Category

Motivate Others

Live a Strong Sideline Game

By | Be Honest, Have Fun, Motivate Others

This past weekend, my husband Marco road in the Tehachapi GranFondo event. The event is ranked as the #1 GranFondo in California and #13 in the nation. For those of you who don’t know what a GranFondo is, it’s a long-distance road cycling event. The courses at this particular one range from 18 to 104 miles. In short, it’s an event for road biking maniacs.

After suffering injuries from a car accident that prevented me from continuing to run road and obstacle course races, my husband and I took up road biking. It is an addictive, expensive and super uncomfortable sport – not for those who aren’t willing to suffer a little discomfort “down there”.

After years of chasing me around the country, waking up at the crack of dawn to see me start a race, and then standing around waiting for me to finish, Marco and I embarked on this new journey together. He instantly fell in love. Like he loves it. For me, it was something I could pull off with my injuries and still be competitive, still get the high from tackling a long distance, and still get pumped up about at an event.

The very best thing about it (and Marco may have a very different opinion on this since he is way better than me and I am pretty sure I hold him back) is that it is something we were finally doing together. Training together, riding together, racing together. Now, only Ella, my daughter, was stuck getting up at the crack of dawn and waiting around for hours (I mean hours) for us to finish. And I am ok with that as she is a preteen and pretty bratty on occasion, so it is like secret parent payback mixed in with a little inspiration – good parenting if you ask me.

Anyway, let me get to the point. Tehachapi is our favorite event of the year. It is seriously awesome. It is well organized, there are pro riders there, the course is amazing and crossing the finish line is a true experience thanks to the announcer and cheerleaders. And this year, I couldn’t do it. I just was not physically well enough to pull it off. I wasn’t even able to do the “fun” ride which is 18 miles. I was out – sidelines for me this year.

Despite being sad, resentful and at times totally pissed off that I was not able to do it, my job was to be encouraging, supportive and my husband’s #1 fan. No. Matter. How. I. Felt. This was now about being the best cheerleader I could be. Not about me – all about him. It meant:

  • Making sure he had all his gear and nutrition for the ride
  • Waking up suuuppper early and not being an asshole about it
  • Hauling my butt to the start line with Ella – it was 45 degrees and partly dark
  • Watching the hundreds of cyclists gather and keeping a smile despite feeling total bummed
  • Taking 6 zillion photos of his journey and updating every stage on social media
  • Driving to the rest stop to see him pull in after the 20 mile mark to help him reset
  • Waiting for FIVE hours for him to finish (OMG – I have been doing this shit for years and it is NOT fun. I can’t believe how many times Marco waited for me – granted, running is usually way shorter but still….)
  • Ensuring he had an easy way to get showered and fed within an hour of finishing
  • Not making it about me and being an ass (did I mention not being an ass?)

So here’s the deal. Sometimes you need to be on the sidelines supporting others. Whether it is in your job, your relationship or friendship, just do it. Go out and help someone, support someone. Make someone else feel good. At the finish line, I didn’t have to work at all to be soooo pumped up and excited for him. I genuinely was! I felt so much excitement and inner happiness for his accomplishment. It is amazing how turning your attention outwards to someone else is a surefire way to get off your own pity pot and be useful. And the admission price? Your time and a positive attitude. That’s it.

The Road Show Rolls On

By | Have Fun, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others

This week at SoapBoxSample we held an all-hands meeting where we talked about the things that keep us motivated — through the stress, through the long hours, and through the demanding projects. One of my biggest motivators has always been working out. Almost any type of physical activity helps me focus, centers me, and just makes me feel good. But why should I have all the fun? I like to encourage (some would say force) my staff to get outdoors and do the same. This week Matt Thurston, the COO of icanmakeitbetter (our insight community platform) flew in from Austin to spend some time with the Van Nuys office. I encouraged (it was optional I swear) Matt and our Senior Account Executive Anthony Bean to head up to Runyon Canyon at the end of the day to check out the best view that Los Angeles has to offer. Seeing them conquer that hill make me think it was time to revisit one of my favorite blog posts — Work Out Road Show. Yes, it is possible to stay in shape when you travel for work. And sometimes the best way to see the sights is while you’re sweaty and out of breath and being harassed by a small blonde drill sergeant who looks like Amy Poehler.

