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How to Stay Human While Working From Home

By | Be Clear, Create Value, Motivate Others, Take Risks

Not all employees work from an office. Apparently, starting this week’s BLOG intro with the obvious just feels right for some reason.

Telecommuting, working from home, remote employee, flexible working environment, or whatever you call it, there is a lot of it. Some deem it to be the perk of all perks. Others deem it to be a dreadful prison within your home of social isolation and a perpetuation of not showering.

You can find endless articles about the pros and cons. My personal opinion is that it can be a super good fit from some, and not so much for others. It is NOT for everyone. This week’s Telltale Ten post is from Jennifer Holland, a successful salesperson who works for SoapBoxSample’s parent company, Interviewing Service of America, ISA. She works remotely from her home in New York. She offers some great tips for those who work from home, or those who are considering it.

“You. Are. So. Lucky.”

I hear it at least once a week.  And yes, I am.  I’m one of the over 3 million Americans working from home.  While I must admit, it’s a good gig if you can get it, it does come with its own set of drawbacks.

When I started working remotely over ten years ago, I looked to my friends who’d been working from home for advice.  How did they manage their time, what did their typical day look like, how did they not go insane with all of the alone time?  The answers were varied but there was always a common thread in their responses.

Have an Office with a Door

Working from home can go one of two ways.  If you’re not disciplined, this situation isn’t for you.  People who are easily distracted, need someone checking over their shoulder and don’t like their job in general aren’t a great fit for remote employment.  The other side of that coin is you work All. Of. The. Time.  You’re working from your home, a place where you spend the bulk of your time.  So in essence, you’re always at the office.  I often find myself at my desk at 11 pm, checking email, working on bids, etc.  I start by walking through the house, picking up the backpacks, turning off the lights, checking the kids in their beds.  I end up walking into my office and working for two hours.

You need to work on maintaining an actual life outside of your home office.  I needed to make sure I had an office in my home with a door.  Somewhere I can walk into in the morning, and walk out of at night.  And close the door.  It’s not foolproof, and I’ve been known to bust out a proposal from my laptop in bed, but it helps to have an actual space in your home dedicated to your work.

Leave Your House

I have this trick that I do every morning.  I wake up, take a shower, get dressed and leave my house.  I know that sounds like I’m negating one of the main benefits of working from home.  You don’t HAVE to leave!  But I NEED to leave.  I get coffee, and come back to my office. It’s as if I’m arriving to work every day and not just Groundhog Day’ing my life away.  I also work from a coffee shop a few times a week, for a couple of hours a day.  A change of scenery is key for me.  It keeps me focused and sane.

One of the main struggles of working from a home office is the lack of social interaction.  I basically accost my FedEx guy with conversation when he shows up.  All he wants me to do is sign for a package.  All I want to do is talk to a human in person.  It’s become weird.  To ease the strain I’ve created in the relationships with my delivery people, I keep CNN on in the background all day.  I know he’s not really there, but in my mind Wolf Blitzer is in the office next door.  It’s nice.

Get Dressed

No.  I do not work in my pajamas.  I may work in leggings and a hoodie, but I do get dressed.  Every Day.  I throw my hair in a bun and rarely wear make up on work days (keeping it real here), but I wear actual clothes.  I think waking up and walking into a home office is a slippery slope.  One day you’re working from home, the next thing you know you’re that person on your street that no one has ever seen leave the house.  Clothes make you feel human.  Even if your kid tells you that you dress like a gym teacher.

I had a friend who worked from home and would put on a suit when she had an important conference call.  It made her feel more prepared and professional.  I do not do that.  All I can say is thank God most of my meetings are not video calls.

All in all, not too bad.  Right?  And trust me, I am NOT complaining.  I mean, my morning commute is about 10 seconds.  I only have to wear heels when I’m visiting a client or prospect out of the office (after 14 years of working in an actual office wearing very high heels, my feet are grateful for this benefit).  I’m not dealing with the office drama that exists in every office in every company.  My break room is my kitchen or Starbucks, so no drama there.

But I do have one complaint.  The ‘cookies in the break room’ email.  For some reason cookies don’t magically appear in my kitchen when there are cookies, cannolis, bagels, etc. in the break room.  I’m looking at you, Francine.

