Change is constant

I have been thinking about change during the last few months as many businesses have had to convert to remote working, and others have lost their jobs or businesses. It caused me to go back to a post I wrote in January 2014, which resonates today (and everyday). I have updated it, but it remains truth that change is constant.

Winners know this. What do I mean?  Being able to adjust on the fly is important.  In my world it can mean abandoning the entire oral argument you spent hours preparing because of a question or statement by the judge, a position taken by my opposing counsel or a client question. It also means having change forced upon you where you need to figure out how to network and develop business in a world where social distancing is the new norm and many businesses remain closed. The ability to shift gears on the fly allows you to be focused on the prize, whatever it may be.

Many times the change or adjustment does not need to be a split second decision.  What if you plan a new business initiative, spend hundreds of hours on it and then learn something has changed or you missed a piece of information that makes it more challenging to succeed?  Change is needed. Is it to scrap everything in the face of adversity?  Is it to rethink and tweak your plan?  Of course the true answer is that it depends on the situation.  But once you acknowledge change is needed you have taken the first step.

Change matters in your professional life.  Don’t become stagnant because the current circumstances don’t allow it, i.e. if you don’t change and adjust others will do so and pass you by.  To be on the top of your game you have to know when to adjust.  Stay up to date on what you need to know to do what you do.  Information is power.  Information is another thing that lets you know when you have to change or adjust.

Life is both a gift and a challenge in which we all can do a better job of doing our best for our customers and clients, as well as ourselves.  So pay attention!  Look for when you have to make adjustments or when change is being forced upon you by circumstance. Being open to change will bring creative ideas and opportunity, and allow you to shape your future.

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Reputation matters

Reputation takes a lifetime to build and mere seconds to lose. This is why your reputation and the reputation of your business matter in all you do during work hours and outside of those hours. This relates both to an overall picture of what others think and what you do that fits within those general thoughts, or not.

We all are ambassadors for the companies we work for. No role is bigger or smaller than other roles, just different. All roles are important and allow your business to function. It’s important to act in a manner that reflects well on you and your business to allow the business to function and to maintain its good reputation you have helped it earn.

Reputation is mainly is defined to two ways:

  1. the beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something ; and
  2. a widespread belief that someone or something has a particular habit or characteristic.

I think the definitions are different, though connected. Your reputation clearly is what others in your circles or communities thing of you. An example could be that you have a reputation for being honest, charitable and a hard worker. At the same time, the beliefs of others are built on knowing your habits and characteristics that support such a reputation. An example of this is that each Saturday morning you volunteer at a local foodbank. Because of your habit to volunteer, part of your reputation is that you are charitable. What you do translates into who you are in your own eyes and the eyes of others.

Actions and inactions that can affect your reputation, and that of your business are numerous. Examples include not getting work done timely or within expectations, lying, or being careless on social media, even on your personal accounts. Do one or more of these and the response will be swift and negative.

On the other hand, when you do good, you have to continually do so for it to become part of your reputation. If you continually miss internal or external deadlines others at your business or the customers you need to succeed may not want to work with you again. If you volunteer each week, it may be months (if you are lucky) or more likely years before that habit becomes part of your broader reputation. It may not seem fair one bad act or mistake can follow you for a long time while doing good can take years to penetrate your community as to who you are, but knowing this should help guide choices you make.

Your reputation is built on peoples’ experiences with you. The reputation of your business is built on peoples’ experiences with you. We all deal with a broad group of people. This includes co-workers, clients, vendors, and people we deal with in our personal lives, from friends and family, to the person who cuts your hair or services your car. How you deal with and treat these different people reflects on you and your business.

Doing your best at all times is one way to work on and protect your reputation by doing things in a way that reflect well on you and your business, and positively affect the way others think of both. Once in a while, think about whether there are things you can do better at work or home. Then do your best and a good reputation will follow.

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Stay healthy for your business

Being healthy obviously is good for you. It also is good for your business. It gives you energy. You can work out with others, including people you work with, customers, referral sources, etc. It is what you make it, and that can turn into something powerful in your life.

