When I was younger, clichés such as “The days are long, but the years are short” kind of bugged me. As I aged, I learned that clichés are clichés because they generally are true for most people. I am reminded of how quickly time goes by each week when Shutterfly sends me an email with a few pictures and a subject line such as “Your memories from this week ten years ago.” Then I look and see much younger versions of me, my wife and our children, friends and families, and fun travels from the past.
My point isn’t to lament the passage of time, or of aging, but to consider it in a different light. I think how fast time goes by in the big picture makes setting goals and planning how to reach them that much more important.
I encourage you to make a plan. It can be for a year, six months or whatever time frame works best for you. You may combine personal and work related goals in a single plan or have different plans, but writing down your goals makes it more likely you will reach them. In doing so, you should turn your goals into SMART goals (this can easily be Googled) with action steps to reach them. This is the first step. Many people do this and then don’t look at their plans again.
For most of us this alone won’t help us reach our goals because you need to keep your goals in mind – yes, the cliché that comes to mind is “out of sight, out of mind.” Instead, you need to keep your plan where you will see it regularly. This could be a printout on your desk at home or work (or both), or as a file on your computer’s desktop where you will see it every time you start it up. Or maybe use it as the wallpaper on your computer monitor as a reminder.
Then, and this is big, you actually need to review it regularly. This allows you to see where you are and adjust steps or goals, if necessary. You can make it a part of your routine on whatever time frame you think works by setting calendar items or tasks so you are reminding yourself to review your plan. If you try this, it likely will become a default activity you make time for, which is the definition of investing in yourself.
As the week of July 4th is upon us, a huge number of
Americans will take the roads and air to get out of town. Whether you are doing
so or not, make sure to plan time away from your work.
Vacation is important. It provides a break from your routine. This allows you to re-charge and connect with friends and family. Yes, this means you should try to not check your work email all the time when you are out. Your body and brain will thank you – it’s part of why most people go on and crave vacation.
If you must think about work while away, plan actions you can take to improve your business or generate new business, as opposed to just doing your usual work from some different, beautiful locale. Take the time and space to think about the bigger picture. That is a benefit of getting out of your day-to-day routine.
But also leave your work behind for at least part of your vacation so you really can allow yourself to rest and enjoy your time away.
Studies have shown that likable people are more successful. This makes sense because I feel comfortable saying that almost any person you ask would rather be around and do business with someone who is likable versus someone who is not. Because of this, it’s good that being likable is something you have the power to control and improve on.
Being likable is easy if you think about the qualities you like in others. For me, and likely most of you, these include being sincere, listening well, being transparent, and being understanding of others and their differences. And, again, people who have these skills and are highly likable have been shown to outperform those who don’t.
So what can you do to be more likable? Ask questions. People like to talk. If you ask questions the other person will think the conversation went well even if you only spoke a small percentage of the time. This involves listening fully so you are engaged in the conversation and can ask good follow up questions. I have a partner who says you want to picture the other person wearing a baseball hat that says “Make me interesting.” He means ask good questions and stay engaged.
Another thing you can do is be genuine. Nobody likes people who are fake. They want people they can trust, people who are comfortable in their own skin. If you are trying to win people over, you are approaching it the wrong way. Be yourself, and confident in who you are.
It also helps to have positive body language. Body language communicates a lot, even when you aren’t paying attention to it. An example is the person sitting across from you who is smiling, but has their arms crossed and is sitting in a closed manner. They think they look happy and confident, when they truly appear tense and closed off. If you are not sure about your body language. ask someone you trust. You may be surprised at what they say. If they tell you things they think you can improve on, you can practice in front of a mirror or pay more attention when you are speaking with others.
There are many other traits that go with likability, but the few I mentioned are a good place to start. Even if you believe you are likable, try to see if you can improve on these in business and personal settings. Practice can help, and it is worth your time and effort to invest in yourself.
I had a conversation this week that reminded me of a post I wrote years ago about the importance of preparation. I went back and looked. The post was spot on regarding the conversation between me and my client. So I revised that post for the current situation because it is a good reminder of how import preparation is.
This week, I called a client to set up a block of time to prepare for a mediation. The client didn’t understand why we needed to meet and thought you just go in and see if the dispute can be settled or not. This common misconception regarding mediation speaks to the importance of preparation.
I explained to the client that the two most important times in a lawsuit are mediation and trial. Mediation is the last time a party has any control over the outcome of a lawsuit because you have no real control when it is in the hands of the judge or jury. Why wouldn’t you prepare for such an important event??
It begs the question as to why you wouldn’t prepare for any important event or conversation, such as a mediation, a year end meeting with a supervisor regarding performance, salary or bonus issues, a job interview, an important conversation with a child, co-worker, spouse, etc. Preparation is much better than “winging it.”
Preparation allows you to create the message you want to communicate and will give you a better chance of making sure you and your position(s) are understood. This will put you in a better place to achieve any goals or desired results. It also will bolster your reputation and what others who deal with you think about you. And reputation is everything.
The message is prepare, prepare, prepare, and see where it gets you, because, as Benjamin Franklin smartly said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
We all know that life is full of worry and stress about success and about failure. This seems to be an integral part of climbing your way to the top of whatever trail or ladder you are on. These types of emotions can help motivate you, but they also slow you down if you let them. It is an art to learn from your past while looking forward.
Everyone who is successful has failed many times. After each failure, they picked themselves back up and tried again. You have to be willing to risk making mistakes or losing to move towards success. Embracing the struggles and challenges provides a better opportunity to overcome them. This can be done through discussions with a mentor or coach, taking the time to learn from from your loses or mistakes, or some other method you find works for you.
