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.