Sunday

Thankfulness: My Top 6



I was exploring a variety of sources for daily scripture reading today and all seemed to provide verses and meditation on thankfulness.  Of course that makes sense with Thursday being the US National Holiday for Thanksgiving.  As such, it got me thinking about what I'm thankful for this year and in David Letterman style, following are my top 6:

6.  Lessons Learned this Year

I could write an entire blog post on lessons learned this year - and maybe I will....later.  For now, I am thankful in general for all of the lessons learned.  It was probably my toughest year yet, but in some ways, my strongest.  If I had to recap, I would highlight three lessons that I am thankful: 1) I learned to see the positive in everything and to celebrate - regardless of the circumstances or how I felt that day or that moment.  2) I learned that learning never stops - at any age, and to keep looking for the lesson in everything.  The lesson is there - I just have to be willing to look for it and acknowledge it.  and 3) I also learned that I am a better person today than yesterday.  For these lessons, I thank and praise God.

5.  Being Stretched Outside of My Comfort Zone

I've had a lot of personality testing over the years and each test comes out the same: I don't naturally gravitate to quick decisions and change.  However, I've been aware of that for years; therefore, when I have the opportunity to experience change, I embrace it rather than run from it.  Don't get me wrong, instinctively, I'd rather run, but I know in the end, that I will come out stronger and the change is generally not only necessary but a great experience, in hind site.  At the end of last year, I changed employers.  I stayed in my industry and the same type of position.  I had no idea how different it would be from one company to another - even in the same industry.  I've been stretched way outside of my comfort zone and I'm thankful for the challenges and new perspectives of looking at different practices, processes and outcomes.  Thank you to my boss, company, clients, and my new friends for accepting me, teaching me, and helping me to be a better employee, co-worker, client partner and person this year.

4.  Small Group

This is a small group of 8 - 10 people from our church that meets in our home every week.  Some are in person and some Skype in, but we all have the same purpose: experiencing life together, supporting each other and studying together, building our foundation and knowledge of God and Christ in our daily lives.  Our personalities, hobbies, background, careers, family dynamics, and interests are all varied, but we accept each other for who we were are and who we were created to be.  We each add something special to the group and to each other.  Thank you all for being real and authentic, teaching me about God and life, and allowing me to be just as authentic, regardless of my daily circumstances.

3.  Friends

I am very fortunate that I have some really great friends.  As I get older I realize their importance and how special they are to me.  Very few live in the same city anymore, but we are still great friends from a distance.  There are friends from high school, college, career, and others that were local at one time or another.  They each reached out to me this year as I needed love, support and friendship.  They loved me on both my good days and bad days.  At times they kept me fully accountable and at other times, they let me slide when appropriate.  They are my true friends; a gift from God.  I thank you for who you are and I hope that I was as good a friend to you as you were to me this year - and for many years to come.

2.  Family

My family is definitely at the top of my list this year.  We've had a tough year losing one of our own way too early.  Having said that, I'm very fortunate to have a husband, mother, brother, parents-in-laws, sisters-in-law, and nephews that each bring a unique impact and perspective on who I am.  Thank you to each one for loving me, supporting me, accepting me as I am and allowing me to be a part of your life.  I thank God for His gift of you to me and would not have made it successfully through this year without you.

1.  My Mother

Yes, my mother is on the top of my family list this year.  It's a pretty close tie with my husband as he has put up with a lot this year and has had a tremendous amount influence, love and support for me that hasn't gone unnoticed, but my mother deserves the top spot this year.  I am so thankful that she is still here and is sorting through a new reality for life.  She has always been my hero and this year she stepped up even more.  As I reflect back over the years, she has always been the cornerstone of our family and this year is no exception.  Thank you Mother - you are full of beauty, love and strength.  I thank God everyday that He gave you to me. I love you and am thankful for you beyond what my words and actions can express.

What are you thankful for this year?  I was reading one of my favorite blogs this morning and came across the 12 Most Special Ways to Say Thank You This Thanksgiving. It wasn't rocket science, but it was a great reminder to make sure that I let those that I am thankful for, know how much they mean to me.  Go in peace and make every day a day of Thanksgiving!

