SE VII : When Ends Make Room for New Beginnings

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I am up at 36,000 feet, leaving Las Vegas en route to Chicago – after a very emotional and tiresome weekend.  Which brings me to beginnings and endings.  Each time I visit Las Vegas I am reminded of both.  At one point Las Vegas was a new beginning, exciting, anticipatory, and scary.  Twelve years later it was an ending, sad, melancholy, and bittersweet, but also as I moved onto something new it was exciting and new and fresh.  I revisit these feelings every time I visit Vegas, still surrounded with amazing friends and ever evolving experiences.

This weekend, I helped my closest friend with an ending as she moved on to a new beginning.  Her store, a passion project from the start, closed this weekend.  For those who know me well, you’ll know exactly who this friend is and the store.  I showed up Friday morning after a long commute, about 4 hours in flight time alone, and surprised her.  She had no idea I was coming to help her, but how could I not be there for such an important occasion? I did throw her off track a bit… for the days leading up I avoiding speaking with her, I sent her a “sorry I can’t be there” gift basket and had a good friend beef up the story of how I regretfully could not make it.  So, when I walked in, video recording all the while, there was no question shock would be her first reaction.

The remainder of the weekend included long hours, dust, dirt, grime, memories, friends, laughs, and tears.  We worked well into the night and drove to her home together and laughed about the confusion and emotional reactions of others. We traded stories of what we experienced when the other was not in earshot.  We planned for the next day and what we would hope to accomplish between the trash runs, donations, returns, and the many items that would secretly sneak past her husband into her garage for later enjoyment or the future potential projects that may or may not come to fruition.

My friend was leaving something behind to move on to her next chapter.  An exciting and exhilarating chapter, but closing the doors to her passion project, her brainchild, her heartbeat for five years, was not easy.  A natural packrat, it was hard to give things away and even harder to throw things away.  Every item picked up with a quizzical look – “Can I make something out of this?”, “Who could use this?”, “Can I sneak this in the car when no one is looking?”.

As this blog is never just about a story, but a life lesson, here is my lesson that I was fondly reminded of this weekend:  All endings are not associated with failure. This is such a hard life lesson.  In so many ways, relationships, jobs, and arts and crafts stores, we feel like when we end something, whether or not deliberate, we must have failed in some way.  This puts such a negative connotation on endings, but I see it differently.  To start something new, sometimes we need to make space in our lives, somethings must end. It didn’t mean we necessarily failed or should feel guilty about the ending.  And, its ok to feel sad when things end, because it’s hard to say goodbye.  But, let’s not assume endings are directly related to failure, because oftentimes they have to be the thing to clear that empty space to let the new exciting stuff in.

 

SE VI: Connections

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This week’s shared experience is about connection.  I am no expert on the matter, I am just a normal person who navigates life’s waters like the rest of you.  But this week I reconnected with a family member which opened our relationship in a healthy supportive way – something I would have considered very unlikely not too long ago. I also reconnected with an old friend who I haven’t spoken to in over 15 years.  I just stumbled across her profile in Facebook and reached out.  Frankly, I don’t remember the reasons why we stopped talking it was so long ago, and I had no idea if she’d be happy to hear from me, but she was.

I feel like this past week reminded me that it’s never too late to reconnect with someone – but also the importance of not waiting too long.  The thing about our stories is that there are always three sides to them (yours, theirs, and the truth) and the older the stories, the more cloudy the facts become.  I don’t like to give advice on personal relationships, but if you want my two cents – don’t wait to mend fences, don’t get weighed down by the little details because likely they aren’t very important, and reconnect.  Try it, you might be surprised how good it makes you feel.

Please join the conversation….

SE V: How Do You Manage Your Boss?

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I have a good friend who recently started working for a small but successful business where the owner is very involved in the detailed decisions.  My friend is struggling with adapting to the differences between the large company she left and the small ‘family run’ business she joined.  One of the things we talked about was how to “manage her boss”.   I know that sounds backwards, ‘managing your boss’ – but it’s essential, especially in a smaller business.

