Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How to Relieve Holiday Stress

Tis the season...to go shopping, travel and spend extra time with our families. As fun as the holiday season is, it can also cause a lot of stress for many of us. Deciding whose house to got to on what day, spending more than our budgets can handle and dealing with delayed flights can lead to A LOT of frustration! Here are a few tips for common holiday stressors:

Family Stress
  • Take Turns. Deciding whose family to go to, and when, can always be a little dicey. You may have always done things a certain way, but now is the time to start compromising. Split the holiday in half - on Christmas Eve go to your family's and on Christmas Day go to your partner's side. Who can argue with 50/50?
  • Be Realistic. Every family has some conflict during the holidays and it doesn't have to ruin the day. Being realistic and having your expectations in line will help. If your mother in law always comments on what you are wearing, be prepared to hear it and have a response that won't cause you more grief.
  • Just Say No. If you know that dealing with your relatives will cause too much stress on you and your family, it's ok to say no. Celebrating the holiday's with just your partner and kids can be just as fun as with extended relatives especially if you know they will dampen your spirits.
Shopping Stress
  • Stick to your budget. You have set a budget, now the trick is to stick to it! It's easy to get caught up in trying to make every one's holiday the best ever, but remember that spending more on that person won't always make the difference. If there is something that you really want to buy that is putting you over your budget, take note of the item and get it for their Birthday or return something else to make the purchase and stay on track.
  • Decide who's on your list. Make a list of who you intend to buy for and then divide your budget among them. If you have ideas about what you intend to buy, write those down, if not - try to decide on what you want to spend on each person.
  • Shop online. Shopping online helps you stay focused on what you intend to buy, therefore can help you stick to what you intend to spend. Shopping online can also help you come up with idea's for affordable gifts. Many on line stores present gift ideas by price range, helping you stay on target.
Travel Stress
  • Pack Smart. Again, having a list of what you need to pack and crossing those items off as you pack them will help ease your stress. Pack as early as you can for your trip, especially the things you don't need leading up to the trip.
  • Get enough sleep. Try to get a good night sleep before you leave. Traveling while tired will only add to your stress as well as your patience level!
  • Dress for comfort. No on wants to be stuck on a plane or on a long car ride in uncomfortable clothes. Being comfortable allows you to relax for the trip ahead of you and hopefully even get some rest!
Above all try to have a good attitude! Rather then thinking of the holidays as a stressful hassle, focus on the good, and maybe you'll get what everyone wants...A Happy Holiday!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Having an Attitude of Gratitude

Just because Thanksgiving is behind us doesn't mean we should forget the power of Gratitude. In fact, heading into what is sometimes the most stressful time of year for many of us, remembering what we are grateful for can create the happiest of holidays.

I think that people who take the time to notice and appreciate the good things around them are happier and more peaceful. The key is; making a conscious effort to notice what you have rather then what you don't have. It seems that most of us tend to focus on what we don't have, what went wrong in our day, or what we think we need to improve on.

What if we changes our thought process? What if we focused on what went right and what we already have? What if we ended each day thinking of our blessings? Maybe the project you just presented wasn't received as well as you expected, but how about having gratitude for the opportunity for having a job at all? Household chores are not always fun, but how about being grateful for having a home to clean? Instead of wishing for thinner legs or curly hair maybe we need to be grateful we have our health. Shifting your focus to gratitude as oppose to what went wrong somehow takes the stress off, at least it does for me.

There are so many ways we can express gratitude, here are a few ideas:
  • Notice when other do kind thing for you, show gratitude with actions or words.
  • Encourage someone with a honest compliment.
  • Don't worry about tomorrow. Focus on what you are happy about today.
  • Write down something you are grateful for each day creating a journal. On the days that seem tough, take it out and read it.
  • Help someone out without them having to ask you.
Gratitude shouldn't end with Thanksgiving, its something that needs to be practiced daily. Making a conscious effort to notice what you have everyday takes time, but with a little effort you will be surprised what a difference it can make...give it a try!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Stop and Listen

I recently attended a funeral of someone that I remember for being a great listener. While this may not sound like something so grand to be remembered for, I agree with Brenda Ueland who writes in her essay, The Art of Listening, "The people who really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and want to sit in their radius as though it does us good." That is exactly how one felt in his presence and listening was his skill.

