Self-Reflection at Every Conclusion

20140107_163737_Richtone(HDR)As I am near the end of finishing my MBA program, I think that every experience that comes to a conclusion should involve some self-reflection. What you have gained, to never lose.  Your supporters when you were struggling.  How you impressed yourself, even when you thought it was impossible to accomplish.  The power that you have gained from the accomplishment.

This is two years of my life that have been one of the most productive with not only excelling at my job but being a graduate student.  I have empowered myself to gain control of my life, through this single decision and I am proud of it.  I gained supporters that truly believed in me, and even at my moments of doubt, inspired me to continue.  We have an obligation to become better for ourselves.

With the constant turmoil of the business environment, we can never feel secure in the current positions we are at.  Never should we settle for any less for ourselves either.  Although, I am so relieved to have more freedom, I refuse to not continue to grow and learn.  In fact, this is what I loved about school, no matter what life threw at me or what stresses were currently going on, I had assignments and deadlines that did not change no matter the excuse.

It is important that at the conclusion of every relationship, every job change, or big event in your life-self reflect.  There is always something learned from your experiences, even when you needed the change because it was needed.  I will continue to be disciplined in my growth and strive to be a better me!

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Stop Reacting Only to Put out Fires

stock-photo-74516649-glowing-hanging-light-bulbWhen things are successful, it is common to ignore that facet of the business and focus on something else.  However, you do not want to always work on putting out fires.  Sitting in comfort can be nice but it really is not ideal for your business.  Just because it is successful, does not mean that improvements cannot make it better.  We want to work at not working harder, but working smarter.

In a realm of constant changes, it is hard to keep up with the industry and competitiveness that entails.  Therefore, continuing to follow strategies until you are forced to change them will make your company behind competitors.  Following strategies that have always been used does not allow individuals to use creativity and evaluation of the current environment to formulate strategies and improvements to make the company thrive.  Often there are processes that can become more efficient.  It is common to hear, “why change something that is working?”  Well, there is good reason to assume there is room for improvement when you set your focus on it.

Technology is a common reason across a variety of industries of change. Utilizing technology and maximizing it’s benefits, can allow you to automate, expand abilities, create efficiency, and strategize new marketing tactics.  Technology expands capabilities.  You may be following a process without the technology, but with technology, the possibilities can free up the human factor or allow one person to do more than they were able to do before.  This can allow resources to be used where the individual is an expert or simply, to provide more customer service.

Sometimes just getting input from the individuals that are involved with the front line, can help you identify pitfalls.  They can give you helpful input that will prevent attrition of your contributors or loss of customers.  Remember, many people will only give you feedback in the extremes, when they are very disappointed or when you catch them by surprise.  It is obvious that exceeding their expectations is much preferred.

So just remember, just because a process is successful, seek improvements.  Do not wait for change to be forced.  Be competitive.  Allow creative juices within your group to flow.  It is only when you begin to focus on making improvements before they are needed, that you can always stay on top of competitors and on the top of the mind of supporters.

Value Retention, but Prevent Toxicity

building blocksRetention of employees should always be valued by a company.  Longevity and experience brings an aspect to the team that cannot be trained or gained by a brand new employee.  It definitely should be a concern when there is high turnover.  Is the expectations set too high or unrealistic?  Is work-life balance valued and achieved in all positions?  Are employees valued for what they do?  Is the job expectations and responsibilities clear?

Working with a diverse group of individuals can sometimes be challenging to please everyone.  However, the dissatisfaction of the entire group can cause a leader to question what needs to change.  This will begin to show that you value your employees and their opinions do matter.  However, as much change as you want to provide the team, especially as a new leader, there is some accountability that needs to be put on the team members.  Put the responsibility on the individuals as well, but follow through in keeping the promises that you present your team.  This will gain the trust they will need to respect you and commit to the challenges that you set forth.

Breaking through resistance is not easy.  Has leadership been part of the turn over?  Has the past leadership brought a sour taste to the present employee’s mouths?  You can only start a positive and productive transformation and hope that team members will jump on board.  The more the team sees positive results and you are there for their support, the more individuals will jump on the bandwagon to create a solid team.