Digging Deep – Success Happens Outside the Comfort Zone

By | Be Genuine, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others

What do a former roller derby player, a French-trained Sabreur, the President of SoCal Toastmasters and an international marathon runner all have in common? That would be Aaron. To be more specific, it would be SoapBoxSample’s Director of Systems and Programming, Aaron Cole.

The first employee of SoapBox, Aaron is a fashion extraordinaire (who refuses to buy his clothes in America), a recovered hair-dyeing addict, a current tattoo addict, a vegetarian, an artist, a Spartan and a world traveler.

Come to think of it, he may have way too many hobbies to actually be doing any work. Hmmm….

He also has somehow managed to buy the exact right gift for my daughter every single year, from talking storybook dogs, to fuzzy slippers and phone cases, he has an uncanny knack for buying her just the right Christmas gift each and every year. If I didn’t know him so well, I’d think it was creepy. But he likely does all kinds of research as that is just the way he is.

Oh – and he trained his dog, Charlie, to run races with him. They also have been known to wear matching costumes for Halloween.

Aaron is also this week’s guest blogger! Check out Aaron’s guide to digging deep and pushing beyond your limits.

A Guide to Completing a Marathon in the Outback …Without Getting Yourself Killed

Guest Post by Aaron Cole

I was all alone in the middle of the Australian Outback, running up a sand dune. Dehydration and exhaustion threatened to overtake me. This was Mile 19. I still had 7 more miles to go. How did I complete my mission? By following the simple, but difficult, steps outlined below.

I’m happy to say that I not only survived the Australian Outback, but that I also finished in 4th place overall, was the first American to cross the finish line, and beat my own personal best time by over 15 minutes with a final finish time of 3hrs 23min 25sec.

When I first decided that I wanted to complete a marathon on all seven continents, I immediately began looking for the most unique, exciting, and memorable races I could find. For my third continent I settled on the Australian Outback Marathon; 26.2 miles of grueling masochism through one of the world’s harshest environments. (I also raised nearly $1,000 to support The Wilderness Society to help protect Australia’s many endangered and at-risk species.)

Curious how this went from an idea to a reality? Here’s how I did it.

