Appearances DO Say A Lot

MH900437551Your appearance has a direct effect on first, second, and third impressions. I recently attended a networking event and was introduced to an interior designer who looked as if she had just emerged from a wind tunnel on a rainy day. Would I ever hire her? That would be very unlikely. It was not a question of stylish attire or even an extenuating circumstance that might have occurred in the parking lot moments earlier. On the contrary, the designer seemed quite comfortable and eager to exchange business cards. It has been my experience that the external is also an expression of the internal and vice versa. Attention to detail is important and you will be judged on it well before you have an opportunity to even be introduced.

In business, the opinions of others matter. Business etiquette experts suggest you consider the following:

• Do my clothes conform to the company policy or do they push the limits? Too short, tight, low-cut or too loud?
• Are my clothes in good repair? Free of stains, odors, rips?
• Do I dress appropriately for the situation? Is the meeting at Starbucks or a private equity firm?
• Am I prepared for an emergency? Keep an extra outfit in the office, just in case.

Body language is an important part of overall appearance:

Eye contact– do you look people in the eye. Focus on the area between the eyebrows rather than a stare down.
• Posture- Standing or sitting in an erect manner, conveys a confident image…no slouching
• Gestures- Lean slightly forward to demonstrate engagement and receptivity
• Nervous habits– foot tapping, fidgeting or other unnecessary movements give off a sense of uncertainty.

Advance preparation can make all the difference and you never know who you will be meeting in the course of your day.

©2013 Maureen Weisner

Get Motivated…Start Packing

strong-mover-201x300Most recently my daughter was in the midst of relocating and coming to terms with the boxes of clothes she had accumulated over the years. This was also a unique opportunity for me to provide a second opinion on a day that I assumed would be fraught with indecision and perhaps a few tears. However, as my daughter rifled through drawers in the bedroom she had used as a storage depot, she was clearly on a mission to release the past. Camp t-shirts, well worn jeans, special occasion dresses, and memories quickly piled up, inextricably linked together. I found myself racing down memory lane and the teen years that were not so long ago as I watched from the sidelines. She was ruthless in her judgments and soon five trash bags were filled with her selections. Once assured that this eclectic wardrobe was destined for an organization that distributed donations to their clients and not sold as bulk for cash, she could relax and revel in her accomplishment. Her history was going out the door, or in our case, at least as far as the basement… with visitation rights.

Downsizing can mean many things; a loss for some and freedom for others. Moving, in and of itself takes energy, effort and a plan. What are you leaving behind and conversely, what are you bringing along to the next space? Was it a purposeful decision or was it thrust upon you? Are the circumstances about building a future or winding down another chapter? Is there joy in your movements or grief as you pack? Whatever the situation, notice your feelings and take the time to honor them. Be kind to yourself in the process and know that you can be your own champion of chang

• Take photos of things you are donating, selling, or leaving behind that have a strong connection for you
• Creating a visual record can make the transition easier
• As you say goodbye to the old you are also able to embrace the new with open arms and a heightened sense of possibility

© 2013 Maureen Weisner

Kickstart the New Year!

Screen-Shot-2012-12-27-at-8_18_14-PMI always look forward to the various approaches to the process of behavioral change that take center stage at the end of each calendar year. Approximately 45 percent of Americans make self-improvement goals in January, yet by February much of that enthusiasm has slowed to a mere trickle. And despite our best efforts, only some 8 percent of us end up achieving those goals. Of course there are many reasons and faulty explanations abound, yet we are in good company with respect to the challenges surrounding change. Read on for Andy Horner’s other approach to kicking off the New Year with a fast track approach.

Instead of a resolution, each year I commit to a New Year’s Kickstart!

Here’s the idea: You start your year off with a big success by completing a relatively quick turnaround project that you’ve been putting off. It could be a website, blog, newsletter, new mini-business, or a presentation or webinar you’ve been wanting to complete.

It’s Your Spark Plug: Whatever your project, your New Year’s Kickstart should be the spark that ignites your bigger picture strategy for the year.

Difficulty: Hard: For your project, it’s best to choose something that will push you. Get out of your comfort zone, but avoid a challenge that’s too grandiose. I don’t want your Kickstart to end in a New Year’s Frustration.

Done in 2 Weeks: It should be something you can knock out quickly. One of the reasons New Year’s Resolutions fail is that the commitment, like losing weight, takes too long to yield results. (If you haven’t noticed, we’re an instant-gratification world now.)

