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Little goofs, big consequences.

Kathleen here.

My hubby and I just had an interesting experience.  Joseph had offered to pick up some more boxes of my book, Net Profit: Business Networking Without the Nerves, from the warehouse.  I called said warehouse and arranged everything.

Everything except ensuring that they had the right books waiting.

It was only after Joseph brought the boxes home that we realized about half of them contained my books and the other half contained someone else’s – totally wrong title and author.  I’m looking on the bright side, and it still feels like a hassle to have unnecessarily unloaded those wrong boxes – not to mention the fact that they’re now restricting traffic flow in my garage.

I think what happened was that someone in the warehouse got moving a little too quickly and was a little sloppy in reading the codes on the boxes (the ISBN codes for the two titles are very similar).  A lack of attention to detail, boxes get mixed together on a palette, and the warehouse now has a cranky customer.  I’m not quite cranky enough to go bad-mouthing them online, but I’m certainly going to have a negative recommendation if anyone asks about their services in the future.

Which prompts me to ask myself:  Am I getting sloppy anywhere?  Am I paying attention to the details, like proofreading the copy WordQueens writes?  Am I meticulous on the bigger things, like following up promptly with clients and prospects? Or do I sometimes take the easy (read: lazy) way out?

My Love Language is Words of Affirmation.  (Haven’t yet read Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages?  It’s great from both a professional and personal standpoint.)  How can I reap kudos if I don’t deliver a high-quality product/service?  The answer:  I can’t.  So my recent warehouse experience is a good reminder:  I don’t have to be perfect, but I’d certainly better be damn good.

The Evolution of Terminology

WQ Cindy’s storytime…

Once upon a time, long ago and far, far away when I worked in Corporate, there was a term called “constructive criticism” that was used by would-be leaders (who were called managers, yet that’s another subject) for attempting to bring attention to certain behaviors they wanted changed.  Personally, I never found anything constructive about criticism and found that the command/control model of this attempt to alter behavior to be less than effective.

As time went on and I jumped into the world of coaching, it became more effective to “neutralize” the concept of bringing to awareness certain behaviors/actions by using the word “feedback”.  That was easier for me to grasp.  Feedback is simply feedback based on what one does or doesn’t do.  If I don’t put gas into my car, I’ll stall on the side of the road.  Using the saying my daughter loathes when it passes my lips, “All actions have consequences”; it’s simply a concept of feedback.

Today a genius new term has come to my attention.  John Hope Bryant’s Quote of the Day on his website:  “It is useful not to offer advise [sic], as wise men don’t need it and fools don’t listen. I would prefer to offer an observation, a recommendation, or loving counsel.”

Loving counsel!  As a WordQueen and “wordie” (similar in concept to “foodie”), trained in distinctions as both a coach and a salesperson, I found this evolution in terminology from “constructive criticism” to “feedback” to “loving counsel” to be valuable.

The intent of the message will be relayed and received by the intent of the messenger – even if the intent is subconscious on both ends. Yes, you can read that again.  Be careful of not only your words, but also the intent behind your message in order to elicit the response you seek.

The next time you consider offering advice to someone for whatever reason, ask yourself, “Am I choosing to be critical, neutral or loving?”  Universal Law and moral of the story:  You Get What You Give.

When you communicate, does the real “you”
come through?

Kathleen here.

I received a wonderful compliment today.  I was talking with a prospect who became a client [insert happy dance here], and she said one reason she was looking forward to our working together was that we’re real and authentic.  In other words, there was no hiding behind masks, no putting on airs, no trying to be someone other than who we actually are.

It got me to thinking:  How often during written or spoken communication do we try to “spin” who we are and what we do?

I’m not talking about putting our best foot forward and claiming our legitimate strengths; that’s simply our right and our responsibility as business owners.  I’m talking about choosing to fudge the truth, withhold opinions, or squelch our natural personality in order to present the face we think the prospect is most willing to buy from.

There’s no doubt that, if we want to stay in business, we get to be respectful of different values and perspectives.  However, at the same time we need to be genuine in portraying who we are.   That’s being respectful of ourselves.

