Tag Archives: advice

O Captain, My Captain: What To Look For When You Need A Business Team

When you’re the one heading your own business, that means you’re in charge. But being in charge doesn’t always equate to being in control. There’s a certain threshold of detail and work past which you simply can’t cover everything all by yourself. Beyond that threshold is where a team can come in handy.

A team is simply a group of people committed to working on common goals. The smallest one you could have could be a duo, whether it’s a partnership with two people supporting each other, or an assistant-ship, with one helping the other manage the load.

The bigger the team gets, the more work can be spread out, and the more a definite leader is needed to help make sure everyone’s responsibilities, work project deliverables, and actions are aligned with the overall goals of the team.

Leadership has to come from somewhere, and since it’s your business, you should know what you need to do to get it to where you want to go. It’s your ship, you be the captain.

What’s more, whatever your particular leadership style, whether it’s authoritative,  more like a coach, or leans towards consensus-seeking (or a shifting mix of all three), there are points you need to be firm on when it comes to your style.
Continue reading O Captain, My Captain: What To Look For When You Need A Business Team

Break It Down Again: Coming Soon, A New Year

How are your plans for next year coming along? Hopefully you’ve had some time to yourself to sit away from the holiday rush to work on them.

No pressure from this corner of the internet, really. And don’t beat on yourself if you don’t have next year’s goals written down and printed out in monthly and quarterly break-downs. We each have our own way of preparing for the future. We do what we can, when we can, especially when everything else going on right now on is tugging at our shirtsleeves to give them our attention, since ’tis the season and all.

A memory can make you grab pen and paper to remind yourself what to pay more attention to, and you have your trusty little notebook right there with you. Or maybe you catch your goals on the fly and capture the snippets with the note-taking apps or voice recorder on your smartphone — and your notes are happily synced across all your devices.

Perhaps you’re the type to open your day-planner and see neatly written notes and highlighted reminders already in place — and aren’t you glad Past-You did this for Now-You to rely on?

Block out quiet time for yourself : Planning for a good year is important, vital, and urgent for your own personal and professional fulfillment. Make sure you won’t be disturbed, since planning can have many moods.  There are serious ones–contemplative, sombre, and sometimes heavy with regret and intent. There are relaxed moods, which are open spaces for your idle day-dreams and thoughts to meander in. There are playful moods, where the sky’s the limit; no shame in dreaming, eh? There’s brainstorming, and asking questions, but in the end, there must be a plan. And if you want to plan better, you need to go back and review.

“X marks the mistakes.” What were yours this year?
Three things that can get us in trouble, and probably have in the past, are unrealistic scope, unrealistic deadlines, and unrealistic expectations. Continue reading Break It Down Again: Coming Soon, A New Year

Step By Step Into A New Year: Setting The Stages For New Growth

There are four stages that mark one’s growth in competence — like a ladder of skill — according to the ‘conscious competence’ learning theory:

Unconsciously unskilled
At any beginning, nobody knows what they’re doing.
We don’t know the skills that we don’t know, or that we need to learn them.
As rank beginners, we can look around, and then, we copy. We can copy without understanding. That’s what kids do when they start out to write, right?

Consciously unskilled
This means we know that we don’t have these skills, but we can practice so we can get better at them. Once we get copying down, we refine through practice and trial-and-error.

Going back to learning how to write, it means hours of inculcating fine motor skills and muscle memory practice until we arrive at a  recognizable, readable script. In the process, we learn to associate what we’re doing to the meaning behind the activity.

For example, in learning to write we trace letters and numbers in the process of learning to connect the scribbles on the paper to the understanding that precise scribbles mean letters and numbers, and letters in a particular order can spell out the word ‘cat’ or ‘box’ or ‘ball’, or numbers  and other things, like ‘5 apples.’

Consciously skilled
We know that we have these skills, and we can deploy them at will.
At this level, what we practice can become habit. Going back to hand-writing, whether we’re used to printing block letters, or can write in cursive, we can write easily and fluidly.

Unconsciously skilled
We put so much practice in this skill, it just comes naturally to us. At this point, we don’t have to think much about hand-writing and can write legibly while doing yet another task. And at this level, we can teach others.

Going to another example: Can you remember learning how to walk?
Conscious memory may help you there, although science and personal experience can clash as to how much toddlers and babies can remember of their earliest years. But from where you are now, can you remember?

If you can’t, have you ever witnessed a very young child learning how to walk?

They quiver and shake after they’ve hauled themselves up, hanging on for dear life to the side of the crib, or clutching their parent’s fingers.  They  keep trying: they overbalance, under-balance, fall forward and back and sideways and collapse — and then take their the first toddling steps.