Many of us think we are listening when, in reality we are not. Most of us listen for a minute or two, and then wait until the other person finishes so that we can say what is on OUR mind. I have to let you know - That's not really listening.

Have you ever been in any of the following situations?
  • While talking to someone they are looking over your shoulder, or checking their phone...
  • It feels like the person you are speaking to is waiting for the 'period of listening' to be over so they can have a chance to speak.
  • While talking to someone they show a pre-formed opinion, (by shaking their head, or eye rolling) not allowing you to make your point or even finish speaking?
Over time the result of not really listening is that we seal ourselves off from other people, we don't really know them or understand their concerns.

Here are some qualities of a good listener:
  • Good eye contact with out interrupting
  • Understanding the speaker, asking appropriate questions, and most importantly - allowing space for their answers.
  • Having an open mind as oppose to a pre-formed opinion or hidden agenda
All of us want to be heard, and when someone senses that they are really being listened to, great things can happen. Solutions are found. Understandings are reached. Frustrations fall away. Try it, listening that is, and i mean Really Listening! For one day listen to your spouse, children and colleagues without interruption, thinking of yourself, and with an open mind. Let me know what you discover.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Think Pink

Why do you see so much pink every October? October is Breast Cancer Awareness, which is an annual campaign by major breast cancer organizations to increase awareness of the disease. This includes education the public about early detection, the cause, diagnosis, treatment, and support for survivors.

In an effort to support Breast Cancer Awareness I wanted to post a blog about just that - Breast Cancer.

Here are the facts:
  • About 1 in 8 women in the US will develop breast cancer over the course of their lifetime.
  • Breast Cancer death rates are 2nd only to lung cancer.
  • Early detection saves lives.
I would like to focus on the final fact - early detection saves lives. Did you know that some doctors are so confident that they can treat Stage I breast cancer that they give patients a 100 percent five-year survival rate. Even in cases with a slightly more advanced stage of the disease, there are reasons to be extremely optimistic. For instance, those with Stage IIA have a 92 percent chance of surviving the disease for at least 5 years and even those with Stage IIIB breast cancer have a 54 percent survival rate.

The 2 best forms of early detection are:
  1. Under the age of 40: Monthly Self Exams. Women should perform monthly self exams to help locate potentially cancerous masses before they spread to other parts of the body. Women who find lumps or irregularities are able to see treatment while the cancer is in an early stage.
  2. Over the age of 40: Regular Breast Cancer Screening. And by this I mean Mammogram. The biggest advantage of regular breast cancer screening is that it can recognize warning signs before you notice any symptoms. A breast cancer screening can locate a mass before it is large enough to feel during a self-exam. The earlier the cancer is caught the higher the survival rate.
As women we often forget to take care of ourselves - so don't wait, do it now...schedule your Mammogram or visit this link for Easy Self Breast Exam.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Exceptional Customer Service

Customer service is critical to small businesses. Good customer service can be the difference between being able to survive and great success. Business to customer loyalty is what makes a company stand out.
  • Listen to your customers. Really listen, by re-capping the conversation and asking questions so that your customer knows you understand what they are looking for. Have you ever been on the telephone with someone in customer service that seems like they are answering someone elses question? Pure frustration. When you ask your customers questions and summarize what you are hearing your customer say, it lets them know you are on the same team...customer satisfaction!
  • Respond and Update Clients Quickly. Respond and update your client even if there's nothing to report. Hearing, "I received your request and am doing the best I can to get you your answer." is better then hearing nothing at all. If you can't get your customer the answer, try to provide a time line as to when you will have what they are looking for. I think we have all been on the receiving end of hearing nothing and I think it's fair to say that hearing, "I have received your request and I will let you know as soon as I have an answer for you." is better then hearing nothing at all.
  • Fix Your Errors. If an error was made that will affect your customer it's best to let them know and fix it to the best of your ability. Not taking responsibility for your own mistakes is a good way of gaining a bad business reputation. Transparency is important in any business. Handling errors honestly and efficiently is a great way to build a partnership with your client. You can defuse a bad situation just by saying you are sorry and reassure them the necessary steps are being taken to prevent the situation form occurring again.
  • Go the Extra Mile. Customers are happy when they get what they expect, and they are won over when they get even more than what they expect. In order to do this, make certain that what you are offering really is something that your customer can value and then go the extra mile by sending them a personal thank you note, or follow up call to be sure they are satisfied.
  • Put Yourself in their Shoes. It's as simple as treating your client the way you like to be treated as a client. Ask yourself this question; if you were in their shoes and were being treated the way you are treating them, would it be a good experience? If so, you're doing a great job.
Clients feel appreciated when providing exceptional customer service and are likely not only to come back, but to tell others about their positive experience. Providing great customer service will help you build the lasting business relationships needed in order to grow and become profitable.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Boost your Sales Network

Building and maintaining healthy relationships with the buyer is the key to developing a strong network. Having a strong network allow you to reach far more prospects than you could on your own. Attracting and maintaining a solid sales network today is the foundation of tomorrow's success.

