by The Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce

The Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce, Women in Business Council presented their quarterly luncheon on Tuesday, March 25th at the Palm Beach Gardens Marriott. They were thrilled to have guest speaker, Rita Craig.

rita-craigI Showed You So…Lessons from Mom about the Business of Life
Do you wonder what ever happened to good ‘ol common sense? You’ll be sure to find out when you join executive leadership consultant, author and coach Rita Craig as she talks about her latest book, I Showed You So – Lessons from Mom about the Business of Life. In her book, Rita takes a fun and insightful trip down memory lane, sharing what it was like to grow up in a house with 14 people, and detailing  fundamental life lessons she learned from her mother along the way. A bit of a romp at times, her book is much more than simply entertaining; in her own inimitable style, Rita connects these life lessons with today’s business climate in a way that is direct and hard-hitting. This will be a time of laughter and learning…Be sure not to miss it!

Rita B. Craig, Senior Professional Human Resources (SPHR), is founder and president of Top Tier Leadership, headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Ms. Craig taps into her 40 years of global human resources experience, including nearly 25 years in the corporate arena, to help transform clients – individuals, companies, public sector and associations – into highly effective employees, executives and organizations.

Fortune 50 to 500 companies in the United States, Canada, Europe, China, Singapore and Latin America have capitalized on her ability to swiftly drill down to identify issues, engage stakeholders and create positive change solutions. She has developed and implemented hundreds of customized strategies for clients around the globe on such topics as leadership, ethics, personal success and organizational effectiveness.

sharon and friendsA master in the art of listening and communicating, no two clients, keynote addresses or coaching sessions are ever the same for Ms. Craig. Each is treated with a personal approach to fit the client’s needs. Her ability to connect with each client to provide relevant content and measurable results consistently rewards her with top ratings from attendees around the world. Ms. Craig adheres to strict confidentiality, as many of her dealings are of a private, sensitive nature.

Rita is President-Elect of the Florida Speakers Association, a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA) and the Global Speakers Federation. Her publishing credits include Welcome to the Workforce, I Showed You So, and a manuscript entitled, “Ethics: The Hot New ‘E’ Word,” featured in the NSA’s first-ever book, Paid To Speak. Her reputation as a consummate professional has awarded her with a number of honors from respected sources such as the South Florida Business Journal, HR Florida, North Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, Executive Women of the Palm Beaches, SER Jobs for Progress and The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.  In October 2012, she was presented with the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Human Resource Association of Palm Beach County.

Ms. Craig earned her master’s degree in business administration with a specialty in Human Resources from Nova University.  She has also completed the Columbia University’s human resources executive management program. Her past and present civic and community involvement reflects a diverse business and non-profit base, which helps her connect with clients from many disciplines.

wibThe Women in Business Council was founded 2002 by the Jupiter Juno Tequesta Chamber of Commerce and is now a part of the merged Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce. The mission of the council is to promote networking and education for professional women and female entrepreneurs while highlighting the women leaders in the community. To find out more, please visit the Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce website at www.npbchamber.com.

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Power of Confidence:

7 Characteristics of a Confident Person

Confidence can take a life time to build, while taking only a moment or two to crumble into tiny bits. Depending on the life circumstances we are dealt with, having a confident demeanor can start very early in life; as young as toddlerhood.

Some of us had great parents who instilled positive values, which in turn made us believe we could become, do or be anything in life. Others did not, but perhaps found confidence later in life in other ways, such as through sports or by forging ahead in academics and within the workplace.

Confidence IS power, and vice versa. It has been studied and scientifically proven that confident people carry a different persona; one of poise, high self-worth, strong radars between right and wrong, and an ability to lead or convince others to follow.

People who are not confident are less likely to succeed, because they constantly second-guess their own ability to do things. They have excuses and often fall short of their own expectations, as well as failing to meet up to the perceived expectations of others. They may say things like,

  • “I could never do that, because I didn’t receive any formal education.”
  • “I’m not cut out for these things.”
  • “My Dad never showed me how to do that when I was a kid.”
  • “I’m not even going to try, because I know there will be a lot more qualified people applying than me.”

