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The Case Against Settling

Ok, I admit it. I lost my mojo. I started 2010 off with a bang and a long list of mantras like “I’m all in to win in 2010!” I was genuinely excited about the possibilities the new year had to offer. And then life happened. I was working twice as hard for half the money. My efforts to conserve money were upset by necessary car and house repairs. A potential client fell through. And on top of that, I was facing another birthday and my dating prospects seemed to be evaporating before my eyes! Here it was only two and a half months into the new year, and I felt like my New Year’s Resolutions were a bust. Maybe it was time just to get realistic about my life. That’s right – time to settle.

In “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough,” author Lori Gottlieb encourages women to throw out their lists of must haves and to take a more realistic approach to finding Mr. Right.   While I must admit that being realistic about certain things is a necessary part of life, I must argue against this notion of “settling.”  No one who has ever achieved greatness has ever settled for good enough.   It was probably “good enough” to be able to exchange information with people when you ran into them on the street or in church.  But it’s GREAT to be able to pick up the phone and call someone to let them know how you’re doing – thank goodness Alexander Graham Bell didn’t settle.   It was “good enough” to board a ship  to sail for days to a foreign land.   But it’s GREAT to be able to board a plane and be there in a matter of hours – thank goodness the Wright Brothers didn’t settle.  It’s probably “good enough” if I keep my head down, go to a job that pays a decent wage, and go out with any man that’s breathing, but how GREAT is it to stand tall, work on a business that I’d love to do even if I wasn’t getting paid for it, and date guys who are intelligent, purpose-driven, and fun to be with?

So, I’ve decided to stay the course and keep believing and dreaming.  I’ve got my mojo back.  I’m once again all in to win in 2010!  And I refuse to settle.


How to Win in 2010 – Setting and Keeping Your Goals

Happy New Year! Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? I know one that I should have made – eliminate procrastination! I’ve been struggling to write this blog entry for about a week now.

If you’re like me, you look forward to the start of a new year as a time when you get to push the “restart” button on everything you planned to do the year before. “This is the year that I’ll finally get in shape,” we tell ourselves. Or we say “this year I’m going to finally take my business to new heights.” And then there’s the dreadful “this year, I’ll no longer procrastinate!” But then about a month (or a week) into the new year, we seem to fall back into our old self destructive and unproductive habits.

Why is it so difficult to stick to New Year’s resolutions? Most experts say it is because most of us make vague declarations rather than setting measurable goals with specific action steps.   Make this the year you actually keep your New Year’s resolutions by keeping the following tips in mind:

1.  Make the goal measurable or at least visual:  Some goals, like weight loss, naturally lend themselves to measurement.  If you have this type of goal, be sure to include a specific number or other measurement tool against which you’ll be able to measure your progress (I’ll lose 20 pounds by December 31st).  Other goals, however, aren’t as easily measureable, such as “research new marketing methods for my business.”  The steps to reach that goal are measurable, however, and should be identified upfront to help you stay on target (for example, meet with five marketing consultants by the end of the first quarter).

2.  Have a mix of lofty goals and easy goals:  If everything on your list is like climbing Mount Everest, you may get discouraged and wind up feeling like you failed to accomplish anything at the end of the year.  If, however, you have a mix of some you will be able to accomplish fairly easily, you may gain the confidence needed to tackle the biggies.  And limit the number of goals you set for yourself to a realistic number.  A spreadsheet of 25 might take you all year just to write out the action steps, let alone actually implement them.

3.  Write down your goals and action steps:  This step is the one that experts agree makes all the difference between success and failure.  In your mind, create a vivid picture of your desired outcomes.  Then put that vision on paper.   Writing down the goals helps you “commit” to them and writing the action steps with timetables gives you a plan of action.

For more tips on keeping your New Year’s resolutions, check out the website of goal guru Stephen Covey.  He offers advice, books, and even an on-line goal setting system to keep you accountable.  https://www.stephencovey.com/


When You Wish Upon A Star – A Princess PR Makeover

This weekend I went to see the latest Disney movie “The Princess And The Frog” with my friend and her daughter (I had to tag along with someone with a child so I wouldn’t look odd sitting through a “kiddie” movie, although I’ve been dying to see it !). I absolutely loved it! Not only is it a great story and message, but it’s also a great example of public relations done well.

