Thursday, March 27, 2008

Just a Secretary?

This week I was called by one of my clients who has delayed in sending my company money that it is owed. She was asking for a letter regarding being the sole provider of my product, meaning that I’m not a reseller.

At this point, we’ve already jumped through numerous hoops with this company. We’ve provided invoices, made calls and have continued to get the run around. We’ve been passed around from department to department and no one has wanted to take responsibility.

Finally, I got on the phone with the lady who was calling us to confirm we received a fax. Our conversation was one of those dumb conversations where I was talking about one thing and she was talking about something completely different. We couldn’t seem to sync up our conversation and both sides were getting frustrated. I asked her what she faxed: she answered: “I don’t know, I’m JUST A SECRETARY”. I said, “who did you fax it to?” She answered: “I don’t know, I’m JUST A SECRETARY”.

I finally told her, “you’re not giving yourself enough credit! You’re one of the most valuable people in your organization!! I couldn’t do what I do without administrative help, and I bet they couldn’t either.”

With that, she calmed down a bit, but sill had annoyance in her voice when I asked WHERE she sent the fax!!! When she called out a (704) area code, I told her that this number changed almost 3 years ago, and someone higher up in her organization not only has been using a faulty address, but a faulty fax number… from THREE years ago!!!

I then gave her the correct address, phone and fax number, and she hung up. It started me thinking about what she and others must think about themselves to suggest… “I’m only a secretary.. or I’m only a sales person, or I’m only a financial person, or I’m only this or that…” Where is the attitude, of: “I don’t know that answer, but I will find it!!!” Why wouldn’t she do whatever it took to hunt down the information and to do her job with passion and gusto, even if it wasn’t in the job description?

Certainly, every organization has their rules, and people can’t be doing other people’s jobs in corporate America but if they're dealing with a customer, it is every person's responsibilty to FIND the answer!!! Entrepreneurs are EXPECTED to do every job, because if it needs doing, they do it. It’s a different mentality I know. Unions instill that “don’t touch someone else’s job” mentality at times too… and it can just cut a person’s motivation to achieve greater results. I do understand and appreciate what unions stand for, but sometimes, it hurts organizations more than it helps. (and that's a completely other topic!)

Consider your “title” and ask yourself.. are you JUST this one role? Or do you play many roles at different times of the day? Of course we have different roles and responsibilities!!! I am a wife, a mother, a sister, daughter, entrepreneur, an athlete, a speaker, a coach, a friend, a colleague, a supporter, an activist, a dreamer, a doer, a employer, an employee, a freelancer, a spokesperson, an expert, a TV host, a TV guest, a radio personality, an author, a trainer, a survivor, a thriever, listener, a blogger, a marketer, an investor, a traveler, and so on and so on. I’m not “just” anything.

If you catch yourself thinking I’m JUST anything.. think again!!! You’re doing that role for that minute, or that day or that week… and if you put on that hat, then take the responsibility for that role. Do what you can to do it well. If you don’t know how, then ask for help. If you get frustrated, take a break and then try it again. Don’t stop until you’ve got it right.

But never, ever, undermine yourself, and say you’re JUST anything.

It’s just simply a cop out…. and simply not true.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Paparazzi of the Future: Your Future Workers

Remember when taking pictures or video used to be used for vacations or for special events? We used to carry our camera when we had to document something we’d like to remember the rest of our life such as when on vacation.

Years ago, Hollywood stars were enigmas and their private lives were off limits. We had one magazine called PEOPLE that carefully crafted stories of their”perfect” lives. Today, besides the paparazzi who expose every dirty secret of the stars, we have reality TV shows where individuals like Scott Biao (Chachi on "Happy Days) and Paula Abdul, who work out their personal problems in front of a camera. If you watch these shows, you’re wondering, who would ever choose to air their dirty laundry like these stars are doing for the world to see and assess?

