Archive | August, 2013

Finishing What We’ve Started

29 Aug

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I want you guys to think about something for a second…

Over the past year, how many projects have you left unfinished?

How many super-awesome ideas have you had that you’ve just kind of forgotten about?

How many times have you said that you wanted to do something…and yet you haven’t gotten around to doing it?

It’s not a fun feeling, is it? Thinking about all that wasted energy…

That’s one of the things that most annoys me about people in general. It annoys me that we have a general tendency to not finish what we’ve started.

At work, we go to meetings where we brainstorm and throw out ideas about how we can make things better. And then you know what happens?

Nothing.

Nothing happens. We go back to our usual day and function as we normally do.

In our personal lives, we have dreams and goals and every once in a while, we have one of those light bulb moments. We figure out how we can change our lives for the better.

And then you know what happens?

Nothing.

Nothing happens. Or, sometimes, SOMETHING happens…for a week or two. And then we go back to our usual day and function as we normally do.

Annoying, isn’t it?

I mean, sometimes I can’t help but wonder why we even start things if we don’t push ourselves to finish.

Now sure… there ARE some things that you really shouldn’t finish…like bad books and whole tubs of ice cream.

But for the most part, we really should make every effort to finish what we’ve put into place.  

That’s one of the reasons why I admire Rotary so much.

Through their efforts to completely eradicate polio, they’ve been able to reach a 99% reduction rate.

Some organizations would be happy with that. For some organizations, that would be enough.

But not for Rotary.

They know that they’re SO CLOSE to their goal, but they recognize that they’ve still got that other 1% to go.

And that means something to them. They’re not stopping until their done.

They’re not stopping because recently there have been outbreaks in Somalia and parts of Africa that were previously polio-free.

And for that reason, as long as polio still exists, children everywhere are at risk of being affected by the disease.

Because if we experience a resurgence of polio, 10 million children could be affected throughout the next 40 years.

And we don’t want that.

Rotary and its partners in the global initiative have already put so much work and effort into helping this great cause. They’ve helped immunize 2.5 billion children – yes – BILLION, and as a result, they’ve prevented more than 10 million children worldwide from being affected by polio.

So now it’s time to finish what they’ve started.

Now it’s time to tackle that last 1%…and they’re committed to doing so.

So today, I’m making the same commitment to finish the things that I’ve started. Or at the very least, to give these things my all.

Because if everyone were to leave their efforts unfinished, what would we really accomplish as a society? How would we make life better?

We’re creative, we’re passionate, and we’re too full of potential to let it go to waste.

So make things happen.

Finish what you’ve started or start something worth finishing.

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5 Really Simple Leadership Lessons from Bar Rescue

26 Aug

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This weekend, I did nothing.

I mean, ZERO. Nada. Zilch.

It was awesome.

I just sat on my couch and binge-watched TV shows.

I was trying to take advantage of some quality TV time, given that starting this Saturday my TV will play one thing and one thing only…  Alabama Football.  Roll Tide, everyone. My man friend WILL hide the remote, for sure.

So anyway, one of the shows we like to watch is Bar Rescue.

It’s a highly-entertaining show where disastrous bars and nightclubs seek the advice of nightlife-expert, Jon Taffer, in order to make a come-back.

Some of these bars have maybe 3.5 customers.

Others are, like, $100K in debt.

The worst ones have fungus growing on the walls.

And that’s disgusting.

But what I really love about this show is that the cause of most of these problems is poor leadership. 

Yep, even the fungus.

So here’s a list of 5 leadership lessons I’ve learned by watching the show. Sure, Jon Taffer nearly punches people, but hey…he gets his points across.

1. You can’t lead if you’re never there.

On the show, a lot of bar owners have been in tears. They’ve cried because they owe so much money and they’ll have to close their doors in a month if things don’t get better. And then when Jon asks them how often they come around to their business, they usually respond, “Oh, I don’t know…once or twice a month.”

OMG and your business is failing? What a shocker!!!…not.

