Thursday, April 28, 2011

Little Things Mean a Lot

My mother died of complications from diabetes when I was fifteen. She spent the last two years of her life in and out of the hospital and she also lost her sight. I learned a number of lessons from that experience. One, we are not promised even one more day. Two, bad things happen to good people and we may never know why. Three, life is short and we have to live life now because later may never come. Finally, what I want to write about today, I learned to have an appreciation for the little things.

Every day, I find something to marvel at: a luminous full moon, a colorful sunrise, a warm, sweet cup of hot tea or (in the summer) an cold glass of iced tea, playing with my dog Marty or just driving with the windows down. One of my happiest moments occurred when I attempted to take a long weekend in Virginia Beach. I went by myself and it was around my birthday ... towards the end of September. The busy season was over but the days were still hot, warm and long. Unfortunately, through a series of unexpected events, I had to cut my trip short and I was devastated. I had really needed the time away.

Before I got into my car and headed back, I decided to take a long walk on the beach. I noticed it getting more and more overcast but I didn't care. I love walking on the beach. So I kept going, feeling the sand between my toes and the water splashing on my feet. I closed my eyes and felt the wind on my face. I took deep breaths of sea air. I felt really good. I found the perfect peace I'd been looking for right before I had to head home!

Anyway, I felt a drop or two of rain on my face. As I turned to look back, I realized that I was far away from my hotel and my car. Not wanting to be a human lightning rod, I decided to walk back via the boardwalk.

As I headed back, the sprinkles became light showers. The light showers gave way to a steady rain. Not long after that, the steady rain became a downpour. Unlike most people, I like rain. I like it a lot. I laughed out loud as I continued to walk outside in the pouring rain while everyone else ran for shelter. I'm sure I looked crazy. I didn't care. I was still enveloped in that perfect peace.

I got to my car soaking wet but it didn't bother me. I knew I created a memory that would last me a lifetime. A memory made up of a million little things.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Keys to Success: Wall Literacy

In this six week series, each Monday, we'll be exploring what it takes to succeed.

You know the wall. It's the one that has all the writing on it. In order to be successful, you have to know how to read it.

Reading the writing on the wall involves seeing a situation as it is and not how you want it to be. Living in denial and burying your head in the sand show a stunning level of wall illiteracy.

I've seen it happen time and time again where people refuse to see what is happening right before their eyes. Let me give you some examples.
  • A company was in the midst of some serious layoffs. Although coworkers in his department had been let go, Edward refused to even look for another job. He thought his tenure and his work ethic would be enough. It wasn't.
  • Elisa's husband has been working late, although his paycheck didn't show any overtime. He got strange texts and calls in the middle of the night and he seemed to be picking fights just so he can storm out of the house and come back late. She was genuinely surprised when she caught her husband with another woman.
  • Erica ignored her persistent stomach cramps. She blamed it on stress and just kept going. As it got worse, she just took more painkillers to numb the pain. That is until one night when, with a fever and in excruciating pain, she was rushed to the hospital with several peptic ulcers.

The writing on the wall might not be pleasant, in fact, it might be downright painful. Yet reading that writing can empower you. It gives you the information you need (and maybe even the motivation) to do something ... and doing something is the first step to any solution.

And if fear is stopping you from reading the writing on the wall, consider this: As bad as the writing might be, it could be that much worse, if you ignore it. Ignorance isn't always bliss.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lies We Tell

According to an iVillage poll, 95% of women responding came clean about telling little harmless white lies. What was shocking to me is that 65% admitted to lying to themselves. What are they lying about? Mainly, these women lie about weight-related issues. They lie about how much they weight or how many calories they’ve consumed.

I don’t actually see the point of lying to yourself about anything but especially about something as concrete as the number staring back at you on the scale or how much you’ve eaten. It’s sort of like lying about what’s in the bank, either it’s there or it isn’t. When it comes to dieting, a realistic approach is essential.

How can you ever improve a situation if you don’t own up to the truth of that situation? Granted, if you feel the need to lie about it, it probably isn’t good. Yet, how can you really make things better if you don’t start with a clear snapshot of what you’re dealing with. The key is to not beat yourself up when you know the truth. Lying about it is temporary at best and will never lead to any improvement. Accept the truth but don’t accept the self flagellation and harsh words that usually come with it.