I’m Late! I’m Late!

By | Be Clear, Be Genuine, Be Honest, Motivate Others

I’m Late, I’m Late, for a Very Important Date

Cute for Rabbits, Not for People

 

Punctuality is the characteristic of being able to complete a required task or fulfill an obligation before or at a previously designated time. “Punctual” is often used synonymously with “on time”.

Punctuality can be the difference between coming across as a disorganized, disrespectful, self-absorbed moron (can you tell my position on this) or someone who has their sh*t together.

What people think about you when you show up on time:

This person respects me, my time, themselves and their time; and I appreciate that. I will not have to waste my dagger eyes on them today.

This is person is reliable. They must have one of those fancy cellular telephones that tells them what time it is.

He/she is accountable for their actions, which makes me think they can handle responsibilities. Make them the CEO!

I can tell that this person is disciplined; they must exercise self-control over other aspects of their life. I bet they don’t do crazy things like lie about where they are and then post themselves at a different place on social media. #dumbass

He/she would set a good example for the other people on my team. (Or could replace that person who is always late.)

What people think about you when you show up late (like always late – not every once in a while “life happens” late. I mean serial lateness):

How rude! This person is wasting my time. They suck. They are self-absorbed and have no regard for others. I want to punch this person.

Now my schedule is thrown into total chaos. This is stressing me out, because I don’t know when I can eat. Do I have time to pee?  And I can never figure out why these people come running in all out of breath and frantic. I mean if they were rushing, wouldn’t they be on time?

I wonder what kind of reputation this person has. Probably not good. Just writing this BLOG is getting me all worked up. I need to get my Sharpie as I am crossing “friends” off my list as we speak.

This person can’t figure out how long it takes to get somewhere, and that is dumb.  I’m pretty sure there is an app for that. (That was sarcasm.) This person’s life is totally unmanageable.

Did they think no one would notice or care that they were late? This person must lack self-respect. They probably post absurd things on social media. #getalife

Don’t be late. Just don’t do it. Leave extra early and spend 20 minutes sitting in your car catching up on Telltale Ten posts. It’s a win-win.

Minus May

By | Be Clear, Be Honest, Be Reasonable, Motivate Others

A Month of Not to Do’s

Less is More. I am not sure if I love or hate clichés. I guess it depends on the cliché. “Less is more” is a phrase from the Robert Browning poem “Andrea del Sarto, also called ‘The Faultless Painter'” published in 1855. Sort of ironic given the length of the poem itself.

There are lots of articles out there about how to minimize. Everything from clutter (check out The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up ) to your work week (4-Hour Workweek anyone?).

It’s no secret I like clever (some say corny) names, team-building activities, self-reflection and personal improvement. So, we have May, Minus May at SoapBox.  I challenged my staff to identify one thing in their lives they can commit to eliminating with the intent of improving their overall life. Together, we made a commitment to simplify our lives, with the hope that a small change can lead to big results, or at least send us in the right direction.

As an entrepreneur, I find one of the main traps startups run into, is setting goals that are unattainable or too general instead of chunking things down. The staff was asked to identify a goal, and then pick one thing to eliminate from their lives to help them get there. I love seeing these!

Nicole, Sales and Marketing Administrative Assistant
Goal: To save money
Minus: Her daily trips to Starbucks

Melissa, Recruitment Specialist
Goal: To have a more positive outlook
Minus: Complaining

Kevin, Online Panel Support
Goal: To reduce his cholesterol
Minus: Eating fast food

Cynthia, Manager of Community Experience
Goal: To live a longer, healthier life
Minus: Smoking cigarettes

Adolfo, Senior Project Manager
Goal: To save money
Minus: Drinking alcohol

Kalean, Bids and Feasibility Associate
Goal: To be more productive at work
Minus: Hitting the snooze button

Michaela, Bids and Feasibility Associate
Goal: Saving time and money
Minus: Shopping and buying necessary things

Adriana, Director of Marketing
Goal: To lose weight
Minus: Snacking at night

Myself, Lunatic, COO, Mom Blogger
Goal: Sleep a minimum of 8 hours per night
Minus: Cellphone after 11 PM

What are you willing to give up to gain?
Want to join in? Tweet me @jax_rosales #minusmay, and tell us what you will be giving up. Next month, we’ll share everyone’s experiences and results.

