Excuses are for Losers

Excuses are for Losers

There is nothing that I hate more than when someone provides me with an excuse for why something didn’t get done. NOTHING.

Let’s get one thing straight. There will be times when things don’t get done but I cannot stand it when people can’t own up to their mistakes. It removes every shred of credibility that you had with me. When you lie, it doesn’t just take you back to zero, it sets you up with a negative score (at least in my mind).

I would much rather have an employee that feels comfortable enough to let me know that other things got in the way and provide a valid explanation that an excuse.

There are two different times when this comes into play in the corporate setting. Work “mandatories” and work “fun”.  When it comes to your work mandatories, my feelings are a little more strict. If you are being paid to do a job, don’t get it done and then provide a phony excuse – it makes me a little bit upset if not mad. When it comes to corporate “fun” meaning social outings or events put on to build team comradery – I’m fine you not wanting to attend. If you don’t want to participate then just say no. It makes you look silly when you commit and then don’t follow through.

If you don’t want to attend an event, just be honest. Please don’t waste the companies time or money by checking the yes box when you know from the minute you get the invitation that the answer is no. It’s okay to not want to attend social functions with people at work. It’s okay to have other obligations that come first. It’s okay to not enjoy hanging out with the people you work with. Just don’t pretend like you want to if you really don’t. You don’t have to advertise that you aren’t interested or sway others that are excited – just politely decline and move on. I used to worry that if I didn’t attend a social function it would make me look bad and honestly, I found out that if I don’t attend most of the time – no one notices that I’m not there.

Now, let’s talk about work assignments. If you can’t get something done on time because you must attend a family function, I get it. You have a personal life and I can appreciate that but please don’t tell me that you are going to get it done and then come in with a lame excuse when you miss a deadline. Make arrangements ahead of time, schedule out your plans, and then be honest with your timing. Don’t commit to timelines that are unrealistic. When you miss a deadline you put your tasks and others that follow that task in jeopardy and while it might seem like something small to you, there are probably other tasks that link to that one that gets pushed back and it puts other folks timelines at risk.

Once you have been working for a few years, you will have heard all the best excuses and know when someone is feeding you a line of bull. In order to save you from yourself, I would like to share a few of my personal favorites.

  • There is an accident and the traffic was bad and you didn’t have time. Okay, but if you didn’t get the assignment two hours before you left your house, or you knew about it yesterday then that’s on you for poor planning pal. Accidents are inevitable and you waited until the last minute, am I right?
  • You left my power cord at the office. Do you have a car? The road home from the office is not one way. If I forgot my kid at daycare, I am pretty sure I would have gone back to get them. If this did happen, when you come to tell me that you had this problem, you better have already been to see IT and have gotten a back-up cord for in your laptop bag.
  • You had technology issues. I expect a screenshot of your computer screen. I will also be surprised if your technology issues just resolved on their own when you got into the office. I would hope that you are sending me this information from your phone while you are meeting with IT.
  • I couldn’t get the document to open. Really? Every other time that you have worked on this it’s opened but today it just decided not to open? Strange.
  • My computer was running automatic updates. Computers don’t just run updates. You get about a hundred prompts to run them and then if you don’t and you leave your computer on and open for an extended period they start. What this means is that you didn’t let the updates run when you were prompted a million times, took your computer home, opened it up to work, got distracted and your computer took over. Then when you realized they were running, you felt like the assignment wasn’t important enough to wait until they were done running to get it complete.
  • I was having problems with my wi-fi. I am pretty sure that if it’s important enough there is a coffee shop, library, or friend that has working wi-fi. I’ve borrowed my neighbor’s wi-fi in the past… Just sayin’.

There are a million excuses you could use. But I’d rather you just be honest and aware of your workload and other commitments.

Pro Tip: My last piece of advice is that if you do use an excuse then please be smart enough not to post about what you are actually doing on social media.

The Best Lesson You’ll Ever Learn: Just Listen

The Best Lesson You’ll Ever Learn: Just Listen

I dare you to spend an entire day of your life silent. TOTALLY. FREAKING. SILENT. I bet just thinking about that is making your toes curl. If you’ve never tried it – you don’t know what you’re missing out on.

