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Tag Archives: Life

Parenthood: Adjusting to the Ever-Changing “New Normal”

On August 4, 2012, my definition of family changed. Newly married, my family became me, my husband and one particularly ornery cat. We worked to re-establish our daily routines as we learned each other’s habits and quirks. Our staggered steps turned into a beautiful dance and eventually I couldn’t remember what life was like before it was “us.” This was a precious, but fleeting moment in our lives as my definition of family soon changed…again.

On May 11, 2013, I held my baby boy in my arms for the first time. For most of the world, nothing had really changed. But for me, nothing would ever be the same. I mean that truly in all aspects of life. I’m not too proud to admit that parenthood was (and is) like being stripped of everything normal and familiar and launched into a new world where all the skills I had relied upon to be successful up until this point became completely irrelevant. Those first few months, I felt just as lost and overwhelmed as a newborn – oh the irony in that!

This new, little family struggled to again establish our beautiful dance around one another. Just when we overcame one hurdle (yay, he’s sleeping through the night), another popped up in its place (what child cuts fourth teeth at once). With every milestone, we established a “new normal.” Date nights turned into Friday evenings spent at the park, romantic dinners were brought home in a takeout box and bedtime was rarely after 8:30pm – for anyone in the house.

As a creature of habit, I loved every routine we have had as a family – because it was familiar and it was ours. It was never too long until we again had to pivot into a new normal. Travel schedules, illnesses, moving into a new home and changing seasons all brought about necessary change to which we adjusted.

And another big adjustment is right around the corner…

In no more than a few weeks (I’d like to think a few days), we will welcome another bundle of joy into our home and our routine. Our new normal will shift again…substantially. I waver between moments of excitement for this change in our lives and moments where I question our sanity for opting into another momentous challenge. Our family’s current routine is nice. It’s safe and it’s predictable. We have established a pretty beautiful dance – yes, a dance that includes meltdowns, potty training and comprise, but a beautiful dance indeed.

Luckily life gives us a nine months heads up that such a change is about to happen. Not many other circumstances in life afford us such preparation, nor do they promise such joy. As I struggle to fit as much as I can into every day leading up to the birth of our second son, I have found that life has a wonderful, and at times, frustrating way of slowing us down to absorb what we might otherwise miss.

The past few weekends, our little family has enjoyed more undivided time together than I can recall in recent history. I captured a picture that will forever define our current normal – as it is right now, but will never be again. As much as I never want to leave this moment, life has taught me again and again that the new normal that lies ahead is the best one yet.

Whether you are a new or veteran parent, can you relate to the ongoing struggle of adjusting to the “new normal?” Share a personal story or piece of wisdom!

Our “normal”…for now.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2016 in Learning, Life

 

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Life Lesson: Are You Satisfied or Merely Distracted?

Life Lesson Are You Satisfied or Merely Distracted

Thanks to technology and society telling us it’s normal and expected to be connected 24/7, we have found more ways than ever to live life distracted. We have become accustomed to consuming multiple forms of media at a time, so much so, that watching TV is often accompanied by surfing our phones for social media updates.

I am just as guilty as the rest of the world. I have caught myself checking my phone with one hand, answering an email with another hand and fooling myself into believe I’m still paying attention to the TV show playing in the background. During these moments in life, I feel productive, entertained and comfortable. But am I mistaking these feelings for happiness?

The question I pose today is this…amidst all of the distractions we use to take our attention off of feeling undesirable emotions like boredom, loneliness, doubt and sadness, are we skirting around the hard, but paramount task of seeking out true satisfaction in our lives?

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a thought-provoking lecture that cautioned us not to mistake satisfaction for distraction. By nature, we as humans have found countless ways to distract ourselves (i.e. procrastination) from the real task at hand, often because it’s more work. But we’re not fooling anyone. The repercussions of our distracted lives can be found all around us. How many “friends” do you have on Facebook versus how many friends you talk to (I mean real, meaningful conversations) on a weekly basis?

The blinking light of a social media update should not be valued higher than your family conversation around the dinner table. The distractions around us are tempting, and sometimes warranted, but for the most part they are futile attempts to fill a void that can only be filled by seeking true satisfaction – whatever that means to you.

