Volunteering is Good for the Soul by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Being a business leader requires a lot of your time; so much, in fact, that you may think it’s impossible to add anything else to your plate. However, you might be surprised to learn that time spent volunteering can actually improve both business results and you as a business leaderimages.

Volunteering does several things for you as a business leader. It will increase your visibility in your community and may drive customers to your door. You’ll find that many people are passionate about supporting local businesses who take an interest in the community. It will also give you the opportunity to meet other community leaders and network with them. You may learn more about the pulse of your community by interacting with others who volunteer, and by finding out about the needs in the community.

Volunteering helps you as a business leader by exposing you to other ways of running an organization, as well. You might be surprised at the tips and tricks you can learn from working with a volunteer organization. Most organizations like these are extremely organized and efficient, as this is a requirement when you work with a primarily volunteer staff who comes and goes irregularly. Many tasks must be organized in a way that these can be performed by many different people. This sort of task organization could be helpful to you.

All of these benefits can help you as you grow your business. However, the most important benefits you’ll gain as you spend your time volunteering are personal ones. The satisfaction you’ll feel from helping in your community will give you confidence, and will likely reduce your stress level, as well. Many people report that volunteering also helps them to focus on the most important things in life. Volunteering can provide some needed balance for those who spend too many hours working.

As you choose the organizations to which you’ll give your time, think about your passions. Volunteer in areas where you have expertise, but also in areas where you feel a real connection to the organization’s purpose. Think, as well, about organizations that have a real need for the experience and skills you can provide.

In the beginning, it may seem hard to work regular volunteering into your already busy schedule. But, once you’ve experienced the enormous benefits that volunteering can bring to you as both a business leader and a human being, you’ll be happy to make it a priority in your life.

The One Thing by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Self-reflection is a critical part of growth. This applies both to our personal lives and our businesses. We must consistently take stock of the things we’re doing, and the impact they’re having on our lives, so that we can adjust as needed. Making regular adjustments helps us to capimagesitalize on the things that are making a positive impact in our lives while allowing us to quickly eradicate those things that hold us back.

As we begin a new year, it’s a great time to make changes in our habits, and put actions into place that will make us happier and more successful. To make the shift easier and more likely to succeed, start by choosing one thing you can do to improve your life this year. It may be helpful to make a list of issues, both positive and negative you would like to address first.

Consider the issue that causes you the most stress or unhappiness, or the one that most stands in the way of your productivity. Think of it as the issue that is most likely to make you lose sleep at night.

Once you’ve identified the issue you’ll work on, start brainstorming ways to resolve it. This is generally the most difficult part, since it’s likely that if this issue had an easy resolution, you would have already resolved it.

Involve others in your brainstorming, if appropriate. For example, if the issue is an ongoing problem with your spouse, make an appointment to sit down together and discuss. If it’s a problem at work, talk to others who have an impact on the problem.

In some cases, your issue may not be a negative one, but rather a failure to do something you need to be doing to create a positive impact. For example, if you want to grow your business, you may need to add specific tasks to your routine that help you to attract new clients or increase sales.

Starting with a single issue to resolve can help you to avoid feeling overwhelmed about making changes in your life. Once you’ve made strides toward resolving the first issue, you’ll likely feel energized about moving to the next item on your list. This momentum can help you move through the most important issues in your life as you feel ready to tackle these. Before you know it, you’ll see a significant impact in your life as you address the issues holding you back.

Get Ready for 2018 by Cindy Stradling CSP,CPC

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index22018 is here whether you’re ready or not. As you gear up after the holidays, take some time to prepare yourself mentally for 2018. A little preparation ahead of time can help you ensure that 2018 is your best year ever.

You probably have already thought of some goals for the new year. If not, spend a little time in reflection about what you want to accomplish next year, and be sure to write your goals down and place these in a location that makes it easy for you to refer to them regularly. Writing goals down and keeping these fresh in your mind significantly increases the likelihood you’ll achieve them. Remember to update your goals throughout the year, as well, to ensure they stay attainable.

Remember to set goals that aren’t business related, as well as those that are. Plan to do something just for yourself, like pursuing a hobby you’ve let slide, or taking up a new one. Consider spending more time with family or taking a great vacation.

