The Value of Reflection by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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One thing most business owners and executive leaders have in common is a well-developed work ethic. In fact, they can often be called workaholics. It is this drive and ambition that allows you to do great things. However, working too hard can also get in the way.

Over time, too much work and too little play does more than just make Jack/Jill a dull boy/girl. It makes Jack/Jill less productive and may also reduce their ability to think outside the box.Reflection

Not only does working too much tire you, but it also reduces the amount of time you have to really think about things. Your mind and your body get caught in a routine of doing things the same way over and over. This muscle memory keeps you moving, but doesn’t help you recognize when it’s time for a change.

Time away from work not only gives you the chance to rest and recharge your body, but it gives you time to think, as well. As you reflect on your life and your business, you will likely get a new perspective on some things. It’s important to take time away from work regularly, and to do so with intention.

During your time away, plan to reflect on your business. It’s wise, in fact, to make a list (at least mentally) of two or three things you want to think about during a long weekend or a vacation. Keep the list short and simple, and don’t schedule the rest of your activities around it. If you let yourself relax, the subjects you need to reflect on will probably pop into your head at just the right time.

You see, it’s much easier to come up with a great marketing idea over a glass of wine on the patio sometimes than in an all-day strategy meeting. Quite literally, during the meeting, you’re trying too hard. When you take the pressure off and let your mind wander at its own pace, brilliance can happen in a flash!

Some of the best business decisions ever made took place on a boat on the lake, lying by the pool, or during a mountain hike. Never feel guilty about taking time away from work to relax and to think – it can be the greatest unplanned strategy session ever.

Resilient Leadership by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Leading an organization can be tiring. It’s likely you have way more on your plate than you ever imagined when you began your journey. When the demands become tiring, and you believe you have more than you can manage, keep these tips in mind so that you can stay resilient in meeting your job’s demands. index

  1. Keep the end result in mind. It’s easy to get bogged down in details and lose sight of the overall goal of your business. When you feel this way, remember your goals and envision yourself reaching that final milestone. It will invigorate you to move forward, and prevent you from feeling like every task is a meaningless drudge.
  1. Don’t try to do it all at once. We sometimes impose unnecessarily aggressive schedules on ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as you remember that the schedule is aggressive and that you don’t always have to work so furiously. Have a wish list timeline and a realistic timeline. Work toward the wish list timeline most of the time, but remember that the realistic timeline still gets the job done. Don’t try to pack too much into each day.
  1. Take time to recharge. It’s not unusual to find business leaders burning the midnight oil on a regular basis and failing to take breaks for vacations and holidays. In the long run, this is not a good way to operate your business, because it drains you of your energy and enthusiasm. Proper nutrition, exercise and a good night’s rest every night so that you can be productive during the day. Eight hours of true productivity is far more valuable than twelve hours of lackluster performance. Taking regular holidays and vacations to recharge your batteries will make you more resilient overall. After a break, you’ll come back to work in full focus and with renewed energy.

Staying in the race for the long haul requires stamina. Your business goals will required sustained work and focus to achieve. That’s why it’s so important to pace yourself, stay motivated and recharge when needed. There’s a long road ahead, and you need to ensure you will have plenty of energy for the finish line.

Staying Cool When You’re Hot Under the Collar by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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We all have our buttons, and we all have people and situations that can push them. However, as a professional and as a leader, we need to learn to stay cool in situations that have the potential to make us lose our cool. Here are some tips on how to keep yourself under control when you’re tempted to lose your cool. english-expressions-hot-under-the-collar

  1. Get away from the situation. Your first reaction to a bad situation is not usually the most clear-headed reaction. Before reacting, give yourself time to think and cool off a little. Even if you find that the situation is still overwhelming and needs to be addressed, you’ll most likely handle it much better after some reflection. Remember to breathe.
  1. Consider the other perspective. It’s important to remember that we each see situations from our own perspective. Before you react to another person, try to see the situation from their perspective to gain some understanding.
  1. Plan your approach. It can be helpful to write down points you want to make with the other person and refer to these as you discuss the situation. Your list can help you stay on task rather than veering off into unnecessary territory when handling the situation.
  1. Get advice. This is another tip that’s all about perspective. When you’re angry, it can be difficult to see another person’s perspective on the situation. Talk to a trusted friend when you need help with this. They can let you know if your thoughts are reasonable or if you’re not thinking clearly.

