Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom


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A Boy and A Blue Balloon

Close up of a blue balloonThis morning, I had the honor to be a small part of something special.

After rolling out of bed before the sun came up, I was pretty tired.  So were the hundred or so fellow travelers I shared Southwest Airlines Flight #150 with this morning on the way to Sacramento.   Engrossed in our smartphones, on auto pilot, we picked up our bags and began to exit the plane.  That’s where the magic began.

As I stepped out the door and onto the jetway, I glanced up and saw a blue balloon taped to the wall.  Odd, but not remarkable.   Then, there was another.  And another.  In fact, the jetway walls were lined with bright blue balloons – far too many to count.  Confused, I stopped.  So did everyone else. I heard our flight attendant bristling with excitement, lining up the pilots and prepping them for photos and the surprise.  And there, nestled amongst it all was a sign – “We’re honored to help!  Yay, Mason!”  As my dazed companions and I got moving again, I was struck by the bright smiles on the faces of the flight attendants, the crew, the passengers… and me.

I have no clue who Mason is.  I don’t know his story.  I overheard that he was headed to Orlando, so I think he is a child, but why is he going there? What made this trip so special that a team pulled together to create a thing of such joy for him, for themselves and for all of us who were brief witnesses to the moment?

The background of his story may be bright or perhaps tragic.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.  What hit home for me is how someone on that flight crew cared deeply about someone they barely knew, had an idea and led others with love.

The notion of love in leadership may be controversial.  As we build our careers, we focus on learning the ropes, connecting the dots, generating the ROI and building a great strategic plan.  Those are all necessary components to any great business.  But where is the love?  Where is the emotional connection that is so fierce, so deep and so passionate that it leads you to chase dreams, move mountains and inspires others to follow?  Data, metrics and business plans provide a framework for any good enterprise.  Companies and leaders become great though when they inspire people to believe, to get uncomfortable, to go out on a limb and to give.  We have to take that risk and bring love into the equation.  It’s love for the company, it’s culture, it’s team and its customers.     It’s spending the time to get to know someone else’s dreams, what they want to achieve, and then committing full force… being there to help them achieve that dream.  It’s investing in what’s in it for someone else.  It reaps greater rewards for the giver than you can ever accrue for.  Even more, it reaps rewards for your team as they invest emotionally.  They go father, reach higher, work harder and smile wider.  They’ve shared the joy.

I still don’t know Mason and his story.  I think it’s better that way.  What I do know is that Mason was a king this morning, and whatever mountain he may need to climb, he is stronger today and has a hundred strangers cheering him on from the sidelines.  I’m among them.

Traveling on business has its perks.  Frequent flier programs can get you a window over an aisle, free wifi and sometimes, a front row seat to greatness.

How can you lead your life with love today?  Who will be your Mason?


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The Dog Ate My Business Plan

Dog Business PlanWhether you’re leading an organization or are part of a cross-functional team, working with people is like riding a rollercoaster.  Sometimes, you’re climbing in unison together, full of nervous energy as you anticipate the thrill of cresting that hill.  Other times, everything goes willy-nilly.  Some folks love the ride and want to go again.  Some are scared but heading in the same direction.  Others just want off the ride as soon as possible.  They may say that they didn’t want to go on the ride in the first place… that someone else “made them do it.”

It reminds me of the old “dog ate my homework” excuse.  At some point, I’m sure almost everyone has dropped the ball on something.  We’re all human, after all.  No one is perfect.  But here, people diverge.  Some people own up to the mistake, take responsibility and let you know how they will to do better next time.  They have a plan and a direction.

Others take a different approach.  It’s painful to admit you made a mistake or let someone down.  So instead, they take the path of least pain.  They come up with an excuse.

  1. “The e-mail didn’t make it through… darn internet!” 
  2. “The cell phone doesn’t get good reception, and I missed the call.  Darn phone company!”
  3. “Traffic was awful , and it made me late.  Darn 405 freeway!”
  4. The dog ate my business plan!”

 

Maybe the e-mail or call really didn’t make it through.   Maybe traffic was a beast.  Maybe the dog has an affinity for paper products.  So what?  Your client doesn’t care.  It isn’t their problem.  It’s yours. People make excuses for so many reasons.  They may want to let someone down easy or don’t want to let anyone down at all.  They don’t want to get in trouble or may want to save face.  Maybe the excuses are true.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter.
Making excuses is the path of least pain.  It’s the easy way.  But how are you ever going to win trust, build real relationships or achieve great success if you are always taking the easy way out?  It takes a lot more determination and bravery of heart, soul and spirit to choose the harder path.  On that road, there are no excuses, just accountability.  There is no hiding, but instead you’re taking the lead.  You own your mistakes and also your future success.

