Oh, You Shouldn’t Have

How to take a compliment well

CA-applauseHow did you respond the last time you received a compliment?

Despite how nice they are to receive, many people have trouble taking a compliment (or a token of thanks for a job well done.)

We often say:

“Really? I didn’t think it was all that great.”

“Oh, I got this for $1 at the thrift shop.”

“You shouldn’t have.”

May I suggest we stop taking compliments in such a way and instead enjoy them, and graciously respond? Here are some examples.

You are complimented for your contribution to a project.

Instead of “Really? I don’t think I did that much.”

Say, “Thank you. I really appreciate you noticing. I enjoyed being part of it!”

A co-worker compliments your outfit, which you know is a thrift store find.

Instead of, “Oh this thing? Thanks. I found it for $1 at the thrift store.”

Say, “Thank you! I’m really enjoying this outfit and it’s nice to hear it flatters me.”

You receive an appreciation gift card for helping with an event.

Instead of “You shouldn’t have.” or “You didn’t need to do that.”

Say, “Thank you! I’ll really enjoy this treat and when I use it it will remind me of the fun it was to work on that event.”

Or, a client tells you, “You are a rock star.”

Instead of, “Oh, it wasn’t much.”

Say, “Yes, I am. #confidenthumility.”  

(That really happened. And the client agreed with it.)

Receiving a compliment or “thank-you” well reflects that you are at home with the contribution you make. Better yet, it shows that you respect the opinion of the other person. Enjoy the compliments you get from now on–you probably earned them!

How to Use a Calendar to Keep Up with Prayer Requests

Faith-practicing professionals can use business tools to stay focused

Prayer calendar“I’ll be praying for you.”

Do you ever say that to someone and then promptly forget to utter a prayer for them? Worse yet, in a few days they say, “Thanks for your prayers…this is an update.” Gulp. You intended to pray, but your busy life and work distracted you.

There is a tool out there that manages our work (and personal life.) A calendar. So why not utilize it for your prayer life too?

Here are some ideas for how to use a tool such as Google calendar to keep better track of items you wish to pray about.

  1. Create a separate calendar. One thing I like about Google calendar is that you can create separate calendars for specific needs (i.e. menu planning, professional commitments, etc.) and layer the calendars for a full view as you wish. Color coding these layers is even better.
  2. Enter most requests on this calendar as “all day” events. This places the requests/topics at the top of your calendar. When you add in your other calendars, prayer items remain at the top.
  3. When appropriate, set an appointment for prayer before a particular event. For example, if you know a friend has an interview at 2:00 on a Tuesday, you can set an appointment for yourself to pray at 1:30. (You could also just note it as an all day appointment with the time, i.e. Sheila’s interview: 2:00.)
  4. Create recurring requests for items that you will pray about regularly. For example, you could have a daily prayer for a spouse, child, or other family member. Earlier this year, I set up specific requests based on Scriptures for my husband and son (I used sources such as what you can find searching “30 days of praying for your spouse/child.”) I used enough entries to create 90 days of Scripture prayers, setting each one up to recur every three months on the 1st, 2nd, etc.
  5. Utilize the “notes” section for more details. For example, I added the actual Scripture verses so they can prompt my prayer.
  6. Sprinkle in other recurring items. For example, if you’d like to pray for particular friends regularly, why not add them and have their name pop up every so many days? Or if you know of a specific concern that is ongoing (i.e. someone in the military, a couple having marriage troubles, a chronic health concern) you can use the recurring feature to remind you of that item on a regular basis. Bonus: you may be surprised how the timing of that prayer can be just right for them. Sometimes you may decide to let them know you prayed for them today and it is amazing how that encourages at just the right time!
  7. Set up a routine for reviewing your requests. I have Google calendar on my phone, and also have it sync with my Samsung calendar app. Many mornings, I start the day with some Bible and general reading in bed before I get up. In the Samsung app and my Google Now cards, I get an readable list of my calendar items for the day…a prayer list already in place.
  8. Be reminded throughout the day. If you keep Google calendar nearby (ie on your phone or desktop or sync it with something like Outlook) you’ll see these prayer items reside on the top of your calendar throughout the day. This is a nice prompter for those conversational or quick “breath” prayers.


You may be busy, but you can still pray. With a strategic process for remembering requests, you too can stay connected with the Lord on behalf of others even while juggling a busy schedule.


The Co-Worker You Do Not Want to Be

Do you identify with any of these?

CA-annoyingA stress producer at work?

