The HOPE Family Ties Are Deep

A Pause to be Thankful

Some time ago, we had the opportunity to use our Give HOPE Fund to assist a client whose business was affected by a weather incident.

In the process, I rediscovered how blessed we are with the HOPE collective. You see, when you become a client, or read HOPE resources regularly, or become a Patron, or buy a product–you become part of the HOPE family. Here are some things I’ve experienced:

Clients that are not competitive with one another, but synergistic.

Clients willing to recommend us to others without fear it will impact the level of service they receive.

Colleagues who will offer not to be paid for a particular task or period of time, if they feel it will contribute to the overall good or is fair to the client in that situation.

Clients who surprised a teammate with a bouquet of flowers after a large project.

Clients who’ve offered free tickets to a sporting event and meaningful gifts.

Patrons who donate money in appreciation for the free resources/articles.

Readers who have followed and engaged with me for years.

Clients who will give back by donating a portion of their retainer to the Give HOPE fund and/or participate if there is a special need (like the one mentioned above.)

When I thanked one client for participating in a particular initiative, they replied, “The HOPE family ties are deep.

It’s an honor to oversee this collective–this family–of wonderful, diverse, caring people.

If you are reading this, YOU are part of the family. Thank you.

What Body Boarding Can Teach Us about Career and Business

“Wait, wait, wait….GO GO GO!”

My husband (that’s him on the wave) was coaching me as I attempted to successfully catch a wave for a lengthy body board ride into shore during a vacation to Tybee Island, GA. It had been years since either of us had done this, and he especially was having a blast. I’m delighted to report that I had three successful long rides, and was happy to defer to him to use the board the majority of the time.

The concept of body boarding got me to thinking about business principles that are actually pretty easy to draw from riding a wave. Over dinner at the Crab Shack (a unique place we ended up going to twice!), Keith and I brainstormed and came up with the following:

You’ll miss more waves than you catch.  Half of the experience of body boarding is watching for waves. So many will go by you as you wait for the right one.

In career/business, you cannot possibly take advantage of every opening, trend or market need. For example, there are certain “holidays” each year for which it may be good for me to write a blog post (i.e. Administrative Professionals Day). But I’ll miss some, either in favor of providing “evergreen” content or just because I was busy with other things. And that’s okay. I’ll grab opportunities when the timing is right.

You have to look ahead, yet stay present. To body board well, you have to watch for waves forming in the distance to determine which ones may provide the better ride. At the same time, you have to watch out for the larger ones nearby that can smack you, be aware of others around you, and be attentive to marine life (you are in the ocean after all!)

In your professional life, it’s wise to have a long-term plan or goal, but don’t miss the opportunities around you. I advised a friend who had just been hired for a particular position but who has aspirations for another up the line, to be a rock star at the current position. No matter what job you have, your character and values are going to show and could open doors for you.

Not every wave is worth riding. It’s a fact–the right waves will come in, well, waves.

In the business world, there are lots of situations that are trendy. With social media, trends are an everyday occurrence and sometimes they only last for hours. The latest guru selling their way of making money may be a millionaire and may be around for some time to come, but their method may not be for you. Be true to your character and style by being willing to learn from others without feeling you have to do everything like they do.

A little coaching can help.  I confess. When it comes to being coached about anything involving athletics, I tend to be resistant. Athletics and physical coordination don’t come as naturally to me as other skills. Being coached reminds me of that and I get uncomfortable. But in business, I’ve matured a lot by being willing to be teachable/coachable. (Maybe I should apply that to athletics…)

The big ones don’t always give the best ride. Keith often found that forgoing the “big wave” coming and riding one of the medium swells gave him just as satisfying a ride. Same thing in business. Big isn’t always better. I enjoy being a small business owner and don’t have to become a huge corporation to be satisfied.

Every ride will end. For us, a successful ride is one that carries you along for several seconds and pushes you almost fully toward shore. But even the good ones end, and you have to plod back out to sea to find another one.