Listen, confidence is KNOWING. You must know you are good enough, without blaming anyone else (past, present or future) of your character faults. If you haven’t done something before, teach yourself how to do it. You can learn most anything these days just by doing an online search. Stop blaming your parents, your family, or your imperfect partner, or your kids, and most of all, yourself.

The power of confidence IS power. It is a knowing that no matter what you do, you will not fail. Here are 7 distinguishable characteristics of confident people:

  • Poise – Standing up, walking with an attitude
  • Eye contact – Never be afraid to look at people dead in the eyes, as it can put you in a position of power and knowing whether the person is truthful or not
  • Firm – Staying true to yourself and not sacrificing your personal beliefs for another person
  • Appearance – Confident people take pride in the way they look, including overall fitness, health and wellness. Looking good transcends to feeling good. Dressing nicely automatically makes you feel more confident.
  • Tone – Confident people keep a level head. They have self-assurance; therefore they do not need to yell to get their point across.
  • Stand up for others – Never talk badly about other people, because it can diminish or weaken your own confidence and self-esteem. Remember that it is the people who speak negatively about others who often feel the worst about themselves.
  • Do what is right – Doing the “right” thing is not always easy, especially when outside pressures persist. Whenever you bend on someone else’s wishes and not uphold what you feel in your heart is the best action, step or course to take, and then your confidence level goes down. Never let another person control your destiny, you are in control of your own.

People who lack confidence have excuses, whereas people with confidence have ambition. With the power of confidence, you cannot fail.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

-Thomas A. Edison

Top Five Development Books

Just like many of you, I’m an avid reader. I truly enjoy books for the process of self-betterment and to learn more ways to improve my techniques, happiness and get ideas. While I do enjoy fiction reads, I find non-fiction to be beneficial as a way to pick up new strategies. Often I use some of the strategies and techniques to teach others. As a coach and business consultant, it is my job to present techniques that help businesses, individuals, teams and others and to empower them to become better leaders.

That said, there are a number of great books that I would like to offer as my top picks. Each of them for different purposes.

The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential

Rita’s top 5 picks for development and leadership reading:

  1. The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential by John C. Maxwell: This book has achieved 5 star ratings and I can tell you why. John is a known author, speaker and leader who knows that being a leader isn’t about having a certain “title” such as supervisor, boss, etc. This book empowers anyone to take the reins and become a leader with many facets of life.
  2. Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling by Michael Port: This book helps you to navigate between the decisions faced by new business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders.
  3. Welcome to the Workforce by Rita Barreto Craig: This book covers five major areas that must be addressed to put your best face forward in presentation, demeanor, communications and more. If you’re new to the job market, this is a must read! Perfect for students!
  4. The Happiness Project: by Gretchen Rubin: This is a personal favorite and is written in a fiction style, but the book accomplishes what it sets out to do… and leads to happiness and a positive mindset after its finished!
  5. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Usby Daniel Pink: It’s true that many people (including bosses) think that the best way to motivate is monetarily, but that’s not always true. The author persuasively reveals another motivator for high performance, which he reveals in this great book!

Can Job Instability Lead to Poor Health?

With the economy the way it is and the uncertainty of a new election on the immediate horizon, this presents a question that may or may not have a clear answer. However, many studies reveal that there is a link between job insecurity and health problems. This is attributed to a number of factors, many of which make perfect common sense yet that are worthy of discussion.

Stable Employment = Better Health

The most obvious reason that someone might have health problems as a result of job instability is the lack of health insurance. Despite Obama’s attempt to overhaul the health care system with health care for everyone, this has not yet gone into effect and therefore many people are finding themselves in a place where they are unable to seek treatment when they have a health problem. Some are due to worry of whether they will be able to pay the medical bills associated with adequate treatment, while others may not even have the transportation or means to get themselves to a doctor for a diagnosis.

Another consideration is the stress that is caused by job insecurity. When someone loses their job, it can cause financial and emotional strain. Worry, anxiety and depression can lead to even more health problems. These three determinants can also lead to sickness.

How can we improve health by promoting job security?

