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Every Business Needs A Designated Worrier

problem solving rubix cubeThere are few things I enjoy more than being prepared. This should come as no surprise to those of you who know me (or who have least read this blog for a little while). Organization, planning and preparation are all means to staying in control and finding that sense of stability in a career field that is anything but stable. Aside from my own sanity, I’ve also found that my love for preparedness has become the quality my clients most appreciate. I play the role of the “anticipator” and the problem solver before issues even arise.

Essentially, I have become the designated worrier for many of my clients. Part of what I do is to anticipate potential communication issues and crises and nip them in the bud long before they bloom into a full-blown problem. Business owners are busy. They can’t put all their time and effort into worrying about what could go wrong when their time is better spent maximizing what is going right. This is why, separate from the business owner or CEO, every successful company needs that one person who can anticipate and put out fires before anyone else sees the smoke.

The role of the designated worrier.

Though my expertise lies in Public Relations, I sometimes feel like I could also claim a degree in risk management with some of the experiences I’ve had. Dealing with the politics of politics, handling registration for large-scale conferences and communicating with constituencies of more than 70,000 individuals are all in a day’s work. You can imagine how there’s room for much to go awry if not carefully monitored. When a client comes to me with a communications goal, my purpose is two-fold. I first craft a plan to reach this goal, but I also (even unbeknownst to them) note the challenges, backlashes and potential miscommunications that could result during implementation. Though I’m hired to make things go right, anticipating the things that could go wrong is a critical component to creating a prepared and effective communications plan. Not doing so seems downright, well…risky.

If you anticipate a problem, anticipate a solution.

If you’re lucky, all your worrying and anticipating will be the furthest you’ll need to address any particular problem. This is a good thing. However, wishing and worrying alone is no real solution. If you anticipate a problem, you must also anticipate a solution. To be the most effective worrier I can be for a client, I’ve found that I must also present a solution at the same time I’m presenting a problem. Simply saying “We have a customer that’s really upset about a mistake made with his order,” is not enough. You must also anticipate the client’s next question which will likely be “What do we need to do about it?” If it’s a solution you can handle on your own, handle it without being asked. This is what will make you invaluable to an employer – knowing you are not only able to identify problems, but solve them without micromanaging.

A potential problem doesn’t have to result in a real problem.

Yes, for so many instances in life worrying doesn’t ever achieve more than a stomach ulcer. There’s an important distinction between worrying about things you have no control over verses worrying about things you do. In business, many worries are valid and do fall within your realm of control. It’s far more effective to be proactive than reactive. There are enough real-life examples to prove this saves insane amounts of time, money, damage to reputations and sometimes the business as a whole. But most importantly is that with the right worrying and anticipation, a problem that would ordinarily seem inevitable can be successfully avoided altogether. Just because a problem is looming overhead is no reason to throw your hands up and let it come crashing down. There is always opportunity to lessen the impact – and there is when having an effective worrier in charge makes all the difference!

Who is the designated worrier in your business? If it’s you, what tactics do you use to accurately anticipate problems and solve them before they escalate? Share your thoughts by commenting below – your input could help us all get one step closer to solving our own rubix cube of business problems!

 

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Finding the Balance In Life’s Negatives and Positives

yin yang symbolI once read a philosophy which stated: we have no right to ask when hardship comes, “Why did this happen to me?” unless we ask the same question for every moment of success that comes our way. Take a moment and really process this. How much more critically do we analyze the negatives, shortcomings and misfortunes of life compared to the positives we’re also given? I know I personally take any set-back hard. I question what I did wrong to bring this on myself and carry a weight on my shoulders for hours or days. Yet, for all the things that go right in any given day, I don’t dedicate this same time to appreciating these moments. When negatives carry such a greater weight in your life, that hanging balance becomes skewed and so does your perspective.

I believe there’s something we can really learn from this philosophy – and it’s to keep a balanced perspective of both the ups and downs of we’re given.

In Business

In running my own business, this is where I feel like I experience the highest peaks and deepest valleys of positives and negatives. It’s not the day to day variances of ups and downs, but the big changes to which I really take notice and take to heart. For example, signing a new client – one that I’m very excited to work with and think I can help a great deal – is an extremely high peak for me. I feel emotions of excitement, stability and like I’m continuing to make progress toward the direction I want Bennis Inc to go. On the other hand, when I experience a setback – a lost client, error in my work or something else – the emotions I experience from this are just as extreme, but far more lasting. I would estimate that experiencing something negative with my business weighs on me ten times as much as an equal balance of positive news. Why is this? I suppose, I overly lay the blame of a negative on myself while not giving the same credit for a positive in which I’ve worked hard to earn. I often chalk all good things up to luck or timing, when in reality, there’s much more to it than that. This is when we must remember that we have no right to ask when hardship comes, “Why did this happen to me?” unless we ask the same question for every moment of success that comes our way.

