Learn the norm and then push the boundaries

Some time ago I mentioned if we all were the same, the world would be a boring place. This remains a favorite saying of mine. In relation to work, there always are “in” jobs and professions, or the new better way to do your job. In reality, there are many ways to do the same job. Certain tasks may have specific steps, but otherwise, creativity and differences reign.

No matter 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. Do you do that, or is the same old same old? It’s hard to come up with or do something new or different. Ideas that seem so obvious weren’t to most of us. If you are an entrepreneur, whether in a startup or any other type of business, what makes you and your business stand out?

Colleges should teach creativity along with entrepreneurship, business, etc. Tapping into other parts of the brain is important and can be life altering. It is good to think outside of the box and differently than others in your space. Of course, in all businesses and professions, you need to learn the ropes and rules before trying to push any boundaries.

Doing what others have done is safe and where learning begins. We need people to do many jobs that are decidedly not hip or “in”. In fact, being safe or working as others have or in an unhip job may make you a success. Once you have learned the basics, being creative, unique and different has the possibility to make you a trailblazer or visionary in your field.

It’s up to you to determine whether you are okay with the status quo or not. It sure seems more interesting to blaze your own trail within whatever path you choose.

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Corporate culture in the time of Covid

Your business has a specific culture whether you are aware of it or not. All corporate cultures have been affected over the past year during the pandemic. The changes may be good or bad, depending on your view, but know where your company’s culture ends up as we move forward will be different than what it was in early 2020. The question is what do you want your corporate culture to be?

This question has many answers and the new procedures or rules you implement for your business will drive where your culture goes. Some threshold issues are whether your business will be virtual in whole or part, with employees working from home or around the country, or will you require your employees to be vaccinated. One overriding issue will be whether you treat all employees the same or not, and the related fallout.

By this I mean do some employees have the ability to choose to work remotely some or all of the time, while others are required to come into your place of business? If some employees are remote full time, some are coming in 2 days a week and others 4, each group may think the other is receiving preferential treatment and that they aren’t being treated “fairly.” I put the word fairly in quotes because how you define the word depends on you: what is fair to me may not seem fair to you. The risk in all situations is the potential for issues such as resentment in the workplace

I think issues such as resentment can work themselves out. Employees either will adjust to how they and other employees are working or opt out. This means there will be conversations to be had to know where employees stand, but some may opt out by leaving your company. This may be difficult in the short term, but in the long run your company will be better off with employees comfortable with what your company is post-pandemic and the manner in which your employees are working, i.e. comfortable with your evolving culture.

There are no easy answers. There will be bumps in the road. Your company likely will lose people you currently view as important to the success of your business. But this also will provide opportunity in the form of new employees who fit in your new corporate culture.

Embracing change always has been important. Now it’s as important as ever because businesses are reinventing their identities in part or whole. If you don’t consciously work on the reinvention of your company and its culture, it will happen anyway. Don’t you want to have a say in what your corporate culture becomes?

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Make goal, work hard, achieve

A few weeks ago I wrote about checking in on your goals. I was inspired bya goal I was working towards: a very long one-day hike in the Grand Canyon and the idea I would emerge at the top of the Grand Canyon at the end of the hike feeling physically well.

I have long been a hiker. This year I have been on a hiking tear. I enjoy hiking and it’s a great way to take a break and relieve stress. Despite hiking more or hiking less during and through the years, this year I was focused on my big goal. This was to be, by far, the longest single day hike I had ever done.

Months before, I came up with a plan of how I wanted to train. I set up accountability by creating a spreadsheet through which I could keep track of how often I trained, the length of a hike, the elevation gained and the time spent hiking. By doing this I regularly checked in on and knew how I was doing on staying focused on the hard work it takes to reach such a goal. It wasn’t always easy to break away to hike, but, when I did, I knew the hard work and time would be worth it.

Fast forward to last week. Saturday was the day. I was lucky to have a co-conspirator, who had done the hike before, my wife. We made our way to the Grand Canyon Friday evening and woke up early Saturday morning in the dark with a plan to start as or just after the sun was rising.

Throughout the day we hiked down the south Kaibab Trail and up the Bright Angel Trail for a total of 17.6 miles with close to a mile of elevation gain. You go through stages during such a long hike, but when we emerged at the top of the Canyon Saturday afternoon my training had paid off as I felt really good. I am speaking to more than the feeling of reaching a goal and finishing a long arduous task, but I physically felt really good.