Job stability is something that many companies don’t have control over, however this is a topic that can be addressed within HR departments. When employees get laid off, this is when the snowball effects of other factors can transpire. It may be worthwhile to address the topic at a meeting and to discuss ideas of how to put employees’ minds at peace, which can subsequently lead to greater health and productivity.

Another way is to invite employees to participate in wellness programs. Some companies allow their employees to take yoga classes, for example. These paid opportunities represent the best of both worlds in that they enable employees to feel more stable in the workplace and they promote activity, better health and even a more productive attitude.

As employers, the issue of job security transcends beyond just the obvious. People’s health and well being are also affected.

Time flies by exceedingly faster each year. Maybe it’s because of being busier or just having a full plate, but I’ve had to learn some great time management strategies to keep up with everything. These tips and tricks have worked so well, I’ve told them to others and hope you find them helpful!

6 Time Management Tactics:

  • Manage Emails and Social Media Less. Everyone keeps emailing you. Texting you. Calling you. Tweeting you. Leaving comments on your Facebook. It’s difficult to keep up. Instead of getting sucked into these time eaters, make a commitment to only check them three times daily; once in the morning, once in the afternoon and if you must, one last time at night. There’s no reason to do it more than that.
  • Finish what you started. Another big time killer is interruptions. You start doing something and then a co-worker or family member busts in and tries to change your track, or perhaps you just think of something else you need to do and get sidetracked. Stay focused on the task at hand and finish it. You’ll feel more accomplished.
  • Write down 5 daily time wasters. Evaluate them. I’m not talking about personal time; you need that for yourself to recharge your batteries. I’m talking about those itty, bitty things you don’t really need to do but that you’re in the habit of doing anyway. Try a day or two without them. Does it make any significant difference whether you do it or not? If not, cut them out of your daily routine.
  • Come back to earth. What do I mean by this? When things are hectic, it’s a tendency for people to feel overwhelmed, which can lead to a decrease in productivity. Instead of focusing on what is in front of us and most urgent, we may try to multi-task or even sit there with a puzzled and dazed look, wondering where to begin. Multi-tasking can actually decrease the quality of your work and make you more frazzled. Instead, try closing your eyes for a couple of minutes and visualize yourself completely out of where you are now. You are not in the midst of chaos, you are sitting in your happy place (in your mind) whether that is a bookstore, the beach or in your backyard garden. Then when you come back to where you are, you should feel refueled and able to channel your focus on the most important task you need to do now.
  • Clear your desk. Do you have mail, paperwork and general “junk” on your desk that you know is very important but that you simply don’t have time to file, respond to or manage? If you don’t have an assistant to do it for you, try devoting one whole afternoon to go through it all. You can also invest in a NEAT which is a cool invention that scans your paperwork instantly and saves it on your computer. When you want to retrieve something important, you can just use your search tool. How cool is that? Get rid of filing cabinets all together!
  • Set goals. It’s more often said, than done. Some people have no time for this one, but I would encourage you to make time, and to be specific. For example, if you have an important promotion you’ve wanted to do, mark it on your calendar. Then, back up to today and write one task you need to accomplish every day to get towards that goal.

May you achieve even more than ever. Keep striving and pushing onward towards success!

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Be More Like a Coach and Less Like a Boss

As a manager or leader at your company, you have a tremendous undertaking. People look up to you for leadership. They rely on your expertise from training to managing, motivating and problem-solving. But when a boss is not effective, it could be because they lack respect of their colleagues. This can happen when a boss is too “bossy” and overzealous with their term of power. For some leaders, the “boss” title can be taken too far if too much control is implemented.

Instead of standing over everyone’s shoulder and directing them like a traffic cop, try giving your employees more freedom and ability to make common sense decisions on their own. This can be done by showing them how to do what needs to be done, rather than just ordering directions. Sometimes they don’t understand the way you think or what you want to do.

Be clear about goals to put everyone on the same page

Unfortunately, some supervisors think that by running a tight ship they have more control over the organization. However, many times the opposite is true. As a leader you have goals to meet, so the best way to empower your staff is to show them that vision of success. Give them a reason to strive for those goals. Whether monetary or through rewards, recognition and even offering a chance for more freedoms, you’ll notice a difference in the attitude of your staff.