As you look toward 2018, it’s also important to consider things you want to remove from your life. Think about the things that get in your way of happiness, and make efforts to either fix these things or get rid of them altogether.

Consider your health as you move into the New Year, and be sure to use holiday time off to relax and rejuvenate. If there are health issues you need to address, make plans to do so next year. Don’t put off maintaining your health any longer just because you feel too busy. When you begin to feel better, you’ll be happier and more productive.

This is a great time to address your relationships, too. Have you drifted away from your partner? If so, make plans to spend more time together, or even get professional help, if needed. If you’ve neglected your love life and found yourself alone, maybe 2018 is the year you want to find a partner. Remember that these things don’t always happen by chance. Plan on finding ways to meet new people and spark new relationships.

2018 can be your best year ever, especially if you take the time to consider what you want from the year, and you take the steps to put your plans into action. Cheers to the New Year!

Looking Back to Move Forward by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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As we reach year end, it’s natural to pause for reflection on the past year and to anticipate the year to come. One of the best waysindex to ensure productivity and mindfulness in the coming year is to combine those two efforts into an exercise that helps you use the past to shape the future.

As the year ends, take the time to reflect on all the things that went well in your business, and to consider what you can do to replicate those things in the coming year. Set goals to go even further than last year, if appropriate, using the data from this past year to help you list the tasks you must carry out to reach your new goals.

Take a look, as well, at the things that didn’t go as planned in your business. Were the goals the wrong goals to begin with? If the goals were appropriate, list the things that got in your way and kept you from reaching the goals. Adjust for the coming year and mark your calendar to check in on your progress and make adjustments quarterly.

Reflect on the things that brought you happiness this past year. Whether it was a great vacation, extra time spent with family, or rewarding volunteer work, be sure you’ve noted its impact on your life. Then, make sure to include more of it in your plans for 2018.

Finally, make note of the things from 2017 that caused you unhappiness. Determine how you can rid your life of these things, or at least minimize their impact on your happiness. If you have toxic relationships, vow to fix these or leave these.

Once you’ve reflected on all these areas of your life, be sure to take into account new things you want to bring into your life in 2018. Have you neglected to pursue interests or relationships because of work or other commitments? If so, make a plan to add these activities to your life.

Every year brings a new opportunity to improve our lives. Reviewing the past year and using its events and results, both good and bad, can help us to see the areas where we are excelling, as well as those where we need to make adjustments. As you celebrate this holiday season, don’t forget to look back and look forward.

 

Being Grateful is Good for the Soul by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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We all experience struggles on a regular basis. Life gets hard, and it can be easy to focus on our difficulties. However, even when life is giving us trials, we have many things to be thankful for. Focusing on all the good things in our life can actually help us get through our struggles, too.

Being grateful is a mindset. Each day we choose our focus. We can see the best or the worst in every person we encounter. We cindex2an dwell on difficulties or celebrate the wins of the day.

As you go through each day, it’s important to choose to be grateful. As you think about all that you have, you’ll be less likely to complain about what you lack, or about the struggles you’re having. Things can always get worse, and our attitude often shapes the direction of our life.

As you choose gratitude in your life, your perspective changes and your behavior changes, as well. You will be more pleasant, and find less to complain about. This attitude will permeate everything you do, and make you more attractive to others. You’ll likely find that after adopting a more grateful attitude, good things begin to come your way because people want to be around you. They will want to support your business and to feel the energy you give.

As you can imagine, these good things happening will make you even more grateful, and so you’ve begun a beautiful circle of getting even more because you are grateful for that which you have.

An “attitude of gratitude” may not come naturally at first. To begin, make a list of all the things in your life for which you’re grateful. It may take a little while to complete the list, and seeing it on paper is likely to humble you a little. Review this list every day, adding things as you remember them until you have the big things memorized. Continue, however, to periodically review the list to add little things as they happen.

Over time, you will truly train your mind to focus on the good things in life, and the bad things will seem like much less of a burden. This new focus will change your behavior and attitude in so many wonderful ways.  With the holiday season just around the corner is a good time to practice.

Daily Mindfulness by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Mindfulness: the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. index2

Mindfulness about the stress in your work life can help you better prepare for the future stress that is coming. For example, if you know that the end of the month is always stressful at your job, you may begin to take steps to prepare for that, such as ensuring that your home life has no additional stressors or plans during this time of the month.