Unfortunately, it has caught on and everyone is acting like a star! Spend some time on YouTube or MySpace and you’ll be more than shocked with the secrets that are being revealed by our youth.

Today’s young person has grown up with the mega stars of our times every where they turn... It’s no wonder that the majority of teens now just want to be famous. They don’t care how they do it, they just want it. And now, they don’t just want it, they’re acting the part. Gone are the days that you have to ask someone else to take your picture for your scrap book. Today, our young people stretch out their arms, and smile for the camera or video, and document every stage of their young lives and quickly post them in time for their circle of friends to see and assess. Sound familiar?

But has anyone asked how this is affecting our young people? Has anyone stopped to think about what sort of workers that will be entering our workplace in a few years? Has anyone stopped to think about the actions that our youth is taking as a result of growing up in a Paparazzi Society?

What will happen when they are asked to start off at a company as a receptionist, or in the mailroom? What will happen when they’re not followed around 24/7 by the flash of the camera and able to post their whereabouts on the net for all to see? How will they respond when upper management tells them that some information is private and that they’re being asked to sign a confidentiality clause? Will they be able to do it? Will they need to seek some sort of outside gratification to get the attention they’ve had their whole lives? Will they be able to survive in a corporate environment where the team is more important than the individual? How will managers deal with these workers who are addicted to their own self induced paparazzi and ego that gets a buzz every time someone comments on their personal sites?

Considering what is happening in the blog world now, and how workers are being fired for blogging about inside information, I see a new trend that is causing problems that can potentially escalate out of control. It’s not just the blogs that will be critiqued; it’s the pictures and the video, of our future workers who will be secretly taping their lives on the job... in YOUR offices!

It appears that privacy will soon be a thing of the past… not just for celebrities, but for the average, conservative, and mild mannered person who does a good job for their company and who goes home to care for their children. If they’re not documenting their lives for all to see, they’ll probably have a co-worker willing to do it for them, filled with their own commentary, and claiming it to be perfectly acceptable under our First Amendment rights. They’ll claim to own their own blogs, and own internet -TV networks with their own viewers which will allow them to claim the same rights as a press person traditionally has had.

According to First Amendment rights attorney Lawrence G. Walters of Weston, Garrou, DeWitt & Walters in Altamonte Springs, over the next several years the courts will be struggling with this issue of what is newsworthy and who is protected by the first amendment. He explained that if a person tapes themselves for their own autobiographical purposes to profit from their own image it is allowed. But once they show images of anyone else in public without first getting a signed release, the owners of the other images can file a publicity claim law suit.

Larry suggested that companies implement rules to circumvent this sort of thing from happening in the future. Companies can set up their own rules of what to wear, and what can and can’t happen in the work place. Then, if an employee crosses the line, the employer will be protected legally.

The future is nearly upon us. We can either ignore it or we can prepare for it. Soon we’ll have a whole new work force that act as if they are “stars”. If we don’t seek first to understand, we may be a “star” on someone else’s show.

Sales Skills for the Non Sales Professional

Have you ever wondered how you’re going to do it? You are a lawyer who wants to make partner, an accountant, an engineer or other professional and part of your business plan is that you have to attract business customers? You’ve always detested selling, and you can’t see yourself doing it! As a matter of fact, sales people are a huge turn off to you.

Yet, you have to bring in customers!

What are you going to do?

Many of my current or former clients fit the above description. Many of them finally contacted me, a coach, when they were in trouble because they had no idea where to start. They decided that they needed help sort through the challenge set before them.

And guess what? They survived! And not only did they survive, but they thrived! As soon as they realized that they didn’t need to change their personality, become a raving fan, or over the top, they relaxed and settled into learning what they had to do.

I’ll take you through a typical client and what they learn to do.

I recently coached a gentleman that was trying to make partner in his law firm. He had been told upon his hiring that he’d be responsible for attracting business to his company. He bluffed his way through the interview by mentioning how many people that he knew and how many big cases he had worked on successfully. He didn’t mention that the business wasn’t his, or that he was terrified of calling all of the people that he knew and asking for business!