I read that the average person spends about 4 hours of their day talking. That’s four hours of your day where your brain is primarily focused on the output which means that it’s not focused on the input. You are missing so much because you are trying to control the situation using your voice. Can you imagine how different your life would be if you just shut the heck up!

When I was in college, one of my professors told me that the smartest person in the room is typically the quietest. Weird – right? Being vocal seems to convey dominance, but dominance is different than intelligence. I firmly believe this to be true. Quiet folks spend their time absorbing the information, processing it, and watching how each person in the room reacts and takes in the information. They are 100% in the moment. They don’t feel the need to sway the conversation in one way or another. They are there to learn and then make decisions only after they have a good grasp on the material or the task at hand.

If you listen to a lot of people talk, they tend to talk through their thought process out loud – that’s a lot of what communication in business is. People talking out loud to solve a problem. Listeners internalize their thought process and then assert themselves by taking a firm stance based on all of the inputs.

Listening is more than just shutting your mouth. It’s also learning how to shut your mind. I don’t mean going to sleep – I wish I did – wouldn’t we all love a good nap right about now? What I mean is having enough control of your mental thoughts to turn off your inner dialogue and really focus on what you are hearing. If you are anything like me a normal meeting goes something like this:

  1. Walk into the room.
  2. Say hello to each person and introduce yourself if you don’t already know them.
  3. Notice that you really like one of the other ladies’ outfits.
  4. Find a seat.
  5. Discuss where and why you are selecting the seat and what you see out the window.
  6. Work through getting your technology set up.
  7. Make sure the conference line is dialed in.
  8. Think through the presentation and realize you might have missed a slide or see a grammar error.
  9. Welcome everyone to the meeting and give some background about why you are there.
  10. Meeting starts.
  11. Notice you get an email.
  12. Check-in with what is going on in the meeting.
  13. Notice you are hungry – check on what time it is.
  14. Take a drink of coffee, notice how good it tastes.
  15. Notice you get an email.
  16. Check back in with what is happening in the meeting.
  17. Phone buzzes – discreetly flip it over to see who texted.
  18. Check back in with what is happening in the meeting.
  19. Write down your follow-ups.
  20. Notice you got an email. Respond to said email.
  21. Meeting closes.
  22. Check the time.
  23. Say goodbye and thank everyone for coming.

Think about every second you spend in an average meeting not tuned into the materials. Think about every time you go out to eat with anyone and you are on your phone. What are you missing out on? You have to learn to turn everything off. Your mouth, your mind, your phone – all of it.

It used to be that when we said we were listening, it just meant that we weren’t talking but these days you must really learn to quiet the noise from technology, your mental to-do list, and your surroundings.

Listening might be one of the hardest skills to learn. It’s something you must practice and work at daily. Try to listen to 15 minutes of an audiobook every day and not do anything but listen. Count the number of times your mind starts to do or think about something else – you are going to be so surprised! Everything you hear is a trigger that gets you started on something else. When I started this exercise, it was too hard for me to make it through the whole 15 minutes, so I started with five. When I was able to get through five minutes of solid listening, I added another five. I can’t say that I have mastered more than 20 minutes but I’m at least conscious of when I need to pull myself back in. I have heard a lot of people say that meditation helps you develop this skill but I’m not quite there yet.

Again, I dare you to leave your phone and email behind and attend your first meeting with only your ears (and a notebook for notes of course).

Learn to Dominate in the Workplace in an Appropriate Manner

Learn to Dominate in the Workplace in an Appropriate Manner

Think back to the last time you felt powerful, like exponentially powerful. What were you wearing? Where were you standing? Who were you talking to? How were you talking? Did you prepare ahead of time?

Being “powerful” is more than a title. It’s a mindset and an attitude. It’s a skill that you can develop over time.

It starts by having confidence. Easier said than done – right? A long time ago someone told me that whenever they must give a presentation before they get up on stage they beat on their chest (think ape-man). Sounds ridiculous (and I’m sure it looked like he was a crazy person) but he said that it made him feel powerful and his on-stage presence was amazing. Such a quick little thing – super weird and super primal but it worked.

There are a lot of tips and tricks that help you come across as confident and powerful – even if you don’t feel like it. Here are just a few of my favorites!

