How to Unplug on Vacation

Why is it so incredibly hard to take paid time off (PTO), go on vacation and actually be gone? Way too often, we stay “plugged in.” When my husband and I took a 10-year anniversary cruise to temporarily escape the craziness of life, the first thing we were greeted with on the ship was an offer to purchase Wi-Fi and stay connected at sea. It took everything in us to resist the temptation and stay unplugged. Were we successful? Refreshingly, yes.

So what’s the key to disconnecting on vacation? Give a few of these tips a whirl and then stick with what works best for you.

Plan ahead

Planning ahead means using your blinker to loop in those around you—up, down and around—that you’ll be gone. Make an action plan of “what happens when” for the person(s) filling in for you at work or at home. If you plan ahead correctly, very few will be surprised when they see your out-of-office message indicating that you’re unplugged for the next few days. A little forethought will save you from a majority of interruptions while you’re checked out.

Assign someone to cover you

It’s inevitable—the moment you’re about to take time off, something important turns up. Instead of bracing yourself for the aftermath of the expected unexpected, designate a wingman/woman to be on point in your absence. This person is no ordinary officemate–it’s someone who can handle the pressure and think like you do. Your appointed first responder needs to arrive and handle the situation as you would yourself. It might take a little extra prep getting them up to speed but, once you’ve invested the time, the return is already in motion. And, you can return the favor for them in the future—reciprocal coverage!

Set clear boundaries

I get it—you don’t want to 100% shut off because you feel like you’d pay for it in the form of hundreds of emails stacked high awaiting your return, at which time, every hour digging through is another hour behind. Yet, there’s a balance with premeditated guard rails, for others and for yourself. Set boundaries in advance to protect yourself from complete submersion into work on your precious time off. For me, it’s 30 minutes in the morning or evening each day to quickly scan through emails checking for fires. I’m not responding to the un-urgent but merely spot-checking for the plainly urgent. If nothing jumps to my attention, I move on without another thought. As for my coworkers, I’m explicit in my requests for a text message or call if there’s something dire. That way, their immediate need doesn’t get caught in the net of wild emails. These guard rails, and those of your own, will help ensure your vacation territory is protected.

Enlist accountability

I use this phrase more than most others in my practice of good work etiquette because it works. In order for me to stick to the “work-on-vacay boundaries” I’ve set for myself, my husband is my check. I enlist him to ensure I keep my word. He’ll eagerly jump on any opportunity to remind me that I’m approaching my limit or have gone over my allotted email time. Find someone who’s with you to hold you to your set boundaries and keep your time away sacred.

Block a day to recover

I quickly came to my senses after many vacations without one—I’ll only return with full sanity if I budget a buffer day to recover. This can be another full day of PTO to catch up on email, budget my time allocation for the return week or even unpack and do laundry. If you can’t take a full day, try a half day or even a couple of hours scheduled on your calendar to get yourself organized. It doesn’t mean you won’t still feel like you’re walking into a storm, but a driveway paved when it starts blizzarding is a whole lot better than one packed with an existing two feet of snow!

Published on July 2018

How to Revisit Your New Year’s Resolution

If you’re like me, you’ve learned to set your New Year’s resolutions with realism, slightly adjusting the incredibly ambitious to the more attainable. By this time of year, those resolutions can either be on track or long abandoned after starting with great intentions.

Either way, June is the perfect time to check in and review your progress so far. Evaluate if you should continue as-is or shift strategy for the balance of the year. And if you’re super ambitious and already looking to next year, you can consider planning for 2019.

Here’s an approach to consider for your personal mid-year review:

Identify your starting point 

Like any good measurement, identifying your starting point gives you a true sense of growth or progress. If you didn’t have one going into your resolution and were too focused on executing towards your goal to take notice of your prior state, just backtrack your progress (maybe month-over-month) to easily figure it out. Once you’ve established that baseline, you can measure growth or progress and see how far you’ve come. 

Ensure your target is measurable 

It’s second nature to set goals. It’s not quite as obvious to set goals that can be easily measured. I often hear clients say, “I’m going to improve my business relationships.” That’s great, but how can you measure “relationship improvement?” If your goal falls into the un-measureable category, you can make it measurable with a slight adjustment. For example, “I’m going to improve upon my business relationships by spending 50% more facetime with customers.” The tweak sets a target that’s noteworthy and easy to track, and helps you achieve your desired state of improvement. 

Adjust your game plan, if necessary 

No different than your high school science experiments, there are variables that contribute to or impede the success of your outcome. It’s important to take note if they’re in your control or not. If you’re in real estate and you set a goal to sell six houses yet the market you’re in doesn’t have available inventory, it likely makes sense to adjust your target as that’s a control out of your control. If you set out to increase your weekly workouts but decided not to take exercise clothing on your work trips, that’s a control within your control. It’s notable to document all uncontrollable and controllable variables so you can adjust for the balance of the year.

