The One Thing by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

index

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.

New Year, New Goals, Renewed Focus by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

2017-athena

 The New Year is the time when we traditionally hit a little “reset” button on our lives. The symbolic tradition of making New Year’s resolutions and having an “out with the old, in with the new” mentality may be steeped in tradition, but it can be very good for us, as well. 2017-athena

Each of us needs a “mental reset” from time to time. Such a reset allows us to forgive ourselves for past failures and move forward with renewed enthusiasm.  This can happen any time we choose to make it happen, but many of us find it easier to do so in the company of others at this traditional time of year.

So, while everyone else is busy making their list of New Year’s Resolutions; make yours, as well. Focus on three things:

  • Letting go of habits or goals that are proving unproductive
  • Setting brand new goals
  • Resetting goals that fell by the wayside last year

You can benefit from evaluating all areas of your life and outlining changes you’d like to make in each area. However, at the end of the decision making process, it’s a good idea to end up with no more than three major goals for the next year.

When you have more than three important items, it can make it more difficult to actually reach any of the goals, as you are likely to get distracted. Many people choose to set one goal in each major area of life. For example, set one business goal, one goal for yourself personally, and one goal for a relationship or a hobby.

The New Year’s reset can be a great thing for your mind, allowing you to stop worrying about the things you didn’t do in 2106 and instead focus on what you will do in 2017.

Here’s to new beginnings in our personal lives and our business endeavors! Never underestimate the power of hitting the reset button at just the right time. This simple act can help you to move forward in all the areas where you’re ready to see more success.

 

 

Focus – One of the Keys to Success by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

focus2

Distractions are an inherent part of every day life, but these can be one of the biggest time wasters in your day. Business success requires focus and an ability to stay on plan, even when life is trying its hardest to get in your way. When you allow the distractions to derail you, it causes you to slow down and impedes your progress. Here are some ways to stay focused in spite of all the things life throws at you.focus2

  1. Have a plan. It’s hard to stick to a plan that doesn’t exist. Writing down an overall all plan for your business, as well as having a written plan and schedule for each day will help you to stay focused. As you check off each accomplished item, you’ll see your work having results and be motivated to move forward. Knowing exactly what and how much you have to get done each day will help you to avoid distractions, as well.
  2. Know in advance the distractions you’ll face. Some distractions are unexpected, but many are repeat offenders. When you’re planning your day, include expected distractions in your plan, so that you can be prepared to deal with them in some way. Do your kids come home from school at 3:00? Then, plan for a break at that time. Give them a few minutes to download their day to you, get them started on homework and get back to your duties. When a distraction is something you can plan for, it’s less likely to prevent you from accomplishing your day’s goals.
  1. Learn to say “no”. Those unexpected distractions can really get in the way. Avoid answering unexpected calls, and stay off email and texting during the times you’re trying to get work accomplished. Media and technology’s instant gratification can cause a lot of distractions, so learn to turn them off to increase your productivity.
  1. Delegate when possible. Having someone who can deal with some of the unexpected distractions that do need attention will help you to stick to your plan for the day. When someone interrupts you with a work issue, it’s important to determine if it is an issue you really need to handle personally, or one that can be delegated.
  1. Give yourself permission to be distracted when the work is done. Some of the distractions are fun; so don’t eliminate these altogether. Instead, plan to indulge yourself at specified times. This eliminates your feelings of deprivation and ensures you stay in touch with the people and things that matter to you.

A focused, productive day is critical to building a business. Learn to plan your day in a way that allows you to minimize distractions when you need to be working, and that allows you to enjoy some down time when the day’s work is accomplished.

Focus Can Make A World of Difference by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

Today’s world is full of distractions. On an average day, we are constantly bombarded with input, from text and email messages, phofocusne calls, social media notifications, and face to face interactions. Each of these distractions can be valuable to our lives, but it is critical to learn how to turn them off and focus on the task at hand.  Here are some of the benefits you’ll see from enhancing your focus.

  1. Greater productivity. It is estimated that distractions like texts, social media, etc. can eat up 10% of our day, even when we are focused on other things. Ten percent more time in your workday is like adding an extra 50 minutes to your day. Think of how much more you could get done if you got back 50 minutes.
  2.  More timely effort. Are you often late finishing projects and reports? Learning to focus more acutely can help you to get things done on time.
  3.  More leisure time. When you focus, you can finish your day more quickly, giving you better balance between work and home.

How to Minimize Distractions

When we find ourselves not getting things done, we often turn to new systems or programs to help us. But, at the end of the day we all have the same number of hours. Deciding up front how we will use those hours and sticking to the plan is what keeps us productive and prevents distractions from getting in the way. Here are three ways to help make a plan and stick to it.