The happiest and most successful people in the world have no need for excuses.  If they mess up, they own it, apologize and do it better next time and again and again… until there is no need for excuses.

Until they win.
Until they’re celebrating the thrill of the ride.


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Danny Kaye and Thoughts for Today

How do you measure up?

How do you measure up?

How many of you remember KTLA’s “Family Film Festival”?  Every weekend, Channel 5 in Los Angeles would show all of these wonderful old movies.  Tom Hatten would introduce kids to classic movies starring comedic geniuses such as Jerry and Dean, and Bob and Bing.  I loved them all, but Danny Kaye was always my favorite.  I loved his unassuming manner, his brilliant timing and his gentle spirit.  I particularly remember when he sang “Inchworm” in 1952’s Hans Christian Andersen.

“Inchworm, inchworm – measuring the marigold.  You and your arithmetic, you’ll probably go far.  Inchworm, inchworm – measuring the marigold.  Seems to me you’d stop and see how beautiful they are.”

Today was a funny kind of day.  Little problems seemed to pop up here, there and everywhere.  Little opportunities are right on the horizon as well, and just can’t get here fast enough for me.  And through it all, that song was running through my head.  I had not thought about it in years, yet it was all I could think about today.
It’s human nature to get caught up in the little things of today.  Complaints may get you down.  You spend your day analyzing what you could have done better or how you “failed”.  You’re “measuring the marigold” inch by inch.
Perhaps the only thing you really “failed” at was seeing the bigger picture – seeing how “beautiful they are”.  Before you head into your weekend, I just want to remind you how beautiful YOU really are.  When you believe in something with all of your soul and are passionate about it, that’s a thing of beauty.  You leave your footprint on your company, on this earth and on lives of the people you touch – every time you lend a helping hand.  You create miracles.  Don’t let the little things get you down. Be great at the basics, and create your legacy.
I’d like to thank a friend of mine or sharing the following with me.  I’m not sure how far these words have traveled or who actually wrote them, but I’m glad they came my way as they resonated with me.  Enjoy.  And please remember, many people are eternally grateful for you.
“5 WAYS TO LEAVE A LEGACY”

By default or design, every one of us is going to leave a legacy. It just depends on what kind. So what kind of legacy do you want to leave? Clarity helps you decide how to live and work today, and how you spend your time. Consider the following and then focus on what matters most to you…

1. A Legacy of Excellence – To leave a legacy of excellence, strive to be your best every day. As you strive for excellence, you inspire excellence in others. You serve as a role model for your children, your friends and your colleagues. One person in pursuit of excellence raises the standards and behaviors of everyone around them. You only have one life to give, and there is only one you.  Give all you can.

2. A Legacy of Encouragement – You have a choice. You can lift others up or bring them down. Twenty years from now when people think of you, what do you want them to remember? The way you encouraged them or discouraged them?  Who will you encourage today? Be that person that someone will call five, ten or twenty years from now and say “Thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you.”

3. A Legacy of Purpose – People are most energized when they are using their strengths and talents for a purpose beyond themselves. To leave a legacy of purpose, make your life about something bigger than you – something greater than yourself.  While you’re not going to live forever, you will live on in the positive impact you make in the world.

4. A Legacy of Love – Life is not just about achievement. Sometimes it is just about the power to love. Share a legacy of love and it will embrace generations to come.

5. A Legacy of __________________.

What’s yours going to be??”


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Score 1 for the Other Team

Ever had one of those days?

Ever had one of those days?

So, sometimes no matter how hard you try, you still have one of those days.  Perhaps you lose a teammate – a valuable one. Maybe you lose a sale – one you have been working on for a while. Maybe you lose a client – one that you have moved Heaven and earth to keep happy – to someone offering a lower price, fancy new bells and whistles, the latest whatever it may be.  You rallied the troops around that teammate/sale/client, and you still lost.  How do you react?  Are you angry?  Frustrated?  Off your game?

