“Yes” Should Always Come First

“Yes” Should Always Come First

Something that I found really refreshing when I started working at my current company was that they asked their managers to have a “yes first” approach. This meant that if someone came to you and asked for permission, you should always TRY to give them approval unless the request would create business challenges. Wait? WHAT?! A company that actually trusts its employees? Is this real life?

You bet it is, and it’s a really great life!

Typically, people don’t ask for things that they don’t need, and a good employee won’t try to use the system their advantage. Let that sink in. GOOD EMPLOYEES DON’T ASK FOR THINGS THEY DON’T ACTUALLY NEED.

When I became part of this culture it was apparent that people didn’t just feel like worker bees but felt like they were a valued part of the company. They felt trusted. There are obviously always office politics, but having a culture that values trust is so incredibly important.

I want to work with people that I can be myself with. I want to work with people that understand my legitimate concerns about my family and my life. It goes without saying that some things remain private and I don’t want to share with everyone but knowing that I can talk to my colleagues about my personal life challenges so that they understand why one day I might be in a superstar mood and another day I might want everyone to leave me alone is very helpful in a collaborative office environment.

I recommend that you allow your employees to be human. To support them in their personal and professional endeavors. It will change your entire team dynamic. Trust that they will get their work done and if anything comes up that poses a threat, they will elevate it to you as a concern before it actually becomes an issue.

Try to change up your routine and start allowing your employees to do a little more, be a little more flexible. It might be allowing them to try their hand at a project they have been really interested in. It might be working from home one day a week. It might be a shift in office seating. It might be adding in a weekly pot luck. Regardless, letting your employees feel valued can create an immeasurable shift in office culture.

When you say yes, it doesn’t have to be a blanket statement. It should always come with expectations. For example, if you have an employee that asks to join the new business team because it’s something, they are passionate about perhaps you set up an arrangement where they can sit in on a few team meetings, and then you will continue to check-in. If they are still passionate about it, then give them a little more. If they get all their day to day tasks completed on time, there isn’t any reason that you should hold them back from perusing something they are passionate about and potentially good at. Passion fuels performance.

Saying yes can also help to break free from routine. Saying no is easy. It means that nothing is going to change. When you say yes, it means that there will be a shift from what is currently happening. That can be scary and intimidating. Don’t get me wrong, a routine is important but sometimes routine can be detrimental to success. Let me share an example. On an average day, I get anywhere from 75-200 emails. When I am in the office at my desk, I respond to 20 or 30 emails because I have constant visitors stopping by my desk asking me questions. When I work from home, I can usually get back to almost all the emails. Additionally, I work for about an hour and a half away from my home. This means that I spend about three hours a day driving. Imagine how much I could get done in three hours. If my daycare wasn’t right next to the office it would make working from home much easier but knowing that if I have a grandparent that can watch my kid and my boss is comfortable with me working from home if I need time to just knock stuff out makes me feel empowered and comfortable talking to her about anything work-related.

Give your employees the benefit of the doubt and see if productivity increases and attitudes improve.

How to NOT Suck at Public Speaking

How to NOT Suck at Public Speaking

Ohhhhh, public speaking… you glorious and terrible bundle of joy.

Public speaking is one of the most important skills you need to learn that tends to get overlooked. I’ve seen so many of my coworkers that can rock a presentation deck, know the numbers by heart and then get up to speak in front of a large group and their lack of speaking skills makes it look like they have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.

In order to get comfortable with your public speaking skills, you are going to have to get really uncomfortable. I think the reason that public speaking is so hard for so many people is that they are uncomfortable with themselves. Most of the time, the people watching you are too concerned with their own thoughts and lives to realize if you make a mistake. Most of my tips and tricks are going to put you way outside of your comfort zone but that’s okay because when you practice – you’re the only one in your comfort zone – which means the only person that will make fun of you is you – and last I checked we don’t make fun of ourselves when we are working on improving ourselves. So, let’s make a promise. If it feels awkward and things real weird – we aren’t going to let it bother us.

Now that we are in agreement, let’s get started!