Telltale Ten Does Tech

By | Be Clear, Be Honest, Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Invoke Passion

If you read my Telltale Ten regularly, you know that I like to write about a bunch of random things like buying travel accessories at the Dollar Store, or how to assess personality traits. I rarely write about topics specific to the Market Research industry. So you might be surprised to learn that I actually do know a bit about Market Research, the industry as a whole and what we are doing at SoapBox to stay ahead of disruption. The super cool people at Wakoopa (who also seem to know a thing or two) invited me to be interviewed as a part of their blog series called Behavioral Data Barometer. If behavioral data is what gets you excited, definitely check it out. If it is not what gets you excited, read it anyway and maybe you will find yourself excited (or confused – it could go either way).

What made you decide to go into passive metering?

When SoapBox launched at the very end of 2012, it was seemingly the most ridiculous time to enter the “online sample” space. The market was saturated and companies were fighting to sell $2 sample. We saw a unique opportunity to stay focused on the evolution of research, the convergence of technology and the changing behavior of consumers.

Passive metering has actually been around a lot longer than most researchers know. There were some forward-thinking early adopters, and then lots of chatter. Researchers tend to be slow to adopt new technology, but in this case, it was not only the technology (which has since caught up), but also the data. Researchers and marketers have a great appetite for understanding how people behave and make decisions online. Brands want to understand their audiences beyond demographic and attitudinal data; passive tracking data fills this need by showing how consumers move across the digital world with step-by-step interactions. Connecting actual digital behavioral data with demographic/attitudinal data, results in the high-depth, actionable insights clients want.

We recognized the benefit of contributing to the rise, understanding, adoption, shaping of best practices of passive metering. We were lucky to partner with a forward-thinking client who was ready to take risks and experiment, almost immediately following the launch of SoapBox. That experience really propelled us into passive metering and we are continuing to evolve.

How has SoapBoxSample incorporated ‘My Soapbox Meter’ in its panel model? How did it help/change your position as a panel provider?

We have a two-pronged approach. We do a lot of custom recruitment for our clients. They are typically looking for a very specific audience and want to meter them for a designated period of time. Sometimes, they are looking for passive data alone, and other times they want to incorporate methodologies like surveys or diaries. We also recognize clients’ desire for look-back data which was initially the driver for building our existing metering panel. The metering panel also helps with profiling, targeting and a host of other advantages – some of which we are still uncovering.

Where do you see the most valuable use cases of behavioral data?

There are two key areas we focus on with clients. The first is gathering a 360-degree view of the consumer journey. By gathering consumer behavior (as opposed to relying solely on recall) we can see the influence certain types of sites and apps (social media, review sites, coupon sites, etc.) have on the path to purchase. This helps our clients intercept their audiences with the right message at the right time. The second use case we focus on is building digital profiles of our clients’ target audiences. By understanding how certain segments use websites, apps, and search terms our clients can optimize their media spend to reach their target audiences at an improved ROI.

What do you see as the main challenges when dealing with behavioral data?

One of the major challenges about passive metering data is that there is a ton of it and it is totally unstructured. Some of that data is incredibly valuable and relevant to the research objective and some of it isn’t. It takes time, experimentation and the willingness to dive into the unknown to find the connections between seemingly unrelated data points. The idea is to help brands understand their customers by taking millions of tiny details that, when seen as a whole, paint a vivid picture of their customers and their underlying motivations.

Another challenge we deal with regularly, is that most often the clients asking for “metering” data don’t understand the methodology yet and often try to make it fit where it doesn’t, or assume it is the Holy Grail of research data that can answer any and all questions about what people are doing online and on their devices. This is a struggle as there is really no checklist for what metering can/cannot do. Well, there are some checklists on what it can’t do, but the newness, combined with the complexity is a brand new challenge. Clients have to work in partnership with their providers, take risks and be willing to delve into the unknowns to get the magic nugget of information.

How will the growing importance of mobile affect passive measurement?