In Life

In contrast to the peaks and valleys of running a business, in life I seem to over analyze the little things. If I forgot to press start on the dishwasher before leaving the house, I get agitated with my oversight and that the dishes won’t be clean right upon my return. When I’m driving and take the wrong exit or can’t find an ideal parking place, I get annoyed with the lost time and additional effort this is costing me. Yet, I can hardly recall all of the times that these things occur like clockwork, without my thinking – or appreciating. It seems I only remember what disrupts me or bothers me. This is no way to live, right? To apply this philosophy to life, we must embrace our inner child a little bit more and allow ourselves to become genuinely excited for the small blessings every single day. Did the grocery store have your favorite snack still in stock? Did you find an open pump on your first try when filling up with gas? Did you simply remember to lock the door when you left the house (and didn’t second guess yourself and have to go back to check)? These all carry positive weight in our lives and we should be sure to place them appropriately upon our scales. The negatives will always weigh on us without our trying, but we must make more of a conscious effort to also value the weight of our positives.

How do you identify with this philosophy and balance of the negatives and positives in your life? Do you over analyze the bad and overlook the good or do you give thanks for both? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2013 in Business & Success, Life

 

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The Things I Would Never Know Without Facebook

facebook loginFacebook – what was life ever like before this social networking phenomenon? Old flames and friendships have been rekindled, businesses have taken off and tanked and jobs have been found and lost all as a result of our publicly displayed interactions on this single web site. With more than 750,000,000 unique visitors estimated each month, you’re in the minority (at least within modern society) if you’ve chosen to stand strong and quit or resist the temptation of joining Facebook. Because of the nature of my business and my own curiosity with other people’s lives, I don’t think I’ll ever join the ranks of Facebook protestors, just as I don’t anticipate becoming Mennonite anytime soon. However, just entertaining this idea did lead me to ponder what would I be missing if I deleted Facebook and disconnected from the world of “likes” and “status updates.” What would I never know if it wasn’t for Facebook? So here is my comical, but insightful list of the knowledge and resources I’d lack without my daily logins to the world’s most popular social networking site:

Last Names

Without Facebook I’m fairly certain I would know as many of my acquaintances’ last names as I would their phone numbers without my cell phone contact list. Which means I would basically only know the last names of my family members…maybe. Facebook has become my flash card memory game for learning people’s full names and placing them with a face. I’m always proud when I can reference someone by their full name without stuttering or second guessing. What I don’t also reveal is that in addition to knowing their last name, I also likely know what they ate for lunch and the name of their family dog…

Birthdays

What better way to make someone feel special than to remember them on their birthday? Facebook has made this nearly fool proof so long as everyone chooses to list their birthday on their profile. I’m not a supporter of the cheesy and impersonal birthday wishes on someone’s Facebook wall (in fact, I think it’s been years since I’ve done this for anyone), but Facebook does help to prompt me to send them a more personal message or mention it in conversation if I see them that day or week. Is this a cheap shortcut to actually committing birthdays to memory? Absolutely. But I know I always appreciate a birthday wish and rarely accuse someone of only knowing this because of Facebook – particularly if the wish is accompanied by cake or an alcoholic beverage. I’ll take it!

Life Milestones

Even more useful than a birthday reminder is being cued in to the major life milestones of my contacts. Without Facebook I would have to rely on second-hand information or class reunions to tell me about my acquaintances marriages, children, new jobs and even the less happy parts of life. This instant news feed of pictures and posts allows me to stay in the know and offer support or congratulations where warranted. It’s safe to assume that with the volume of “friends” most of us have on Facebook, most people look, but don’t comment on such milestones. However, the pride and excitement we experience from announcing our news to the masses is well worth the couple of haters that might come along with it.

Insignificant and Trivial Facts

Life milestones are one thing – they’re newsworthy, interesting and I’m happy to be kept informed of them. On the flip side, there are far more insignificant and trivial items that are also shared on Facebook that I could manage without ever knowing. When I spend more than 5 minutes of my day reading about someone’s rant over a ref’s bad call, cliché quotes or a self-photo shoot taken in someone’s bathroom mirror – I know that is 5 minutes of my life I will never get back and I need to remove myself from my computer immediately. There’s no denying that Facebook can be a huge time waster, so we have to keep in check what type of information we’re consuming and know when to step away.