Managing stress is important for everyone. Too much stress can lead to health issues, as well as making life far less enjoyable. One of the first steps to managing your stress is recognizing it, so that you can deal with it before it deals with you. This is where being mindful and in flow can help.

Mindfulness is best described as ensuring that each task you perform and every use of your time is goal or oriented.  The practice of mindfulness is all about intention and being sure you aren’t wasting time, resources or energy on meaningless things. It can even apply to how you spend your thoughts, ensuring you don’t labor over negative emotions or things you cannot change. Mindfulness is an excellent goal, but it is one that requires a great deal of self-discipline.

True mindfulness requires daily persistence. It requires taking stock of everything that gets in the way of reaching your daily goals and objectives. It can be simple time wasters, people who distract you, or people who lessen your self-confidence.

Once you’ve taken stock of these distractions and negative thoughts, make a plan for how you will deal with each and every one. You can’t simply decide to remove people from your life because they are negative, because, in many cases, these will be people you are required to interact with for work. You can, however, decide how you will respond to them, and how much of your time and energy you will let them consume.

It can be helpful to have some daily rituals that help you to keep your goals and objectives in focus. These rituals can range from morning meditation to calm your mind to a simple “to do” list that helps you ensure your daily tasks are completed, and that you are not distracted from your most important priorities.

The good news is two-fold. The first piece of good news is that, with time and practice, mindfulness becomes easier. You will get into the habit of taking stock of your priorities, from the standpoint of productivity and of peace. After a while, these habits will become second nature.

The second piece of good news is that daily mindfulness becomes much easier to commit to once you see the results. When you are more productive at work and home, and when you have more peace and happiness in your life, you’ll see how much benefit just a little time and effort can provide.

 

Mentoring Benefits Everyone by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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As a successful leader it’s likely you’ve had mentors in your life who have helped you to learn the skills for success. You no doubt look at those people with gratitude for all they’ve taught you. Hopefully, you have also started to mentor others to help grow business leaders for the future. It’s important to remember how many benefits come from mentoring, for both parties involved. index

As a mentor, you gain great satisfaction from helping see another business person grow into their potential as a leader. As you see them develop bigger and better skills, it may also encourage you to learn more and have additional personal growth. After all, you have to continue to have something to give! In fact, you may learn as much from the person you are mentoring as they learn from you. Younger business people have had different experiences than you had when you were starting out. You may find that they offer a great deal to you in terms of ideas and understanding of new technology and trends.

As a mentee, you stand to gain a great deal of education from your mentor. They can help you to avoid pitfalls by learning from their past experiences. They can help to encourage you when it seems that you’ll never reach your goals. It’s likely they’ve had the same feeling, yet overcome the same kinds of obstacles to succeed.

Watching your mentor can also inspire you to mentor others. Though you may not be as seasoned as your mentor, you are still far more seasoned than some other business people. You may feel the need to begin working with young employees at your business, or with others in the community to share the lessons you’ve already learned, even as you continue to learn, as well.

The cycle of mentoring and learning is never ending. We can always give something to another person, even though we may have much to learn, as well. There is nothing more gratifying than pouring yourself into someone else, no matter your station. And, there is nothing more beneficial than learning the important lessons of leadership from those who have been leaders for a longer period of time.

Company Culture Makes All the Difference by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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As a business leader, you’re no doubt looking for ways to set your organization apart from your competition. One of the best ways to do this is to treat your employees like customers and foster a company culture that makes people proud to be associated with your business. index4

An ethical business model is a great start to creating the company culture you want. Employees should feel good about the way the company treats customers, and should never be made to feel like they’re misleading the customer.

Employees should feel empowered to speak their minds. An employer who listens to employee ideas will not only have a wealth of ideas to improve business but will also have employees who recognize their own contribution. Recognize contributions, excellent performance, milestones and anniversaries, so that employees know that you notice the good they do.

Employees should always be treated with respect and should always treat each other with respect. An open door policy for airing grievances is important, as is ensuring employees know that harassment or other unwelcome behaviors will not be tolerated. Written human resources policies should be in place, and should be applied fairly.