However, negativity can also be toxic.  Although, you want to provide the team that validity and value of each team member, they may not be aligned to the position and the culture being created.  There is so much you can do and control.  If they are not happy with where you are taking the team, but you can see a positive path being created, this may be where you need to keep your focus at.  Start with small triumphs and recognize those to start building a productive and positive culture.

Utilizing Key Strengths

key strengthWorking with a diverse group of individuals can be a challenge.  Ways of effectively communicating to each individual can be unique.  Although, utilizing strengths from each unique individual is key to the success of a diverse team.  This can also maintain motivation within the group.  Focusing on those strengths can provide the most output of the team, as well as cause the least frustration of members.

A sense of appreciation will go along with this strategy.  Individuals will feel appreciated and want to maintain putting their best effort to the task at hand.  They will be performing tasks that they appreciate and enjoy doing, allowing for the most to be gained by the individual and the organization.  A sense of satisfaction will result.

This will allow you to appreciate the diversity of the group.  Diversity can often be looked upon as a disadvantage, because this will not only bring in different communication efforts that have to be done, but dissatisfaction while some are satisfied. Forcing individuals to perform functions that utilize weaknesses, can cause the individual to become frustrated and less productive to the team.  Therefore, identifying individual strengths, praising those strengths and utilizing key tasks on those strengths can provide a team the most benefit.

There is often a sense of not being able to make everyone happy.  Although, when you focus on the advantage that this diversity can bring you, you begin to accomplish situations and tasks with the greatest efficiency.  Individuals will begin to take responsibility and accountability of the assigned tasks.  They will become involved because they enjoy what you see as their strength which is often what they enjoy doing.  The strengths of the group will come together to create the greatest output.  Individuals will thrive, the group will thrive, and you will begin to accomplish challenges with less adversity.  What are you strategies you use to identify team member strengths or even your own?  Share your comments and follow me on Twitter @tammym_nguyen

Productivity is the #1 Deciding Factor

ProductivityWhen trying to make logical decisions in the workplace or in trying to decide when you need to stop doing something or do something, think if that action is productive.  Sometimes that can be your only answer when someone is trying to gossip of he/she said that he/she said or did.  My simple answer, “that is not productive.”  I have had two reactions from this, they simply agree that the party they were referring to was not being productive, or it stops them in their own tracks when they think I am referring to them.  When it is the latter, you can often not only stop feeding the gossiper to continue to spread the rumors, but you can also make them reflect upon themselves if they are being productive.

When trying to decide whether to follow through with communication or doing something, I often ask myself if I am being productive.  Am I telling someone what happened in a meeting in a fashion of trying to spread the information, or am I portraying the meeting with emotions or negativity?  When you fuel your decisions with the basis of productivity, you can often back it up with reason that will be supported by your supervisor.

This is also helpful in times of adversity.  Many challenges will come your way.  People will illuminate their true colors and often self-interest will proceed the well-being of the group.  The goals of different parties may not be aligned with yours, and productivity may become interrupted by the different interests of the group.  When your productivity is spent being unproductive, another outside party, your supervisor or their supervisor, may have to be the deciding factor in identifying those interruptions for both parties.  Make productivity the decision factor in your decisions in the workplace.

Surround Yourself with Positive Supporters

Team-GrowIt is essential to surround yourself with a network of supporters.  These individuals may not always tell you what you want to hear, but in looking back, you are fully aware that these individuals are on your team.

Tips to Identify those on your Team:

  1. They will be there for you in times of weakness.
  2. They will not allow you to stay in a state of negativity.
  3. They will help you identify areas of improvement before detrimental consequences.
  4. They will be supportive even when you jump ahead of them and will be genuinely happy when there is a high pay off.
  5. Allow you to dream big, but not let you feel disappointed.

It is essential to surround yourself with a network of supporters with these traits.  Unfortunately, we can be in a workplace that consists of peers that are unsupportive.  This may cause some self-reflection.  What can you do to gain support?  Ideally working in an environment where the culture and values match your on will cause a more satisfied career.