Here are some ways to build those important relationships:

  • When it comes to attracting or building a solid sales network your objective is not to sell them something, but to acquire the trust to build and maintain a relationship that will turn into sales. In my experience people will sit up and listen when you share important facts and expert information that help them to make a good buying decision.
  • Start attracting people into your sales network by showing interest in them and asking in depth questions. Ask questions that will cause discussion about your customer's desires and expectations. Step into your customers minds and determine the question they might be asking themselves when they are deciding to buy.
  • Become your customer's partner in product/service satisfaction. Follow up regularly. Be certain of the value your customer will receive from doing business with you 30, 60, 90 day later. Partners get real leads from their customers.
By building and maintaining healthy relationships with your buyers you are guaranteed to yield healthy returns. Have patience - I've learned that being number two in the mind of your prospects will pay off. Your competitor may blow it one day and when they do, there you are ready to take advantage of the relationship you've built. Building relationships does payoff, if not today, tomorrow maybe sooner than you think.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Labor Day

End of Summer, Back to School and beginning of the football season...that's Labor Day right? What does Labor Day mean to you? If you are like me, Labor Day means a well derserved day off marking the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. Well, just like Memorial Day, there's a little more to this holiday then that.

Did you know tht before Labor Day was an official US holiday:
  • the average American worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week?
  • children as young as 5 or 6 years old worked in mills, factories and mines across the country?
  • people of all ages faced extremely unsafe working conditions with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks?
Due to these circumstances, labor unions were formed to fight for better working conditions, hours and pay. The labor unions organized strikes to protest the long hours and low wages, and many times these strikes resulted in violence. Labor Day was created after the deaths of more than a dozen workers when the US government dispatched troops to break up a strike on the railways. In an attempt to repair ties with American workers, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday.

Labor Day is celebrated in cities and towns across the United States with parades, picnics, and other public gatherings. For most children and young adults the holiday represents the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. When our children ask what we are celebrating on Labor Day, don't forget to tell them a little bit of history. Yes, Labor Day does falls at the end of summer and the beginning of the school year, but it also a national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well being of our country. What will you tell your children about Labor Day this year?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hiring Exceptional Employee's

Hiring employees is something every company needs to do, and yet few seem to do it effectively. Instead of rolling the dice here are some pointers from our Human Resource Manager here at TranzAct Technologies, Linda Richardson:
  • Determine your needs and create a job description. Writing out the qualifications for the position you are trying to fill and prioritizing them will help you have a clear picture of the person you seek. Determine whether this would be better done by the manager or supervisor for which the new hire will be reporting to as they will have better understanding of what the position entails, including career-specific vocabulary. Writing an accurate job description will be an important guide to fitting the right person with the right job.
  • Advertise. Consider word of mouth advertising with people whom you are in contact with both professionally and socially. Besides the usual methods of placing ads in newspapers and career websites, talk to your exceptional employees and tell them what you are looking for.
  • Perform an initial interview with those who appear to meet your needs over the phone. Ask a couple of basic, yet key questions. Use these questions to determine if this potential candidate would be a good fit and to verify that no "red flags" are raised.
  • Face to face interviews are the time to ask open ended questions and listen. It can be helpful if another person joins you during the interview so what one person hears as positive or negative can be discussed afterwards. Forming a hiring committee to discuss the candidate is also a good way to ensure you are hiring someone that will fit in with the company as a whole. Be sure to ask all the candidates the same questions to maintain consistency.
  • Check references after the interview to verify information discussed in the interview. A reference check may be the single most important step of the selection process.
Hiring and retaining exceptional employees is a company's most important asset. The process your company follows for hiring will give you the confidence needed that the right person is selected.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability. ~Sam Keen

The dog days of summer are here. The days we long for, to lie in a hammock and read a book, sit at a camp fire and stare at the stars, or take a late afternoon nap in the sun…

All year long we work, plan, schedule and work some more. Now is the time to kick back, relax and enjoy long summer nights. No holiday parties to plan and attend, no homework to help with and the flowers are in full bloom - it’s ok to be lazy!

