Marketing and Advertising – 4 Lessons I’ve Learned Running a Business
Marketing is a challenge for every business owner. If you’re struggling with marketing, here are four lessons I’ve learned over the last couple of years.

Marketing and Advertising – 4 Lessons I’ve Learned Running a Business

Marketing and advertising are a challenge for every business owner. I’m not an expert on either of those topics, but one of our viewers asked us to talk about them. Twenty years in the Air Force prepared me well for leading others and running a business, but it didn’t really prepare me at all for the marketing and advertising aspects of business. I experienced a really big learning curve with marketing and sales. Even now, I have to spend a lot of time and effort on marketing. I often ask others for help with marketing now and then. If you’re struggling with marketing, here are four lessons I’ve learned over the last couple of years.

Marketing Lesson #1 – It’s About Your Customers, Not You

Most importantly, it’s got to be about your customers’ needs, not yours. This means talking to your customers your and understanding what their pain points are. You also need to figure out who your ideal customer is. Don’t try to market to everyone. Identify that ideal customer and what their needs are. Help make their lives better with your services. Don’t just give them you want to give and take their money.

Marketing Lesson #2 – Make connections, Not Pitches

This is a hard one for me. When I first meet someone I want to tell them all about my company and all the great things we have to offer. That’s not what everyone wants to hear, especially the first time you’re talking to them. Take some time to make a connection and get to know them a little bit. Let them get to know you and let it grow organically. You can have the discussion of what you have to offer later. This is a great time to pulse them about what their needs pain points are. It’s got to be about meeting their needs not about what you want to offer them.

Marketing Lesson #3 – Use Multiple Channels

It’s not enough to only be in one place.  You can’t just to go to some networking events each month or just use social media. You’ve got to go meet your clients where they’re at, wherever that is. That may mean a using mix of social media, in-person networking, cold calling, cold emailing or even print advertising. Meeting people where they’re at means more than just going to the locations where they’re at or being advertised in the publications they read. It means recognizing that they might not be ready to buy as soon as they see our advertisement. We’ve got to recognize where they’re at and build that relationship. Meet them where they are in their cycle of being ready to buy, not where we want them to be

Marketing Lesson #4 – Put the Time In

For effective marketing and advertising, you’ve got to put the time and effort in. Engage with your potential clients on social media. Go to networking events or meet them in their offices. You can’t just put a little bit of effort in and hope they’ll come to you. You’ve got to get out there and continue to engage with them. Follow up is critical because not everyone is ready to buy the first time you talk to them. That doesn’t mean they’re not interested but you do need to follow-up with them. Engage with your audience on social media and customize your posts for each platform. You’re going to make a post on Twitter differently from a post you make on Facebook. Make sure you’re putting the time in engaging with people and customizing your advertising and marketing messages for the right platform and the right medium.

I hope these tips were helpful to you, I hesitate to even call them tips because these are all lessons that I’ve had to learn and I’m still learning. A lot of them I’ve had to learn the hard way. I hope that this keeps you from having to make the mistakes I did and get a great start on marketing to your customers!

Managing up isn't just about getting our boss to accept our proposals. We need to build trust that we will act in the best interest of the organization.

Managing Up – 3 Tips for Managing Your Boss

Often, as leaders, we get wrapped up in day-to-day problems and leading our own team. We sometimes forget how important managing up is. We need to build strong relationships with our boss and our boss’s boss in order to lead effectively.

Effective leaders do more than just manage their team. They build strong working relationships their leadership up the chain. Managing up isn’t just about getting the boss to accept our proposals. We need to build trust that we will act in the best interest of the organization.

When I was a young Air Force Captain, I was working on a project and had to go see the Wing Commander. I had put together a few options but wasn’t really sure which one to choose. I went to the meeting and asked him what he wanted to do. He looked at me and said, “Jason I’m a Colonel, you’re a captain. You’re the project officer. Figure it out.” He then explained that he wasn’t trying to be harsh, but rather that he trusted me. As the expert, I should be recommending to him what the best alternative is. That experience taught me what managing up is all about. Bring solutions to the boss instead of just bringing problems or questions.

Managing Up Tip #1 – Bring Solutions, Not Problems

Effective leaders will go to the boss and present the problem, their thought process and their preferred solution along with several alternatives. Go to your boss with some solutions in mind. Don’t just bring more problems. The boss already has plenty of problems on his plate, we don’t need to bring him more. You show initiative by providing several solutions and build trust by showing that you have the best interests organization at heart.

