(6) Tips on how to unplug and recharge yourself.

By Kathleen E.R. Murphy

It never ceases to amaze when people boast that they never take breaks or vacations and work all the time. What further astounds is that they think that is a badge of honor.

They are actually fooling themselves into thinking they are always highly productive. It is impossible to be at peak performance all of the time, especially when you do not take any breaks.

The United States has earned a reputation for living to work versus other countries who embrace the concept of working to live. Granted, there are factors that make it more challenging to adopt the working to live frame of mind, but we can still increase the quality of our lives by taking more breaks, whether they are mental or physical, or both.

Why do so many Americans pride themselves by acting like robots and not taking the down time they need or have earned.

People in other countries have figured out the balance and need to infuse down time into their schedule.

One challenge in the United States, is employees typically have only a few weeks of vacation time each year, three if we are lucky, and four if we are even more fortunate.

Studies show that even when people have earned or accumulated that much vacation time, most of them do not either use it, or are concerned about actually taking a break. This is such a shame, as both physical health and mental wellbeing are compromised by this belief.

So, how do we learn to embrace down time? Below are a few suggestions on how to feel more comfortable taking time off, or working some down time into each and every day.

 

  1. Every few hours, get up and walk around. Yes, literally walk around your office, or go outside to get some fresh air. Changing your environment even for a short period of time can help you to recharge, particularly when the sun is out and you get to experience it in person and not by viewing it from the inside out.

 

  1. Take a coffee or lunch break. At first, you might be tempted to incorporate some of your work into this time, but slowly ease yourself out of doing this habit (or practice).

 

  1. If you are near a retail store, take a trip simply to look around and take a visual vacation from what you are thinking about or looking at most of the day. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how refreshed you’ll feel when you get back to the task at hand. And who knows who you’ll meet!

 

  1. Plan a staycation or an actual vacation. Having something to look forward to is a great way to be more inspired about your work. After you take the actual break, you will feel like a new person again. Sometimes just three days of either doing something other than work, or fully relaxing can put you in a much better frame of mind. Be amazed at the increased productivity when you return, refreshed and rarin’ to go again.

 

  1. Consider either picking up a new hobby, or a hobby or potentially using your down time to volunteer your time and skills. A fun activity and helping others offer tremendous benefits in helping your mind and body to refuel.

 

  1. Learning how to meditate is also something you can do both at work and at home. Many highly-successful business people and celebrities have turned to meditation to enhance overall well-being, and to recalibrate to achieve more and become more productive. Meditate for as little as five minutes and feel the positive results. Everyone has at least five minutes per day to spare, so give this a try. In fact, schedule it right into your calendar.

Everyone has a choice of how to use their time. It is a matter of making time to recharge a priority.  You are worth it.

Kathleen E. R. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

 

 

Life at the Top – is the view worth the effort?

 

By Kathleen E.R. Murphy

Climbing the proverbial career ladder is not something in which everyone is interested. Although if you have even a one competitive bone in your body, the thought has certainly crossed your mind.

Plotting and planning how to escalate the ladder is not always a straight-forward process. Arguably, it is one of the most difficult paths to navigate. In many business disciplines or certain industries, there are not any particular methods that guarantee how to get there.

I am not a fan of politics, but realize there is a fair amount of politics with which one has to contend in order to scale the rungs. Essentially, politics is a popularity contest. You need to figure out how to either become acquainted with, or deal with the people who are in influential roles.  It’s likely they will have a say in whether you will be able to ascend.

Having political ‘supporters’ is critical to successfully navigate in a corporation heavily laden with politics. Unfortunately, a company does not need to be large to have politics influence its culture, and how its employees rise or become stagnant.

When I ask CEOs and other top-level executives if their journey was worth it, a large percentage tell me the sacrifices they made personally were not. Not all executives had to sacrifice so much personally to get to where they are, but the percentage is over half.

However, there are certainly advantages at the top, but as we all know, money cannot buy happiness. Some executives told me they would trade their position or do things differently if they could get back to a simpler life and be, or feel, happy again.