I would ask two questions in a situation like this.
1.  How strong was your relationship?
2.  How well were you listening?
What do you think about when you think about the important relationships in your life?  Can you picture the laughter, the way that person makes you feel when you are around them, the shared memories?  Those are important parts of a relationship, true.  But how many of those relationships have come and gone? What is different about the ones that have lasted years?  One key difference is probably in the amount of hard work you’ve put into it – the ongoing attention you pay to that special person.  Let’s face it.  Some of the most important, maybe even most transformative, relationships you’ve ever had are long gone. The best friend, the first love.  We’ve all done it.  Perhaps we chalk it up to “outgrowing” it, we “learned what we were supposed to learn” and are better people.  That’s great.  But maybe it wasn’t just a phase.  Maybe we didn’t pay enough attention, took that person for granted, or allowed too many excuses to get in the way of getting outside of our box.  Getting uncomfortable.  Getting vulnerable. Getting real.  Maybe our relationship wasn’t as deep as we really thought it was.  After all, if you really get down to the heart of any relationship and bust your buns to stay there, you can feel if something is drifting out of focus.  You’re working with your head and your heart.
Then, there is the listening part of it.  In any sales environment, we know we should be listening more than we speak. That’s a given.  But what about those later stages of your relationship?  When you’ve worked with a client for a long time, it’s natural that you get to know them.  You care for their welfare and have a personal stake in their success.  And once you have celebrated success, signed the client and developed that personal stake in it, there’s a danger of becoming too familiar… “Knowing” too much.  You assume the next sale. You may talk too much because you are so comfortable, and you forget to listen.  Needs change.  If you are actively listening, always asking questions, keeping that relationship “new”, always working at it, then you’ll hear those cues that perhaps something isn’t quite right.  It’s hard to hear those hints over the sound of your own voice though.  It’s easy when you’re quiet… when you listen.
Even when you do your absolute best, you still will lose one here and there.  But don’t forget to ask yourself if you really were doing your best after all.  And on those days when you do lose one, remember to be grateful for everything in the win column.  Now, make sure they stay there


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All Ships Rise

Ship_Rough_SeasI recently had the opportunity to hear Kim Malek, one of the founders of Salt & Straw, speak at a conference.  If you have not heard of Salt & Straw, it’s a gourmet “farm to cone” ice cream company from the Pacific Northwest.  If you have not tasted their ice cream, put it on the Bucket List now.  It’s worth it.

And while the ice cream is fantastic, her story is even better.  Kim followed a dream – one that she had held for well over a decade before it came true.  As she shared her journey of making a dream become a reality, she also spoke of the tough things that got in her way, of taking great risks and how hard it was for her to keep moving forward in the tough times.  Her motto, when the days were at their darkest, was “all ships rise.”

Lately, a lot of friends have had extremely tough times financially, professionally and personally.  Friends have lost fathers and children.  People have lost their homes or jobs, and others soon will too.  I’m not sure why right now.  I just know that it is.

We all have our struggles, some more than others.  Being on the outside of it, you try to help when asked, and you hurt silently along with them too.  Walking through those woods, it is difficult to see a path through it.  You can become discouraged, depressed and destructive.  But just as the tides change and ships eventually rise, yours will too. How quickly will it rise?  That’s up to you.  It starts with your frame of mind.

One of my friends has had more than enough heartache; in fact, I think she’s dealt with more in her 30-some years than most people will in their lifetime.  She has had health issues, family issues, relationship issues, money issues, lost parents, lived without power and running water while working full time and caring for kids… you name it.  But if you met her, you would never know it.  In fact, I have never seen her without a smile on her face.  She is one of the most uplifting people I’ve been honored to know.  She never complains, but instead keeps marching onward – living her life for others.  She is the first to lend a hand or a heart.  I’ve often referred to her as a living angel, and I think she is.  I aspire to have the spirit, the generosity, the wisdom that she has.

During a particularly bad time for her years ago – when I was also walking along a dark road emotionally – I asked her what her secret was.  She told me that she had faith that things would get better and believed it would, that she was grateful for what she was going through as she would be stronger for it, and that “all ships rise.”

What an odd circle.  I heard this many years ago and again last week.

Seasons keep changing, but the tide always rises.  It was a good reminder to believe, to dream and to persevere – no matter what challenge you may be facing today.
Your ship will rise too.