Irritating coworkers.

I bet any of you reading this could name one person at your workplace (or a client/customer) that rubs you the wrong way

But do we ever consider that WE could be the irritating co-worker? Hold a mirror up today and see if you fit any of these descriptions. (Names chosen are random and genders are alternated for ease of reading.)

Chatty Cathy: is friendly to a fault. She talks non-stop, to the point that co-workers find alternative routes to common areas so that they do not have to pass by her desk. She wears people out.

High Energy Hank: you always know when Hank is in a room. He comes in like a whirlwind, never quietly. His chaotic running around the office, loud voice, and fast pace can cause coworkers to cringe when he comes near.

Melancholy Marie:  Marie sighs every she walks by. She seems to be carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders and can’t wait for the end of the day or the weekend. You’d like to cheer her up–you’ve even tried–but nothing you do seems to take her out of her funk.

Gossipping Gary: Gary always wants “in” on the latest rumors and secrets. He is super curious and want to process out loud with any coworker who will feed into the rumor. He likes to talk about others because deep down it makes him feel superior.

Lying Louisa: You never know if you can trust what Louisa is saying. She may not tell outright lies, but she exaggerates, promises things and doesn’t come through, and makes commitments she won’t be able to keep.

Controlling Carl: Carl loves to have things done his way. He has a hard time adapting to any change in processes, especially if over the long-haul the processes have served the company well. But it’s hard to get Carl to understand that adaptations and flexibility are often needed.

Driven Debbie: Debbie is all about success–in her measurement of it. She’s driven to get things done but in the process often steps on the feelings of those around her. They all feel that it’s all about helping Debbie reach her goals, not the overall good of the company.

Hurrying Henry: Henry is always on the move. He lives full speed. He’ll conduct conversations while passing by in the hallway, which sometimes can lead to gaps of information. When someone does want to slow him down to discuss something important, he will, but people in the room will feel like he wishes they would get through their agenda quickly.

Superior Susan: Susan has been promoted a number of times and feels she has earned the right to treat other employees like her minions. After all, she worked and clawed her way up the ladder and did her time doing the grunt work. She doesn’t realize that servant leadership is most effective the higher up you go.

Over-committing Owen: Owen says “yes” so often because he truly is likable and wants others to like him. The problem though, is that because he says “yes” without thinking, he ends up dropping a lot of balls, which only irritate the people around him over time.

Which of the above “people” is YOU at the workplace? I can see myself in some of these folks. No one is perfect and a first step is to realize the negative tendencies we may harbor.


Keep Your Desk–and Brain–Uncluttered with this Simple Tool

7 Ways a White Board will Help You be More Organized and Productive

dry erase boardOne of the most important tools I use on a daily basis is a whiteboard. I’m not talking about a wall-mounted board, but a small one that sits on my various desks/workspaces. Along with the white board, I have several fine and ultra fine-tip dry erase markers of different colors, and often pick a color of the day to use.

I use my white board to:

  1. Jot quick notes. In one situation where I regularly answered a phone, the white board allowed me to quickly jot the name of the caller before announcing the call or taking a message. I can then erase it.
  2. Do minor brainstorming or figuring. If I need to work a quick bit of math, jot a couple of ideas or copy bits of temporary information from the computer screen, the white board is great for that. I can erase the calculation when I’m done or transfer the ideas to a more permanent place.
  3. Doodle. It’s nice to have a surface to just doodle on for a minute or two, to give the mind a creative break.
  4. Replace sticky notes. I’m not a big fan of affixing sticky notes all over my workspace. For me, that’s too much distracting visual clutter. Often, sticky notes are not permanent information, either, and they start to blend into the surroundings rather than be tossed after they are no longer needed. A white board, however, only has so much space to use before you need to erase it
  5. Write down reminders. If I think of something while in the middle of another task, I can jot it down and keep going. Then during the transition to other things, I can either do that task or move it to a more permanent task list.
  6. Keep track of a count. If I’m preparing statistics, for example, I can temporarily use slash marks or numbers to record my count before transferring them to a permanent record such as a spreadsheet. (For example, once I was tracking the number of meetings being held in a room per week. While looking at the room reservation calendar, I was able to note the quick count on my white board before adding it to the spreadsheet.)
  7. Breakdown my schedule. I use my calendar to reserve large blocks of time (i.e. for client work, or to work on my blog, etc.) Within those blocks, I like to get more specific based on the day. For example, I may block off three hours for client work, then use a white board to jot the more specific plan such as:
    1. 9:00-9:30 Client 1
    2. 9:30-9:35 Quick break
    3. 9:35-9:50 Client 2
    4. 9:50-10:00 Break, answer a couple emails or knock off a couple quick tasks
    5. 10:00-11:00 Client 3
    6. 11:00-11:15 Break, miscellaneous emails/tasks
    7. 11:15-12:00 Client 4

(Several of my clients only need a little bit of work done at a time.)