How to Reach Someone Without an Email

Back to the more useful elements of Facebook, I’ve found it to be an extremely reliable resource of reaching people who I don’t have an email for. Mostly these are friends or distant relatives, but in some cases Facebook has also helped me to connect with someone regarding something business related. They had a bad email address or were unresponsive, yet answered my Facebook message within minutes. It’s amazing! Without Facebook, my “Plan B” for reaching someone aside from email or phone would be reduced to smoke signals or a carrier pigeon. While both are creative, they yield far less reliable results.

My Husband

I could say I saved this as the last item on my list because it’s my most exciting and most life-changing thing I gained from Facebook, but in reality it’s because I really didn’t appreciate how impactful Facebook has been on my life until I started thinking a bit deeper. It wasn’t quite as awkward or painful as an online dating experience, but the story of how we met is a pretty entertaining one that you can read more about here. My husband Scott and I first connected on Facebook after being introduced by mutual friends. Without a platform for social networking, I’m not sure how we would have followed-up and communicated further since no numbers were initially exchanged. Chances are good that the excitement to see each other again would have faded and that little spark fizzled out. But thanks to Facebook, that wasn’t the case! Our story is far from unique and the accurate number of couples who have connected and ultimately married as a result of Facebook would be hard to quantify.

To wrap up with just a brief moment of shameless self-promotion – for those of you who are among the 750,000,000 monthly visitors to Facebook, you should also connect with Bennis Inc here: Facebook.com/BennisInc. I would love to soon have our number of “likes” reflect the number or loyal readers and followers of the Bennis Inc Blog. Don’t have Facebook? I still want you to connect! Instead, comment below and tell us why you made this choice.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2013 in Life, Social Media, Technology

 

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Technology & Honesty: Hiding Behind A Mask?

prom masquerade social media maskOscar Wilde was once quoted as saying, “Man is least himself when he walks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.” It seems that even back when “text” was what made up a novel and a “tweet” was the sound of a bird; we have always felt most comfortable fully expressing ourselves, truthfully and confidently, behind a mask. The masks we have to choose from today are aplenty. Some of us find masks to wear for only a few hours a day, for others its part of our job, but with the ever increasing use of technology and social media—the most interesting masks are the ones in which people choose to wear every time they communicate with the online world.

More and more I prefer email communication over any other. I like the shield it creates between direct communication like a phone call or a face-to-face meeting where immediate responses are expected. Email provides me with the luxury of answering requests at my own pace and on my own time. It also gives me a paper trail of conversations that is much easier to search and recall than anything merely spoken. I don’t argue that there are times where a quick phone call can clear up what would have become a lengthy email chain of confusion or that a sit-down meeting can easily knock off a laundry list of tasks in record time. But aside from these particular circumstances, email is my mask – and I feel most confident, professional and organized when working behind this visage.

Email is only the first of many technological masks we can choose to communicate from behind every day. Can you identify yours? Think how much easier it is to write out a difficult conversation over an email than to do it by phone or in person. I admit I still create an outline of a “script” when I have to communicate some difficult news that I know will upset the other person – even when I do it by phone. This mask allows me to say everything I want in the best way possible without forgetting or stumbling. I don’t do it with the intent to be insincere; I do it with the intent to minimize negative feelings and to organize my thoughts.

But what about the most fascinating mask of all – social media? This is where communicating with friends, acquaintances, members of your extended family – and even exes and enemies – is made a lot easier than doing so in “real life.” With this mask we tend to share overly personal information, comment or message people we’d never pick up the phone to call and even develop what can feel like a personal relationship with someone we’ve never met in person. If you don’t believe me, just wait until your next high school reunion where someone you haven’t spoken to in years will come up to you and somehow know your job title, marital status and the last thing you ate. Social media is a masquerade ball after all. Just because you’re wearing a mask, doesn’t mean you’re the only one. People are also sharing more information with you on social media than they might ever feel comfortable repeating to you again in person.

So what’s the incentive to be so confident and honest behind this front? What are we hiding from? The answer to this might be as unique as the person who’s being asked. Introspectively I believe I’m hiding from the fear of appearing disorganized, unprofessional or misinformed. When I can write it out and proof read it before I click send, it gives me time to think through what I’m saying and revise it if I so wish. Real-life, instantaneous responses do not afford me this same luxury. For social media, I think it’s the fear of having to witness a reaction we didn’t expect or having someone reply negatively. We’re not as afraid to be honest because we never have to witness an immediate response. We can say something and walk away and not have to hope that someone laughs at our joke or supports our rant about a bad day at work.