Personal Branding and LinkedIn


Branding is my new fascination. No, not livestock or human branding, although that would be an interesting read - or not. My fascination has taken me deep into reflection into my individual brand from both a business and personal perspective.  It's more than who am I and who do I want to be when I grow up....it's also the question of how am I perceived and who do others think I am?  This is not a new concept, people have been writing, training and blogging about it for over a decade now; but for me, it's a new attraction.

It became an appeal when I began diving deeper into social media and attempting to envision where it will take us into the future and how I want to take part in it, on the sidelines as a casual observer, in the middle of it as an engaging participant or ahead of it as a thought leader.  I've learned quite a bit since delving into it, but as with every type of technological advancement, there is so much more to learn for all of us at any level.

My focus today is what I've learned on LinkedIn.  I've been on LinkedIn for several years now and I've slowly added connections, recommendations and employment history - but all casually with no real purpose except to cater to the social part of my personality.  As I began to explore different types of social media, I began to dig deeper into LinkedIn and I came across the book "The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success" by Wayne Breitbarth.  It covers the basics, but it also brought to my attention some areas that I could begin utilizer better.  Following are three of the many lessons highlighted in Breitbarth's book that I put to immediate use on my LinkedIn profile:


The Thirty Second Bumper Sticker

Most people use this as their current company and title.  Although that information is important, I've revamped mine to demonstrate more than my position.  As Breitbarth testifies, this is our opportunity to boldly broadcast who we are and our value to the person reading it with 120 characters.  This is less than twitter, but more than is needed.  It also allows us to include key words that can be used in critical key word searches.  My bumper sticker now reads as follows:

AIReS | Global Mobility Solutions | Speaker | Author 
Relocation Strategist | Talent Management Partner


I'm an expert in strategic development to ensure each relocation and global mobility program aligns with all corporate and talent management goals, current government regulations and is measured accordingly for return on investment.  As such, I have the opportunity to work closely with corporations as well speak and write on the topic.  This is a brief description of my personal and professional brand - who I am, what I do and the value that I bring to the table.

Applications and Tools

Breitbarth lists four must-have applications for all LinkedIn users:
  1. Box.net files
  2. Google Presentations or SlideShare
  3. Reading List by Amazon
  4. Events
Following are some of the files that my profile now includes:
  • US Transfer Volume & Cost Survey (Relocation Policy Stats)
  • AIReS Services 
  • Relocation Taxability (what's taxable and not taxable in US relocation).
This is an area that will change throughout the months, seasons and years as trends and services continue to change.

Introductions

I also learned how to appropriately seek and provide introductions. There is a proper way and it's way more than a blind email or phone call.  LinkedIn is not a free for all to invade anyone with an email or inmail.  If fact, most people don't respond to this unless there is a valid connection. If done respectfully, introductions can be provided for me and by me as appropriate.

All in all, it was a good book to breeze through and even stop and meditate on some areas.  Although I expect my LinkedIn profile to continue evolving over time, it is now more representative of my personality with my personal touch and should boldly and fearlessly demonstrate my personal and professional brand.

How about you? Does your LinkedIn profile reflect your personal brand?

My Story to Live - The Fabric of Me



As I listen to a version of "It is Well With My Soul" today,  I remember that it's my choice on whether my soul is well.  I am reminded of some recent training that says my story is my story.  For example, what happens to me, how it happens to me, circumstances, situations - everything within my life - is my story.  It's also called my life's journey.  I don't control my story - I can't change my story.  My story is my story.  It's the fabric of who I am.  It's not your story.  It's my story and only my story.

The way I interpret my story is up to me.  It's my choice.  I choose every day what I believe.  Am I choosing a negative interpretation?  And if so, does that negative interpretation bring me down, create a skeptic? Or am I choosing a positive version that frees me and let's me soar to any height?  I can create thoughts and opinions of others - imaginary or otherwise - that shape me.  For example,  when I create an interpretation of what others are thinking or why they do something - again imaginary or otherwise - what perspective am I choosing - one that brings me down or one that's ultimately better for me?  It's a choice. It's deep. It's what I believe to my core - in my soul.  It's my story to live.