In your career, don’t give up. Maybe you experienced the high of being able to be part of a big project. At some point that project will end. Embrace the excitement while you can, but know that you’ll have other opportunities some day too. Maybe you’ll lose a beloved job. (I have, several times.) Change is inevitable. As the motivational poster says, either ride the wave or you’ll get buried under it.

Even if your ride is the best. One. Ever. You may get bruised or scraped up. I drafted this post on the morning after we’d gone to the beach for two days. My husband is sore from all the activity. He may have even gotten bruised or a little scraped up. But you can bet he wants to do this again some day.

Riding waves can be exhausting even while exhilarating. As much as he wanted to go to the beach one more time before we went into Savannah for the second half of our vacation, Keith knew that he’d need to rest and take it easy so he could enjoy the next phase. Riding waves is a lot of fun, but it can be tough on the body. Make sure you take regular breaks from your work.

Now you…find a wave to catch, or skip today!

Does He Ever Answer Email?

email frustration

 

“Does he ever answer email?”

“Will she ever respond to what I send her?”

Do you ever say, or at least feel that about a teammate or client that does not appear to ever check his/her email?

One of the most frustrating things I observe in business life is the lack of response from people. I am sometimes amazed about it.

For example, at this writing, I had sent an email to a couple of people I had served on a team with. One was an apology.

At the time of this writing, weeks later, these emails have never been acknowledged.

To be fair, these emails don’t necessarily need an answer, although based on the dialog included, it would seem at least a quick acknowledgment would be in order. I suspect that since I sent them to an email box that is separate from others they use, (even though it is one they are supposed to monitor) they may not have even seen them yet.

And that’s not the only example. I have a contact that never seems to answer any email I’ve ever sent, yet claims that is their email box. I rarely use email to contact them, for obvious reasons.

I could go on, mentioning people who want work or business who don’t respond with information requested, etc. (How much business and potential money is lost by not responding to potential clients or employers?)

Would people say that about you? Would they have to find alternative ways to contact you out of fear that you’ll never answer?

If you are in business for yourself, and are not monitoring email well, you may be losing opportunities. People will go elsewhere if they don’t hear back in a timely way. Get some help if you need it, but do something about it. Your clients, colleagues and potential customers are waiting!

*****

HOPE can help you with your email. One of my regular tasks is customer/client service emails for a client. It helps them to serve their platform in a timely way. Another client hired us to help him  clear out inboxes (over 50,000 so far and we’re less than five hours into the package.) I’ll be helping him set up a better system. Contact me today if you’re ready to be off the list of those asking, “Does she/he ever answer their email?”

HOPE Patrons donate a gift of any amount from time to time, in appreciation for free content. They also receive private tips direct from me every few weeks and are included in appropriate announcements. Thanks for your support!

 

 

Should You Use Sticky Notes?

A potentially better alternative

During an all-day speaking engagement some time ago I mentioned that I am not a big fan of sticky notes. It’s becoming a bit of a known quirk now that “Beth doesn’t like sticky notes.” I don’t mind them as a temporary tool, but they quickly become permanent fixtures on desks, monitors and other parts of the office and that becomes visual clutter. So I’ve found an alternative for the times when you need to do some doodling, quick figuring, or keep track of something for just a few minutes–a dry erase board and marker.

I keep small dry erase boards at my desks/portable office bag for jotting quick things that don’t need a life beyond that day, or even that hour, at my work space.  It gets erased when I don’t need the information any more (usually within the same day) and I don’t have the risk of building up too much paper clutter.

If you need to keep information handy for an extended period of time, find a place to store it that can be off the main “cockpit” of your desk, even if you do use paper. The danger of sticky notes is that they are designed to be left in visible places more often than not. That’s why they are stick.  Cutting down on visual clutter (particularly paper with words and numbers on it) can help ease your brain of having to repeatedly process whether you still need that info, or worse, it fading into familiarity and having no use at all.

In addition to the benefit of using dry erase supplies for notes that can be erased quickly, here are some other cool things you can do with dry erase supplies:

1) Use a dry erase marker to jot a reminder on your bathroom mirror (or a note to your loved one.)