It might be an interesting exercise to monitor yourself during your next meeting with a prospect.  Listen for the mental back story that’s (perhaps) running on an endless loop in your brain.  You know what this irritating, strength-sucking voice sounds like:

“Oh, jeez – I wonder if I sounded dopey when I said that.”

“I wonder if she thinks I laugh too much.”

“Maybe I should have said I’d be willing to give him a discount, even though my past clients have told me my service would have been worth twice the price.”

“Does she think I’m too casually dressed?”

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this – I don’t think we’d work together well at all.  But maybe it would be okay.  I can put up with a certain amount of hassle…”

And on and on, ad infinitum.

When you don’t let your real self come through, whether in your writing or your speech, you’re not only introducing stress into your own life, but you’re actually doing kind of a bait-and-switch on your prospect.  What happens when the real you finally makes an appearance?  This is not likely to be an enjoyable surprise for anyone.

On the other hand, being authentic actually conveys a sense of personal power that is typically very attractive to the right kind of client, and it’s a great stress management strategy.  You don’t have to manage your actions or try to manage anyone else’s perceptions; you get to just focus on how you can best serve the client.

So my question for you is this:  How do you show up in the world?  Are you essentially the same person with friends as you are with your clients?  (And, no, I’m not talking about wearing your flip-flops and hole-y jeans to a client meeting.)

As my brilliant WordQueen partner says, “How you are anywhere is how you are everywhere” – so dump the masks and let the real you breathe.

Do or do not.
There is no “try”.

Master Yoda strikes again.

I love the scene from The Empire Strikes Back in which Luke tells Yoda he’ll try to raise his downed ship from a swamp.  Yoda zings back with the above comment.

Ouch.

I know I’ve gotten way better at “doing” or “not doing”.  At the same time, I realize I get to be ever-vigilant to avoid slipping into the easy-but-counterproductive habit of saying “I’ll try” or otherwise not committing to step into action.

In fact, I was nearly busted for that today in my Mastermind group.  As I was setting goals for next week , I said I would “identify” likely prospects for a new service I’m rolling out.  Before anyone could call me on that wussy goal, I corrected myself and declared that I would identify and call those prospects.

How often do you get sucked into doing some activity which only masquerades as forward progress?  How often do you feel virtuous for accomplishing “something”, only to be forced to admit that it was not the right something?

When you take time to hone your marketing messages – whether on your website, your blog, or in your “elevator speech” – do you truly challenge yourself to dig deeper for the real value you provide your client, or do you settle for just tweaking your message?

Remember:  Easy is not the same as effective.

When you realize  you’re “trying” to wear every single hat in your business, perhaps it’s time to remind yourself to “do or do not”.  Either commit to doing the activity or – a far better choice if said activity is not something you shine at  – not doing it.  The joy of outsourcing it to someone who is skilled in that area is that the task gets done and you don’t stress yourself over having a half-finished project hanging over your head.

Running a business is challenging enough without setting up unrealistic expectations and stressful “should”s.  Be courageous enough to admit what you know in your gut you won’t do, and off-load that job now.

Do or do not.  There is no “try”.

– Kathleen

How do we “just know” when even our labels are confusing?

While ironing my pink non-iron shirt, Silly Me presumed that “non-iron” meant it would be easy, convenient and non-wrinkled.  Automatically.  I began thinking of how perfectly our friend, Rebecca Metz, named her company:  Modern Inconveniences.  Rebecca is genius at helping to best use the very tools that are meant to make one’s technology life easier in a way that may not be automatically “just known”.  Is what is supposed to be easy and convenient, really what is promised, or do I/we just make that up?  Do we really “just know” things because we, well…”just know”?  My shirt should have read its own tag.