Of course the world does not stop in July and there are still emails to attend to and phone calls to return, but why not let those things wait a little. After all, the world will go on if you skip a couple tasks on your list or delay getting back to someone…it always does. Sometimes I find myself feeling as if nothing can wait; that we live in a world that demands answers immediately. My experience shows, the tasks can wait, (or better yet someone else has done it) and the phone call wasn’t urgent after all (maybe they even figured it out themselves). Now is the time to sip on a cold glass of lemonade in the backyard and enjoy the outdoors,  your family or the simple sounds of summer.

I hope you find yourself reading this in the warm summer sun ….

As John Lubbock so eloquently stated, “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Having It All

In a recent article in the Chicago Tribune Can today's career women really have it all?, Alexis Grant talks about the message being sent to young women: "you can have it all." Alexis states that having it all isn't always as glamours as it sounds. She says, that while there is nothing wrong with trying to accomplish everything you want in life (career & family), there is a flip side.

Alexis believes, "When we give younger women the message that hey, you can do everything, you can have it all, it's all going to be perfect, there's a sense of almost failure when you can't do it all." As a career woman, wife and mother of 4, I have experienced the flip side - it's not all going to be perfect all the time. Having Healthy Expectations helps; what expectations are we sending to our daughters and younger women about having it all?

Gen Y expert, Christine Hassler's blog The Myth of Having It All states, "we expect that not only are we supposed to have it all but do it all at 100 percent: the career, relationship, children/family all while looking good, doing good and being good." She also says, " I see college women across the country following in footsteps that resemble mine, chasing after the having it all Holy Grail. yet when I ask how many of them feel an overwhelming amount of stress and anxiety, 99.9 percent of the hands go up in the room."

In Christine's blog, she says, "we should be passing down to the younger generation that having it all starts with honoring ourselves and the roles we choose to be a part of, whether it is mother, wife, CEO, politician or a mix of many roles, none are better than the other." We may find out that having it all is not about doing it all; it's about fulfilling who we are in whatever role we choose.

I have found that we cannot have it all, and that the Holy Grail is a myth that needs to be purged from our lexicon. My solution is to merge expectations - my expectations for myself, and for those around me. Learning to say no, delegating are strengths that contribute to my success. Learning to accept less than perfection is something I struggle with but is a fact of life.

Have you chased after the having it all Holy Grail? What does "having it all" mean to you?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Are You Prepared for Retirement?

The 12th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey revealed that for many Americans their retirement strategy is simply not to retire. The research shows how largely unprepared for retirement most are, and how few have a backup plan in the event that they are forced to retire earlier than planned.

Planning and saving for retirement may seem like goals that are far in the future. Yet saving, especially for retirement, should start early and continue throughout your lifetime, especially for women. As stated in an article published by the US Department of Labor Women and Retirement, women are more likely to work in part-time jobs that don't qualify for a retirement plan and interrupt their careers to take care of family. Therefore, they work fewer years and contribute less toward their retirement resulting in lower lifetime savings.

Start asking yourself some questions:
  • At what age do I plan to retire? As the study states, "planning not to retire is not a viable retirement strategy."
  • How much do I need in retirement? According to the Transamerica Survey most workers will need $600,000. If you started saving $200 a month at age 25, with normal investment returns you could have it by the time you reach 65. Impossible? Not if you start saving now.
  • What retirement plans does my employer offer, and do I qualify? If you qualify for a plan - join now. If you work full time and your employer does not offer a retirement plan - open a IRA.
Once you have answered these questions you have started a retirement strategy for yourself. The quality of life in the future depends on what you contribute in the present. You will likely want to retire happily and comfortably with personal and financial peace of mind. The last thing your retirement should be is stressful for you and/or your family. Therefore, it is important to prepare a retirement plan now.

You can visit Employee Benefits Security Administration for some helpful resources on saving for retirement. So I ask, are YOU prepared for retirement?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Remember and be Grateful

Memorial Day means different things to different people. For some it is the unofficial beginning of the summer, a shopping trip to find the best sales, a long weekend getaway or a BBQ with the neighbors. However, Memorial Day was meant to be a day to remember and honor our fallen soldiers.
So many have laid down their lives knowing full well the dangers they accepted in performing their duties for our nation. As we go about our busy lives, working late, running kids around, and planning our summer vacations there are thousands of men and women risking their lives for us every day.

