Monday, December 28, 2009

Interview on Creating Wealth Show & Dealing with Mental Theater

I enjoyed talking with Jason Hartman on his Creating Wealth Show a few weeks ago. Click here to listen to the podcast. Jason saw my interview in SUCCESS Magazine and was interested in learning more about the Smart Zone.

We talked about emotional intelligence and how to stay in the Smart Zone. We also talked quite a bit about mental theater. Have you ever been in a fight with your husband and he doesn't know it? This is mental theater. It's when we create drama in our heads so that it seems an event actually happened. Here are examples of destructive forms of mental theater:

  • In a work environment, a manager may perceive that his boss is upset with him because he doesn't make eye contact with him while they are talking. So the manager proceeds to relate to his boss as if there really is a disagreement.

  • An assistant may believe that a co-worker who is whispering is talking about her behind her back. The assistant then becomes hostile as if there has been a breach of trust.

  • A wife may believe that her husband is having an affair because he is too friendly with the attractive woman next door. She then begins to treat him as if he's been unfaithful.

Ask yourself these 4 questions to work in the Smart Zone and course correct negative drama that can get out of hand.

  1. Is my thinking based on fact?

  2. Does my thinking help me achieve my goal?

  3. Does my thinking help me feel the way I want to feel?

  4. How can I change my mental theater to create a win-win situation?

Keep in mind that YOU are in charge of your own mental theater. When you have only part of a story resist the urge to fill in the blanks. Chapter 8 of my book, Working in the Smart Zone, expands on this topic if you would like to learn more.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How to Talk to Kids About Gift Giving in this Economy

This year more than ever I have worked with people concerned with how to handle the stress of the holidays. This time of year is typically stressful. But throw in the financial challenges from the economy, a strained business, a job loss, or a divorce and it becomes overwhelming for even the most astute person. I think it's tough when we are worried about how we will afford holiday gifts especially when it comes to children.

Santa shouldn't be affected by the economy - right? Being honest with your children and having age appropriate conversations will make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone.

Here are 6 Smart Moves for how to talk to your kids gift giving in the current economy.

  1. Don't be afraid of your kids being disappointed. Parents want the best for their children but spoiling a child may rob them of their own wisdom.

  2. Have age-appropriate conversations with and in front of your children. Hearing parents discuss money worries will cause anxiety for children. Keep the following points in mind for different ages:

    • Ages 5 and under
      Quantity vs. quality. At this age kids are often more excited by the number of presents than the actual present itself. Dollar value has no meaning. Figure out ways to break apart toys or clothing outfits and wrap them separately.

      Work to make the holiday about tradition as much as gift getting. Watch Rudolph on TV, drive around and look at Christmas lights, decorate the tree together. Concentrate on doing something that would not cost a lot of money like calling the local fire station for a tour or feeding ducks at the park.

    • Ages 5-9
      Avoid the phrase, "We can't afford it." Instead tell kids that when we spend money on a new Wii then we will need to spend less money when buying groceries. This will also help them learn responsible spending.

      Introduce the idea of charity.The best way to make your kids givers is to lead by example. This is the season of giving. Take them along when volunteering (when possible), and encourage them to allocate some of their allowance to giving to a cause they care about.

    • Ages 10-13
      Be careful with kids this age because they are mature enough to feel bad about receiving a gift that can't be afforded. Hearing parents discuss money worries will cause anxiety for this age group. They will worry about their own safety and wellbeing - which could lead to symptoms similar to depression. You may even be laying the groundwork for your kids to feel guilty about receiving their gifts.

      It's okay to say no. Kids at this age need to understand the limits of finances. But when you say no explain that it is because you are watching your spending because of your reduced income. Reassure them that you are making sure there is always enough money to pay for necessities like the house payment and food.

  3. Simplify. Make or bake holiday gifts. This will get your children involved in the solution instead of focusing on the problem. Click here to watch my TV segment on this topic.

  4. Hug the tree. This is a concept I talk about in my first book, Parenting in the Smart Zone, and also learned when I worked for Phil McGraw at Courtroom Science. It's the concept of sticking to the main point in a conversation. Think of the tree representing the topic and the tree branches other tangents. When discussing the fact that Christmas may be smaller this year keep to the point at hand - "Mom and Dad are being responsible with our money this year and/or Santa has other people in need, etc." Don't allow the conversation to go off point by discussing what their friends are doing for the holidays or what video game just came out this year, etc.

  5. Start traditions. Holidays happen in a hurry for families, especially working families. They seem to come and go so fast. Talk with your children about new rituals or traditions that help the holidays last longer. This also helps to put the focus on the meaning of the holidays, instead of just the gift and Santa Clause part. Traditions that children like include following a theme of the 12 days of Christmas, going to holiday services and being a part of the celebration, having people over for dinner, having story time as a family where a parent reads out loud, even having a holiday party with friends and having a Secret Santa.

  6. Put the focus on someone else. I call this the Smart Zone secret. Involve your children in giving back or donating to holiday related charities so that they can feel gratitude for what they have and learn the social responsibility for caring for others.

You may know a child who has everything. If so, click here to find out what to give a child that has everything.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What to Give a Child who has Everything

It's the time of year when many are struggling to make ends meet and trying to figure out how to afford holiday gifts.

However, every year in my private practice someone asks me, "What do I get for a child who has everything?" And I've had the same question myself when buying for friends and family.

Here are my recommendations:

For kids under 12, what they can never get enough of is your attention and time. Go fishing over the holidays if he likes to fish. Make a coupon book for monthly activities you can do together throughout the year.

For kids over 12, they don’t ever think they have everything so it is a little different. Have an honest conversation that you want to be intentional in your gift giving this year. Tell him or her that you would like to give something meaningful with the limitations you have this year. In the conversation, ask what would be meaningful. You might be surprised when you hear what they come up with. It will involve a little creativity but you may be able to give the best gift of all that involves very little money, just because you asked.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How to Be a Good Place to Work

With the current economy and job layoffs it is critical that every individual provide the most value in your organization.

Here are some Smart Moves for how to be a good place to work:

  • First impressions count. When your department has a new employee starting on Monday, designate a co-worker to call the new hire over the weekend and introduce himself. Say something like this, "Hi, this is Mike and I will be working in your department. We are looking forward to you starting work here tomorrow. I'll be at the office at 8:00 to meet you and will show you around. Also, a couple of us would like to take you to lunch on Monday, so don't worry with bringing your lunch." This will help a new employee get engaged quicker and show them that they matter. Use this checklist for welcoming a new employee.

  • Blab away. According to Zig Ziglar, one of the prime needs of employees is "being let in on things that are going on in the company." After all, we all want to feel part of the "in" crowd. You don't need to share company private information with employees - but make it a practice to share and involve employees in specific short and long term goals, the direction of the company, innovative ideas in the works and a few tidbits that you ask employees to them to keep to themselves. Use these words to be more productive.

