Wednesday, June 27, 2012

the wave of success

This week I have been very busy with planning for our regional Business Excellence Awards.  I've been dealing with printers, judges, entrants, and now that the actual application process is finished, we are encouraging people to start buying their tickets for our Awards night dinner.  I also had my monthly newspaper column published this week, where there is a real focus on strengthening business and ''growing success''.

So today, when I bumped into a client and the conversation turned, as it usually does, to the economy and the general business climate in our town, I was in sales mode, doing all I could to sound positive about the growth and excitement I'm trying to engender in our retail sector.  I was, effectively, flying the flag of business success, - with plenty of extra spin - and not in just a little way!

There were others around that could hear the conversation and she nodded and made encouraging noises about her own business - that is until we had walked out of earshot of the audience.  And then I heard the real story.  Business was tough. Their main competitor has closed down.  They are working very hard to keep the business bouyant but every day is a struggle.

It was another great example of how we tend to ''keep up appearances'' for those around us.  And this is wider than just business.  But the thing that really struck me was a comment she made about the Awards.  ''the thing is that the success being celebrated at the Awards is now our success'' she said. "Our success is that we are still in business, and only just".

So the question today is: how do you measure success? Is it based on the perceived outputs and outcomes of others? Do you have a plan in place to measure yourself against?  Is success a tangible thing, or a feeling?  Is success simply not failing - or should it be more than that?

Here's some food for thought, and I'd welcome your responses

I've failed over and over and over again in my life 
and that is why I succeed.

In order to succeed, your desire for success 
should be greater than your fear of failure.

One secret of success in life is for a man to be 
ready for his opportunity when it comes.

Success consists of going from failure to failure 
without loss of enthusiasm.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I'm too busy

How many times have you said that this week?

It might have been when you were asked how your week was going - oh! so busy. Or when your were asked to take on a role at  the school/church/soccer - Look I''d love to but I'm just so busy.  

Do you enjoy being busy?  Do you work well when you have a dozen things on your plate?  What constitutes busy for you? Work - play - kids stuff - housework and gardening?

So here's a tough question for you:
Are you really that busy?  And if so, why is that?  I wonder when busy became this normal state of mind.

I'm pretty sure my own mother didn't complain (if that's the correct word) about being busy.  She just did what she had to do each day and that was that.  I don't doubt her life was busy, and in many ways more than mine, in that there was no automatic washing machine, dishwasher, slow cooker to chug away while she did other chores.  She didn't have a car so it took longer to get anywhere.  My brother and I had a lot of after school activities so there was plenty of running around, and the consequent committee meetings and parent help duties to fulfil. She sewed and knits and preserved.  Those things certainly kept her busy (idle hands and all that!) but I doubt she considered this stressful work.

That's the difference I think.  In our society we all too readily equate 'busy'' with ''stressed''.  And we also seem to use ''busy'' as a euphemism for ''I don't want to'', perhaps because it sounds more worthy?

Certainly I have a busy life.  The usual stuff.  But I also think I have plenty of down time.  And whilst I might ''keep myself busy'' ironing while I watch the television, or sorting photographs, or pottering in the garden, I don't consider these things as part of busy-ness, mainly because I would argue they are all by choice.  Kids stuff, yes, that can be busy.  But there's an easy out as far as I can see.  It's a little word called NO.  So when the children ask to do a sport, an instrument a hobbie and whatever else, I say no.  I don't think it will damage them not to start team sports until their older.  It won't hurt them not to be rushing off to some kind of self-betterment three days a week.  And it certainly won't kill them to have to play at home and not at a friends after school.

So my challenge to you, and to me, is this:  next time you are asked how you are, don't respond with ''busy''.  Next time you're asked a favour, and you don't want to do it, don't use the ''busy'' excuse.  And think about how you are actually spending your time.  Are you busy because you want to be?  And if not, what could you stop doing?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Take the day off!

I took the day off today.

Correction, I raced out the door, on time, did some errands, had a business meeting for one contract, whizzed back to the office (where I work for a different organisation)  for a while, and am now sitting at my work laptop - scooped up from the first office -  until my children return from a dinner out.

But it felt like a day off.  Interspersed with all that I had tea in a cafe, bought a new shirt and a handbag, wandered around a mall, caught up with a friend at her house, watched Masterchef.

The work is still there, absolutely.  The in boxes on both computers are full and there's a long to do list on both desks.  I have two days ahead of back to back meetings and so I will be paying for this apparent lapse in productivity tomorrow and the next day.

But it was so worth it.  It was a full and busy day, but not frantic.  I didn't breath work, as I have done for days - no make that months.  It felt delightfully naughty being at a shopping mall mid week.  I liked feeling like I was being a truant even though it was only for a few hours.

Do you ever have times when you just want to shut down the computer and get outside? Or go shopping?  Or hide with a book?

I'd argue - and I'd support a hardworking employee who agreed - that sometimes, the right thing to do is to stop.  Just for a few hours.  Regroup.  Re prioritise.

Take the day off.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

somethings gotta give

May was a month of decisions for me, especially relating to my work/professional life.  After spending almost a year juggling 5 contracts with 5 different organisations - the theory being that I could fit all those obligations around my children more easily than I could a ''full time'' job,  I came to the conclusion that something had to give.

I like to be busy really I do, but things had gotten crazy.  Add in after school activities like swimming and dancing, and not helped by the end of daylight saving, I was absolutely sick of having to push kids out the door in the morning, and often be arriving home in the dark- and sometime having to go back out again for meetings more than one evening a week.  My own interests started taking a back seat - to the extent that I had almost lost interest in the things that were once my passions.