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Father Knows Best

DadSo, now it is Dad’s turn to celebrate another birthday – perhaps a little unwillingly.  That tends to happen more and more as life goes along, I guess.  The family gathered at his house to share his special day.  Have I mentioned that my family is rather large?  There were seven of us kids there (and that’s not the entire crew), not to mention the kids by marriage, assorted boy/girlfriends and grandkids here, there and everywhere, two dogs, two cats… You get the drift.  It was extremely loud with all of those lives everywhere. Every table was heavily laden with food (it’s a Francisco Family tradition). Fingers big and small made music on the keyboard, and voices lifted in harmony as the organ dimly played its fading bossa nova beat in the background as we passed by.  In other words, it was home.

We came together in a dance so familiar to celebrate the man that unites us all.  We had a great time, one that I am reminiscing about now as I sit in my quiet home – close and still too far away.  So tonight, I wanted to share a few things about my Dad that still serve as life lessons for me today.

1.  Small people make a big impact. When I was a child, my Dad towered over me like a giant.  Dads do that.  As I have grown, I have come to realize that many members of my family are “vertically challenged”, myself included.  Yet, while my Dad may be small in stature, he has made a significant difference in the lives of many people beyond just our family members.  When Dad moved to the States, he soon became a small town doctor.  That small town doctor brought life to generations after generations as he delivered them in homes, in hospitals and out in the local Hutterite communities.  Doc Eddie still reigns supreme in borders well beyond those he knows, as others live today thanks to the work he did.  The magnitude can’t be measured, and it is real, meaningful and eternal.

2. You don’t have to show off to prove your worth.  Dad is a genius – literally. That can be rather humbling to a kid who thinks they know it all.  Yet, Dad never mentioned it… Not once.  He never really touted his accomplishments; he didn’t have to.  He demonstrated who he was in his actions, and others touted it for him… usually to his embarrassment.  And he never made his know it all child feel down.  He knew when to win, and knew when he needed to let you win. That’s a hard one for me, and I’m working on it. There’s no benefit in always being right. It’s impossible, and hurtful too.

3.  Know when to work, and know when to play. Children of doctors know the routine – the early mornings, late nights, even later emergency calls from the answering service. There was no doubt that Dad was always on during the week.  But Dad also knew when to call a time out.  My favorite silly day, one among many, was on my twelfth birthday.  I sat at the kitchen table with my homebaked cake, my brothers and sisters, wearing a cowboy hat, when a giant yell came from the stairwell.  Out bounded Dad in a much too small matching cowboy hat, brandishing irons (a fork and spoon) and whooping that he was the birthday bandit.  He was exhausted and on call that night, but I never would have known it.  He made time stop for me and for the family.  Work hard, yes, but there are times that everything else can wait.

4. Silence often means more than words. Dad pretty much does not speak. He is known for one word sentences at most, but more often – if we asked him a question – his response would be a nod, a lift of an eyebrow, or pointing with his lips. It’s a Filipino thing. “Dad, want some ice cream?” Nod. “Strawberry or chocolate?” Lift left eyebrow twice. “You got it, Dad.” He is a quiet man, but says so much without a word. I sat down next to him today, leaned against him, put my head on his shoulder – and with one simple pat on my hand, he said more about how he felt and his love than a million flowery poems or this blog ever could. Words are often overrated. Dad shows his love instead with a gentle touch, and through his endless cooking of pots of adobo, plates of pancit and piles of lumpia. You never go hungry, belly or soul. People show love in different ways. How open are you to receiving it?

5. Don’t forget to dance. We are pre-iPod, CD and cassette. Yet, Mom loved music on at all times (probably to mute the sounds of us crazies), so Dad installed a radio in the kitchen, hanging underneath the cabinet. It would play in the background every night. Then, after the food was gone and the dishes washed, magic would happen. Several nights a week, a song would come on that Mom loved, and Dad was swoop her into his arms, waltzing her around the kitchen in a grandiose arc. Then, he’d pull her close to him, sway softly and sing Julio Iglesias or “Dahil Sa Iyo”gently as an eerie quiet would fall over us all. Life goes by too quickly, and the days run together and are soon forgotten. Yet, those fleeting minutes are magic. Don’t forget to dance.

Here’s to you, Dad. Thank you for the food, the Angels, the unexpected piano concertos and the karaoke marathons.

You are the best.