  • Catch people doing something well. Many times when employees are doing something well it goes unnoticed because we assume they are just doing their job. Go out of your way today to reward a co-worker or employee for doing something right (watch retention expert James Robbins' short video on this topic). Compliment them, buy them a cup of coffee, recognize them at a staff meeting or even jot them a handwritten note acknowledging what you caught them doing well.

  • Be thankful for problems. In light of Thanksgiving last week, give thanks when employees bring you their problems. General Colin Powell is quoted as saying, "The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership." Working collaboratively to solve a problem with a co-worker or employee improves company loyalty and work ownership.

  • Reward loyalty. Donald Trump says, "When employees and employers, even coworkers, have a commitment to one another, everyone benefits. I have people who have been in business with me for decades. I reward their loyalty to the organization and to me. I know that they'll always be dedicated to what we're trying to accomplish."

  • Delegate don't dump. Know the difference between empowering an employee by delegating responsibility to this person versus dumping additional, unwanted work on him. Delegating to an employee means you extend to the person the authority to make decisions about a task and this task helps the receiver grow.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Secret Worth Knowing - Shhhhhhh!

My Director of Client Relations, Zan, jokes that the fastest way to spread news during the time she worked for a Fortune 30 Company was to tell 1 person a secret and ask them not to tell anyone. Within 2 days she knew the entire sales and field work force would know the "secret" information. As a psychologist I hear secrets and private information daily. Many times when I'm told a secret it's the first time that person has revealed it to anyone.

Knowing how to use secrets in a productive manner will empower you to Stay in the Smart Zone.

I was intrigued when I recently saw Frank Warren, author of 5 books reporting the secrets of others, on the Today Show. For several years people have posted their secrets on his website or mailed in their secrets to him on a postcard. In this Today Show interview he said, "I think that in my own life, I was struggling with secrets from my childhood. And so in one sense, this was a way for me to reconcile with parts of my past that I'd been struggling with." He also went on to say that the act of writing down one's secrets can be a freeing experience.

The notion of secrets is a component of our society. Secrets can be serious and harmful and I DO NOT take this subject lightly. Secrets about abuse, addiction, neglect and dishonesty can define people and their outlook on the world.

Use these Smart Moves when you have a secret:

  • Secrets can bring happiness. Think of a surprise party your friends are planning or a gift someone is about to receive. Maybe a friend is expecting a baby and waiting for the right moment to tell the news. Most people would agree, these are secrets you should keep. Click here to read about business secrets worth keeping.

  • Secrets give you perceived power over someone else. "I know something you don't know - nana nana boo boo." This may sound like elementary school but grown ups do this, too. Think about it. Even at work knowing secrets can give you an edge over your coworkers or competitors. This type of power can be dangerous and even illegal. Proceed with caution.

  • Secrets give you Brownie points. Telling secrets can elevate your status with other friends. Think about how you feel when someone reveals a secret to you. Letting others in on your secret gives them a stronger connection with you and vise versa.

  • Secrets can cause anxiety. Keeping secrets often prevents people from dealing with the problem at hand. According to Timothy Cole, Ph.D. keeping secrets leads to increased stress, anxiety, and it often makes people think about the issue more frequently. He also says, "Revealing secrets is very helpful when it is done right; that is, in a safe, non-judgmental environment. Revealing secrets can reduce stress, it helps people let go of an issue and think about it more clearly."

  • Confidence in your confidant. We tell secrets because we trust others not to reveal them. Remember Deep Throat in the Watergate scandal? In reality, people are pretty likely to tell your secret - even if it's just to their spouse or best friend. It's human nature. Have confidence in the person you confide to.

  • Know the Smart Zone Secret. If you have attended my presentations you know that I end all of them with the Smart Zone Secret which is to take the focus off yourself. Watch this video of me revealing the Smart Zone Secret. Now that is a secret worth telling!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

SUCCESS Magazine Article, "How to Get More Done"

When Sandra Bienkowski, Editor for SUCCESS Magazine, called me a few weeks ago and asked me how to get more done while keeping stress in check I was excited to share my tips with her.
Click here to read my tips in her article in the upcoming November issue.

I enjoy reading SUCCESS Magazine because it is full of the kind of information that High Achievers want to know. The articles always provide a unique window into the lives, practices and philosophies of today’s greatest achievers—top CEOs, revolutionary entrepreneurs and other extraordinary leaders. One article I really enjoyed recently was about Craig Newmark - the Craig of Craig's business model is that they can do good in business by doing good for people. He is definitely in the Smart Zone!

Go out and grab the November issue of SUCCESS Magazine if you have a chance!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Do You Know Someone in the Smart Zone?

When I speak at conferences all over the country about working in the Smart Zone many times people tell me stories after my presentations about people they know who are in the Smart Zone. These stories are so inspiring that I often wish I could have shared them with the whole audience.

So now I want to hear from you! I want to share your stories about people you know who are in the Smart Zone. Do you know anyone in your organization who is in the Smart Zone? If so, email us with your story.

Watch this video below to learn more.

From now on we are calling people in the Smart Zone "Zonies."

What is the Smart Zone? The Smart Zone is where you work to the best of your ability emotionally, behaviorally and intellectually. Watch this TV appearance where I talk about working in the Smart Zone.

What is a Zonie? People in the Smart Zone have emotional intelligence, self awareness, create an environment of trust and are highly productive.

Clients and coworkers trust people in the Smart Zone because Zonies can admit their own mistakes and confront unethical actions in others, successfully meet commitments, keep promises and show personal accountability and reliability.

Here are a few more characteristics of Zonies:

  • Zonies are solution-oriented. They ask "How" and "What" questions instead of "Why" questions.

  • Zonies look at the brighter side of life and maintain a positive attitude, even in the face of adversity.

  • Zonies use interpersonal skills to improve relationships and are aware of the feelings of others. Zonies show empathy and social responsibility.

  • Zonies are likeable and manage stress in a productive manner.

  • Zonies know the Smart Zone Secret which is to take the focus off yourself. Zonies put the needs of others first, volunteer in the community and add value to others through humble acts of kindness.
Please email us with your stories of Zonies in your workplace. We want to share your stories with the Smart Zone community!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More is the Same than is Different

I recently read the book Resilience by Elizabeth Edwards. I am on a hiatus from business books and those in the psychology section of Barnes & Noble. My brain wants to be inspired and educated. I picked this book up because I have seen her interviewed a number of times and am so impressed with how she views her life. Here she is dying of cancer, she has young children, she is an advocate for health care issues and...she has been faced with her husband's very public infidelity. If there is anyone that can teach us a few things about resilience, it is Elizabeth Edwards.

So this got me thinking - when I am working with an executive, a patient, or even a friend and I am trying to help them understand the idea of resilience, I tend to say out loud, "More is the same than is different" no matter what it is he or she is dealing with. By focusing on the parts of your life that are the same, you can find your own strategies and tools for resilience.

Resilience is an important concept in companies with new hires, during training, when significant changes occur in the workplace, or when times are toughest. With performance appraisals you can spend one hour telling someone what a great job they are doing and when the meeting is over all the person remembers are the bad things they need to work on. We filter out the positive and hold on to the negative. Using the strategies of resilience, you can remove that filter to internalize a more balanced view of the feedback.