With that said, this Memorial Day, I encourage you to:

  • Stop. Even if just for a moment
  • Remember. Mothers, Fathers, Wives, Husbands, Brothers, Sisters, Sons, Daughters and Friends fighting for us around the clock.
  • Be Grateful. For the soldiers past and present that have given their lives in order for us to have our freedom.
Now that I've given you a reminder as what to focus on this Memorial Day, I will leave you with this poem written by Kelly Strong in 1981 as a tribute to his father:

Freedom is not Free

I watched the flag pass by one day,
It fluttered in the breeze;
A young Marine saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.

I looked at him in uniform,
So young, so tall, so proud;
With hair cut square and eyes alert,
He'd stand out in any crowd.

I thought...how many men like him
Had fallen through the years?
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?

How many pilots' planes shot down
How man died at sea
How many fox holes were soldiers' graves
No, Freedom is not Free

I heard the sound of Taps one night,
When everything was still;
I listened to the bugler play,
And felt a sudden chill;

I wondered just how many times
That Taps had meant "Amen"
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend;

I thought of all the children
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of the fathers, sons and husbands,
With interrupted lives.

I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea,
Of the unmarked graves in Arlington,
No. Freedom is not Free!

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Just Say No"

Have you ever found yourself saying yes when you really wanted to say no? You are not alone. Studies have shown that women are significantly less likely to say no then men. More often then we'd like to admit, we agree to do things we'd rather not be a part of.

Family members ask us to lend them money, co-workers ask for favors, stores mess up our order and we feel bad speaking up. Why?
  1. We want to do it all.
  2. We feel guilty.
  3. We want people to like us.
By saying yes when we want (or need) to say no, we create all sorts of problems for ourselves. Mainly stress. It may be a little uncomfortable saying no at first, but it beats the toll it will take on you later.

Saying no helps rather than hurts. Here's how:

  • Others will continue bringing you things to do until you say no. Ever notice that one person that always gets stuck doing most of the work? By saying yes all the time you may end up being dumped on. Try, "I'll get back to you" - giving yourself time to think allows you to decide it this is something you truly want to do.

  • Ever say, "I'll try to be there" when you have no intention of going? By telling someone you will try to do something or be somewhere only to be a no show, you are hurting your reputation as being some dependable. Be direct, "I can't make it" or "I don't enjoy that sort of thing" Excuses aren't necessary

  • Taking on more then you can handle by saying yes can prevent us from showing our true potential. Ever wrap up working on a project quicker then you would like because you have to move on to the next task, only to have your boss tell you the project you presented wasn't all they had hoped for? Saying no allows us to concentrate our abilities better. "I can't commit to that right now" Honesty is still the best policy.

Learning to say no is an important part of keeping balance in your life. Saying no won't be easy if you become accustomed to saying yes all of the time. Like anything else, it gets easier with practice so get out there and start practicing! Have you said no and found it a relief? Leave a comment, let me know how saying no has helped you...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Women In the Workforce: Are We Reaching Our Full Potential?

According to a recent publication from Business Journal, McKinsey & Company, Unlocking the Full Potential of Women in the US Economy, women entering the workforce account for a quarter of current GDP, yet the full potential of women in the workforce has yet to be tapped. Why don't women reach full potential?

The article by Joanna Barsh talks about different forces that tend to hold women back. At the top of the list - a "leaky" talent pipeline; meaning, at each transition up the management ranks, more women are left behind. Women continue to be taken out of the running on the assumption that they can't handle certain jobs and that they carry the bulk of family obligations on the home front. The study also found that many women hold themselves back by waiting to be asked. These entrenched beliefs are often institutional as well as individual, making it difficult to change.