Never let the fact that a situation makes you angry prevent you from addressing it, but never let the anger about the situation get the better of you, either.

As a leader, your immediate reaction to a situation will be remembered by those around you, and can either strengthen your reputation or tarnish it. It’s important that you protect your position as a leader by showing strength, maturity and intelligence whenever you deal with an uncomfortable situation. It isn’t always an easy thing to do, but learning to do so is an important art you must master as you grow in leadership.

4 Tips for Making Good Decisions by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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imagesSome of the decisions we make for our business are fundamental to our success. We must regularly decide on issues that shape the future of our companies, from hiring the right people, to choosing a marketing strategy to determining pricing. It’s safe to say that sound decision-making skills are critical to our success. Here are four tips to help you make better decisions.

  1. Give yourself time. Occasionally, you will need to make a decision very quickly. However, in most cases, you have a little time to think about something before you decide. Take the time to mull over important decisions, outlining the best and worst case scenarios, whenever possible. Don’t make the mistake of putting decisions off and forcing yourself into having to make a snap decision because of procrastination.
  1. Consult trusted partners and friends. When you are having trouble making a decision, ask for help. Sometimes just the act of discussing an issue out loud will help you gain a new perspective on the issue. In addition, friends can often give you insight you might not have considered. Different people will be suited for different types of decisions. Consider your friends’ areas of expertise when choosing who to consult.
  1. It pays to have all the information you can get your hands on before you make a decision. When it comes to hiring, this might mean checking references. When it comes to pricing your product, be sure to compare your products to those of your competitor. Solid research helps you to have facts to back up your decision.
  1. Trust your instincts. In business, you sometimes have to take risks. This can mean making a decision that you can’t justify through research or statistics. In these cases, go with your gut. You’ve been in business long enough to know when something feels right, or doesn’t.

Taking the time to think through the issues before making decisions helps increase the chances that you’ll make the best choices for your business. You won’t always have the luxury of going through all these decision-making steps before needing to come to a final conclusion. When you can think an issue through thoroughly, you’ll find you not only make better decisions, you feel better about all the decisions you make.

How to Effectively Communicate in a Digital World by Cindy Stradling CSP CPC

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“We are drowning in information, yet starving for wisdom.”

The digital age has completely changed our lives, especially when it comes to communication. We are more in touch than ever, yet seem to have fewer intimate relationships. It is said that your phone can connect you to someone far away, while at the same time disconnect you from the person sitting next to you. images

True leaders must learn to balance technology and other forms of communication in order to truly lead and mentor. Here are some tips for ensuring you are communicating effectively in the digital age.

  1. Text sparingly. Text messaging is great for saying things like “Heading home, be there in 15″, or “At the grocery, need anything?”, but there is no easier way to miscommunicate your intended message than through a text.
  1. Use email for detail. Emails are a great way to communicate facts and details, but should not be used for conveying anything with emotion. Outlining the agenda for the meeting via email is fast and effective. But, beware of trying to explain things or express opinions using this medium.
  1. Pick up the phone to persuade. Any time you need to negotiate something or get someone to make a decision, use your voice. Emails and text messages are easy to ignore, and lack tone and excitement. Using your voice can help to get people on board with your idea, generate enthusiasm and express urgency in a way that written communication cannot.
  1. Meet face to face to solve. There are some communications that really need to be face to face. Even if your staff is far flung and work mostly from home, face to face meetings are crucial periodically. Brainstorming and talking through issues is most effective when done face to face. The time you’ll spend getting everyone together will easily be won back by how much faster you’ll be able to generate ideas and solve problems.