Enlist accountability

Going at it alone? You’ll have greater success if you enlist accountability, someone or multiple people who can make sure you stay committed to your goal and keep you honest. Tell them your goal, ask them to hold you to it and, if you’re really confident, offer them an incentive if you reach it—"My goal is to sign 13 new clients by the end of the year and if I accomplish that, your choice of dinner is on me!” Accountability instills an even greater sense of ownership and responsibility knowing that you’ll have to report your results or progress. What’s more, set a target and a stretch goal (one that feels a few palms out of your reach), and watch your accountability go to work!

Recognize that one slip isn’t cause for jumping ship

So you missed the mark—you gained a pound in your journey to lose fifteen. Big whoop; it affirms that you’re human. It’s certainly not cause to completely abandon ship with your goal altogether. Instead, course correct. Maybe you’ll take in less calories tomorrow to account for the gain, then be back on track the following day. Success is several small wins and losses combined. Too many surrender because of one misstep in the grander path. Stay the course, fight through your losses and celebrate every win!

Published on June 2018

4 Ways to Cultivate Moms in the Workplace

Statistically speaking, 71.1% of mothers who have children under 18 years old are in the workforce, which far exceeds that of previous generations. It’s likely that your company’s employee demographic consists of many moms, regardless of industry, as they run the gamut of specialty and general positions.

Today, “working mom” can have very different meanings. For some, their dominant responsibility might be at home caring for their babies while also contributing greatly to the household income with a side hustle. Other working moms are full-time in employment and they’ve likely enlisted support to care for their kiddos during their work shift. And, of course, there are many versions of the two in between.

Moms can be among your most productive employees. I’ve had the pleasure of leading and serving alongside many of them—it’s as if they have an innate drive to make it all happen as efficiently and effectively as possible. Whether their ambition stems from pure desire, necessity or a combination of both, it’s important to harness this initiative to benefit them and the work they do.

Here are a few pointers, speaking from my experience with these wonder women. I’m truly blessed by those in my workplace who also wear the hat of mom.

Understand their motivations to work

Not all working moms are created equal. Some desire to develop a career that brings fulfillment and satisfaction beyond a contribution to the monthly bills. Others view their job as a means of provision. Whatever the motivation, your job as their leader is to discover it. What’s their “why” for working? To find out, ask questions: “What keeps you up at night?” “What are you most passionate about?” “If you could do anything you wanted, regardless of location and compensation, what would it be?” You’ll learn worlds about them in how they respond. There may also be subtleties to interpret such as body language, facial expressions or pauses.

Don’t just talk shop

Sure, there’s a job to get done, but people will work harder and smarter when they feel like they have a connection to their managers or colleagues. Take time to do more than just talk business. Get to know them. Ask them about their weekend plans, what their kids are up to, if they’re planning to take any family trips, etc. You’re showing that you care beyond their ability to perform and deliver on expectations. Sounds simple, but it makes a world of difference.

Realize that flexibility affords you loyalty

Nowadays, it’s rare that standard 8-5 jobs will allow you to leave work at work. Combine that with the responsibilities of a household and children, and a working mom may never be off-duty. I’ve found that offering flexibility can be life-changing. One of my employees leaves early on Fridays to spend time with her husband before picking up the kids from after-school care. Another mom gets in the office later each morning so she can do school drop-off instead of sending her kids on the bus. Does this impact productivity? You bet. In a positive way! The flexibility affords these moms the chance to tackle their priorities at home. Then, when they’re at work, they’re “on” and not distracted.

Reinforce the positive

One of the most impactful things I’ve learned in leadership is positive reinforcement. As humans, we’re all wired to desire affirmation—proven in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs—and moms don’t hear it enough. “You’re doing a great job” takes very little time to say and the result is priceless. To start, a simple smile and “thank you” can drive mothers to their best performance. Why you might ask? It’s a confidence boost. When they’re uplifted, everyone wins—if mama’s happy, everyone’s happy!

Published on May 2018

4 Ways to Find More Time in Your Schedule

Time is one of the most valuable assets in existence. Through one lens, it’s a priceless commodity. Through another, you can equate every minute to a dollar value. Time in excess is a rarity and a moment free is a luxury, by definition of most.

Dr. Seuss asked “How did it get so late so soon?” Albert Einstein said “Time is an illusion.” Lao Tzu unequivocally stated “Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.’”

I realize that I’m far from alone when I recall the number of conversations I’ve had in a given week where an employee, client or friend is in anguish over the lack of time to “get it all done.” So what’s the solution? How do we do more with less, or just find the time to make it happen? The answers are simply stated but difficult to execute. Give any one or all of these tips a try, and then share your experience on my site.

Build a schedule with margin

You wouldn’t travel to Italy with a stuffed suitcase and no room for a souvenir handbag, right? Build a buffer into your schedule to allow for margin, or space to expand as necessary. It’s like a zero balance account (ZBA) in banking. The balance of zero is maintained by automatically transferring funds from a master account in an amount only large enough to cover checks presented (thanks,!). Schedule what I call “margin blocks.” They’re on the calendar and recorded in increments that make sense to you. You’ll maintain a balance of zero with your available time and have the margin to cover an expenditure of time if something comes up unexpectedly.

Realize that attitude determines altitude

I love this quote by Jean de La Bruyère: “Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity.” Challenge yourself to operate with an abundance mentality—for example, “It’s okay if I miss this time window to work on that bid, I’ll make it up later” or “An hour just became available in my schedule, how can I best use it?” Your attitude will posture your altitude. How high you go will depend on your perspective.