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Five Steps for Making Every Moment Matter

Bracelets_of_powerSo, I think about relationships and leadership a lot.  After all, any kind of selling – whether you’re selling to businesses or people – is really about building a relationship.  Relationships are founded on milestones: your first date, taking a trip or buying your first car.  Yet, relationships are forged on the moments that come in between.  It’s the small things that you do such as smile a special smile, sharing a joke or opening a door, that speak to who you are and how the person with you feels when they are around you. Now, every business person today has heard from industry “experts” that loyalty is dead.  Gen X and Y folks may have eight or more “banking” relationships.  They don’t care about what make and model of car they drive etc.  According to many, the days of loyalty are fading fast.  Do you buy into that?  I don’t.  Take a look at your favorite sports team.  Take a look at their fan base.  Among that loyal fanbase – the jersey wearing face painted nation – are people of all ages.  Heck, my 5 year old can recite Kobe’s stats and recently schooled me on Metta World Peace.  And my house is part of the Spurs Nation.  What happened there?

So why aren’t more of your current clients, loyal clients?  Are you making every moment matter?

Now, I’m from a small town in South Dakota where you don’t lock your doors, where you know everyone (and their business) and where you go to the same store to purchase whatever you may need every time.  People still wave and say hello when you coast on by.  And if you burn a bridge, you probably just burned that bridge with half of the town as word spreads quickly.  Every moment matters. In today’s hypercompetitive economy, technology keeps people with us all the time – kind of like that same small town.  People you haven’t seen in decades “wave” as you pass by on Facebook, and one bad review or relationship turns into a thousand if not properly tended.  Today, you must always be aware, providing better and faster service to improve loyalty and keep your clients happy.  There are always opportunities to make magic moments each time you work with someone.

Tell Your Story
Every time you speak with someone, reinforce why your service is the best and what sets you apart.  After all, you work where you work because you believe in the greater purpose or mission.  It’s a basic human need to believe in something.  Share proudly why people should believe in you.
Show How Much You Care
Find sincere ways to show your clients how much you value them and how your product or service helps protect and care for them.  Every product is designed to meet some basic need.  What need does your product satisfy?  What problem does is cure?  How important is it to you personally that they are protected?  Make sure they know.
Everyone Walks Away With A Smile The path to happiness is a short one.  It starts with you being happy.  How happy do you feel when you sit down across from someone?  Is anything getting in the way of your good mood?  If so, get rid of it.  Is your desk cluttered?  Perhaps your mind is cluttered.  If you’re in a bad mood in the morning, find a token to remind you to change your frame of mind.  Mine is a set of rubber bracelets I picked up at a conference last year.  I call them my “Bracelets of Power.”  They tell me that “No Negativity is Allowed” and “Success is My Duty.”  I glance down at them, get a reminder, and put a smile on my face.  No matter how long someone has known you, every time they see you again, there is a tiny little adjustment in how they view you – a tiny judgment.  Make sure it’s a good one.  (Thanks to Grant Cardone for the token.)
Meet People Where They Are Most of your younger clients today grew up with both in person and digital relationships.  They’re comfortable in that space, and they expect you to be too.  Why ask them to go out of their comfort zone to meet you?  You’ve just added another hurdle to your success.  Just like the Country Doctor (AKA my Dad) did back in South Dakota, go to your client instead.  Do they want to meet in person?  Great.  E-mail?  Great.  Text message?  I’d bet a lot of people would appreciate it.  That’s what I prefer, and the fastest way to reach me frankly.  Then, great.  Getting outside of your comfort zone and into theirs helps build that elusive loyalty factor.  You’re placing their needs first.
People Remember Mistakes: No matter how good you are, sooner or later, you will let someone down.  Don’t let one bad experience ruin someone’s opinion of you or your Company.  Mistakes usually happen when you are distracted, whether it’s in multitasking and emailing while you are on a call or just a bit of mental drift near the end of a long day.  Remember, every moment matters.  Focus on the here and now when you are with someone.  Everything else can wait.  People have long memories in small towns and online, the world’s biggest small town.  And if you don’t have people that believe in you, you won’t have a business.  When you do make that dreaded mistake, please apologize.  Yes, it’s good manners.  Yes, it should be natural, but often we may get defensive.  Ultimately, that never helps.  A sincere, heartfelt and humble apology will go a long way to rebuilding a damaged relationship and creating a raving fan instead.
Make every moment matter.  It’s hard work, but it’s good work.  And it’s work that pays dividends both professionally and personally.
So how will you make it matter today?

