Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What a Vacation Will Teach You

I recently returned from a 7 day trip to the Bahamas. Growing up in Florida and now living in a landlocked suburb of Dallas, I often feel like I need to get my feet in the sand. For those of you who have been to the Bahamas, you know that I have just returned from a week in paradise. It got me thinking that I need to be in a beautiful place like that more often. In Working in the Smart Zone, I use a quote. "Go where you feel most like yourself." I know that I feel most like myself when my feet are in the sand and I can hear and smell the ocean.

Here are 5 things that I know for sure after my week in the Bahamas:

  1. People who are consistent in their personal lives and in their business lives live the best lives. My family was given the opportunity to spend time on the south side of the island with our good friends the Clines. William Cline is a consulting executive who has spent the last 19 years in the Bahamas working for Stuart Cove, the owner of the third largest dive shop in the world. If you have been watching Discovery Channel's Shark Week, you have seen Stuart's staff and location in more than a few episodes. With up close and personal contact with Stuart and his family I couldn't help but be in awe of their business ethics, their daily management, and their inspirational personalities. The Clines and the Stuarts are successful business owners who understand the Smart Zone Secret. They live it, breathe it, and they are teaching it to their own children. Click here to learn more about the Smart Zone.

  2. Vacation time shouldn't be overscheduled. It is just a fact that most people spend time on vacation trying to do it all. While we planned 3 days and 2 nights at Atlantis, we whittled that side trip down so we could have more "sandy shoes time" on the beautiful beach at the condo where we stayed.

  3. Sometimes it is more fun to just relax. I don't know about you but most of the time it is hard for me to relax on vacation. I have so many thoughts in my head about business, daily life, the next project, and the tasks of being a business owner and a parent that it gets noisy in my head. People know me to be an information sponge. Sitting in a beach chair, no iPod in my ears, no book in my hands, and no laptop on my knees, I know I can get a lot accomplished in the creative side of my brain. Just getting some white space between my ears is so rewarding. I know my staff appreciates when I go on vacation since the noise in my head can sometimes come out of my mouth with a vengeance. When I come back from vacation, the noise in my head is a lot more controlled.

  4. Be with people you enjoy. We have always enjoyed the Clines. Our boys go to school together and our values are very much the same. After 8 days together, we still love each other. During those 8 days, they also performed an unplanned "intervention" with me as I continue to steer my consulting and clinical businesses forward. While they are my friends, they also possess expertise in human resources and consulting ( Their intervention worked. I have some changes ahead that will help me continue to maintain better balance in my professional and personal life.

  5. Set up systems so your customers and your business can thrive in your absence. The Bahamian Gods did a number on my computer while I was there. Funny thing, I could get every email sent to me but I couldn't email out. No, that wasn't part of the intervention. While I would have only written emails once a day, when it was least intrusive for our vacation, I quickly learned to enjoy seeing the emails showing a stream of productivity while my hands were tied and I was unable to intervene. With systems in place, you can get the time you need to enjoy being off duty. It really is a beautiful thing.
I have made a few more promises to myself. First, we are definitely going back to the Bahamas if the Clines will still have us. Second, I need to go where I feel most like myself more often. Third, my creativity and leadership skills soar when I give myself the downtime. Go where you feel most like yourself, even if it isn't in the Bahamas.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Escalating Your Career by Managing Your Boss

Your relationship with your boss is probably the most important relationship you have at work.

I recently worked with a Sales Manager who was forced to play 20 Questions every time he went to his boss for approval. Sometimes the 20 Questions game would last over an hour and end with a 2-day project before his boss would give him approval. This often meant he couldn't respond to customers in a timely manner and lost business deals. To manage his boss the Sales Manager began thinking through every question his boss could possibly ask and formulating answers. He then began calling his boss and saying, "Here is the situation, here is what I want to do, and here is why we should do it." Miraculously, the 20 Questions game ended!

I think we often look to our boss for what he/she can give us instead of what we can give to him. It's a 2-way street. Put the odds in your favor by managing your boss with the care and sensitivity with which you manage yourself.

Here are 4 Smart Moves for managing your boss:

  1. Don't dump problems on your boss. Don't go to your boss with a problem until you've formulated a possible solution. Present both the problem and the solution to your boss simultaneously. Be solution focused. Your boss will be impressed by your ability to resolve your own problem and gain confidence in your abilities. Click here to listen to my recent "Ask the Expert" interview where I describe how to be solution focused.

  2. Never badmouth your boss. One of the unspoken rules successful people follow is to never talk bad about your boss and particularly not to the company higher-ups - and especially in a job interview. (Quick disclaimer: If there is an issue with your boss that needs the attention of human resources, then pursue it). You may not like a decision your boss makes or the way he treats his staff; however, gossiping about him will not get you points. It will erode the effectiveness of your team and cause dissension within your department. The belief will be: if you bad mouth your boss, you will bad mouth others. People will feel they cannot trust you and higher-ups will view you as a bad seed.

  3. Use the power of equity. Know what your boss needs and values most and provide it ahead of time, without being asked. I was irritated by my first boss out of college who micromanaged everyone. Once I figured out his main goal was to stay informed on the statistics in my department I began to report them to him ahead of time. It is human nature to feel obligated to those who help us with what we need. It is just as much the employee's responsibility to help make his boss a good leader as it is for the boss to help employees feel valued and successful.

  4. Compliment your boss. This may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first. I'm not talking about schmoozing, although there is evidence from a University of Michigan study that schmoozers are more likely to get raises over non-schmoozers. When your boss does something well, pay her a sincere compliment like, "You did a nice job running the staff meeting this morning. I appreciated your support." Positive feedback will reinforce the behavior and improve your relationship with your boss.
    Just for fun, click here for a recent list of the 15 Great TV Bosses. My favorite is Miranda Bailey from "Grey's Anatomy." From this list of TV bosses it's clear that, like everyone else, your boss is always learning.

    I have a Winston Churchill quote framed in my office that says, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." Take responsibility for helping your boss succeed and you will both stay in the Smart Zone!

      Sunday, August 3, 2008

      Another Resource Used by Top Producers

      I may be one of the last people to know about this but just in case, I am passing another tool to increase productivity on to you. I just got introduced to PhoneTag. PhoneTag (formerly known as Simulscribe) uses advanced technology to convert voicemail to text and deliver it via e-mail and/or text messages.

      I frequently need an efficient way to check my voicemails while traveling or going between one meeting to another. Sometimes it is too cumbersome to dial into voicemail, listen and save the voicemail. I'd prefer a text message or email so I already have the information written down and I can access it more easily. PhoneTag has fixed that problem for me.

      While I don't care much for their logo on their t-shirt, I do think the service has great benefit. If you want to know more, go to this link and see what you think. We believe it is just another way you can Work in your Smart Zone.