Opportunities for brands to connect with people, and for people to connect with brands increase as we spend more time on our mobile devices, and we have more devices in our hands. Each item (computer, phone, tablet, wearable) offers researchers another window into people’s online lives. Passive metering is the most effective way to find out what people are doing without disrupting the process, and I believe it will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

How will passive metering influence sampling, data collection and surveying?

I think the research industry is beginning to recognize the value of passive data collection. What remains to be seen is to what extent passive data will replace traditional surveys, how often it will be used in conjunction with traditional surveys, and how data integrations from a variety of sources (survey, transactional, customer, 3rd party, passive) will be leveraged. At SoapBox, we’ve had a lot of success with blending methodologies to create innovative solutions to help answer client’s business questions.

For me, the most unexpected (and potentially disruptive) shift I am seeing is that sample providers, and/or data collection providers in general, are moving away from being order takers of pre-determined research approaches by full service agencies or end users/brands, and now have a seat at the table in designing and contributing to the research approach. It is super exciting to see collaboration from the start of a project to the end.

Is there any advice you would give the market research industry?

My advice would be to stay as lean and nimble as possible. Now is the time to dive in and start even though things aren’t all “figured out” yet. Those who wait and watch, will be passed over. With the coming advances in AI and Machine Learning, the market research industry will certainly be faced with major disruptions — more than we think, and earlier than we expect. We all need to hone our adaptation skills to survive in this business environment. I say learn how to anticipate the ever-changing needs of the industry and be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice.

The Honeymoon is Over…

By | Be Clear, Be Honest, Be Reasonable, Invoke Passion

If you are a regular reader of the Telltale Ten, then you probably caught Jacqueline’s New Year’s Eve post about how she doesn’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. While I agree with her (and I’m not just saying that because she’s the boss) that traditional New Year’s Resolutions turn people into short-term fanatics before they inevitably give up, I don’t think they’re entirely useless. In fact, sometimes people actually succeed at what they set out to do. Now that we’re approaching the end of February, we are in prime-time resolution abandonment season. Leftover Valentine’s Day candy… St. Patrick’s Day booze—It’s all calling our names.  But maybe it’s not the resolution that leads us to failure, maybe it’s our perspective.

The (New Year’s Resolution) Honeymoon is Over

Every love story starts the same way… two people fall madly in love— they date, they get married, they go on a honeymoon— and then life gets real. We often treat our New Year’s Resolutions the same way. We adopt a new habit or quit an old one, thinking that it will “complete” us. We stop smoking, we drink more water, we go on a diet… And we start the year off with a brand new attitude, in love with the idea of our new and “better” selves.

I kept my resolution simple this year: drink a gallon of water a day. At least it sounded simple. I was out by the second week of January. I quickly realized that frequent water drinking = frequent trips to the bathroom, and my schedule just couldn’t support it. And you know why? Because I was approaching my resolution as a habit rather than a lifestyle change. A habit implies a lack of control, but a lifestyle is something we’re committed to living out every single day because it’s a part of us. We don’t quit after one moment of weakness. So what happens now that my New Year’s Resolution “honeymoon” is over? Rather than kissing my commitment goodbye, I’ve decided to kiss-and-make-up with them. I’ve decided to start thinking of my resolution as a part of my lifestyle instead of a temporary habit.

My expectations may have been too high at first… A gallon of water every day is a lot. But I can confidently say that I’m drinking way more water than I did last year. And that lesson transcends just a little New Year’s Resolution. While the “honeymoon phase” feels nice for a little while, a meaningful relationship is always better. And while we’ll never be perfect, we can always be better.

She Let Go

By | Be Clear, Be Genuine, Be Honest, Inspire Ideas, Motivate Others | No Comments

Sometimes life becomes overwhelming. It may be everyday stress, loss of a loved one, injury, illness, or even something as simple as a flat tire. Most of us don’t have the option to just “freeze” in time (#mannequinchallengefarce) when we are knocked down. Everyone needs tools to get back up.

Lately, a combination of physical injuries, illness, work and life have hit ALL at once. Like a brick (no, actually a piano) landing on my head. I’ve learned that the only way to the other side is right through the middle. That middle area can suck pretty damn bad. But you have to acknowledge, deal, accept, and then trudge through by adding new tools to your toolkit of life. It doesn’t really matter if it is a hobby, exercise, spiritual practice….whatever.

