Lessons in Reflection

Lessons in Reflection (this is an oldie but a goodie)

I was honored recently to speak to the Woman’s club of Spokane.  An organization with a long and storied history.  I chose to speak to share my TedX experience and the lessons I learned from that experience.  It was a tremendous opportunity to reflect on that experience and in doing so I came to the realization that there was much more to that experience than I knew at the time. This is what I chose to share about what I discovered by reflecting on my involvement in that particular event.

I learned that I enjoy taking on challenges and doing something new from time to time.  Not only do I enjoy it—I need it—it lights me up.   Now, I find that significant because we all need to put our energy into those things that light us up.  The things that help us to be the best version of ourselves.

I learned that I was afraid.  In participating in the TedX, I had to take a risk and allow myself to be vulnerable.  It wasn’t the getting on stage, speaking to hundreds of people—as I was putting myself and my message out there that I was not comfortable with.  I was putting something out there that would now be subject to reaction and critique—maybe some great positive support but also subject to negativity and criticism.   Upon realizing this, I thought about how many of us, how many times, have created something and been too afraid of the response to share that creation.  Isn’t it likely that the benefits of sharing the creation are worth the risk of a little criticism?

I also learned that the message of my TedX was something I needed to hear.  I had crafted the message with the intention of imparting wisdom to others.  Looking back, it is clear that it was something I needed to hear.  This got me thinking about how much of what we need might be right in front of us?  And consider our ability to help ourselves.

I learned I was proud of the work I had done.  Maybe more importantly, I learned that it was okay to be proud of it.  I really needed to get comfortable with it—In my line of work, I needed to use as a marketing tool so there was a practical need and it was a huge relief to watch the edited piece (completely out of my control) and see that there were no outrageous verbal stumbles or spinach in my teeth.  Many of us, especially women, are so quick to dismiss and downplay our accomplishments when we should be celebrating them.  Even if the celebration is simply just allowing ourselves to feel proud or be able to graciously accept a compliment.

Lastly, I learned that I really wanted it to matter.  I had always wanted it to be relevant—that was important from the onset but it wasn’t until I had delivered the talk and it was public, that I realized how important it was to me that it wasn’t just fluffy and entertaining but that it was meaningful and impactful to others.  This got me thinking about the importance of the “why” we do what we do—our intention behind it.  I think if we examine our intention in doing something or wanting to do something, and we feel good about that intention, we know we are on the right path.

A few thoughts on what taking advantage of a particular opportunity taught me.  I hope it will mean something to you.

It’s All About Image

Architecture Building Business Coffee Comm

What does your facility say about your business? Is it clean? Is it well kept? Is it intimidating or is it welcoming? What do you want your customers to feel and experience when they drive up and then walk in the door?

When we talk about image, we can’t forget the role the physical space plays in the development and reinforcement of a business’s image. The importance of selecting an appropriate building or space and the right exterior and interior design cannot be overstated.

First, let’s talk about the exterior of your building or space. Take a look at the exterior of banks or other financial institutions; you will see that traditionally they are constructed using brick and/or stone. This use of this exterior material provides a look of stability and longevity. These are important and influential factors when people are making decisions on how and where to invest their money. Choose exterior design elements that convey your message.

Now let’s move inside. Remember that the experience your customer has inside your business is a multi-sensory experience. We tend to focus on the visual but we also need to remember that the smell of the space and the sounds that they hear will also play an important role in a customer’s perception of your business. Scent is the sense most closely connected to emotion. It is important that the space is free of any offensive odors (chemicals, overpowering perfumes, etc.). A little research can help you to decide how to properly incorporate scent into your space. Likewise, choose background music or background sounds that are appropriate and work to further the image you are trying to portray.

Moving on to style . . . Again, I want to emphasize that the look and layout of the interior of your business should be consistent with your image. What do I mean by this? Well, if you want to be known as a highly progressive, technology consulting firm, your interior should reflect that. Furniture pieces that are worn or antique might look out of place and create a conflict in customers’ minds. A clean, uncomplicated look with modern furnishings might be more consistent. Similarly, if you are opening a luxury day spa you will want to plan the space accordingly, and incorporate finish materials and that reflect comfort and encourage relaxation.

This article is not designed to give you a design solution to fit every image but rather to encourage you to think seriously about the role your facility will play in conveying that image. A few hundred dollars in design consulting could go a long way in saving you from making an expensive mistake. Good exterior and interior design is an opportunity to reinforce your image and its message throughout your facility.

Simply put, when a customer is pulling up to or looking around your space, they should be able to sense, without question, exactly what it is your business stands for.

Busy, Another Four-Letter Word?

Busy, Another Four-Letter Word?

There are quite a few four-letter words that might offend. Perhaps one of the most surprisingly offensive and counterproductive four-letter words is BUSY.

When you find yourself relating to any of these scenarios, you may need to look at what “busy” really means to you.

  • Do you find yourself constantly onthe run?
  • Does it feel like you’re putting out fire after fire with no time to catch your breath?
  • Are you Running around a thousand miles an hour, stressing everyone else out (including yourself)?
  • Do you find yourself choosing to do things yourself because you believe it to be quicker?
  • Are you repeatedly on the verge of being late (or actually last) to meetings and appointments?

Do you find yourself having conversations that sound like this? “How are you?”  “Busy.” “Did you see the latest, move, book, art gallery?”, “Oh I have been meaning to but I’m just so busy”.

If you’ve nodded your head in agreement to any of these scenarios, it’s possible that you are you so locked into a pattern of stress and chaos that you can’t see your way out.