I like the 2 week mark. It’s enough time to get most projects finished. It’s short enough to maintain focus. And it means you begin your year with an achievement to fuel you.

• Write it down
• Color code 2-weeks in your Kickstart calendar
• Celebrate your success!

Take the Stairs to Achieve Success

stairway to successIs it willpower or discipline, and does it really matter? How decisive am I on a daily basis only to have to modify my plan before I even get started? According to Rory Vaden, author of Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success, choosing to take the escalator over a flight of stairs is a deeper indicator of how you operate overall and may be quite telling. When you select the easier shortcut of stepping on those moving stairs, is it really about getting to another floor more quickly or is it a statement about how you function in other parts of your life? He calls this the “escalator mentality” and it may be emblematic of avoiding the more challenging effort of full engagement in a given activity.

Sometimes shortcuts are smart and sensible, but they can also be deceptive. When we get in the habit of automatically looking for the quicker solution, we may also be setting ourselves up for traps. It is particularly tempting to seek the easy way out when it comes to making difficult changes like reaching a goal weight or reducing debt. But these shortcuts can also take a toll on self-discipline and don’t always take you where you want to go.

Evaluate your decisions– is this taking you where you want to go?
• Be flexible- find success in making small changes first; bigger ones later
• Manage your time – when is the best time to focus on this activity?
• Prioritize and Succeed!

Keep in mind that we are not all Luddites, attached to doing things the long, hard way and not make use of the technology that is readily available. It makes sense to view each situation independently, with a heightened awareness that the easy/faster way may not always be the best way. However, after an exhausting day, that escalator may also be just what the doctor ordered!

©2013 Maureen Weisner

Are You a Charter Member on the Apology Tour?

Nervous Business Woman Cringing As She Bites Her NailsHow we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Is your tendency to apologize or over-apologize? The bad news is that women do so far more than men according to a study from the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada. The good news is that it is a habit that can be broken and yes, it takes practice. Constantly apologizing can certainly lower self-esteem and contribute to feelings of frustration and anger. When you say things like, “I’m sorry I interrupted you”, or “I’m sorry but I just had a question,” “Excuse me,” and more.
• Is it an automatic response to some people in your personal or professional life?
• How can you prepare for a more positive interaction?

Self-awareness is key. Take a moment to reflect the next time you begin to start a sentence with, “I’m sorry.” Apologies are appropriate if you made a mistake or were wrong, however, they can be self-esteem eroders if they are commonplace in your interactions. Likewise, new studies indicate that if you want a favor done, ask a woman. In one study, 47-business school students were asked to recall to agreeing to a favor on the job at a time when they preferred to say, “ No.”

According to authors of “Breaking the Glass Ceiling with, ‘No’, “ the female participants did the favor even though they were five times more likely than males to have reported feeling worn out. They were also twice as likely to have been worried about the consequences of saying no. In a second study, female undergrads were 50% more likely to comply with an implicit request for a favor than were male students. “The willingness of women to do favors in the workplace may lead them to become overburdened with low-skill tasks,” said the researchers.

It is important for all of us to consider who is making the request, and what the consequences of not complying are, both in and outside the workplace.

Habits can be changed but it takes awareness and practice. Begin today by listening and not automatically responding. You can agree to check your schedule/workload, for previous commitments, decide if this is something you will do and inform them accordingly. By changing your way of managing requests, you may decrease the number or type of favor you are asked to do. You can also deflect or even defer to another colleague and spread the wealth around.

If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit…

cinderella584Is what we think we want more compelling than identifying what we need? Cinderella’s stepsisters might be a quarrelsome lot on that point, for try as they might, that darned glass slipper just would not fit on their feet. One of my first summer jobs was in the shoe department of a women’s clothing store, so on a daily basis I witnessed some very surprising behaviors. Many customers were determined to make a purchase based not on comfort, color or style, but on size. Naively, my own experience with footwear was never based on the latter consideration. Imagine feeling visibly hobbled by one’s own decision to pay for something that important, that crucial to your well-being overall health that you would override sound judgment in favor of pain. I am not a Luddite and admittedly there are times when some sacrifice to comfort in favor of fashion is warranted, but on a daily basis your feet are neither too big nor too small. They are just right for YOU and if that shoe doesn’t fit, take a deep breath and place it gently back in the box where it belongs, waiting for Cinderella to claim it.