When I dig deep, it's more than just attitude.  It sounds like attitude, but it's deeper....more than my attitude.  It's something that I choose to believe deep in my soul.  It's that belief - not just what I tell myself I believe - but what I really believe, that is the fabric of who I am.  It's my story to live.  I ask myself again, how am I choosing to live my story today?

Saturday

When Is It Good Enough?


I love the study of people and people watching.  I have an analytical mind and I'm fascinated by various people behaviors.  I've written a few posts about human behaviors (Observations From A Frequent Traveler and I'm Better At Being Me Than I Am At Being You as examples).  And although I've never used it, I have a degree in Psychology - people fascinate me!

Unrelenting Standards is a concept that I was introduced to a year ago that I didn't realize had an official name or diagnosis.  I learned about it from Reinventing Your Life, by Jeffrey Young and Janet Klosko.  Unrelenting Standards is one of eleven life traps that are described.  Young and Klosko write "If you are in the Unrelenting Standards life trap, you strive relentlessly to meet extremely high expectations of yourself. You place excessive emphasis on status, money, achievement, beauty, order or recognition at the expense of happiness, pleasure, health, a sense of accomplishment, and satisfying relationships.  You probably apply your rigid standards to other people as well and are very judgmental.  When you were a child, you were expected to be the best, and you were taught that anything else was failure. You learned that nothing you did was good enough."

I also learned that the perspective of high standards is from other people, not from the person who has unrelenting standards.  For example, this person believes their standards are average and normal and they view their success as average and normal.  However, to others, they are viewed as successful and a high achiever.  Characteristics evident are the feeling of pressure and not being able to relax or enjoy life.  This type is not comfortable unless they are striving for something more.  My assumption is that they also think that you should be striving for something more too.

Do you recognize this person?  You work with them on a project and to you, everything looks great - the  data, the analysis, the preparation, the presentation, etc.  but to them, they continue to drill down and analyze more and more, they strive for perfection.  Their attention to the smallest details is fanatical  - phrasing of words, utilizations of colors and fonts on the presentation, etc.  All of these are important, but how much time is spent on each and how many times are things changed?  Perfection.  Sometimes it's needed in order to make it better and to pay attention to the details - yet other times, it's not relevant.  There is a balance - always striving for perfection and the best product, service, etc., yet accepting when it's good enough and moving on.  When is good enough?

Apparently there are four reasons someone can become an unrelenting standards type:
  1. Their parents love for them was conditional on their meeting high standards. 
  2. One or both parents were models of high, unbalanced standards.
  3. They are compensating for feelings of defectiveness, social exclusion, deprivation or failure.
  4. One or both parents used shame or criticism when they failed to meet high expectations.
Awareness and patience are important when dealing with this type of person.  Is this you or is this someone that you interact with daily?  It's amazing what we do to ourselves and how we react to other people's opinion of us.  It can have a life long affect on us and those interacting with us.  So how do we deal with this type of person?  I'm not a psychologist or even a counselor, but I do have opinions, and yes, some experience.

For those that do not have this standard but engage with this type, I'm making the assumption that you aren't an underachiever, and if that's the case, then awareness is important.  Acknowledge that it's not about you and the criticism is not directed at you personally - it's more about them, then it is about you.  You can balance it by taking the good from the situation to be better.  You can also have an accountability partner for what is reasonable.  If you are in a situation where you can (i.e. this is a peer and not a boss), then thank them for their input but express your acceptance for the situation as it is (and the acceptable completion of the project).  You can also help to build them by complimenting and recognizing the good and success of this person.

For those who are stuck in an unrelenting standards cycle, learn to accept what others consider is enough as enough.  Another important fact is that although you may not be asking other people to do something that you aren't willing to do yourself, understand that you still may be asking too much.  You should also seek an accountability partner, who can be your check and balance in life to measure reasonableness.  Learn to relax and enjoy life.  Learn to laugh at yourself - genuinely.  Sometimes it is good enough and you can learn to live in the moment, experiencing the joy of life to its fullest!