Here is some friendly advice I gave her on this topic:

  • The owner is your boss and has final say in whatever decisions they want to chime in on – regardless of what you think.  It is good to share your opinion, offer suggestions, and explain your reasoning, but at the end of the day, the final say is still theirs.
  • While you want to contribute and be valuable to your employer, you’ll want to do so in a cooperative manner.  If you contribute in a way that makes your boss feel left out or incapable, you’ll be doing more harm than good in the long run.  Ultimately, no one wants to keep someone around who makes them feel bad about themselves – regardless of your value.
  •  If there are disagreements, choose your battles wisely – pick the battles that you feel passionate about, protect the company, the employees, and the customers.  Fighting back about everything won’t ultimately build trust between you and your boss.

Going from large to small companies, or vice versa, is an adjustment on many levels, understanding your own reasons for making a change, and determining the scope of your role will help smooth the transition and help you learn to navigate the space you are in.

Please join the conversation…..

SE IV: Passion = Joy

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This weekend I went to a friend’s place for a workshop on how to find passion in your life.  To be honest, this is not my cup of tea, I really went because I think it’s important to show up for your friends.  I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as ‘hippy dippy’ as I thought. I met five new smart women and we had really good conversation about what we believe is important in our lives and what we want our futures to look like.

We were asked to define our passions and prioritize them in order to deliberately focus on obtaining them.  Examples from the group were about work, education, love, family, etc. – all things we think about regularly, but don’t often get deliberate about making them happen.

The greatest benefit for me was the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with friends – it was nice to talk about real things, we often fall into comfortable conversations about nonsense like tv shows or mundane topics – but having real conversations about things that we feel are important creates a reminder that we can impact our future if we are purposeful and don’t just sit back and wait for good things to come to us.  This applies equally to personal and work life – although it may not always seem so, we are often in control of our work destiny – know what you want, communicate it appropriately, and work toward that goal to find your passion!

If you are interested in the workshop I attended contact Lisa Padden at www.joycurriculum.com.

SE III: Customer Experience Doesn’t End At The Checkout

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For the last two days I’ve been helping a customer with a lost bag after his flight. This customer, like most customers, understands that we don’t live in a perfect world so things happen, like lost bags. Trust me, he’s not happy but he’s reasonable. Where he became frustrated is in the challenge of resolving his issue through the ‘normal channels’.

Customer loyalty is based on the entire experience a customer has with your company. How often do you think about what happens to a customer after a purchase is made?

Any company should always be reviewing the entire customer experience, even post-purchase. Service Recovery becomes very important as we live in an imperfect world. Service recovery includes problem resolution channels, such as the processes we ask our customers to participate in to resolve issues, as well as the interaction with employees through effective communication and empowerment.

If you want repeat business and true customer loyalty, it is important to focus on the customer’s experience start to finish, even or especially in areas where customers wind up when things go wrong.

 

SE II: You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Until It’s Gone

609-employee-satisfaction-billboardI am lucky to call some amazing women my friends.  On a recent evening out, one of these amazing friends shared her story of leaving a company she was at for 10 years after being recruited within her industry.  On her last day she was told she is on the short list for a promotion and they offered her more money to stay.

Another smart woman at the table, a lawyer, shared that when she left her firm in NYC to move to Chicago, again after being recruited by another firm, she was offered junior partner to stay.

So why didn’t either of these companies make their appreciation for these employees known prior to them being wooed by another?

Do you feel appreciated at work?  Are you having conversations about your next steps?  Are you having conversations with your employees (if you have direct reports)?

You may think your team will stay with you even without praise or advancement… but when there’s a knock at the door, what do you think they would do?

So, employers: Make it a practice to give regular feedback to your employees.  Be honest, even if it’s not all good, chances are by building awareness you’ll get better performance.  Also, be fair in terms of compensation. If you are willing to pay more to keep someone after they tell you they are leaving, would you be willing to pay to show your appreciation for their continued loyalty (before someone else comes calling)?

 

SE I: The Post Office Experience

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I took this picture at the post office while I was waiting in line.  You might notice the little “thank you” at the bottom right of this sign.

Your company may spend tons of money and time on perfecting aesthetics, design, and the “welcome” you want to show your customers when they enter your space… but do you have employees sabotaging that effort – maybe unintentionally?  How often do you view your work spaces through the eyes (and feelings) of your customers?