Here are some case scenarios where I believe it is important to look at "more is the same than is different."

  • Job Loss: We are not defined by our careers. In my opinion we are defined by our character and how we interact with the world. If you know someone who has lost a job, tell them, "More is the same than is different." They are still loved by their family, they are still full of potential and they have talents that are marketable. A report from Harvard even says that 73% of middle managers say their jobs haven't changed. What do you think?

  • Divorce: No one wants to get divorced but when it happens, it should be because all other options have been exhausted. Hollywood especially has had some nasty divorces over the years. People have to earn a divorce, I believe, in order to get one. Because getting one is not easy. More is the same than is different. With a divorce, you still have people counting on you, you still have people you count on, you still have to manage your money, and you still are capable of love and being loved.

  • Financial Struggles: I have a friend, Don Neubaum, who is a professor at Oregon State. He teaches in the business school and he and I went to high school together. I LOVE Don. It is okay because his wife Sandy knows it. In our conversations about the state of the economy and financial struggles that are occurring in businesses and in families, he believes that we should all learn from these lean years. Shame on us if we get fat financially when some of the struggles start to lessen. More is the same than is different. We all have to tighten our belts, do some serious soul searching on how we spend money, and be incredibly deliberate about our spending habits. No matter what the economic condition is, we have to be resilient and recognize that we manage money instead of money managing us.

  • Health: There has been a lot of research that there is healing power in the way we think. We can produce the good juices in our body that can build our immune systems. Yes, there is a limit. Yes, it is important to get the best health care possible, and yes it is important to remember that "more is the same than is different." With every health crisis, we are all still involved in our lives. We can become educated and we can live our lives with quality.
More is the same than is different.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How to Leave Stress at the Office

I find it hard to leave stress at the office. Sometimes it's because I can identify with issues my patients are experiencing and empathize so much with their struggles. Recently I've been stressed over the fact that my great administrative assistant, Kathy, is moving with her family to Nashville. I know I can overcome how stressed I feel because I know: when we bring stress home we tell our friends and family that their time isn't as valuable.

M. Scott Peck said, "Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it." I challenge you (and myself!) to value your time at work and at home and to stay in the Smart Zone.

One thing I hear when working with managers and executives who work long hours is that, at the end of the day, it is difficult to shake the feeling of being at work. Even when they get home they don't feel "at home." They feel disconnected and preoccupied with what took place during the workday or are anticipating the problems of the next day.

Part of the issue is that the intensity during our workday is different than the intensity of our home lives. Although our home and work life both take considerable mental and physical energy we still have to shift gears when we walk in the door at home.

In my business we provide strategies to stay in the Smart Zone that will improve productivity at home and work. But don't do this! Here are Smart Moves for leaving stress at the office:

  • Do you leave work and then use that same part of your brain at home? When I work on my financials at the office and then come home and work on bills, my brain is going to get overwhelmed. I've recently started taking serious Yoga classes near my home so I can balance how I use my body and my brain. As my instructor Carlos says, "Bring peace and calm into your world."

  • Are you finally energized by 3:00 in the afternoon? Eat a late afternoon snack that is high in carbs but low in fat and protein - like a granola bar, fresh fruit or a bagel. This type of snack jump-starts the amino acid in the brain that promotes a relaxation response.

  • Do you immerse yourself in work related content 24/7? What is by your bedside? Business books, financials, proposals? I have taken a sabbatical from business books to read bestsellers so I am exposing myself to more than just business and psychological literature. Right now, want to know what is by my bedside? The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb. All 723 pages. I will be sorry when I finish it because it is such a great book.

  • Set aside 10 minutes after lunch to return personal phone calls. This will eliminate your need to talk on your cell phone on the drive home at the end of the day. Instead you can listen to good music or an audio book. Click here for ways to maximize your lunch break.

  • Carve out transition time. Devote the final hours of your workday to some of your least-pressured tasks. I like listening to music on Grooveshark and doing paperwork. Thanks to my buddy Rex, I've now got speakers mounted on the inside of my desk so I can really enjoy my end of the day paperwork. You will feel a sense of accomplishment by completing at least one thing before day end.

  • Don't talk about work when you first get home. When you walk in the door at home resist the urge to immediately start talking about your day. Cooper and Sawaf, authors of Executive EQ, call this a "transitional buffer zone." This is time to renew your spirit of being home. Don't run to your computer to return emails. You might first greet your family, get your children a snack and change into some comfy clothes.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Do What Others are Unwilling to Do

I recently gave the commencement address at Argosy University in Dallas, Texas. It was inspiring to see people accomplishing their goals beaming as they walked across the stage to accept their diplomas. I even heard a child yell out, "Way to go Mom!" as her mom walked across the stage.

During the time I spent preparing my comments for this speech, I was reminded of how John Maxwell identifies what separates those who are successful in life from those who never reach full potential.

Successful people and organizations do what others are unwilling to do.

People in the Smart Zone do what are others are unwilling to do. Use these Smart Moves to achieve success that others may be unwilling to do.

  • Pay the price. From my own experience I know the graduates I spoke to have all missed family events, questioned what they were doing at times and postponed other life goals in order to achieve their goal of graduating. As a successful person you are willing to sacrifice your own goals for the sake of others, do things you've never done before and keep learning even when you don't feel like it.
  • Find common ground with tough people. Do you work with a difficult person? Instead of gossiping, complaining or getting mad find a way to succeed with people who are difficult to work with. The secret is to find common ground with the difficult person and connect with them at that level.
  • Learn about the hassle. According to Verne Harnish in his book Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, recurring problems eat up more than 40% of an average employee's day. Why? Because a problem is never just one person's problem. Find out what is hassling your employees and you'll find out what's hassling your customers. You will have better insight as to how to serve your customers.
  • Have an emotional counterweight. The business world will lead you to think that being rational keeps people honest. But a recent study in Fast Company magazine showed that people would lie 69% of the time when asked to make a decision by thinking rationally and not emotionally. Only 27% lied when asked to make a decision using their emotions, based on feelings. Interestingly, people tend to trust rational decision makers more than emotional decision makers - meaning we tend to trust people who are set up to lie. Looking back at the sub-prime mortgage debacle many wish they had listened to their feelings.
  • Ride up the hill. Have you ever been bike riding and coasted on the down hills? Even though the down hills are usually a much needed rest, you can't learn much on the down hill. Endurance, strength and technique are perfected on the treacherous uphill rides. Believe me, we all want to be tested to find out what we are made of.
  • Practice the Smart Zone Secret. I end all of my presentations with the Smart Zone Secret, which is to take the focus off yourself. Do what others are unwilling to do to make the world a little better, just for a moment. I remember seeing Dara Torres help a competitor fix her torn swimsuit before a race in the Beijing Olympics last summer. Here are 12 ideas to spread the Smart Zone Secret:

    1. Let someone cut in front of you in traffic.
    2. Let someone cut in front of you at the grocery store.
    3. Pay the toll for someone behind you.
    4. Write and mail someone a note of encouragement.
    5. Hold the door for someone.
    6. Buy coffee for a coworker when you buy it for yourself.
    7. Put an extra quarter in someone's parking meter.
    8. Be the first person to volunteer for a task at work.
    9. Compliment a coworker on something they do well.
    10. Give an inspirational book to a friend (you could even give one of the books I've written).
    11. Volunteer for a charity.
    12. Pick up trash that isn't yours.