2) Keep a dry erase menu on your refrigerator that you can easily erase and update daily, always having several days of meal ideas planned ahead.

3) Use a dry erase marker on certain types of lids to mark whose lunch is whose (test on a small area first).

Your turn: How could you use a dry erase board to declutter your desk surfaces?

 

 

 

How to Navigate Controversial Topics at Work

A Guest Post

My thanks to Jessica Pyykkonen for this guest post.

Picture this: you’re on your lunch break and have been invited to sit with a group of coworkers who appear to be deep in passionate discussion. When you sit down and ask what’s new, two colleagues on opposing sides of the table begin disparaging each other. You quickly learn that their opposing political views are the source of their disagreement, and you begin to feel uncomfortable.

Have you been there? Or perhaps you have been in the seat of one of the debaters at that table, and didn’t realize that you may have made a coworker feel uncomfortable?

Controversial topics seem to be everywhere in the workplace these days. If conducted with respect, they have the potential to bring coworkers together, but they’re also ripe for sticky social situations. This article and infographic can help you navigate these delicate situations, no matter what your role in them, so you stay professional and avoid creating difficult moments for those around you.

Four Small But Mighty Changes That Will De-Stress Your Email Life

 

“I don’t understand why we send people the information they need and they don’t read their email!”

My frustrated friend was lamenting how people don’t READ their email, causing more inefficiency.

I told him that maybe it’s because when people need information, they feel the quickest thing to do is ask again instead of digging through an over-filled in-box to find it.

I’m not excusing that behavior–I’d done something similar a day before. I was confirming a meeting and could not find the street address for it. So I stopped digging and asked the person again to confirm the location.  

But I can understand my friend’s frustration. It interrupted his morning,when if his colleagues would keep up with their messages, everyone could go about their work more easily.

So how can we, as a professional society, change this?  Here are some thoughts:

Change our attitude.  Many professionals live with the opinion that email is the enemy. I have news for you. It’s not. It’s just a means of communication no different than phone calls, texts, or social media posts. Whether you like it or not, much of your business takes place in email and will be negatively affected if you don’t respond. It’s not a separate task from your work. Get over it and find a system customized to you.

Keep up with your email. Find a system that works for you. Perhaps you won’t be able to practice “Inbox Zero” but you can still keep up with the important things. (My course, Forget Inbox Zero: Be an Inbox HERO goes deeper.)

File the important items in a logical place. The address I needed? I could have attached it to the calendar appointment. Waiting to hear back this week? Have a “briefly hold” folder in your email system (don’t let it pile up!)

Set up rules.  Filter messages from vital connections so they are saved in folders or marked with a different color. Auto-direct emails related to a certain task to their own folder.

These small but mighty changes can help you handle email with much more efficiency and prevent people from getting frustrated with lack of information or response. Be a pro–give it a go!

Five Ways You are Making Your Work Harder than It Has to Be

Are you overwhelming yourself?

“I’m so busy.”

“I’m overwhelmed.”

“There’s too much to do.”

Do you ever say that? Feel that? I do.

But sometimes, we’re our own worst enemy.

We can be the blame for our own overwhelm. Here are a few ways we sabotage ourselves, which fall into four categories of  stress and opportunity, a line of thinking I’ve been considering lately.