In order to lead a successful business, you need to know what’s going on. And you can’t do that if you’re never there. It’s that simple. Employees need a leader that they feel comfortable talking to and they need someone who’s actively engaged.

Visibility is crucial.

2. If you don’t care, your employees won’t care either.

A lot of times, these bars have closed due to an overwhelming sense of apathy. AKA… no one really cares. There is ZERO passion. There is ZERO pride. And most of the time, it’s the owner’s fault.

If you own a business and you yourself don’t have a sense of pride in your work, guess what?! Neither will your employees. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, it’s hard for your employees to want to give 100% all the time. I mean, think about it? Why would you work extra-hard at your job if your boss doesn’t even care?

So as a leader, it’s up to you to develop a culture of wanting to give 100%…a culture of pride in your business…a culture that leads to success.

3. You should be able to pick up the slack when your employees are drowning.

I love the episodes where Jon and his team set up “test-runs” to see how the bars usually function- or well, DON’T function. Most of the time, they end in complete failure because EVERYONE is doing EVERYTHING that they shouldn’t be doing. Hence why they’re on the show.

But my favorite thing to watch is when the staff is completely drowning at the bar. There aren’t enough glasses…there aren’t enough bartenders…there are tons of people waiting on drinks and food…and the owner is just hanging out… leaning against a wall…doing NOTHING.

So Jon screams at him….with good reason.

As a leader, you should be able to help your staff when they’re overwhelmed. Okay, so you own a bar. Does that mean you can’t wash dishes? No. You have hands. That task is not beneath you. When employees see that their leader is willing to help them out, even with the smallest of things, it’s always appreciated. And more often than not, the difference between successful organizations and those not-so-successful, are leaders who aren’t afraid to clean fungus off the wall. 

4. You ultimately set the example.

One of the things that I’ve learned from this show is just how much alcohol goes to waste at a bar. If bartenders don’t pour drinks correctly, they spill the alcohol all over the counter and there goes a lot of money. On top of that, there are a lot of bar owners who just give away tons of drinks to customers.

I guess they think it’ll make them seem cool.

So I love it when Jon shows the owners footage of the bartenders giving away free drinks. Then he shows the owner how much that costs his business. Then the owner freaks out and has a drama-queen tantrum.

“THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE!!”…  “HOW CAN YOU BE GIVING AWAY MY MONEY??”

And then Jon shows footage that they’ve captured on hidden cameras showing the owner giving away free drinks all night. Shots…champagne… to everyone.

You can’t hold people to a certain standard if you don’t even hold YOURSELF to it. As a leader, you set the example, like it or not. So if you’re behaving poorly, guess what?! Your employees are going to think it’s okay. And they’re going to behave just the same…. or worse.

The good news is that as a leader, you CAN set the bar high…you just need to know that the bar is for you, too.

 5. Empower your employees for better results.

Some of these bars have epically failed JUST because the owners refused to listen to their staff.

Because, well… if you’re the owner, you obviously know everything, right? Your ideas are obviously the best, right?

Definitely not.

Sometimes, Jon makes a suggestion and the staff says that they had recommended that years ago…but the owner wouldn’t listen.

The staff had taken the initiative to change something that wasn’t working… but then the owner changed it back to how it used to be.

As a leader, you have to know that the greatest asset you have is your staff. So you need to learn how to use their knowledge…and their talent…and their ideas…to make your business better.

Essentially, they’re the ones doing the job on a day-to-day basis. They know what works. They know what doesn’t work.

So empower them to make decisions, and you might see much better results.

I could ramble forever, but I won’t bore you today. What else, though? What other simple leadership lessons do you wish that more “leaders” would learn?

For more on leadership, check out these posts.

Guest Post: No, I’m Not a Student- On Being Taken Seriously at Work as a Young Professional

19 Aug

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Today’s Guest Post was written by Kelly Konevich. As a young career counselor, she’s encountered some older workers who…well…think she looks like a baby. And as a result, they often question whether or not she’s capable of doing her job. So in today’s post, Kelly offers a bit of advice on getting others to take you seriously…despite your Gen Y status.