      Tuesday, August 4, 2009

      Book Review: How the Mighty Fall, Reviewed by Zan Jones

      Jim Collins' new book, How the Mighty Fall...And Why Some Companies Never Give In, made for some fast summer reading. Susan and I loved his other books Built to Last and Good to Great. So when Susan planned to be in the Bahamas last week (doing some lighter reading, I hope) I asked if I could review the book.

      "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Leo Tolstoy in his novel Anna Karenina

      At first I thought this book was an excuse to explain the demise of some of the great companies Collins profiled in his books Built to Last and Good to Great. In fact, Collins devotes a whole page in the book to "Why the Fall of Previously Great Companies Does Not Negate Prior Research."

      To answer the question, "How would you know if your company was on the road to decline when it was the most successful company in the industry and the best player in the game?" Collins took some of his great companies and showed how even they could fall. The fall consists of the following 5 stages:

      Stage 1:
      Hubris Born of Success (You might call this Being Arrogant)
      I hadn't heard the word "hubris" in a while so I looked it up. It means overbearing pride or arrogance. In this stage companies view success as an entitlement and lose sight of what made them successful to begin with. Leaders lose their learning orientation, presume their success is due entirely to their superior qualities and are egotistical enough to think that luck and fortuitous events haven't played a role in their success.

      Motorola enjoyed exponential success until the mid-1990s when they felt great pride in their soon-to-be-released StarTAC cell phone. There was only one problem: the StarTAC phone used analog technology just as the wireless carriers were shifting to digital. Motorola tried to strong-arm carrier companies by saying, "If you want the hot StarTAC then you must agree to our rules." Along this same line is a quote from the Bank of America CEO prior their fall who admonished his managers by saying, "We don't have time to learn from others' mistakes. Let others learn from us."

      Stage 2:
      Undisciplined Pursuit of More (You might call this Getting WAY too Big for Your Britches)
      In this phase companies become obsessed with growth and are frequently very innovative. Rubbermaid aimed to introduce one new product a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Three years later they were choking on the nearly 1,000 new products, raw material costs and growth targets. Merck became obsessed with growth early this century with their drug Vioxx. One hundred million prescriptions later Merck voluntarily removed Vioxx from the market because of studies revealing it could cause heat attacks and strokes.

      In this stage, companies lose sight of hiring the right people and succession planning. Collins introduces my favorite research with 6 characteristics for getting the right people in key seats across organizations.

      Stage 3:
      Denial of Risk and Peril (You might call this Not Having a Clue)
      By Stage 3 the cumulative effects of the previous stages are causing strain. At this stage companies externalize the blame, take big bets that aren't based on facts and reorganize as a form of denial. Restructuring can create a false sense that you're actually doing something productive.

      Collins says leaders need to answer these questions before making decisions at this stage:
      • What's the upside, if events turn out well?
      • What's the downside, if events go very badly?
      • Can you live with the downside? Truly?

      He tells the haunting story of NASA's Challenger explosion that killed all 7 crew members and how the above 3 questions should have been asked.

      Just for fun, watch this silly clip from The Office about the question Dwight asks himself before making a decision.

      Stage 4:
      Grasping for Salvation (You might call this Scrambling)

      Companies in this stage reach for one silver bullet. The silver bullet could be betting on an unproven technology, relying on a new flashy product, a "game-changing" acquisition, an image makeover or seeking a savior CEO. Incidentally, evidence shows a strong correlation between companies who fall and going outside for a CEO during their era of decline.

      Texas Instruments (TI) has one of the best examples of reversing their fall in 1985 when they promoted 25-year employee Jerry Junkins to CEO. Then in 1996 when Junkins unexpectedly died from heart failure on a business trip to Europe the CEO position was given to 20-year veteran Tom Engibous. In turn, it was a smooth transition that Engibous repeated upon retirement by turning over his job to another TI-grown leader Richard Templeton.

      In the haste of the situation, companies at this stage are operating out of desperation. Collins says they need to "Breath. Calm yourself. Think. Focus. Aim."

      Stage 5:
      Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death (you might call this The Bugle Playing Taps)

      Companies in this stage have run out of options and given up the fight. At this point, only one word matters: CASH. If you don't have it, you're in big trouble. These companies have suffered through Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4 and the leaders are exhausted and dispirited. Zenith went through all 4 stages and then became the #2 maker of IBM-compatible computers. But their cash position was so depleted from hanging on to their television business that they fell into bankruptcy.

      The moral of the story, according to Collins, is "Every institution is vulnerable, no matter how great...Anyone can fall and most eventually do." But wait, he also says, "We are not imprisoned by our circumstances, out setbacks, our history, our mistakes, or even staggering defeats along the way. We are freed by our choices."

      Monday, July 6, 2009

      Family Violence Can Hurt Your Business

      Thursday, July 9, 2009
      8:00 AM Training & Breakfast

      WHAT: A breakfast & training to introduce employers & management professionals
      WHEN: Thursday, July 9, 2009
      TIME: 8:00 am - 9:00 am
      WHERE: Children's Medical Center Legacy, 7601 Preston Road, Plano, TX 75024 in north Plano at Legacy and Hedgcoxe Drives
      WHO: Individuals in senior leadership, human resources, security/safety, legal and risk management
      COST: No charge
      RSVP: Junior League of Plano, (972) 769-0557 or email

      Last year a CEO pulled me aside after I spoke to his executives about Working in the Smart Zone. He wanted privacy because he said that he had something "sensitive" to talk with me about. He had a dilemma. He strongly suspected that one of his female executives had a home life that included family violence. She had missed work, been less engaged, and he had seen unexplainable bruises on her body. He wanted to help her but didn't know how and didn't know his place. This CEO is one that asked questions and sought out help. (Click here for what to do if you work with someone experiencing domestic violence.) I worked with him and followed up to help him connect with the resources he needed. Are you a manager or business owner with the same suspicions? If not now, you very likely will have a similar dilemma in the future.

      Every year, domestic violence contributes an estimated $5 to $10 billion in losses to companies and businesses around the country. The effects of stalking, physical assault, rape, and homicide are directly related to employee absenteeism, diminished job performance, and lower job morale.

      If you live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, consider sending someone Thursday, July 9 to a training to introduce employers and management professionals to the Family Violence in the Workplace Program. The program is provided free-of-charge to businesses. You will walk away with a complimentary Family Violence in the Workplace toolkit to implement the program in your company. The program will last one hour.