The life lesson I want to share is this. We can continue down this slippery slope of distracting ourselves into believing we are satisfied in life, but we will always need to find more and better distractions to make us believe we are “happy.” Or we can start today by taking a closer look at our lives and the relationships that form our happiness. And the first step is to close our laptops during the evenings and weekends, turn off our phones when spending time with loved ones and seek satisfaction before distraction.

It’s a crazy, but simple notion – so simple that unless these two words were brought my attention in stark comparison, I might never have considered how satisfaction could be mistaken for distraction (and vice versa). It really makes me think about my intentions when I’m tempted to pick up my phone at dinner or check my email during family time. If I’m desiring the feeling of distraction, maybe there’s a void I need to fill first and foremost with true satisfaction that is far more lasting.

Take a constructive look at your own happiness. Would you say you are truly satisfied or merely distracted? If you feel compelled to share your insights, I’d love to hear your personal response to this deep question!

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2016 in Life

 

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Thanking Up: Sharing gratitude with your superiors

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


Thanking Up Sharing gratitude with your superiorsRecently 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!

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2016 in Business & Success

 

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Top 10 Blog Posts on Life and Entrepreneurship in 2015

Top 10 of the year (done in 3d)

I feel like I need to start by asking the obligatory question of “Where has the year gone?” But truthfully, I feel like it’s been quite a long year packed with great memories, exciting achievements and whole lot of interesting writing.

Before we close out 2015 and turn our calendars to the New Year, I wanted to take one last opportunity to revisit some of my favorite blog posts. We covered just about everything you could imagine including branding, communication, personality types, time management and of course my cat, Pinot.

Join me on this brief trip down memory lane with a list of the top 10 blog posts on life and entrepreneurship in 2015 from Bennis Inc. May 2016 be filled with just as much insight and inspiration!

How Do an Introvert and Extrovert Live Together in Peace?

Whether it’s your spouse, best friend or boss, co-existing with the opposite personality type brings a unique set of challenges. This blog explores my personal experience as an introvert living (and often working) with my husband who is an extrovert.

Read the original blog here.

How to Rebrand Your Business

This blog is the first post in a 5-part series that was inspired by my website redesign (check it out at www.bennisinc.com!) So often, businesses miss the signs that they are in need of rebranding or are overwhelmed by the task and don’t know where to begin. These posts provide a step-by-step guide to walk you through the process.

Read the original blog here.

The 4 Most Powerful Words You Can Ask Someone

In between my many articles focused on communications, public relations and marketing, I also like to insert posts that are philosophical and geared toward life in general. This is one of those posts…and one of my favorites from 2015. Find out what four words I’m talking about and why we should use them today.

Read the original blog here.

7 Ways to Use a Press Release Beyond Pitching to Media

I never like to see good content go to waste which is what inspired this particular blog post on repurposing a press release. Even if you don’t get a single media hit, you have the power to get the most out of this content with how you personally promote it across your communication channels.

Read the original blog here.

5 Tips for Running a Productive Business Meeting

I love efficiency and good time management which is why I often hate sitting in boring business meetings. This blog post received a ton of love from my readers who can relate! Take a look at how you can run a more productive business meeting in 2016.

Read the original blog here.

5 Lessons My Cat Has Taught Me About Entrepreneurship

Of course my cat, Pinot, had to make an appearance at least once in 2015, so this is her post. What I’ve learned by observing her actions are usually more “what not to do,” but she inspired me with some solid advice this year as well.

Read the original blog here.

How to Professionally Fire a Client

This was among the most read and shared Bennis Inc blog posts in 2015. Breaking off a bad relationship with a client is a hard and uncomfortable topic for many business owners. In this post I offer advice on how to identify these “must-go” clients and how to remain professional when showing them the door.

Read the original blog here.

Why Technology is Killing These 11 Essential Skills

So often we read about the wonderful advancements and achievements of technology, but it’s important to also stop and examine how technology may be making our life more difficult. In this blog post I challenge the “helpful” aspects of technology by pointing out 11 essential skills it is hindering in our society.

Read the original blog here.