Surrounding yourself with supporters is also important with the relationships you hold.  Those that share the values will allow you to have productive conversations.  They will provide you support, even when you may not currently have it in the workplace.  If you are working hard, and not perfect, but hold yourself accountable, you know that those individuals that follow the above traits should be valued.  When you are true to yourself, and not in this state to take responsibility and work hard to accomplish goals, you may be attracting individuals that will encourage your bad habits.

You need to keep those individuals that are a positive influence a huge part of your life.  The influence they will have in believing in you and encouraging the positive you is invaluable.  Ways to maintain the circle of supporters:

  1. Show your genuine appreciation for the relationship
  2. Do not only talk to that individual when you need their advice
  3. Offer your genuine appreciation in the relationship
  4. You do not have always have to agree, disagreeing should not set you apart.

To be successful, we will challenge ourselves and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations.  Surrounding yourself with a network of positive supporters in and outside of the workplace will create a stronger you.  Being in stressful situations makes us divert from the effective path, and our supporters will keep us on track.

Power of Continuous Learning

learning-never-endsThe enthusiasm to be an active learner can be highly looked upon in the workplace.  This sets yourself apart from other individuals that allow their leaders to guide them in the right direction, and provide the training when it is needed.  By taking the initiative and willingness to gain information you are allowing yourself to grow.  This continues the enthusiasm and challenge that is needed for a driven individual and this can be seen by your superiors.

Individuals are often very dependent on their managers to know all the answers, and depend that when they go to them they must know the answer.  Although, they do not always know the answer.  Allowing yourself to have the drive and initiative to seek information and knowledge to be dependable to your superiors and coworkers.  Finding the answers can set you apart from the rest who expect their leaders are responsible for that.

The training that is required is something that can be passed on to new employees and other employees.  Although, practices of seeking answers and becoming efficient in finding the right answers is not something that can be gained over night.  This makes you a competitive individual in the workplace.  You are in denial if you still think that you are not replaceable at work.  There are highly qualified persons waiting to get a job, but this single practice is set to impress.

This is not to say to never ask the question, but if the answer cannot be found, be the one to find the person that would have the answer.  Seek areas that you lack in the workplace, and read blogs, articles, books, to help gain knowledge and techniques to improve in these areas.  Not only are you making yourself valuable in the workplace, but you are making yourself valuable for yourself.

Do not let the slumber of everyday pass you by.  The enthusiasm to make your job challenging does not only fall on your leader, but on yourself as well.  Let failures turn into opportunities to grow.  If you are in a spot of comfort, get yourself out, do not rely on anyone else because you are the only one to gain from this growth.  Do not ever stop yourself from learning.

Organization is a Priority

OrganizationAre you in an organization going through a lot of change?  Are you balancing a multitude of important things in your life like family, school, work, relationships?  Are you in the midst of less resources and doing more than you have ever done?  If you answer yes to any of these questions, organization should be made a priority on your list of things you need to do.  Organization is often moved down priority in order to meet deadlines.  However, the lack of organization can be a large distraction and even detrimental to accomplishing what is needed in any of those situations.  Organization is key because it is something that you can control.

In the hustle and bustle to everyday life, it is hard to stay organized.  By being organized, this means creating a clean work and living space.  This will clear your mind from chaos, even when it may be a quite chaotic time.  Once you organize, placing things as they come because you have created an organized place for them can be a large time-savings.  This can also clear you mind and prevent you wasting time that you find yourself trying to sort things out.

  1. Declutter unnecessary paper and objects in your area.

By having yourself surrounded by things that you have to get done will only cause stress.  Create files of priorities.  This will be general enough to always use and not have to create new folders all the time.  Keeping your area, whether living or workspace, with the less junk allows you to see when there is something put on your desk or that you can rid of.  This will allow you to better manage the start of clutter rather than the clutter getting out of control.

  1. Make a To-Do List

Often filing something away makes me forget to get it done.  Although, when I make a list of things that I need to do, it creates one document of piece of paper rather than a stack.  Create a realistic list of things that should be done tomorrow.  Make it shorter than what you would expect yourself to finish in a day, so that things that occur unexpected can be fit in without feeling that you failed at accomplishing what you have set yourself to get done.  This will also allow you to get out the list of things you need to do and check extra things off that list when you find the extra time.  This will give a better sense of accomplishment.