How do we change these Entrenched Beliefs for ourselves? A good place to start may be in the roles we play as women. Here are a few beacons of light that made my path to success in the office and at home visible:
  • As President of TranzAct Technologies and Founder of Women and Logistics I have learned the importance of clear communication. Women in the workforce cannot fail to speak up. Being direct and assertive will create an environment for others to feel this freedom as well.
  • As a mother and wife, it has been imperative to create a home environment where family obligations are split evenly among the family members. Our family helps each other complete tasks, rather than one individual carrying the many responsibilities that come along with raising a family. Equally balanced give and take relationships have enabled me to step up on the job, as well as keep the scales in life balanced.
  • During my first years in the workforce as a staff accountant, I took on jobs when others didn't; proving my ability to handle more than what was given to me. I made recommendations before being asked, leading to my advancement into Senior Management.
Changing the embedded mindsets of institutions has to start with women taking action in the roles we play everyday. More simple suggestions have been made on Nancy Clark's blog, Women's Lunch Talk. See her blogroll for great posts such as Women Need to Ask! In today's Economy it is clear that the US must make far better use of women in the workforce. Plugging the leaks in the talent pipeline can't happen if we don't take action; so together we need to speak up! Have you run into any of these obstacles? I'd like to hear about it in the comment field below.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Overcoming Obstacles: Results or Reasons?

We all run into obstacles in our life. How do you handle them? Do you spend time giving reasons why the obstacle prevented you from  reaching a desired outcome or do you overcome the obstacle to achieve results?

Which one do you prefer? I think most of us would prefer to be gaining results rather than giving reasons. Giving reasons why, or placing blame is just a way of defending yourself.  Most of the time others don’t hear (or want to hear) your reasons, but people are driven and inspired by those who can generate results.

Let’s look at an example of overcoming an obstacle we have all encountered:

Obstacle: You are late for an important meeting.

  • While walking into the meeting you let everyone know how your child missed their bus and you had to     drive them to school, then you hit every red light, only to be stopped by the crossing gates for a freight train. 

  • Before the meeting you take a second to gather yourself together, apologize for your tardiness as you take your seat, and then start the meeting.

The result most people want in this situation is for the meeting to take place. Giving all the reasons you were late just delays the meeting from starting; therefore, postponing the desired result.

Let’s look at some examples of famous people who have overcome obstacles in their life:

  • Michael Jordan did not make his high school basketball team, however later became the #1 basketball player in the world.
  • Beethoven lost most of his hearing at the age of 20 only to become one of the most well known composers in history.
  • The early works of Dr. Suess were rejected by 23 publishers, before he became one of children’s most loved writers.

So, most of us won’t become a Beethoven, Dr. Suess, nor Michael Jordan. However, any of the household names could have chosen to use their life’s obstacles as the reasons why they didn’t succeed. How we choose to look at a situation, and the choices we make after running into an obstacle, make all the difference.

Next time you encounter an obstacle, think of it as an opportunity. There may be  a silver lining in which you can make positive changes, or learn something new.

Perhaps the loss of your job will lead you to obtaining your dream career, or  a cancelled vacation may provide  you with the opportunity to accomplish some much needed home improvements.  Perceiving obstacles as challenges to overcome instead of the basis for our defense may help us mature and create the foundation for a road of ongoing successes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Are we really out of the Recession?

In the later half of 2010, the NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) announced the recession was over in June of 2009 because the economy’s business activity had stopped declining. The recession may have ended in numbers and on paper, but the pain hasn’t. In the town I live in, Schoen’s clothing store, which had been in business for over 70 years, just closed their doors. My husband has shopped at a men’s clothing store for over twenty years.  That store, Raymond Levine, also just closed their doors after 20 plus years in business. Then there are the well-known companies who have recently filed for bankruptcy, Borders and Giordano’s Pizza. So what is really going on?

Let’s look at the impact of these closings. I don’t know the number of individuals employed at Schoen’s or at Raymond Levine, but I do know those individuals are now unemployed and must find new jobs.  For them, the pain of the recession has not ended.

When Borders announced last month that they were filing for bankruptcy, the retail chain stated they will be closing 200 stores and laying off 6,000 employees. The employees who worked at Borders certainly would not agree that the recession is over.  And Giordano’s Pizza just announced that it has filed for bankruptcy protection as well. The Apostolou family, the owners of Giordano’s Pizza, also own a real estate company that reportedly has not been able to sell or lease properties the past few years, causing the company to default on their loans.   It is evident that although the recession is technically over, the aftershocks are not. Here are some indisputable facts about where we are today:

  • Companies, big and small, are still closing their doors.
  • Unemployment is at 8.9% as of Friday, March 4, 2011. This number is almost as high as it was at the ‘end’ of the recession.
  • 1 in 8 Americans, or 40 million, are enrolled to receive food stamps – the highest on record.
  • Gasoline prices have hit a 28 month high which translates to higher prices in the future for everything; from filling our tanks with gas to putting food on the table and clothes on our backs. 
  • The housing market has not recovered as some cities continue to experience declines in the average home values.