6 Valuable Lessons I Learned from Working from Home

I am a passionate advocate for the virtual work environment, but I am also constantly learning how to balance and manage the unique challenges that come with working from home. This blog post takes a fresh look at the lessons I’ve learned specifically in 2015 about how to be efficient and effective when working from home.

Read the original blog here.

8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

This is the perfect post to end my top 10 list for 2015. As we hopefully get some rest over the holidays, we can all benefit from reflecting upon why we might feel like we never have enough free time. January tends to be among the most stressful and hectic months for many business owners. Prepare yourself for a calm and collected 2016 by learning about these time management pitfalls.

Read the original blog here.

Want to explore most blog posts from Stephanie Shirley and Bennis Inc? Be our guest! Click here to browse business and success, here to browse life and here to explore all the rest.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2015 in Business & Success, Life, Wisdom

 

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Twas the Week of Christmas…

Twas the Week of Christmas

(It’s become an annual blog tradition…a fun twist on a familiar favorite!)

Twas the week of Christmas, when all through the house
not a computer was turned on, not even a mouse.
Their cords were wrapped up in the corner with care,
in hopes that I had strength to leave them there.

Miss Pinot was nestled all snug in her bed,
while visions of toy mice danced in her head.
For once taking cue from my sleepy, gray cat,
I settled my brain for a short winter’s nap.

Is it possible to tune out all of the clatter,
to focus on Christmas and what truly matters?
No doubt it would feel different to completely unwind,
what’s the worst that could happen, we’d have a good time?

So from now until next week, the blog posts can wait
there are loved ones to hug and cookies to bake.
This short disconnect will help creativity to soar
and inspire me to write even better than before!

Until then, don’t worry what to do with your time,
make your own holidays as relaxing as mine.
Here’s my final wish before the exit I make,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a short break!”

Christmas Tree Card 2

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2015 in Life

 

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Stop Using These 9 Metrics to Measure Success

Stop Using These 9 Metrics to Measure Success

Having worked with many, many different clients over the years, I’ve had the benefit of learning how they each run their business and how they quantify success.

As you might expect, this is as unique as a fingerprint. However, one thing I did find to be common among the happiest and healthiest businesses was that they did not focus their measure of success on any of the following nine metrics I will soon discuss. To say the least, these metrics are false and misleading. They also create an imbalanced company culture which can snow ball into bigger problems down the road.

Take a look at the nine metrics for success that we all need to stop using right now!

How long you spend completing a task

Imagine how long it would take most of us to change the oil in our car. Just because we devoted hours of (frustrating) labor to this task, doesn’t mean we were any more successful than a skilled mechanic who can complete this same job in a fraction of the time. How long someone spends completing a task is not an indicator of success.

How early or late you’re accessible by phone or email

Our culture tells us that the longer we work, the more important we must be. Checking emails and answering phone calls from sunrise to sunset makes us feel like we are more successful than our peers who cut out at (gasp!) 6pm and let emails wait until normal office hours resume the next day. How early or late we allow ourselves to be accessible for work tasks is not correlated to success, but it is most certainly correlated to a work-life imbalance.

The size of your office

One of the biggest mistakes I see small businesses make is investing in a large office space they simply don’t need. There’s no denying my support of a virtual work environment for its efficiency and cost-savings. Yet, so often new entrepreneurs feel that their success must be validated with a commercial office space that is one more thing to manage and one more bill to pay. The size of your office is not an indicator of success. Many high-profile business owners and CEOs throughout history have worked from their home, out of a basement or garage or voluntarily took the smallest office space in their building.

The size of your staff

Similar to the size of your office, the size of your staff doesn’t indicate success any more than the size of an SUV indicates the stature of the person driving it. All of these items can be obtained by people who are barely able to pay the bills each month – all for the perception of looking “bigger” than what they are. Work to keep your overhead as low as possible and instead focus on the size of your profit margins.

Fancy stationary

One of my biggest pet peeves is working with a client who claims to have a shoestring marketing budget, but who then pays an invoice with a slew of unnecessary collateral materials that were certainly not cheap. Custom-printed checks, stationary, envelopes and embossed business cards will not be what (solely) seals the deal with your client – a good communications strategy will. Don’t mistakenly use this as a metric for success and instead smartly invest your marketing dollars elsewhere.