  1. Have a Vision and Purpose: Running a marathon wasn’t enough for me, I also wanted to raise funds and awareness for The Wilderness Society. Whether for your own benefit or the benefit of others, having a vision and purpose is essential as it serves as the foundation for your motivation and drive.
  2. Set Goals (and Follow Through): In the 16 weeks leading up to the Outback Marathon I averaged 50+ miles of running per week. It. Was. Not. Easy. Some days I didn’t feel like putting in the work, but I had a vision and I knew that if I didn’t accomplish the goals I set for myself, it would jeopardize my ability to accomplish my mission.
  3. Just Do It: Like the slogan goes, you’ve got to get it done. When I felt tired, weary, or my schedule was jam-packed, it created obstacles for my training plan. It’s not easy to run 50+ miles when you’re working Monday through Friday and then lose your weekend to other responsibilities, but if you want to accomplish something great, you’ve got to put in a greater amount of effort. This involved many late night runs, running while on the go, re-organizing my schedule, and a whole lot of commitment.
  4. Prepare for the Specifics: If your goals aren’t targeted and purposeful, you won’t be successful in your mission. In order to prepare myself, both physically and mentally, I ran a lot of hills, long distances of up to 22 miles, and sandy beach runs. This gave my legs the experience, built the resistance, and helped to get my head in the right mind frame for the challenges I would face in the desert of the Outback.
  5. Support and Accountability: Putting in this much time and effort can be draining, and it can be easy to slip, so having a support network is essential to keeping you on track! Family, friends, business associates, or anyone else that can lend positivity and support are all crucial to your success. I joined several running groups, finding camaraderie with my running mates and even gaining new tricks and tips to improve my skills. I also found greater consistency in my training, helping me to accomplish my 50+ miles per week goal with significantly greater ease!
  6. Have Fun Along the Way: As I mentioned, the time and effort you put in to accomplish your mission can be draining at times, so you need to find ways to re-fuel your energy. This will vary from person to person, it’s really what’s works for you. For me, however, I used food, travel, and other races to keep me motivated. Rewarding yourself with a giant cinnamon roll with blueberries, almonds and cream cheese after a long and hilly 22-mile run is pretty much the best thing ever!
  7. Take Care of Yourself: It can be easy to overlook your own personal well-being when you become so engrossed in accomplishing your goals, but the impact of an injury can be far greater than the moments you spend to rest and recover. Even in a more professional setting, it can be easy to burn out if you don’t have a way to vent the stresses and take care of your mind and body. I had to nurse some injuries, ease back on training, and allow myself the time to recoup, which in the end resulting in even greater improvement, allowing me to far exceed my performance expectations!
  8. Dig Deep: All the motivation, support, and sense of purpose you carry may feel irrelevant when you’re faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. But I’m here to tell you that nothing is impossible, and any obstacle can be overcome. This is when you need to dig deep and draw from within. For the last 10 miles of the Australian Outback Marathon, I was running in complete isolation; not another runner for over a mile in either direction. I was combating dehydration from the desert’s dry heat, and come Mile 19, the final sand dune drained the last of my strength. The remaining 7 miles I had nothing left. I was running on fumes. But I never stopped running, I never lost sight of my mission, and I dug really, really, REALLY deep.
  9. Celebrate and Recover: Victory! With your mission complete, it’s time to bask in the glory of your accomplishment. Savor this success and know that you’ve earned it! But don’t be too quick to jump into your next mission, give yourself time to recover so that you can tackle the next one with the same energy and enthusiasm.

After all this I’ll bet you’re feeling ready to tackle a marathon of your own, right?? Maybe not. But that’s okay, because these strategies apply to more than just running marathons, you can apply this to any dream or goal you wish to accomplish. Whether your passion is to open your own restaurant, grow your business by 50% in the next 12 months, or even something as simple as learning how to roller skate, if you follow these steps, I can guarantee your success.

However, if you don’t find success with these steps, please direct any complaints and refund requests to Jacqueline Rosales c/o Telltale Ten!

Competition – The Great Motivator (and Wannabe Distractor)

By | Create Value, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others

This may come as a shock to some of you, but I can be competitive. Like, super competitive. I recently made it a competition with our VP of Operations to see who could get to my boss’s office the fastest. Not kidding. Competitive people tend to gravitate toward other competitive people.

My friend Ashley Seeger (who was featured in one of the first Telltale Ten BLOGs, My Friends Are Cooler Than Yours) embodies that trait like no other. After a crazy ACL injury and a few other life events, Ashley made the decision to focus on her business full-time. She leveraged her growing boot camp and class groupies, and recently opened up her own gym and training facility called Becoming Badass. As a startup leader, I can tell you that being competitive can help you succeed. (Being a little bit crazy is helpful too.) Ashley is learning to take her race mentality, and apply it to growing her business. Oh, and she decided to take on a bikini competition, a 24-hour endurance race in Australia, and compete in World’s Toughest Mudder (among some Spartan and Ragnar races) all during her first year of business. Ashley shares a few key tips on competition in this week’s Telltale Ten.

Competition – The Great Motivator (and Wannabe Distractor)

By Ashley Seeger

If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, you know that there is competition on every corner. The stressors that come with opening a new business can be intense. Keeping up with your competition can be one that eats at you. For me, competition comes in a lot of different forms — competition with myself, competition with things in my life that are vying for my attention and competition from other businesses. Competition motivates us to do more, do better and grow as a business. If we were the only one doing the “thing” why would we need to improve? Instead, competition forces us to do our best. It can also derail us and cause us to lose focus if we don’t channel it correctly. Here is how I use competition to motivate me instead of distract me.

