What is wrong with people?!

I have been traveling this week and am utterly amazed by how many people obviously hate their job and, more importantly, appear to hate people as well.  Ordering a meal from a fast food restaurant, I didn’t know whether I should laugh, cry or start lecturing the young lady attempting to take my order.  She was clearly unconcerned about how I felt about her or if I ever returned to that restaurant again.

A few months ago, I joined a teleconference call  hosted by a so-called professional in my industry who makes the big bucks.  After a long introduction which included all of this impressive credentials, he had my full attention and admiration.  I was taking notes like crazy, so thrilled with the opportunity to gain his insight.  And then, with regret in his voice, he decided to tell the listeners that the best way to get into this particular speaking market was to lie on our cover letters.  Just lie.  Really?  Red flags starting flying and the internal dialogue began in my mind…

Was any part of that amazing introduction of yours true?  Are you  really speaking from experience and giving us valuable insight, or am I now involved in a big marketing scheme designed to convince me to purchase whatever audio or e-book you will surely have for sale at the end of this call.  Hang up, Jaclyn.

And so, I did.

If you have a desire to influence the world around you in a positive way, then please — for heaven’s sake — pay attention to what I am about to say.  The way you present yourself to the world around you matters.  Your attitude, your dress, your behavior, your character, all of it matters.

If you can master the art of proper etiquette, you will set yourself apart from the crowd of rude and crude people.  If you can establish a solid personal brand that rings true, you will earn respect and become a person others want to follow.  And if you can back up your acts of etiquette and your attempts at creating a personal brand with the aggressive and continual development of genuine character; now that would really be something!

Here are the three layers described, beginning with the most shallow down to the nitty-gritty.

1) Proper Etiquette – Just be nice.  For whatever reason, manners have become a lost art.  Many people, often it seems those working in public service, are painfully bad at using good manners.  I personally thank my mother and Grandma Beverly for teaching me to say “please” and “thank you” and to take turns and to smile and to do my best to make others feel comfortable.  And then, I thank Sue Thompson, the author of etiquettedog.com, a blog on the subject.  I met Sue years ago at a conference, and when she spoke I realized how true and how important behavior, image and presentation really are, regardless of how we feel about it.

Did you know there is a right way to present your business card, to introduce yourself and others, to write and send e-mails, to eat, to make conversation, to set a table, etc.?  Etiquette is not just an art, but a science that yields results.  People learn quickly to trust you and your business when you consistently practice proper etiquette.  And, the ironic part, since very few people still do, you easily set yourself up as the example.

2) Personal Branding – Who do others think you are?  Your personal brand is basically your reputation or what is left in the room when you leave.  You can easily determine your current personal brand by asking people what words they would use to describe you.  The four or five words you hear most represent your brand.  Scary thought?  The key to branding is getting people to say about you what you want them to say about you.  Now, here is the ironic thing about branding:  a few years ago, we wore different faces.  At work, we put on our work face and did the work thing.  At school, we put on the student face and the two could look very different.  For example, someone may have been a real jerk of a student and a great employee.  However, technology and this crazy thing called social media has changed all that.  You can no longer be different people in one body.  (I don’t recommend that anyway. How exhausting.)  You are you, period.

People who are business and life savvy, are the same regardless of where they are physically or online.  If you want a strong personal brand, the facebook “you” should match the work, student, mom, daughter, church worker, whatever, “you”.  As a rule of thumb, especially if you are an entrepreneur, young person or an out-of-a-job person, if you wouldn’t put it on your resume or job application, then don’t put it on the world wide web.  Protect your reputation, therby protecting your brand.

P.S. – For years I spoke for Monster.com, and one thing I’ll never forget learning and presenting to students is that employers work really hard and spend a ton of money developing their brand and company image.  The last thing they want to do is hire an employee who will taint that image.  So, if your image doesn’t really match up with theirs, forget it.

3) Character:  who you are when no one is looking.  Your personal brand may be who others think you are, but your character reveals the truth about who you are.  My pastor recently said, “character is who God and your spouse know you are.”  Without solid character, it won’t be long before the truth about how you fake etiquitte and present a fake image will surface.

Remember, you were not born with perfect character.  Think about how your sweet little baby decided one day to smack you in the face, and a couple years later lie to you about who put the doll in the toilet.  Did you teach them those things?  Of course not.  We are born messed up.  Character must be developed through conscious decision making andaction.

A few years ago, I was introduced to a children’s character development book entitled, “Eight Keys to a Better Me.”  In the book, eight character traits are listed: Honesty, Respect, Patriotism, Kindness, Courage, Responsibility, Feelings and Self-Worth.  While written for children, I realized they still applied to me.  Which ones do you truly possess and which ones need some work?