True confession time?  How are your standards - are they high enough or are they too high?  My confession time is that I have more experience with being this type than I do with interacting with them.  I'm not proud of it, but it's how I became acquainted with this study in the first place.  And for those that know me, it developed as a result of overcompensating; which wouldn't surprise any that know me well. It's something that can be worked through and for me, although it's a continuous process, thankfully it has been worked through.

People are people and we were all created differently - not right or wrong, just different. For every type of person, experience the most in life, learn when it is good enough and learn to enjoy life to its fullest!


My Personal Story: Excellent Customer Service or Not?



Customer Service is one of those topics that's hard to define as a culture.  We each have our own version of  what's good customer service, excellent customer service or superior customer service or any other trending phrase for customer service.  I've had the opportunity to reflect on customer service over the past week through a hospital experience.  My mother came to visit me in Tampa, FL for ten days.  However, on day three of her visit, she unexpectedly experienced a hospital stay for 4 nights/5 days - which included a smattering of medical tests and, ultimately, surgery to remove her gall bladder.

Our experience really got me thinking about what I expect as great customer service and what was expected of me as the customer.  Some would say we had great customer service; but by other standards, some would say we didn't.  From  my experiences, I have high standards for what can be called excellent customer service - and I don't apologize for it.  Although I don't always meet my own standards (a diagnosis of unrelenting standards is another post for another time), I do live by the same expectations when I'm providing customer service.  I'm disappointed in myself when I don't provide it, just as I am disappointed in others when I don't receive it.  Through our experience, questions surfaced: does my involvement as the customer help to define great or excellent customer service? Do I need to be an active participant or does my being active take away from getting excellent customer service?  At one point in our stay, I was told that I need to be a squeaky wheel and it's ok to squeak when needed.  My thought is that if I need to squeak, then something is not quite right with the expectations of customer service.  If it's self service, it's not customer service - or is it? Thoughts to ponder.



Over the 5 days, we had contact with an army of nurses, nurses assistants, doctors and a variety of other medical professionals.  Of these, two nurses stood out the most with providing top notch customer service:

ER Nurse - Rob was the ER Nurse when we first entered the hospital.  We were nervous and quite anxious.  He had a big warm smile that never left his face while he was talking to us.  He was also what I call "deep south" friendly; which for me translates as warm and overly friendly.  He quickly found a common ground with my mom - she has lived in Tennessee for the last 35 years and he had grown up in Tennessee, not far from her current home.  He continued to find commonalities and also quipped jokes that helped eased our fears.  He did all of this while keeping us informed on what he was doing, why he was doing it and then the results of what he found.  I must also say that this was the best and fastest ER experience that I've ever had.  This hospital knew how to manage an ER and get to the bottom of what was needed for next steps.  Kudos to Memorial Hospital of Tampa!  Now back to Rob as part of this great experience.   He provided calmness and allowed us to be as comfortable as possible under the circumstances.  By my high standards, Rob provided excellent customer service.  Thank you Rob.

Day Shift Nurse - Meghan was assigned to us two of the four days.  In my book, she was fabulous and hit the mark every time.  There were many traits that Meghan exibited, but the two that warmed our heart the most were her credibility and patience.  She did what she said she was going to do - and she did it every time! I understand unintentional errors or accidental forgetfulness, but it didn't happen with Meghan.  We didn't have to follow up with her or go hunt her down, she followed through on everything.  As to patience, my mother and I had a lot of questions and not once did Meghan make us feel like we were a hinderance or bother to her.  She understood our questions, encouraged them, answered them and/or directed us how to ask the doctor when he came in to see us.  She also followed up with us to make sure that we asked the questions after the doctor had visited.  I expected the former, but the latter was above and beyond my expectations.  By my high standards, Meghan provided excellent customer service. Thank you Meghan!