And while we are on the subject . . . happiness is not something you can simply just want to have. You have to work at being happy. The first step is to determine what makes you happy. Prepare a mental list, and you just might realize that you already have everything you need to be happy. In fact, when I talk to CEOs what makes them happy, they often realize there are a few things they could alter to get back to feeling happy again.

Climbing the professional ladder can take years. Most people will need new skills. Many will likely switch departments or employers’ two or more times.  Why?  Because typically, when someone moves into a different role, they will acquire new skills and valuable experiences not always available when they remain at a specific position for more than a few years.

People will automatically see things differently in a new environment, be exposed to new people and new approaches to how to do any number of different things.

Change is not something with which everyone feels comfortable, but those who embrace and become comfortable with change are typically the ones who climb the career ladder over their peers who do not.

Slow and steady is a great concept for the majority of people in an organization, and thankfully, many people are satisfied with this style of how to operate. If everyone wanted to rise to the top there would be serious management issues to address.

Luckily, this typically is not the case. There are layers of management built into the organization at larger companies, in part to control or even prevent this from happening.

The next time you think about whether you are ready to climb the corporate ladder, decide how high you’d like to go. Then plot out how you will get there. You can do this by talking to others who are in roles above you, especially at your own company, but also at other firms, as there are generally more ways than one to get to where you want to be.

Talking to people can mean actually having a conversation with them in person, via an email or Skype, if distance is a challenge. Ask if they had help planning how they got to where they are, or if the process happened in an organic way.  That is often the case if a company routinely promotes employees based on having a well-defined process.

Unfortunately, most companies do not have a systematic, fair, and non-political promotion plan. If your company does not, take comfort knowing that you are in the majority of people who have to figure out how to climb to the top, if this is really what you want to do, and if the top, or even the next rung, is worth the effort.

Kathleen E. R. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

 

 

Niche – What’s yours and how are you using it?

By Kathleen E.R. Murphy

There is a saying that no two grains of sands are the same, and the same concept can be applied to people too. Although many people might have a great deal in common with one another, when you begin to take a closer look into who they are, you quickly will see how they are different from others. It is the differences which help to define who they are as a person, and if you had to articulate what their niche is. A niche is different from your value proposition, and should be easier for you to define. I’ll help you to think about this by providing a story about how this concept can work for you.

Yesterday I had a very fortunate opportunity to do something I have wanted to do for many years, and it was to go snorkeling in the Great Barrier reef off of Cairns, Australia. When I was researching which reef tours to go on, I thought the best way to narrow down my search would be to choose one based on a referral. Since I naturally enjoy asking questions, I started asking people I encountered if they had recently been on a reef tour, and whether they would recommend the one they went on. Most of the people I spoke to had gone out on the large 100 foot reef trips which take 100-300 people on them. In my mind this did not seem very appealing and was too commercial for my liking. Fortuneately the last person I asked the “reef question” to, had been on a reef tour the day before. When they started describing the experience they had and used the word “quirky” more than a few times, I thought this was definitely something I wanted to experience, and I did the next day.

The reef experience started out early in the morning by arriving at the dock and seeing what appeared to be an old fashioned sailing vessel. It looked nothing like any of the other reef tour boats which were mostly 50-100+ foot fast moving catamaran hull boats. The captain and crew were also not who you might point out from a group of people who you would think would be your typical crew mates, but they were beyond amazing at what they each did. Because it was a small crew, they each had special skills which were on full display during our experience with them (e.g., scuba instructors, two of them knew how to sail the boat, all of them knew how to manage the boat sails and rigging, each had an amazing personality and only two of them were from Australia – the captain grew up in Miami, one crew member was from France, one was from Tazmania and the other one was from all over, with the last place she lived being Fiji). Since the boat was around 55 feet in length, the amount of guests on board could not exceed 20 people, which was a perfect amount of crew to guest ratio.

When I asked Captain Doug what was to me a rhetorical question about what his niche was, his response was not what I expected. He said that in all the years he has been taking guests out on reef tours, only a few guests have ever taken photos of the large reef tour boats cruising by, while our sailing vessel was being continuoulsly having its photo taken. This is because our boat is the only fully functional and operating former pearl farming boat which is also well over 100 years old, and looks amazing due to the care taken of it. So, the answer Captain Doug gave me was that this is the only boat of its kind which takes people on reef tours and is what clearly defines it as its niche. Being the only Great Barrier Reef tour sailing vessel is also what offers them a competitive advantage when people are looking for a unique reef trip experience.

