More Than Hashtags

June 10, 2020

We tell our clients all the time that hashtags are an important part of making their business visible in the marketplace. Hashtags are like traffic signals, pointing people in your direction.

As the leader of your business, you choose your hashtags carefully, wanting to send just the right message.

But of course, the hashtag is just the beginning of the story. It’s the first encounter…the start of the conversation.

Once the hashtag has drawn people to you, you must build a relationship of integrity, trust, and living up to your promises. It’s a long-term, continuous process and one that every member of your team must support.

If you want to continue a positive relationship with your customers, you commit to constantly listening and learning about their pain and their problems so that you can craft a solution that works.

You can’t just listen once and think you have all the answers. It doesn’t work that way.

In the past two weeks, no hashtag has been more visible than #blacklivesmatter. It has captured the attention of our nation and our world in unprecedented ways.

Business leaders in every industry have added this hashtag to their marketing and public materials to signal their support for the fight against racism.

That awareness is a good thing. And, just like the hashtags for marketing your business, using #blacklivesmatter is only the beginning of the process.

To make real change, we must move beyond the hashtag to deep listening and learning about what is really happening in the lives of black people in this county. Listening without defensiveness, push-back or counter arguments of “but what about….?”

And once we’ve listened and learned, we get to the real work of making things better.

This listening and learning can be uncomfortable. As a leader, you know how to have uncomfortable conversations. Go ahead and have them.

We know it might be tempting to think that conversations about systemic racism have nothing to do with your business. And on the surface, that might appear to be the case. But the truth is that these conversations are happening all around you and will affect every aspect of your business and your life.

We’ll be having these conversations in our own business and supporting our clients in doing the same. As business leaders we have so much opportunity to make a difference.

Let’s not let that opportunity pass us by. Let’s work together to move beyond the hashtag to create real change.

Go forth and do great things,

Martha & Chris

 

Are You Productive?

June 3, 2020

Marcia has worked stoically through our health and economic crisis.  She’s put in lots of hours, pivoting her business to continue to serve her clients and keep money coming in to keep the doors open and staff paid.

She’s feeling kind of whipped right now.

You, too?

I’m sure.  These extraordinary times have really stretched and stressed many of us.

So, I come with some good news today.

You can improve your results while reducing your feeling of fatigue (with scientifically proven steps).

Through our mentoring Marcia discovered her work habit…her nose-down, get everything done, oversee the whole shebang…was actually making her less productive.

With guidance she created new habits you can adopt, too.

First, Marcia reworked her To-Do List.

Every day she had tons on her list, and every evening most remained.  There they were again the next morning!  Instead, we encouraged her to limit the items she placed on her list.  Choose only the one-to-three most critical tasks to execute each day.  That’s it.  One to three.  Choose only the really big issues that must be accomplished today because they move Marcia towards her 2020 goal the fastest.

Then, she agreed to start (hopefully finished) those very few critical few in the morning, first thing, maybe even before she officially enters the office, virtually or actually.

Marcia can start first thing in the morning because she created her 1-to-3 To Do List at the end of the previous day.  Marcia starts each day knowing the critical few…before her emails, text messages and phone calls alter her actions.

This daily list keeps her moving by separating what’s critical from what’s important or nice to do (Marcia still has her “master list,” her Critical Success Factors that guide her daily decisions).

Next, we encouraged Marcia to measure her results not the time she puts in.  As you probably know already, putting in more and more hours doesn’t make you more productive.

Then, Marcia was encouraged to build habits to help her start working.  Her routine could be as simple as scheduling the first thing on her pared-down To Do List at 8am every day or heading to the office when she puts down her coffee cup.

And then there was this one. Build habits to stop working.

Marcia made a commitment to herself to end her day by 5:30pm.  To help her make this extraordinary change, she marked 5pm on her calendar to complete her next day’s To Do List.  She actually turned off her computer at 5pm rather than simply letting it go to sleep.  She set a firm, non-negotiable commitment with herself to have a set quit time. (That last one is there for you Type A’s).

After three weeks dedicated to this new work plan, Marcia found the adjustments actually generated greater results in less time!

She found the “stuff” she was doing didn’t really make a big difference when she stopped doing them.

By seemingly becoming less productive by putting in less time and working with a much shorter To-Do List, Marcia became more productive.

Frankly, the same thing will happen for you, too.

Start small.  At the end of your workday today (be specific) make your To-Do List for tomorrow.  No more than 1-to-3 critical actions.  Do those things first thing the next day.  Then do it again.

After 21 days, measure how much more you’ve accomplished in so much less time.

Then thank Marcia :>)

Go forth and do great things,

Martha and Chris

Are We There Yet?

May 27, 2020

Memorial Day – the unofficial start of summer. And, if your family was anything like mine, the unofficial start to road trip season.

One memory stands out from all those childhood road trips…the constant refrain of “Are we there yet?”

It started almost as soon as we got in the car and continued until we finally pulled into our parking spot at the select destination. We must have driven our parents crazy!

This summer we’re all on a road trip together. The whole world. It’s the road trip back to some sense of stability, some semblance of normal.

As a business owner, you’re asking that question yourself and you have employees and customers asking you the question, too. Everybody wants to know: “Are we there yet?”

Let’s be honest…it’s going to take awhile.

My parents were experts at coping with the constant question.  They had strategies to avoid making the whole ride miserable for all of us.

Here are some things my parents did that I’m going to borrow for my business:

  • Make sure you have enough fuel – Running out of gas along the way can create an uncomfortable delay in getting to the destination. Make sure that you have the information, tools and support you need the sustain you for the trip.
  • Keep expectations in check – When we thought we had an eight-hour trip ahead, our patience started running out at about six hours. That’s when my mom happily announced we only had 30 minutes more to go…what a relief! Estimating a longer time to normalize and recover than it eventually takes will keep everybody happy.
  • Give everyone a task –Having something to do can keep people grounded and focused. For our trips, one sister was responsible for snacks, one for games, and one for scheduling comfort stops along the way. Drawing our attention to the task was a great way to draw attention away from our frustration. Find a way to give everyone on your team a task that contributes to managing this uncertain time so that you get to the destination appreciating each other.
  • Make sure everybody is comfortable along with way – People get more anxious when they are physically or emotionally uncomfortable. During this trip back to normal, do all you can to check on your employees and customers to keep them comfortable. This could involve keeping people employed, providing bridge services to customers, or offering support to those who are suffering particular hardships.
  • Provide reassurance that you’re on the right path – It always helped when my dad calmly said that we were not lost and that we were taking the best route to get where we were going. Your employees and customers need that reassurance from you.
  • Create a positive picture of what will happen on arrival – Focus attention on the destination, rather than on the discomforts of getting there. Ask people to describe the first thing they will do once you get “there.” Talk about what it will look like, how it will feel, what will be good.
  • Don’t forget to enjoy the ride – As great as it was to finally get to the lake or the mountains, some of my best memories are the things we saw and did along the way…license plate bingo…scenic overlooks…singing silly songs…sharing “what I like best about you” appreciations. While we’re in this “in-between” time, remind yourself and your team to appreciate the gifts of slowing down, shifting perspectives, and traveling this road together.

We’re not “there” yet, but we’ll get there. Safe travels.

 

Go forth and do great things,

Martha & Chris