I love having one simple tool on my desk that can be used and erased during the day and then left blank for a new day. It helps keep the desk–and my mind–uncluttered.

PS: a pad can be used for these ideas as well, but carries the danger of becoming another piece of paper that hangs around your desk. Sometimes, though, I like the feel of paper and pen. Just be sure to get rid of pages after you are done with them.

7 Ways to Manage Your Energy Levels for Peak Performance

Improve your productivity with these tips

CA-energyAs a busy professional, you likely have highs and lows in your week…times when you feel a burst of energy and can get a lot done, and times where you feel lethargic or ready to take a nap. When you add an unusual element into a week (i.e. a business trip) your rhythm and energy level may be impacted even further. Here are some tips to help you plan for those “low energy” times so you can manage them more effectively.

  1. Acknowledge that you WILL have low energy times. We often expect too much of ourselves and want to sustain at the same pace all the time. That is unrealistic. There will always be an ebb and flow of energy. Give yourself grace.  You’re not Superman or Superwoman. The rest of us can see that. :)
  2. Try not to plan activities or meetings that will demand high-energy at days and times when you typically don’t have that level of energy. For example, if you are not a morning person, planning a weekly early morning breakfast meeting may not be a good idea.
  3. Nourish yourself in a healthy way. Get to know your body’s needs and feed it well. For example, instead of depending on only a piece of candy or a cup of coffee to jazz you up, accompany it with a high protein snack. Keep healthy choices handy at your desk or in a lunch bag. Sometimes I make power smoothies to take with me and sip on throughout the day to avoid the hungries. Take a cat nap a couple of times a week during your lunch hour. Use your break times for true breaks like stretching, getting some fresh air, or reading a book purely for fun.
  4. Drink plenty of water. Water helps in so many ways and when your body is working more efficiently, you’ll feel more mental energy too. Think of water like you do gasoline for the car–it’s wise to keep the tank full for the long haul.
  5. Plan cushions. One cushion I often need is the re-entry time after a trip. I love to travel, but a trip with all its elements can be mentally draining and the first day back can be a low-energy one. It’s best if I can have several hours or even better, a full day to ease back into the normal routine. If you can’t have a re-entry day, try to plan a light task/meeting list for the first day back at the office (i.e. don’t dive back into major projects or creative work.) This allows you to catch up on email, refocus on your regular responsibilities, and reconnect with people and news you may have missed.
  6. Get outside regularly. There’s something about connecting with nature that reminds you that the world is a much bigger place than your little corner of it. This can dissipate those draining mindsets that come from too much self-focus.
  7. Exercise. You knew this was coming, right? Exercise is a challenge because it may not be something we enjoy. At the very least, find some way to incorporate extra movement into your days. Wear a pedometer and work on increasing your step count. Make a habit of taking a walk at lunch time 2-3 days a week. Incorporate some form of exercise into your morning routine. I have a stationery bike in my master bedroom that I try to use three times a week right now.

How about you? How do you manage your energy levels?

How to Sharpen Your Personal Reading (and Learning) Plan

5 Steps to Staying Up with Professional and Personal Development

CA-young execAs a talented professional, you know you should be investing in your professional development regularly. But the demands of daily life get in the way. How can you take in the information that you know is valuable (and in some careers, expected) while doing today’s important tasks? Try the LEARN method.

L – Lessen your time on social media and other distractions. I am guilty of frittering away lots of time–especially in the evenings when I’m less sharp–scrolling through social media. The short updates have contributed to a diminishing attention span, so I’m thinking that I should require myself to get through my page count for the day before I allow myself to scroll through social media. You could set a time limit or an alarm as well.

E – establish a routine. In my case, I’m determined to finish one book a month–it doesn’t always have to be a professional book. Note I said “FINISH” not “start and finish.” Some books are read over time (i.e. 365 day devotionals, large reference type books, etc. so their “finish” date may be months from now.) But since 2012 I have held myself to this routine and so far, so good.  Also, since I belong to Platform University, I have a weekly time (while riding my stationary bike) during which I take in the content and videos. This helps me make good use of the membership fee. If you don’t use materials, stop subscribing (and in some cases, paying out money) for access.