Think about a time when you took up a sport, perhaps in grade school, high school or college. You had a coach who taught you, both as a team and individually. A good coach takes the students / team members aside and discusses their weaknesses and strengths. Instead of pointing them out, some will come right out and ask, “How could you have done that differently?”

Coaches also have a primary goal of winning games. As a boss, your goal is to win new customers, clients, etc. When you pump them up and tell the employees how good they are doing and what you are happy with as far as their performance, it makes them try harder to achieve that recognition. However, when you constantly complain or point out negative aspects of their performance through constant criticism or even yelling, reprimanding, passing out warnings and other forms of admonishment, these types of leadership could backfire. The employee could rebel and even talk badly about you behind your back to other staff, which can open up a really bad situation.

Make time for staff both individually and as a team

This is not to say you should let your employees walk all over you. As a leader you need to gain the respect of your team. This is done through positive reinforcement, encouragement, motivation, helping and guiding. Your employees may feel more comfortable asking you how to do something if you make yourself attainable and approachable for one-on-ones.

As a matter of fact, it’s good to schedule one-on-one sessions with everybody in the organization. Depending on the size, you can make these as frequently as bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly. In this manner, employees can confide in you without being made to feel awkward by being singled out. Schedule the personal sessions with EVERYONE and not just one person on an as-needed basis. Even if the employee is doing great, the personalized attention is an excellent way to build camaraderie, create loyalty and to bounce new ideas with him or her. Consider it like a brainstorming session between each of your employees individually.

Don’t wait until there’s just a problem before scheduling these sessions, either. Then the interface will be met with dread, instead of perceived as a positive thing. Kind of like an, “Uh-oh, the boss wants to talk to me alone.” The employee will be too afraid to talk. However, if you schedule the personal sessions with everyone, then people will open up and talk to you more. They’ll be more open, honest, friendly, and comfortable and may even tell you things they are happy and not happy about.

Then, you can also have “team” sessions. Instead of meetings, create a fun name for your pow-wows. Making the workplace better happens when you take on a coaching mindset.

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Backwards Brainstorming and How it Can Benefit Your Company

When you brainstorm or have brainstorming sessions, everyone thinks forward. They come up with ideas of how to make things better, propose different solutions to problems or think of creative suggestions to achieve a goal. But what is backwards brainstorming?

Well, think about going backwards and what it does. To go backwards, first you must look behind you to make sure there is nothing in your way. You have to look left and right to make sure nobody is hiding on your blind sides. You literally have to shift into reverse.

What’s the purpose of backwards brainstorming?

The next time you have a brainstorming session, whether it is alone or in a group of peers, or even with a partner, try backwards brainstorming. Write down or state the topic that you are brainstorming about and imagine that you are going behind the problem. Take yourself out of where you are now and put yourself back… back to before you arrived at the problem. Basically, you are thinking about the opposite of what you wish to achieve.

Sounds silly, but try it and it will open your eyes to a whole new world of brainstorming differently. For example, let’s say you’re brainstorming with other staff members on the topic of engaging customers better. Typically, you would brainstorm solutions such as sending out customer newsletters, writing to them, staying in touch with them on social media, or other similar strategies.

However, with BACKWARDS BRAINSTORMING, you would transverse the topic. Instead of asking how you can engage customers better, you would ask everyone, “How can we disengage customers or turn them off completely?”

So the staff would laugh, of course. But the answers might look something like this:

  • We never call them or stay in touch after they make a purchase
  • We never send a newsletter or an email
  • We don’t thank them for their purchase or for their business, loyalty, etc.
  • We do nothing to ensure their repeat business

Suddenly, the room is quiet. There are things on that list that are true. The backwards brainstorming session is a way to reveal unspoken truths or really open up everyone’s eyes to the possibilities. It’s a different way of brainstorming that can make everyone reevaluate the problems they are faced with and perhaps tackle the finding of a solution in a different manner.