The girl taking my order at Captain D’s severely lacked etiquette, represented the brand of her employer terribly, and therefore, I assumed — right or wrong —  she was lacking in character.  The “professional” hosting the teleconference clearly knew and applied proper etiquette and was a master at personal branding; I had cleared my calendar for this call and had a credit card ready!  However, he lacked character.  See, it takes a whole person who is real, authentic and full of purpose to truly make a positive impact.

As the new year approaches, I am taking time to examine myself, again, and see what else needs transformed.  I’m re-studying the timeless principles of etiquette, working weekly on establishing a solid personal brand and daily on developing the weaknesses in my character.  Transformation is tough.

So, to answer my own question, what is wrong with people?! We don’t want to look in the mirror and examine ourselves.  We don’t really want to change because we see don’t want to have to admit we are flawed, wrong, or messed up.  We don’t want to say, “I need to change this,” much less actually do it.

Listen — be ye transformed.

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Economic Feast or Famine: How to prepare for both.

This post is for entrepreneurs or those who work in small business.  Last weekend, I had the opportunity to speak for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Women Inspiring Entrepreneurship conference, and I was asked to speak on this topic.

My goal in posting this is two-fold: 1) to recap for the audience who attended and 2) to share some valuable ideas that will help business owners make progress regardless of the economy.

As I told the audience on Saturday, my father is Mr. Entrepreneur himself.  He and I have had countless conversations about business, and most of what I know about business comes from him and his vast experiences.

First, allow me to define a feast as a season of great sales and growth when the money is flowing and life is good. During such a time there are a few things you should do and keep in mind in preparation for the famine.

1) Feasts are always short term.  Generally, the market will not let you feast long.  The markets will catch up via a competitor or supply and your season of feast will end.  This should not surprise you.

2) Don’t get carried away.  Often, companies are so excited during a time of feast, they make poor long term decisions.  For example, they serve contracts to new hires, expand their operations, move to larger buildings and ultimately create more overhead.  When the feast subsides, these companies find themselves in big trouble.

3) Stash your cash.  When cash flow is good, make sure you save some.  Save enough to carry your business through at least 6-12 months of famine.

4) Maximize all investments.  Employees, buildings, equipment, supplies, inventory, etc. are all investments.  During a time of feast, rather than expanding, creatively maximize the use of every tool in your belt.

5) Value your leads.  It is easy to let potential sales leads slip through the cracks when you are busy and “busy” does not even begin to describe the time of feasting.  Remember to make time to follow up even when it feels like you don’t need too.

6) Keep your books.  As a small business owner, you are probably the accountant.  Again, busyness is not a good excuse for falling behind on your records.  It is a huge headache to back track. Trust me.

7)  Push to the limit.  Because it won’t last, milk the feast for all its worth!

8)  Renegotiate your deals.  If you need to refinance or re-negotiate a contract, do it while your numbers are in the black and that balance sheet is looking good.

Now, for the famine.  Allow me to define famine as the opposite of the feast.  Here are a few tips for handling a season of drought.

1) Don’t panic.  We have all been there.

2) Do react. Immediately.  Do not sit and wait, hoping for a big break.  As soon as you recognize the slump, adjust your costs.    If you keep paying out and spending as if nothing has changed, it won’t be long that you are in big financial trouble.

3)  Get creative.  You will need to cut costs while performing a new marketing strategy.  Technology gives us a huge advantage and many ways to promote our businesses for FREE.  You may have to learn some new skill sets, but if the money is not there it is not there.

4)  Communicate with your employees.  Make sure your employees understand your plan for adjusting costs and why it is necessary, preferably BEFORE cuts are required.  In small business, employees must understand there are no guarantees and that employment is sales based.  It is not personal.  It is entrepreneurship.

5)  It’s all YOU.  Depending on the size of your business, you may become the one man or one woman show during a time of famine.  It’s okay.  It is healthy to spend time in the P.I.T….a.k.a…Putting In Time…for no pay.

6)  Maximize downtime.  Because you aren’t nearly as busy, use your time wisely and get some of the not-so-fun things done that have been on the back burner.  Spend time doing research, brainstorming, or setting new goals.

7) Know your out.  As an entrepreneur, don’t expect a bailout.  Have a plan and strategy for exiting your business, whether it be to sell the business, sell the inventory, find a partner, etc.  Networking is key.  Never burn bridges.

GROW YOURSELF SOME ROOTS!

There once was a soy bean farmer who was interviewed for his great harvest.  Despite difficult growing conditions, he had managed to cash in a remarkable load.  When asked about his success the old farmer replied, “well, my plants have deep roots.”  The reporter, a bit disappointed by his answer, went on to ask him why that was so significant.  The farmer went on to explain that when a soy bean plant gets too much water, the roots never have a reason to grow.  They remain shallow and at the first sign of drought or strong winds, they won’t produce fruit or are uprooted and blow away.  However, a good soy bean plant, when hit with a season of little rain, will stretch out its roots in search of water.  The deeper and stronger those roots, the better the harvest.  The old farmer was thankful for the dry spells.  He knew the dry spells, in the end, had brought about a great harvest.