I know I usually speak on topics related to business. It may not seem like it, but this is that type of topic. Instead of telling you about my training and the hike, this could have been a story of me spending hours a week to learn a new area of the law and getting my first case in which I was able to put my time and training to use. If you take the time to invest in yourself you can reach goals. It takes hard work, but is worth it in the end.

As for my experience, it left me thinking about the next big goal I can set for myself in relation to hiking, as well in relation to other areas of my life, including business. You know the saying “Just do it.” Start today.

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Check in on your goals

Setting goals is as important as it’s difficult. Once you do, you need to review your goals regularly. In addition to reading and reviewing your goals, you need to assess where you are and whether a goal needs to be revised.

Sometimes you don’t know a goal needs to be revised until you’re on the road trying to reach the goal. Once it becomes clear change is needed, make it. There is no reason to follow steps you have sketched out if you find there is a better path.

If you don’t review your goals it’s unlikely you will reach them, or it will take longer than if you had changed course. If, when reviewing them, you determine there is a better course of action, make necessary changes then. Then check in again regularly to see how you’re doing and whether additional tweaks are needed.

By constantly reviewing and working on your goals, the path you’re on, and where you are on the journey, you’re investing in yourself. The time to start in now.

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Commit to the current business environment and the future

We’re a year into the pandemic from when schools, businesses and most of the country shut down. Some businesses were able to transition in this environment with minimal disruption to productivity, while others weren’t. Your business may be back to operating in the manner it was before everything shut down. As a member of a law firm, we aren’t there, and likely won’t return to how things were at the beginning of March 2020.

Attorneys at our firm were long able to log in remotely from home or elsewhere (or vacation…). Our IT people did amazing work deploying all attorneys, paralegals and staff in a few short days. Having all of our assistants, accounting staff and others work remotely hadn’t been on our radar. Now it will, in part, be our future.

Before the pandemic, my partners and I knew as new attorneys came out of law school, their expectations on how and where they work would be different from those of new attorneys from just a decade ago. Think hoteling offices and hybrid work weeks. The pandemic has accelerated these discussions and when decisions will have to be made.

The main difference is it now involves all employees, not just attorneys. This will result in fundamental changes in how people and teams work. Maybe my team and I will be in the office three days a week and another will be there two, with one day crossing over.

Some people would prefer all employees come back five days a week. There is something to be said for what happens when people are in the same office in relation to collaboration, consultation and culture. Those pushing for five days a week are right, as are the those pushing for hybrid schedules for all. There are no easy answers.

Companies have to commit to plan and execute. The current business environment is the future and it is coming at us fast. Many people continue to work remotely and some will never go back to a physical office.

As a business you have to come up with a plan and stick to it, i.e. the equivalent of doing what you say you are going to do. If you don’t, your employees will not trust you and it will affect potential hires in the future.

Part of committing to the current environment is being honest with your employees. This doesn’t mean your company won’t have to adapt as you try new work schedules and ideas. It means you will have to try things and see what works, as well as what doesn’t. Then you will have to keep adjusting, just in a different manner than you may have thought a year ago.

Remember, change, while difficult at times, brings opportunity. Be ready to change or be left behind.

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Be kind, be cool, be courageous

Do people see you as you see yourself? If so, is that a positive? Are you kind to those you deal with throughout your day? The point of these questions is kindness is a choice . If you practice it, your path likely will be smoother and people will see you in a good light.

They may think you are cool or courageous, or simply nice. Any or all of these support a good reputation. I think kindness is cool and can be courageous. The situation dictates how something like kindness is interpreted by others. I sure would rather be thought of as kind than unkind.

Some people view kindness as a weakness and would rather be thought of as tough or hard. There is a difference between being kind and being a pushover. Kindness is a strength. It doesn’t mean letting people take advantage of you. It helps if you are good at sniffing out those who aren’t honest or have bad intentions.

Try being kind and see what happens. People will look at and think of you much differently if you don’t treat people well or are okay rolling over others on your path to success. At the end of the day you get to decide how you deal with people.

Don’t you want to do your best to leave a positive legacy? Of course, others write legacies, but you are the one who provides the underlying substance they use to write it. Choose kindness.

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Destroy apathy

I heard someone being interviewed and they mentioned a goal to destroy apathy. Given that apathy is the lack of motivation, this makes sense. It can seem pervasive at times with your children, younger employees and others. You know you have felt it too. I heard this statement and thought “that’s right, we need to destroy apathy” and show people the steps to success.

Many people look at success and see an image in their mind. Some see the hard work and motivation it takes to become successful, but some don’t. A lot of people see how it’s portrayed on television or otherwise think there’s an easy road to the top. There’s not.