Your mantra should be “Now that I know the truth, I can deal with it.” Remember the first step to solving any problem is looking at that problem as exactly what it is. Once you’ve done that, you’re in a position to do something about it … and that’s when the real fun begins.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Keys to Success: Be a People Person

In this six week series, each Monday, we'll be exploring what it takes to succeed.

When I sat down and thought about what my version of the keys to success would be, I almost didn’t include this one. After all, we all know people who have achieved some level of success, from mid-level management to multi-millionaire status, who do not have people skills. Heck, some of them don’t seem to even like people.

However, my keys to success are keys to holistic success. In other words, my definition of success involves more than the net on a paycheck or the title on an office door. My definition of success includes those things but also includes strong and healthy relationships as well (with yourself and others). As far as my definition goes, being a people person makes a difference.

Being a people person means you truly show an interest and concern about other people. It starts with a genuine respect. I remember being a snotty middle schooler and thinking I was better than some of the kids at my school. My father set me straight real quick. “We are all on this Earth together,” he told me, “and we all have value and something to contribute.”
So I’m as cordial and polite and friendly to the receptionist as I am to the CEO. And there are times when that friendliness to the little people really pays off. I have a friend who’s a recruiter and she routinely asks the receptionist for her opinion of a job candidate. There have been times when her input has played a critical role in picking between two close candidates.

You see, everyone knows to be nice and pleasant to the interviewer, not everyone knows to be just as nice and pleasant to the receptionist. The receptionist test is a good way to separate the phonies from the real deals.

It starts with respect but it ends in genuine interest. My co-worker is a scuba diver. I’ve never known a scuba diver before! Another co-worker is a state ping-pong champion. I don’t share either interest, but it’s fascinating to hear about both. Another shares my passion for movies and one more shares my twisted sense of humor.

Bonding with them might never help get me ahead, but you never know. What I do know is that bonding with my co-workers makes my days go faster and my work a lot easier. And going to work to a job I enjoy and working with people I like is definitely part of my definition of success.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Person You Need to Forgive

"To err is human. To forgive is divine."

Forgiveness is divinebecause it asks us to do something that is virtually impossible for us mere mortals. I'm suppose to forgive the people who wronged me? I'm supposed to just let it go? Forgiveness is hard because many times we feel (and actually are) entitled to our rage, hurt and pain. Feeling that rage, hurt and pain can feel good, but for how long?

After a while unforgiveness and the feelings it causes can consume us. It can make us sick. It can ruin our relationships or even prevent us from having healthy relationships. There are consequences for not forgiving.

What happens though when the person you have to forgive is you? How do you forgive yourself? Before I answer that, I should backtrack and tell you the what and the why of self-forgiveness.

Forgive yourself for what? Good question. You are forgiving yourself for mistakes, missteps and missing the mark. If you are beating yourself up about it, if you are drowning in a sea of 'what ifs' over something, if you are besieged with negative self-talk and thoughts about a certain situation, then you need to forgive yourself. Mistakes happen. Some times you let yourself down. Other times you do the best you can with the information and instincts you have only to find out later there was another way. It's okay. You have to learn what you can from those situations and let it go.

Why forgive? If you don't forgive yourself, you'll find that these past transgressions will keep you locked in a holding pattern, unable to move forward or stuck making the same mistakes over again. The negative emotions associated with not forgiving yourself will manifest somehow. No matter how you try to push those feelings down, they will come to the surface in some shape or fashion, usually at the wrong time or directed at the wrong person.

So how do you forgive yourself. There are different ways to do it, here is what has worked for me.
  1. Think about what you need to forgive yourself for. Focus on one issue at a time.
  2. Spend some time in meditation addressing the issue: why did you do (or not do) what you did; what can you learn from that mistake; who were you at the time you made the error and how have you grown and changed?
  3. Apologize to yourself for your mistakes.
  4. Recount all of the things you have learned from this situation. What positives can you take away from what has happened? What won't you do again? What will you do differently the next time a similar situation arises?
  5. Develop some affirmations or statements you can use when you start to feel that unforgiveness again.
Keep in mind this is a process, it takes time. You will probably need to do it more than once, but it is worth the effort.