This past weekend I had the privilege of spending a dear friend’s milestone birthday with her. The weekend was intended to be a freeing reset. I have not made it to the other side of this reset but know it kicked off a process. We were lucky enough to have a Kundalini instructor come and lead us through a session. It was quite an experience and something very new to me. It was powerful. One of the most poignant moments was the framing and intent of what we were about to do.

The kick off started with a reading of this poem about letting go (no, not the annoying song we all hope to never hear again). While it refers to “She” I think it really applies to anyone, and everyone, no matter the struggle. Big or small.

She Let Go

by Rev. Safire Rose

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.  She let go of the judgments.  She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.  She let go of the committee of indecision within her.  She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a book on how to let go.  She didn’t search the scriptures. She just let go.  She let go of all of the memories that held her back.  She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.  She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go. She didn’t journal about it. She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer. She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper. She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope. She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go. She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter. She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment. She didn’t call the prayer line. She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.

No one was around when it happened. There was no applause or congratulations. No one thanked her or praised her. No one noticed a thing. Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort. There was no struggle. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be. A small smile came over her face. A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.

Indecision – The Evil Accomplice of Procrastination

By | Be Clear, Be Reasonable, Inspire Ideas, Take Risks | No Comments

in·de·ci·sion

ˌindəˈsiZH(ə)n/

noun

  1. the inability to make a decision quickly.

in·de·ci·sion

 

I am not a procrastinator by nature. I typically move fast and can’t stand to leave things undone. Some may even say I move maniacally through the day. But when I do procrastinate, it is typically linked to indecision.

When I just can’t figure out (aka decide) what to do, I usually end up in a tailspin pretty quickly. Doesn’t really matter if I am indecisive about something with big impact such as whether to hire or fire someone, or a small decision with little impact, such as what to eat for lunch. The end result is the same – procrastination. BTW, the small decisions are what get me.

When I am unable to make a decision, I’m in that grey area where nothing productive happens. I call it the hallway. Once I know what door I am going to go through, I can handle just about anything. But the time that I am standing in that hallway, trying to pick door number 1,2 or 3, is typically crazy-making for me. Indecision is the great time waster and there is nothing that drives me more crazy than wasting time – especially if you happen to be wasting MY time.

If you are having a hard time making a decision, chances are one of these are the culprit – or at the very least, a contributing culprit.

Second Guessing

While second guessing is second nature to some people, it can be crippling. Assuming you have done your diligence in making your initial decision, GO WITH IT. Move forward. Fear is often the driver behind second guessing. Don’t let the fear freeze you.

Overweighing a decision

There is only so much time you can spend looking at things. Make a list of pros and cons, do your research, talk with a trusted partner. After that, you are pretty much going in circles. A wise woman once told me the most dangerous neighborhood I can hang out in is the one inside my head. There may be no truer true than that. I can talk myself in and out of ANYTHING and drive myself insane.

Asking Other’s Opinions

This could help you assuming the person, you ask is 1) actually helpful, knowledgeable and trustworthy and 2) you actually listen to them and take their advice rather than just ignoring them. There may have been a time or two where I asked my husband, “this one or this one” only for him to pick one and then me to continue to hem and haw for hours longer. Or pick the opposite – don’t do that. That means you are being a pain in the ass.

Putting it off

Procrastinating about making your decision leads to procrastination. See what is happening here? You’re just going around and around in circles.  Staying up all night thinking about things doesn’t help either. That only makes you tired.

The Decision is Not Yours to Make

Sometimes the decision is just simply not yours to make. Maybe it is none of your business, or maybe it is simply not in your hands. In that case, you just have to wait and see what happens. Tip: Don’t try to figure out all the possible outcomes. If you don’t have input and you are not in control, you will waste a lot of time doing that. Whatever is going to happen will happen anyway no matter how many hours you spend trying to predict it. Unless you are a fortune teller. Then you should predict it since that is your job.

There are lots of articles on how to face indecision. We’ve included some of our favorites below. Just make sure you are reading them with the intent of improving the skill of decision making and not just putting a decision off.