 


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Number 5

What do you believe in?

What do you believe in?

When I was a young manager, early in my career, I remember having a conversation with a fellow employee who was upset about a change in procedure from the top.  She came to me in confidence and, after I listened to what she had to say, I tried to help.  I remember telling her that she needed to separate her emotions from the equation, that business was business and – this part I remember quite vividly – that a Company is a Company.  It’s not a person.  It has no emotional intent or motivation, and that if she realized that then she would be able to see the logic behind Upper Management’s decision, etc.  I thought it was good advice.

And maybe it was ten years ago.  Back then, the book du jour was The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene.  It was a different time… Just after the dot-com hullabaloo.  Social media was in its infancy.  The world was riding high; business and home values on the rise.  What a ride it was then.  Fast, hard driving, me, me, me.

I see things very differently today.  Great things are happening at work; we are on the precipice of a fantastic new chapter in our future.  And yet this afternoon, I found myself wrestling with some significant business choices.  So, I went to my mentor for advice and guidance.  (If you don’t have a business mentor, get one tomorrow.  Run!  It will be one of the most significant investments you will ever make in yourself and in your future.) And as I walked through it with my mentor, out of nowhere, I felt a huge swell of emotion – one that was hard to contain.   I finished the conversation, sucking it up and telling myself that “no one cries in baseball.”  I am still unsettled.  And as I work through it (which will take some time), I thought of that advice from so long ago… And thought about what I would say to that teammate today.

Yes, business is business.  But business is a combination of the head and the heart.  I am farther along in my career, and today I am one of the people making those decisions that are lasting… which have meaning to lives beyond my own.  I have a responsibility to those lives… to those people. I’m invested in them.  I know them, know their dreams, know their fears and I share their sorrows.   They are teammates, employees, friends and more often than I would admit, they are family.  We don’t just work together; we have real relationships.  It’s a heck of a lot harder carrying the weight of all of those hearts.  But I am a better manager today because I carry that load.  Business is about emotions, and to be successful today, you have to connect emotionally to those you serve.

Tonight, as I worked though all of these conflicted emotions, I looked up at the core values posted on my wall.  We all have them at our offices (and hopefully memorized), but do you have them at home? My son and I defined our Family Core Values when he was 3. And looking at them today, they’re pretty good. It’s a mantra at home with buy in from the boys. Tonight, I think they are pretty good for work too. They’re emotionally based. So is work.

Business is just a collection of people after all.
And people are pretty special.

 


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Finding Monday Motivation

Have you ever felt like this on Monday morning?

Have you ever felt like this on Monday morning?

When I am in the office, I follow a pretty strict structure in the morning.  I get in early so I can get started while things are still quiet.  I spend the first 15 minutes getting situated, writing out what I want/need to accomplish in my day, then ranking the projects in order of importance.  Who do I need to call back?  What deliverables are due today?  Then, I spend the next 30 minutes or so doing research about the automotive and credit union industries.  After all, my company serves both of those industries and, as its representative, it’s my job to be an expert.  I spend about 30 minutes looking ahead at the next few weeks – what do I need to do to achieve my goals?  Is there any prep work I need to do for my clients? Finally, I decompress for a few minutes, and then launch into the day, full steam ahead.  My days and weeks are very structured for a reason.  Why?  The structure provides the foundation I need to excel on great days and to make it through the tougher ones.

Sometimes, no matter how good your intentions, getting started on a Monday morning can be a rough go.  Perhaps it’s winding down from a busy weekend or winding up from a slow one.  Maybe you have a lot on your plate for that week, and the tasks seem overwhelming.  Today, I feel like I am wading through mud.  My desk is piled high with a million little items that need attention, and although I have gotten a lot done, it still feels like I have struggled today to accomplish anything.  Kind of a contradiction, to be sure.  So what do I have to fall back on when I just can’t get going?  Structure, plus a little inspiration.  I looked back over my notes from the morning, cranked up the deep, funky house (sorry to my teammates), and just started pushing things forward.

My days are not much different from yours.  You take stock of whatever you need to accomplish.  In sales, that’s probably your leads, marketing visits and scheduled presentations or more.  You research your product as you are the expert.  You research your prospects and plan your next few weeks – when can you go out marketing and who do you need to follow up with.  Although you may feel like you’re wading through mud too, you’re actually walking along a straight path to success when you structure your day.  And your phone starts ringing.