As I mentioned earlier, everyone and every company has a niche. Some are more obvious than others, and if you have not defined what your personal or company niche is, you can do so by answering and responding to these three inquires.

  1. Make a list of things you believe make you or your company unique, then narrow this list down to 2-3 items.
  2. Ask other people to describe what makes you different from others, either from a business or personal perspective. Extract the aspects of what they have conveyed to you which are repeated by others, and this will help you to establish defining your niche.
  3. Think about the work you are doing. Now think about how your skills or abilities are different from your colleagues, and why someone might ask you to help them with something versus asking someone else. Or, think about the type of work you are doing, and how you might approach getting the work done differently from others, and perhaps get better results than others.

Describing your niche does not have to be paragraphs long in length, but it should allow you to be in a defensible position so that others cannot readily claim your niche as theirs. There may be subtle differences of your niche from others, but one or two words can make a tremendous difference in helping you to define what your personal or your company niche is.

This blog is dedicated to Captain Dan and his crew of the #Falla in Cairns, Australia who is the perfect example of having defined his personal and business niche. fallareeftrips.com.au

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me Too. Market Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

(11) Tips to help you know your audience

By Kathleen E.R. Murphy

The concept of knowing your audience may in fact seem like an elementary concept, but when you peel back the layers on this one, it really is anything but simple. In fact, it can quickly get complex, and this is why when people are presenting to an audience of either one or many, the outcome of the communication can go in a different direction than they intended. Sales people tend to be the best at knowing and reading their audience, as they have a great deal of practice doing this, but not all sales people are at the same level of proficiency in this area. The emphasis on practice is how most people become much better at reading their audience. 

Since most people are not salespeople, or may in fact not have as many opportunities to present to others, how do they become better at knowing their audience, and what are some techniques they can apply to become better at this concept? Here are some points to consider to increase your chances of knowing your audience better, and having a more desirable outcome from your interaction. 

  1. Don’t make assumptions about how they are going to react to your information. There is an old but wise adage which breaks down this word into not making an “ass” out of “you” and “me”. 
  2. If you do not know the person or people you will be communicating with well, when possible, simply ask them what their preferred methods of interacting with them are. You may not be able to appeal to everyone’s preferred method, but you will have a better chance of appealing to them when you ask this question. 
  3. Depending on how you will be communicating with your audience, if it is via a visual method such as slides, make sure your slides don’t break every rule in terms of the best practices for presenting information. In other words, keep the number of words on your slides to an absolute minimum, don’t use graphics which are not coordinated with the message and after you have created the slides, step away from them for a few minutes and come back to see if they pass the KIS rule of “Keep it simple”. 
  4. Ask the person or people if they are “ready” to hear what you have to say. Think back to when you were in elementary school and how the teacher would always start with getting everyones attention before they spoke. 
  5. Keep an eye on your audiences body language. If you are speaking too long and not allowing them to interact with you in some manner, you will likely loose their attention. If you see this happening, ask the person or audience if they have a question, and if no one asks one, throw in a question someone should be asking.
  6. When presenting to executives, it is best to be extremely succinct with your information. Tell them up front what your “ask is”, or what you expect the ideal outcome from the meeting to be. Whenever possible, keep the content being discussed to no more than 15 minutes in length. If you can’t communicate what you have to say in this period of time, chances are what you will be communicating will not be impactful and obtain the results you desire. 
  7. One on one communications with people you know well may seem like the easiest audience to communicate with, but again, the time of day, the place you are meeting, the content and how enthusiastic you are about the content can all play a significant role in having a positive outcome.
  8. Before you begin speaking, make sure you are in the right frame of mind, and think of yourself as being on stage. Would you come out on stage and start speaking in a monotone voice, with poor posture, eyes starring downwards and seemingly lack energy while you are presenting? Of course not, but lots of people present information to their “audience” this way, so make sure you are not guilty of doing this too. In other words, fake being an “actor” if you have to, or at least until you feel confident enough in coming across as being enthusiastic about the information you are conveying. 
  9. When presenting to a “live” audience or even one or a few people, make sure you are positioned in a place where they can see and hear you well. Ideally you should be standing if you are presenting visual information, and at the front of the room. Many people make the mistake of sitting and presenting their information in these situations, and miss the opportunity to commandeer the audiences full attention when they do not stand up. 
  10. If you do not know your audience well, do some basic research on them (e.g., check them out on LinkedIn, or read their bios on their company website if they are at the executive level, or Google their name and see what information comes up about them.) If possible, ask others that work with, or know them well enough to provide you with information about how they like to have information presented or conveyed to them. All of this information can give you greater insight into who you are presenting to, and clues in terms of how to ideally appeal to them with the information you are conveying to them.
  11. The final tip is a bonus one, and is to make sure you send a summary of the information to them via an email. Keep it short, and leverage this communication to convey your key points to make sure they were passed along to your audience.