Managing Up Tip #2 – Solve Your Boss’s Problems

Don’t just solve your own problems. Solve your boss’s problems. When you talk to the boss about a problem and how you’re going to solve it, think about the way your boss thinks about it. Consider their concerns they have across all of the groups they manage, not just your team. Also, be aware of the requirements that are placed on your boss from above. If you can solve your boss’s problems they know they have one, you’re effectively managing up. Your boss is going to trust you and see that you have that initiative to accomplish the mission and do what’s right for the organization.

Managing Up Tip #3 – The One Challenge Rule

What if your boss completely shuts you down on the solution you presented? That happens sometimes and we need to deal with it tactfully. In this case, you can use the one challenge rule to effectively manage up. You don’t want to argue with your boss over the right thing to do. After the decision, if you believe they are making a mistake, take one opportunity to say so. Lay out your case respectfully and calmly in a logical way. The boss may change their mind or decide to go with the original decision. Either way, you made your case and the boss will respect that you tried to do the right thing for the organization. Once the decision is made, go execute according to the boss’s guidance even if you didn’t get your way.

Next time you’re getting ready to pitch one of your ideas to your boss even further up the chain, think about these three tips before you go into the meeting. Remember, we’re trying to build a strong working relationship with our boss and all of the leaders in our organization. We want to build trust by showing them that we’re focused on our mission as well as what’s in the best interest of the organization.

We all like to feel safe. Sometimes that desire keeps us where we’re comfortable. Often, we need to get out of our comfort zone to achieve our goals.

Comfort Zone – 4 Tips to Step Out of Yours

We all like to feel safe. Sometimes that desire to feel safe keeps us where we’re comfortable. Often, we need to get out of our comfort zone to achieve our goals. Sometimes I take a long time to get push past what is comfortable for me. Whenever I start a new job or activity I spend much more time watching and listening than participating. It really frustrates me sometimes.

When I was in my early twenties, I read some of the Clive Cussler books and wanted to scuba dive. I wanted to explore shipwrecks, take pictures and see the world in a new way, but was cautious moving forward. I realize now that scuba diving was out of my comfort zone. The good news is, I found ways to get past it. Now I love diving, even though I don’t do it as much as I would like to.

Comfort Zone Tip #1 – Ask Yourself “Why?”

If you find yourself not doing something you know you want to do, ask yourself why? Some of it is just basic human nature, whether it’s part of our natural personality or learned behavior. In ancient times, taking risks could result in injury or death. Even in the modern world, proposing a new idea could subject us to criticism or other social consequences.

So ask yourself, is there real life-and-limb danger and are there ways I can mitigate it? There are many exciting pastimes like skydiving, rock climbing, scuba diving that people do every day successfully. They find ways to manage the risk in those activities. So what are the real risks and how can you reduce them to make it safe and fun?

What about social consequences.? You may not think that there would be social consequences to scuba diving, but what if your family doesn’t approve? Someone you care about might feel it’s too dangerous. Even if you’ve done your homework, you may have to alleviate their fears. Share with them the research you’ve done to mitigate the risk.

If a new idea or activity excites you, but you’re holding back, ask yourself why? Address those reasons rationally and objectively. Not convinced to step out of your comfort zone yet? That’s what our other tips are for.

Comfort Zone Tip #2 – Take Just One Step

Next, take just one step forward, even if it’s a small one. I’ll stick with my scuba diving example. At this time in my life, my family came to California to visit me. One day we went to Catalina Island. For some reason, while they were looking in a shop I stepped into the dive shop next door. I started looking at some of the equipment and got to chat with one of the guys in the shop. He shared a lot of information and told me about the material in scuba certification courses. The internet was still pretty new back in these days so there wasn’t a lot you could search for then. I took a couple more trips to dive shops before I signed up, but that step helped me out of my comfort zone.

Comfort Zone Tip #3 – Build a Team

Don’t try to get out of your comfort zone alone. Find friends interested in the same activities. Build a team to help encourage each other to step out of your comfort zones. You can support each other, learn from each other and talk about what makes you nervous. Working as a team and supporting each other’s goals is one of the best ways to get over that fear that keeps you from getting out of your comfort zone.