This works with many other brainstorming sessions too. Just think of a brainstorming topic. Let the conversation flow. Think of something current at your company. Here are a few examples:

Brainstorm: Let’s think of different ways we can hit our sales goal for the month.

Backwards brainstorm: How can we make sure we don’t hit our goal and fall flat on our face this month?

Brainstorm: How can we find the best employees to fill the new openings at our company?

Backwards brainstorm: Where can we find the worst employees to hire?

By doing these exercises, you will be shocked to find answers or solutions that are completely unexpected! You might discover better ways to ensure hitting your goal or new places to find great employees. How? Well by writing down what doesn’t work, you’ll be looking at solutions from a different vantage point. If you went backwards then you can only look forward, but you’ll be able to see your left and right at the same time for the whole bigger picture!

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Whether you’re trying to get a job, pick up more business, sneak in on the competition, catch the eye of a recruiter or just gather information, simply the best way to do so is by networking. And I don’t mean “social” networking this time, which is what the majority seem to be doing more so than the days where you actually had to make an effort to meet people and shake their hands “in person”.  There’s still value in doing that!

Networking is a good way to build up your circle of influence. Especially if you have a business or you are looking for work within your own community, you must try to get your face out there as often as possible. If you’re shy, this can be challenging.  Or if you feel inadequate, insecure or any combination of these things, fear not!

Here’s 7 tips to make you savvier when it comes to networking.

  1. Never judge a book by “his or her” cover: Even if you think someone might be irrelevant to what you are trying to accomplish, approach them anyway. Why? Because everyone knows someone!  This leads to the second tip…
  2. State your goal early, but casually. When you’re striking up a conversation, don’t be too forward by saying you want to sell the person something. Instead, state the reason why you came to the networking event. In this way, you do not seem threatening and the person might just say, “I know a guy who is looking for that”.

    Need examples? Here’s a few:

      • “I came to scout out new opportunities.”
      • “I’m here because I want to spread the word about ______.”
      • “I wanted to collect information about colleges.”
      • “I like to meet new people and invite them to _______.”

    Of course, these are just examples of conversation starters but they will help to get to the purpose of your networking so that you can meet, greet and move on to meet new people as quickly as possible.

  3. Don’t stay stuck with one person too long, even if the conversation is great. Your job at a networking event is to MINGLE, not LINGER.
  4. Be friendly, approachable and confident. People are drawn to a smile and an attractive attitude. Make sure you don’t sit in one spot and act bored or depressed. Be cheery and others will naturally gravitate towards you.
  5. LISTEN. Don’t just talk. Too many people babble on at networking events. It’s important to get your words in, but make sure you tune in to the other person and ask them why they came, etc. as well.
  6. Bring your sense of humor and wit. Okay, even if you’re shy you must surely know a little pun or two?  If not, at least laugh at other people’s jokes!
  7. Be memorable. Be different.  Maybe you have a distinctive quality that sets you apart from other people. It could be a small giveaway or just a special hat or shirt you wear that draws people to remember you.

Remember… it’s called “network” for a reason. Maybe if it were called “netfun” or “net-happy-hour” more people would embrace it. However, the fact that it’s a networking event implies that you must “work” the room and make your presence known.


What is the ONE THING that the Best Managers do differently?

As a manager, it can be difficult to handle the many various personalities of so many diverse employees. Some employees are laid back, while others are very meticulous and punctual. Some are talkative and others are more subdued and introverted.  Some are visual learners, while others are more hands-on.  Many have different motivations, from earning more to excelling into leadership roles or even the social aspect of a workplace.

So, with so many qualities in people and diversity among the pool of talent, as a manager how can you mold these quirks and traits of people into doing what you need them to do for optimum performance?  How can you change people who are likely already stuck within their own beliefs and ways?  The answer is simple.

You can’t.

As a manager, the greatest thing you can do to get your team to be more in sync and perform at peak level is to focus on honing in on their individual strengths.  It is much easier to work with what you already have than to try to change people.  Trying to change people – whether in relationships, friendships or family – rarely works.  Therefore, it would be no different in a workplace.

