Why You Should Be a Professional Fountain

Venetian fountain

“I took this picture of a fountain at the Venetian for you.”

A friend was on vacation, which included a visit to Las Vegas. Knowing my love for fountains, she sent a photo by text of a fountain at the famous hotel.

My online nickname for certain things is FountainB.

My town is named after a fountain.

I collect pictures of fountains for a Pinterest board.

Why the interest in fountains?

I already like water features, but I’m actually not sure where the interest in fountains started. However, the more I consider them, the more I can sense connections between fountains and my philosophy of life, much of which connects to my professional life.

Here are a three ways fountains can inspire us professionally:

Fountains are a source of refreshment. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy a fountain. They are often the subject of pictures, and some become famous. I remember viewing an Instagram story of someone visiting the Trevi Fountain in Rome. It was a natural gathering spot. There’s just something refreshing about stopping and enjoying a fountain, whether it’s the cool spray you feel, the steady splashing sound, the artistic presentation or the group of people all enjoying the same thing.

Professional application: Are you refreshing to be around? Do your clients or teammates feel like their life is better because you are in it? Are you a “fountain of information/wisdom” for them?

Fountains are rhythmic. Fountains repeat the same movement constantly. The water is pulled up from pool are travels out through creative outlets. They are consistent. This rhythm and consistency reminds me of efficient systems in place in our work life–the routines and strategies that keep us moving forward and completing the tasks on our plates.

Professional application: Do you have a rhythm to your work life, that allows for spurts of energy and focus and then some time to step back for rest and refueling? Have you thought through strategies that will make you more efficient and help your work flow more easily?

Fountains need refilling and care. The person filming the Trevi fountain mentioned that it had recently been cleaned. Because of evaporation and mineral deposits, and trash from people throwing things into it, fountains need regular maintenance. How true for us as well. We cannot go full-out seven days a week and expect to be effective for the long-term. We also can’t hang on to the “trash” thrown our way by people we can’t control.

Professional application: What are you doing regularly to maintain your health and spirit? How do you handle the negativity that comes your way?

Drawing a parallel between a water feature and our professional life may seem unusual at first, but the next time you see a fountain, let it be a reminder of refreshment, rhythm, and refilling, and become a pro at being a fountain.

How the HOPE Family Encouraged Me

Some time ago, I faced a season of discouragement in this business. This defeated feeling was prompted by a mistake I’d made in book keeping despite my attempts to be careful and strategic in how I have my business set up.  But numbers are not my strongest point. (I defer bookkeeping clients to a member of our collective!)  

I can be good at visioning what information I want. I am strong at developing a system.  I can come up with a strategic approach. But I can also get over-complicated, making it easy to miss (for example) formulas that aren’t consistently applied throughout a workbook or a series of cells.  Thankfully, I discovered the mistake before any major damage was done. However, there was an effect on my income for a short time so that my account could build back.

I chose to post on Facebook about my discouragement. My approach to sharing with my readers (whether through blog or social media channels) is to be real, and generally optimistic. I don’t want to only portray the fun stuff of life, but I don’t believe in using these channels for pessimism or being whiny either.

However in this case, I admitted I was discouraged. And a community of people (both in real life and online) rallied around me and helped me navigate the journey of questioning that I found myself taking.  Here’s how they helped:

They reminded me I was not alone.  Several friends had gone through similar feelings in their own projects, and helped me see that “down times” were part of the business journey.

They affirmed what they saw in my character. It was touching and meaningful to be reminded of what others see in my character. I know my own brokeness, and that any good thing people see is the work of God in me. I am both humbled and encouraged that people see that values are important to me, despite inperfection.

They prayed for, and over, me. One of my friends used a video app to pray powerfully over me. Others expressed that they were praying.

They acknowledged that they read what I write. I wear many hats, writer being one of them. From time to time, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wondering if what I write makes any difference. But in this season, people responded who normally don’t comment or say much. But they were prompted to chime in, and sometimes suprised me. You just never know who is reading in the background, and receiving benefit.