  • Go big. What do I mean by this? Take up a big amount of space. There are a lot of ways to do this. I had a boss one time that wouldn’t sit but would stand and walk around. When you sit down at a conference table don’t try to cram all your stuff in a small space – get comfortable and spread out a little. If two people sit down on a plane simultaneously, the power move is to assume the armrest position immediately, right. Use that same mentality in meetings and presentations. You are meant to be there. You are meant to consume space – take up your fair share. Stretch out your arms and legs. Let your body fill up space in the room. Pro Tip: Don’t be a dick about it. If there are people that need the space or seats obviously give it to them.
  • Positioning yourself in the right place in the room is also important. Try to get to meetings early so that you can sit in either one of the first few rows or the middle row. If you draw a capital letter T in the seats, those are the ones that you want to sit in. I learned that tip back in college. I was told that it’s proven that the people in those seats are typically either in leadership or a top performer. Crazy, right? It makes sense though… that’s where the presenter looks. The more senior folks will sit in the front of the room as they usually will need to present or weigh in on the presentation. Not only does putting yourself in these seats get you noticed it also allows you to network with folks that might have a better chance of helping you further your career.
  • Set yourself apart. Think about people that are super successful. Like SUPER SUCCESSFUL. A lot of them all have something that differentiates them and not just a cool last name or hobby. Steve Jobs and his turtleneck, Mark Zuckerberg and his casual style, Donald Trump and his…hair?. You are allowed to be you. Find little the things that really make you feel good about yourself and set you apart and allow them to flourish so that you stand out. If there is no dress code this is a good place to start. But, always remember to look professional. Let the world see who you are!
  • Want to set the tone for the meeting? Send out the agenda. Set the direction. You will be the person that everyone comes to with questions. Make sure to ask anyone else who would be an important decision-maker if they have anything else that needs to be discussed and include it on the agenda. At some point, this task might not work if your high enough on the totem pole that you get an assistant to do it for you but until then, being the one leading the timeline and get ahead of the meeting schedule. Kick-off meetings. If you aren’t overstepping, try to be the person that tee’s off the meeting. Introduce everyone in the room and ground the team in what you will be discussing.
  • Talk big picture and long game and avoid getting tactical. In the next few meetings you are in, listen to the way that the best leaders talk. They understand the long game and they always circle back to it. Without the big picture and strategy, nothing lines up or makes sense and the vision won’t come to life. Even if you are the person responsible for the tactical plan and logistics make sure that you always explain how it aligns with the big picture.
  • Delegate the logistics to someone else (if you can). In my role I am primarily focused on the logistics of getting projects completed, however, there are a lot of upper management folks that I have worked with that love to get in the weeds on the details and it consumes a lot of their time that they could be using to getting other work done that could potentially move the business along in a more meaningful way. My advice to you is, if you don’t have to deal with the little details – don’t. Hire someone you feel is capable of doing it and then let them. You have bigger fish to fry.
  • Work on your posture. This one sounds so trivial and so silly but it makes such a big difference. Next time you are in a room full of people look around. The way you sit and carry yourself makes a huge difference in how people perceive you.
  • Get off your phone. This is a personal opinion but I believe that when you are glued to your phone and not in the moment and aware of what is going on in the room around it makes it look like you are either behind on your work and trying to catch up or not interested in what you are doing. If you are so busy that you can’t step away from your phone then just don’t leave your desk.
  • Contribute early. If you are in a meeting, try to get your thoughts out there at the beginning of the meeting. Have an opinion and state it. Then absorb what is going on in the meeting or room.
  • Interrupt if needed. I always worried about jumping into conversations and saying something dumb. I had good ideas and recommendations but I wasn’t confident that my opinion mattered. It does. If people that on the ground floor never speak up then there isn’t a voice for the masses. Sometimes you might be wrong but if you have something substantial that needs to be said, you should feel comfortable speaking up.
  • Listen more than you talk. Ensure everything that comes out of your mouth has a good reason too. If every time you speak you say something substantial people will listen to you more often.

Washing Fruit and Veggies

Washing Fruit and Veggies

I’ll admit it. I didn’t use to wash my fruits or vegetables. I was the kind of person that would say “it builds your immune system” and laugh it off.

Then, Corona Virus hit and we started wiping down and washing all of our groceries and fruit and vegetables and I will never eat anything that isn’t cleaned off again in my life. YUCK!

I started soaking my fruit and vegetables in a sink of cool water with a little bit of vinegar for about 30 minutes.