      Sponsored by the Collin County Council on Family Violence, this overview of the Family Violence Prevention Program is recommended for individuals in senior leadership, human resources, security/safety, legal and risk management. This breakfast meeting will increase awareness of the effects of domestic violence as well as educate employers and management professionals on the most effective preventative measures.

      Wednesday, July 1, 2009

      How to Work Smarter in a Crisis

      Confession time! Last month I left out some information about my Fox 4 TV segment on happiness. During the interview I got thrown off guard and had to keep Working in my own Smart Zone! I thought I would be presenting the top 10 happiest (and unhappiest) jobs based on a recent University of Chicago study, but Tim, the anchor man, had another set of bullet points on his script. Five seconds before the stage manager began counting, "5-4-3-2-1" Tim showed me the bullet points he was prepared to discuss. A deer in headlights is a good description of my face at that point. My mind shifted into crisis mode.

      We all have times when we shift into crisis mode. It happens when your car won't start, a tough deadline at work gets pushed up, your company is about to lose a huge customer, an employee you're depending on quits or an OSHA inspector shows up unannounced. By staying in the Smart Zone you can get through a crisis mode and come out better for it.

      During a crisis our brain falls back on simple, sometimes primitive, responses and puts aside complex thought. All focus is on the urgent present crisis. Many say that the economy falls into this category. But a crisis can be small - it can be a slip up in a conversation or forgetting an important appointment. Or, it can just be when what you intend to say doesn't come out of your mouth the right way. Click here to see how this can happen.

      A crisis will bring to light shortcomings and will also help us prepare for future improvement. Once a crisis is over, our problem solving can turn a crisis into improved standards, improved conditions, improved safety and can be, overall, one of the best opportunities for improvement.

      Here's how to stay in the Smart Zone during a crisis and turn a crisis into an advantage.

      • Know your anchor. In other words, know your expertise. In my case, I was doing a TV segment in my field of expertise so technically no question should throw me off. When I was straight out of college I could get intimated by older, more experienced people. But as a therapist, I had to understand that this was my expertise. Even though I might not know as much as my patients knew about other things in life, I definitely knew more than they did about proper therapeutic treatments.
      • Make a wrong right. When a mistake is made, admit it instead of covering it up. Trust is built when you are honest and accept responsibility to make it right. Blaming others, not responding, and refusing to take responsibility create a lack of trust and discredits you. Everyone makes mistakes. It is how you respond when a mistake is made that makes the difference.
      • Don't kill the 10 Minute Oil Change Guy. Have you ever seen someone throwing a hissy fit at Minute Lube because his car isn't ready? I call this an exaggerated response. When we have too much stress our stress hormones kick in causing a small hassle to suddenly be overwhelming. Learn to recognize when your stress level is getting high and discipline yourself to eliminate it. You could exercise, go shopping, get more sleep, read a book, surf the internet, call a coworker or friend or leave the office for lunch.
      • Figure out what you are working for. A crisis heightens our awareness and brings to light what really matters to you, your company, and the services you provide. We learn what we are willing to fight for, who to say "No" to (click here to see my quote about when to say "No" to your boss), who we trust and who trusts us and what is valuable to us.
      • A continual crisis is abnormal. Some people seem to feed off a crisis almost like an adrenaline junkie. They may subconsciously create crises and chaos for themselves and those around them. People who grow up in chaotic surroundings, such as with an alcoholic parent, believe that crises are the norm. If a member of your team exhibits this behavior he/she might benefit from professional help. Click here to watch this CNN special report about people seeking professional counseling to help deal with the current economic crisis. Anxiety is something we can help you with in my clinical practice. Or click here for ways to find a psychologist outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
      • Be solution oriented. When faced with a crisis don't focus on the problem by saying, "Why did this happen? Why did I make this mistake?" Instead use "how" and "what" statements like "How can we respond to this issue?" and "What can we do to minimize the damage from this situation?"

      Friday, June 5, 2009

      My Radio Interview on KWRD 100.7 FM

      North Texas Kids is a free publication where I live that serves as a guide to raising healthy, happy kids. I love it because I have 3 boys and am always picking up great ideas from it. North Texas Kids publisher, Dr. Minette Riordan, hosts a weekly radio show on KWRD 100.7FM in Dallas/Fort Worth. Last week she interviewed me on her show. Click here to listen to the podcast. We talk about ways to work in the Smart Zone in your personal and professional life.

      Monday, May 18, 2009

      Stick a Fork in Me - I'm Done!

      Many of you know my Director of Client Relations, Zan Jones. Zan has a good friend who just went through her second round of chemo. Thankfully she is doing as well as possible. I can see the pain on Zan's face when she gives me updates about her friend. Do you have friends or family going through tough times - like a health crisis or financial difficulty? If so, you may be empathizing so much that you risk taking on the pain and suffering that your friends feel.

      If you work in patient care, social services, the court system or law enforcement, then you likely experience the pain and suffering of others every day. People who use empathy in their work daily are at risk of having the effects of burnout affect their professional and personal life.

      When we listen to stories of fear, pain and suffering of others we likely can leave the Smart Zone due to what is sometimes referred to Compassion Fatigue. Compassion Fatigue is also thought of as Secondary Post Traumatic Stress. Once Compassion Fatigue sets in, the pain of others takes up your mental energy and eventually everything in your life can go dull. It could seem like nothing is fun anymore and you would feel burned out. If you'd like to see me discuss ways to add happiness to your life, click here to see my FOX 4 appearance from last week.

      How do you know if you are suffering from Compassion Fatigue?

      • Mistakes go up and job performance goes down.

      • You can't stop thinking about your job or the problems of others.

      • Trouble sleeping.

      • General feeling of weariness.

      • You don't feel like doing anything - you feel blah.

      • You feel less satisfied, less energetic and less efficient.

      Use these Smart Moves to cope with Compassion Fatigue:

      • Increase your EQ (Emotional Intelligence): EQ is the ability to use your emotions effectively and understand the emotions of others. Recognizing how others perceive you and the affect you have on others will help you identify burn out symptoms early.

      • Exercise: You may feel like you just don't have time to exercise. The body and mind benefits of exercise will make you more productive and are worth every minute. Click here to watch how Dr. Doug Ross (George Clooney) on ER used exercise to cope with compassion fatigue.

      • Maintain a personal life even if you don't feel like it. You may tend to eliminate the very things that will revitalize you like family dinners, eating lunch out, prayer and meditation and time with friends. Spend time with supportive people.
      • Have a sense of humor. People in stressful jobs, like 911 operators, may often have a wicked sense of humor - but it's still a sense of humor. When people who work with them recognize they are joking around less then it's a sign it's time for a break. Just for fun, watch this funny "stupid pet trick" on the Late Show with David Letterman.

      • Set limits between work and home activities. Easier said than done, I know. Don't play nurse or therapist in personal relationships.

      • Broaden your network. Get involved in professional or social organizations where like-minded people meet and discuss events and mutual problems. I recently spoke at a Child Abuse Awareness Conference put on by CITY House (Collin Intervention to Youth, Inc.) Click here to find out how you or your company can be recognized while helping youth in crisis.

