A Leader Should…

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren G. Bennis 

As a young person in a leadership role I often times find it hard to create balance between being “fun” and being the “boss”. This is one particular role that helped my co-author and I become as close as we are. She is openly more down to business than I am and that allowed us to run a tight ship. Over the past year I have learned a lot about myself and my associates.

I have put together a short list of things that I find helpful on a weekly basis. Sometimes we have associates, friends, or children who are stuck in a rut and need a little TLC. I hope you find these reminders helpful as you maneuver whatever role you’ve taken on:

  • Honesty/Expectations: Good leaders always lay out the expectations of projects, cleaning, behavior or what have you. …and they do this honestly. It’s unfair for someone to come into a role or position believing it is (or you are) something that isn’t. I find that most people who fail to do what is asked of them do so because they are not properly educated about what is expected. You, as a leader, need to be held accountable for the outcome. However, you cannot hold someone accountable for something that they were not shown or told. Create a detailed map of your expectations and you are more likely to get the results you want.
  • “Get on the bus”: This is a phrase I like to use when I’m hiring new associates, training new associates, or even checking in with more seasoned associates. The bus leaves the station without a lot of children, players, and employees. The morale of the group is often times low when people get left behind. This is as much of a “push” for them to do the right thing as it is a way for you, as the leader, to pick them up and dust them off. The road to winning is a two way street and everyone is expected to do their part. If you set the proper expectations for your team, you can ensure that everyone will be “on the bus” going in the right direction. When someone gets a little distracted from the goal that is when you have a “get on the bus” discussion. This allows you to figure out why this person is about to miss an opportunity to be a team player and hopefully correct the problem.
  • Check Ins: Most people are uncomfortable bringing problems to their leader/boss/manager/coach. It is much easier to squabble among all the other team members to get their opinions than it is to face the issues head on. I use check ins fairly regularly as a way to get a feel for how each associate is doing in my building. If they are struggling with procedures, policies, or have any other questions, the “check in” is a great time to level the playing field and allow both parties to speak freely. Not only does this demonstrate your willingness and ability to put each associate first – it shows them that you are approachable and happy to help. This is also a good time to do any “call outs”, good or bad, in attempts to right the ship and get people on track without the rest of the team knowing.
  • Fairness: Lastly, I have found that above all else that fairness matters. Whether it is between pets, children, managers, bus boys, or who does the nightly cleaning – fairness matters most. If the leader is not willing to clean the toilets how can they expect anyone else to? Lead by example not by pointing and instructing. Dig in the trenches with your people and show them that they matter and that their happiness matters. People will work harder for someone who sweats with them.

These are just a few of the things that I find myself wishing I would have known before stepping into the role that I now have. Most of them seem pretty simple, and they are, it’s just important to keep working on them. Nobody is perfect and it’s important to let the team know that you’re all striving for the same goal of betterment.

Jump to Soar

Majority of us have a Facebook account and we all get our individual “news” feed. Whether it be actual news from pages we follow or friends posting about their lives, we all feel some kind of way about the news we receive. A few weeks ago I decided I was going to try a career change. I came to this decision because I felt my life was just getting monumentally stressful for silly reasons. After many talks with myself, my husband and my friends, especially Mac, I decided it would be for the best. The thing is, I didn’t realize how hard it is to convince myself that this was the right thing to do. You see, after I graduated college the only work I could see myself doing was animal welfare in any capacity. All my experience was with animals and I had become very passionate about the field over the years. Don’t get me wrong, customer service is the main part of any job and those skills are easy to gain. That part was easy to say to myself, “yeah I can take these with me”. The main question was would I be able to learn something new; something complete and utterly different?

So I was going through my Facebook feed and I came across a YouTube video of Steve Harvey. In this short video he essentially gave out a piece of advice for people looking for a change. The words that stuck out to me the most were:

….you can soar but you’ve got to jump. Now here’s the problem, my friends. When you jump…… I can assure you one thing. Your parachute will not open right away. No, that’s the fear part. …… You’re going to hit those sides and those rocks. You’re going to tear you back out on that cliff. You’re going to get cuts and wounded…. but eventually your parachute will open and you’ll be soaring. ……… If you do not jump —– your parachute will never open. So you’re safe, but you will never soar. You’ve got to jump.

After watching that, I felt like my confidence got one giant push. Besides telling myself that I can succeed in a different career, I also told myself to just jump. This was 3 weeks ago and so far, I can say without a doubt, I am much happier for it. I miss aspects of my old job of course but my new life is just so much more.

Ironically enough, in the past week, two of my close friends have talked to me about their lives. Both are looking for a change in scenery. One is looking to get out of the retail working world because she feels like her life revolves around work. The other is looking to get out of the animal rescue business because dealing with puppy mill dogs is really taking a toll on her emotional health. Both want to change careers but, just like me, they’re either afraid of change or do not believe they are capable of doing and succeeding at something different. Can you guess what I told them? Besides going over what I went through in the past 3 weeks and how it affected me personally, I told them to soar. I told them you will never know how great you really are if you don’t try. I told them I have faith that they will succeed in any change that they make. Now, it’s in their thoughts. I’ve planted a seed and I can only hope they will do what they feel is best for them because at the end of the day I will be their parachutes and if they need me to help them soar then that is what I am going to do.