Here are some tips and tricks that will help you improve your public speaking skills:

  • Practice makes perfect.
  • Record yourself and as painstaking as it is, listen to the whole recording. Once you have gotten your vocals where they need to be move on to video.
  • Take a video of yourself as you present. How you look is just as important and what you say. Watch yourself in a mirror a few times first to get out all the wiggles. Then, take a video of the whole presentation and you guessed it…watch the whole damn thing. I promise each time you record yourself and then watch it and then do it again you will get better.
  • Slow down. Most people don’t get slower when they present, they speed up. Put marks into your notes for when you start to jumble all your words. I like to use bold X marks.
  • Memorize when possible. You don’t have to memorize your whole presentation, but have an idea of how it should sound
  • Do the presentation in your head and make it look incredible. Make it the best presentation you have ever given. Some of the very best athletes use visualization to improve their game-day skills. It sounds crazy but it works. Trick your brain into believing you are going to give the most stellar presentation ever.
  • Articulate and annunciate. Highlight words you stumble over and practice saying them slowly.
  • Look up. Some people say that making eye contact is important but most of the time if you have a larger audience they can’t tell if you are looking at them or if you are looking at the back wall (this is even more true if you are standing on an elevated stage). Find the exit sign and then make it your bitch. Eye contact with the audience can be scary and derail your presentation. If you are talking about something that isn’t universally agreed upon or a controversial subject it can be even worse. It can throw you way off your game if you seek approval. Don’t seek eye contact as a means of approval of a good presentation.
  • You do, however, need to add audience gut checks into your presentation. You are not looking for them to approve of your content. It’s your presentation – not theirs. You are looking to them to see if they are engaged. If they are falling asleep, have prepared responses that will get them re-engaged. Ask for a volunteer to answer a question and randomly select someone. Have everyone stand up and engage in some way. You are just looking to make sure that you aren’t sending everyone off to snoozeville.
  • Your notes should not just be words on a page. You should have cues to yourself for when to speed up, slow down, articulate. Highlight words, make X’s. Add little pictures if it helps. The only person that needs to understand what your notes mean is you.
  • Learn what makes a good presentation. Put less words on a page and focused. Don’t talk in circles.
  • Before you start your presentation do something that makes you the most uncomfortable you will be throughout the entire presentation. Get a quick laugh at your expense. Once you know you have embarrassed yourself, it can’t get much worse. Tell a story about something silly you did, point out a little coffee stain on your shirt… level with your audience, and prove you are normal.

Now that you feel good about your presentation, practice in front of a good friend. Ask them for feedback. Sometimes, it can be hard to hear but getting good feedback is the only way to grow.

What are your favorite tips and tricks?

 

Travel Tips and Tricks

Travel Tips and Tricks

One of the most important things I learned in the first 10 years of my career that made me feel like a badass was how to travel. Before I learned these skills, I was terrible to travel with. TERRIBLE. I was anxious, I was always the last one in or out of the plane and boy, oh boy did I look like a hot mess. To put it politely, I was a bitch to travel with.

Perhaps this skill comes naturally to some but for me, it was like pulling teeth. I didn’t come from a family that traveled more than two hours from home for our yearly camping trips so when my boss told me I was going to Chicago for the first time I was ecstatic and also terrified….mostly terrified. The last time I had been on a plane I was eight and I was going to Disney World. I was 25 which meant it had been 17 years since I had been on a plane and I wasn’t going to be traveling with my parents.

I was traveling alone and had NO idea what I was doing. LITERALLY, NO CLUE WHAT I WAS DOING. I was, however, pretty sure that I needed to leave my Mickey fanny pack at home but how would I be sure? Over the past few years, I have racked up a few more trips across the U.S. to places like Chicago, New York, Saint Louis, Orland and so much more. Throughout my travels, I have learned a thing or two that I would love to share with you.

If you don’t travel on flights often the only piece of advice, I can give you is to keep your car clean. If there ever is an impromptu dinner and you get asked to drive, you don’t want to have to make a mad dash to your car to toss all your junk in your trunk and wipe down your dashboards with paper towels from the bathroom. Also, always keep an unopened air freshener in your car – you can open it up and suddenly your car feels so much cleaner. I still struggle with this. I drive two hours a day to and from work so I basically live in my car and you can tell. I have made it very clear to my boss and coworkers that I can’t make any guarantees that my car will be clean if I choose the short straw and have to drive.