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I’ve never been much of a suit kind of gal, and as somebody who works in higher education, unless I become a dean (someday…), it is not expected that I’ll ever really have to be, aside from the occasional employer meeting or as a conference attendee.  Although I do believe in the mantra “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” I tend to prefer bright colors, blouses and ballet flats to suit jackets, button ups and heels. But I’m sure to always present myself in a professional and appropriate manner.

As Gen Y’s, we are often accused of being too casual both in attitude and in dress, and although I’m not rolling into work in my wet bathing suit, I noticed that some faculty, students (more so alumni) and staff were always surprised when they met me for the first time, “nice to meet you, gosh, you look like you could be a student!”  Thank you for the compliment (?), but I’m not.  After checking with my supervisor and confirming that I was, indeed, dressed professionally and appropriately for my office, I began to wonder if other younger professionals were getting similar responses.

The answer was an overwhelming, “yes!”  One friend of mine who works in finance said that her credibility is often questioned by older clients, and another colleague in education confessed that some parents question her experience.  As Gen Y’s we’re new(ish) to the workplace, but if we were hired, that means we’re fit for the position.  I’ve come up with these 3 tactics to crush the credibility doubters:

1. This goes without saying but, dress like a pro.  Take a look around your office and those who are in positions you’d eventually like to be in and see what they’re wearing. Copy them (assuming it’s appropriate).  Although I would stick out like a sore thumb in my office if I wore a suit, I always make sure I look put together and professional, and when I’m teaching or meeting with an older colleague, I kick it up a notch and throw on a blazer and some nice shoes (guys: just have a tie in your office).

2. Know when to speak up/know when to shut up.  If you’re extroverted (like me), you may find yourself chomping at the bit to give your opinion at staff meetings. I know with myself, it is uncomfortable and even a struggle to not speak up.  Make sure what you have to say is thoughtful and warranted.  Ask yourself, “Can I rationally back up my opinion?  How will this better my department?”  If you can articulate both those question, then speak up.  Similarly, if speaking up makes you uncomfortable, in the words of Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In!  You were hired because your manager believes you have something to contribute.  It is natural for you to be uncomfortable, but recognize the only way people are going to hear your ideas, is if you put them on the table.

3. If you don’t know the answer, admit it and then seek it out.  I work with a wide variety of clients ranging from undergraduates and Ph.D. candidates to alums.  I am a self-proclaimed generalist, not an expert in any industry.  When working with a client or asked a question in a class I can’t answer, I answer honestly, “that’s a great question, I am not sure, but I will find out for you and get you that information.”  Nobody likes a know-it-all and I certainly don’t know what kinds of job searching databases, if any, are out there for biophysicists, but I can certainly ask around, find out and get back to you.  People appreciate honesty, it gives you credibility.

Kelly Konevich is a twenty-something Bostonian attempting to balance work and play in a traditional college town.  Career Advisor at Northeastern University, social media enthusiast and glitter aficionado. Follow her on Twitter @kellydscott4.

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On Refusing to Accept the Lack of Luster

11 Aug

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A new study reported that life satisfaction peaks at the ages of 23 and 69.

So this past Saturday, I celebrated my 23rd birthday feeling extremely hopeful.

I’m currently on vacation in Boston, which means I got to spend my birthday weekend wandering around…seeing new things.

And honestly, there’s nothing I like doing more.

Walking around the city has been wonderful. The days have been absolutely beautiful- clear blue skies.

And with all this walking around, I’ve had a lot of time to think about things.

To think about everything, really.

But on my birthday, I was particularly reflective.

I thought about this past year and everything that I’ve managed to achieve.

This year has been nothing but good to me, and I’m extremely grateful for that.

For starters, I’ve got an amazing family that supports me, a better man-friend than I ever could have asked for, and I’m almost done with my Master’s degree.

I’ve also discovered within myself a passion for life that continues to grow every day.