Comfort Zone Tip #4 – Try It Someone Else’s Way

The last tip is to just try things someone else’s way, just once, and see how it goes. The people who really care about us are always giving us advice because to help us succeed. We may not want that advice. We may not think it’s the right thing to do, but sometimes it’s best to just give it a try. This is helpful if we’re not making progress on a goal and don’t realize we’re stuck in our comfort zone. I know how hard it is to follow through on this one. I catch myself all the time not taking other people’s advice so don’t feel bad if you experience some resistance to this one. Testing out the advice that other people give us, just once, can help us realize we have been holding back and can open new doors that we didn’t even know were there.

So now you’ve got 4 new tools to use when you feel like you’re not moving forward on something and not sure why. Whether you’re looking into scuba diving, or not making progress on your career like you envisioned, it could be because you’re stuck in your comfort zone and don’t even know it. Give these tips a try this week when you’re making decisions and see if they help you step out of your comfort zone!

For delegation to be effective though it has to be done properly. These three tips should get you started on the right path to delegating effectively.

Delegating – 3 Tips to Delegate Effectively

We’re always talking about how busy we are. There’s such a thing as being too busy, especially when we have a team around us who can help. When I was in the Air Force, staying late at work had become a badge of honor. The truth is, people’s personal lives, relationships, and health suffered. I don’t mean to say that there aren’t times that being busy is appropriate. When there was something really urgent, I worked a lot of nights and weekends.  That’s what you sign up for when you’re in the military. In a lot of cases, though, delegating could have helped out immensely. For delegation to be effective though it has to be done properly. These three tips should get you started on the right path to delegating effectively.

Delegating Tip #1: Set Clear Expectations

When you choose to delegate, clearly identify the problem you want solved. Also, define when you want it completed and the parameters of a successful solution. Clear and detailed are not the same thing, though. When you place restrictions on the solution, you tie your team’s hands. If you tell them exactly how you want them to solve the problem, you may as well do it yourself. This defeats the purpose of delegating. Figure out what your deal breakers are and communicate those clearly. Then let your team figure out the solution based on that guidance.

Delegating Tip #2: Delegate Authority as well as Responsibility

A lot of new leaders and managers forget to do this. To delegate effectively, you need to give your team authority to act without getting approval on every little thing. Making every decision yourself ties their hands and takes up time that you were trying to get back. One approach is to decide ahead of time what decisions you feel like you absolutely have to keep for yourself and then let the team make any other decisions. If it’s a long-term project over the course of a few weeks or months, you can schedule in some “vector-checks”. This allows you to understand their thought process and offer advice so they don’t head off in the wrong direction over time.

Delegating Tip #3: Let Your Team Make Mistakes

Every time you delegate it’s an opportunity to grow your team and their leadership skills. One of the ways that people learn best is by trying new things, making mistakes and correcting them. While I think we’d all prefer our team didn’t make mistakes, it’s an important part of the learning process. Better that they make mistakes now when the stakes are low and we are there to help them. This also requires a commitment on our part to be patient when things don’t go as planned. When delegating, consider the stakes of the project and how much tolerance you’ll have for mistakes. This will help you choose who to delegate to and how much authority to give them.

If you are doing more supervising than you’d like, try these tips next time an important task comes up. Setting clear expectations, consciously deciding how much authority to give your team, and letting them learn from mistakes will set you up for long-term success as a leader!

Following the chain of command can be slow and painful, but there are some advantages. When you understand the chain of command, you can use those experiences to improve your own leadership skills.

Chain of Command – 3 Tips to Make it Work for You

Following the chain of command can be slow and painful, but there are some advantages. When you understand the chain of command, you can use those experiences to improve your own leadership skills.

While I was in the Air Force one of my assignments was rapid prototyping and testing of new capabilities. It was exciting and rewarding, but there was a lot of risk. We had to go through a lot of levels in the chain of command to get approval for our projects. When I first started this job, it was incredibly frustrating. But I learned over time that I was getting huge benefits by working through the chain of command. That experience forced me to understand the needs and interests of each leader in the chain. If you feel like you’re hitting your head against the wall with your chain of command, here are three things to consider of how it benefits your career instead of feeling like its holding you back.