When he and I got together I asked him to start by naming all of his strengths. We went over all of the benefits that any of his clients or future clients would get by working with him. I had him post these in his desk so he’d never doubt how talented he really is in work.

Next, we outlined what sorts of clients he should secure and then wrote a list of any current or former friends or colleagues that he knew. We developed an information sheet on each of them which would be later transferred to a contact management system such as ACT or Goldmine or Constant Contact. On each of the sheets, he had write about the person. He wrote down anything he knew about them professionally or personally. These ranged from where they went to school to their spouses names, to their hobbies.

Next, we put them in order from “A” Accounts (The really big ones) down to “D” accounts (Barely worth calling) and everyone in between. When all was said and done, my client had a list of about 25 people on the A list and those were the ones that we focused on.

Those names went into the computer. We then called and got all of their current information such as emails, secretaries names, firms, etc. He then wrote a letter that was sent to each of them announcing his new position and then said that he would soon be giving a follow up call to say a quick hello. The letter was written in a casual manner, and not too formal. It definitely did NOT look like a form letter from a law firm!

Over time, my client redeveloped these people into friends. He did it by meeting them to play basketball, going to networking events with them, or inviting them to political speeches. He was able to get tickets for a few of them to different events and basically became a resource to the whole legal profession for most of them. He became a FRIEND to these individuals, their firms and as a result, guess what happened?

He started bringing in business of course! Not only that, but several associates wanted to know what he was doing and how it all started.

Developing into a sales professional is a scary thought for someone who is afraid of sales. But turning into a resource for your friends and colleagues is not only fun, but a great way to learn and grow your business.

Mary Gardner, President of Lifestyles Communications Inc. Lifestyles Communications Inc. is dedicated to helping individuals understand and succeed in the new virtual, internet and global marketplace. Mary has coached and consulted for executives, professional athletes, entrepreneurs, and individuals in interpersonal communication tactics, business communication, public speaking, and has spoken professionally throughout the country. If you have a coaching question contact Mary at or web: or

Professional Conferences are Great for Advancing Career

How does an entrepreneur keep up with the cutting edge of their trade, become an industry leader or get to network with other industry professionals in a casual and fun atmosphere?

It seems so easy but often times heading out of town to a national industry conference may seem like taking too much time out of an already packed schedule. After all, we can all read the trade magazines, the latest best sellers and go to local or regional conferences with not much effort. But one might not recognize is that the rewards are phenonominal when going to a national conference related to ones’ industry.

I just returned from Atlanta and attending the national conference of the Emarketing Association ( . I want to keep on the cutting edge when consulting to my current and future clients who are building their businesses. And I hoped get some good tips or perhaps meet some great contacts.

In reality, there is no way that I could have learned as much by simply keeping up with the trades. I may have not been selected as next years’ Emcee. There is no way that I could have met the sharp and savvy speakers who were highlighted at the conference unless I had been there in person. The speakers came from all over the country and highlighted the most current and up to date information and statistics of what is working in online marketing for companies. Google sponsored the conference and hosted a cocktail party to show their latest additions. Coca Cola representatives spoke about keeping customers engaged with the website by their online awards program which keeps the customers coming back over and over. Danny Kastner, CEO of FanRocket out of LA, who was a contestant on The Apprentice, showed us creative, catchy videos that his clients and companies are using to drive traffic to their site to increase sales. He pointed out that entertainment is necessary to sell online, even if you’re selling weed killer! And Ken Lipscomb, CEO of shared pre-made commercials that companies can purchase from them at extremely affordable prices, tailor to their needs and have them on the air within minutes. He also shared with us how small to mid sized companies can increase their sales by a few million a year by adding unique TV advertising campaigns in their offices!