People seemed to really get into exercise when the quarantines and stay at home orders started. As time has gone by (and it has gotten really hot where I live), the amount of people I see out exercising, even early morning, has significantly decreased. We all should make exercising part of our routine because it has huge benefits for your body, brain and mental health. And to your business, if you make it so.

Everyone seems to be losing a bit of focus as the pandemic continues. Exercise gives you something else to focus on. It also can help you find your center. Plus, we all can use stress relief in relation to our personal and professional lives.

Some people like to exercise by themselves. It can provide tome to think about your day, your work, relationships or whatever else may be on your mind. Others want to do so with others because it helps keep them accountable to show up and do their best. Or it may be for social reasons. You can exercise with the same person regularly or do different things with different people, from friends to family to business connections.

I have a partner who hikes with a woman she met professionally and who later became her friend. When they hike together the range of topics discussed run the gamut from personal to business, and they each have had business referred from the other over the years.

As we head into summer, it is as good a time as any to think about your health and what you can do to maintain it or improve it, as well as deepen connections if you choose to, like my partner has.  Don’t only think about this when coming up with New Year’s resolutions.  Whether changing your diet, exercising more or starting for the first time, do something.  Invest in yourself.

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Set and revisit goals

Do you set goals? You should, and they should be in writing. If you have, you should revisit them often to see where you are on the road to achieving your goals. Writing goals and not reviewing them will negatively affect your chance to reach them.

You need to write down your goals. I currently am outlining my goals because June is the fiscal year end for my firm. Everyone at my firm writes down SMART goals for the next fiscal year. We also have mentoring and accountability groups that meet throughout the year to discuss goals and help our people be in the best position to reach their goals.

You need to keep your goals where you can see them. I keep copies on my desk and on my computer desktop where I can see my goals every day and review them regularly. It can help to make a weekly or monthly calendar event to remind you to review your goals. 

Work on your goals. The idea is to set goals, review them and work on them.  Yes, work on them.  This is important planning and work. Doesn’t your career or business deserve your focus and attention?

Change your direction. I saw a great quote from Jim Rohn, which inspired my topic this week. He said “You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” How true. So get on it and change your direction!

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Focus on one thing at a time

What are  you doing right now? Are you focusing on reading these words? Do you have an eye on your email, texts, or social media? If you are working from home, are you dealing with your children? Or maybe you are do some combination or all of these activities.  Or are you on the phone?  We all think we can multi-task and do it well, but the truth is we can’t.

How many times a day, when you are on the phone, can you hear the keyboard and mouse clicks on the other end of the line?  Are they taking notes or looking up something relevant to the conversation, or are they surfing Twitter or Facebook?  Or maybe they are reading an unrelated, substantive email? You know they weren’t listening when they ask you to repeat what you just said after you ask them a question because they don’t know what you asked.

Doing any of these activities while talking to someone on the phone is comparable to looking at your emails and texts while in a meeting or at lunch with someone. In both cases you are checked out and telling  the people speaking or who you are dining with that they are not as important as whatever is on your phone.

It simply is very hard to focus on two things (or more) at once.  Coming across as your best possible self or doing your best work matters. It’s your reputation and people remember.

For a week (or for those truly device or multi-tasking addicted, a day) try to focus on what is in front of you, whether a person or a project.  If you are heading into a meeting, don’t  bring  your phone or leave it in your pocket or purse. Better yet, turn it off. When you are on the phone, leave that mouse alone and keep things that interest you off of the screen(s) in front of you. If you have room and a wireless headset, get up and walk around focusing on the conversation.

This is about focus and respect. No one may know you are trying to multi-task other than you, but it is amazing what you learn when you actually listen.

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Networking in the time of Covid

For most of the past two and a half months in person networking hasn’t existed. It remains of the utmost importance for all of us, whether we are lucky enough to be able to work or are unemployed. Many people I speak with have not networked or conducted business development activities since offices closed and stay at home orders went into effect. Doing nothing is harmful in the long run and despite businesses now being allowed to open in most states, normal networking and business development activities will take longer to become the norm again.