What do these technological masks mean for the welfare of face-to-face communication? I don’t think anything can replace the meaning of a conversation held in person. For the most sensitive topics – whether negative or positive – the ability to look someone in the eye and take in the expression in their eyes, smile and body language is crucial. And while technology can make a person sitting across the world feel like they’re sitting right across the table, it has yet to recreate this important aspect of “real” communication. While Oscar Wilde’s quote rings so very true, I hope that during the key moments in life in which we need to, we can be so bold as to remove our mask and be just as honest walking in our own person.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on October 8, 2012 in Technology

 

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Thanking Up: Sharing gratitude with your superiors

gold starsRecently I have talked about how the career of a consultant often brings with it the feeling of having many bosses instead of being your own. While I enjoy the variety of work and array of relationships this alternative career path has provided, I still experience moments that remind me I am my own boss and at times – I stand alone.

In past traditional work experiences, I always worked under a direct supervisor. I was fortunate to have these bosses often treat me as a peer and encourage me to share my opinions, but at the end of the day, it was their knowledge and expertise upon which all decisions were made. Though I’ve become comfortable and confident in finally being the decision maker, I can’t quite replace the other benefit a direct supervisor provided – consistent praise.

A client-consultant relationship is not the same as a boss-employee relationship, though comparable. Full time employees often receive regular performance reviews or quarterly meetings to discuss their progress and reward them with a “gold star” when appropriate. As consultants, we’re often out of sight and out of mind from the traditional work relationship. So while we may luckily bypass the formalities of performance reviews, we miss out on the regular thanks and praise for a job well done. Realizing the impact positive feedback has on my own performance and confidence led me to an even greater realization.

Bosses need praise too.

Your job title or hierarchy in a company shouldn’t determine if you receive praise or from whom. I regret to look back on all the times I didn’t thank my previous bosses for a job well done. They all had to make some tough decisions and accomplish tasks that weren’t easy – but they did successfully. Yet because they were the boss and I was the employee I didn’t see it as my place to tell them what a great job they were doing for fear of sounding like a parent praising a child. I regret more to think of all of the times I should have communicated how impressed or proud I was of a client for excelling in various ways. Again, I never wanted to be mistaken for assuming the position of a superior when I more fit the role of an employee or a peer.

Some of my clients now have several other employees working under them and are always offering words of praise to keep them motivated. They are the same people who put in even longer hours, make sacrifices and put their reputation on the line every day to keep the business afloat. On top of all of that, they are also expected to motivate others. I’d say that deserves some motivation in return!

It’s time to bring positive feedback full circle and to break through the misconception that only a superior can offer praise. It’s time we start thanking up.

I don’t think there would be one person who would be offended to receive a message saying “You’re doing an incredible job – keep up the good work!” every now and then. While such a message is appreciated and expected from a superior, imagine how much more it would mean coming from an entry-level employee or an intern who simply wanted to express how impressed he or she was with your work. Speaking from my own experiences, sometimes the most unexpected compliments are the ones that stick with you throughout the rest of your life.

Have you ever “thanked up” before? Or has someone “thanked up” to you? I’d love to hear YOUR story and how it made you feel!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Business & Success

 

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A New Kind of Valentine’s Day

Before I get right in to this week’s blog post, I wanted to first thank you for showing such interest and support for the Bennis Blog Battle! This is going to be a really fun, ongoing series of guest blogging and I can’t wait to read what you’re working on. Everyone is invited to join in, so please read through the details, pull open a new word doc and get writing!

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Valentine's DayNow as a full blown weekly blogger (whether I’ll own up to it or not), I’m more aware than ever as a new week approaches because it means making time to sit down and write. This is a habit I’m happy to have, but it’s brought to my attention that time truly does fly by and life happens whether you’re watching or not. I feel like I’ve just gotten settled from the holidays and New Year and already tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. I’m sure many of you can relate when I say that Valentine’s Day, out of all holidays, brings an added element of stress and anxiety for most of us. It’s not a holiday that earns us a day off work, it inconveniently falls on whatever day of the week it chooses and accidentally wishing someone a Happy Valentine’s Day when they’re single or recently broken-hearted is more embarrassing than wishing a Jewish person Merry Christmas.

Why is this? How does one little holiday centered on the celebration of love develop such a crowd of haters? Sure, it does slightly feel like an illegitimate holiday because of the consumerism and hype that often comes with it. But in the dreary depths of winter, a day dedicated to expressing the warmth of love sounds pretty nice—and I’m not just saying that because Hallmark told me to. I have an idea for this Valentine’s Day that we can all try out and it doesn’t involve agonizing over a card, waiting in line at a crowded restaurant or throwing a pity party for your singleness. I believe Valentine’s Day has much more opportunity than any of this stuff. If we allow it, it can be a great reminder that love is a power we all possess and if we express it together, the world can be a pretty amazing place for a day…a week…a year.