Hearing EMarketing Association founder Robert Fleming speak was a highlight. He shared the marketing profession is in a period of significant transition. The old rules are changing and now the messages we send have global implications. He feels that if U.S. businesses don’t keep up and lead the way, we’re at risk of losing our strong economy. He said it is our American duty to build strong businesses to keep our economy strong and that we are in a global commerce and we are going to have to work harder to keep up with the changes

All of these individuals are now professional associates and friends, because at conferences the advantage is getting the chance to hang out socially between the breaks or after the day is finished. Here are my tips to make the most of any conference:

1) Come in a day early well rested if possible. Hang out in the bar the night before the conference. Others from the conference will be doing the same and you’ll get a head start with meeting people. 2) Understand that most people are there solo or with one or two others so take advantage of that fact and meet everyone you can. Be the one who breaks the ice with others and people will be grateful. 3) Have your business cards ready to give out and a pen. Write what you spoke about on the back of their card and follow up when you return with a hand written note. 4) Ask questions to all of the speakers so they focus in on you and so does everyone in the audience. If you’re more familiar to others, it’ll be easier to meet others. 5) Meet each speaker up close and personal after they speak if possible. Trade cards and then bring value to them somehow when you write and follow up such as sending them information that might be helpful. 6) Introduce yourself to the conference chair from the moment you arrive and ask who he or she recommends you meet. That is the one person who knows everyone and can help you most. 7) Relax and have fun! The most successful people at conferences are the ones who are easy to talk with, who are open about sharing information and who are helpful to others. And of course, be careful not to booze it up too much even though the temptation is there because that’s the impression you’ll leave.

Technology is changing our businesses rapidly and if we don’t jump on board and learn as much as we can we will be left in the dust by our foreign friends. I learned that it is our DUTY to work hard for our economy and to be profitable. National conferences are a great place to advance ourselves and our businesses. Put it in the budget! And if you need an exciting and fun Emcee, call me!

Showing Your Strengths at Work

I was recently with a client whose star power in his career is rising. He’s the young hot shot at the company who was recruited from another firm and is now settling in at the new one. He’s watching his P’s and Q’s, and learning the ins and outs of what makes a successful executive at his new firm.

One of the things that he’s required to do is to speak at meetings and at conferences. For some reason, the thought of that just absolutely terrifies him. Although he had done it in his previous career, he’s now facing a whole new set of rules in an unfamiliar territory. He wants to appear knowledgeable and comfortable, yet feels he has a lot to learn before he officially arrives there in reality.

I shared with him that part of the reason he was recruited was to ADD a fresh new perspective to the company who hired him. They don’t expect him to know everything about THEM yet, but to show the leadership skills as a professional that will help lead the new team. And part of that is to jump on board and be willing to learn what it is going to take to help make the company successful.

We looked at all of the skills that he brought to the table. He’s got expertise in his career field, and he has brought in many new clients over the course of his career. He’s a likeable guy, creative and good at understanding people. With these characteristics, we were able to start constructing a “message” that he will be able to bring to his company, throughout the next several months.

He shared with me that he really believes that each person has something to offer to the company that can be creative and innovative. He enjoys spending personal time with those he manages to get to know them personally, and believes that when employees feel valued, they are more likely to be loyal and to work hard on your behalf. With that in mind, we planned a series of meetings that he’ll conduct with his new team. We brainstormed about different topics that will bring extra value to his team, and to his company at large, and he’s now preparing about 10 different “messages” based on his own strengths and what he believes this company needs. The “messages” are short, but effective. He’ll share a few stories from individuals he admires like Jack Welch and Bill Gates and historical characters like Thomas Jefferson.

His style is motivational, so he’ll sprinkle his conversation with his team with quotes, and he’ll challenge the team to consider these messages and how they can apply to their own strategies at work.

In regards to his “image” with the powers that be, his strategy is to show up to every meeting prepared, with something of value to share, and to provide content to the others about strategies, ideas, concepts, research or anything that might be able to help move this company forward. He’s willing to put in the extra time now, to prepare a bit for the future.