Chain of Command Benefit #1: Improve Your Critical Thinking

Bosses ask a lot of questions and it can be kind of annoying sometimes. They ask these questions because they have concerns you may not be aware of. Answering these questions helps us get to the best optimal solution for the organization. It may not be the best or most convenient solution for you, but listening carefully to their questions and answering them thoroughly will set you up for success. Keep track of the questions that certain decision makers in your chain, or even out of your chain, ask. Chances are they ask the same ones over and over again because the same concern comes up on every project. If you already have a good idea what questions they will ask when you bring your next project, you can address it thoroughly in your first presentation to them and solve their problem before they even know they have one.

Chain of Command Benefit #2: Build Strong Relationships

When anticipating the questions your chain of command may ask, you may wonder how to get those answers? Building relationships with other parts of your organization will help you gather the information you need. To successfully navigate your chain of command for approval you’ll want to get the perspective of the other departments on how your proposal will affect others. Addressing all of those issues is daunting, but you can get the answers from people who work with them daily. Get out there, make friends with people in other departments. As you’re working on your proposal, talk about it with them. See if it causes any problems in their department. Ask how they can be fixed and if they can support that solution. Now, when you approach your chain of command, you can show that you understand the perspective of others and you’re working with them on the solution.

Chain of Command Benefit #3: Prepare Yourself to be a Boss

Developing your critical thinking and building these relationships provides a third benefit. All this effort and experience is preparing you to be a boss someday. Learning about the problems that the leaders up your chain have gets you thinking about them today and how you might solve them if you were in their position. Having the relationships with other departments already in place will smooth your transition into a position of more responsibility.

So those are the 3 ways you can think about how working through your chain of command benefits you instead of thinking of it as a burden. This still applied even if you don’t plan to stay in your current company forever. If you change jobs you’ll still have the critical thinking and relationship building skills that will help you be one of the great leaders of tomorrow!

 

When I talk to managers and executives, time management is one of the skills they talk about their teams needing the most.

Time Management – 5 Tips to Get More Time Back

Time is our most valuable resource. Once it’s gone we can never get it back and we all want to make the most of our time. When I talk to managers and executives, time management is one of the skills they say their teams need most. If you feel like you need help in this area, you’re not alone. I think almost everyone wishes they had a little better handle on where their time goes.

When I was in the Air Force I had one assignment where I was traveling at least 3 days a week, 3 weeks a month. It was an amazing job but it took a lot of time management skill.  I’m usually been pretty good at keeping track of where I need to be and when I need to be there. I’m not always good at figuring out how long something will take. These five tips will help you with both of those areas.

Time Management Tip #1 – Get a Calendar

Before you read any further, get a calendar. It can be electronic or paper, it doesn’t matter. I suggest using the one on your phone because it’s easy to make changes and we all pretty much have our phones with us all of the time. Put everything that’s important to you on this calendar. Focus on appointments when you have to be in a certain place at a certain time. Enter all the info that’s important. Use the repeating and recurring features and color codes too. Don’t go crazy with this at first. Start out by putting in appointments for tomorrow or this week. Don’t start trying to put your whole year in right now.

Time Management Tip #2 – Track Appointments

Track how long your appointments actually take and adjust them as necessary. I almost always underestimate the time it takes to complete something. Recording the time an appointment actually takes compared to what I planned helps me estimate time better. You don’t need to do this forever because you’ll start to develop a database in your mind. When you’re setting appointments for the first time keep track of their duration.

Time Management Tip #3 – Don’t Delete Appointments

Don’t delete appointments, especially ones with yourself. One rule that I use is that I’m not allowed to delete anything off the calendar once I’ve put it on there. I’m absolutely allowed to move things around, but I’m not allowed to just remove it. This still lets you take advantage of opportunities that pop up or handle time critical situations when they arise. There will be emergencies or unusual situations where you have to delete something, but it’s pretty rare that you can’t find a new day or time for something, especially if it’s important to you.

Time Management Tip #4 – Make White Space

Remember how I said put everything that’s important to you on your calendar? The emphasis is on the word important. Meetings, phone calls, time critical tasks are all good for the calendar. I even include my workouts and when I schedule appointments to meet up with friends so I don’t accidentally schedule something at the same time. Putting in all of your regular activities like “work” at your workplace will fill up your calendar and it will be hard to differentiate the most important events. White space also provides places that you can move appointments to when you have to reschedule something.

