows, George Harrison joined the group. By 1959, only the three future Beatles remained in the band.

In 1960 they renamed themselves the Beatles. After that they went to Hamburg, Germany for a good amount of the time between August 1960 through December 1962. During that time they lived in one cramped room with a bathroom down the hall and practiced for endless hours each day, while playing clubs at night. They put in hard work and sacrificed to improve their skills. Obviously it worked for them.

You are asking yourself, “okay, but what does this mean to me?” It is this type of investment in and commitment to whatever you are doing, whether alone or in a group, that gives you the best chance to succeed in any field. I could have told you the same story about entrepreneurs, professionals, etc. from every industry, but the Beatles work because everyone thinks their success was immediate when it wasn’t, and don’t realize the time and energy they invested in themselves leading to that success.

And that is the usual route. Hard work doesn’t guaranty success, but it gives you a much better shot. So plan your strategies for your business, career, networking, marketing, whatever you are doing, regularly and think long term. Ask most successful people you know and you will get a good story about what it took to reach where they are and that they continue to try to improve, because staying on top of the mountain is as hard as reaching the summit.

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Be on time

Be on time. Yes, it is that simple. Everyone’s time is valuable. We all have one more thing we can do before walking down the hall for that scheduled meeting or leaving to make it on time to that lunch meeting. What this really boils down to is that we all need to honor our commitments.

When you show up late you are saying “what I was doing is more important than being on time for you.” If it is worth scheduling, it must be worth showing up on time, right? If not, then you need to question why you scheduled the meeting. Sometimes it is not your choice and those above you require you to attend yet another meeting you think is a waste of time.

If that is the case you should think about what you are saying to your superiors by showing up on time or not (or not paying attention such as checking your phone…). If you are not showing up on time you may on purpose or by mistake be sending a non-verbal message about what you think. And that may stick in the mind of your superior and will it affect your ability to move up through the ranks in the future? Do you want to take that chance?

Like him or loathe him, Woody Allen has a great quote on this: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Again, it is simple: be on time.

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