Forgiveness is a part of love. To love yourself fully you must forgive yourself fully. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Keys to Success: Work Hard, Work Smart

In this six week series, each Monday, we'll be exploring what it takes to succeed.

A lot of people say you have to work smart, and not hard. I say you have to be prepared to do both.

Working hard, to me anyway, means working in a way that is focused and direct. It doesn't necessarily mean putting in 60+ hours a week (although it might). However, working hard means that you are working. You are focused on the job at hand and not over-socializing, engaging in hours of busy work or spending time on the things you enjoy working on while ignoring the things you don't like but still need to be done.

When I think of working smart, I think of all of those late night infomercials that try to sell you on some Internet business where you can "Work smart and even earn money while you sleep!" I have yet to see that work. Being 'smart' about your work means you are as concerned about how you do you work as you are about what you are doing.

Working smart means making the most of your time and efforts. It means spending the majority of your time on activities that will yield results. It means planning. It means setting realistic goals and deadlines. For example, if I'm working on a project that has a firm deadline, I set my personal deadline to be at least several days earlier. This way I have time in case the inevitable crisis arises.

It also means using technology to your advantage.For example, I use Outlook for my personal email. Let’s say I’ve just gotten off the phone with someone and I want to send them a reminder of our conversation tomorrow. I don’t wait until tomorrow to send the email, I go into Outlook, create the email and use the delayed send feature so it doesn’t leave my outbox until the designated time.

With the advent of smart phones and I-Pads and laptops, you can create your own system for reminders and to-dos. You can also keep important information right at your fingertips. Now that’s working smart.

So what techniques do you use to work smarter?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Colors of Customer Service

I've been a busy girl. I just uploaded my second book to Amazon Kindle. My first was Get It Together Girl a short workbook about getting organized in just 15 minutes a day. It's full of tips and tricks I use to get and stay organized. For my second book, The Colors of Customer Service, I went in a completely different direction.

As a trainer, I've taught my share of customer service classes. No matter how much fun and engaging the course and the exercises, the message is always the same, "The customer is always right." While that may be true, it's only half of the equation. My philosophy is simple, "You can't get service with a smile by someone wearing a frown!" If you don't address the needs of the customer service representative, they will never produce outstanding service.

Similar to Who Moved My Cheese, The Colors of Customer Service gets its point across through a story. The story takes plays in a world run by chameleons who change color based on mood. New customer service supervisor Peter is mortified when he realizes that his new team is made up of discouraged blues, disengaged yellows and disgruntled reds. During the course of the book, Peter gives them advice and techniques designed to change their colors. By the end, he's got a team of friendly pinks, professional greens and confident purples.

The book is only available now through Amazon Kindle.

However, I've launched another blog at The Colors of Customer Service. This blog will be updated every Tuesday and will focus on post about getting better customer service, businesses who give great customer service (and those who don't) and all things customer service related.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Keys to Success: Know What You Want

In this six week series, each Monday, we'll be exploring what it takes to succeed.

You can't get what you want until you know what you want. It seems like a no-brainer. Yet, it isn't as simple as it seems. A lot of people know what they want in vague terms - they want to be happy or successful. But how do they define happiness or success because the definitions are slightly different for all of us. They know they want a 'good job' but what is that? Is it solely determined by salary or is there more to it?

The first key of success is to know what you want, in detail. If you want to get married will any person due? I didn't think so. When I think of my ideal job, salary plays a role but so does the type of work I'm doing, the type of people I'm working with and the type of environment I'm in.

If you don't know where you are going, how will you when you get there?

When I imagine my successful weight loss, I do have a specific number in mind (but I'm not telling you...), but I have more than that. I imagine myself in a red fitted dress in a specific size (I'm not telling you that either! LOL!). I look great. I feel great. People are complimenting me and I'm all smiles. I feel good!

So think about it. What will your success look like? Will it come the exact way you imagine it, maybe and maybe not, but it will give you a clear target to shoot for.