      Monday, May 11, 2009

      The Smart Zone in the News

      A few posts ago I blogged about how to open the door to happiness in your life. The local FOX 4 Good Day show caught wind of it and asked to me to talk about in on the air. Watch it below or click here to watch it.

      I was also able to share ways the Smart Zone can help you stay motivated today on the radio show Motivational Minds Radio. Click here to listen to my interview with Justin Sachs, author of Your Mailbox is Full and business consultant to Anthony Robbins and Mark Victor Hansen.

      Wednesday, May 6, 2009

      A Story of Inspiration Can Keep You in the Smart Zone

      Wow! Were you inspired by Susan Boyle's performance on Britain's Got Talent? If you haven't seen the footage yet (or want to see it just one more time) click here to watch it. I enjoy being inspired by people I meet. I have spent more time talking with people who are considering reinventing themselves because of layoffs, changes in their organization, or because they are ready for a change. We all have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves. Recently, during my second appearance at a Presidents' weekend for a successful bank in Texas, I met a woman whose story is one of inspiration. Her name is Tina Solis.

      Tina was born and raised in Mexico and moved to the United States when she was 12. Her family lived in poverty. As Tina says, "We didn't have TV, bikes or toys. We made our own baseballs out of tape and played with that. When I first came to the United States I started helping my mother clean houses. Somewhere along the way I decided I could do better - I could do more."

      Robert Gandy, III (Bank CEO), Tina Solis and Me

      Tina was ready to re-enter the job market after staying home to raise her young children. She always wanted to be a teller. I asked her why. She wasn't sure. She just knew it was in her gut. After A LOT of persistence she was given an opportunity at a local branch of a bank in Texas. That was 20 years ago. She still works for that bank and over time, moved up to become a Branch Manager and President of the First National Bank, Rogers Branch. As I enjoyed her company during dinner at the Presidents' event, I heard a number of Smart Moves from Tina and thought I would pass them along as all of us look to keep Working in the Smart Zone:

      • Find a way to do what you are asked to do: I listened to Tina tell how she would learn as much as she could when she found there were gaps in her knowledge. Initially Tina knew her English speaking needed to be improved. She "studied" at night to be the best at what she was asked to do. When I asked her what motivated her. It wasn't money. It was her thirst for knowledge.

      • Don't downplay your achievements. Tina did not have any banking experience which was a big roadblock. She did the best she could with the resources she had. Click here to read my feature story in the May issue of Plano Profile where I talk about this topic. When Tina finally was able to talk to a bank representative about hiring her she told him about how valuable she would be as an employee. In Tina's words, "I told him I had experience working with money at a grocery store as a cashier. I had experience managing all of the cashiers. I am a hard worker and will make this my career. I am a loyal person and will be here for the long term."

      • Be helpful to everyone. Tina was so hungry to learn that she quickly intimidated her coworkers with her work ethic. Some people were even hostile to her. Tina told me, "I learned things really fast and was always asking for more work to do. I wanted to learn how to do extra reports and eventually was promoted to team leader." Tina didn't use her knowledge as a weapon - she was always glad to teach what she knew to her coworkers and managers. She didn't brag about everything she knew. Instead, she was humble about it.

      • "Be a star," is what Tina tells people. "Do what it takes to be the best you can be." When Tina was asked to be a branch president she was so nervous about it that "I wanted to say 'no' at first. But then I talked to my family and started training in the areas I was nervous about."

      Chapter 10 of my book, Working in the Smart Zone, lists characteristics of optimists. Optimists are persistent in achieving goals in spite of setbacks and they are hopeful for success in daily work. Tina told me that she sometimes finds herself getting out of the Smart Zone and then she works really hard to find her way back. I am inspired by Tina's work ethic and humble spirit. Tina makes me want to be a star!

      Thursday, April 23, 2009

      Lessons from a Flea: How to be an Engaged Employee

      A few years back I had an employee that was totally NOT engaged in his job. He would drag into work, wait to be told what to do and then half-way complete his work while not paying attention to any details. He had no "fire" or passion. No pride or ownership in his work. It wore me out!! At first I thought it was my fault - but then I realized he had to take responsibility for the job he was hired to do.

      Engaged employees are those who have passion for their work and the organization they work for. The online shoe company Zappos takes this concept so seriously that they offer new employees $2,000 to quit after the first month of training. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh says, "We want people to be here because they are passionate about customer service and because they like our culture...not just here for the paycheck." In the long run the company feels the $2,000 buyout is cheaper. Wow!

      In his book, The Daily Drucker, Peter Drucker states, "Fleas can jump many times their own height, but not elephants." In other words, the smaller the entity, the greater the potential for achievement of gigantic proportion. Now, I'm not calling you a flea or suggesting that your organization has fleas! What I am saying is that you, as an engaged employee, can have enormous impact on your organization. In today's economy it's up to you be as valuable to your employer as possible.

      Are you an engaged employee? Do you think the people in your organization are giving it their all? Do you think employees in your company feel appreciated and look forward to coming to work each day? If you answered "No" to any of these questions then your company could be missing out on 40% more profitability, 50% lower turnover and 56% more loyal customers.

      If you watch the Celebrity Apprentice you saw what a not-so-engaged employee looks like when Joan Rivers fought with Clint Black. Click here to watch it.

      Organizations in the Smart Zone have engaged employees and leaders. Here are some tips to help you and your organization become more engaged.

      • Be a "Can Do" person. Instead of focusing on what you cannot do, focus on what you can do. Be action oriented. Many times people don't take action because of their belief that they aren't worth much. Our beliefs affect the way we feel, which affects the way we think, which affects the way we act. So the next time a co-worker asks you to help organize a customer appreciation day, instead of saying, "No, I can't do that," say, "What I can do is coordinate the customer invitations."

      • Get to know people. Learn what excites your employees, co-workers and customers. What are their goals? What stresses them out? How do they define success? (Just for fun watch how Michael Scott of the TV show The Office defines success). I don't suggest prying too deeply into a personal conversation. Just show an appropriate and genuine interest in those with whom you work and their well-being.

      • Use meaningful rewards and recognition. An employee appreciation golf outing on a Saturday might not feel rewarding to a single parent who has young children. Also, recognize efforts and accomplishments of those working on long-term projects to give them a boost towards achieving their goal.

      • Say "bye bye" to blame. The process of blaming and figuring out who to blame is a time waster. Mistakes should be acceptable and encouraged. Mistakes show that action was being sought. We can't all hit the bulls-eye every time. When things go wrong ask "what" and "how" questions like, "What can we do in the future?" or "How can we change what has happened?"

      By the way, I call an employee who is not engaged "disengaged." But what do you call a person who is not in the Smart Zone? We have been trying to come up with a name for someone who is out of the Smart Zone and want your input. Please email us with your ideas!!