Give it a month of watching them speed-crawl, and before you know it, they’re walking. They don’t care how goofy they look or how many times they fall down –as soon as the tears dry, they keep going. They’re purely focused on themselves.

Now what’s the difference between learning things as a kid and learning as an adult?
Sadly enough, sometimes it’s harder:  We’ve been exposed to more. We’ve lived longer,  and all our experiences affect the way we see ourselves, and how we see the world. So maybe there’s embarrassment at the thought of not-knowing something other people do.  Or shame at the thought of, “I should’ve known this already.” Continue reading Step By Step Into A New Year: Setting The Stages For New Growth

Defining Good Work: Are You A Good Worker?

“What is the value of keeping on doing good work?”
It’s a simple question that has a lot of weight behind it. What’s good work anyway? What with all the promises and get-rich-quick schemes out there, all the hype and hoopla in marketing and advertising, all you need to push your products and services is to sell the sizzle, not the steak .  To answer the question you need to break it down.

“What is the value?”  – Assigning worth.
How much is your product or service worth to your audience, your customers, or your  market?

You may scoff at all those over-the top infomercials where people flap, flail, and screw up such simple actions like opening a jar, only to have Today’s Magical Doohicky save them for only three easy installments of 19.99 each —  but did you know that the infomercial market is worth billions? Yes. Those cheesy shows and demos are part of an industry and a very healthy market worth billions of dollars. Just because you can’t see it from where you’re sitting –probably on the couch– doesn’t mean the market isn’t flourishing, or relevant.

Informative link: The Economics of Infomercials

What’s more, the home-shopping and TV shopping market measures in the billions too. From cookware to jewelry cleaning, from skincare to household appliances, the home shopping industry is just another parallel market to internet commerce. For businesses selling products in both arenas, the similarities are many, and the work required to succeed is as demanding. You may just have passed one off as a silly series of hard-sell skits, but the market is there and it is huge. You just didn’t see it. Continue reading Defining Good Work: Are You A Good Worker?

Are You A Digital Hoarder?

Whether your business is big or small, there are some things that will remain the same:  One, in running it, you’ll need access  to a large amount of various information and electronic data. Two, you need help in staying on top of the data you already have and handle what keeps coming in. Three, you can have trouble getting rid of data that you don’t or can’t find useful.

Here’s the background to why even the thought of getting rid of things (including data) hurts, and a few suggestions on how to handle too much information. Continue reading Are You A Digital Hoarder?

Top Tips To Getting New Customers

When you are faced with a jaded audience who’ve been informed of every scam on the planet, have been burned by bad customer service, and know horror stories of substandard products and service contracts from hell, what can you do to keep drumming up fresh business in the form of new customers?

You start with a clean slate.
Running an online business is hard work, and part of that is developing foresight and proactiveness. You think of the most possible and probable issues coming down the line and take the steps to prevent them from happening, or work to weaken their impact.

One way to do this is to treat each visit or customer interaction as a start to something good.  You can’t go into a business automatically distrusting the people you’re planning to serve — that’s crazy-making. Continue reading Top Tips To Getting New Customers

Get Rid Of Red Tape

We all have our own war-stories about red tape and  bureaucracy, but  if you’re an entrepreneur or run your own business, have you ever stopped to think that you may also be a source? Factors that can contribute to red tape are unnecessarily complicated procedures,  unwarranted redundancies, and having too many people in control over too few points of control. Red tape drags on, and it is not limited to the government. Companies have red tape too, which means businesses aren’t immune.

“Red tape” is used to describe bureaucratic policies, procedures and forms that are “excessively complex and time-consuming” in nature.

The term comes from when  Henry VIII bombarded the Pope with around eighty petitions to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, his first wife (In his lifetime, Henry had six wives, and Catherine was Henry’s older brother’s widow.) Anyway, the court documentation was collected and sealed  up in red ribbons, which was the custom at the time for official state documentation.

In time, people started using the term ‘red tape’ to describe slow, unnecessarily complicated, and time-consuming filing, forms, and procedures.

Turning the focus on your own work now, have you ever encountered problem in your work flow due to  ‘internal policies’ you follow in running your business? When was the last time you updated your procedures and protocols? Have you reviews your ops manual lately? Continue reading Get Rid Of Red Tape

Why You Need to Learn Negotiation Skills

Life is all about negotiation. We do it every day in ways we don’t even recognize as negotiation. For instance, internally, we bargain with ourselves all the time. Five more minutes and then we’ll get up. Finish these last three pages and then we can go get coffee. We weigh our needs against our wants, and try to work things out to get the best possible result that we can out given the requirements of a particular situation.