It is one thing to vainly attempt to wedge oneself into footwear or apparel that is not the proper size and quite another to base decisions on emotional factors that are a vanity of another sort. For example, investing in technology is an area that changes so rapidly it is hard to keep up and at the same time there is cache in having the newest “tools” at our fingertips. Does it announce to the world that we are smart, trendsetting players, not to be confused with the generation that is wedded to antiquated methods of doing business? Or does it mean that we have a drawer full of discarded items that were never understood or integrated into our working day?

Step back, assess and ascertain if your next purchase will be an enhancement or a costly choice and above all, please refrain from limping around your office when your cell phone rings.

© Maureen Weisner 2013

Attitude NOT Aptitude Determines Altitude

1375286745Having the right skills and the proper credentials will more than likely be key in whether you are brought on board for the position or not. Companies often hire on aptitude and experience and fire on fit and attitude.

Each day we have the freedom to choose what our attitude is going to be. Managing this helps us define who we are, how we handle ourselves and how to deal with issues as they arise. There is no magical process, nor is it about being disingenuous. On the contrary, it speaks to the power each of us holds; when to decide how we want to engage with others and the influence it has beyond us. We do not operate in a vacuum and behaviors affect the group from the family to the organization.

Zig Ziglar said it best, “ We cannot change our past, we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way….I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it. We are in charge of our attitudes.”

Think back to situations where things were seemingly out of control and it was your ability to decide on the spot. How are you going to be? Were you able to step back and assess swiftly or did you react in a way that exacerbated the chaos? It would certainly be a more perfect world if we had all the information we needed to make the best choices, but we don’t always. What we do have is the ability to take charge of the way we respond and possibly do some prep work in advance.

Chuck Swindoll adds, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than the past, than education, than money, than failures, than successes. It will make or break a company or a home.”

How does your attitude impact your altitude?

aving the right skills and the proper credentials will more than likely be key in whether you are brought on board for the position or not. Companies often hire on aptitude and experience and fire on fit and attitude.

Each day we have the freedom to choose what our attitude is going to be. Managing this helps us define who we are, how we handle ourselves and how to deal with issues as they arise. There is no magical process, nor is it about being disingenuous. On the contrary, it speaks to the power each of us holds; when to decide how we want to engage with others and understanding the influence it has beyond us. We do not operate in a vacuum and behaviors affect the group from the family to the organization.

Zig Ziglar said it best, “ We cannot change our past, we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way….I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it. We are in charge of our attitudes.”

Think back to situations where things were seemingly out of control and it was your ability to decide on the spot. How are you going to be? Were you able to step back and assess swiftly or did you react in a way that exacerbated the chaos? It would certainly be a more perfect world if we had all the information we needed to make the best choices, but we don’t always. What we do have is the ability to take charge of the way we respond and possibly do some prep work in advance.

Chuck Swindoll adds, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than the past, than education, than money, than failures, than successes. It will make or break a company or a home.”

How does your attitude impact your altitude?

Freedom = Getting Things Done!

todolist“Taking on new projects is not necessarily a positive change. It may be a sign of recklessness and non-fulfillment. But going back to all the levels of non-completion and completing them is a sign of positive change.” – John Roger

How many lists do you have? Are they short and long term, numbered and highlighted in order of importance? Are they color coded? Has their creation and maintenance taken on a life of its own? Are you living with annoying post-its everywhere that only increase your level of anxiety and multiply mysteriously? Does it feel like you are pushing back the ocean, while conflicted about this selfish waste of paper or electronic data? Are these overwhelming and unproductive activities? Non-completion takes up a great deal of psychic space, often accompanied by finger wagging and other judgmental posturing and is very taxing.

According to David Allen,” Stress comes from unkept agreements with yourself. You can relieve that stress only by canceling the agreement, keeping the agreement or negotiating it.”

Begin by clearing out and collecting your thoughts, assessing each one for importance and then review your options. Here is a 3-step approach that can get you out of being stuck and on the road to taking charge.
1. Find your preferred method of recording information. Take 5 minutes and dump
everything that pops into your head. Do not censor or evaluate it, just write!
2. Assess each particle. What’s the next action? What will you commit to?
3. Which things will you do to fit the time, place and importance?

A constant part of worry is the nagging feeling that there is always something else to be managed. While that may be true, for now you have cleared out the cobwebs and dumped the brain drains to a place where they can be “seen” and not just “heard”.

• Make your list
• Dig deep…no self-censoring
• Notice how it feels different than usual