This is most likely not the news you want to hear, especially when we are told we are in economic recovery. So are things getting better? In some ways they are…

  • Banks are lending to small businesses again.
  • Consumer spending continues to rise. Many families are going on vacation during spring break this year and restaurants have reported an increase in business.
  • The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) is rising, meaning supply is moving in the right direction.
  • Unemployment dropped by one-tenth of a percentage point.

It is hard for us to feel that we have weathered the storm when those that are still unemployed, or recently unemployed (such as employees of the companies mentioned above) continue to feel the recession.

The difficultly is the speed at which recovery is taking place….slowly. We take three steps forward and two steps back.  It might help if we focus on the positive rather than the negative. Yes, there are still some businesses closing their doors, and unemployment is not where we want it to be, but as Giordano’s attorney said, “The pizza business is still healthy and good.” Think of it as turning a huge cruise ship around; we may not feel the turn taking place, but we are turning.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Giving Back Part II: I Challenge You to Be Great

“Everybody can be great because everybody can serve” – Martin Luther King
Have you noticed there is a cycle of giving and it can be contagious?
  • Giving actions encourage others to give.   We set an example by giving that demonstrates to others through our actions that giving is part of our essence.
  • Being the recipient of a giving action encourages you to give.   Ever notice how embarrassed we sometimes feel when someone gives us something – either a gift or a kind note or someone serves us in some way?  Being the recipient of a gift can prompt us to give to others.  
Seeing others give makes us want to take part, making it contagious. The recipient feels great to be thought of and wants to continue the cycle. Helping improve someone’s life actually improves your own; keeping our life better balanced. So I challenge you to be great through giving. Make giving back a lifestyle to be emulated by others. Today, business is not only about making money, it’s about making a difference.

Here are some myths about giving back that may cross your mind. Do any of these sound familiar….

1)      Giving back means giving money – MYTH. Giving time and talents is often more important then giving money.  Too often, it is easy to just write a check to assuage our guilt. It is often much harder to give of our time and our talents but the rewards are so much greater.

2)      Giving back is difficult work without reward – MYTH Giving or serving can be a fun activity for you, your family or employees. While the reward is not monetary, you may get more then you give.

3)      Giving back is time consuming – MYTH There are many small ways you, your family or your company can give.

So, where does this leave you? How can I make a difference by giving back? Here are some examples both big and small;

  • Make your company a force of good by organizing or participating in a charity event that involves the whole company.  As mentioned in Giving Back http://jeanregan.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html  Tranzact has participated in Light the Night for Leukemia & Lymphoma  and Diabetes Walk for Life.
  • Companies can also support their employees that are fighting for a cause. At Tranzact we have support our employees by promoting what they are doing,  currently we are supporting employee raising money for St. Baldrick’s a charity for children fighting cancer.
  • Tranzact participated in events such as Light the Night, we also support employees who are fighting for a cause.   
  • Visit a local nursing home – one of our employees brings her children to practice piano at a local nursing home and the residents love it. 
  • Organize a trip with family, friends or employees to Feed My Starving Children where adults and children help package food for starving children all over the world.
  • Volunteer to be a Big Brother or Big Sister – You can change a life by simply being a friend. 
  • Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle – just by reducing what we buy, reusing what we have, and recycling, you alone, your family or company can make a difference.  At Tranzact we recycle and reduce energy use just by reminding employees to turn off computers before they leave.
There are so many ways in which we as individuals or as a whole can give.  It’s seems to be a secret…that you will get more than you give. So I challenge you to be great.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Healthy Expectations lead to Healthy Actions

Expectations…we all have them. But how do we react to unmet expectations?

What happens when our child is not the athlete we expected them to be? How do we react to a promotion that doesn’t come through? Do we cancel our outdoor plans when it turns out to be a rainy day, or do we plan around it?

Whether we know it or not, we form expectations on a regular basis - In fact, it happens so often that you may not even be aware that you have an expectation until it is not met.