Being fearless is a state of mind. It also results from taking action. Bringing the two together provides a better opportunity to reach your goals. This doesn’t mean it will be easy, but most worthwhile goals aren’t easy to reach. Being fearless means challenging yourself to learn and do better each day. It is a journey to try and get to what success means to you. Are you up to the challenge?
Sitting in a chair all day and not moving is bad for you physically, bad for your brand and bad for your business. You may be thinking “I don’t have a brand.” But you do. We all do, and it is intertwined with our reputations. And if you stay in your office all day, how are you going to generate new business?
Almost all of us generate business by interacting and dealing with other people. You may be someone who deals with people out of state or outside the United States, and conduct business by phone and email. The rest of us rely on seeing people we know and meeting new people.
I hear people say that if they take the time to meet someone for coffee, lunch or a drink they won’t get their work done. But these types of meetings are part of your “work.” This work keeps our pipelines full and new business coming in. If you wait until things slow down, it is too late. It also means you are losing income.
Generating business is hard work and sometimes requires you to do things outside of regular business hours. This can include working at home in the evening or meeting a good contact for a beer. Know that whether or not you are putting in this time, you competition is.
You need to invest in yourself. Come up with a game plan on what you will do to get out of your office to network and market. No positive results are guaranteed, but we all know the results if you stay in your office and take no action.
I also look at this as being true to yourself. I say this because many times when you are faced with a difficult decision, part of the difficultly is that you will be letting someone down who you care about. Some great examples are taking a job for more money an no opportunity versus less money and the opportunity for growth, or staying in a job for the money. We all have faced these decisions or know others who have.
You may be happy in your current employment and really like your co-workers and superiors. This is the known. The great opportunity is the unknown. Many people stay where they are because it’s comfortable, even if the job offered has better growth and advancement opportunities. Staying in a job for the money usually raises a number of other issues.
I know some of you are thinking that some easy decisions make for an easier life. True. Nothing is all or nothing. But overall most people take the easier road to not upset the apple cart. Next time you or someone you care about are faced with a difficult decision think about the big picture, your life and where you want to be. If the opportunity will provide a better chance to get there, suck it up, make the hard decision and make your future.
If you spill, don’t just stand there, because you need to clean it up. Don’t expect or wait for others to clean up for you. This correlates with taking responsibility when you create a mess; don’t blame others for issues you cause or expect them to clean them up for you.
This was brought home to me this morning by a mess I made. I was in a hospital waiting room and spilled a large cup of tea. As the puddle of caffeine spread across the floor, causing many people to lift their feet up onto seats, I was, of course, horrified. I jumped up and started looking for paper towels to start cleaning up. A nurse told me not to worry about it. She had called maintenance, but I did find some paper towels and cleaned up as much as I could by the time the maintenance person showed up.
I had the choice to clean up my own mess or not. I had back up with the maintenance person coming, but, to me, it doesn’t feel right sitting by in such a situation. I certainly made the maintenance person’s job easier even though she may not have noticed. But this was about me doing what I think is right.
In business, we all cause messes that need to be cleaned up. I believe in taking the same approach and cleaning up what I can. It doesn’t mean you don’t let others help you, but it sure shows better to your team if they know you don’t expect them to do so without your help.
Of course, messes in our business and personal lives can be much messier than the spill I caused. This means it will take more effort and time to clean them up. The more effort you put into doing so, the better. It will help you resolve the mess as much as possible and reflect well on you at the same time.
People are fast to commit, but then what? Some do exactly
what they say they will. They email or call the next day. Others don’t.
This leads to two quick thoughts: (1) some people are organized and follow up and (2) some people are disorganized and don’t. I think there is a third thought that has to be acknowledged: many people say they will follow up when they have no intention of doing so. It’s the flip side to people making offers or telling people to follow up with them when they don’t mean it.
I have been thinking about this and have come up with my own rules for making offers and following up. If you took the time to think through these ideas you may like the idea of having similar rules, or not. My rules are:
1. Only make genuine and intentional offers.
2. Don’t say you will follow up or show interest unless your response is genuine.
3. If you make an offer and the person doesn’t follow up,
note it and move forward without them.
4. If someone makes you an offer, follow up.
If you are challenged by organization, use tools such as calendar reminders or organization apps on your phone to prompt you to follow up.
The point is to be intentional in your actions. It also
is to be genuine. It will save you and others time, which is our most valuable
We all know patience is important, but can lose sight of that in the moment. I currently am experiencing this first hand because we have a puppy in our home. Dealing with a puppy for the first time in many years has provided me with insight into patience with my children and with my work.
In addition to the puppy, and his training challenges, which include an interest in picking items out of garbage cans because it must be fun to chew on, there are children related challenges requiring patience. In these situations, patience can be a challenge on good days. Adding in not enough sleep or stress from work can result in unplanned blowups that really relate to something other than the situation at hand. This post may have been inspired by a reaction I had, when tired, to a puppy garbage digging adventure….
From there I thought about work and how it seems easier to be patient there than with a garbage digging dog. When delegating work to a younger attorney or an assistant, I can provide guidance generally and on timing, but that doesn’t always result in the timing or level of work product I expect. When that happens, I have the choice to be angry and react accordingly, or take a step back, exercise patience and turn it into a learning moment – yes, right now, this seems easier with people than the puppy. By taking this approach I help the other person learn and thereby help myself (and my clients).
Having now put thought into this topic, I hope to have more patience with our puppy Ghost, who is sweet and cute when not getting into puppy mischief.