Other things happened during the time around this brief season of discouragement–Scripture coming to mind, an unexpected interaction with two former bosses, a completely surprising gift of financial support, a sermon about the meaning of our work, even an out-of-the blue gift of a HOPE necklace–all of which served to remind, reaffirm, and re-energize me toward the calling of this season of my life.

I’m grateful for the HOPE family–whether you are primarily a reader, a client, a product-user, or a friend or family member–you are all collectively part of my HOPE Unlimited family. Thank you for helping me stay the course, realize my blessings, and continue the call to help overwhelmed professionals excel.

 

 

Happy Labor Day!

Enjoy some interesting facts about Labor Day! Have a great first full week of September!

Labor Day Facts and Fun

From Visually.

Guest Infographic: 14 Ways to Improve Your Self-Discipline

The start of a new school year, even if you don’t have immediate family going to school, creates an atmosphere of new beginnings and a desire to return to routines. This infographic gives you several ideas about self-discipline, which is likely on your mind these days. Enjoy!

Courtesy of: CashNetUSA

Forget What You Give. Remember What You Receive.

thank-you-515514_1280

I am not sure of the source of this quote. But it’s a very wise one regardless. (If anyone knows, please let me know.)

“Forget what you give. Remember what you receive.”

There’s a lot of wisdom there.

I confess that I don’t always forget what I give. There have been plenty of times that I remember giving something to someone (or a group) and noticing when I didn’t get thanked. In fact, one time years ago at a former workplace, I’d gotten frustrated for not being recognize for a project I’d done–ironically to show appreciation to a particular department.

One of my bosses (who confessed he’d experienced similar struggles) approached me to talk about this tendency I had. I’m glad he did. It was a helpful exhortation which turned me toward a philosophy of not tracking the expressions of recognition I thought I “should” receive. That makes any acknowledgment I may get even more fun!

Here are some ways we forget to “forget what we give.” We tend to remember:
  • the thank you note we never received for the wedding/birthday/holiday gift we gave;

  • the favor our coworker doesn’t seem to want to return after “all we for her when she was swamped with her project;”

  • the lack of a raise or bonus despite all our efforts at work (especially when others seem to get them.)

What would it be like to give something and then put it out of our mind?
  • We could enjoy the “thank you’s” that do come as blessings in an of themselves, not the completion of a checklist we have in our minds regarding how someone else should acknowledge us;

  • We could be surprised by a “return favor” instead of expecting one;

  • We could appreciate the richness we live in each day rather than the dollars we don’t have;
  • We could unclutter our mind from carrying around thoughts of what people owe us.

That leads to the second part: remember what you receive.

How grateful are you for what you receive on a daily basis? Do you focus on noticing your abundant blessings? Here are some ways we can remember the right things:
  • When we experience an inconvenience, be thankful that it was simply that. (Many people are suffering far worse.)

  • Make a point to notice at least one small “love note” a day that you receive from God, friends, coworkers (for example, that coffee someone brought you.)

  • Graciously thank someone who has done a kindness for you recently. Send an email, text, or note or make a phone call. Better yet, thank them just for being your friend!

  • Receive well the kindnesses that others show you. For example, I’ve learned not to say, “You don’t need to do that” when someone offers me a gift (i.e. picking up my tab.) Instead, I’m learning to say, “Thank you for doing that” or “I accept with appreciation!” This also applies to accepting compliments with grace. Please don’t diminish the opinion of others by telling them they shouldn’t have complimented you!

You received without paying; give without pay.  Matthew 10:8b  

Try remembering and forgetting the right things. You may find yourself a little less overwhelmed!

How to Use Canned Email Replies Effectively

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How often do you send the same email response repeatedly?

Perhaps it’s to answer to a question about your products or services.

Or there are people who want to guest post on your blog.

You regularly set up appointments and meetings,

Or you initiate a process (such as an intake form for clients.)

Sound familiar? Then you may need some email templates or as Google calls them, “canned responses.”