A- aggregate material you don’t want to miss. I use Feedly to subscribe to blogs I don’t want to miss, and Unroll.me to consolidate blog posts and enewsletters that I want to at least glance at.

R – read only what you are really going to digest. In the Feedly service I mentioned above, I used to subscribe to a number of blogs. I have recently gotten ruthless about editing my list. If the topic doesn’t interest me enough to click on it to read the post, there’s a good shot that the subscription is going to be eliminated. My goal is to get Feedly to become a newspaper of posts that I would want to read read nearly “cover to cover.” This means eliminating even some good–or really good–stuff. (I recently unsubscribed from the blog of a well known and quite popular author because I just wasn’t reading his stuff.)

N-note important thoughts using a service such as Evernote. Evernote is a great place to keep thoughts, ideas, and clippings of web pages for future reference without cluttering up other areas of your computer. Even so, mine has become a depository for so much that it could probably use some cleaning. This blog post though, came about because of question I got from someone in 2010 that I saved in my “blog post ideas” notebook.  Amazing how it triggered the creativity to write this post today!

Making time for personal and professional development is not always easy, but it is essential to stay up with an ever-changing world.

10 Negative Habits to Get Over at Work

An assessment of where you may be overdoing things

CA-hurdle 1Ah, the stress we sometimes create for ourselves at work. Maybe it’s time to get over some things. Which of the following would be of most help to you to get over?

Overthinking/Over-analyzing: this is more of a challenge for analytical personalities, but we all can fall into a trap of overthinking or over-analyzing  a situation to the point of mental paralysis. Consider these thoughts that invade our minds:

  • What did she mean by that?
  • I wonder if my mistake on that task is going to cost me my job?
  • He seems subdued. Did I offend him?
  • I need more information just to be sure I’m doing the right thing.

Oversharing: there’s nothing wrong with sharing who you are and being reasonably transparent. But there’s a balance that is hard to achieve. For example, like it or not, what you share on social media will help form your digital personality and can affect your professional life. Also, being too willing to share your opinion can alienate colleagues, if you don’t share graciously.  Being verbose in your emails and voice mails can cause people to not want to read, or listen to, them at all.

Overdoing: we love to feel indispensable, sometimes to the point of overextending ourselves and making too many commitments. Are you serving on too many committees? Are you volunteering to cover for a coworker a little too much? Are you staying too late and working weekends so people think you are dedicated?

Overcompensating: if you make a mistake, do you go overboard by repeatedly apologizing and going far beyond reasonable steps to repair the issue?  Or conversely, do you try too hard to find excuses instead of just fixing it and moving on?  An over-compensater will try so hard to make up for a mistake or shortcoming that they end up drawing more attention to it.

Overconfidence: confidence is valuable, but overconfidence is a detriment. Do you come across as arrogant? (For more on having a balance between confidence and humility, see this great post: Humility Matters.)

Being Overcautious: this is for the person who is too nervous to step out and try a new way of doing things and prefers to stay very set in their ways. Their fear keeps them from learning a new skill or working with new folks in another department. Are you missing out because of caution?

Being Overbearing: do people wish you weren’t on that work team because you insist on your own way?

Overachieving: do you try extremely hard to impress your boss or others, or live up to some unrealistic expectation carried over from your growing up years? Who are you trying to impress the most?

Overreacting: when something doesn’t go your way, do you sulk, yell, or show other forms of extreme reaction?

Overbooking: is your calendar so full that there is no cushion between appointments? Do you run late on a regular basis? Maybe it’s time to pull back on how much you put on that thing!

I can find myself in some of these “overs.” How about you?

If you need some coaching on ways to overcome some of these stressful habits, contact me!

3 Times to Gift Yourself with Time Management Grace

Be patient with yourself--and others

CA-business womanEarlier this year, a friend of mine enjoyed a wonderful trip to celebrate a milestone anniversary. When she returned she hit the ground running. Really. On the way back from the airport after a late cross-country flight, her husband dropped her off at her workplace where she worked several hours before going home for the first time in 10 days!

We’re different that way. She can jump into the flow of life pretty quickly. I’m more of a “need time to transition” person. I think most of us have times when we won’t be at our best and we should give ourselves grace. Here are three:

Returning from a business trip or vacation: travel is great, but it is draining. It’s wise to plan at least a half day, if not 24 hour, cushion for “re-entry.” This can provide a cushion if a delay comes up, or give you time to catch up on mundane things like unpacking and laundry. It also gives the space to reconnect with family and friends that weren’t with you on the trip, get back on your own time zone, and calibrate your emotions and thinking to the regular routine again.