Starting with healthy expectations is more important than some of us realize. Unmet expectations can tip life’s scale in the wrong direction if they are not healthy to begin with. There are some important points about expectations that we should take into consideration:

• Expectations are mostly unsaid

• We have expectations for ourselves and others

• Expectations are a driving force in our everyday living

As women, friends, daughters, wives, mothers and working women, we have expectations of all kinds. As women we may expect ourselves to handle it all: maintaining a stressful career while expecting our children to be brilliant at school; learning to become a stellar pianist while taking care of aging parents; being a supportive friend to someone we care for while in our own time of need.

You get the point…we have many expectations for each role we play. When expectations are not met it can cause turmoil. Short tempers, arguments, and disappointment are common but can be greatly reduced or even eliminated if our expectations of ourselves and others are realistic and attainable. The following are 3 tips for healthy expectations:

1) Awareness – ask yourself what your expectations are, and be honest! We can’t have healthy relationships without knowing what our expectations are. Make a list of the general expectations you have for yourself and for others.

2) Decide – This is the key to a healthy expectation. Are my expectations realistic or am I expecting perfection? Having a grasp on our expectations can help us to handle the obstacles (and there will be obstacles). After making your list, assess, decide and adjust any unrealistic expectations.

3) Action – have an alternate plan ready for expectations that may not materialize. Ask yourself, is there another way? How important is this to me or them? Strive for your expectation to be met, but be open to options by having a plan.

So give it a try, start with yourself. You may be surprised to see what and how much you expect. Ask yourself, are these expectations realistic? Am I expecting perfection? For many of us the answers will be “no, not realistic.” And, “yes this may be perfection.” As I stated before this is the key, realizing that some of our expectations may only be for a super hero.

For example: It may not be realistic to expect yourself to have a clean house, all of the laundry done, a hot dinner on the table at 5:30 and be ready to help with homework with TLC 5 nights a week, after working 8 hours a day at a demanding job. Come on…it’s just not realistic. Having the awareness of this expectation and deciding it is not realistic allows you to take the action needed to make a healthier expectation.

You may adjust your expectations by deciding to hire someone to clean your house. You may order takeout a few nights a week. A tutor a few nights a week might be a perfect fit for your child that requires a little help at home. And you may just dial down your expectations and accept that you can’t do it all! When we take these actions we may be surprised to find that the TLC is there for your child when he asks you the same question for the 4th time… and we may just become more accepting of ourselves.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Realistic Resolutions Require Recognition

Well it’s that time of year again for proclamations and promises, revelations and resolutions.  Once the holiday craze passes, it seems that the passion and energy always carry over into big hopes for the New Year.  Whether they are personal aspirations or professional goals, I’ve noticed that every year the month of January is filled with noisy declarations of self-improvement.  By mid-spring we hear and see the quiet silence of obstacles and excuses. 

People seem to need a catalyst for a life long change; something that will jump start their new ways with force and real change.  And once enough time has passed a routine is set and has less chance of being stopped or disrupted.  I heard that less than 50% of American adults make one or more resolutions each year but only 46% of these resolutions are maintained after a 6 month period.  I’m sure everyone has observed that at the beginning of the year fitness centers are packed, co-workers are ordering salads at lunch time and you’ve inherited a seemingly larger smoke-free environment. However as time goes on gym memberships are cancelled, burgers are back on the menu and the cost of cigarettes doesn’t seem so bad.  Case in point: Without the right catalyst, old habits will resurface and those once iron-clad resolutions will fade. 

So what’s going to prevent you from finding yourself in the 54% that don’t maintain their resolutions this year?  Hopefully it’s not something life-threatening like a heart attack that makes you lead a healthier life-style, or losing your job to motivate you to take your career more seriously.  Instead of taking a stab in the dark and slapping your name on a cookie-cutter resolution out of the bag, I challenge you to really think about what you would like to achieve this year and which of those things needs the most attention and commitment.  Now own it.

For example, exercise and losing weight are at the top of the list for most common New Year’s resolutions, but you can’t just say, “I’m going to lose 20 lbs” and expect it to happen.  You need to be realistic. You need to recognize why you want it. You should set a timeline so you can track your progress, and make sure you have the proper stimulus to hasten your desired results.  Another thing that helps is making a devoted commitment.  If you want to get healthy then sign up for classes at your fitness club or team up with a partner for your workouts.  Participate in a support group or a nutrition plan to eat better and potentially lose weight.  Sign up for a class or webinar that increases your industry knowledge to reinvest in your career.  See where I’m going with this…?  Desired results demand action on your part - What’s your catalyst?