Most of you remember when “the usual” was sending anything and everything by mail. People do things for you, oftentimes going out of their way, all the time. Do you acknowledge these people? If not, why not? If so, how?
If someone does something meaningful, you need to let them know. I understand not all people are doing things to receive thanks, or even comfortable with praise at all. But you know when someone deserves your gratitude, and an email or a text may not be the most appropriate way to express it; they can be low-impact and quickly forgotten. Thanking someone in person may work well, especially if you know you’ll see the person. Other times, you won’t be seeing the person for a while and that’s when you should go with the handwritten letter: a high-impact personal touch that won’t be forgotten in a digital age.
I will admit I don’t handwrite thank yous as much as I should, but I try. I was recently in New York and my aunt and uncle, who live northeast of Philadelphia, took a train to Manhattan to go to dinner with me. That was above and beyond given the amount of time spent traveling in one day, not to mention, they’re not exactly young. When I got back to Phoenix the next week, I bought a card and sent them a heartfelt personal note of thanks. People appreciate this sort of thoughtfulness.
The point is to try and let people know when you appreciate them or their actions, and you don’t have to buy a card. You can write a letter on lined paper, computer paper, or sticky notes. It doesn’t matter how you do it and won’t to the recipient, who will be touched because you took the time to personally pen your thanks and acknowledge what they’ve done for you.
To me, it’s like volunteering for a non-profit. Even though the point is doing something for others, it makes you feel good. Try it and see.
Make travel your norm. We all need to take breaks from work and recharge. If you wait for when you have more time or retire, that time may never come. Or maybe you will retire one day, but be physically unable to go to the places you always hoped and planned to. This is part of work/life balance.
When you travel, immerse yourself in local culture and places. Attempt to meet (hopefully interesting) locals to make your travels more fruitful and expand your world. If you do meet good people, try to keep in touch—it makes your daily life richer and fuller.
I was at a family event back East recently. Part of the draw, in addition to seeing family and friends, was that two former foreign exchange students who lived with relatives of mine years ago were also there with their significant others and kids. Each family had travelled from England and Denmark, respectively. I’ve been in touch with the family from Denmark over the years, but hadn’t seen them in approximately two and half years. I hadn’t seen the couple from England in 13 or 14 years and had never met their children. It was great to reconnect with both families in person.
Not only will I now stay in better touch with the family from England, but one of my nieces made a great connection in her chosen area of study. You never know who you’ll meet or how they may help you or you might help them in life if you’re not open to meeting new people or reconnecting.
And when I talk about travel, I don’t mean every trip needs to be the “trip of a lifetime” to Europe, a safari, or an expensive flight to a remote island. It can be a short weekend in town, a staycation, or a trip to a town an hour or two away. But try different places and activities—sometimes you don’t know you like something until you try it
The point is to give your brain and body a break, as well as spending quality time with your family and friends, hopefully meeting interesting locals or other travelers along the way. Your life will be that much more interesting for you and to others.
I know you may be thinking I want to be seen as different by my peers. But showing people you’re different will go a long way to proving you are better. For instance, I’ve written about my firm’s intentional culture known as the JW Way because it makes us different than most other law firms.
What I’ve found is that most potential clients and referral sources are attracted to the JW Way and what it says about my firm. We understand that the JW Way may not be for every client, but that just means they should be working with another firm or a different attorney.
So think about differentiates you from your competitors; it’s also likely to be what makes you better. Letting people know why you’re different is more intriguing than telling someone you are better. The former is interesting and the latter is cocky. How do you want to come across? And it goes without saying that speaking about your company’s values will come off better than slagging your competitors.
Sometimes it is what you know, despite the universally repeated cliché “everything is who you know, not what you know.” Who you know is important, but what are you going to speak about with the people you know or meet? What you know, of course. The more you know, the more topics you can speak intelligently on with those you know and meet. This is important in the real world.