Time Management Tip #5 – Set Priorities

This is really the most important of the 5 tips, but I think it’s important to have a handle on the first 4 before addressing this. Know what’s important to you and what needs to be on the calendar. Understand which things are more important to you than others so that once you start moving things around on the calendar you have an idea of when to move them to. Also, understand what the priorities of others are and factor that into your decision-making process. Your boss may not agree with you that your workout is more important than the big client presentation and he probably expects you to show up to that.

There are your five tips to help you get a handle on your time and use it effectively. You won’t actually be getting any more time, but you’ll feel like you are. Your calendar is really just a tool in all of this. To really manage your time well it’s important to make commitments to yourself and your priorities. If you live up to those commitments, it will be easy to find the time to get them all done!

Most of us dread going to meetings. Today I’ve got 4 tips for you that will help you lead effective meetings that stand out above everyone else’s.

Effective Meetings – 4 Tips for Great Meetings

Most of us dread going to meetings because we feel like they’re going to be a waste of our time. Today I’ve got 4 tips for you that will help you lead effective meetings that stand out above everyone else’s.

When I was a young Lieutenant in the Air Force I was talking to one of the other Lieutenants. He said, “I try to keep all of my meetings to an hour or less. I feel like any meeting that runs over an hour isn’t productive”. Looking at my experiences at the time, I found that I agreed with that philosophy. This became one of the main guidelines I used for meetings throughout my career. It’s not always possible to keep a meeting to an hour or less. Here are 4 tips to have an effective meeting, no matter how long it is.

Effective Meetings Tip #1 – Have a Clear Purpose

The most important tip for effective meetings is to have a clear purpose. Make sure everyone coming to the meeting knows that purpose. Meetings sometimes drag on because attendees bring up topics that aren’t related to the purpose. People often see an opportunity to handle an issue while others are together in the room. As the meeting leader, it’s our job to keep the meeting on purpose and avoid extraneous conversations.

We need to make sure we’re calling a meeting for the right reasons. Meetings are for making decisions or bringing together work that individuals can’t complete on their own. All too often we end up doing work at the meeting that should have been prepared ahead of time. This can prevent us achieving the purpose of the meeting and often is a waste of time for the attendees. Sometimes it’s necessary to get a group together to complete the work that will support a decision. In this case, we must be clear that the team will present this work to support a decision in another meeting.

Effective Meetings Tip #2 – Have an Agenda

Creating an agenda for a meeting is more work up front, but it pays off during the meeting. Add each decision required to the agenda. Also, include any presentations or information that support those decisions. It’s important to set not just a time limit for the meeting overall, but also a time limit for each item on the agenda. There are times that should extend a topic because it is critical to making a decision. As the leader of the meeting, it’s our job to make sure that we stick to the agenda and keep things moving in line with the meeting purpose.

Effective Meetings Tip #3 – Manage the Guest List

To successfully achieve the purpose of our meeting, we need to make sure that we have invited all of the people who have a stake in the outcome of the meeting. The meeting organizer should invite the decision maker, presenters, and people impacted by the decision. It’s also important to keep people out of the meeting who don’t have a contribution to make. In large organizations, people will often show up to a meeting because they heard it was happening. These individuals sometimes cloud the information being presented by the meeting and often derail the agenda because they aren’t up to speed on the topic. The meeting organizer’s job must bring all the right people to the meeting and keep the wrong people out.

Effective Meetings Tip #4 – Don’t Speculate!

Speculating about facts or information can impact the decision-making process and often result in bad decisions that are costly or time-intensive to fix.  When leading a meeting we must avoid speculating about facts and discourage others from speculating. If information critical to making the decision has not presented, we need to go get it. We may be able to do this in real-time. If not, adjourn the meeting and reconvene later when the facts are available. Speculation often turns into circular arguments and people trying to prove each other wrong. Taking the time to get and verify the information we need will result in better decision-making.

These 4 tips have been mostly focused on someone who is a meeting organizer. If you find yourself in a meeting that is going off the rails, try to use some of these tips to help the leader get things back on track. Following these tips will help your next meeting be productive and efficient. Your teammates will thank you for being considerate of their time and making it a valuable experience.

Employee motivation is a challenge for every leader. So how do we get our team members to do things that need to be done without being told?

Employee Motivation

One of the reasons we wanted to become leaders was so that we could take on challenges we couldn’t achieve by ourselves. Employee motivation is a challenge for every leader. So how do we get our team members to do things that need to be done without being told?