  1. Create folders in email

Responding to email in a timely manner is essential.  Also, providing follow up not only when the other party responds to remind you, shows a level of care especially when the other side is the customer.  How often do we get asked to find information that is stored in our email and we just cannot get the right keywords to search for it.  Organizing email can also make you feel very organized in your life.

How important do you prioritize organization?  How do you stay organized?

Follow me on Twitter @tammym_nguyen

Loyalty Over Retention

stock-photo-17005101-customer-loyaltyWorking for a nonprofit can involve a multitude of individuals that are not just working to have a job, but have a true passion for the cause of the organization.  Not only do you work with individuals that care, but you are surrounded by supporters who want to help your cause.  This truly is what makes working for a nonprofit so rewarding.  However, to say that this is always the case is hiding from reality.  However, let’s use our energy and focus on the positive and not waste our efforts on ways to change the negative.

As rewarding as being around a majority of individuals that go great lengths to support the cause, this is not always the case.  Individuals may want to support the cause when they are triggered by a tragedy, a marketing strategy that brings an emotional connection, or for whatever reason, not by their own initiation.  How do we know if this is a one-time offer or if your efforts will create a lasting impression and worth the effort?  However, it is hard to determine how much support they are willing to give your organization, often times it may be discovered when you receive a negative reaction.

Working on nonprofits also entail working in a more efficient fashion, saving in ways that often include cutting labor.  Not only is your close coworkers or even yourself at risk of being laid off, people are asked to do more in their current positions.    Individuals are having to adapt to industry needs and changes are always occurring.  Donors who may be use to incentives to thank their good deeds, may no longer be offered such an incentive in order to save on cost.  This may cause the retention of individuals both employees and supporters to be a challenge.

We often hear the cost of gaining a new donor is a lot more than retention.  Although, retention efforts in ensuring a dissatisfied donor may cost more than obtaining a new, excited donor.  This is not to say that we should not value everyone and not try hard, but there is a point where we have to move on.  Give those that are loyal supporters for your cause, who have a deep and caring understanding for what you do to be given the efforts and gratitude that they well deserve.

Let’s focus on those individuals, whether internal or external customers, who exuberate the passion.  The magnitude to the employees that support those individuals will give a lasting energy that will be hard to burn out.  Although, making someone happy can seem nearly impossible, remind yourself of the cause and the loyal supporters that surround you.  This will give you the energy to fight through challenges.

Power of Social Media

7439179412_c81b84b18fTraditional media has transformed significantly.  The perspective of products have never been at the grace of consumers as much as it is today. When a group of individuals share a thought, they have a loud voice in the noise of today’s many social media platforms.

Communication of events can be spread much more quickly through social media than traditional media outlets.  The power of social media can cause quick reactions that can largely effect the community.  We believe what social media has to say, opinions are formulated before we seek the facts. We are all aware of the unfortunate events of last week’s event.  A disturbing video went viral and the reaction caused many to be disturbed based on what was seen.  Some individuals did not seek to find the information of what happened and quickly reacted.  Unfortunately, very unfortunate events unveiled triggering negative behavior that harmed many.

Hypes like the ALS challenge seemed to transform awareness of the disease overnight.  Would all the individuals that supported the cause be involved without the hype from social media?  Unlikely and unfortunately not.  We have to be ready to react to the hype overnight, since this could be detrimental or to continue the hype for the long term.  To get that monumental hype through social media often is unpredicted and hard to accomplish by planning and social media marketing skills.

Although, we can be part of the conversations and be aware when reactions and news unveil that may affect us.  By being present in the different social media platforms, we can react when the information unveils.  Finding ways to making the hype big enough to impact our organizations in positive ways can prove beneficial to organizations.  Nonprofits can depend on those that support the cause, and gain momentum.  Therefore, supporters can do some of the work.  More people are willing to listen to individuals that are not associated with the organization.

The presence, relationship, and reputation gained prior to “hype” events can alleviate negative impact that may occur.  Individuals may be less reactive when they know the organization and form a relationship prior to these events occurring.  Putting the efforts and time in work done prior can make an organization less vulnerable to reactions and negative hype.  Supporters can help your efforts and make more of an impact than the best social marketing efforts.