Know your time consumers

We all have them—tasks, certain people or other unavoidables that consume your precious time. These are not subtle annoyances or unplanned appearances; they’re bonafide time-wasters. Since you can recognize them, plot them in your path (when they show up, why they show up, how they show up, etc.) and plan your route around them. No different than how you would seek a detour for an unexpected construction zone on your way to work, think about how you can avoid them to gain a little ground back in your schedule.

Embrace the chaos and unscheduled

Sometimes the least expected time expenditures yield the greatest blessing. I have a very close relationship with my calendar and honor what it says when it comes to appointments I’ve accepted or scheduled myself, yet my intuition knows to embrace an unforeseen interruption (that isn’t already seen as a time-waster). It might be one of my children sneaking downstairs to curl up in my lap while I’m working on deadline or a call from a former client to ask if we can have an impromptu talk about a business challenge she’s facing. They're perceived interruptions that can easily manifest into a treasured moment. Sappy? Maybe. Truth? You bet. Learn to spot these moments and, more importantly, embrace them as they come. They always prove to be a good use of time.

Published on May 2018

How to Embrace (and Create) Change

Change—it’s inevitable, unexpectedly expected and can be subtle or hairy, all at the same time. It can make its appearance when a former employee sits on the other side of the table at a prospective client meeting, and you flash a forced “nice-to-see-you smile” while maintaining composure for the sake of the other people that you’re visiting.

As creatures of habit, change isn’t natural for most of us. It’s disruptive. In fact, some people are wired with an innate likelihood to resist change because it interferes with their feelings of comfort.

Yet, that doesn’t create an atmosphere for growth. Where comfort is a room thick with stagnant air, change is air flow and movement. It’s like a burst of oxygen in a room full of smoke.

While contrary to our nature, change can be exactly the element we need to promote our advancement. Here’s how embracing—and even introducing—change could make all the difference for you. 

Learn to expect it 

It’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of “when.” Change will occur whether you’re in a ready position or not. It will likely show up again, just when you’ve settled into a previous change. Since you know it’s coming, a disposition reflecting even the slightest bit of expectancy will keep you nimble—you’ll already be on your toes ready to leap into a sprint or a stop, drop and roll, whichever the circumstances call for. 

Realize it’s not negative

It’s easy to think that change belongs in the category of hard knocks, unfairness and misunderstanding. Shift your perspective and view the change through a different lens. New boss taking over your department with a plan you don’t agree with? Try wearing a pair of rose-colored spectacles; you may just find a glimmer of hope you didn’t previously consider.

Respond vs. react

Set yourself apart from the crowd of those who react to the change they’re faced with and try being my favorite word—“unflappable.” Regardless of the wind hitting your sails, with an audience watching your every move, don’t show your discomfort. Allow change to happen for you, not to you. How you raise your sail, develop a game plan and shut out the noise of those around you all matter. 

Be a change agent

We are empowered in change. This grants us an authority to operate as change agents, or those who lead the charge for the sake and benefit of others. What does that look like? In order to effect change, you have to embrace change. Run at it head and feet first. Carry the burden before you carry the torch. Your mantle may feel heavy at first, but your load lightens as other change agents take hold.

Share the new direction

Besides embracing a change, you’ll have to teach others to adapt to it. It’s here and sticking around for the long haul. Your energy invested in the difference will make all the difference for those around you. In practice, that may be discussing the change with those around you. Weigh the pros and the cons, and talk about it. The more certainty you can expose, the more willingness for acceptance. You might just find others on board with the change you've championed. 

Published on March 2018

How to Use Technology as Your Personal Assistant

Some say that starting the New Year is like operating with a clean slate. Goals from the prior year were achieved (or will be recycled), closets were purged of outdated fashion, new vision-casting is complete and the focus is forward-facing.

For others, it can feel like shoveling in a blizzard. Hope is the only seemingly reasonable approach to getting organized. Yet, that alone won’t produce results. By adding in a few strategic tools, you’ll have a recipe for success.

Whether you spend your time in a boardroom, remote office or “hoffice” (a.k.a. home office), these apps work wonders for organization, delegation, time efficiency and plain old sanity preservation.

Take notes wherever you are

If you’re famous for to-do lists like I am, you’ll never miss a beat in your memory game withEvernote. It’s a central hub for everything you’d normally jot down by hand—book titles to add to your “must-read” list, neighborhood party-planning (complete with guest lists and uploaded pictures of décor ideas), fresh ideas for your company—you name it. The notes are shareable, too, so you’re in sync with those around you.

Go virtual grocery shopping

On Sundays, I meal plan and open the local grocery store’s app on my phone, select from a pre-suggested list of our favorites (milk, eggs, bread, etc.), and then search for other ingredients to go along with my recipes. The service offers substitutions if my items are out of stock and a personal shopper learns my preferences over time. Check to see if your local store has a similar app or consider a nationwide option like Instacart.