1. Master your trade. What are you good at? What is your passion?

Keep your focus on what YOU are good at. What do you love the most? What is your unique value proposition? What is special about you or your business that others cannot easily replicate? When looking at your competition you may be tempted to veer from your lane into what they are doing. But ask yourself – what are you a master at? Do you find your passion or expansion opportunities in competitive offerings? If not, then stay in your lane. Instead of trying to be a jack-of-ALL-trades, how can you improve what YOU do?

2. Don’t waste time or energy worrying about the others.

In other words, mind your own business. Literally and figuratively. Instead of worrying that others are going to do more, be better etc., use that energy for your own business. Once you have identified what is working for you, set a plan to improve what you already do. How can you be the BEST at what YOU do? Figure it out and then DO IT! Have integrity and take pride in what you do. You cannot control what your competition is doing. You also can’t be blind to it. This is a balancing act. Be mindful of the landscape, industry, trends, direct and indirect competition. But don’t be obsessed with it – and definitely don’t try to just copy it. Be aware of your surroundings and competition, continuously try to improve what you do and don’t let the competition be a threat, let the competition motivate you to be the best.

3. Leverage what you know, but don’t rely on today’s skills to get you through tomorrow.

Entrepreneurs need to always be learning, seeking more info, and getting out of their comfort zone. Just like on the race course, you have to know your competition’s strengths and weaknesses. You also have to train and be coachable. If you are not willing to learn new things, or accept advice from others who know things you don’t, you will likely fail. I am an athlete. I have always been an athlete. I am a coach. I am a good coach. Running a business is TOTALLY new to me. If I don’t embrace what I don’t know, and seek it, my competition may prevail regardless of how good of an athlete or coach I am. I have to find and recognize my weakness and then go after it!

If you want to check out all the badass things Ashley does, check out her website at www.becomingbadass.me. For someone new to business, she sure has mastered marketing and branding. It rocks. Truthfully I am jealous. You can follow her Badass adventures on social media at [Insta: @_ashleyseeger, YouTube: Ashley Seeger, Facebook: Ashley Seeger]. Oh, and to the tune of getting out of her comfort zone and delving more into the “business side” of running a business, she just joined LinkedIn! You can connect with her here where she will be posting her BLOG, news, making connections and learning new stuff.

There is a sign hanging in her facility that reads “Do Only Difficult Things” – that pretty much sums up entrepreneurship.

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Who’s in Your Front Row?

By | Be Genuine, Create Value, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others

As we move through the different chapters of our lives, we inevitably change. The people, places and things around us impact our mindset, mood, behavior and happiness. While it can be painful at times to leave some things behind, it can be equally exciting to experience the new things. When I find myself in a period of discontent, I know I have work to do. It is not anyone else’s fault. I choose to take responsibility over my happiness.

You cannot change the people around you, but you can change the people you are around. You may not be able to control certain things that happen to you, but you can control how you react. You may not be able to change other people, but you can change yourself.

A special woman gave me this many years ago. I searched the internet to find the author and found varying versions of it, but not this exact one. I attributed it to a “wise, beautiful lady”.  This was the perfect thing for me to find today. I needed this reminder…

Life is a Theater

Life is a theater. Invite your audience carefully. Not everyone is healthy enough to have a front row seat in our lives.

There are some people in your life that need to be loved from a distance. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you let go, or at least minimize, your time with draining, negative, incompatible, not going-anywhere relationships or friendships.

Observe the relationships around you. Pay attention. Which ones lift and which ones lean? Which ones encourage and which ones discourage? Which ones are on a path of growth uphill and which ones are going downhill? When you leave certain people, do you feel better or do you feel worse? Which ones always have drama, or don’t really understand, know, or appreciate you? The more you seek quality, respect, growth, peace of mind, love and truth around you, the easier it will become for you to decide who gets to sit in the front row and who should be moved to the balcony of your life. You cannot change the people around you, but you can change the people you are around.