  1. Prioritize what needs to be done. Write down your tasks and categorize them as “must do”, “need to do” or “nice to do”. It’s best to do this at the end of the day for the next day.
  1. Carve out time on your calendar. Book time on your calendar for the tasks that must get done. Then, move on to the tasks that need to get done. If there’s time left, do some of the “nice to do” things. Don’t forget to schedule a little time for unexpected situations that will arise, but don’t give these too much time.
  1. Stick to it. Making the schedule is easy; sticking to it is harder. But, once you get into the routine, you’ll find that living by your calendar helps keep you on task, and having a set amount of time to get through those tasks helps you to push off the distractions that beg for your time.

Focus is a habit. As you work on it, focus does become easier. And, as you see the rewards that come with finishing what you start, and going home on time, you’ll be even more dedicated to moving those distractions off to the side.

 

The Value of Single Focus by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

focusOne of the most used terms regarding productivity is the term “multi-tasking”. We’ve been led to believe that in order to be productive, we must be working on several different things at once. However, if you want to finish what you start and feel a sense of accomplishment each day, a single focus is a much better way of working through your day.

With a single focus, you’ll still accomplish many things in a day, but you work on them one at a time. When you begin a task, you will take it to completion, whether that be to completion of the project or just completion of the portion that needs to be finished today. Rather than bouncing around from project to project, try giving one work item all your energy for an allotted period of time. This approach has several benefits.

1. You’ll have better attention to details. When we bounce from project to project, it’s easy to miss details in what we need to absorb about the work at hand. It’s also easy to get distracted and not realize you’ve missed completing a portion of a task.

2. You’ll get through work faster. When you are singly focused on a project, you are likely to find that you get through the work more quickly than if you bounce around. Every time you get distracted by something else and move away from the project, you have to get back on track when you return, which eats us valuable time.

3. You’ll feel more organized. When you constantly move from project to project, it’s easy to end the day not knowing if you really accomplished anything. When you work singly on a project until you get to a good stopping point or until you’ve completed what needs to be done, you have a better handle on what work is complete as well as what still lies ahead.

Single focus comes more easily to some of us than others. If you find that you are naturally distracted and want to move from project to project work on creating a system that helps you to stay disciplined. Many people find that they bounce around because they want to go work on something they think about before they forget it. If this sounds like you, try keeping a “to do” list. When you think of something that needs to be done, write it down so you don’t forget it, but don’t let it distract you from your current task. Your mind will be at ease knowing you won’t forget anything, allowing you an even better focus on the task at hand.

“Focus” by Cindy Stradling

focus

Over a decade ago I read the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki and my big takeaway from reading this book was the value of focus.  In fact, Robert shared an acronym for the word focus that I continue to use today:focus

F – follow

O – one 

C – course 

U – until

S – successful

 

When I first started my business I had my hand in many different areas and projects. What I realized very quickly is that my efforts were diluted everywhere.  Once I learned Robert’s acronym I took a long hard look at my business.  After exploring the various areas I created a new plan that in my opinion, was much clearer, easier to measure and focused on a specific outcome.  As I enter into my ninth year in business I can see now this strategy worked very well for me.

 

This is not to say I don’t look at new ways of doing things or new opportunities.  I do this regularly as the market is constantly changing and we need to stay abreast of what is happening in our industry.  Where I use focus is when I am working on a project or simply doing my day to day business activities.  As an example if I am making outbound calls, my focus is strictly on doing this, not answering inbound calls or emails intermittently.  

 

I find that the results I achieve are so much higher when I take this approach and the bonus to this is that I feel very good about setting an objective and sticking to the plan to make it happen.  This doesn’t just apply to my business life it also applies in my personal life as well.  When I am with family or friends, I am with them, not texting or answering other calls.  I see people in restaurants all the time sitting across from each other on their cell phones texting.  Personally, I think people miss the human connection when they do this (this is my opinion – maybe it’s my Boomer mentality).

Prioritize and make time for the things that are important to you.

We can (and do) make time for the things that are most important to you. Often these things inspire us and we don’t see them as something you “have” to do versus what you “want” to do.  Even when this work presents us with challenges, it can also produce the highest level of satisfaction.  This is the incredible thing about doing what you were meant to do is that is often doesn’t feel like work at all.  I know for me my work provides me with a great sense of contribution and connection to people.  This makes my commitment to stay focused on my goals so much easier.

What does it really take to move from knowing what to do and actually doing it?

We all know what we need to do to be successful yet we often don’t do the very thing that will have us be successful.  What is the secret? Focus!   We can read books, attend seminars and listen to webinars to learn techniques to make improvements in our personal and professional lives.  It is not until we commit and focus on the actions we need to take that we can yield the results.  If you research anyone who has accomplished great things in their lives you will learn that at the base of everything they did was a dedicated focus in their area of interest.