Most of my networking involves meeting people for coffee, lunch or drinks. This hasn’t happened since the first week in March. In Arizona, coffee shops and restaurants are allowed to be open, but will the people I want to meet with be ready to go back yet? I’m not sure I am ready to go back yet. So we each need to determine for ourselves what we are comfortable with and how to deal with people whose comfort levels are different than ours.

The answers depend on you. You may be ready to dine out. If you are, you will have to navigate setting up meetings carefully and responding positively when others aren’t willing to meet in person. You likely don’t want to do yet another Zoom meeting, but that may be the only way to get an audience with some people. If that is where they are, you need to accept that. We each get to choose how we feel about the current state of social distancing and the risks we are or aren’t willing to take. We all need to be respectful and take that meeting you want in whatever form you and the other person can agree on.

Of course, with people you know, there are other options to connect. Yes, I mean picking up the phone, emailing, texting, etc. The manner of communication depends on your relationship with the other person. Making time each day to maintain connections is important. It is a form of investing in yourself.

You need to do the same things you always should be doing. These include making lists of people you know and want to connect with, as well as people you want to meet. Then take the time to contact those you know or finding someone who can connect you to those you want to know. Whether to have those willing to connect you do so now or in the future is up to you, but putting the wheels in motion will make it happen sooner than later either way as the world opens up again.

We all need to take action now for our futures. What are your plans?

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Random thoughts on business and life

During this social distancing and quarantine limbo we currently find ourselves in, I have found myself taking time to think about my career, the road to where I am, and the road forward. Through doing so, I had some random thoughts that connect into an outline on trying to build a sustaining career. I wish someone had told me some of these back in the day, but trial and error, along with wrong turns, are how you learn so you can make better decisions down the road, thereby giving yourself the best opportunity to achieve success.

1. Being the star may be short-lived

Being a rainmaker or achieving success usually takes hard work and time. At points it feels like it is easy to break through, but it is harder to sustain. Your hard work generally needs to be continuous to sustain a great career.

2. Quality counts.

If you want to maintain your reputation and have longevity at a high level expect to work hard. Try to be professional even when others are not because people will remember the one time you lack professionalism if you let it happen. It may be easy to game the system for a short time, but it’s hard to game the system during your entire career. Your best bet is to focus on your work and do your best for your clients or customers.

3. Talent is not something you are born with.

There is no way around the fact that you have to do your work and homework to do your best for your clients or customers. Find a business or a niche within your business you like. Once you do, then get down to learning and do your best. If you do it’s likely your clients, customers and professional acquaintances will help spread the word for you. The goal is being looked at as an expert and having longevity.

4. Throwing it all at the wall doesn’t work well.

Even if it makes you feel good to get the message out every way you can, unless your target market is listening it’s wasted time and effort. For most of us it’s not a numbers game, but about personal connections. One personal email to an important connector is more important than a press release sent out randomly. That personal touch is everything. People remember personal emails, phone calls and meetings, which can pay dividends in the future.

At the same time, if you’re using the written word, use spellcheck and proofread!

5. Invest in yourself.

Success is slow. Take the time to learn well and to put what you learn into practice. Your focus on putting effort into learning your craft and building your reputation will result in business if you maintain the course. Once you have business, treat clients, customers and everyone you deal with how you would want to be treated.

There’s plenty of business to do. There is plenty of money to be made. Business and money come easier if you work on you and your business, and don’t make only the numbers your top priority.

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Work/life balance

Are you the workaholic each of us knows? You know the one. They check their email from the time they wake up, to when they are at lunch with you (please remember this is rude when we are able to dine together again), to when they go to sleep. For some, it’s an easy pattern to fall into. Now that many of us are working from home, it’s easier because there is even less separation between work and home.

Work/life balance is difficult in normal times, but we aren’t in normal times. The blur between work and home has never been so apparent for most people. In my home, my wife is working in one room, I am working from another, and our children are doing some online schooling and a lot of time wasting in the same spaces. Things change when your commute is walking across your home. It makes it infinitely more difficult to separate work and family. At the same time, I feel lucky I have the ability to work from home and be employed when so many people have lost their livelihoods.