      Thursday, April 9, 2009

      Child Abuse Awareness Conference

      I am excited to have been asked to speak at the upcoming CITY House Child Abuse Awareness Conference on April 29 in Plano, Texas. Click here for more information about the conference.

      CITY House, or the Collin Intervention to Youth, is an emergency shelter for children and teens that provides family counseling, life skills education, parenting skills groups and crisis intervention services. For 20 years, CITY House has been providing a safe environment for 10 to 17 year olds in the only teen homeless shelter in Collin County.

      The conference kicks off with a breakfast and will include sessions on Working with Abused Children, Working with Abused Teenagers, Working with Survivor Adults and Working with Professionals. The day will end with an awards ceremony presenting Community and Advocacy awards.

      Register now for this informative conference.

      Wednesday, April 1, 2009

      How to Help Your Spouse After a Job Loss

      Last week I was asked by the FOX 4 Good Day TV show to discuss ways to help your spouse redefine his/her household role after a job loss. If you missed the show, click here to watch the TV segment. A big change like a job loss or career change can derail you and take the whole family out of the Smart Zone.

      Losing a job is an ego buster and it's up to both you and your spouse to support each other. If the job loss is unexpected you both may experience symptoms of grief - similar to a death in the family where you feel angry, depressed or are in denial. The faster you ask "What can we do now?" instead of "Why did this happen?" the better off you and your family will be.

      Use these Smart Moves to help your spouse after a job loss:

      • ASAP. The out of work spouse should immediately check with their HR/benefits department to determine severance options, health insurance extensions and other benefits available their company offers as well as file for unemployment. This way, the out of work spouse is still contributing to the household income.

      • Keep a routine. If your spouse is not used to being at home he/she may not know how to handle the down time and feel they have no value. Help your spouse resist the urge to sleep in or hang around in pajamas all day. A little down time after the job loss is fine - and probably necessary. But not for longer than a week or so. Establish duties that the out of work spouse can do to help the household run better: grocery shopping, laundry, kids' activities, etc.

      • Don't belittle. If the out of work spouse is taking on a new responsibility like grocery shopping, for example - let him/her do it their own way. Don't micromanage.

      • Know that roles will change. Accept that the out of work spouse will have a new role in your home. While they may not be contributing monetarily their job loss does not reduce their importance as a family member. Talk openly about the change in roles rather than letting it be the white elephant in the middle of the room.
        Keep communication, trust and respect for each other in check. Many people fear their spouse may leave them when they lose their job.

      • Kids will figure it out so help the out of work parent communicate how he/she is excited to be spending more time with them for a while. Children need to be assured that they will be loved and cared for. Let the kids help teach the parent some new duties - like where soccer practice is held, their favorite breakfast foods to buy, etc.

      • Let the kids help. Let your kids offer their suggestions for ways to save money and how they can help out with the family situation. They could forego their allowance for a period of time or help earn their own spending money by babysitting or mowing lawns.

      The best thing you can do is allow your spouse to maintain his/her dignity. Don't broadcast to everyone you know about the job loss (family and close friends are okay) and only speak highly about your spouse to others.

      Sunday, March 22, 2009

      New Website is Up & Running

      I am so excited for you to see my new website.

      Please email Zan Jones, my Director of Client Relations, with ANY input. We want the good, the bad, the ugly and indifferent. And let us know if you run into any of the glitches we are working out.

      Thanks again and Stay in the Smart Zone!

      Wednesday, March 11, 2009

      Open the Door to Your Own Happiness

      I'm embarrassed to admit that I recently had a pity party for myself. Please don't tell anyone! I had been traveling a lot for work, I had 2 kids sick with Strep throat and the Flu and then I made a trip to the ER because I slipped on an icy day and ended up with stitches. The economy and layoffs have affected a ton of my friends. For a moment I left my Smart Zone!

      I have to remember that I am responsible for my own happiness. It's true - Harvard began teaching the class "Happiness 101" a few years ago. And the field of Positive Psychology is growing in colleges around the country. Our country recognizes that one's happiness and well-being will contribute to economic growth.

      Habitually happy people have creative, independent and adventuresome spirits - they appreciate other people, especially those with differences that they can learn from. People in the Smart Zone experience general happiness and contribute to a positive work environment. Even if "Don't Worry be Happy" isn't your company theme song, here are some smart tips for opening the door to happiness in your organization:

      • Use technology to connect to people - not to disconnect. According to scientist Alvin Weinberg, "Technology makes it easier and easier to disconnect from other people, and from ourselves." Remember that human interaction can boost your mood. Make it a rule that if an email is more than 2 paragraphs that you will pick up the phone and call instead.

      • Finish what you start. Research shows that when we are disciplined and deliberate with projects that it has an 18% positive effect on happiness. It's not always easy to be conscientious and finish a large task - but we feel better about ourselves when we have the sense of accomplishment.

      • Share a silly moment. "Laughter may be the shortest distance between 2 brains," says Daniel Goleman in his book Social Intelligence. Think of the immediate sense of closeness you get with someone when you share a nice hearty laugh. Take a look at this silly Saturday Night Live clip. For that moment it's like you are in sync with each other's thoughts.

      • Know what makes others happy. Happy people are attuned to the emotions of others. Try these ideas: headed to meet with a client? When you grab yourself a CafĂ© Latte on the way to the meeting buy one for your client also. Did you eat lunch out today? Order an extra dessert to bring back for a co-worker. Spent a few days out of the office where your co-workers had to cover for you? Bring them back a small gift from your time away - it can just be a pen from the hotel or a whimsical trinket from the airport gift shop.

      • Smile. You can actually trick your brain's neurotransmitters into thinking you are happy with a smile. When you smile at people they typically smile back - it's a natural reflex to mimic the facial expressions of others. If you are in a bad rut, clench a pencil in your teeth and you will force your face into a smile. This will subtly evoke a positive feeling. Try it!

      Just for fun, take this short happiness quiz.

      Do you have 1 of the Top 10 Happiest Jobs?

      Thursday, February 26, 2009

      Response to Facebook eNewsletter

      I received a number of emails about my last eNewsletter "Why I Am on Facebook" and thought you all might enjoy, and maybe agree with, these responses.

      An accountant in his 40's writes:

      "Good article but I have a question. What do you think about adults socializing on Face Book with women communicating with men friends or vice versa? Do you think this could opens doors for affairs to get started? Just like we warn our kids not to talk with strangers etc. I don't use face book but saw this over the holidays with a family member. A wife who's involved in her kids school, soccer coach communicating with men parents. In this case it was noticeable that this could be something that innocently enough could turn into something more. Another example would be class reunions when people communicate by email and FB. I certainly wouldn't want my wife communicating with an old boyfriend!!! I am not meaning to be overly protective but on the other hand I don't need any more distractions in my life but more down time. I looked around at one point during the holiday and everyone in the room had either a laptop opened to FB or I-pods. The kids even played a Chess game and an I-pod in one hand, multi tasking taken to another level. Not for me!! "

      Another person who was in the audience when I spoke at the annual meeting for the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) in Austin this month writes:

      "You know I always thought I would never have time for that and I am no where near being someone as famous and busy as I would think you would be. I have a brother who lives in Houston and makes tons of money and he recently sent me his facebook invite, and I was amazed that he at 58 would have that. We have it blocked at our school and recently received the following as a concern.