Track your emails

If you're involved in any form of professional sales, you know the feeling when you've sent an email and the recipient has yet to acknowledge your correspondence. Did they read it? Did it hit their spam folder? I started using Yesware to put an end to the unknown. It tells me the moment (with date and time stamp metrics) that the recipient opened my email and clicked on the attachment. That helps me plan timely follow-up to keep me and my business services top of mind for my prospect. If Tuesday marks my recipient’s engagement with the content I sent, I'm calling on Wednesday to capitalize on the timing.

Schedule meetings burden-free

Ever need to coordinate schedules with groups of people that don’t share a common calendar platform? It can be a nightmare without Doodle. Pick options of dates, times and locations for an event that you’re planning, create a poll and send a link for your participants to vote on all of their preferred options. Your results are displayed in a matrix for easy consumption. While still at the helm of organizing, you gracefully delegate the task of collecting availability from your targeted audience.

Coordinate a sign-up with ease

Hosting a potluck dinner and want to ensure there aren’t six veggie trays and only one main dish? Were you nominated to organize parent-provided team snacks for tee-ball? Are you coordinating volunteer shifts for a local charity or non-profit? SignUpGenius organizes it all and sends reminders to participants about their commitments via its calendar integration. Ditch your spreadsheet or spiral-bound notebook—you won’t need it anymore.

Send an invite via text

While I absolutely think traditional paper invitations still have their place, they can over-serve your informal Friday night get-together with friends. Try Hobnob for initiating text message invitations with an event-appropriate graphic, customized message and built-in response process.

Published on February 2018

4 Ways to Flip a Failure

Failure doesn’t limit success; it’s an exhilarant for success. Yet, we’re so afraid to fail because it means potential rejection or loss. What if we flipped that perspective on its head and challenged ourselves to fail? I believe two things would occur.

First, I believe we would attempt more times. If we aren’t afraid of the outcome of failure, we’re more likely to give the effort a shot—and do so more often. Practice doesn’t actually bring perfection, but it sure makes you better. And through the law of large numbers, that alone increases your chance of success.

Secondly, I think we would attempt with abandon. My favorite definition of the word “abandon” is a lack of restraint or control where “with abandon” means unrestricted effort. In other words, an attempt without boundaries will achieve an outcome with no limit.

As you rev up for the new year, test yourself to think about failure differently. Here are a few points of encouragement to do just that.

Realize that risk = reward

On an episode of Shark Tank, a young woman had incredible passion for her flavored tea business. As she described her vision for the company to the prospective investors, it was apparent that she was still constructing her business plan. Her zeal was contagious, but the investors were hesitant to contribute funding because she “lacked focus.” Was that failure? She didn’t get the funding she was seeking, however, each investor offered guidance on how to focus her message and encouraged her to keep going. To top it off, she was able to share her business on a nationally syndicated television show. The key is that she took a risk by going on the show and came a step closer to her ultimate goal. There’s reward in that risk.

Remember “no” is not failure

There’s a saying in sales that the next best thing to a “yes” is a fast “no.” Meaning, if the answer is going to be a shutdown, better to learn it sooner rather than later. I take it a bit further and recognize a deeper lesson—“no” is not rejection, it simply means there’s something missing to achieve a “yes.” That missing element might be better timing, the right audience, more funding, etc. Your objective is to uncover that missing element, adjust accordingly and give it another shot. As mentioned above, another attempt is simply bringing you closer to your desired success.

Document and learn

I once delivered a presentation that went more poorly than I had expected. Instead of making excuses, I grabbed a pen and paper and documented the things I wished had gone differently. I did this not to wallow in my failure but to understand what could make it a success in the future. What’s critical in this exercise is recognizing all the variables within your control, and those that are not. As you develop a game plan for how you’ll approach the situation next time, you’ll know how to handle the controlled variables differently and you’ll be more aware of how to navigate the uncontrolled.

Enlist accountability partners

I have several business accountability partners that I share my goals with to keep me on track. These are trusted friends that care enough to call me out if I’m shying away from taking risks and cheer me on when I’m attempting a feat larger than my confidence. These confidants aren’t just “ear ticklers.” They don’t tell me just what I want to hear; they tell me what I need to hear. I’ve grown accustomed to their feedback and insights, and consider them paramount to my success. Surround yourself with business accountability influencers and no doubt, your failures will become success.

Published on January 2018

The Lost Art of a Handwritten Note

Let me paint a picture: it’s an ordinary day, you’re home (or at the office) sorting the just-delivered mail and you see a 3x5, eggshell-colored envelope addressed to you. Inside is what we’ve all tagged as a “lost art”—the handwritten note. It’s a ‘thank you’ from someone you met with for coffee three days prior, expressing their gratitude for the time you spent together. Wow.

I’ve been on the receiving end of this lost art form and it’s incredibly touching. It also elevates my impression of the sender.

Maybe you're thinking “I don’t have time for handwriting notes” or “nobody does that anymore, nor do they expect it.” Exactly. It's unanticipated, sets you apart and is worth the three to five minutes it takes to complete. And, in the very least, you’re likely to spread a little goodness in the world.