And what should you read? The answer is what you like. It helps if that includes being up on the news, at least generally. Read the headlines, whether from the New York Times, msn.com, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, etc. If you read articles that interest you and skim the other headlines and articles generally, it will allow you to participate in more conversations with others.
You may not be a sports person, but skimming most news sources last week would have told you the Houston Astros won the World Series. Even knowing this bit of information can help you make your way into a conversation with someone you want to meet at an event. Of course, it will be up to you to turn the conversation to where you would like it to go, or at least to a subject on which you know more than the headline and are more comfortable.
Reading other things also is helpful. It can be fiction or non-fiction, which hopefully provides you with books you can recommend to others. Maybe you will find one that impacts you deeply enough you should be sending copies to certain people you know, including clients or business partners. Unexpected gratuitous gifts are a good way to be remembered by others who you hope keep you in mind.
Reading is the equivalent of investing in yourself. Aren’t you worth the time and investment?
Successful people want others to succeed while unsuccessful people secretly hope others fail. I read something like this a while back and it stuck with me. The point is we are all in it together. Rarely does someone succeed alone and even when it appears they did, they probably had someone (or a number of people) helping them along the way.
Athletes have coaches. And so do many business people and professionals. Musicians rarely are self-taught. The same is true for business people and professionals. Most of us were students who had teachers, whether in school, an apprenticeship, etc. You get the idea; it is rough going on your own and makes it much more likely you will make serious mistakes teachers and mentors can help you avoid.
I have been lucky enough to have formal and informal mentors along my road. Without them it would have taken me much longer to achieve many things I have personally and professionally. Or maybe I would have missed opportunities because I didn’t even know they were there, or not made it as far as I have.
So leave your ego at the door and help people in your life succeed. Not only will it probably end up benefiting you at some point (but you can’t count on that and it’s not the reason to do it), but it will make you feel good helping others. Plus, success really is contagious. Try it and see.
Listen to what people ask you and answer their questions directly. Too many people either do not listen fully to the person they are speaking with or ignore what is being asked. In almost all situations, conversations will go better, and definitely take less time, if the person answering answers the questions instead of going off based on their own agenda.
I know many of you are thinking “this does not apply to all circumstances.” True. But it applies to most. When people sidestep a question and start rambling on it usually looks like the person is being defensive, has something to hide or both. And I admit that some questions are confusing, but if you do not understand the question, you should say so and ask the person to ask again until you do.
In my world, this comes up in court. Judges ask questions and attorneys usually respond in whatever way they believe will help their client and case. Sometimes they remember to come back at the end and address the actual question, but many times they do not. Speak with any judge and you will learn one of their biggest pet peeves is attorneys not just answering what the judge has asked. As with other situations, it makes judges question that attorney’s position because they can’t or won’t answer the question directly, instead addressing their own agenda, i.e. it is looked at as being defensive and coming from a point of weakness.
So how do you want to be perceived by those you deal with professionally and personally? I am sure you want to be believed and not thought of as defensive or hiding the ball. If so, remember that part of listening fully is to directly answer questions you are asked.
- Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up. ~ A.A. Milne
Yes, I just quoted the author of Winnie-the-Pooh. And he is right, which is both obvious and apparent, especially to those of us trying to stay organized. Let’s be honest, it is a constant struggle. You have your business life and your personal life. Some people keep separate calendars for each. Others are like me and keep one calendar for everything lest they miss anything.
And what works for me to stay organized and focused may not work for you, and vice versa. At home, I am having this challenge with my perpetually disorganized twelve year old daughter. At this point in time she fits the old saying “she would lose her head if it wasn’t attached.” In trying to advise her on organization, I have been speaking with her about what I do, and what others have told me they do, because I do not know what will work for her.
So, if you are not naturally organized, do you have a system? For instance, I use calendar reminders that are synced across my work and personal computers and devices, as well as using hand-written “to do” lists or lists I email to myself. What about you? Do you use a different method or combination of methods? Maybe certain software or an app?