WQ Cindy here with a situation of “just knowing” that used to get me crazy.  Years ago when my kids and their friends would play Nintendo’s Mario for hours, I recognized their addictions and thought it might be fun to see what the interest was about – from a player’s (vs. observer’s) perspective.  I was pathetic.  I could kill off Mario, with his 3 allotted lifetimes, within 15 seconds.  Yes, that is 15 seconds total…not 15 seconds for each lifetime.  The kids would explain that I would have to make Mario “jump up” at certain points as he bopped along to the obnoxious repetitive music (which I still can recall, even though the boys are out of college now) in order get more coins.

During my attempts at keeping Mario alive, I would get directions screamed to me to make Mario hop up to bump his head, which would turn, magically become coins.  Coins were good.  Mushroom-looking things were not.  I could never keep poor Mario alive to even approach a tube to climb into to get to another level like my young teachers easily could.  I would ask, “How do you know that Mario has to do make coins by bumping his head, know that he needs to enter a pipe, etc.?“ and the ongoing response was, “You just know!”  I really despised that I didn’t “just know” and didn’t want to invest the time and energy to overcome my level of ignorance.   That pretty much ended my video gaming experience which I’m guessing eventually crippled me for setting up the backroom of a wordpress.org site, which is also deemed to be mysteriously “easy” for any newbie to understand.  There weren’t even tags like on my shirt for me to misinterpret!

As days and months fly by, we are courted with an onslaught of newer, better, faster, user-friendly ways to simplify our lives, find us additional minutes or hours, save dollars, accomplish more.  Yes, my pink shirt doesn’t take as long to iron as 100% cotton or linen might, yet it the promise of non-iron on the collar was false, if I wanted it wrinkle-free.

The same concept applies for our skill sets.  We can lessen the time taken on something once we perfect it, yet sometimes the upside of learning the skill – even if we are good at cooking, painting, gardening, speaking, writing, art, music, carpentry, building websites, driving, entertaining – takes time and attention to perfect our genius.  Some of us “just know” what to do, while some of us will never improve much because we really don’t care to put in the time/effort into a project, cause or relationship that neither interests us nor seems too difficult.

When you run into your challenges (also disguised as non-interesting or seemingly insurmountable), do you simply give up, like I did with attempting to keep Mario alive for at least 30 seconds?  In contrast, would you call in an expert to do for you what is as natural as breathing for them and save yourself time, money, headaches?  Or would you simply iron the pink shirt because that’s what makes you happy to wear that day?

Productivity – Through the Back Door

It’s a basic truism for most entrepreneurs:  Our work lives and personal lives are intimately intertwined.  Sometimes this is a bad thing: Our spouse feels chatty when we’re on deadline, the dogs can’t cross their legs for one minute more, the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in the freezer seductively whispers our name…

On the flip side, there are unexpected benefits.  Take today’s adventures in KathleenLand.  Joseph, my hubby, had started organizing some household files and wanted my input.  Now, anything to do with filing just barely ranks  ahead of a root canal without anesthesia on my list of fun activities.  However, I’d ignored this task – and Joseph’s request for help – for long enough.

It took us about an hour to agree on how we wanted to handle the files and where we wanted to keep the various papers that had accumulated – an hour when I could have been contacting prospects, doing some professional development studying, or blogging to stay in touch with folks.

The very interesting thing was this:  After addressing that filing task, which had been hanging over my head and sneering at me, I found I had such a burst of energy.  It felt like the stereotypical weight had been lifted off my shoulders, so I was emotionally lighter and mentally more energized.  The result?  A  mondo productive day once I started digging into my To Do list.

I tackled the “big rocks” first, since these high-impact activities are what deserve my attention before anything else.  I cut through e-mails, because I set a timer to keep myself focused.  I worked on the marketing strategy for a new service coming out this fall.  And I felt good about taking time away from my desk to have a healthy lunch and take a break for some light reading.

My lesson from all this?  For a home-based entrepreneur like me, productivity is not just about setting up rules in Outlook to handle incoming e-mails, or using HootSuite to manage social media.  Sometimes it’s a matter of looking at everything in my life that’s affecting my energy and dealing with it.

What’s sucking your energy today?  And what are you gonna do about it?

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