The most effective communicators know how and when to use each of these communications mediums. It can be very tempting to just ” send a quick text”, but before you do, think through the goal of your communication and whether the tool you’re using is the most effective one for meeting that goal.

Mentoring Our Future Leaders by Cindy Stradling CSP,CPC

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As a business leader, there’s no doubt that you understand the importance of giving back to your community. There are many ways you can use your experience and expertise to help out, but likely none is more important than mentoring. images

Mentoring helps ensure that our communities grow business leaders for the future. Too often, young people come out of school with an education but little practical experience and few resources to help them develop into their careers. As a mentor, you can provide this additional resource for young business people to help them develop into community pillars like yourself.

There are many different ways you can become a mentor. The easiest is to hire some young people in your business, and commit to helping them learn as they earn. This allows you to mentor them on a daily basis, and allows them to see a business leader in action regularly. It also makes it easier for you to fit mentoring into your schedule. Take the time to talk with your young employees about their goals and interests so that you can provide targeted help. Once they realize you are offering to be more than a boss, they’ll begin to come to you for advice and help in planning their future.

Another option for mentoring young people is by signing up for a mentoring program through your local high school or college. These programs pair business leaders with students who show an interest in a similar career. As you mentor these young people, you’ll be able to share your experience and provide advice on job interviewing, education and help teach them learn what’s expected in the business world. Your experience can help better prepare them for their first job and can provide them a resource to help when they have questions or need to make important decisions about their future.

Mentoring is a great way to help ensure there will be leaders like yourself in the future of business. Putting time into your community by helping young people achieve their business goals ensures you leave a legacy that will impact your area long after you’ve retired.

Everyday Leadership by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Leadership is a twenty-four hour a day job. Too often, we focus on big moments as our time to display our leadership skills. While, these are important, our everyday interactions as a leader are just as important, and maybe even more important.images2

Everyday leadership focuses on how we interact with employees and how we behave on a day to day basis. Here are some tips to help you ensure that your everyday leadership skills are congruent with your big leadership moments.

  1. Walk the walk. Behave the way you expect your employees to behave. For example, you can’t constantly show up late to the office while hammering others for being late. Be transparent in your actions, so that others can readily see that you practice what you preach.
  1. Be approachable. You can learn a lot from your employees about problems and opportunities for improvement in your business. However, to get this education, you must be someone they want to talk to. Take the time to interact with them regularly, and make it clear that they can talk to you any time.
  1. Stretch yourself. For your business to thrive, everyone needs to stretch themselves developmentally. Your employees will be more likely to do so if they see you do it. Take classes, work in your community and be willing to try new things in your business. This will inspire your employees to try new things for themselves, bringing rewards for both of you. As they grow and develop, they will be even more beneficial to your team.
  1. Be a mentor. Take the time to learn your employees’ goals, and maybe even help them to set these goals. Then, work with them to help them see how to reach these goals. Mentoring your employees to help them reach their potential pays off for everyone, and creates loyalty within your organization.
  1. Take risks. Risk is important in business, but sometimes it’s hard for people to know which risks are the right ones to take. When you take calculated risks in your business, and share the information about these with your employees, you help them to develop good decision making skills about risks and rewards.

Practicing everyday leadership is beneficial for your employees, and for you, as well. As you work to ensure you’re being a good leader every day, you will grow in your role, and you’ll help others to grow in theirs, as well.

4 Tips for Building a Strong Team by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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One of the most critical components of building a successful business is assembling a team of professionals who can support you in your endeavors. When you have the right team of people, the journey is easier, more successful and more fun. Here are four tips for finding the right people. index2