Have you ever been in a dry spell?  You know, that sickening feeling that comes during those seasons of procrastination, frustration, exhaustion, etc. Times when you feel like you are in a funk and you wouldn’t see the upside if it smacked you in the face.  Plain ‘ole worn out.  We all experience times when we are not at our best.  We know we can do better, we know we were made for more, but we are just stuck.

May I challenge you to dig deep if you are there.  Stretch out your roots in search of some life-giving water!

I am learning to be thankful for the rough weeks.  Weeks when my kids won’t sleep, the laundry is piling up, the workload is heavy and my time is too short.  It is during those weeks that my God brings me to my knees and I am forced to realize I cannot do it all.  But, He can.  I need power and wisdom that only exists through HIM.  And because of that realization, I dig deep.  I stretch my mind and fill it with knowledge.  I allow God to search my heart and to show me what a mess I’ve made.  And the result?  Roots grow. Spiritual, emotional, mental roots that reach the water, the source of abundant and fruitful  life.

I want to be anchored deep to that source.

These verses have so encouraged and motivated me this week…

Jeremiah 17:5-8 (emphasis mine)

Thus says the Lord: Cursed is the man who trusts in manand makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord.  For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is in the Lord.  For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Grow yourself some roots.

Personality Run-down

I was sixteen years old when I was first introduced to the topic of personalities. I remember thinking, “why hasn’t anyone told me this before now?!” I had no idea people were actually born with a personality that affected nearly every area of their life and that they actually could not help how they were wired. I just thought people should try to be more like me. 🙂

After a few years to mature, I have realized how important it is to understand, accept and appreciate differences in people. It actually is possible to view differences as something other than flaws.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to present personalities to teens at the Missouri Community Betterment conference in Jefferson City. These youth are actively involved in their communities. Based on their feedback, they now have some insight and tools that will help them better understand themselves and manage key relationships in a more productive way.

Here is a brief description of each personality type, followed by the most crucial element; the emotional needs associated with each.

Popular Sanguine (Yellow) – This personality is fun. These loud and hyper active types are the life of any party. Full of ideas, stories and a desire to make things exciting, they bring life to their communities. As the world’s natural cheerleaders, they have the ability to persuade people through sheer charm and funnies. They live a very curious and spontaneous lifestyle. Warning: if always talking, the sanguine is probably not listening and because they always want to make people happy, the tend to get in over their heads. They have a hard time saying no and are not the best at follow through. Realize this personality needs fun and adventure.

Perfect Melancholy (Blue) – This personality is the complete opposite of the Sanguine. They are quiet, scheduled and extremely detail conscious. Their desire is to do things the right way and they have very high expectations. They are deep thinkers and great planners who follow the rules. Warning: because they want everything to be perfect, they can be very hard to please and may withdraw when things do not turn out right. Flexibility does not come easily for this personality and they may get lost in the details. Realize this personality needs order and understanding.

Powerful Choleric (Red) – The Powerful Choleric is exactly that…powerful. Never entering a room unnoticed, these movers and shakers will do whatever it takes to get the job done. They are natural leaders who are good at giving instruction and motivating people to action. These productive people are always in project mode. Warning: they may become too overpowering and are quick to acquire a reputation for being bossy, demanding and terrible listeners. Realize the powerful choleric needs action and excitement.

Peaceful Phlegmatic (Green) – The Peaceful Phlegmatic is the exact opposite of the Powerful Choleric. They are laid back, easy to get along with and great at making other people feel comfortable and like they belong. As the calm and steady support person, the phlegmatic is good at finding common ground and not overreacting to negative situations. Warning: Phlegmatics struggle with being disciplined and are indecisive. They may come across as too low-key or lazy and appear to be unenthusiastic about most things. Realize they need rest and some quiet time to recharge.

Now here is the key: Adjust your communication and behavior to meet the emotional needs tied to each personality and be amazed at the change in your relationships. Here are the emotional needs:

Sanguine: Attention from all
Affection (physical touch)
Approval of every deed
Acceptance “as is”

Melancholy: Sensitivity to their feelings
Understanding
Space to be alone
Silence (no people)

Choleric: Loyalty from the troops
Sense of Control
Appreciation for all their hard work
Accomplishment/Achievement

Phlegmatic: Peace and quiet
Feelings of Worth
Lack of Stress
Respect for who they are not what they do

Fore more information on personalities and to take a FAST and FREE online personality profile, visit http://www.personalityprinicples.com.

Also, if you’d like more teaching on the personalities, sign up for my FREE monthly newsletter at http://www.jaclynrowe.com/contact.html.