As with most things, you should take time every so often to assess your state of organization….or lack thereof. Maybe you are reading this and realizing that your system or methods are failing you and you really are not as organized as you thought. If that is the case, you need to take action because disorganization leads to wasted time and lost money or opportunity. It could be forgetting to connect with the great lead you met last night at an event. Or it could be it causes you to have less time to spend with your family. Whatever it is in your life, disorganization is equivalent to loss.
Don’t let this happen to you. Take time to assess your level of organization. It might be working fine, or maybe it needs a tweak. Or maybe it needs an overhaul. If so, do it sooner than later because it will save you time and lead to time better spent personally and professionally.
And if you think you have a great system or method, please share it with me.
What is hot tomorrow won’t be forever. Today’s styles and trends likely will have changed by this time next year, if not sooner. You can look no further than general music trends from the ’80’s through now.
Back then rock ruled. Think Queen, Led Zeppelin, etc. Then glam rock became big – think of Guns-n-Roses, Motley Crue and Poison – only to be kicked to the curb by Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and grunge rock. After that there was the era of the boys bands, and now pop and rap rule the charts and airwaves. And what artists or bands are popular changes all the time. And always did.
The same happens in the fields we all are in. Change is constant. It may be because of technology, which generally impacts all of us. It may be like in law, where new cases are published by Courts all of the time changing or narrowing the law. Or maybe you are an accountant and deal with the ever-changing tax code. If you think about it and are honest with yourself, you probably can name what has changed in your business in the first half of 2017.
Change actually is what keeps things interesting. In our evolving world, either continually adapt or get out of the way of those of us who do.
No one likes to cause an issue, be wrong, be behind on a project or deal with the fallout. But part of blameless problem solving is self-accountability.
Self-accountability is the ability to be honest with yourself, as well as being answerable and responsible for what you say and do. To do so, when something goes wrong, you need to step out of the moment and consider consequences of how you respond. It means that after making an assessment of the situation, you are honest with yourself, honest with others and take responsibility for any part you played in causing or creating the situation.
Self-accountability comes into play in all situations, not just when problems arise. If someone who gave you a project to complete asks how it’s coming, you need to be honest even if it is not quite where it should be. Because of our culture, you should have the courage to tell the truth even when it is not what the other person wants or hopes to hear.
That is because inherent in blameless problem solving is trust. We all want our co-workers to trust us and vice versa. The expectation we all will have candor with each other rests on knowing that even the honest response someone doesn’t want to hear will be dealt with respectfully.
This doesn’t mean you don’t get to explain yourself. But leading with why something negative happened or a project isn’t complete will sound like an excuse and come off being defensive. Lead of with the issue, the status, whatever you need to communicate, honestly. There will be time to explain if necessary and appropriate.
I leave you with a quote on self-accountability I found that I like:
“The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same.”
― Steve Maraboli
What? Really. What I mean is that as you gain experience you realize how much you don’t know and become (hopefully) more comfortable admitting it. We all experience conversations where the other person tells you they know about something or someone, but is or becomes clear they don’t. You see this more in younger or less experienced people, but anyone can do it.
Most times it comes from inexperience and insecurity. We are not supposed to know everything and everyone. We can be in a position at any age, where we are learning something new. Ask the extra question. How else can you learn? If you act like you know it all, you never will, and it will catch up to you. You want to be an expert, but Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule is real in that if you don’t put in the time you never will really be the expert you want to be.
You may be thinking it is okay to “fake it ’til you make it.” But this is a cliché, and needs to be taken with a dose of reality. If you want to become an expert in anything, especially professionally, you need to spend time and invest in yourself, i.e. the 10,000 Hour Rule. Faking it only can take you a short distance whereas investing in yourself and being a lifetime learner will continue to move the needle in the direction you want.
So be honest when you don’t know something and see what you learn.