H – Habits
O – Organization
P – People Skills
E – Email

  1. We don’t keep up with email. By not using the ADD method (act on, delegate, or delete) on a regular basis, we create a stagnant puddle of information that zaps a little bit of energy every time we look at it. (Email) 
  2. We pack too much into a time period. I’m guilty of this. I THINK I know what I should be able to get done in a day, but don’t leave adequate breathing space to think, deal with interruptions, or account for technology issues. (Organization) 
  3. We make relationships difficult.  I like to say, “We don’t have time to be difficult people.” (Notice I didn’t say “be around” difficult people.) We can easily create energy zapping drama by misconstruing a colleagues words, being too sensitive to other’s tones, or snapping at those getting in the way of our agenda.  This can lead to relational issues that take a lot of  time to figure out, and may even draw from the energy of other co-workers or bosses that have to step in to get the parties on the same page again. (People skills) 
  4. We don’t practice adequate self-care. You can’t pour from an empty pitcher. We need regular rhythms of rest and self-care to be our best for our work. But we cut corners on exercise, nutrition, and rest. Then we wonder why we feel grumpy or fatigued.  (Habits) 
  5. We don’t utilize good systems. We react to the tasks that come our way based on the urgency of the moment, rather than having an effective system in place to capture the task and assign it a time. I’m working on this myself–responding, not reacting. As an administrative professional, I tend to try to get everything done quickly, because it’s my job to take care of those details. But I can only take care of so many details in a period of time. It’s better to have a system to capture the tasks and plan a proper time to deal with them. (Habits, Organization)

So the next time you say, “I’m overwhelmed” ask yourself, “Am I overwhelming myself?” You may not like the answer, but honest consideration will help you make some changes.

*****

 

One potential solution to overwhelm is to get some assistance. Our unique model of a virtual service collective puts a team at your disposal without the headaches of managing one, and the freedom to use us on a sporadic or minimal basis. Because of these flexible models, you can retain an assistant even if you don’t own your own business. Click here for more details.

A Free Tool to Help You Face the Overwhelm in Life

A project sponsored by the Give HOPE Fund

The project itself was a picture of life.

It involved people.

It was a journey over time.

There was a need for funds.

There was a shift in focus.

There were edits, and edits, and edits.

There was creativity.

There was logic.

There were hiccups.

There was joy.

Doesn’t that sound like many projects–or even life itself? Going from “Start your engines” to the checkered flag involves a series of twists, turns, bumps, re-starts, pit stops, etc. I’m delighted to share with you that we’ve crossed the finish line on a major project.

One of HOPE Unlimited’s core reasons for being is to provide hope to others. The usual focus is to give hope in the overwhelm of careers and small business, but the foundation of the values behind this business is my view of lasting hope.  We use what we call the Give HOPE Fund to sponsor projects and other initiatives that will give back and help others.

For several years, I served on the board of Life In Abundance, a non-profit that provides counseling and life coaching to women, and has also started a program called Wings, (Women In Need Gaining Strength.) I continue to serve as a board advisor.

I also have a friend and former colleague, who years ago felt called to write Bible studies. I watched her go through seminary training while also keeping up with full time work at a church where I used to be on staff. After she graduated, a thought came to mind to make a connection.

HOPE commissioned Barbara Lynn Seibel to write a study for Life In Abundance that would encourage those going through unemployment or underemployment (something I have experienced several times in my career.) So she selected a Psalm and began the process.

Once the first draft was done, Stephanie Baker, the Executive Director of LIA (and co-author with Karina Whisnant and me of Organizing from the Heart,) reviewed it, and felt it was so meaningful that it may be even better as a study for anyone going through a disappointment or troubling time of any kind. So Barbara went back to the drawing board to re-vamp the study.

Then, we utilized Raydell Tedder, and Amy Tedder of AT Your Design, (both are members of HOPE’s collective) to proof the study, and do the layout/design, utilizing creative elements such as images to color, hymn scores, and journaling space.

I had the privilege of being involved in the creative and management process, and HOPE was able to fund the whole project, which tangentially involved quite a few people due to how the Give HOPE Fund is, well, funded.

It is with grateful joy that I present to you completely free of charge the following study.  It is the property of Life In Abundance, and they produce an encouraging blog, so if you’d also like to receive their posts, you can visit their site. However, they graciously agreed that HOPE and Barbara could share the study directly on our sites as well.

This study is based on the Psalm, not any particular church, denomination, etc. We hope it will be an encouraging exercise to many who feel overwhelmed, or even just unsettled, by anything. I’d love to hear how it impacts you. Contact me to let me know!

Click on the image to download.

LIA Psalm 3 study COVER

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.