I have never been so grossed out in my life. Aside from just the normal dirt, there were also little bugs and stuff that came off the fruit and vegetables.

The best part of my new discovery is that my produce lasts so much longer after it’s cleaned. I’m assuming because the bacteria and germs were eating away at them and cleaning them off protects them against any of the icky stuff they picked up on their way to me.

Wiping down boxes of groceries was also an eye-opener. The first time we did it I used about a million Lysol wipes because I was being extra cautious so I didn’t really notice anything. Then I started to slim down to 2-3 per grocery trip. I never really thought about all the hands that touch each box of groceries from the production line to the supply chain to the grocery store to shoppers. I had some very dirty wipes!

Just wait, the next round of groceries we get I will get some photos and share with you.

You consume all of that gross stuff! While I don’t think Lysol wipes are probably the best choice to use on anything that is going directly into your mouth, it doesn’t hurt to give your groceries a quick water wash/wipe before putting them into the fridge.

I will say, this whole experience has shown me that I might want to consider growing my own produce…

Managing Up: Help Yourself by Helping Your Manager

Managing Up: Help Yourself by Helping Your Manager

The word “boss” comes with a negative connotation. Like the word director or manager, it implies that your boss is there to give you directions. Shift your thinking. Your boss is your best ally in a quest for your dream career.

Think about why you are getting hired. You are being brought into a team to make your manager successful thus making their manager successful in turn making the entire team and company success. If your manager didn’t need support, they wouldn’t have a need to hire you. Read that slower. IF YOUR MANAGER DIDN’T NEED SUPPORT THEY WOULDN’T HIRE YOU.

Your boss is generally your biggest advocate. They can bring you with them to the top or they can leave you behind to fend for yourself. There are very few bosses who are negative from the start. They might be tough but that’s much different than negative.

Make sure they trust you. If something goes wrong and they don’t have time to deal with the problem, you should be the first person they call to handle it. You want them to feel like their right hand is missing when you aren’t around, heck the right half of their body.

Here are some tips and tricks to build a great repertoire with your managers:

  • Always have a great attitude. Working with someone who is positive can improve any bad situation.
  • Never surprise your boss. I repeat, never surprise your boss. My first boss did a wonderful job teaching me this and it will stick with me for my entire life. They don’t need to know every detail about what you are working on and doing daily, but they do need to know if you make a major decision, change direction, or are facing a challenge that is going to cause them problems if it’s not resolved. Keep them looped in even if it’s just a short email to provide them with a heads up on the situation and how you are handling it. Let them know if they want more details that you can schedule a time for a discussion. If you’re just making sure they are aware and don’t need anything from them add a friendly “No action needed just keeping you in the loop” to the beginning of your email.
  • Instead of coming to them with your problems, bring them solutions, and make sure that they are aligned with your approach. This will allow you to think through the details and formulate a plan which will help you start to develop leadership qualities and grow in your role and it also takes the burden of adding another thing to think about to their list.
  • Once a budget and timeline have been established don’t stray from them. Treat them like a contract. Do everything in your power to stick to any details that the team has agreed on.
  • Don’t commit to anything you can’t accomplish. It’s better to say you will try your best than to make a promise you will have to break later.
  • Learn about your manager. Make it your mission to understand how they think and why they make the decisions they do. Who are they personally and professionally? How do they define success? What are their goals? Read their job description and ask them to walk you through it and what they do for each line item on an ongoing basis. Understand how they operate. What are their biggest challenges? What are the things that aren’t willing to compromise on and don’t want to change? Having a good insight into your boss’s life and mindset will help you make decisions that align with what they want.
  • Don’t expect your boss to spoon-feed you. You can ask questions, but they aren’t there to do your job. Don’t bother them with trivial matters. If you can’t figure out the answer, try your best and then run your recommendation past them for their approval.
  • If you don’t have something to work on or are slow, try to take something off their plate. It will provide you with incremental learning experiences and it will develop a more trusting relationship. The more you take on the more valuable you become.
  • Bring them in on your best ideas. I like to think of my boss as my partner in crime. When I have an amazing idea, I like to secretly loop them in, run it past them, and then work with them to build it out before sharing it out with the larger group. I think building big ideas and working closely in the trenches really build team camaraderie.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for building a great relationship with your boss?