Morning or evening, depending on your makeup: everyone has their own high energy times. While writing this, I’m sitting at one of my favorite coffee shops. I try to get there on a regular basis, and due to my current schedule, I arrive around 6:30 or 7am after a 35 minute drive. Some people would feel like there was no way they could have the creative energy that early in the morning, but that’s my wiring. I know, however, not to plan any energy-requiring activities after 8pm or on weekends, whereas some of my friends may just be getting going then! I have to give myself grace if I don’t get things done in the evening. I know I’ll tackle them the next morning or even, another day.

Mid-day: When you first arrive at the office? Right after lunch? Expect those low energy times and try not to plan anything too taxing at those times. Get a spurt of energy the last hour of the day? Use it to clean up all the loose ends. I’ve learned that I do not like to have a meeting at the end of the day, because I like to have time to clean up the last of email and my task list. If a meeting goes over the allotted time, that leaves those things undone or my evening off to a later start.

While you are giving yourself time management grace, remember to extend it to others around you who are not wired the same way as you are.

How to Improve the Culture at Work

7 thoughts, tips, and ideas for a happier workplace

CA-happy employees

There’s a lot of talk about culture in workplaces, culture referring to the atmosphere created by the people who spend time there and the norms that everyone in that particular environment adapts to. Cultures vary widely. You’ll find a different culture at Google than you will on Wall Street. Part of that relates to the type of industry, the need (or not) for formality, etc.

There are several tangible elements to consider as you develop a sense of culture and teamwork unique to your organization.  Consider the following as you seek to improve your unique culture:

Purpose. Do your employees have a real purpose for working for you other than getting a paycheck? Do you get them excited about the mission of your organization?

Meetings. The type of meetings you have, when you have them, who attends…all those things contribute to a sense of teamwork, or lack thereof. I remember years ago when a new pastor came on board for the church I worked for. I was office manager and had not been included in staff meetings. He changed that and allowed me to start attending. That type of decision can bridge gaps between departments.  (At the same time, if you are making employees attend meetings for which they play no useful role, they may be grateful for you to release them from that obligation.)

Fun. Some workplaces have more fun than others. Within reason, can you allow for a bit of play time? Use bright visual aids? Bring in lunch occasionally or a special breakfast treat?

Gifts. At one workplace, within the first eight weeks I had already found a great tote bag on my desk one day and a Starbucks card on another. These items came from other business opportunities the bosses had been to and they decided to pass the treat along to me. At another, several branded items were waiting at my desk for my first day. It was great to feel appreciated with these little gestures. Are there product samples you can randomly give out? Treats you can stick in mailboxes?

Compensation. While a sense of purpose is important, most employees work to earn a living too. Review guidelines for average pay in your area for certain types of jobs and make sure you are not being a cheapskate. Consider additional compensation such as profit sharing or benefit perks that help the bottom line be bigger for that employee. This is especially nice when it comes as a surprise. For example, if you have a profit sharing or bonus plan, it can be great fun for employees to see what “extra” will be in their check this week. Talk about motivating!

Personal Workstation. Whether it’s an office with a window, a cubicle, or a desk in an open area, employees like to feel comfortable and have some sense of ownership in their work space. After all, they spend several hours a week there. Allow employees to decorate their space within reason and show their creativity. Try to provide privacy for those having to share a larger room, either through staggered schedules or room dividers. Make sure their workstation is ergonomically correct. Give them a reasonable budget to get supplies or equipment they need in order to do their job more comfortably and efficiently.

Common workspace. Take pride in the common areas in the workplace. Keep the break room and bathrooms clean. Provide beverages and snacks. Have meeting spaces that are uncluttered. If possible, have some view of the outside, keeping windows clean. Have some agreed upon standards for how the overall office/workplace is kept (i.e. reasonable standards of neatness.) Sometimes, you can assign an employee to maintain a particular common area. One place I worked gave this job to the receptionist and daily, she was sure to keep the workroom straightened up. In another, the staff rotated kitchen duty.

Make some effort to improve the culture and you’ll see productivity and loyalty improve, too! (For a handbook of lots of ideas, check out my book, Boost Your Workplace Morale: A Practical Guide for Employees (and their Managers.)