To adopt the practice of expressing thought through penmanship, here are a few things to consider:

Recognize its power

I’m such an advocate of handwritten notes that I encourage my corporate employees to take part in every opportunity possible. I can directly correlate growth in business or client relationships with sending a handwritten note (or several). When one employee suggested it was an “old-fashioned practice," I challenged her to write one in place of her usual text message and observe the results. She was soon blown away by the recipient’s response of calling to thank her for the thoughtful note.

Keep materials handy

Note-writing is so ingrained in my DNA now that I’m constantly buying stationery, cardstock and greeting cards. But that’s the key—keep cards around and it will be less of a production to send one. If you have to run to the store or wait for your card to arrive from Amazon, you’re less likely to make it happen. Aim for variety so the card’s print mirrors your audience’s style. For instance, I send different prints to male and female recipients as well as personal connections and business contacts. Regardless of style, availability is key.

Focus on the content

Before you grumble or panic over what to say, I encourage you to keep it simple—short and sweet. Get straight to the point with three to five sentences max. Add in a point of personalization and you’re all set. Need an example?


One point of caution—if you enlist administrative support, make sure they have enough detail to mimic you for the best possible experience. One year, my brother used written notes in his business to thank sponsors for their donations but, in response to my donation, I received a note where the salutation read “Dear Mrs. Henderson.” That hardly reflects our relationship!

Realize that timing is everything

Make the biggest splash with handwritten notes through timely execution. It’s one thing to receive a note in the mail, it’s another to receive it days after the interaction occurred. Frankly, the longer you wait, the less likely you are to find the time to make it happen. I keep a folder with me when I travel with business stationery, stamps (I get them personalized on, return address labels and envelope seals. That way, I have no excuses—it’s a ready-made package to set me up for success.

Happy hand-writing!

Published on December 2017

How to Be Generous Without Going Broke

As leaders, one of the greatest legacies we leave behind is generosity. It can be displayed in many forms of currency: finances, time, tangible gifts, advice and the list goes on. While financial generosity is probably the most commonly considered form, it’s certainly not the only, and oftentimes, not the most impactful. Regardless of the form of generosity, there’s one common characteristic—it leaves an impression. In today’s fast-paced climate with imbalanced resources, you can easily “go broke” in your attempt to be generous. I speak from personal experience, specifically in the realm of generosity with my time.

So how do you demonstrate generosity without operating at a loss? Here are a few rules of engagement to consider:

Make sacrifices

My definition of generosity is demonstrating kindness through abundance—and that doesn’t always mean excess. In fact, you may have the greatest impact where you feel you possess the least. Being generous comes at a cost or, in other words, with a sacrifice. When you give something valuable to you that may not exist in surplus, you’ve demonstrated generosity. That might mean spending your lunch break with someone who needs a little care vs. extra time to get things crossed of your to-do list. The impact may just be more than can be measured.

Give with the right intention

Many of us grew up with an understanding of what it means to use manners. Today, you wouldn’t dream of accepting an opened door without returning a humble “thank you.” I’ve now challenged myself to give truly without an expectation of anything in return. For me, that takes the emphasis away from my expectation in giving and places it on the motive for giving—to give. When there’s no debt to pay for the exchange of generosity, the feeling is rich, not broke. John Bunyan, a journalist and minister from the 17th century, said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

Offer what’s needed, not just what’s there

True generosity blesses the beneficiary’s need, not the giver’s want. Meaning, if someone is in need of advice, a stack of bucks may not fit the bill (literally). Quite frankly, you may save some unnecessary expended resources by asking the simple question: “How can I help you?” The question alone is worth its weight in gold.

Outsource generosity

I’ve been guilty of jumping into a situation to help because I feel like I can, only to realize that I’ve robbed someone else of the opportunity to experience being generous. Try using your network to source a solution for someone. For instance, if someone is seeking guidance about making a career change, instead of rushing to their rescue, connect them with someone you know that would benefit from lending a helping hand. Your intentional response created two beneficiaries instead of one—brilliant!

Go with your gut

Whatever fuels your intuition—a spiritual guidance, a feeling, a sign—go with it. If you feel compelled to give (again, not just of your finances, but time and other resources), then do so. If you feel any reservation, it’s likely not a cause matched to where you’re intended to have an impact. The best way to go broke in your generosity is to reactively give without listening to your instinct. You’ll end up overspending and feel lousy for it. Instead, pause, listen and act on the lead and it will carry great significance to the recipient of your generosity.

Spur a snowball effect

It happens more than ever that people refrain from giving because they feel like their minor contribution won’t amount to impact. That’s flat-out false. Every contribution equates to value and is an opportunity to make a difference. Little effort can mean much to someone. Generosity is also contagious. Your contribution spurs that of others, then others and so on, and, before long, it translates to great significance. It’s hard to go broke with compounding interest.

Published on November 2017

How to Leave a Lasting Impression

Roll out the red carpet

When you roll out the proverbial red carpet, you’re extending an experience that some (or most) don’t receive everyday. It’s unique. It’s special. It instills a sense of worth that your customer will treasure. It tells them that you value their business. And it’s really easy to implement when done right. Here’s the ticket—use their name in communications addressing them. For example, “Mrs. Smith, it’s great to have you join us today,” “Mr. Parker, we really appreciate your purchase,” or “Ms. Sharp, we thought you might like to consider this product, which complements the one you just selected.” Using your customer’s name demonstrates honor and, in today’s business landscape, that raises the bar.