So when I think about this new year that lies ahead of me- what should be an AMAZING year according to that study- I think about what I hope to accomplish.

I think about my goals.

And after a lot of reflection, here’s what I’ve determined…

You know how sometimes I fall in love with certain words?

This is one of them:

Lackluster (adj.): lacking in vitality, force, or conviction; uninspired.

I came across that word and I loved how it sounded.

But even though it sounded beautiful, I couldn’t help but focus on how sad it’s definition is.

To lack vitality, force, or conviction. To be uninspired.

I hope to never meet that description.

Because to me, there’d be nothing worse than to live an uninspired life.

To have no purpose. To have no passion. To have no drive.

So that’s my goal for this 23rd year of mine- to be the complete opposite of lackluster.

To be the antonym.

So as you get ready to start this week, think about what you can do to make sure your life is as vivid and as bright as possible.

Find a way to be inspired.

Because I have absolutely no desire for anything lackluster.

And I wish this vitality, force, and conviction for you too.

 

Guest Post: Make the Most of Your Professional Life This Summer

6 Aug

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Today’s guest post was written by Lindsey Sampson. Even though the summer’s almost over (and I kind of want to cry), she shares with us a few things that we can all do during these last couple of weeks to better prepare ourselves for career success in the fall.

I like to think of summer as a time to re-charge. I use this time to think, reflect, and drink margaritas.

Here’s what Lindsey suggests we do…

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What are your plans this summer? I plan to read on the beach and master the art of the 11am brunch. Why? Because YOLO, that’s why. But it might be time to add a couple of things to the summer plan list. YOLO is great and all, but you know what else is great? Employment. Here are a couple of tips to help you get the most out of your summer.

Look at your life, look at your choices. Instead of thinking about what shade of coral you should paint your toenails this week, take a solid amount of time to sit in a beach chair and think about your life. Who are you and what do you love to do? It may seem like a difficult and scary question, but exploring your own sources of happiness is crucial.

Go for it! Make a list of the things that make you tick. What makes you feel like the best, most productive, most authentic you? Maybe you feel the best when you blog, or make music, or teach someone something new. Feel free to just brainstorm, but it helps to write it down so you can go back and reference it when you need a little inspiration.

Take action. Once you’re done thinking about your life (see what I did there?), make some small changes towards self-improvement this summer. Do things this summer just for you because you deserve it.

Go for it! Do you feel like a hot mess a lot of the time? Clean out your closet, organize your purse, or invest in a little black book to schedule your week efficiently. Do you feel overworked and burnt out? Treat yo’self and plan a date night with you and your Netflix queue.

Work on your personal brand. If I hear one more person talk about personal branding, I’m going to do some scary things with those toothpick umbrellas they put in drinks when it’s hot. But everyone is taking about it because it can be a huge asset to your professional life. The more you know yourself (see #1), the easier it will be to identify your personal brand.

Go for it! Establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry by starting a blog or engaging other industry professionals on Twitter. Boost your LinkedIn profile by uploading an up-to-date photo and asking for a recommendation or two.

Take steps towards your dream job. If you already have your dream job, good for you, but please go away. You’re making the rest of us feel bad. If you have a dream job in mind, take a step this summer in the direction of your dreams. No one is going to do it for you, and now is the perfect time.

Go for it! Make a networking sheet – list everyone in your professional network, what they do, where they work, and how you met them. Leverage this network to get you closer to your dream job. If you don’t already have a career crush, find one, and then ask him or her out for coffee or conduct an informational interview. Boost your resume by taking a design class or learning HTML online.

This summer, it’s time to feel awesome and be awesome. Go after what you want. Take steps towards your future because it is yours to create. Be assertive and be amazing just because you can.

Lindsey Sampson is a writer, explorer, and enthusiastic lover of words. She is studying International Affairs and Social Entrepreneurship at Northeastern University in Boston. Find her on Twitter at @lindseygsampson and check out her blog at www.moreawesomer.wordpress.com!

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