  • The first and most important rule – be nice to everyone you encounter. You never know which flight attendant is on the last leg of a 72-hour shift or on the flip side what flight attendant can get you upgraded to first class. BE NICE OR DON’T GO.
  • Be prepared for the worst in all situations. Not just like “oh this stinks” worse but “dear god, save me, I’m so screwed” kind of worst. Your flight will get canceled, your hotel reservation didn’t get booked, your luggage with all of your presentations won’t show up, etc. What can go wrong will. Leave time to accommodate the bad situations and it will make your life so much less stressful.
  • Invest in a good carry-on suitcase with the wheels that spin in every direction, not just forward and backward.
  • Try not to check a bag unless absolutely necessary. You can typically get through a week by taking a few key pieces (hello black dresses) and accessories to change it up.
  • Put a tag on your bag that you can’t miss. It’s so much easier to grab your bag from the carousel if you can see it coming a mile away. Make sure it’s tied on really tight so that it doesn’t fall off. Make sure you have your name and information on your suitcase in 3-4 locations. Get a TSA approved lock for your suitcase and don’t lose the key.
  • Pack as much black clothing as you can. No sweat stains, no-spill stains, basically black is foolproof when traveling (but please…avoid powdered sugar donuts and deodorant that stains).
  • Have a suitcase packed with all the essentials that you just leave packed 24/7 and refill when you get home from your trip – that way you don’t forget your Qtips, razor or toothbrush. It’s also helpful to make a packing list with all the items you typically take with that you can use so you don’t have to rack your brain on what you are forgetting. You can also check out my nifty packing checklist.
  • Anything you need to get through the day should stay in your carry-on (medications, toothbrush, etc.). I’m just going to say it again… always assume your luggage will get lost and you won’t be able to access it for 2-3 days.
  • Have a set idea of where you might go for meals or an agenda so that you can look up the places and make sure you have appropriate clothing. Make reservations if you can, I like to use Open Table. If you’re not familiar with the area, ask around at your office to see who has gone out to eat/entertain in the cities you are visiting. Use Facebook and Yelp to get recommendations. When dining with clients it’s always a good idea to have set plans that you know are foolproof plus a few back-ups. Always ask about food preferences ahead of time (vegetarians and people allergies love it when you think to include them in planning).
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to pack.
  • Check-in for your flight in advance. Download the app. Make sure you have the notification turned on. I’m a nervous nelly so I always print a copy of my boarding pass as well. Just in case.
  • Sign up for frequent flyer programs and hotel loyalty programs. A free weekend in Hawaii – hell yes! Free cookies at check-in – hell yes! I don’t travel that often so I’m only at “free bottle of water in your room” status but I’ll take it!
  • Wear socks and slip-on shoes. Airports are gross. Athletes foot is gross. Enough said.
  • Avoid wearing extra jewelry and a belt when you are getting on the plane. It could get lost or you might forget it and that would be the stink. Also, don’t wear anything real expensive. It would be tragic to lose your diamond bracelet on your way to a conference.
  • Keep a spare phone charger on you at all times. I repeat AT ALL TIMES. If you don’t need it, I can bet someone near you will and you will be a HERO.
  • Charge your computer and your phone to 100% power before leaving the house.
  • Parking in a garage? Take a photo of your parking space so you don’t get lost when you get home. Take the time to think through how you are getting where you are going. I can’t tell you how many times I have rushed through a parking garage just to forget how I even got to the check-in desk which made finding my car after a week-long trip and late-night meetings a nightmare and also very embarrassing and a little scary as I roamed the dark parking garage at 2 a.m..
  • Bring headphones. When your headphones are in it’s a signal to everyone around you that you are off-limits. If you have headphones in and someone bothers you, it is always okay to let them know you are off-limits. There have been so many times where I just wanted to check out and the friendly family in my row wanted to chat. These are the times that my headphones have been a savior – was I listening to anything – nope – were my headphones in – you bet they were. Oh gosh, I can’t hear you I’m listening to a really important podcast.
  • Keep a couple business cards on you – you never know who you might sit next to on the plane. Networking on a plane could land you an awesome client or job down the road.
  • Bring cash. Bring dollar bills. Tip the taxi driver, the baggage guy, the waiter at the coffee house, etc.
  • Keep enough cash on you to carry you through a day if your cards got locked. I can’t tell you how many times my credit card company has locked my account because I was in a different state and it was flagged as a security issue. Dearest pilot – can you just wait to take off for a quick sec while I make a call to my credit card company?
  • Be safe, have scheduled check-ins with someone from home. Turn on your location finder and make sure someone is checking in on you.
  • Share your flight and hotel information with your team members and family. You don’t have to give them the phone number to your hotel room, but your general travel information should be shared.
  • Always include some extra time in your travel plans. Assume you will get lost or your taxi driver will get lost, etc.
  • Paper is heavy. If you have a lot of paper that you need to take (conference reports, presentation decks, etc.) you should try to ship them to your hotel ahead of time. I never realized why my suitcase was so heavy until I was talking to another co-worker and she told me she had shipped all her presentations to the hotel. Next level genius. Also, the company either has to pay for your suitcase or for shipping.
  • Always bring presentation decks in printed and digital format and assume that the venue that you are presenting has the most antiquated software. Keep a PowerPoint and a PDF in case they don’t have, gasp, PowerPoint. Have a connector for a PC and a Mac.
  • Make sure you can turn your cell phone into a private hot-spot if needed.
  • Airport wi-fi is not private. It is not secure. Understand the risk of using the airport network before logging on.
  • When you are traveling, and your standard workday ends, and you don’t have any more client meetings – it’s okay to check out the city or grab a quick drink. Just because you are traveling doesn’t mean you’re not human – don’t forget to take a break. I remember my first business trip I thought I had to work the whole time I was traveling, and by the end of the week, I was so exhausted I was stumbling through my client presentations.
  • If you travel on a weekend it’s okay to ask for comp time – what’s the worst that happens – they say no?
  • Keep a bottle of water, energy drink, and protein-packed snacks on you at all times (fruit leather and beef jerky are two of my favorites because they don’t crumble in your bag and they are quick). You will save so much money if you don’t have to buy the expensive airport snacks.
  • Find out how often you are going to be traveling and where you are traveling. Some companies will cover the cost of TSA pre-check and a passport if you meet certain travel requirements and let me tell you – it doesn’t suck to skip the line. The company won’t cover it – get it anyways – it’s SO worth it.
  • Take care of yourself – eat healthy meals and snacks and drink lots of water. Yes, Cinnabon is tempting but it’s probably not the best choice.
  • I strongly recommend melatonin. I keep it in my suitcase, and it’s been great to combat time changes and the nights where I can’t wind down after a busy day of traveling. Take it about an hour before you plan on going to bed assuming you won’t get a late-night call and get pulled into anything after you take it.
  • Always, and I repeat always, set a wakeup call. I have had so many nightstand lamp outlets that just don’t work and been down to the wire on my battery life – thank goodness my phone didn’t die, and I miss a meeting or flight. You can call the front desk at just about every hotel and they can set a wake-up call for you.
  • Write down your expenses in real-time. What did you buy, who was it for and what did you spend on the tip. If you can file your expenses in real-time (or each night) – I highly suggest doing that. I can’t tell you how many receipts I have lost for a cup of coffee. It might not be a lot, but it adds up.