Even when life is good (and car sales sure are good right now), there are challenges – from the annoying to the earth-shattering.  Structuring your day provides a foundation for you to move things forward when the going gets a little rough – say for example, you have an unexpected complication at work or you’re feeling under the weather.  It is far too easy to let things derail you, especially if they are new, you are tired, you have a ton of leads or it’s a Monday.  Solid, consistent structure or processes give you something to fall back on, to help you get started.  But you may need more – you need inspiration.
Inspiration comes in many forms.  Perhaps you read motivational books, take a quick walk around the office or crank up the tunes like I do.  It doesn’t matter where you find inspiration; it just matters that you do.  We can’t expect that anyone else will find it for us.  We need to take charge of our day and our life, be accountable and crank up the volume.  This life is far too short to sit and wait for something to come our way.  Yes, some things are out of our control, but a lot of life is in our control.  Grab hold of the reins, go marketing (blast that beat) and get going.  You just might find that Monday Morning Motivation* along the way.
*A special thanks goes out to Seattle’s C89.5 for the techno wake up call today!  Again, sorry to everyone here at the office!


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Happy Hopping

CheeringToday, prior to coming in to work, I attended a Hop-a-Thon to raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  Let me tell you, there are few things in this world that are cuter than a group of three to five year olds hopping their hearts out inside of hula hoops for charity.  Seriously, adorable.  So, my job as one of the volunteer “coaches” was to stand by one of the hoops and count how many times each child hopped in one minute.  One by one, they came up to accept their challenge – Rodney, Jake, Shae, Taeya.  One by one, each waited for the bell.  And when it rang, they began.  Now, for a four year old, a minute is an eternity.  So, “Coach Marci” counted and yelled.  “TEN!  TWENTY!  THIRTY!”  As the numbers got higher, they hopped faster – wanting to hit a hundred.  And when they passed one hundred and heard “ONE TEN!  ONE TWENTY!” they hopped even harder.  The crowd of parents and classmates cheered louder.  When the bell rang after the minute was up, our exhausted and elated athletes stepped out of the rings with huge smiles of achievement on their faces.  And many of them stepped up to try it again, hopping for a second or even a third time.  Even a few of us Moms joined them.  Go, Team Mom!

When the last hop had been hopped and the parents began to disperse, one of the members of Team Mom stopped me.  Out of the blue, she mentioned this blog.  She gave me such a wonderful compliment that I never expected and I walked away on air, my spirits lifted and creative juices flowing.  Truth be known, all week, I’ve been having a bit of writer’s block about this blog.  I haven’t felt very creative.  In fact, I’ve been in a bit of a funk in general – feeling undervalued, underappreciated etc.  Once that spiral of under-whatever starts, it’s easy to start seeing it everywhere you look: at work, at home, in life.  Everything seems to validate that negative thinking or emotion.

I was a “coach” this morning, and I’m a coach often at work and at home.  I’m a big believer in positive reinforcement as a primary motivational tool.  I consciously make it a point each and every day to speak words of appreciation to my husband, my kids, my coworkers and employees.  I specifically look for something to sincerely compliment when I’m out networking with strangers; it opens doors.   But it looks like I forgot this week that I need positive reinforcement too.  I also forgot to listen.  Good feedback was there from my husband at home, but I have been so busy having a mini-pity party this week, that I didn’t hear it.  I’ve been on the road a lot lately, so I haven’t really spent that much time with my boss.  But if I was feeling unappreciated at work, all I needed to do was pick up the phone and share what I was feeling professionally.  Mentoring and coaching was out there.  I just missed that opportunity.

I probably would have kept on missing it, kept stewing in my funk, if it had not been for one thoughtful, sincere compliment this morning.  It’s easy to get caught up in the business of work or life.  We dedicate blood, sweat and tears to whatever we are focused on and forget that we need a little nourishment ourselves.  As leaders, we constantly give.  It’s okay to receive too.  In fact, it’s mandatory if you want to stay sane and to grow.  And it spurs us on, giving us the energy to hop higher, work harder and accomplish great things.

If you’re feeling stifled, down or looking for motivation and it’s not coming to you, get up.  Go out and find it.  It’s waiting for you.  Seek out advice.  Ask questions.  And start listening.  TEN!  TWENTY!  YOU CAN DO IT!

Thanks, Jennifer, for helping me get my head on straight and reigniting that fire.