Next, be sure to create a culture that respects the employee’s private life. Requiring employees to work long hours on a regular basis can reduce their quality of life. An employer who offers regular time off will be rewarded with employees who are eager to do their jobs and who treat the customer with respect. It’s also important to allow employees time off to do the things that need to be done in their personal lives. Employees who know they can miss a couple of hours to attend their child’s dance recital are loyal to the company.

Finally, make sure employees have fun. Create a lighthearted atmosphere in the workplace as much as is feasible. Go on employee outings, and be sure to include the families of employees in activities once or twice a year. Employees who know and like each other will be more productive and happier.

 

With these ideas in mind, you’re well on your way to creating a corporate culture that attracts and retains the type of employees you desire. Keeping good employees happy makes your business thrive, and ensures you’re a happy business owner, too.

 

 

5 Tips to Develop Customer Service Excellence by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Great customer service seems to be a lost art for many companies. As consumers, we put up with long hold times, rude employees and must work diligently just to get our basic questions answered. One of the easiest ways to set your company apart from your competition is to provide excellent customer service. Here are some tips to help you accomplish that. index

  1. Always put the customer first. This sounds trite, but it is a mindset. From day one, teach employees that any customer facing action is their first priority. Customer calls are to be returned before the deposit is taken to the bank. Appointments are scheduled with ample time to complete the session so that the next customer isn’t left waiting. These are examples that show a commitment to the customer experience.
  1. Look at every customer transaction. We often put procedures into place for the most obvious customer transactions, but fail to address others. These “other” transactions may be a source of dissatisfaction to your customers. Examine, for example, how long customers sit on hold before being answered, and whether or not customers have to deal with a transaction via mail even after handling it over the phone. All these little things add up.
  1. Be friendly. This should go without saying, but it’s amazing how often businesses are rude to their customers. As an employer, you should have a “zero tolerance” for rudeness. Customers are sometimes rude, it’s true, but employees must be trained to handle this behavior without engaging in it themselves. In addition, if the rest of the customer service issues are addressed, you’ll have fewer rude customers to deal with.
  1. Train, train, train. One of the biggest consumer complaints about customer service is that employees simply don’t know what they’re doing. If an employee cannot answer most customer questions, that employee should not yet be customer facing.
  1. Review. Document customer interactions for review at staff meetings or training events. When an employee is faced with a particularly difficult or brand new customer situation, it’s a great training opportunity for everyone. Review the situation and make decisions about how to handle that situation in the future.

With these five tips, your organization will be well on your way to ensuring that your customers receive excellent customer service. It takes work but is critical to retaining those customers you’ve worked so hard to acquire.

Managing Change from the Inside by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

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Life happens. Many times, we are confronted with big changes that create a huge impact. Sometimes, these are planned and exciting, like getting married or getting that great new job we wanted. Other times, change comes in the form of devastation like death, divorce or job loss. Both kinds of changes are stressful and require management on our part in order to not only cope, but hopefully thrive. Here are some tips to help you manage life changes, good and bad. index2

  1. Prepare, if possible. When you know change is coming, you have time to prepare. This preparation can make it easier to deal with the stress the change is bound to bring. You can, for example, get some other things out of the way before you start a new job, so that you don’t have to deal with the situation while adjusting to new employment. If you are in the midst of a small remodeling project, get it finished before the first day of work. Clearing your mind of distractions helps you prepare to handle the change.
  1. Tackle the problem head on. There’s a saying that problems that are procrastinated are only amplified. When you’re faced with unpleasant changes, there is a temptation to retreat. However, failing to face the challenge immediately and directly will just delay the inevitable, and may potentially make it worse, as well.
  1. Explain to your family. When going through change, you may show signs of stress your family doesn’t understand. You may have to work extra hours to accommodate a work change. You may be scared, or you may be grieving after a death. Letting those who love you know what you’re going through offers two positive effects. The first is that you avoid having your family feel neglected or worry about you. The second is that you will hopefully get the support you need to get through the change.

Change is inevitable, and sometimes brings amazing results to our lives. Even when change is unwanted, or brings about sadness, it can provide us with a chance to grow and become a better person, a more productive employee or a more mature leader. Only when you manage getting through the change can you see the benefits on the other side.