We have all experienced distractions and interruptions at home and work.  Once interrupted, we have a hard time getting re-focused again. I have listed below some startling statistics and the impact of interruptions to focus:

  1. The average employee spends 28% of their time dealing with unnecessary interruptions followed by “recovery time” to get back on track. (2009, Basex)
  2. The time spent per day being interrupted and trying to refocus is 2.1 hours. (2009, Basex)
  3. Physically co-located workers spend longer chunks of time engaged in tasks for which they are not accountable. (University of California-Irvine)
  4. The average manager is interrupted every 8 minutes. (Study conducted by Priority Management)
  5. The Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London suggests that your IQ falls 10 points when you’re fielding constant emails, text messages and calls.  This is the same loss you’d experience if you had missed an entire night’s sleep.  (Yoga Journal, p. 22, 12/2005).
  6. The cost of managing interruptions at work costs the US economy $588 billion per year. (2009, Basex)

 

 

 

Being in the Moment by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

mindfulness

Being in the Moment

Being in the moment is a mode where instead of reacting to events and people, we choose how we direct our attention and awareness of them, and respond. This saves time and energy and brings other business benefits.

Getting out of your head

Who has not been caught up by having their buttons pushed and reacting immediately, usually with less than an optimal outcome?  Yes, they would prefer to be more responsive and creative. But reacting is a cycle. You might wonder why you so easily veer into feeling worked up, agitated, and stressed knowing that you would rather feel calm and centered, and focus on constructive action.

 What is “being in the moment” like?mindfulness

Being in the moment is the mode where action can flourish and stress is absent. Creative responses are more likely when we’re in the moment. Authenticity and thinking on one’s feet also come easily from this mode. When we are in the moment we are very powerful because we respond instead of react to challenging situations and people.

 Two Core Skills

Being in the moment is comprised of two overarching skills. The first is awareness, and the second is attention. We are well aware of what is going on around us, but are hardly ever aware of how we process what is going on. A reactive cycle takes us out of the moment, so we’re less effective. Awareness of how we process what is going on is important for leaders and organizations because it saves time and energy.

 Awareness

New, better responses to work, leadership and life arise naturally when we are first aware of what goes on ‘upstairs’. Our ‘doing’ follows our state of being. Once a leader keys in on this awareness, s/he has a powerful mode to use. They reclaim their attention and can now direct it in purely constructive and creative ways. Awareness is a first step because we can control only those things that we are aware of.

 Reactions

Once this awareness is generated, the leader notices that much time and energy is spent reacting to people and situations. A reaction is a conditioned way of processing the world. It is automatic and uncontrolled. When we say ‘he/she really pushed my buttons’ we are describing a reaction. Someone or something happened and we are now thinking in a way that is both uncontrolled and likely to lead to further agitation and stress.

 No Time to Think

Some reactions, like the ones that get us out of harm’s way, are necessary to our survival. You saw a bus careening down the road and you leapt out of the way. Your mind reacted and you did not have time to become agitated or stressed about the bus careening down the road. You did not have time to think, “Oh, this is rather negative.” Or “Why does this always happen to me?” Your focus was simply on action.

Being in this Moment

You were naturally in the moment. The external event was processed quickly enough that you created no blocks to action. Blocks to action happen when we process an external situation or person in a way that causes an internal problem for us. We know when we are turning an event or person into a problem when we take on stress, anger, anxiety or a host of other negative states. For the practical purposes of learning how to be in the moment, we will just call these undesirable states. This is the true problem, as negative reactions waste time and energy.

 Conserve Time and Energy

Unlike the split-second jump out of the way of a bus, there seems to be all sorts of time and energy available in our workdays to create negative reactions. These block action as well as creative responses. They hinder relationships, and slowly turn promising people into puddles of anxiety.

 To read more:  http://goo.gl/lDf4bK

Customer Service Skills

customer service skills

For the month of September I thought I would make it “Ten Tips Month.”   I will share with our readers ten tips to enhance team building ideas, customer service skills, leadership development and sales coaching skills.  Some of these tips may be new ideas to you and others may be reminders of the importance of the things you are already doing.   As I say in my workshops “We all know things, what is most important is what we do with what we know.”

Customer Service

customer service skillsBuilding and maintaining excellent customer service takes focus and due diligence.  Every customer interaction has the opportunity to communicate how much your organization cares. 

1)      Good enough never is – I love this saying by the Debbi Fields the founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies.  If you ever hear yourself say “good enough” stop and ask yourself “Has this been done to the best of my ability?” or “Has this been done the way it was meant to be done?”