Externally, we do this all the time. We just don’t think of it like the formal sort of negotiations we see in media. It could be as simple as asking if someone is available to talk to, for example, then suggesting alternative times or ways to communicate, like sending a follow-up email, or leaving a voicemail.  Basically, we ask if something is possible, then we find a way to work with the information and the reactions that we get.

The goal of negotiation is to work things out so that the people involved get what they need amicably, without feeling cheated or taken advantage of. Everyone with a stake in the proceeding gets to have their time, and during it, consensus and concessions are made and given.

At times the word “compromise” can come off in a rather bad way because sometimes we take it to mean “Everyone walks away unhappy, and not with all of what we want.” That comes from seeing all the dramatized negative spin in movies and popular media, and from how we’re socialized to believe winning is the only way to succeed, and for someone to win, someone else has to lose.

We have to understand that that’s not what compromise is about. Compromise is not ‘capitulation’, which is giving in. A compromise is the result of people coming to an agreement on the results they want out of the negotiation, where both parties can move forward.

Negotiation is an incredibly valuable  skill to develop and the more you practice it, the easier it gets .

Self negotiation and self-discipline — psyching yourself into doing something hard or uncomfortable now and rewarding yourself or enjoying the pay-off later, trains you to put the long-term good over the short-term boost, and the more impactful returns over shallower ones. Continue reading Why You Need to Learn Negotiation Skills

3 Tips to Defeat Self-Sabotage This Year

A new year means new beginnings. It’s a universal thing — it’s like we get a brand new blank canvas to play with.  We can’t go back to last year, but now we get a chance to do better, starting over with a  fresh page in the next chapter of our lives.

The push to have a better year than the last one is based on our wholly understandable desire for a better life for ourselves, which is connected to our tendency to hitch our dreams to fresh starts.  Just as well-known, however, is the  short lifespan of New Year’s resolutions. For all our  renewed hopes and aspirations,  it’s easy to forget and rely on the habits, practices and mind-sets that ruled us last year — some of which may have contributed to the things we wish hadn’t happened. Here are a few tips to assist you so you don’t unwittingly set yourself back again this time.

Use your data of the previous year
Use your accomplishments and  mistakes to help point out where you can focus on doing better and wiser this year.   Mistakes are just that, missed-takes: you did something, it didn’t work. It might have made the situation worse, but you survived. If you paid attention, you’d know what not to do, and this can stand as the starting point for doing better.

Reviewing how and where you spent your time this past year quite literally makes your brain re-view and re-enact those  incidents you remember. This mental re-enactment helps spark new ideas : what to focus on, what to ignore, what resources you overlooked then to work with, and how to put them to better use now, etc.

An in-depth review helps you recall the feelings that were behind certain decisions and their results, and all of that — memory, emotion, and aftermath– can help you classify more forcefully what things to drop, what to work on more, and what things to promote as being vital for a better future for you. Bitter lessons can leave the most lasting  impression on how we do things next. Continue reading 3 Tips to Defeat Self-Sabotage This Year

Help Your Goals Survive The New Year With Flexibility

With all the important plans you made to make you this your best year yet,  one of the most effective ways you can help to realize your goals is to have built-in, supportive flexibility in your life.

Think of this familiar scenario: Most gyms see a lot of money come in during the first month of the  year, because a lot of people sign up to lose weight and get fit at part of their resolutions. Those aren’t bad goals at all,  but a common observation shows that most enrollees peter out over the first eight weeks of their membership.  Many sign up, but not all follow-through.

There could be all sorts of reasons for dropping out: People couldn’t adjust to the regimen they picked for themselves. They develop an injury from over-training. They get discouraged. There is a conflict in their schedules and they can’t keep up regular visits… so they do a slow fade.

Not showing up to exercise is just an example of the ways our goals fall off to the wayside, but you can already see where the weak spots are in the previous example. An inability to adjust, failure to adapt, pushing too hard too fast, taking on too much too soon…To help your plans survive past the first month or two of the new year  and reach fruition– you need  to factor in flexibility.

Building your flexibility
Let’s go with imagery:  You need flex so you can absorb shock and bounce back. Working within too rigid a structure, you can shake apart or break down after exposure to repeated blows of  stressful events. When you are flexible, you can bend, you can lean over, you can bow– but not break or snap, right?

You anchor those flexibilities to something solid: a structure, a routine, or a schedule.  You  deliberately make space so you can move. Continue reading Help Your Goals Survive The New Year With Flexibility