In short, you don’t have to tolerate shitty people.

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No More Pity Parties

By | Be Genuine, Be Honest, Motivate Others, Take Risks

My daughter Ella’s response to her Instagram troll

Flip the Script on Negative Feedback

Even though I am often mistaken for Amy Poehler, and have been asked literally more than one thousand times, “Do you know who you look like?” I am pretty sure I could never actually BE a celebrity. The “online digital” age we live in is a breeding ground for meanness. Generally, cowardly meanness of those who hide their keyboard and throw insults (often anonymously) any and every chance they get.

We sometimes forget people on the other end of screen are humans. Yet cyber bullying of businesses, peers, and celebrities is rampant in our society. My ten year old is a working actor in LA and I am not sure I will be able to handle it if she ever actually “makes it big”. My daughter was recently the victim of an online troll who spent hours (it must have taken all night) to post negative comments on about a year’s worth of Instagram posts. Things like “You are so ugly how are you a model?” or “I don’t even know you, you are irrelevant as an actor”. My daughter was a total champion and handled it like a pro. She actually said “Mom, for someone who hates me that much, they sure spent a lot of time going through all my pictures and on my account.”

If you are a regular reader of Telltale Ten, or know me in a business capacity, it is no secret that culture and employee satisfaction is really what motivates me. I’ve said it before (and at the risk of pissing someone else of), will say it again, I don’t care that much about Market Research. What I do care about is creating an amazing work environment where people are fulfilled personally and professionally and love to come to work every day.

Recently, I visited Glassdoor to see how we were doing. We only have a handful of reviews on there and they are mostly positive. Like 80%+ are great. But it seemed like I could only see the negative ones.

“Stakeholders should hire someone who actually knows something.”

Or how about this one:

Pros

“There are no pros because this company is awful.”

Cons

“Everyone hates their jobs, but the COO and most upper managers are never there to see it.”

Advice to Management

“Bring in a CEO who knows what they are doing.”

Can you say OUCH?? Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Why the heck is Jacqueline writing a BLOG exposing bad things people say about her and SoapBox?” Good question (give yourself a round of applause – I was also referred to as condescending and disruptive. Up to you to judge that one). When I read these, my heart dropped. My feelings were hurt. I wanted to fix it. I totally get that there will always be a couple of disgruntled employees in the wake of a super-fast growing start up. And I am not everyone’s cup of tea. But I am human, so it bothered me personally, but also made me hyper aware that maybe not everyone is happy and we need to do better. After reading the negative feedback I was faced with the following options:

A. I could have stayed butt hurt and thrown a pity party, feeling sorry for myself and wondering why the work doesn’t love me

B. I could have just got self-righteous and pissed off and dismissed the negative reviews as “irrelevant” people

C. Or use the feedback (albeit unsolicited) as an opportunity to self-reflect and then take action to improve

I choose C.

I went from being sad, to wanting to take an honest look at what improvements I can make as a leader, and what improvements we can make as a company. I called a meeting and those involved were quick to dismiss it as pissed off people who were terminated for not doing their job. I get it. That is probably true. But maybe, there are a few things we can tweak to make things better too.

So we have set out on a mission built around a WRITTEN plan for improving culture led by our Marketing Team. We identified potential areas of dissatisfaction, ways to gauge an ongoing pulse of satisfaction, put pen to paper and came out with a plan that we will be rolling out starting this month. I am SUPER excited about it.

As you move through your days, I urge you to

  • Be kind – in person and online
  • Remember that people (including celebrities, bosses and politicians – ok maybe not the last one) are humans with feelings
  • When ill words are said, don’t dwell, be strong and also look for the lesson

 

27

By | Be Genuine, Invoke Passion, Motivate Others, Take Risks

“Hello ma’am, do you have access to the internet and would you like to take a survey?”