I leave you with another quote, from Denzel Washington’s image award speech, that appeared to me earlier this week and is also great advice to live by:

….never give up. Without commitment, you’ll never start but more importantly, without consistency, you’ll never finish. It’s not easy…….. Keep working, keep striving, never give up. Fall down seven times, get up eight. Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship. …..Keep moving, keep growing, keep learning. See you at work.

Dying With Dignity

…if there was ever such a thing.

This topic has been at the forefront of my mind over the past few weeks. My boyfriend and I have each learned of the declining health in our respective grandparents. Long gone are the nights with bed time stories, midnight snacks, and movie marathons. Dark are the days that lie ahead with devastating phone calls, worrying parents, and sleepless nights. I know that we are just a few of the millions who are experiencing a situation each and every day.

Growing up sickness and death was something that I was able to cope with because it wasn’t happening in my immediate family. My mom worked for many assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Up until a few weeks ago I was still visiting clients and attempting to bring some light and hope into their lives. Now that it’s happening to me I feel a little hopeless, sick, hurt, and confused myself.

Like many grandmas, mine is lovely, caring, forgiving, and selfless. While I don’t want her to hurt or be in pain any longer I want her in my life. Over the past few days I’ve gotten calls and texts from my mom telling me that she has fallen, has somehow forgotten how to walk, or that she can barely hold a conversation. Thankfully, my grandma has lived with my mom for years and they are two peas in a pod. (We’re three peas, really.) The severity of her declining health didn’t hit me until today.

…it got real today. Hospice became a part of our lives. The more I read about hospice care the more worried I become. I was told it’s because she needs “more help” and someone who can always be there when my parents and brothers are away. Every day on the phone my grandma sounds like an independent woman. Every night my mom tells me otherwise.

Am I supposed to be thankful that these people are caring and educated individuals? Should my mind be put at ease knowing that they are helping her deal with her pain and “manage” it better? Am I being selfish for wanting her to fight harder? Does she even have the will to continue on this path? I am blessed to have each day with her and I am grateful to the medical professionals who have helped her along the way…but dang. This sucks.

Hospice claims that they are “end of life care” professionals that help the patient and their family during the dying process. Having them as an aid during this time allows the patient to receive care in their homes, if they so choose. While many times, hospice is only called in once a patient is given a 6 month window of life, sometimes they do exceed this window and far surpass it. If this is the window I am given, I am committed to giving my gran the best “end of life care” that I possibly can in any way that I can. That also provides her the dignity to die in her own home surrounded by her loved ones.

From diapers to doll babies to dance recitals and driving she’s been there through it all for me. I intend to do the same for her.

Eat in or Eat Out?

Since we’ve managed to make it past Valentine’s Day I wanted to take a second to see who did what. I’ve asked plenty of my co-workers, friends, my family, and some of my customers what their plans were for the day. I obviously got a wide range of answers from “we don’t celebrate” to “I got flowers, jewelry,  and we’re going out for a fancy dinner”. My true question is this: whether you celebrated yesterday, you are today, or you plan to on any other day: eat in or eat out?

The cashier at Drug Mart definitely said “eat out”! It’s a special day for her and she didn’t want to be spending it in the kitchen or cleaning up the mess. Whether you went to Olive Garden or Morton’s, I hope you enjoyed whatever you ordered and the service you received, if you in fact opted to “eat out”.

My boyfriend and I decided to “eat in”. Let me break down my decision for you so you can see my side of things a little clearer. On the menu for our Valentine’s dinner were the following:

Veal rib chops – marinated and grilled to perfection by the master griller/my boyfriend. ($45 for two at our local fine foods grocer.)

Lobster tails – buttered and (also) grilled to mouthwatering goodness. (Let’s say we paid $5 each for these – CostCo special so who really knows.)

Broccoli florets – baked with olive oil, garlic, and onion powder to give them a nice crunchy zing to tickle your taste buds. (Free because the master griller also owns a produce company.)

Butter and garlic wild rice – it is what it sounds like, and it was delicious. ($1.50 a pack at whatever grocery you shop from.)

Pinot Noir – A smooth red from Sonoma county that took the edge off the real world. ($20 wherever you can buy some good wine.)

Chocolate covered strawberries – an entire pack of juicy red California strawberries with milk chocolate drizzle to end the night. (Free strawberries and $2.50 for the melting chocolate – pick your store.)

With that being said – if you total up the rough amount that we spent for our Valentine’s meal it’s somewhere between $75-$80. That’s on the high side because we usually buy things on sale. If you were to order that exact meal at a fine restaurant you’re easily looking to spend $200 after tip.

