Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Occupy# - An Opportunity for Business

The Occupy# movement which is growing throughout our cities has implications that stretch beyond the obvious. This movement is not just about the unemployed and underemployed, but
about the concerns all Americans are having about the future of our country. It isn’t just about Wall Street and big-government decision making, but stretches to concerns about Main Street and organizational leadership.
Through these stressful times business owners and leaders are gaining the unique opportunity to stand out from that cynicism and negativity, and to come forward as a company that cares.

What Steps Can Business Leaders Take?

Executive compensation – I read a recent report from the Economic Policy Institute that said in 1965 the average CEO was paid 24x what the average employee received. In recent years that number has been as high as 300x that amount. This disparity is unacceptable to many.
While some would argue that talent retention requires competitive income, I would suggest that retention comes instead from a person’s respect for a company’s core qualities including its values, the products or services it provides, and its customer’s or clients. Financial compensation only becomes of primary importance when one or more of those core qualities are missing.
Rather than keeping up with the Jones’ in CEO compensation, reconsider what would be an acceptable income and make that change. As an added boost to your image, make the change public. Rather than hiding this scaling back, challenge other organizations to follow your lead.
If this idea strikes a cord with you, and you think that in a competitive marketplace that it is not possible, look for an up-coming article I am writing which elaborates on the subject.

Political contributions – Let’s face it, Google has made research nearly effortless. So while you may be focusing your online attention to SEO and social networking, some may be Googling you for different reasons. If you are making notable contributions to either party, or to lobbyist or other groups, be aware of the potential message this sends out. Your affiliations, once known, affect the perception of both your employees and your customers. What can you do? If you donate money or resources, consider doing it as a personal rather than a business contribution. Where possible, be open to addressing any controversy by putting the topic on the table for discussion and explain your point of view. Most importantly, be aware of the impact this may have on your image and act accordingly.

Flexibility and Understanding
– Those same financial pressures are affecting both your employees bottom-line and that of your business. Sure you can’t give bonuses this year. But you can find creative ways to show you appreciate your staff and care about them. In lieu of bonuses perhaps allow an extra day off, a more flexible work schedule (holiday or year-round), even encourage them to organize an in-house secret-Santa to celebrate the holidays. These small efforts will pay long dividends as your team of employee’s feels you understand and care about them.

Creating a workforce that is happy, cohesive, and dedicated to the success of your business is the goal of any leader. Demonstrating you care about them and their concerns is just one important step. If your team is not exactly where you’d like them to be, we’d like to help you get there.

Surviving Holiday Conflict

If you find that 'the most wonderful time of the year’ is instead filled with tension, you’re not alone. Conflict often comes from difficulties associated with negotiating time spent among loved ones and over concerns of past conflicts re-igniting or new ones emerging. Add in a little too much "merry-making" and issues of addiction and inappropriate behavior can sneak up on you, too.  While stressful on their own, these events are then co-mingled with what are supposed to be joyous and happy celebrations, often making survival the real goal of the holiday season.

Here are some suggestions for handling these difficult situations – and getting through this year’s holiday season - unscathed.

1. Identify the Problem – Are you concerned about cutting short your time with an ailing relative? Do you worry about the impact of Uncle Bob’s drinking on your teenage kids? Is your sister always dragging you back into childhood conflicts? Whatever is causing you anticipatory stress needs to be revealed for healing to take place.
2. Have a Plan – Think through your situation, and decide what is best for you over the holidays. If you have a spouse or child, consider their interests as well. Then talk about it with someone you trust to give you feedback and support. While your ideal solution may be impractical or overly selfish, it helps to start out by knowing what you want, and identifying what matters most to you. Once you do, making a compromise or stretching your comfort level will have a clear purpose and intent.
3. Expect it – Sure, it seems foolish to worry about something that may not happen, but it’s on your mind anyhow. Avoiding such thoughts leaves you unprepared and caught off guard when the problem comes up. Expecting the problem means having a contingency plan. Perhaps it’s to leave the house if Uncle Bob starts drinking, or to plan to say “I always enjoy seeing you, please let’s not argue” if your sister provokes you. Being prepared will help you to feel happier and more confident leading up to those difficult encounters.
4. Enlist an Ally – Your spouse, or another relative/loved one (who will be with you over the holidays), can prove to be a valuable asset as you navigate difficult waters. Explain to them the problem and your plan for coping with it, and ask for their assistance. Let them know if you’d like them to intervene, come to your defense, or simply provide moral support.
5. Share Your Decisions – Often conflict occurs because a person’s actions or behaviors are surprising and misunderstood. To prevent your self-preservation strategy from causing new issues, keep others informed of the decisions you make. Let your Mother know why you’ll be spending a disproportionate amount of time with your in-laws this year. Tell the host/hostess that you plan to leave if Uncle Bob starts drinking or your sister becomes unrelenting in her conversations with you. By letting others know your boundaries, you help them to honor them.

We hope these ideas help, and that your holiday season  is a whole lot brighter as a result.  Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My Favorite Gift Ideas

Holiday gift giving is often stressful. Whether it's finding that individually perfect gift for each person on your list, the challenge of heading to an overcrowded mall, or the strain on your pocketbook, gift-giving can often feel less than joyful.

An idea that I always enjoy - is the handmade or homemade gift. Whether I'm the recipient of someone's thoughtful efforts,
or the gift giver, there is a special feeling that goes along with giving or getting a gift that is born out of a person's creativity and efforts.

It seems the most difficult part in offering such a thoughtful gift is simply in thinking of something to make.

Here are some ideas of homemade and handmade gifts that might work for you:
1. Cookies, candies, breads, or other baked goods
2. Recipe in a jar (good for baked goods, chili, soup, etc.)
3. Artistic project - A painting, stained glass, wood-working, etc.
4. A framed (enlarged) photograph that you have taken
5. Knit or sewn items
6. Create a scrapbook or photo album
7. Create a recipe book (with a treasured recipe or two inside!)
8. Jewelry
9. Compilation CD of their favorite tunes
10. Compilation DVD of cherished memories caught on video
11. Gift of skill or time (gardening, babysitting, organizing)
12. Promise a "date" - (cook a special meal to enjoy with them)

There are so many more ideas than I can think of. I encourage readers of this entry to add their own as comments below so that we can all benefit from the ideas and creativity of others!

Happy Gift-Making!