This week we’re answering a question from Pete. He says, “One thing I’m dealing with right now is trying to motivate people who don’t show initiative.”  To help Pete out with this issue, I’m going to give 4 tips for employee motivation.

Employee Motivation Tip #1 – Understand the Psychology

First, it’s important to remember the psychology of motivation. We need to understand the concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Everyone is both extrinsically and intrinsically motivated to some degree. Extrinsic motivation is motivation by external rewards, whether that’s money, a bonus, time off or whatever the individual desires. Intrinsic motivation is the rewards that comes internally from feeling the satisfaction of doing a job well done. As a leader, you need to understand how each of your team members is motivated and in what proportion. This will require getting to know each team member! Once you know what makes them tick, you can use that knowledge to your advantage when applying the other three tips.

Employee Motivation Tip #2 – Appeal to Intrinsic Motivation

Taking advantage of intrinsic motivation is tricky. You now know more about your team, their hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes. You can use that information to get excite them. Everyone has something they want to see done better in their workplace. Encourage your team members to talk about improvements they would like to see. When you overhear them talking to each other, challenge them to follow through on their ideas.

Employee Motivation Tip #3 – Use Your Resources

To use extrinsic motivation, Use the resources you have. You may not have money for bonuses, but almost every organization has a recognition program. If you don’t, create one. Make initiative a heavily weighted criteria when giving out awards if you can. Get creative. Time off, work from home, flexible schedules, whatever you can think of. Remember, that to incentivize any behavior, the incentive structure has to match what you say you value. If you want to incentivize initiative, recognition and rewards have to reflect that. You can’t give out awards for BLANK and not recognize the people who took initiative to try to make positive change.

Employee Motivation Tip #4 – Build a Culture

Finally, and probably most importantly, we need to be sure that we are setting up a culture on our team that fosters and rewards initiative. This requires some honest introspection on our part as the leader. When our team members show initiative, how do we react? Our reactions, both conscious and subconscious, verbal and non-verbal have a lot to do with how our team will behave in the future. Patience and open-mindedness are key here. If their work is acceptable but not the way you prefer it was done, you have to find ways to build on their work without shutting it down.

If we want our team members to show initiative we have to show them that their efforts won’t be wasted. We need to get to know them as people and what makes them tick. As leaders we have to encourage them to follow-up on their ideas and we also need to use our resources to recognize and reward them appropriately. Most important we need to show that we are open to the things that they show initiative on. Even if it’s not the most important thing on our list or the outcome isn’t perfect.  We must appreciate our team members’ effort if we want them to show initiative. Keep doing that and your team members will keep taking on new challenges without you having to ask them to!

introspection is the ability that we as humans have that allows us to think about ourselves as beings. It is how we question and learn more about our nature, our purpose and our place in the universe. This ability is one of the things that sets us apart from animals. It also allows us to question ourselves, desire something greater, set goals and take action to achieve them. Self-reflection allows us to look back at an experience and learn from it instead of repeating it.

Introspection

Over the last year or so we’ve asked you to do some introspection or we recommend it as a tool to help with another problem or challenge. Looking back on it, I don’t think we’ve ever really talked about what introspection is and what it is not.

To put it simply, introspection, or self-reflection is the ability that we as humans have that allows us to think about ourselves as beings. It is how we question and learn more about our nature, our purpose and our place in the universe. This ability is one of the things that sets us apart from animals. It also allows us to question ourselves, desire something greater, set goals and take action to achieve them. Self-reflection allows us to look back at an experience and learn from it instead of repeating it.

Introspection Tips

We all engage in self-reflection all of the time, but sometimes it’s hard to know if we should trust ourselves. Here are some tips to give you confidence in your own ability to reflect and learn.

The environment we place ourselves in is really critical to self-reflection. Everyone is different, but most of us are served pretty well by finding somewhere quiet away from the noise of life. A place where we can be alone with our thoughts. I find it very hard to be reflective if I’m surrounded by other people, although that isn’t true for everyone.

Another key to effective self-reflection is carving out time in our schedules to do it. As much as we all try to multi-task, most human beings really aren’t all that good at it. Focusing on our thoughts and insights serves us better than trying to capture them while we are also doing a bunch of other tasks. Taking even five minutes to disconnect from everything else can pay big dividends in learning about ourselves.