The number of business cards you hand out

Speaking of business cards, loading up on thousands of these paper rectangles and then tossing them out like confetti at a networking function will not build meaningful relationships with fellow professionals and may actually make a bad first impression. Handing out hundreds of business cards a day (without any strategy or follow-up) is not a useful metric for success. Anyone can do that – including small children and robots.

The clutter in your inbox

Busyness does not equate to productivity and a cluttered inbox does not equate to success. Hundreds of unread emails may look impressive at first glance, but when the majority of these messages are spam, promotions and auto-responses, you are merely trying to convince yourself you’re important. I tend to treat my inbox like my to-do list. The few messages I leave there require my attention and usually receive it within a day. All other messages are read, discarded or filed into their appropriate sub folder. To someone else looking at my inbox, I may look like I’ve had a pretty easy day. But I’m okay with that because I know that this is not an indicator of success.

The number of meetings you attend

During my time spent working in government, I experienced just how much time can be wasted in meetings. People loved to schedule meetings and conference calls to basically fill their entire work day. This would then give them the need to stay late to actually accomplish anything, perpetuating this false measurement of success. The number of meetings you attend does not equate to a successful day or your level of importance within a company. In fact, the people who often have important work to do find any excuse to get out of these meetings and get back to their computers.

Social media likes, followers and interactions

Finally, and this one may shock you, the number of interactions you receive on social media is not an indicator of success. You may say, “Well then why are we told to spend so much time and money on establishing a social media presence to build our business?” I’m not discounting the effectiveness of a strategic social media plan as part of a larger marketing effort, but I am offering a friendly reminder that you and your business are worth far more than the number of likes you have on your fan page.

Likes can be easily bought and interactions can be skewed to the point where it’s hard to tell what, if any part of your sales are a direct result of someone following you on social media. Stop making this the focus of every sales and marketing meeting!

What should be our metrics for success?

…Quality and productivity!

There is one philosophy all businesses would benefit from embracing, and that’s simply to “Get it done…right!” Quality and productivity are the two metrics that we should use to measure the success of our day and the overall success of our business. Did we deliver quality work in a productive manner? The businesses that embody this philosophy and promote this culture to its employees are the ones that are thriving.

Did you knock everything off your to-do list by 3pm? Great, see you tomorrow! Do you need to spend a few extra hours perfecting a project you know your client will love? Maybe you work a little late tonight, but you know it will pay off in the end. Stop comparing hours, square-footage, email count and boxes of business cards. Instead, “Work hard in silence and let success make the noise.”

Which of these metrics do you most commonly see misused to measure success? Share the outcomes by commenting below!

 

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2015 in Business & Success

 

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The 9 C’s of What Motivates Humans to Do Anything

What Motivates Humans to Do Anything

Motivation is a powerful and fascinating component of our human lives. We are fickle, particular and often lazy creatures that require a great deal of motivation to do anything. Nearly every part of my career in communications is somehow related back to how I can motivate someone to do something. And while it may seem simple enough, it’s no easy task!

Any effective marketing, advertising or public relations strategy should take into consideration the most likely motivating factors of your target audience. What will get them to take action? The bad news is that it can be a combination of any number of things. The good news is that the most common motivators fall into nine categories (that ironically can all be labeled with a word that starts with C).

Let’s take a look at the nine C’s of what motivates humans to do anything – and how to ignite this motivation style. I urge you to carefully think about which one is the strongest motivator for you personally and pinpoint the one you rely on the most to motivate others. I promise the results will spark your curiosity (yes, that’s one of the C words we will cover)!

Challenge

As human begins, we are drawn to a challenge. The excitement and fulfillment we receive when we achieve more than we initially thought possible is an intoxicating rush of adrenaline that keeps us coming back for more. To an extent this can depend upon personality type, but to some degree we all crave a good challenge now and then.

How to ignite this motivation style: Set the bar and challenge your audience to raise it. Some very effective marketing campaigns have challenged us to create a better solution, try something new or dare to be different. We crave the feelings of pride and accomplishment that come from taking on a challenge.