As a young, bootstrapped startup, SoapBoxSample is fortunate in that we can draw from the vast experience of our parent company ISA (Interviewing Service of America). ISA has been in the Market Research business for 35 years. It’s humbling to think of how many lives have grown and changed over the years. Children have been born and grown into adults and had children of their own in that time.

Some of the ISA people still question my unconventional leadership style, but I’m happy to say I’ve made genuine connections with a lot of them, including Gregg Stickeler, Senior VP of Client Services, who celebrates his 27-year anniversary with ISA today. He may not admit it, but I believe his initial feelings toward me were disdain. I also think he now has grown to like me, or at least tolerate me. When I asked Gregg to guest blog he took it seriously enough to do some extensive research, which is fitting considering all of his years of experience. Congrats Gregg!

27

For me, the number 27 is much more than just a random number. It holds quite a bit of significance in my life. Here are just a few fun facts about the number 27.

  • 27% of the Earth is land.
  • It takes 27 days for a human cell to re-grow.
  • The Moon orbits the Earth every 27 days and coincidentally, the Sun revolves on its axis in those same 27 days.
  • The total number of letters in both the Hebrew and Spanish alphabets is 27.
  • It is the atomic number of Cobalt.
  • There are 27 bones in the human hand.
  • It is my daughter’s lucky number.

And on June 27, 2017 I will be celebrating the 27th anniversary of becoming a member of the ISA team. Yes, 27 years ago a young Gregg Stickeler uprooted his life from the East Coast and started a new career and a new life in Van Nuys, California. And boy what this guy has seen.

When I started with ISA in 1990, we had just expanded from 48 telephone station seats to over 55. Well over half of these positons were equipped with a CRT (Cathode Ray Tube), in order to perform Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI – which on the East coast we pronounced Kay-Dee and on the West coast, Ka – Tee). The majority of the interviewing was done in English though we had a handful of bilingual Spanish interviewers and an on-call staff of Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese speaking interviewers. We ran a number of tracking studies as well as ad hoc studies. Usually up to five different projects would be running at any given time.

But we grew and so did I.

In the next few years we expanded to over 100 seats, all CATI, now crammed into three phone rooms (all at 16005 Sherman Way in Van Nuys, CA). I moved from Manager of Telephone Operations to Project Manager to Director of Client Services. Our Quality Control department was renamed Quality Assurance and Interviewers were now dubbed Data Collectors. And we added a Focus Group Facility named Creative Data.

And the years passed. I was promoted to Vice President and my future wife (which I did not realize at the time) joined the company. We expanded our phone capacity by nearly 60 seats, opening a facility in Alhambra (just outside Pasadena with a large Asian population – at this point we were doing over 25% of our studies in a language other than English). Lopy Williams, who had served as my right hand in the phone room, opened that facility and quickly proved we can expand, without problems, beyond the walls of our Van Nuys Headquarters (yes, we were a Headquarters!).

But according to the normal ebb and flow of life, you’re up one minute and down the next. Soon after ISA’s expansion my father passed away.

As the seams were bursting in our office (we had taken over additional office space and were at 150 seats in Van Nuys), we moved a few miles east to 15400 Sherman Way, 4th Floor, the location we still occupy to this day. Our entire headquarters phone room was now in one area, sporting almost 200 stations. Our next great challenge, Y2K. The year 2000 was quickly coming upon us and it was time to convert all the data we had (study and internal) to comply with the new century. Months were spent rewriting software, reevaluating data, and figuring out how to put all the pieces together. Thankfully, I was nowhere near this issue. The phone work continued to expand and I was heavily involved in staffing and scheduling and client interaction. In 1999, that was the easy part of the work.

And time marches on. We made it through the Y2K conversion fairly unscathed, our phone work continued to grow, and we were again looking to expand. We opened a 75-seat facility in Lancaster, CA. (I was kind of hoping for Pennsylvania as it would have given me a chance to get some shoo fly pie).