Now that you have some tips on how to “know your audience”, go out and start putting these concepts into practice. As I stated earlier, practice is the key element to what makes understanding your audience something you can become quite good at. Let me know what you think after you have tried some of these tips.

Kathleen E. R. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Ms. Murphy has been quoted in Money.com, featured in the Huffington Post and speaks at conferences on the business topics around the globe. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

When People Get Quiet

 

By Kathleen E.R. Murphy

Call it one of the senses, and I’m not sure which one, but there is definitely a sense you get when something is not quite right. This same sense can be applied where you work and I have unfortunately been 100% accurate in predicting something is going on in the office, and usually it is related to either a promotion, a firing or the company being acquired. Some might call this ability having a mild sense of psychic power, but whatever you might call it, my general sense is everyone has this same ability, but might not know how to tap into it. Having this ability can be both helpful and stressful, as it serves almost as a barometer of the pressure being felt in the office. 

There is a saying “the calm before the storm”, and I have seen and felt this more times than I care to admit. Most of the time something good is about to happen, but people are not allowed to talk about what will be happening, so they tend to get quiet, or act more reserved than they normally are. Conversely, when something ominous is about to happen, this same sense of quiet tends to permeate throughout the office almost like a fog. Generally a few people in the office are setting this tone, and the ones who are may not be aware they are doing so. However, there are signs you can pick up on to determine if something different is about to happen, and here are a few of them. 

  • The people who have knowledge about something going to happen whether it is positive or negative will generally start to have less eye contact with you prior to the “event” happening. 
  • People “in-the-know” will have a slightly different demeanor than they typically do (e.g., if they are normally very talkative, they will become less so). 
  • When asked questions which might either be on target or are close to what might be going on, the person who knows what is happening will potentially get fidgety and exhibit signs of being nervous (e.g., their neck turns red, they may start to sweat slightly on their forehead), or they quickly change the subject.
  • The response to your questions which would normally be longer, will be short and almost abrupt. 

If you encounter any of these behaviors occurring with the people who “know something”, try not to pressure them into telling you anything, as they generally are not in a position to do so. However, depending on how well you know them, and what type of relationship you have developed with them in the office, they may give you slight hints about what is going on, and whether it is a positive or negative scenario. People who are in management roles, and who may not have years of experience yet with change management occurring, will be much more transparent and easy to read than those with years of management experience. Of course this is a generalization, but more often than not, newer managers will have a more difficult time not wearing their emotions outwardly. This is not a bad thing, and it is part of what you learn how to deal with and do a better job of not revealing from an emotional or body language perspective. 

Being able to read what is going on and tapping into your intuitive senses allows you to  prepare you for what is inevitably going to happen. I’m not talking about a self fulfilling prophesy, but instead thinking through what your options might be when you have a sense something is happening which might impact you in a good or negative way. It is always far better to be aware than caught off guard when something in the office happens, as being too emotional in most office settings is not generally considered a good thing. Having the ability to control your emotions, and I am not talking about acting like a robot, but instead being composed on the outside even though you might me a hot mess on the inside. Most managers and upper level executives become quite good at masking their inward emotions, but being able to read the emotional cues they are giving off will serve you well in future situations when you will need to be composed and thinking clearly in any situation. 

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.