Gift your guest

Growing up, my mom taught me to bring a gift when visiting someone’s house—a plant, a bottle of wine, a dessert. Mom sure knows best, right? That same practice leaves a lasting impression in business. When sent following an interaction, a gift multiplies your customer engagement. No time for gift orchestration? Partner with a platform like Gravy to select from curated gifts and custom wrap in your branding, and ship directly to your customer for a truly “wow” experience.  

Remember the details

Our pediatrician is a business genius. Every time we visit,  he recalls a detail that we shared during our previous visit and inquires about it with great sincerity. His ability to remember detail (which is likely prompted by notes) makes us feel special. Personalize your email communications to include details from a phone conversation. Save a birthday, anniversary or other milestone on your calendar to send a “thinking of you” communication. Take notes in your phone with details your customer shared to reference in your next engagement. Detail makes a difference—all the difference.

Go the extra mile

One of my favorite quotes of all time is: “Go the extra mile, there’s less competition there.” Take your customer service one step further than the next company and you’re highly likely to have exceeded the service provided by your competition. Perhaps, your products are comparable to another company or your customers have to drive a little bit further or wait a little bit longer to get your product over a different brand. How will you convince them yours is worth the drive or worth the wait? Maybe your product comes with a customer support line with extended hours (open until 7pm, when most close at 5pm), a money-back guarantee if a customer is dissatisfied or a handwritten “thank you” to every customer who makes a purchase over $100. Whatever your secret sauce is, make it special. Make it stand out and set you apart from your competition.

Published on October 2017

5 Ways to Mentor Effectively

A small percentage of people benefit from the “who you know” card we all cross our fingers for, hoping to enter organizations or roles we might not otherwise be qualified for on paper. And then, there are those who start in roles that graze the floor just below the bottom rung of the ladder, working tirelessly to success. 

Regardless of entry into the workforce, I believe there is one common theme among those who thrive: a mentor’s investment.

I’ve been blessed by the mentorship of a few key individuals that inspired, motivated, coached, guided and directed me. And, I’m beyond grateful to those who’ve invested in me. What’s more, I’ve learned there’s an even greater blessing and return in paying it forward as I invest in those in my sphere of influence.

In leadership, multiplication is the game. The more effective you are in replicating yourself, the more you'll achieve through the efforts of your people. Your legacy as a leader is highly dependent upon those you raise up. Here’s my recipe for effectively mentoring others: 

Involve your mentee 

Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” I often think about the moments in my career when I grew the most. They certainly weren’t when someone did something for me. In those moments, I learned how to lean on a crutch; not walk with my own two feet. Instead, they were the moments when I observed and contributed through my own action. To put this practice into motion, model the behavior being taught first, then allow your mentee to give it a try. Now you have a platform to constructively critique the mentee’s behavior.

Assign homework

Mentorship is an investment of your time resources, no different than a stock is an investment of your financial resources. You wouldn’t invest your financial resources in a stock that yields a 98% chance of no return. So, how do you know if someone is a worthy recipient of your mentorship? Assign some homework. It doesn’t need to be a lofty assignment or overly cumbersome, but something that requires action on the part of the person you’re considering investing in. If they follow through, they’ve demonstrated that action will occur when you invest. If they don’t follow through or make excuses as to why they can’t, didn’t or couldn’t—well, there’s your answer!

Show your service

“If you’re too big to serve, you’re too small to lead.” I’ve heard this quoted by many great leaders. The best way to demonstrate leadership for constituents (clients, colleagues, employees, etc.) is to serve that audience. If you’re not sure where to start, simply copy the phrase you’ve heard from any customer support center: “How can I be of service?” It’s a humbling posture, but it’s also quite contagious. Watch others catch your servant leadership.

Reap what you sow

The law of reciprocity is defined by psychologists as an equal exchange or benefit from a relationship. Stated a bit differently, you’ll get what you put in or you reap what you sow. If I’m sowing time with someone, I’m going to benefit from a margin of time back when that person, or someone alike, is now trained and taking things off of my plate. 

Speak in praise

We have a choice, within each day and every conversation, to encourage or discourage those we influence through mentorship. Encouragement, whether positive or constructive, fans a flame of confidence in your mentee. The greater their confidence, the more likely they are to encourage others around them. Therefore, when we choose to speak an encouraging word over the alternative, our effort is multiplied. When we take part in discouragement, our effort is divisive, breaking down the confidence of that person, holding them back from multiplying others. I want my leadership legacy to multiply, not divide!

Published on September 2017

How to Motivate a New Hire

I think the success of your new hire greatly lies in the strategy of your onboarding. And, like with the stock market, if you invest wisely, you’ll see a return.

1. Set the table

Clear expectations are table stakes in successful workplace environments. As leaders, it’s our job to ensure the table is set with the objectives we expect from our employees. Taking that one step further, it’s critical to share anticipated time tables. If a new hire can set their sights on a target (for example, “six months before you’ll be fully productive” or whatever is reasonable in your organization) the likelihood of them achieving the expectation is much greater.