And so, not without sadness,  I resigned from one contract at the beginning of May, and from two others at the end of the month.  It was in some ways a scary decision - not least because of the significant drop in income this will mean for me - and in others so easy.  The appeal of working for one organisation (currently two but I'm working on that!) far outweighed the cons of holding lots of different contracts.  I'm hopeful that I will now have the time - and mind space - to focus on growing my main job more meaningfully, and with any luck make more money that I was before too.

I have also given notice to a community group I have been involved in the leadership of for 7 years.  That was a tough one, and I am still feeling quite conflicted about leaving for a number of reasons.  My contribution is a vital part of the groups success (sounds bold but it's the truth), I really love what I do there, and I see a real need in our community for what we do.  But, it's another day a week that I am committed to non-income earning activity, and the time has come to rationalise that.

In terms of my own career path and goals,  I need to be focused and ensure that my time is being spent in the right places and with the right people.   I'm enjoying going to events I once would never have even known about - even though I can't abide small talk I'm getting better at it.  I am getting to shape my own role and see some good outcomes from my efforts.

I'm hoping that this redefinition will make me a better mother, a better employee, a better boss, a better person.  Time will tell.

Do you ever feel like you are burning the candle at both ends, and sometimes in the middle as well?  What do you do about it?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

blow your own trumpet!

The latest in a series designed to help you get the most out of your business.

Let's talk about why you need to tell others how great your business actually is.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

small talk and the art of conversation

I am currently working in a (great) job that largely entails talking to people.  I get to attend forums and presentation by amazing people, be part of challenging conversations, and also teach others about aspects of business and leadership.

But here's my secret - well it was until now!  I loathe small talk.  I'm simply not very good at it, and my ''results based'' personality is completely at odds with chat about the weather, the short what-do-you-do kind of conversations that invariably fill the first half an hour of a networking function, and the kind of talk that is required when sitting at a table with a group of strangers.

I've been doing this kind of work for the best part of 20 years, and yet still I struggle to cope with this stuff.  And yet I teach people how to do it effectively!  If there's a purpose to the gathering - and therefore a subject to kick off the conversation with, then I can do that well.  If it's a planned meeting with someone I've never met before I have a few stock topics to fall back on.  But to strike up with a stranger that I know I am unlikely to ever see again, well that fills me with dread.

How about you?  Are you good at idle chat?  Do you see value in ''small talk'' or do you tend to leap right in to serious discussion?  How is this received?

Sunday, June 03, 2012

the public face - part 2

In my last blog I talked about the ease with which we can create a public persona - essentially hiding the real us from the world, either purposefully or inadvertently.

Today on Facebook (my favourite place to guess which face my ''friends'' are showing to the world...), I have been part of a thread which asks What are the three most important things you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?

There have been lots of interesting responses - some pipe dreams, some big hairy audacious goals, and some fairly general, pedestrian kind of plans. My response was this: 

The three I might consider important enough to share with 2933 strangers is not necessarily the three most important that are in my journal (or on my blog;)) 

Because this is a page that several thousand people could potentially contribute to, I am on one level less than enthusiastic about sharing my life dreams. On the other hand, i wonder, would putting them out there for such a large audience make me feel more accountable?

I have decided it would not. The dreams, the PLANS that I have for myself - and in particular those I which to achieve in the short term (5 years or less) are not really for public consumption. Sure there are some that I will need plenty of support for, and to that end I may well need to share them with a wider audience. But the others - they're the the ones that are most important to me are also most likely the ones most difficult to achieve - and so I think I prefer to keep those to myself.

The funny thing about a blog is that it feels like relative anonymity - writing for myself, posting it to a world of strangers, and possibly a few people I know. In fact to share a dream here feels way less scary than sharing it on Facebook where someone I know would surely read it. At the beginning of each year I make myself a ''to-do'' list...all kinds of things from small to audacious, but hopefully achievable, and this year I shared it with my real life friends, as well as on here. But they were pretty general things, nothing too personal, and certainly nothing I would be ashamed to not actually get ticked off this list. 

For all that though, I do like to think I am the same person inside and out, public and private - even if some things are better not shared or broadcasted, and so for my own amusement (and possibly yours...) here's a list of 16 things I'd like to achieve in the next five years - some sooner, some later - and some that are about to get their first public outing

- fall in love (with someone who falls in love back)

- have a regular column in a magazine, or syndicated in a newspaper (maybe grow my blog to something real)

- finally get on with some (real) tertiary study (might need a scholarship too...)

- become a Director of a Board of a large NFP or private sector organisation (in a paid capacity)

- successfully negotiate my daughter to teenage-hood (help welcome)

- have (at least) a weekend in a completely luxurious, outrageously expensive hotel or lodge (like the ones in Conde'Nast)

- be part of a flash mob (dancing)

- eat at the three ''must go to'' restaurants on my wish list: Chim Choo Ree, Huhu, The French Cafe (because I can)

- make a dent in my mortgage (even 10% would be good)

- own a car less than 10 years old (An Alfa Romeo please)

- learn to play golf (simply because I've never even tried it)

- go back to Japan (before I completely forget the language)

- to do a silent retreat/meditation thing (even just half a day)

- learn to make cheese

- be part of a pub quiz team

- get a full nights sleep (even one would be nice....)

What are your goals for the next 5 years? Are you brave enough to share them with the world?