You can do this by evaluating each person’s best skills, knowledge and talents.  Then through proper coaching, training and development, you can use those individual strengths to your advantage.  Not only will you maintain happier employees, but you will see how much more effort they will contribute to the overall success of your organization. 

It happens so many times in which a new employee is hired and then immediately absorbed in a cookie-cutter training regiment which may not be best suited for the type of individual you are training. For some, this creates job dissatisfaction which can lead to other problems in the workplace.  As an example, if you require a “hands-on” type of learner to sit and watch training videos or to read a long workplace manual, they will likely lose focus or fidget and perhaps not pay full attention.  At the end of the training, they will not remember many of the details they just learned and the efforts will be futile.

Instead – whether through the interviewing process or hiring – it might be better to ask the individual what they feel are their best assets to the organization and to hone in on those things. This can be done with existing employees, also.  Call everyone aside one-on-one and simply ask the person if they are happy with their job and if they feel like they are using their best skills and aptitudes appropriately.  This can be done casually and not in an intimidating manner.

You may be surprised to hear things like, “I learn better when I can do it myself rather than having someone show me how and then expecting me to remember.” Or, “I wish I could spend more time with customers rather than stuck behind a desk.”  By reassigning people or designating them and training them to their individual best assets, you can then tap into their natural abilities and help the whole organization to achieve more balance, greater job satisfaction and fully utilize the staff to their individual strengths, rather than trying to make people adapt to what you want them to be.  As the saying goes, “You can’t teach old dog new tricks.” Instead, you as the manager must outsmart them by adapting in your role as a leader and zeroing in on what will work best for everyone.


7 Ways to Create Greater Satisfaction in the Workplace

Whether you own a business or represent someone in a leadership position, there are many great responsibilities that rest upon your shoulders. You already know that treating the employees with respect and even saying “Thank You” from time to time can go a long way to win their favor.  But is this enough?

Probably not. Sure, they do like to hear your words of appreciation from time to time, but this may not be the only thing that motivates them to stick around and to achieve more or do more for the company.  One thing as a manager that we often forget is that most people in the workplace are there for a reason and to every individual the reason may be different.  Therefore, we could almost state that everyone has a selfish reason for being there.  And that is perfectly okay.  Everyone has bills to pay or obligations to meet.  It’s understandable.

Here are seven ways you can make employees even happier about coming to work every day:

  1. Take a genuine interest in everyone individually. Ask about their weekend or their family or how their kids are doing.  Be sincere and likeable.
  2. Be flexible when needs arise. Make a calendar to let people make notes of special days they need to leave early or have a certain day off. Allowing people some personal time goes a long way to make the staff happier and if you have enough coverage and plan ahead of time, this can be manageable.
  3. Present rewards for goals or special deeds that have been performed. Acknowledging achievements makes the team know they are appreciated. It can be a simple bonus – such as a gift card for their favorite coffee shop or a plaque / award.  This also makes the other people strive to achieve acknowledgements and reinforces victory.
  4. Praise in front of a group.  This can be done at a weekly or monthly meeting, along with #3. Feeling loved by peers makes employees embrace the workplace environment and continued excellence.
  5. Have a “dress down” day and let everyone wear something professionally-casual on that special day. You could go a step further by inviting everyone to contribute a dollar or two to a special cause that your organization supports and this makes everyone feel like the company culture is one that gives back to its community.
  6. Make up a fun tradition, such as a secret elf during the holidays where everyone can do a gift exchange from a name in the hat, or host a company party once a year. You could have a summer cookout and let the employees bring their families so they could all get to know each other better and this enforces friendships and camaraderie within the workplace.
  7. Feed them. Bring muffins or goodies once a week or have a pizza day!

Turning New Customers into Loyal Customers

As a business owner or manager, you already know that your ultimate goal has been to attract and build new customers who use your products or services. Customer satisfaction is critical to achieve this, especially in a world of so many choices. What makes them want to choose you among your competitors?  Having a distinctive product or service is key, but if you offer something similar to others, how can you make your customers loyal and return time and time again?

Let’s face it, there’s always going to be competition. It’s the name of the game and will keep you at the top of your game. Someone will always come up with a better or less expensive or faster or more modern thing than you have, and before you know it then you could be losing business to another company.  So instead of playing that game, how about achieving customer satisfaction with each and every customer you work for?