It’s important to teach people, from a young age, about the work and motivation it takes to reach goals and achieve success. You can start with small or short term goals, which are a stepping stool to larger and longer term goals, which may be potentially more meaningful. It’s possible to inspire motivation and beat apathy. Being honest about the process and what it takes is a good place to start.

Help other by providing them with strategies.  It may be more practical to break big tasks into smaller parts. It depends what small hill or large mountain the person is trying to climb. You can help them understand what it takes. Doing so will give them a better chance to succeed and, when they do, you both will experience the satisfaction.

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Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

Comfort is a killer of creativity and improvement. When you’re comfortable, there is a feeling you can coast, doing the same old, same old, and it causes many people to stagnate personally or professionally. That doesn’t mean they won’t be happy or maintain their position and role, but they will be stuck under a false glass ceiling they created.

When you come up with ideas and try new things you are trying to break through the artificial ceiling you have allowed to stop your growth. It’s part of growth and improvement for you and your business. Some ideas will work and others won’t. But you don’t know unless you stay creative, which includes you stepping out of your comfort zone and inspiring others to follow you out onto the ledge.

Not all great ideas will be outside (or far outside) of your comfort zone. Some may improve your days, your health, a role or process at your company. Those types of ideas are important too. Any continued growth allows you and your business to stay competitive and successful.

The ideas outside of your comfort zone are different. These types of ideas allow you to have the chance to make significant personal changes or be thought of as an innovator and person of vision. Big risk, big reward.

Which type of person are you striving to be or are you? Are you staying in place stagnating or being worried about losing success, or are you out on the ledge trying to dance? Nothing is wrong with being either type of person, but it’s important to have the self awareness to know who you are. Either way, if you try to go past the end of your comfort zone, not only is that where life and adventure begin, the inspiration and exhilaration you feel are intoxicating and hopefully will keep you creating throughout your life and career.

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The I forgot to post earlier this week blog post and the lesson I learned (or remembered)

It’s Friday. I like to post new blog posts in the middle of the week when you likely are ready for a short break from the work in front of you. We all are too focused and busy on Mondays, and by Friday we are trying to get things done before people shut down for the weekend.

I missed that window this week. I could list the reasons this happened, but, if I’m honest with myself, I could have found time to write and make a post prior to today. I was really busy this week, but I could have done it. I didn’t.

I know how I work and why it didn’t happen. I just needed to block out some time on my calendar. I failed to block out time or put writing and posting a blog post on my to do list. Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve, didn’t.

Then I had a choice. I could just take a mulligan, move on, and post next week, or do what I did. I decided maybe what resulted in my lack of a blog post earlier this week has happened to you. We all have arrived at Friday morning (or afternoon) and remembered something we meant to do, but didn’t. Upon such a realization, you have the option to push other obligations to the side and get on it, or move it to the next week.

I had that choice this morning. Of course, if you’re reading this you know my choice. This is my way of reminding myself, and you, to make sure to focus on however you organize yourself, such as to do lists and calendaring. The takeaway for you is to figure out how you work and follow it as best you can.

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Unity in diversity

This is an old saying, which is true in many contexts. In the workplace diversity makes for a better and stronger workforce. It means more than tolerance of differences. Instead, it’s the recognition and understanding differences provide ideas, create connections and enrich the human connection.

Be clear diversity is broad, and includes more differences than most people think of. Of course it includes ethnicity, religion and sex, but there are many more types of diversity that can benefit your workforce. These include age, experience, disability, and culture.

Focusing on diversity has tangible and intangible benefits for your business. These include different perspectives, more innovation and creativity, and expansion of the pool of possible employees or co-workers. It also can present challenges including bias and resistance to change.

It helps to keep people engaged and provide opportunities for connection. If you have or plan to have a diverse workforce, you need to integrate diverse individuals at all levels. This means having diversity in your teams, committees and management. Instituting education and activities can bring people in a diverse workforce together and create opportunities for connection and growth.

You also will need to hold people accountable. This is difficult because many people aren’t comfortable with change. As your business changes and you make accountability matter, certain longer term employees may self-select out if they are uncomfortable with the changes being made. Others will grow and rise to the occasion. This is because making a change to your workforce to add diversity will alter your company’s culture.

You don’t just decide to try to have your company change its culture to become more diverse and it happens. You need to have a plan in place. Among other things, you need to consider what types of backgrounds may add diversity you believe will benefit your business, how to go about moving forward with your plan, and what you want your company’s culture to be.

This will not happen overnight. It’s a long-term strategy. If you are able to build diverse teams in your business, the road will have bumps, but it will yield positive results in the future. It will build a stronger community that will attract good and talented people.

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