 

Have any travel tips I didn’t cover? Would love to hear from you!

Happy traveling!!

Know Enough to Be Dangerous

Know Enough to Be Dangerous

Have you ever wondered why people who are very successful are able to call out errors and mistakes before they happen? Because they can see them coming a mile away. Over time, they have learned a little bit about everything in their field and they can see when the pieces aren’t coming together in the way that they should. With time, this will come.

For me, it was helpful to shadow someone in every different role that impacted my line of work. I took some time for them to explain what they did, how it impacted me, how what I did impact them, and tried to better understand their challenges and opportunities.

Read through job descriptions and learn as much as you can about what function each person within your company performs. Ask questions. You don’t have to understand every single detail of what others do but you do need to have a pretty good understanding. If they tell you about something that they do and you don’t understand it, you should ask questions and do research until you could at least explain it to a five-year-old.

DIY Ten Minute Alphabet Board

DIY Ten Minute Alphabet Board

If you’re like me, you have just become your kiddos pre-school teacher! When I first realized that I would be working full time and trying to educate this tiny toddler of mine, I went into a bit of a panic. It wouldn’t have been so overwhelming if I had access to all of the resources available at the stores but that’s not the case in the state of the world today. So, I did some quick thinking and decided that I was going to make the best of it and make sure that my little one had educational activities he could do while I was on conference calls.

He’s on the edge of being able to say the whole alphabet and he is really good at holding a pencil/crayon so I decided that I would have him start tracing letters!

I took an old frame and removed the photos.

Then, I wrote out the alphabet on a sheet of wrapping paper that I had cut to the size of the glass.

Pop in the alphabet page and seal the frame back up.

All I needed to order on Amazon was a dry erase marker!

It’s quick, easy and has kept him entertained for 20-30 minute chunks of time throughout the day.

You can do this with letters, words, numbers or shaped or just pop in a piece of colored paper and let them doodle away!

Enjoy!

Mandy