2)      First impressions count – The saying “Your never get a second chance to make a positive first impression” is very true and I think companies need to have a great “first impression” attitude always.  Your relationship with your customers can never be taken for granted or assume once you have them they will be loyal to you.  A few bad experiences can undo a positive “first impression” very quickly.

3)      Sweetest sound – Our name – people love to hear their name.  When interacting with a customer use their name at least once during the conversation.  Caution here, do not over use or it can actually have an adverse effect.

4)      Everyone is your brand 24/7 – sometimes in a workshop when I say this people look at me like I am crazy.  Think about it, you work all day in a company and you sing their praises, then go out for drinks with colleagues and bash and complain about the company.  What are you communicating to your colleagues or anyone else who might be listening?  It is my personal belief when you represent a company (we are all really in customer service) we need to be responsible about what we say both at work and during our time off – 24/7.

5)      Train your employees – give your employees the adequate training and resources to effectively manage all situations that may arise to satisfy any customer issues.  If there is the occasional situation that needs special attention, make sure your employees know the proper channels to go to so they can get things resolved quickly.

6)      Keep in the loop – most customers are understanding when things go wrong.  It is not so much that a problem has occurred, more important how it is handled.  If the situation takes time to resolve make sure you keep the customer updated daily so they are never left with the feeling that no one cares or you have forgotten them.

7)      Online reviews – customers may not complain to you directly and if you have a place for feedback on your website, they may feel more comfortable letting you know this way.  It is also a great practice to perform periodic satisfaction surveys.

8)      Track challenges – when there has been a challenge it is a good practice to debrief what happened and explore ways to change processes to prevent another occurrence.  By tracking and monitoring changes you will have an audit trail of your improvements.  Also letting a customer know that you have addressed the issue will show them you take their loyalty seriously.

9)      Apologize first – when there is a customer complaint – apologize first, then correct the problem.   By telling the customer you are sorry they had this experience, it will show you are willing to take responsibility and it also lets the customer know they were heard.  In some situations the customer may be wrong but they should always have the feeling that you are there to support them.

10)   Employee input – often managers miss the opportunity to solve some of their customer service issues by not asking employees their input.  I learned this the hard way, years ago when I was a Customer Service Manager of a manufacturing company.  I thought I had to have all the answers and solutions.  Not so.  Once I started to ask for suggestions, things moved a lot smoother and new procedures were implemented much quicker when the ideas came from the employees.

By Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC

Competitive Advantage: Including our People in the Process of Change

included in the process of change

included in the process of changeCompetitive Advantage: Including our People in the Process of Change

by Andrew Reid

We give ourselves a competitive advantage when we include our people in the process of change.  Over the “interesting” past year I’ve worked with bankers, manufacturing operators, business owners, athletes, directors, and everyone in between.  Common to all is the need to be included in the process of change.

Most of us have a negative stress response to change when that change comes from an outside source; usually as a surprise.  On the other hand, if we instigate the change ourselves, we might experience a positive stress response; where we are focused and driven.  If you agree with this simple concept, perhaps there is a change management approach to come from it.  Here are some best practice strategies:

 
1.       Invite your people to participate in change even if the process is difficult.  Your teams will have resources and capabilities if you engage them in contribution.

2.       Changing markets make it easier to compete.  Yes I said that.  It’s easy to compete in a volatile market because few are good at it.  Your competitors, unable to cope with change, turn inward and leave customers looking for love.  So go say hi!

3.       Don’t buy or sell fluff.  People want substance and solid direction in creating new opportunities.  Show them how and facilitate fresh thinking approaches that synchronize with the new market.

4.       Most of the richest people in the world got that way during volatile markets. Every business culture can benefit from that kind of story.

5.       Notice where you and your people run out of tools; and I’m not talking about technology. Humans are wired for relationship, connection, and community.  Business relationships are dependent on effective communication.  Give your people the training to take their conversations, negotiations, agreements, and listening skills to the next level and watch their confidence soar as they contribute to positive change.

6.       Tone set a culture of positive, constructive change by focusing on the other side of the goal; what it’s like living on the other side of the finish line.  People can step into super success when they can see themselves in the future successful story.  If they can’t picture what will be different, they may fear the unknown…which is a natural response by the way.  Support stories of new possibilities and where skills can be put to great use.

7.       People make stuff up; good or bad.  Missing information opens the door to gossip and fear-based stories.  Because we are wired for connection, people can connect through gossip or through innovative ideas; it’s a matter of what influences their focus.  

We give ourselves a competitive edge by providing useful information that optimizes focus, energy, and solution-based conversation.  If your ship is going to be at sea for a while with no clear port, tell them that.  Then get your teams focused on how they can be resourceful and competitive regardless of the environment. 

We can only change what we can control or influence.  As we become better at influencing situations around us, we give ourselves more choices for change.  Give your people the tools and let your them build the strategy to the future.