First, we need to understand what triggers customer satisfaction to begin with. This transcends to loyalty.  If you do it right, then your customers will never stray and will call upon your business even if there is someone else who pops up with the next latest and greatest thing since sliced bread.

Customers need to become dependent on you.  This can be done through many angles.  Here are some self-evaluation assessments to help you achieve this:

  • Does my service or product pose a good fit to my new customer?  In other words, does it suit their needs just so-so, adequately or exceptionally well?
  • How does my product hold up compared to others, performance-wise? Does it last longer or exceed those of like products or services?  Does it excel?
  • Is it competitively priced?  If it cost more, is the value worth the extra price?  This goes for both products and services.  With services, it could be that you offer more experience, knowledge, accolades or abilities than your competitors. 
  • Do customers buy something once and then you never hear from them again?  If so, do you know why?  Getting to the bottom of why they continue to come to you time and time again is vital in instilling the repeat business and takes less effort than continually trying to attract new customers.
  • Do you give them an innovative solution?  Solving a need can keep them coming back for more. If your service or product is only average then they will just keep shopping around every time they have a need for that product or service again.  Your goal is to make them say, “I’m only going to buy _____ even though there may be others to compare it to.”
  • Do you have any special incentives or structural dependencies?  For example, whether you are selling a tangible item (let’s say a salad) or a service (such as haircuts) perhaps you could create a monthly club or punch card that the customer will want to fill up and get a free salad or haircut after returning so many times. Give them a reason to continue coming back to build loyalty.
  • Are you reliable?  A business that does what they say they’re going to?  If you’re frequently late on deadlines or if the customer doesn’t quite trust you then they may seek help elsewhere to satisfy their need for dealing with a business of integrity and commitment to them.

Finally, one of the most critical aspects of customer loyalty is how you deal with problems. For example, if a customer’s package arrives late or gets lost, or if you did something to make them a little upset (such as late delivery on services) or didn’t fix an issue, this is ultimately one of the biggest reasons they will go elsewhere. Always follow through and ask your customers if there is anything more that you can do to exceed their expectations!  They will tell you, and if there is something they are unhappy with, offer a solution and get it fixed as soon as possible to avoid worse repercussions later.


Stress Busters and the Need for Laughter, Especially in These Crazy Uncertain Times

This rat race called life is certainly stressful these days. Trying to get here and there through hectic traffic to meet deadlines, family or social obligations, unrealistic workloads and most importantly trying to make financial commitments can take its toll on your stress level. If you feel like your head is going to pop from all of the stress you have to deal with, take a deep breath and try a few “stress busters”.

What are stress busters?  Well, laughter is one of the most important of these!  When was the last time you really had a laugh, the kind that made your belly hurt and your cheeks sore from laughing so hard?  If you can’t remember when, then it’s time for self-reflection.

Here are a handful of great stress busters:

  1. First, when you get home, try to avoid the usual routines. TV may seem like a time for your relaxing and unwinding, but did you know that it can actually contribute to stress?  The news is depressing and so are a lot of the programs and reality shows on TV. They highlight more stress, including murders on shows like CSI or homes full of clutter like on “Hoarders” or addicts on “Intervention” and even the Discovery Channel has depressing shows of doom and gloom with 2012 upon us.  Instead, try turning off the television and listening to music. Try dancing with your kids.  Or read a funny book!  Play with toys!
  2. Next time you get annoyed or angry about something silly and trivial, stop and just let it go.  Say to yourself, “This is not wasting my emotions.” And try to laugh it off instead.
  3. Smile more. Even if you’re mad about something, smile and say, “Its okay, I’m in my happy place!”
  4. Make an appointment to give yourself time. You spend so much time doing for others, like chores, laundry, working, sitting in front of the computer, running errands, and your list will never end. If you don’t give yourself some time to do something YOU enjoy, then life is really going to remain not enjoyable.
  5. Spend more time outside. There’s too much technology to entertain people. The phones are now computers that you can take with you anywhere. As they say, “Take time to stop and smell the roses.” You’ll be surprised how Mother Nature can restore your spirit.
  6. Reward yourself once in awhile. Give yourself a treat for working so much and doing so much for other people.  Whether it’s a visit to the spa, attendance at a sporting event or a new shirt from your favorite store, you deserve a treat!  Go ahead and spoil yourself!
  7. Treat your health better. Doing yoga, riding a bicycle or going for a run and eating healthy will make you feel a whole lot better. Even if you’re too tired or unmotivated, the payoffs will make you glad you did it.