I would like to tell you I am good at separating and there are bright lines for work and family time. I consider myself a work in progress. Sometimes I am better at it that others. It’s hard enough when you are at home and can always check work email or receive  calls. Now, I can sit down at what currently serves as my office twenty-four seven. This is great for my clients, but no so much for my family.

It is no secret that hard work is required for success. And there are times you must work harder than others and longer hours. Getting ahead does not come easy. But, as important as giving your all for your career or business, there has to be down time too, and I don’t mean sleep.

At all times, let alone when you are stuck in your home, you need to remember what you like to do for fun. We all need stress release. If you have to even think about the answer to what you like to do for fun or to relieve stress, you need to rethink your priorities and come up with a plan. Working hard until you die ends the same if you had instead taken more time for fun and stress relief. It’s important to draw a line in the sand and come up with strategies that will work for you to step away from work, enjoy time with your family and lower your stress. It’s easy to Google what most people regret as they near the end of life, and it usually related to having worked too much when they finally have realized that life is short.

If you question what I am saying about stress relief, talk to your doctor. For me, fun and stress relief includes physical activity. You should try to include physical activity in your routine. Your body and brain will thank you for it, especially as you age.

As for fun, it really is a requirement too. It could be sewing or playing an instrument, travelling, participating in a book club, etc. or a combination of many things. But you need to find things you enjoy that are wholly unrelated to work. Without doing so, you will have no balance and the odds of burnout or something worse increase exponentially. Don’t let this be you. Try to find balance and understand it always is a work in progress.

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Stay connected

Staying connected to people you know is difficult when you are in different places and told it’s unsafe to gather in groups. Most people currently are isolated at home other than when grocery shopping. You probably are working remotely, if you are able, and are lucky enough to still have a job. You may walk around your neighborhood and get to waive to your neighbors or exchange a quick greeting from a distance. This isolation is unhealthy mentally because most of us crave connection and miss it now that it’s harder to come by.

Your disconnection with friends, family and co-workers will grow unless you make an effort to try to maintain those connections. It won’t just happen. You will need to be disciplined, and many of us will need an actual plan.

It’s like networking, but with those in your personal circle. Instead of texting or liking a Facebook post, go into the contacts section of your phone and call people. You have or can make the time. Staying in touch with family may come more naturally. Calling friends you are used to keeping in touch with electronically or co-workers you see around your office takes more effort.

With family and friends I mostly text with, I am trying to call at least once a week. I regularly speak with co-workers I am working on projects with, but that is a small circle. I am trying to reach out to other co-workers I don’t regularly work with to check in. Most are surprised, but seem to appreciate the effort.

Doing this has the added benefit of keeping me connected with others despite being isolated in my home. As someone who lives for connection it’s helping to keep me sane, which seems like good goal these days. When you finish reading this, pick up your phone and reach out to someone now.

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Network now for your future

We currently are living in strange and different times. Businesses, cities, and countries are shut down. People are isolated. There is no traffic and the air seems cleaner. And people are exercising outdoors more than usual.

Despite businesses being closed, or their employees working remotely, the time to network is now. Networking is about connecting. Connecting takes many forms in addition to attending events or meeting for coffee. With in-person networking off of the table for now, other ways to connect should be your focus.

Many people have more time on their hands, which can be used to connect by phone, email, or text, as well as LinkedIn and other social media sites or apps. The manner of connection depends on who you are connecting with and the level of that relationship. The actions you take to network anytime shouldn’t be random, and this includes during the pandemic.

You need to look through your contacts and decide who you want to network with and in what manner. In the past few weeks I have networked by phone, email, text, FaceTime, Zoom, and social media. Some of the contact was initiated by me, and some by others – I’m not the only one trying to network despite the pandemic. People realize that we will get to a point where things generally go back to normal in that the orders to stay at home will be lifted and most businesses (hopefully) will re-open.

If you don’t network while all of this is going on, it will be like lost time you can’t recapture. All of us can speak to negative effects the pandemic is having on our business and professional lives. If you do nothing, when the world gets going again, you will be starting from behind.

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