So, what’s my ultimate suggestion for your Valentine’s dinner for next year, your mom’s birthday, your fiancées big accomplishment…? Learn to freakin’ cook! Get some garlic, good olive oil, onion powder, a nice red wine and some balsamic vinegar and go to town! Save some money, look through some blogs for good recipes, and get down to impressing the people you care about the most!

Good Read or not Good Read: Frustrations of a Book Nerd

We all know the platform Goodreads. (At least I hope you do! Shame if you don’t!)

I have been stuck in a bit of a book rut. Usually when one book finishes, I have another book lined up. My latest read was Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones. If you haven’t read the Charley Davidson series, I HIGHLY recommend that you do. I promise you’ll laugh, cry, sweat, curse and everything in between. Anyway, after coming down from my Darynda Jones high, I look to Goodreads for recommendations. We have our lists. Kind of like a Netflix queue of sorts. Shows your read books, currently-reading books and to-read books. Based off any books in your lists, you can gain recommendations based off the Goodreads algorithm that determines what you would like or dislike. Sometimes the recommendations are spot on. Sometimes they aren’t. The problem is when you have certain expectations. For example, I usually don’t look at a book if its rated 4 stars or less. My rule doesn’t apply to pilot books in a series. Why? I have no idea. Usually when you don’t like the pilot of a show you’re highly unlikely to continue watching right? For books it’s a little different especially when it comes to a series. You have to establish a feel for the writing style, get a good understanding of the world building and see how plot lines are handled. In that sense, you are giving the pilot of chance.

When exploring new authors, sometimes its good to look at the reviews and other times you probably shouldn’t. I personally skim through the reviews. Goodreads is great in that you can look at reviews without spoilers. If an individual leaves a review, they have to specify if there are spoilers in the review or not. Actually, if I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure there’s some kind of bot that will remove reviews if there are spoilers. I skim the star ratings to see what people say or if it was added to the DNF (did not finish) pile. The problem is how to decipher actual, GOOD, reviews from bandwagon reviews. If you want to know what I mean by “bandwagon” reviews, just look up Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve explored many books this way but so far I’ve experienced one and dones. All of these were pilot books to 8+ book series’ and they weren’t bad, they just weren’t good…. I think my expectations are set too high because I’m constantly comparing new stories and writing styles to stories written by authors I love. How do you turn that instinct off? It’s not necessarily a bad thing (you like what you like) but it narrows your reading genre down significantly; makes you close-minded of sorts. That’s no fun.

As you can see from my picture, I have found something to read for now. I confess it’s just a pilot book for a different series from an author I already love but cross your fingers my next book will be something new! I have a 100 book 2017 Goodreads challenge and I intend to reach this goal!

 

First Things First

I have been staring at this page for a week.

Actually, make that two weeks; wondering what the first post topic should be. Why is this so difficult? There are many topics, ideas, thoughts floating around in my brain but the decision of picking one is taking literal days. The only thing that is at the forefront of my mind is taxes and Valentine’s Day.

Taxes. Love.

Everyone hates taxes. Talk about complicated. Between the million and one different forms, schedules, deductions, it truly is the most stressful time of the year. My advice? Just don’t adult. Who needs their own home? Is that freelance job really necessary? Can you squeeze by without it? Seriously though, the best way to combat taxes, besides changing your W-4, that I’ve found to be most successful, is saving. Now, we’ve all seen the challenge where if you save 1 dollar for each day of the year, for 365 days, yadda yadda you’ll have $2000 by the end of the year. It’s a great concept, don’t get me wrong. It gets the wheels in your brain turning, thinking about saving money and not touching those savings unless absolutely necessary. The hard part is math. How do you remember to add $1 for day one then $2 for day two, etc. I, personally, have a terrible memory especially when you have a job that is very demanding on your brain power. The best solution is to come up with a stagnant amount that you won’t even notice is gone every cycle. What does that mean? Ok, here’s what we do:

Step 1: Think about how much you spend on fast food and other related activities in a week.

Step 2: Ask yourself is this really necessary. Don’t be afraid to lie to yourself by saying yes.

Step 3: Take that number and cut it in half. This will be your starting point for saving.

Step 4: If you don’t have a savings account with your bank, start one. They’re usually free.

Step 5: Take that number from Step 3 and set up and automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account for every paycheck you receive. Now, this could mean weekly or biweekly or even monthly. Either way, you decide. In my case, I did weekly even though I was paid biweekly.

Step 6: Watch your savings grow and DO NOT touch it unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. As in, emergency funds only!

Step 7: Smile! You did it! Now all you have to do is keep it up!

The first time my husband and I did this, we raised $3000 in a year. Trust me, if you set up automatic transfer, you won’t even miss it. So when tax season comes around and you end up in the owing taxes boat you can dip into your savings to pay that off, if necessary, while still growing your savings account.

Enough about taxes. Let’s talk about love!

Sadly, there’s less to say here than taxes because love is so easy! Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and whether or not you have a significant other I hope you love yourself.

What’s that saying from Parks and Recreation?

TREAT YO’ SELF! Get some dinner, eat that cake and have a great day!

 

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