Let’s recognize that we’re talking about self-reflection. Our process needs to be our own and not what someone else expects from us. While we may face similar challenges to others, what works for them may not work for us. It’s great to take advice from others how we should go about doing it. To be successful though, we have to develop our own practice that uses elements that work for us.

Introspection – Going Forward

Finally, let’s all keep in mind that self-reflection isn’t all about getting to the answers. Sometimes it’s more important to just ask the questions and not try to answer them ourselves. It can be as simple as setting aside our time and place and asking what is on our mind. Instead of trying to answer the question right away, just let ourselves see what answers come to us. The ideas and insights that don’t come from trying to find the answers quickly are often the most valuable!

The last fear that we're going to cover is the fear of saying no. I hate to tell people no, but sometimes we have to in order to get the best outcome.

Saying No: Facing Fear

All through October we’ve been talking about the things that frighten us and how to face them. The last common fear that we’re going to cover is the fear of saying no. We all have it. This is one that I have a particularly hard time with. I hate to tell people no, but sometimes we have to in order to get the best outcome.

Why is it so hard for us to say no to people? Often we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or we’re afraid they won’t like us anymore. Saying no to our boss comes with some concern about how it will affect our career. The likelihood that someone will stop being our friend just because we said no to them is actually pretty small. Our real friends will understand if we can’t say yes to what they’re asking for. When we explain our reasons, they’re usually pretty cool with it.

As human beings we have empathy for those around us and we don’t want to hurt others feelings. We should consider though, will we be hurting that person more if we DON’T say no in this case? And when it comes to saying no to our boss, we could actually be hurting our company, department or our boss even more by holding back.

Saying No Scenario #1 – Peers

Have you ever had one of your peers ask, “Do you think this is a good idea?” Sometimes it’s not a good idea. The extreme cases are actually a little easier. “I’m going to stand in a bucket of water and hold on to these electric cables, do you think that’s a good idea?” That’s pretty easy to say no to. When the request is a little more nuanced it can be difficult to say no to our peers. We want them to like us. We want them to think we’re a team player and we want them to like us! How do we say no when our teammate has an idea that is not in the best interest of the team?

One way is to look back at our mission. Does this idea fit into that mission? Is it in the best interest of the team, the customer or the people we’re trying to serve? If the answer is no, that can be the basis for how to say no. You don’t have to limit yourself to just saying no. Thoughtful feedback to your coworker can get their idea more aligned with team goals.

Saying No Scenario #2 – As a Leader

Saying no if you’re the boss can be harder than it looks. Especially if you used to be on the team and then were promoted to being the boss. Looking  someone you used to work with in the eye and telling them what to do can be challenging.  Sometimes the people on your team will take actions or have ideas that you need to say no to. Just like with our peers, keeping the mission and best interest of the team in mind will help. Avoid being arbitrary about whose ideas you listen to and whose you reject. We want to evaluate suggestions and solutions based on merit, not on who brings them forward.

Sometimes you have access to information about the big picture that you should take into account when making your decisions. You may or may not choose to share this information depending on the situation. Don’t forget that one of our duties as a leader is to develop our team, so when you have to say no, keep giving that feedback on how that individual can make their idea or suggestion better so you can say yes in the future.

Saying No Scenario #3 – To our Boss

If saying no to our peers and our team is hard, saying no to our boss can be downright impossible. We owe it to our boss to ensure they have complete information or understanding of the impacts of a decision. We can ask, is this in alignment with our mission and in the best interest of the team? A lot of times the answer is maybe. Sometimes we have to pick our battles. If the decision won’t cause catastrophic failure or isn’t a clear violation of laws or regulations, maybe we let it go. If there will be a serious breakdown in accomplishing the mission or a clear conflict of our organizational core values, it’s time to speak up.

A technique that we’ve talked about before is the one challenge rule. The boss makes a decision, you speak up once to make sure that the boss has all the information. If the boss decides to go forward anyway, you said your peace and aired your objection. This may not result in the decision you wanted, but at least you tried to help your boss and your team accomplish their mission.

Saying No with Dignity and Respect

These are just a few examples of times you might need to say no to someone, but the principles are the same. When we do say no to someone, whether it is our peers, our team or our boss, we always want to do it with respect and dignity. Coming from a place of fear or anger can distort our message and break down relationships instead of making them stronger. We should always strive to build better connections with the people, even if it means telling them no.

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