  1. Look for a common character trait. Consider the trait you believe is most important for success in the business in which you’re working. Is it tenacity, perseverance, communication skills? Choose the trait you consider non-negotiable, and ensure everyone on your team possesses this trait.
  1. Look for diversity. Once you’ve determined the non-negotiable skill, look for people who are different from each other in other ways. A diverse team will challenge each other and bring different skills to the table. When you have a diverse group of people, there will be debate and healthy discussion. This helps ensure your team is always looking for the best way to do things, and that members are always learning from each other.
  1. Choose people who are looking for growth. Growth comes in many fashions. Some members of your team may be young, and looking to climb the corporate ladder. Others may be a bit older and looking to grow in a more personal way by challenging themselves to do something new. Choosing people who believe they have something to learn and who want to learn something new ensures members of your team will always be striving to do more.
  1. Look for people you can trust. Being able to trust your team is critical, and entails several different aspects. You, of course, want to be able to trust them to be honest with your company’s customers and money. However, you also want to be able to trust them to tell you bad news, when required. Hire people that you believe will have your back, and that of your business.

Keep these four ideas in mind as you interview potential team members. Consider not only how the new team members will work with you, but also how they’ll work with others already on the team. Once you’ve made a few good hiring choices, you’ll have an even better handle on the type of people you need to continue building a thriving and successful team.

Making a Difference by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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As business leaders, we solve problems every day. But, sometimes solving problems becomes a rote action – one we do without really considering what we could do with the opportunity before us. index2

In many business opportunities, we have the chance to not only solve a problem, but make a true difference for someone, whether it’s our own business, the life of a customer, an employee, or someone who simply needs our help. Taking a few extra minutes to look for the opportunity in each problem we encounter can make a big difference in our business or in someone else’s life.

For example, consider filling an open position in your office. When you look at applicants, do you ever consider who needs the job the most? Most of us do not. Instead, we consider who has the most experience, the best education. We look at who will fit in our office environment best, and whose salary requirement is lowest. These are all important considerations. However, if you add who needs the job most, or who will appreciate it most to the list of considerations, you might have an entirely different hiring decision.

Sometimes, when we take an extra moment to consider the impact of our decisions on others, we find ways to make a difference that we never imagined. And, this impact affects us, as well.

One of my colleagues recanted to me one of the best decisions she ever made. She took a job in a business that had just had a serious accident, resulting in the death of an employee. The owner, who had run a successful business for 26 years, without so much as person with a paper cut, had suddenly had a death and serious injury from a single accident. He was devastated and needed someone to come in and evaluate his processes, deal with regulatory authorities and help him make changes. The money wasn’t great, but the need was extraordinary. She made a lot of changes, she made a lot of friends and she kept a business from going under because of regulatory fines. She made a difference.

What can you do to make a difference in someone’s life or someone’s business?  Once you evaluate a few decisions based on the difference you can make, you’ll never look at situations the same way again.

The Power of Persistence by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” Calvin Coolidge

Many of us are idea people. We are great with coming up with grand schemes and getting started on them with enormous enthusiasm. Yet we often persistence3fail to see these projects through, becoming bored, pessimistic or defeated because of stumbles in the road or little failures along the way.

It’s critical to learn to get past these little stumbles so that we don’t give up. When we give up, how do we know that success wasn’t just around the corner? Have you ever wondered how many pursuits you were “this close” to accomplishing when you gave up?

The key to persistence lies in two traits. The first is commitment. Too often we start a project without a real commitment to see it through. When it gets hard, we want to quit because we never were all that committed to it anyway. Take a look back at the hard things you’ve accomplished in your life. Maybe you have a long, successful marriage. I’m sure there were hard times during that marriage that made you want to give up. The reason you didn’t was that you had a true commitment to your partner and the promises you made each other. Pursue projects with true commitment, and you’ll have the strength to be persistent.

The second key to persistence is celebration. We often give up because we only look at the things that have gone wrong during the process. The mistakes and failures take a toll on. These failures take less of a toll when we spend more time thinking about the successes. In each big endeavor, we have those stumbles in the road, but we also have achievements and learning experiences. The problem is that we spend more time mourning the failures than we do celebrating the successes. Over time, the project looks like a series of failures to us, so we lose the will to keep trying.

Success is about persistence. Persistence is about mindset. Make a genuine commitment to all you do, and don’t forget to celebrate how well you’re doing it.