Imagine tomorrow, if we carry some extra love in our hearts—we might leave the house for work happy to be alive not angry to be in a rush. We might give someone a compliment that they will carry with them for years after. We might take some extra time out of our day to help a co-worker with a project just as they’re on the verge of giving up. And we might repair a lost friendship with an overdue, but much needed, phone call. You see, Valentine’s Day can be about so much more than romance and roses—it can about be demonstrating genuine kindness and living a day entirely “in love” with life.

Tomorrow is really nothing special, it’s just another day. But it can serve as a great starting point for us to be a little kinder and a little more appreciative of the loving relationships we have all around us.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on February 13, 2012 in Life

 

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Life As My Own Boss: A Six Month Review

Standing atop the milestone of my 6-month mark, where do I want to take Bennis Inc from here?

Standing atop the milestone of my 6-month mark, where do I want to take Bennis Inc from here?

Just yesterday I happened to look at the date and couldn’t believe how quickly the first month of this New Year has flown by. With a small pause in shock, I realized that January 15th has significance far beyond just the midpoint of the month. It has now been 6 months since I resigned from my position with the Governor’s administration and launched Bennis Public Relations Inc as my full-time career. This is a milestone I’ve been anxiously awaiting to achieve. I see reaching the 6 month mark in any new business as an exceptional opportunity to review its achievements—and struggles—and to redefine the goals I have moving forward.

On July 15th, 2011, my personal “Independence Day,” I had just 3 monthly clients (and a job as a bartender). I was scared, I was unsure, but I felt more alive than I had in years. I knew I had made the right decision when long hours and less than glamorous work conditions were no obstacle—I was doing what I was most passionate about and I was surviving!

The second half of July flew by as a blur. It still hadn’t yet registered that this was a permanent change. It felt more like a long hiatus from work. In August, less than 2 months after starting the Bennis Inc Blog, I was Fresh Pressed for the first time. I was considered “the best” of 362,344 bloggers, 502,365 new posts, 442,553 comments, & 118,245,712 words posted that day on WordPress.com. This was one of the first signs I received that I was doing something right. I had talents that I was tapping into and I was inspired to keep going.

September through December were months of major changes. I moved from my tiny apartment into a place with much more room to grow. I traveled to Charlotte, DC, New York, Seattle, Portland, Chicago and Texas. I learned how to work from the road and essentially mastered the 4-hour workweek from airports and Panera Bread’s all across the United States. And did I mention I went skydiving?

In December, I had increased my business to 7 clients (plus some side projects) and was busier than ever. I upgraded to a new website and invested in some programs and subscriptions to keep me abreast of new PR techniques. But as any entrepreneur will tell you, when it rains it pours. One client’s contract ended and one of my largest clients dropped off. I was left going into the holidays wondering whether I could make ends meet to buy my family (and Pinot!) Christmas presents.

As I normally do in times of adversity, I went into survival mode. I networked, promoted and tapped into all of my resources to find work. What it resulted in is the best proof I can give any business owner that even in your darkest moments, you have to keep going. The brightest light is often right around the corner. In 3 weeks, I’ve more than tripled the number of clients I had just 6 months prior and am receiving an average of 2-3 side projects each week. I’m also involved in 3 pro-bono projects that are as rewarding as they are additional ways to network. Slowly but surely, Bennis Inc is becoming its own brand. The business that was once my delicate infant has now learned to walk and talk.

So now, standing atop the milestone of my 6-month mark, where do I want to go from here? Do I want to become a PR mogul with international offices and hundreds of employees or do I simply want a career that supports me and allows me to do what I love while working from home? Each has its own risks and rewards. And to be perfectly honest with you, and myself, I don’t have an answer beyond simply wanting to keep Bennis Inc growing in whatever direction that may lead. However, I do know the one goal I aim to keep with me every step of this entrepreneurial journey is to continue to offer services of the highest quality and to create lifelong relationships along the way.

I made this drastic life change so that I could pursue a more fulfilling life using my talents to do what I’m passionate about. The strangest result of this change I didn’t realize until right now. Since July 15th, I have not once complained about my job or dreaded the tasks that lie ahead of me. But to get here takes more than just 6 months. It takes, as Frank Lloyd Wright would say, “…dedication, hard work, and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.”

 
26 Comments

Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Business & Success

 

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