In reflection, there were many opportunities for excellent customer service this week.  We received service from all of those which we interacted.  Some provided good, others great and then there were those with excellent service.  For those that provided excellent service, what stood out the most was that in addition to their medical capabilities they also provided the following: strong listening skills, proactivity, credibility, patience, a great bedside manner and the ability to make us feel valuable.

We are home now and on to something new.  Until next time....more thoughts to ponder.

Out of Focus


Do you ever feel like you are living out of focus?  As I get older I find that I'm looking at blurry objects more every day.  It can be frustrating not knowing the details of what I'm looking at or even being able to identify what I'm seeing at all.  However, it can also be a little fun and an adventure.

It did get me thinking.  Sometimes I feel like my whole life is out of focus.  I'm living and I'm engaging in life every day, but something seems a little blurry.  I can see, but not exactly clearly.  So what does it take to live in focus?  Is there really a true in focus?  Is it a matter of the seasons of life - some seasons are in focus and some out of focus?

My mind then started to wander towards whether being in focus is tied to finding my purpose and meaning in life.  Why was I put on this earth?  I haven't quite figured that out yet, but I know that we were all put on this earth for a reason.  At some points in my life, I felt I had meaning and was passionate about that meaning and purpose.  That usually centered around helping others - whether in my job as a mentor, teacher or just plain productive which helped grow the company and ultimately kept people employed.  Or in other areas of my life not work focused, for example, regularly volunteering in homeless shelters or teaching business and interviewing skills to lower income women who were seeking to improve their life.  And at other times in my life, that purpose wasn't clear - possibly not as clear with my work value or volunteering participation.  That's when life doesn't seem to be as focused. And I definitely don't know my purpose and  meaning.

So what's the lesson? Good question, maybe that each season in life may bear something different than the last?  And to keep seeking purpose and meaning in everything that I do? Or sometimes it's ok to be out of focus, but keep looking and eventually I'll be able to see life in focus again - maybe the same view, but most likely a different view?  Questions to ponder....

So, what's your view - are you in or out of focus today?

A Voice to be Heard



Everyone has a voice that wants to be heard. The way in which we seek to be heard is as varied as the people in the world. Take the restaurant where I currently sit as an example, the dominant voices to be heard are from little people "Mom..." or a scream from an unhappy child, or the piercing laughter of a joyous one - all which can be heard at any corner of the room. But there is also the couple deep in conversation, quiet to the world, but loud enough for their partner, both with serious expressions. Or the table of six, two of which have the most to say, but the one on the end who watches and starts to talk a few times, only to be interrupted, so the outward attempts cease. And of course the twenty something male that makes jokes so those around him will laugh - yet there is sadness hiding in his eyes, or is it really sadness or just the perspective of the onlooker? A voice to be heard.

And of course, facebook and twitter are great examples of voices to be heard. Some are heard hourly - others only monthly, but each saying something. And blogging is another facet of a voice to be heard. Do we blog for ourself or others? I wonder how much people - the generic we or you - read other people's blogs or websites. I know I don't take the time to explore as much as I'd like to explore.  However, I've started reading again - as well as writing.  With my varied interests, I follow varied sites.  Here are a few articles that I read in the last few days while I was catching up on twitter (@tpagirl):

Search for Wierdest Car in America (USA Today)
Acai Berries: 1 of 10 Most Beneficial Foods (Healthy Eating Overview)
This Week's Top 10 Videos  (Market Watch)
Social Media is A Culture - Not a Technology (Government in the Lab)
60 Signs Addicted to Social Media & Twitter (Business to Community)
9 Things Pilots Want You to Know  (Women's Day)
Practice (Passion On Purpose - Ryan Estis)
BitRebels (Too Many great articles to name a top 1!)
Toilet Paper Emergency (BitRebels - an oldie but goodie!)
If A Leader Always... (Ron Edmondson)
Gen Rent - New Kids on the Block (Inman News)

There are a lot of voices to be heard in today's world.  What voice are you hearing?  What voice are you sharing?  Is it all about you or all about others?  Let's take the time to hear other voices today.