Competition

Long before we had a term to define marketing and advertising strategies, we have been motivating people through competition in a variety of ways. It’s why athletes put their bodies through intensive training and unbelievable feats of endurance – all to better themselves and gain a leg up on the competition. We’re not all athletes, but we are all motivated by competition in some shape or form. If we think we can do or have something better than someone else, you better believe we’re going to be motivated to try it!

How to ignite this motivation style: Showcase how other people are excelling and how your audience can too with your business or service. No one wants to be left behind. Appeal to the desire to “keep up with the Joneses” and you will motive action.

Compliance

Thinking of compliance as a motivating factor seems funny because not often do we like to be told what to do. Or so we think. As creatures of habit, we seek someone who will tell us what to do because it’s all we have known our whole lives (we can thank Mom and Dad for that). If your boss or client should walk in right now and hand you a work task, chances are nearly certain that you will comply with their request. You now feel obligated to complete this task which is a strong motivator for action.

How to ignite this motivation style: Make your audience feel obligated or committed to doing something. Identify a specific action and convince them that it is their responsibility to fulfil this duty.

Consequence

What should happen if you do not take an action? Will you lose money, lose your job, make someone angry or something worse? If you believe that a negative consequence is associated with not taking a specific action, you are highly motivated to indeed take that action. Whether we know it or not, we run cost-benefit analyses in our head all the time. The consequence must be perceived as worse than the effort, expense or risk associated with the action. That’s where marketing comes in.

How to ignite this motivation style: Play upon fear or doubt that something bad will result from not taking this action. They key is to identify your audience’s shared insecurity or vulnerability and position your desired action as the way to prevent negative consequences.

Control

There are countless aspects of our lives that we simply cannot control. This is why our ability to control something – anything – is a great motivator. We want to feel the power and stability of being in control, no matter how small. Even if this is simply picking our ice cream flavor or choosing the color of our car, empower people with a sense of control and they will be motivated to take action.

How to ignite this motivation style: Show how taking action will put your audience in a position of control. Empower them with (limited) options to improve their current situation or demonstrate how the action will help them solve a problem that feels beyond their control.

Connection

We are also motivated by the desire to feel connected to other people. This is why we devote a great portion of our time to cultivating friendships and building a community around us. Our individual personalities will influence how many and what type connections we seek, but we all want to feel connected to some degree. I am without a doubt an introvert, but I still need and crave connections in my life.

How to ignite this motivation style: Speak to your audience’s inherent desire to feel accepted and part of the “bigger picture.” Paint a picture of a connected community bonding and working together.

Contribution

Another motivational factor that is closely linked to the feeling of community and involvement is “contribution.” Our actions can be motivated by the desire to help a cause. Fundraising for a nonprofit or political organization takes a very specific appeal – and based upon the millions of dollars donated to various organizations every month, it is also a very effective form of motivation.

How to ignite this motivation style: Convince your audience that their actions will contribute to a community or cause. Make it easy to understand how their actions will benefit the greater good and serve a purpose that is meaningful to them.

Craftsmanship

We have covered the categories of people wanting to feel connected and people wanting to contribute to something bigger than themselves, but we would be amiss to not also address a more selfish motivator of pride. Craftsmanship motivates us to take action because we are drawn to the idea of showcasing our skills and talents to create something that other people admire. Craftsmanship is not all selfish. Many people create beautiful and useful things for someone else to enjoy while also placing a feather in their cap.

How to ignite this motivation style: Play upon your audience’s pride to use their skills and talents create something of value. Showcase examples of what others have created and how they are being used and enjoyed by many.

Curiosity

Finally there is curiosity. This is another inherent human desire that exists within each and every one of us. We want to know what something is, how it works and ultimately how it can benefit our lives in some way. Piquing someone’s curiosity in an effort to elicit action is a common, but extremely effective marketing technique.

How to ignite this motivation style: Ask a good question to leave your audience with a burning desire to know more. You shouldn’t aim to fully answer the question, but rather spark interest that will drive them to take action to get more information.

What factor tends to motivate you the most? Expand upon an idea or add to the list by commenting below!

 

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2015 in Business & Success, Life

 

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