Creative Data, our focus group facility, became Qualitative Insights (and eventually Q-insights), I got married and we had a son, named after my Dad.

And suddenly there was a buzz about doing surveys online. Yep, actually hoping enough people were on the world wide web to get enough surveys done that way instead of using phones. And we toyed with the idea. Around this time I received the title of Senior Vice President. My daughter was born.

Our ability to do surveys online was added to our product mix, my Mom passed away, and then, on my 54th birthday (oddly 27 times two), we launched SoapBoxSample, our division specializing in online sample.

During the first few days of SoapBox’s existence, I remember thinking to myself, “Why is Amy Poehler in our office, and can she keep it down?” I thought it was cool that ISA was entering the age of internet research in 2013.

Three years later, we added icanmakeitbetter, an insight community platform. Once I learned to stop calling it “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter,” I really got excited about the platform when I figured out that it was another way I could share photos of myself wearing outlandish costumes with my co-workers.

It’s been an interesting 27 years. So many things have happened in my professional and personal lives which have remained intertwined since I walked into the lobby at my new company that Wednesday. (I can’t believe I was three minutes late, but I was only living in California for two days and was still getting used to the traffic). I have found new friends and lost a few of them along the way. You can read more about my personal and professional adventures on my blog, stickeler.blogspot.com.

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 Recap

By | Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Motivate Others

Trying to accomplish a goal? Your failure or success could come down to one important factor — accountability.

At SoapBox, goal setting is not just a part of individual performance reviews, but also a part of SoapBox team building.  And when you can pitch to the group with a cool name like Minus May, it seems fun. Setting personal goals within a team environment helps to:

  • Create a supportive work environment
  • Build a culture that values self-improvement
  • Provide accountability
  • Encourage non-work related conversation and check-ins
  • Increase the likelihood of achieving the goal (although based on the results we failed at this miserably)

It also puts people on blast knowing they have to publicly admit if they break their pledge (on this very public forum followed by dozens of readers called Telltale Ten) – it can make the difference between saying f**k it, or following through.

At the beginning of last month, we challenged the staff to come up with one thing that they would like to eliminate in order to improve their lives. We proposed the opposite of a “to do“ list that people generally default to when they want to accomplish something.

Spoiler: no one had a perfect Minus May. Some came close, a few made some slight progress. One forgot what was happening and one doesn’t understand A,B,C grading systems. You can read everyone’s recap below.

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

Grade: A- 

While I have eliminated Starbucks before, the difference this time was the temptation factor that would still linger when I would make a Starbucks run for someone else. You either love Starbucks or you hate it…at least for most people I know. I breathe Starbucks, have more cups than needed, and always seem to make friends with a barista in various locations. The challenge itself wasn’t hard, I saved about $3.95 a day. Sometimes I would have more than one Starbucks a day, so I saved between $150 and $200 bucks for the entire month. I had moments of withdrawal, one moment where I went and did a Starbucks run for a few others, ordered one for myself and drank it there before coming back to the office. That was about it. I did notice cutting all the sugar from my coffee has slimmed me down, so I can’t complain at all. Now that I am able to have it again, I will slowly start to indulge in it. I don’t see myself going overboard because I like the idea of having a flatter stomach. Supplementing Starbucks for other brands or energy drinks will never become a full-time habit, I am committed to Starbucks forever!!

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

Grade: B-

For Minus May my goal was to stop complaining. I realized recently that I have a habit of holding on to negative thoughts, which sometimes can cloud my outlook on life. While I did not have a perfect Minus May, overall I am proud of myself for the progress that I made. Several times I was able to catch myself before I started to complain, and I was able to refocus my thoughts to look at the bright side of a situation. Even though Minus May is now over, I plan to continue to stop negative thoughts in their tracks and turn them around before they take over my mood.

