Find out What Works and Refuse to Change It

Find out What Works and Refuse to Change It

There is no reason to re-create the wheel. There are a million ways that you could modify a wheel, but in the end, the best rolling structure will still be circular, this I can promise you.

I’m going to kick this off with my favorite and most painful example. When I started my first job, I was asked to complete a client status tracker. This was an excel document that we would share with the client each week that listed each project, a detailed timeline, and all the details that surrounded each and every project. I thought that it was the silliest part of my job. I was fresh out of college and I couldn’t figure out why we needed to have so much dang info in this document.

Every single day, I had to take at least an hour to update everything that changed that day. I crossed off things that had been done, highlighted anything that was behind schedule in red, added in all our new projects, and made changes to all the project details. It took freaking forever and I couldn’t wrap my head around why I had to spend so much time keeping this document updated. When we met with the client, the only thing she really cared about is if we were on schedule and what she owed us.

I worked for this company for five years. For five years I maintained this document with this “crazy” level of detail. Then when I took my next job and I was in a similar role and they didn’t have any type of document like this. It immediately became painfully obvious why it was needed, not only was it needed but required.

Everyone in the company ran around like chickens with their heads cut off. Everyone answered questions about the details of the projects differently and projects were way behind schedule (and they didn’t even know they were behind schedule).

The first thing I did when I started in this role was to develop a process that included meeting with the full team every day to review all the project details. Confusion cleared up, projects were completed on time, the clients were thrilled, and I stopped getting constant emails with questions because everyone knew where they could look for the answers. What I’m getting at is sometimes even when things seem so silly, they can be so incredibly important, and you won’t understand the magnitude of the processes unless they are removed.

As you learn about your roles and responsibilities you should try to ensure that everything you do has a purpose and that you aren’t just doing something because it’s always been done or been done a certain way. Understand the process at a deeper level.

When I have come into new roles, I have tried to make sure that I understand what I am doing and the why behind it. There are a lot of times when people do a certain job for a long time that they might do something a certain way and not necessarily have a good rationale for how and why they do it. If you feel like a task isn’t valuable, make sure to discuss the purpose of the task.

If someone asks you why you are doing something you should have a clear answer and everyone should be on the same page.

There is a reason that processes and procedures are created. It’s to provide a universal structure that works for all parties involved. Companies spend a lot of time testing out processes and developing the best methods that work for them. As you progress throughout your career, you will see that there will be times where it will be obvious that implementing a new process would be beneficial. Be assertive and bring it up. The structure is usually a good thing.

If a structure already exists, avoid changing it unless you have a good reason. I have seen so many people come into a new role and without having a total understanding of the system they try to make changes to processes because they think they can do it better only to learn that the process in place was set up in the best possible manner once they were a little deeper into their role. My personal rule is that I like to be in my role observing for at least two months before you start questioning process and I try to avoid making major changes until I’ve been in my role for six months. Usually, the first year in a new role is just getting up to speed and really understanding your purpose. Don’t be the person who comes in and light the world on fire on day one.

There is always room for improvement, but you should strive to improve and not re-do.

Directions are Key

Directions are Key

Being a leader can be difficult if you don’t have a clear direction. What are your goals? How do you want to be viewed? There are three key pillars that I think are important to establish right off the bat.

Lead from Behind.

If you look at some of the very best leaders in the industry, the most respected leaders – they are often the ones that understand that you need to “lead from behind”. Full disclosure, I did not come up with the term “leading from behind”. I’ve heard quite a few folks use the term in a variety of ways.

Here is what I mean when I say leading from behind… it’s important to show that you are there for your employees and not the other way around. Without them, your business you wouldn’t be able to run your business. Without you, they wouldn’t have a good leader. Make sure that you are one with the team. Stand in line with them (and not always at the front), stay in the same style hotel room, park in the same parking lot.

I completely understand that you have worked hard to get where you are and there are certain things that you are entitled to because you are successful but don’t forget that at the end of the day you are just as human as every one of your employees. Additionally, there are a lot of employees that are also working really hard (in some cases just as hard as you) to gain the success that you have. Showing them that no matter how successful you become being a good person is so crucial to how you are perceived as a leader. For your employees to respect and trust you they must feel like you are on their level and not some kind of demi-god.

Manage Down.

We’ve all heard the term “managing up” and while it’s important to make your boss’s life easier (I have a whole bunch of content dedicated to that) it’s also important to make those who work under you feel at ease in their roles. It’s important to outline roles and responsibilities and be very clear upfront.

Don’t focus so much on making your manager’s life easy that you forget to be a good leader. The first time that I led a team, my goal was to teach and mentor each of my teammates in a way that they would become smarter and better at the job than I was. Think about that. If every person taught the person that would then fill their role to do the job better than they could – how amazingly successful, what amazing growth we would see. Your job as a manager isn’t just to guide – it’s to foster growth (and lots of it).

If every time you had spare time you jumped into the foxhole and helped out one of your teammates, think about how much would get done. Instead of everyone panicking about workload, you could have a short happy hour at the end of the week to celebrate your success.

Collaborate Across 

If your in an industry that has multiple job functions, try to learn as much as you can about all of them. Become the auxiliary contact. Make sure all the teams are talking, saying the same thing, and moving in the same direction. Being a leader with a cross-functional background makes it so much easier for you to talk the same language as other teams you are working with and collaborate with. The most successful projects that I have ever worked on are the ones where everyone is collaborating and it’s not a painful process. One team. One Dream.

Being a leader can be hard but if you remember these three key pillars you are off to a good start.

“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!!