 

10 Proven Ways to Overcome Indecision — Inc.

5 Steps to Overcome Indecision — Simple Life Strategies

How to Deal with Indecision — Pick the Brain

4 Tips for Dealing with an Indecisive Boss — The Muse

7 Ways to Conquer Indecision — Forbes

 

Bottom line. In order to get shit done, you have to make a decision.

HALT — Stop, In the Name of Love

By | Be Clear, Be Genuine, Be Honest, Be Reasonable | No Comments

 

In our business and personal lives, we have to undoubtedly deal with confrontation – both planned and unplanned. It may be in person, telephonically, electronically or even telepathically (that may be stretching it, but sounds cool). We can choose to ignore it, let it control us or actually respond in a productive way. Probably the worst thing to do, is just react in the moment without actually thinking it through. Then all kinds of messes are created. I have found practicing the self-discipline to Halt, has saved me many a heartache. And when I don’t halt, well then someone ends up not very happy.

Halt
/hôlt/

verb
bring or come to an abrupt stop.

noun
a suspension of movement or activity, typically a temporary one.

Since I am a dork, I thought an acronym for HALT would not only bring us back to out 7th grade study habit, but maybe, just maybe, help one poor soul not make an ass of themselves next time they are faced with confrontation.

H. Hush

Take a deep breath. Yes, seriously. Besides the fact that breathing allows more oxygen to travel throughout your body, that brief pause may save you from that Reply All in CAPS or raising your voice.

A. Ask

Taking the time to ask these questions may just help you with H and L. What you can constructively contribute or learn will get you further than “how can I win?”.

a. What can I learn here?
b. What is my part in this?
c. How can be helpful or turn this into a productive exchange?

L. Listen

Hear what the person saying. Listen, seriously. In order to actually hear, you have to do three things. 1) shut up 2) stop focusing on your clever comeback and 3) pause and give the person to a chance to say what they have to say (even if you already know it is idiotic). Listening, can actually diffuse a tense or heated state without even needing to say anything. Trust me, my staff has this one mastered.

T. Thank

Whaaatttttt? Are you serious? Yes, I am. This is part of learning, to respond and not just react. Note; there is a difference between reacting and responding – look it up. I swear they are not the same thing.

The Muse wrote an article in Forbes; they mentioned another great element that is worth implementing – “Thank him or her for sharing feedback with you. Don’t gloss over this—be deliberate, and say, ‘I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about this with me.’ Expressing appreciation doesn’t have to mean you’re agreeing with the assessment, but it does show that you’re acknowledging the effort your colleague took to evaluate you and share his or her thoughts.”

If you would like the other person(s) to change how they have spoken to you, now is the time to think of how you can help them communicate with you better. Try something like” “Hey I hear what you are saying (see the H in Halt) and I want to make this situation better too.” Using ‘and’ instead of ‘but’ is a crucial communication tool. It’s the ‘wax on, wax off’ secret to successful communication.

Have some tips of your own to share? Even if they are not in the form of a clever acronym, I’d love to hear them. Tweet me @jax_Rosales

Mean What You Say and Say What You Mean…or Don’t

By | Be Clear, Be Honest, Motivate Others | No Comments

Your Guide to Interoffice Communication

After 20+ years in business, I’ve gotten pretty good at reading between the lines, and no I don’t mean when people are giving me the middle finger. If you sometimes need help interpreting common workplace phrases, here is my personal guide. You’re welcome.

When an employee says, “I’ll circle back around on that—,” they really mean “I totally forgot and now I need to scramble to put something together.”

When your boss says, “I’m curious why you did X,” they mean “Why in the world would you do that?”

When the employee says, “I reached out a couple times; just waiting for a response,” means “I completely forgot to reach out.”

When the boss says, “That sounds interesting, I haven’t had a chance to look into it,” means “I have most definitely taken a complete, full, and in-depth look into it and I am not interested at all.”

When an employee says, “Just as an FYI…,” they mean, “I’m now asking for your forgiveness, because I neglected to ask permission.”

When someone (me) says, “I haven’t had my coffee yet,” they (I) mean, “If you continue to converse with me before I am properly caffeinated, I will turn into a three-headed-dragon, blow fire and torch this office. Do we want that? I think not. Please walk away.”