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

Grade: B

I avoided fast food, but then bought more processed food from the store. I learned that restaurant vegetarian options can’t compete with their steaks. If I was going to try it again I would limit myself to fewer cheat days.

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

Grade: F

I would give myself an F, since I did take a puff from a cigarette twice during the last week of the month. The challenge was to give it up, and I did not give it up completely. During the month of May, I had several stressful personal issues come up, as well as additional work stress which made me crave cigarettes. Typically, I smoke more when I am stressed. Before Minus May I was smoking about half a pack a day and to go from that to two puffs in the last 31 days is pretty good in my book. I think I did better than expected. I did snack more, but I was prepared for that. Overall, I am extremely happy with the results and will continue my Minus May pledge into June.

Note from Jax to Cynthia (let’s see if she reads the BLOG): I am proud of you and the standards you have set. I am also proud you took way less puffs of cancer. If you keep it up for June, I will match the money you saved. Extra incentive when those two puffs seem so tempting.

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

Grade: C

To be honest, I forgot and didn’t really try. I did, however, limit my alcohol consumption, which helped with the goal of saving money. If I were to try it again, I would actually try next time. But I would hope there would be some sort of support system/reminders. I truly forgot we were doing this for May.

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

Grade: F

LOL, I did so horribly. My plan was to ease myself into this challenge. Normally I hit snooze around four times in the morning and my plan was lower that amount by one each day until my body was conditioned to waking up after the first alarm. I was able to take a longer a shower and didn’t feel rushed the first day, but the next morning I went right back to my habits and snoozed until I absolutely HAD to get up. I kind of found a new way to circumvent not being so rushed in the morning though. Now that I have colored hair I need to take more care of it than I used to so I started to shower at night so I’d have more time to focus on it being maintained properly. As a result, my mornings became less hectic and I came to work five to ten minutes earlier than normal each day this week. In essence, my laziness and apathy towards waking in up the morning couldn’t be fixed, but my vanity is what really helped my production at work.

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

Grade: B

I was really determined to stick with my Minus May resolution – and it worked! I was able to hold on to more of my paycheck by not spending money and appreciating the things I already own. I had a couple of “splurges” here and there due to my vacation at the end of May, but all in all I give myself a solid B. I’d like to make this a long-term habit for the future and I think Minus May was a good practice run to test my determination!

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

Grade: C

I went into the month of May with the best intentions, to stop snacking at night for SoapBox’s Minus May challenge. I thought it would be easy. I pictured a thinner, happier me going into June and a bed with no crumbs in it. Turns out it was harder than I thought. Old habits are hard to break, especially habits involving delicious, salty snacks. (That’s my weakness.) I broke down more than once. Ok, like six times. But on the plus side, I ended up snacking less than I would have if I hadn’t made my Minus May pledge. Next time I set a similar goal for myself I will do a little more prep work, by planning out what I’m going to eat for the whole day, so I’m not starving at ten p.m. Pursuing a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong journey, and even though I didn’t have a perfect month, I may be a step or two closer to meeting my long term goal.

Myself, Lunatic, COO, Mom Blogger
Goal: Sleep a minimum of eight hours per night
Minus: Cell phone after eleven p.m.

Grade: B

I did stay committed to sleeping eight hours a night for the most part. I think all but a few nights, I got that eight hours. Sometimes even more. But, it was not really a result of keeping my minus commitment. Most weekend nights for example, I was up way past eleven. But I also was super aware of the eight-hour goal, so I would make up for it by sleeping in.

If I were going to try this again with the “off the phone by eleven” as the driver for eight hours of sleep, I would not watch any binge-worthy Amazon, Netflix or Showtime shows that lead to “just one more” or “just the first 15 minutes of the next one”. There were a few weeknights where I just couldn’t resist that “next episode” button and couldn’t just sleep in to make up for it seeing as I have a job here at SoapBox. Or maybe I could just start watching earlier…I usually watch only one hour per day starting at ten. Perhaps I should eliminate family dinners and watch more binge-worthy shows instead. That could work…