For those of you naturally creative souls out there, perhaps this installment is not for you. If offbeat solutions and out-of-the-box ideas occur to you as a matter of course, well hats off to you! But, for the rest of us more pragmatic thinkers, creativity is actually a skill that you can improve, if you put your mind to it!

Fellow members of the business world, we have an interesting dilemma don’t we? To be successful at our jobs we have to be both pragmatic and creative thinkers, often simultaneously. We must be extremely well-organized, level-headed and emotionally aware. Yet, when complex, seemingly impossible problems arise, we are expected to rise to the challenge and use our powers of creativity to solve them…quickly and efficiently, of course.

So, how can you pragmatic folks out there “become” more creative?

First, give yourself some credit. Just because you are not an artist or poet, doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to be innovative. We all have the means to be clever when we need to be.

Be open-minded. It sounds simple, but for those of us who have devoted significant amounts of time to one way of thinking, it can be difficult to see other points of view. So, make a conscious effort to hear other people’s ideas. It might spark a new idea in your own mind!

Brainstorm freely. By this I mean, don’t censor yourself as you kick ideas around. Allow yourself to think those seemingly wild or ridiculous thoughts; it can lead you to an idea that may never have occurred to you otherwise!

Do some research. By this I mean, if you are presented with a problem, check around to see how others have dealt with similar situations. You have the Internet, business books, co-workers and more at your disposal. Chances are, you can glean great ideas from these resources, and you won’t always have to re-invent the wheel to resolve even some of the biggest challenges you’ll face.

A final word…

Creativity has always been of crucial importance in business…And, never more so than in this day and age of computers, instant communication technologies, and tough economic conditions. Simply put, you’ve got to be creative, or you may risk getting fired, risk becoming obsolete, or risk being beaten by your competition. But there is good news! With a little bit of proactive effort we can all dramatically improve our powers of creativity. And, it literally begins with simply deciding to BE more creative!

Please take a second to ask yourself this question: What are some of the most important skills great leaders possess? If answers such as vision, the ability to communicate clearly, decision making, or emotional awareness come to mind, you are correct! But, what about the ability to ask good questions?

Well, the fact of the matter is that great leaders are pros at asking good questions, thanks to those aforementioned skills. And, great questions lead to great answers, which in turn help leaders and staff grow together in a positive environment!

What Are the Characteristics of a Good Question?

Let’s talk about what constitutes good and bad questions, and then we’ll get into how asking good questions can make you a better leader!

Good questions:

  • Inspire creative thinking and positive feelings. (How were you able to come up with that brilliant solution so fast?)
  • Elicit an extended, thoughtful dialogue by being open ended
  • Genuinely seek an answer instead of conveying your opinion
  • Focus on the positive side of things
  • Center around problem solving instead of complaining or venting

Bad questions:

  • Drain energy
  • Put people on the defensive (What’s wrong? Why did you do it that way?)
  • Yes or no questions discourage extended dialogue
  • Make people feel judged or interrogated
  • Lead people to an answer you already have in mind

How Could You Benefit by Asking Better Questions?

If you can get into the habit of asking great questions, your overall leadership stock is bound to rise. Ask yourself if you could gain from the following benefits!

Leaders who ask good questions:

  • Win support and respect by making people feel valued
  • Foster real relationships with people
  • Promote creativity and high morale among staff
  • Gather useful information to help with decision-making
  • Learn and grow from answers, instead of simply extending their own control

In Which Areas Could You Improve?

So, now that you have given some thought to the power of asking good questions, how could you improve your own style? By simply mulling it over, you are already on the way to becoming a better leader!