Well help is on the way and knowledge is power. Recently, there has been a tremendous amount of research and discussion on just how to change some of these unhealthy habits and behaviors.  You can learn to work in a way that is not just busy but efficient. Because when you are just BUSY, you’re likely the one keeping yourself and your business stuck (think sales goals).

Busy is not the same as productive

Busy can be good if the busyness is increasing business. It is critically important that our store is busy.  In order to sustain and exceed sales goals we must have customers coming through our doors. This means a lot of activity and most importantly a lot of sales resulting from this activity. In regard to the operations of stores, busy is great, busy or even uber-busy is the goal we are hoping to achieve.

  • As an individual, though, busyness can impact business and not necessarily in a good way. This is when “busy” can become a four-letter word. How busy are you?
  • Are you busy or productive?
  • Do the tasks you consistently stay busy with generate results (increases sales and profit)?

Whether you are an owner, manager, or sales professional, the questions apply. For years in the American business culture it has been pounded into our heads that our success is measured by the length of the hours we work, how little sleep we get, how much we are trying to balance at one time and how irreplaceable we are to the organization.  It might be time to throw out that tired measuring stick in favor of a more progressive approach.

Recently much research has been conducted and new patterns of thought have emerged that make a strong case for looking differently at how we perceive work.  Let’s begin by looking at some of the notable findings.

What Others Have to Say

In her recent book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Arianna Huffington describes some of her revelations after collapsing and suffering an injury as a result of sheer exhaustion.  The cofounder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group makes a compelling case for the need to redefine what it means to be successful in today’s world.

In Thrive Huffington explores how our relentless pursuit of the two traditional metrics of success — money and power — has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses, as well as deteriorating the quality of our relationships, family life, and even our careers. She suggests that in being connected to the world 24/7, we’re losing our connection to what really matters.

In her book, Huffington references the pioneering research and scientific findings in the fields of psychology, sports, sleep, and physiology that show how strategies such as meditation, mindfulness, unplugging, and giving can lead us to embrace a new way of operating.  This new line of thinking and operating calls into question our culture, our thinking, our workplace, and our lives.

If Arianna Huffington can run a media empire and maintain a level of sanity, can’t we?

Speaker, writer, and educator, Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism:  The Disciplined Pursuit of Less details the practice of getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.  He is adamant that this is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a system for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.

He suggests we apply much more selective criteria for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our valued time and energy. McKeown describes this strategy as a new way of doing everything.  Essentialism is about doing less, but doing it better, in all areas of our lives.

Why Busy is such a bad idea

The idea is that in making these behavior adjustments we are working toward becoming our best selves.  The concept however is not one born out of pure selfishness. Often we don’t realize the negative effects our “busyness” is having on others and our organization. Consider some of the negative side effects listed below.

“Busy” people put unnecessary stress on the people around them. Tension and anxieties are contagious. Be particularly careful if you are in a leadership position.  An organizational culture needs to be built from the top down.  Good employees seek to model the values and behaviors demonstrated by their leaders.

“Busy” people frequently dismiss other’s ability to contribute. They have the “I’ll just do it myself” mindset. This causes others to feel undervalued and untrustworthy. This also happens when we discount other people’s suggestions for change or improvement.

But “Busy” is who I am.  Who would we be if not this super woman or super man who has it all under control (or is attempting to) and without whom the world (or store) would fall apart. The fact is that we are all replaceable.  If you have truly structured your organization to depend on you to such an extreme degree—you have screwed up.  An organization needs to stand on multiple legs.  Unexpected things happen, life can changes in a heartbeat and our organization needs to be structured to be able to withstand those types of blows.

Why are you so Busy and what can you do about it?

Are your systems less than efficient?  Examine this objectively and work to make improvements. This may take some outside consulting or you may be able to track and monitor your efficiency and course correct. Hint: if you have a hard time asking for help, this might be where you need the most support.

Are you constantly subjected to distractions and interruptions? Identify them and eliminate where possible. This means paying close attention to your use of electronics including email, social media, telephone and more.

Are you taking care of yourself? Be careful not to confuse scheduled “time out” and distractions.  A walk around the block at lunchtime that refreshes you or a taking a moment to read an article that stirs creative thought should be integrated into your day, not eliminated from it.

Are you saying yes when you really want t to say no? Establish boundaries, build fences and hold firm.  It is better to do fewer things well than several things mediocre. Often saying “no” to one thing gives you the room to do something that is meant to be a “yes”.

Are you afraid if you slow down you will have to deal with something you are avoiding?  Maybe something in your personal life? This is a tough one.  Be honest with yourself and challenge yourself to make healthy changes.

It is in great danger of being overused but the old airline analogy regarding the need to put on your own oxygen mask first is applicable here.

Busy doesn’t have to be a four-letter word

We all work hard for different reasons. Many of us feel that in today’s cutthroat business environment if we don’t work around the clock we will be fired or go out of business.  This is a legitimate fear and I in no way want to discount it.  I do, however believe there is a better approach and it is worth examining our patterns to see if we have fallen into this “busy” trap.

As with much in life, it is about quality and not quantity. Focused, quality interactions typically achieve better results than scattered efforts. Whether you embrace Huffington’s or McKeown’s specific strategies or not, the point is to examine, consider and make necessary changes. Even an incremental improvement is an improvement and will begin building a healthier individual and organization.

In closing I’d like you to ask yourself “Is my busyness helping or hurting my business (and personal life)?”…


Some Additional Resources


Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen – Audio Book



Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking

by Tim Hurson



How to Reduce Workplace Conflict and Stress: How Leaders and Their Employees Can Protect Their Sanity and Productivity from Tension and Turf Wars by Anna Maravelas



Productive Workplaces: Dignity, Meaning, and Community in the 21st Century

by Marvin R. Weisbord