Canned responses can save you and your team a lot of time, while still serving those interested in your business. But they must be used with wisdom to be effective. Here are five tips to keep in mind when using canned responses:

Write the initial template thoughtfully.

Write and edit (and edit again) so that the tone comes across the way you wish, and not like a robot. Make sure the information to be conveyed is covered and if applicable, approved by your manager.

Don’t be over-dramatic

While you want to convey information in a warm way, going overboard with flowery language can come across as fake.

Personalize when you can.

Use the canned response as a base to also add something personal, like the person’s name, or a reply to something specific they’ve mentioned that may not be covered in the main body of the template.

Edit as needed.

In correlation with the above, remember to edit the template if there is information that doesn’t apply to the situation.

Review templates regularly.

As your business changes and grows, it’s likely your templates will need to be updated from time to time. Make it a regular task to review and update them so that they don’t become stale or inaccurate.

You can use templates and canned responses effectively if you remember that people don’t want to hear from robots even though they are interested in information.

Need to develop some canned responses? Our team can help you out! Contact me for details. 

Don’t Say That! Say This.

See no evil

Sometimes the wrong thing comes out of your mouth.

Some time ago in a business office setting, I was asked a question to which I responded:

“I was never told how to do that.”

The then-coworker replied:

“Remember those instructions from about three weeks ago?”

Me (sheepishly) “Oh, yes. I’m sorry. I totally forgot to apply those instructions. I should have said, ‘I don’t remember.’ “

This situation taught me a lesson.

It’s easy to become defensive if we’ve made a mistake at work, and immediately claim that we were never told we were responsible for a task, or told how to do it. It’s quite possible we weren’t, but somewhere in all the dialogs at work, we very well may have been informed. In other words…gasp…we could be WRONG.

This got me to thinking about things we can say in certain situations that would be more professional than other responses. Here are a few I thought of:

Instead of “I was never told to do that.”
Say, “I’m sorry. I’m don’t recall this. Can you refresh me?”

Instead of, “It’s not my job.”
Say, “I’m not familiar with that responsibility but I’m willing to learn.”

Instead of, “I don’t have time for that.”
Say, “This is not a good time for me to give that the attention it deserves.”

Instead of, “I can’t afford to go to lunch.”
Say, “Thank you, but that’s not going to work for me today.”

Instead of, “She’s really in a mood today,”
Say, “I wonder what I can do to help/bless her today?”

Instead of, “You all need to quiet down.”
Say, “Shut up!”

(Kidding!)

What other “not this, but that” statements can you come up with?

Is it “Already Set Up?”

Table setting

It jumped out at me in my daily Scripture reading.

“…say to the owner, “the Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.” Luke 22:11-12 NLT

 

Already. Set. Up.

I wonder about the owner of this home. Did he host guests often? Was it an inn?

Jesus seemed to know this guest room would be available for one of the most important events of His–and His disciples–lives. Jesus was confident that the person in charge of that house would have a room already set up.  We aren’t told whether Jesus made any arrangements with him ahead of time or not.

But what joy for that owner to be prepared enough–to not be taken off guard.

In running a business like HOPE Unlimited, much of our service to others is behind the scenes. I confess, sometimes it feels less important than the “on stage” side of many of my client’s lives. I’ve been on stage before, and sometimes I miss it.


But verses like these, and the ones about servant leadership that I also happened to read that day, remind me that my business is about helping others. We are in the background making sure things are “already set up.”

As I recall a few tasks that we helped clients with so that their initiatives were “already set up” a smile comes to my face:

  • Seeing the graduation photo of a young man I’ve never met, but for whom I arranged a college visit in his chosen field–and knowing he is heading to pursue that career.
  • Taking charge of an International Symposium of leadership authors to be held via 26 online posts while my clients were in Southest Asia.
  • Having a follow up email with bullet points reinforcing a valuable session on brain science ready to send when the list of engineers was sent to us.

Don’t take for granted the role you play if you have a behind-the-scenes job. Much confusion is avoided, and better results can occur, when we give responsible attention to making sure things are “already set up” for our clients, co-workers, and managers.