It’s the story of an African-American young woman who has dreamed about opening a restaurant in New Orleans ever since she was a girl and her journey in making her dream a reality. Although it incorporates classic Disney themes of wishing on stars and kissing frogs with prince potential, this is not your typical Disney movie. Not only is Tiana the first African-American lead character in a Disney movie, she’s also atypical in that her dream isn’t fueled by the “I need a man to complete me” theme, but in the spirit of being her own boss! She’s not passively waiting on things to happen by just wishing on stars – she repeatedly notes that she’s making her own dreams come true through saving her money, hard work, and determination. A great message for all of us, both young and old.

Disney went to great lengths to make sure they got things right with their first African-American lead character. They sought the advice of noted African Americans and organizations such as Oprah and the NAACP.   They also researched New Orleans culture and landmarks and made last minute changes to correct inaccuracies.   http://www.nola.com/movies/index.ssf/2009/12/the_princess_and_the_frog_refl.html  Anyone in business would benefit from this example. When expanding your brand or seeking to reach a new audience, do your research, conduct focus groups and get advice from those who are in that target market. That way you can protect the integrity of your brand as well as make sure your message is received in a positive way. And that background research and work will go a lot further in making your business dreams come true than just wishing on stars!

The Art of Gift Giving in the Workplace

I love the holidays, but gift giving is always a challenge, especially in the workplace.  Do you have to buy your boss a gift?  What types of gifts are appropriate for employees?  Here are a few tips to help make workplace gift giving a little easier:

Don’t get personal– Perfumes and jewelry are too intimate for workplace gifts (if you’re trying to give a coworker a hint about his personal hygiene with cologne, try the direct approach instead; if you think a little blue box will help you score a date with your secretary, save yourself the HR hangover that may ensue after New Year’s with that move!)

Do be thoughtful– Although coffee mugs and paperweights are easy, most of us have run out of room for these little knickknacks.  Why not instead give a donation to your boss’ favorite charity in her honor?  Many organizations will alert the person that a gift has been made in his or her name (Dress for Success Atlanta, on whose board I currently serve, does this and is currently running a “Give the Gift of Success” campaign).

 Be considerate of other’s religious beliefs or lack thereof– Remember that your boss or coworkers may have different religious beliefs than you and may even be offended by cards and gifts with religious overtones or messages.  It’s better to stick with “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” cards and wrapping paper.  And while you’re at it, you better stay away from gifts that have political messages or sexual innuendo as well (as much as you may have enjoyed it, your coworker may not appreciate a copy of Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue or President Obama’s Audacity of Hope).

Be inclusive – You may want to consider going in as a team to buy the boss’ gift (it will look less like brown nosing!), or if you’re the boss, buying a gift your entire team can enjoy, such as an upgraded coffee maker.   Obviously, there may be some people at work that you are closer to than others.  Make arrangements to exchange “special” gifts for your workplace friends outside of the office.

Check the policy– Your HR office or employee handbook will be able to provide guidance on any policies that may exist regarding giving gifts in your office.  Keep this in mind for gifts for your customers and vendors as well.  Many companies have strict policies regarding the monetary value or types of gifts that can be accepted. 

There’s no need for gift giving in the workplace to be the cause of more stress for your holiday season.  After all, it’s the thought that counts.  Just keep your thoughts P.C. and you’ll be fine!


Crisis Communications 101 – Lessons from Tiger

When the story first broke that golf great Tiger Woods had crashed his car into a fire hydrant after an alleged argument with his wife, I resisted blogging about it. After all, everyone’s human and mistakes happen. But after he released a statement acknowledging his infidelity several days after a number of accusations of his cheating surfaced, I felt compelled to address it.

It’s not for me to judge Tiger’s behavior (although I’m highly disappointed in him). But I can use the incident as a teachable moment about what NOT to do when a crisis occurs, whether it’s of your own making or due to circumstances beyond your control.

Whenever an issue arises that will likely hit the media or otherwise be made known to your customers, you are better off getting in front of it and addressing it head on rather than letting it fester.

Essentially, Tiger should have ripped the bandage off the wound in one clean sweep when the story first broke. Instead he slowly peeled it away, which only created more curiosity and media interest. The fact that the story has changed somewhat from his first statement (“the many false, unfounded and malicious rumors that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible”) to his second (“I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves”) makes him appear less credible.

While nothing but time will heal his image and possibly his marriage, getting in front of the situation immediately would have definitely sped up this process.

(For an example of someone who limited the damage by getting his story out before the media did, see my previous blog entry on David Letterman).


My Authentic Self – An Ode to the Entrepreneur

On my recent flight to Las Vegas to celebrate a good friend’s 40th birthday, a sense of joy came over me. I really love that I can take this kind of trip without having to worry about who is looking for me back at the office. I think what I’ve been craving all these years at work was freedom – freedom to be creative, freedom to define my career path, freedom to schedule how and when I work.