Working with this client has brought anticipation to both of us, and an eagerness to reach out and to work hard to do the job right. When we get on the phone, we brainstorm the possibilities as well as address the hurdles set before him.

Having someone to speak with about displaying your strengths at work is important. It gives the person a strategy to follow and a map to guide them. With an attitude and work ethic like this, how can he do anything but succeed?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Beethoven’s Inspiration

Have you ever had a talent that you let slide away? Perhaps you had a sport or hobby from childhood that you worked long and hard at, and then in one full swoop, you gave it up. Perhaps you spent so many years toiling over it that you finally had just had enough? You got to the point where you never wanted to participate in that activity again since it had caused you so much agony over the years?

That was how I was with piano. My mom made me practice over and over and over. Even though the practice made me quite proficient at playing difficult pieces, I still wasn’t a natural at reading music. I had to practice until I could learn the notes and finally I would have practiced it so many times that I naturally memorized it. By that time, I was driving my whole family crazy with the same song like The Entertainer, which drove my sister and brothers crazy for years! Any time I wanted to get under their skin, I’d play that song. Of course, it’d make my parents happy that I was playing after all of the money they spent on lessons, and the ultimate was that I got my siblings raging mad! So for then, playing piano was a perfect fit for me and of course the best part was annoying my siblings!

Through the years, I’ve poked around at the piano, but still have the same challenge of not really reading notes fluidly. But when I realized that playing piano is on my life time goals list, then I realized that I was going to have to start from ground zero, and start learning about it. So yesterday, I picked up a music book with Beethoven’s 5th symphony and started reading about him and about his music so I could start to understand how the music was inspired.

I set about to start reading after I had sent my son to school. That is when the house is quiet and the birds are outside singing and all is good with the world. That is the time of day that all good things are a possibility, and all of the stress from getting ready for school is gone, and I feel one with the world.

So, I sat down to read about Beethoven. What I read was really interesting! Beethoven started writing music at age 25. He wrote most of his music between the ages of 30 -45. He started going deaf at that time and by the time he was in his 40s he was completely deaf. Interestingly enough, the silence brought him his most masterful work, since he was unable to hear the critics and able to tune out any clutter in the world and concentrate completely on his music that existed in his head.

Beethoven was a master at repetition. It was almost as if he was drilling into the listener’s ear about his purpose in life was to bring this certain melody to the world and that he wanted you to GET IT. But using repetition can be monotonous to the listener and can just kill a piece. So what Beethoven did was he would use a variation of the line and alter the notes ever so slightly, still to make it sound like it was in unity with the other part of the music, but different enough to make it interesting. This was part of his brilliance and he sometimes worked for months and years to perfect each piece. Until he found the right note or combination of notes and made it perfect, it wasn’t complete.

I started thinking about repetition in our own lives and how we use it. We tell our kids the same things redundantly, “wash your hands, brush your teeth, say please and thank you.” And still, we must continue drilling it in because they always forget. We tell our spouses to take out the trash or please help with the chores and we share with our work associates to keep focused or to continue their own personal growth. But how many times do we start sounding like a broken record? Are people really listening to us? Are we becoming monotonous and deadly to our friends and family?

Next time you start hearing yourself yelling at your kids or find yourself repeating the same old line you’ve mumbled a thousand times, try some variety! Instead of telling your kids they’ll be punished, tell them they’ll be tickled! Or instead of leading a meeting the same way at the same time every week, perhaps throw in some humor or a story to change things up a bit. Show your friends and family that you care for them, the listener, by being willing to change your own tune, vary your voice and your message, just a bit, so the same theme is gotten across, just in a different way.

Looking to Beethoven for guidance on life might be a stretch, or it might be a lifesaver. Depending upon how you look at it.

Try it on for size. And just once, your audience may actually approve… and take action!