2. Show them the way

To quote my six-year-old son, “show me how.” You’ll get quicker, more accurate results by modeling expectancies, particularly by showing how vs. simply articulating them. In fact, I find that people are more likely to adopt behavior that is modeled and not spoken at all. It puts the choice to adopt the behavior in the hands of the imitator, and they’ll be more inclined to act when they feel they’ve made that decision on their own. Millennials, in particular, respond well to this approach.

3. Point out that there’s strength in numbers

In leadership, you’ve likely found that there’s only so much of you to go around. The larger your team, the less individual time you have to offer your team. New hires, especially, need a lot of time. The 2015 Golden State Warriors developed the “Strength in Numbers” slogan to highlight the individual stats of its players but, more notably, the stats of the team as a whole. This mantra is also successful in the workplace when deployed to encourage inter-team collaboration. Team members, each with their individual expertise, contribute value to their teammates. In this approach, your new hire has a lineup of knowledge from which to benefit.

4. Build their confidence

New hires often arrive with either an ego (false confidence), or a lack of confidence. Take the opportunity to help them build their confidence the right way. Words are powerful and exhortation produces results. By way of encouragement, you can draw out the best in someone. It doesn’t mean you have to walk around stroking your employees with praise— encouragement is both complimentary and constructive in nature, but it’s intentional. Be thoughtful and encourage your new hires to bring their best.

5. Discover their skills

People default to what they’re good at because that’s where they feel successful. Instead of struggling to force a round peg into a square hole, learn the strengths of your new hire and help put them to work. If they give you resistance to take on a task outside of their comfort zone or additional responsibility, tip your hand. Let them know the potential you see in them so they see the vision and have something to strive towards. This is where stretch yields growth.

6. Speak their language

There’s a great book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, that equips you to speak the language of your employees—new or tenured. It recognizes that individuals give and receive appreciation uniquely. Oftentimes, the way one demonstrates appreciation of others is how they prefer to receive it. Some thrive on spoken praise; others on a tangible reward. Observe your new hire in action (or administer the assessment online) to learn their primary and secondary appreciation languages. Speaking from experience, you don’t want to publicly praise an individual just to learn they are terribly averse to public accolades!

Published on August 2017

How to Recover From Mistakes

We can’t avoid making mistakes—in our lives or careers—but we can certainly recover well from them. And when we do, our success speaks much louder than our mistakes ever could. Regardless of the mistake, the way you choose to recover could catapult you forward rather than knocking you backwards. Rebounding is a choice. These are the lessons I’ve learned—often the hard way—about handling mistakes well.

Move forward

Mistakes are inevitable. Instead of harping on them, choose to focus on your recovery, rather than focusing solely on correcting the mistake. Of course you’re accountable for the mistake, but it’s also important to move forward. In the wise words of Jay-Z, “brush your shoulders off.”

Take the humble path

It’s absolutely less traveled, but it’s higher ground and there’s less competition there. In the world of law, it’s called “mea culpa”—a formal acknowledgement of personal fault or error. When you humbly admit fault, you disarm the other parties involved. Try it! I’ve yet to see this approach fail.

Reclassify your “miss”

In addition to highlighting failures, our culture has also made us afraid of failing in the first place. This fear causes us to forfeit potential gain in favor of remaining comfortable, unchallenged or un-stretched. Instead of calling it a miss, call it a “mission”—mistakes bring purpose to your success.

We ALL make them

Have you ever studied someone from afar and admired their perfection? Their career, their family, their possessions, all so perfectly executed. If you look up close, they might not be as put together as you suspected. The moment you stop comparing yourself to the person next to you is the moment you realize that everyone has made and will make mistakes, and everyone’s mistakes are worth learning from.

Share your mistake

Ever felt an urge to tell someone after you’ve had an “ah-ha” moment—what you learned and how they can avoid the pile you stepped in? Do it! Maybe that’s a novel concept in a world that tells us to perform perfection, but one of my favorite quotes is, “You’ve been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.” It requires showing a little vulnerability, but the benefit is that someone else will gain from your loss.

Your success outweighs your failure

No doubt, mistakes are unpleasant. Often they sting and have real consequences. Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times before he successfully invented the light bulb. No matter how heavy your mistakes, your success will still outweigh them. I choose to focus on my outcomes, rather than my circumstances.

Published on June 2017

How to Spend More Time on What's Important to You

A very smart person once said to me, “Diana, show me your calendar and I’ll show you your priorities.” Your calendar shows how you distribute your time across all of the priorities in your world — your “time investment portfolio,” as I call it. Where and how you invest your time is an indication of your priorities. 

Those words of wisdom shaped me, and continue to shape me, as a wife, mom, executive professional, business owner, community leader and, frankly, as a human. Take one or all of these quick tips below and apply them to your own time investment portfolio. You just might find yourself in a more balanced, fulfilled position.

List and rank your priorities

In my world, my priorities consist of God, family, work, friends, community and personal growth, though not necessarily in that order. The rank of my priorities sets the stage for how my time consideration is planned. Your priorities may shift in rank or change altogether depending on the season of your life. What’s important is to keep your priorities in mind when you budget your time.