When an employee says, “I believe so,” they mean, “I know so. I could not fathom being incorrect on this. However, since I sense some disbelief in your tone, I will use the word ‘believe’ so that you can look into it further, only to realize I was right.”

When the boss says, “Ok, put it on my calendar,” they mean “I likely will not show up at this meeting but I don’t want to hurt your feelings right now.”

When an employee says: “I can’t come in, I have food poisoning,” they mean, “I was at an after-hours party until 4 am.”

When a boss says, “We really need to change X,Y,Z,” what they mean is, “this is your task and you better get it done.”

 

 

Back to Basics

By | Be Clear, Be Honest, Be Reasonable | No Comments

My injury and health recovery over the past 19 months has had its ups and downs. Some days are good; some days are not so good. I have also had some long periods where things only sat on that not-so-good side. It is a humbling reality, requires patience, gratitude and the willingness to start over – on repeat.

Recently, after about an 8-week “I’m too sick” hiatus from Crossfit and regular workouts, I was able to make my way back into the Crossfit Box. My first day back was an in-your-face reminder of how important the basics are. I had to exercise a level of self-control that I often let run wild before my car accident. I had to go slow, ask the Coach to watch my movements and stop me if I am off, modify the Workout of the Day (WOD) so I did not cause injury and/or work myself so hard that I couldn’t move for the days that follow. I also have to accept, and be proud of, my performance – even if my name is at the bottom of the board. I need to focus on the fact that I am at least ON the board – that is more than I can say for those still sitting on the couch.

Recently, at SoapBox, we have also had many not-so-subtle reminders to get back to basics. I will spare you the details, but we netted out 5 Key Takeaways.

Information Sharing – As your organization is growing, it is crucial to find an efficient and effective way to share information across teams and divisions. It is especially important to ensure there is a line of communication between Sales and Operations. Not sharing can result in missed opportunities, doubling of work effort, missing input form key players and a total breakdown when it all comes to a head. As a leader, you also have to protect the organization from oversharing, or you end up with groups of people wasting time, not staying focused, getting involved in what they should not, and limiting your ability to scale as you have too many cooks in the kitchen (did I just say that – I sorta hate clichés like that).

Job/Role Defining – As a startup, everyone likely does a little bit everything. Everyone you hire has to be a jack of all trades, master of none (did I just do that cliché thing again?). Once you get to a certain size, you need to set up the organization to divide and conquer (I now hate myself). Team members need to know their role, what they are responsible for and start dividing ownership of tasks. It can be super tough to undo the “all in” attitude, but at some point it becomes critical. It means being super CLEAR (Telltale 10) about what individual’s roles are, and are not. I may mean reallocating tasks that people don’t want reallocated. Se la vie.

Ongoing Training – With growth, comes a tendency to think that everyone just knows how to do “things.” Things like manage, interview, delegate, co-manage, oversee company initiatives etc. It is simply NOT the case. Training is key at all stages of the employment tenure. Many companies and leaders get hyper focused on new hire onboarding and training and then “set it and forget it” (who remembers that commercial). Doesn’t work. Even the senior people can benefit from training.

Reporting/Metrics – We fell into the “report on everything” but “assess nothing” trap. You know the trap where people are running and sending reports, but not looking at or analyzing what they mean? Not super helpful. Having people run reports, that are ultimately not the owners of the outcomes, tends to lead to a lot of numbers and not much else. It is certainly acceptable to have admin level people running reports, as long as there is an owner who is analyzing, evaluating, assessing and making recommendations based on the data – otherwise there is no point. Our Market Research clients don’t just pay for reports and then not read or take action on them. If they did, the Research business would be out of business. So why let that happen INSIDE our companies?

Feedback Loop – This may seem like such a basic thing, and likely we all think we are “doing it.” But I am betting most of us think we are, but aren’t. Or we are giving feedback, but not the kind that actually moves the needle forward. People need specific feedback, with specific examples and a related call to action step. I know it can sometimes seem easier to ignore, assign the task to someone else, complain to another member of the team etc. In the end, facilitating an environment to give AND receive feedback is crucial for both employee satisfaction and scalable growth.