      The Attorney General has posted a brief video concerning Social Networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. It might be good 'food for thought' for parents in your districts. The video can be viewed at or by clicking this link. The number of sex offenders posting on these sites is staggering and poses a great threat to our children.

      Also in the news is a new term, 'sexting.' Children are taking x-rated pictures of themselves and sending them via their cell phones. Click here to read more about this on CBS news. I also googled and found other articles.

      Of course that is for mainly young people that need guidance on how to make sure they know not to get involved with strange identities."

      What do you think?

      Thursday, February 19, 2009

      Why I Am on Facebook

      I was resistant. How do I have time to get on that site and isn't that for kids and college students? Then we went on vacation this summer and we were watching our friends check their Facebook pages and I got curious. They didn't fit the profile I had drummed up in my head as the type of people who would be social networking. As we talked about it, they set up a page for me in what seemed like just a few seconds. Soon I had a profile picture, was listing my favorite books and began searching for people I was curious to find. I'm hooked. I am the face of Facebook, or as some call it, FB.

      This is my current profile picture. My 13 year old son took it while we were in the car at the carpool line.

      Social networking used to mean going to Chamber of Commerce meetings and then it got real fancy with targeted opportunities like organized weekly networking groups. With online social networking, now you can stay in your PJs and network. I don't even have to do my hair! There are currently 39,911,920 people active on FB. When I looked to see how many people in the U.S. ages 35 and up were on FB, I found out there are 9,823,660. And I'm one of them!

      Here is how being on Facebook and social networking keeps you in the Smart Zone.

      • Stress Management: I believe everyone has a bucket inside of them that gets full when they feel aggravated or frustrated. We need things in our lives that empty our bucket so it doesn't get full. When it gets full, we have what I call an exaggerated response. While I don't always have my FB up throughout the day, I do get on it sometimes between patients, at the end of the day, and when I am hanging out in the airport waiting for my flight. It empties my bucket and I enjoy some of what my FB friends post. Here is a video that came recently from one of my friends.

      • Relationships Build Business: Many of the speakers I present with and many of those who hire me to speak are people that I really enjoy getting to know. There is an excitement about the speaking business and there are so many things we may have in common. A recent article in Fast Company shows how those who use the social networking site, LinkedIn, make more money. While I never intend for my FB page to be an advertisement, it is only natural that there are opportunities that will come your way.

      • Social Networking supports the Smart Zone Secret: The Smart Zone Secret is to get out of your head and put the focus on someone else. I believe we all have the tendency to take ourselves too seriously. Recently I had a bad fall on an icy day. (What is a Florida girl doing in Texas anyway?) The fall ended up being serious enough that I got a few staples in my head. One of my best friends growing up, Don, is now a professor at Oregon State University. He and I stay in touch on FB and he called me "metal head." Only Don can get away with that. Don knows how to remind me to not take myself too seriously. He knows the Smart Zone Secret.

      One caveat. Sometimes FB can fill your stress bucket. Using it during productive work hours can waste time and is unfair to your employer. Or if you stay up until the wee hours of the morning it can steal needed sleep time. This is an issue with all of us as we have the ability to work 24/7.

      Keeping the above caveat in mind, I'd love to be your FB friend! So please send me a friend request.

      Thursday, February 12, 2009

      Sustaining Your Sanity in Tough Times

      As I fly home from New Orleans after speaking at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention, I am inspired by the resourcefulness of an industry hit hard by the economy. Over 10,000 attendees attended workshops and keynote addresses to hear of new ways to keep moving in the right direction with so many obstacles impacting their business.

      Former Presidents Bush Sr. and Clinton were the celebrity speakers at this event teaming up to provide their unique perspectives about the economy, business strategies, and ideas for growth.

      Clinton made the point, "Tough times don't test us. They teach us about our character and our resilience."

      My task at the NADA Convention was to provide smart strategies for Working in the Smart Zone at work, home, and with family. Here are a few Smart Moves to help you sustain your sanity in difficult times.

      • Do what others are unwilling to do. This is a Smart Move no matter what economic challenges you face. Volunteer when others have stopped, follow up with customers when others don't have time, and continue to attend conferences and association events when others see those as places to cut costs. Stay focused on what you need to do to grow your business, bond with your family, and help you be the person you want to be.

      • Go where you feel most like yourself. This is a quote I use in my book, Working in the Smart Zone. (Click here for a sneak peak at Chapter 1). Think of where you can go, both physically and mentally, to feel most like yourself and do that. For many people, these are stressful times. Things like exercising, reading, and spending time with people outside your office can help you feel most like yourself. I see that as an "anchor" to keep you grounded and in touch with your core values and beliefs about your own life. For me, I feel most like myself when I am at the beach. Living in Texas, I have to settle for going to the lake and that will have to do. It reminds me of growing up in Florida and times when things were simpler.

      • Always be a student. You never know it all. You don't have to learn from a book. You can learn from being around people who are in different industries or live different lives. My husband and I recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend together in Oklahoma City. Our friend Julie (God bless Julie) gave us a certificate for a night at a Marriott and offered to keep our 3 boys. In the breakfast line, we met 2 incredible women who were there for a sales meeting. Deborah was from Northern England and Cathy lives in Alaska. A table for 4 was easier to get than a table for 2 so my husband asked if they wanted to share a table. We lingered for way past our time as we heard about how Deborah moved to a farm in Alaska after marrying her second husband and Cathy started her own business at the urging of her husband, a V.P. for British Petroleum. We learned so much about their lifestyles, their businesses, and their outlook for the future. They were in their Smart Zone as they spoke with optimism and happiness about their businesses and personal lives.

      • Surround yourself with people who hold you accountable. To keep your sanity sustained, keep close to those people who hold you accountable both personally and professionally. Remember there is a bit of truth in every piece of feedback. Being held accountable keeps you humble and for many people, it helps them stay focused to Work in the Smart Zone.

      • Test yourself often. Don't wait until a tragedy in your life to find out what you are made of. Test yourself with smaller events that will build up your resilience. If you don't like to speak in front of others, try to do so in small doses before you are asked to present to your company board. Don't automatically migrate to the software you are familiar with because it's easier. Challenge yourself to learn something new before you are forced to test your computer skills with something more critical. Attend networking events and engage in small talk when the meeting isn't as important as an annual meeting with investors. By testing yourself often, you will build the confidence and skills needed when larger tragedies occur.

      Working in the Smart Zone is even more important now that most of you are being asked to do more with less as you try to balance your personal and professional responsibilities. Click here to watch my recent TV appearance where I discuss the Smart Zone. I know the automobile dealers left New Orleans today working to the best of their ability emotionally, intellectually, and behaviorally ready to put it all into play in their business and personal lives.