Of course, there will always be some constraints on those things (after all, I am accountable to clients and deadlines). Still, I am finding great joy in controlling my work life. I guess I was a control freak and didn’t even know it!

Being out on my own has really allowed me to be my authentic self. It has allowed all aspects of my life to truly be integrated. My day is a blend of working for paying clients and doing the work I love for non-profits and networking with new and exciting people. It does mean that I work longer hours to get everything done, but for now at least, this really works for me. I don’t feel like I have to wait until my lunch break or the end of the day to be myself. I AM myself all day long. What a concept!


The Business Case Against Being Rude

Recently, I was in the check-out line at a store when the cashier’s cell phone went off.   Imagine my amazement when she actually answered the phone!  Apparently, this is not uncommon.  A friend of mine from my book club told me that she once had a doctor who answered her cell phone (which had a rap ring tone) in the middle of her procedure.  Obviously, she no longer goes to this doctor.

On the other end of the spectrum are those people who refuse to return your calls, texts or e-mail messages in a timely fashion.  By the time they call you back, the opportunity has passed or you’ve forgotten why you called in the first place!

In this day and age of constant contact through technology, it seems business people have forgotten the basics of respectful and courteous behavior.   In her new book, The Power of Respect, Deborah Norville discusses the business case for treating people with respect in the workplace.  According to Ms. Norville, acting in a respectful manner leads to higher sales, lower employee turnover, and less exposure to lawsuits.   http://www.dnorville.com/product/the-power-of-respect-benefit-from-the-most-forgotten-element-of-success-2 

It really does make sense, doesn’t it?  If you treat your customers in a rude and demeaning way, they won’t return.   I can tell you from my experience as an employment lawyer that many lawsuits could have been avoided had the manager better explained her reasons for selecting one employee over another for a promotion or had not belittled the employee in front of his peers.   But, as many grandmothers often say, common sense ain’t common nowadays.  Hopefully, though, individuals and companies will realize that in these economic times, one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is to provide respectful, courteous service.


The HR and PR Implications of David Letterman

I have been a HUGE fan of David Letterman for years.   One of the reasons why I think he’s so hilarious is that his humor also demonstrates that he’s extremely intelligent.  That’s why I was somewhat shocked at his recent revelation that he had been the victim of a plot to blackmail him about his sexual relationships with some of the women who worked on his show.  http://abcnews.go.com/entertainment/david-letterman-admits-sexual-affairs-staffers-details-extortion/story?id=8728424

What’s the big deal, you ask – after all, he wasn’t married at the time and they’re all consenting adults, right?  I must admit this was my first reaction as well.   But the employment lawyer/hr consultant in me quickly took over and brought to mind why this situation is fraught with problems.   First, because these women ultimately reported to Mr.  Letterman, he opened up his company World Wide Pants (man, I bet he regrets that name now!) to potential liability for sexual harassment lawsuits from the women themselves.  In my legal practice, I have seen many work relationships that allegedly started out as consensual become the basis for a lawsuit when one party decides to end it or otherwise feels disrespected.   Second, he has also opened the company up to potential lawsuits from the coworkers who were not “involved” with Mr. Letterman, who may now allege that they were subjected to a hostile work environment because of a sexually-charged atmosphere, or that they were passed over for promotions and other opportunities (like appearing on air as one of his alleged romantic interests did) because they refused to engage in a sexual relationship with him.   No matter what the actual merit is to these types of claims, investigating and defending these matters are expensive and can be a huge distraction from the day-to-day matters of the business. 

The matter is also a huge public relations nightmare.   I am definitely not a believer in the adage “any publicity is good publicity.”   I’m sure CBS and Mr. Letterman would much rather be focused on garnering buzz from the show’s guests and sketches rather than Mr. Letterman’s own scandal.   To his credit, however, I think Mr. Letterman did do something right – he put the issue out there before anyone else could.   This is a great lesson in crisis communications from which all businesses and individuals can benefit.   Unfortunately, at some point, we’ll all have less than favorable information to report.  The best thing you can do is deal with it head on and inform your constituents on how you will solve the problem. 


Welcome to Kara’s Blog

Thanks so much for visiting Kara Thompson Enterprises, LLC, and my blog.  Please visit again for my musings on public relations, events, and human resources matters as well as current events.   Hopefully, this blog will provide you with ideas and information for your own business and will serve as a springboard for conversations about issues facing business owners today.   Look for new posts about once a week.