Pick your time measure

I measure my time in one-week increments. So one week represents 100% of my time, which I then divide into smaller percentages based on my priorities. It makes sense for me because, like many busy women, my schedule can change dramatically from week to week. If I try to prioritize my time further than a week in advance, I find it’s too subject to change and I’ve set myself up for failure.

Proactively and actively manage your portfolio

In financial management, you can either passively or actively manage your portfolio. When managing time, it’s being both proactive and active. Proactive management — budgeting your time in advance — sets you up for success. Active management — holding yourself accountable to achieve the results you expect — ensures you stay the course. If you passively manage your time, you’ll find your schedule managing you, rather than you managing your schedule.

Protect your investment

Like anything of value, your time needs to be guarded. It’s easy to allow non-priorities or the priorities of others to take your time. Schedule time on your calendar to address each of your priorities. (I’ve scheduled time on my calendar to talk with my husband about our vacation plans – sounds ridiculous, but it gets done!) Then, protect that time by preventing interruptions. For example, sometimes being “out of sight” (working remotely) helps me stay focused on what’s important to me.

Budget for the unexpected

Just like you’d set up a financial emergency fund or safety net, set aside for the inevitable, unpredictable “fires” that are likely to arise in your week. It might be a sick child or pet, your spouse’s last-minute business trip, an employee personnel issue or an opportunistic business development meeting. I set aside time every day — a percentage of my overall week — to tackle those last-minute scenarios that arise. I can be flexible as needed without completely abandoning my plans.

Measure the return on your investment

When you invest anything — whether it’s time or money — it’s important to measure what the return on that investment will be. Ask yourself: “Was the outcome worth the effort?” “Did I invest more time than the value of the outcome?” “Who benefited from the time?” “Does this investment align with my priorities?” Let’s be honest — sometimes your time won’t yield a high return. In those cases, the value of what you learned is priceless in itself.

Published on May 2017

7 Ways to Inspire Your Direct Reports

More and more companies are moving to flatter organizational structures and high growth start-ups often start that way. This means fewer levels of management and more responsibility and accountability “lower” in the organization. There are advantages as well as disadvantages to this approach—the benefits are that companies enjoy lower overhead and improved speed of decision-making and communication, however, the downside is that, by function of necessity, employees wind up operating as generalists more than specialists. Companies with flatter structures typically either survive in this approach or they can thrive. The key difference is that successful organizations recognize the importance of one fundamental, yet pivotal thing: empowered employees. 

I’m a firm believer that all ships rise with the tide. When you establish a culture of empowerment, you reap the rewards of employee satisfaction, low turnover/high retention and greater productivity. Essentially, everybody wins. 

There’s no one silver bullet to empowering your employees—but many. For those of you leaders looking to inspire and raise up empowered employees, here are a few tips that I’ve found to be successful:

1. Trust your people 

In the absence of trust, your employees will operate in fear. Fear of not meeting your expectations, fear of taking risks, fear of failing. The way to demonstrate trust is to assign a task and then get out of the way. Likely, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see the creativity applied and you’ll receive, in return, ideas you wouldn’t have considered. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

2. Set clear expectations for the “why” 

When you share the thinking behind a task, change in direction or decision, you cast a vision that your people can get behind and use to motivate them for the charge ahead. Once your “why” is communicated, you don’t have to worry about the “how.” That’s now the responsibility of your people. If there are “non-negotiables” to be considered, share those, but nothing more.

3. Ask, don’t tell

Isn’t it like a boss to articulate a problem and the solution in the same breath? Instead, try stating the problem/issue/objective and give your employee the freedom to recommend the solution or approach. Use questions to stimulate empowerment. For instance, “We need to grow our customer base in our secondary markets. How should we do that?” Or, “Our service metrics show a decline in satisfaction. What do you think is causing that? How do you think we can get it back on track? What do you think I might be overlooking?”

4. Allow mistakes 

Mistakes are inevitable and sometimes unavoidable. In a culture of empowerment, the focus isn’t on the mistake, it’s on the recovery. You’ll wow your people if you encourage them to recover instead of harp on the error. There’s a reason the windshield in a car is much bigger than the rearview mirror — forward-focused, not past-possessed! After all, it’s often in our failures that our greatest success is conceived.

5. Know their strengths

Good leaders surround themselves with people that model strengths other than their own. Hire people that are strong where you’re not and then put them to work in those areas. Taking it one step further, tell them that you’re putting their strengths to work. “Tricia, you’re great in front of people and you read an audience well. I’d like for you to give the pitch for the next prospective client meeting.”

6. Humble yourself

If you want to inspire your people, show a little humility. Admit your mistakes, give credit where credit is due and let your hair down. When you appear to be a “normal person” to your people, they can relate. Sharing (select) personal stories with your team is a great way to do this.

7. Celebrate success

When you recognize milestones, achievements and performance wins, you set the table for your people to experience honor. In addition to major accomplishments, make it a practice to notice and then highlight little things. For instance, “Suzie, I loved how you remembered details about this company and brought them up in your conversation today. Thank you for caring so well for our customers.” The little things will leave a lasting impression.

Published on April 2017