Business, Career, Personal Development, Talents

Our Obsession With Titles

We can’t help ourselves. We have a love affair with titles. Director at Large, President & CEO, the Marketing Manager… we’re obsessed! It’s as if we somehow put so much importance on letters formed together and string them along our names… Jane Doe, MBA. And the more letters, by all means, the better! You only have a bachelors degree? Yikes! Maybe one day you’ll be more prestigious. A liberal arts degree, well that’s just not as useful to the world as the bachelor of science.

Don’t misunderstand me, I believe in recognizing hard work. The admin who has worked tirelessly for years to obtain the CEO status, she’s well-deserved of her role. The doctor who put in thousands of dollars and hours of study, hat is off to you. It’s a cause and effect world, sowing and reaping exists and therefore those who put in more should rightfully get more out of it. This can be demonstrated in the military very well. You don’t move up the ranks by not putting in effort and taking on a lot of responsibility. You don’t become Commodore of your ship overnight. There is a reason why there are titles and they help us distinguish where we all fit and maintains order.

On the flip side, there are those that don’t deserve their titles. I think the military is the easiest place for us to accept them because we realize they are earned and there is sacrifice involved in good leadership. There’s no greater degree of sacrifice than in the military. But it’s harder for us to accept the Executive’s position because I think to some degree, we don’t trust the white color corporate world the same way. And how many times has it been seen that the “Executive Admin” aka glorified secretary, did more of the role than the President or CEO? I’m not saying that it’s always that way, but many times titles get sticky and those who really perform more of the job functions many times are not properly recognized.

The problem becomes further created when we become obsessed with them, when they provide identity. Suddenly I don’t feel important without the alphabet after my name. And I think this is a problem because it perpetuates this idea, this theme that I grapple with, of finding our value as people in what we do rather than in who we are. Because what happens when you lose that job, and you aren’t the CEO or the Director of Selection? What happens when a disability makes it impossible for you to perform at the level you used to? Or your department gets out-sourced? What do we do, and who are we when the titles are gone?

I think it’s safe to say that there’s a difference between working hard and trying to be our best to serve others versus working hard to prove something. I can say that because I’ve done that–and it just leads to burn out. It’s an insecure way of being that leaks into our professional world and causes us to seek advancement and title for the wrong reasons. Bettering ourselves, there’s nothing wrong with that. Learning more and serving a wider range of clients, that’s what we should be doing. But it can never be for the reason of self-identity and that’s what this title-crazed culture has become. We should seek to serve and do our best, the titles will just be a symptom and by-product of our service.

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Business, Career, Talents, Work Freedom

Menial Help, Menial Pay

I think one of the most important work issues and probably one of the least understood, is regarding how team members are paid. This problem of how to pay and what to pay seems to really bother both employers and team members alike. There are so many facets to it: how much can the employer afford, what are the skills worth, how long has the person been on your team, etc. But paying properly can really make or break a team–and a business.

When I thought about it more carefully, I considered, does it really matter that much? If your needs are met and you enjoy your job, then what does the pay really matter? Of course, most people want to earn as much as they can for various reasons, mostly quality of life, and I completely understand and can relate. But I wondered if there was even a deeper reason why we want to be paid well.

I heard it once said by Dave Ramsey, and it’s well-put, “Paying people what they are worth is a sign of respect”. Wow. When I heard that statement, it really hit home to me. It’s not all about the items we can acquire, it’s not about the titles–it’s respect. And part of respecting your team, means paying your team what they are worth.

It’s not about asking for something unrealistic if you have low skills. Low skills equal low pay grades. The Wendy’s worker should not be paid the same for those skills as the digital marketer. It’s not that the Wendy’s worker couldn’t one day learn those skills, but at Wendy’s they are only valuable as the hamburger preparer. Therefore, there shouldn’t be so much pushback in why they are paid accordingly, because their value in the marketplace is just not equivalent to the digital marketer. The more you learn, the more value you add to yourself, the more you rightfully should be paid. Now whether the employer you’re with is willing and/or able to do that, is another matter entirely.

If you are not paying properly, eventually, your team will leave. People need motivation. There are some ways you can do that on your team, but a big and obvious way is by paying properly and having incentive programs. I worked on a team once that did this well. There was a clear path to raises and bonuses, and seeing that, to know it was coming, was very motivating. I’ve also had the opposite be true. I’ve had employers that myself or my friends worked for who thought they were “saving” money by cutting back for their team. Big mistake. Without your team, you are nothing. They are your most valuable resource and to keep a good team, you must respect them enough to pay them what they are worth and to create opportunity for growth via incentives. If I see nothing to work for, no bonus for helping the company, I’m less inclined to produce for them. “Saving” money on your team–doesn’t work and isn’t an investment.

Conclusively, build your team. Create a clear path to grow and realize that they are an investment in your company. Without that sign of respect in their pay, they may leave–and they should.

Business, Career, Talents

The Value of the Follow-Up

Probably the most valuable letters I say in an email at my first job… F/U.

Yup–follow-up. And that’s what we did. That was my job for the first three years post college. It was to follow-up. But it’s more than that, it’s actually two letters that define customer service.

But think about it–it’s the most undervalued part of customer service, the most forgotten and yet, the most valuable. No client, customer, patient, wants to be forgotten. It makes you feel like you spent money on a service or good, and no one cared how it went. For example, you order a dinner at a fancy restaurant. I don’t know about you, but I want my server to follow-up on how my food was, to see if I need anything, etc. I will actually spend MORE money, if I have an attentive server. The same goes for using a wedding planner, photographer, graphic designer… I want to know that the business I’m using is paying attention.

I find that when a business doesn’t follow up with me, I get annoyed…downright cranky. I feel like they took my money but don’t value me or my time. That’s what made my first boss so good at his job. It’s not natural talents, abilities, or superhuman powers that he possessed, but just being really good at customer service and doing it over… and over…and over again. That’s what makes such a great entrepreneur, a business owner. Because, at the end of the day, if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. And if you can’t perform 110% in serving customers, then you will not thrive in business.

So follow-up, touch base, and be on the offense with customers not the defense. You should be in front of them and anticipating their needs before they have them. Think of yourself as the server in the restaurant, expecting the next need, the next round of drinks, the coffee and dessert. Those are the best servers who get the best tips because they provide the best service, and that exemplifies good business.

 

 

Photo credit: http://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=8c9u5Rst&id=18C9C56415621EE9ED37647FA786400B18D4B05E&q=waitress&simid=607997474434450206&selectedIndex=47&ajaxhist=0

Career, Family, Female Entrepreneurs

The “Mom Guilt”; It Started Early

To be honest, I had a very easy pregnancy. I wouldn’t say I “loved” being pregnant, but I was able to be fairly normal and myself right up until the end. I couldn’t relate to those that were having a tough time getting around or others who had to leave work early. I worked up until the bitter end and loved every moment of being in my routine and in my own element.

Then I was told I’d need to be induced due to low fluids…and so my labor began and it was a difficult one to say the least. But we all managed and recovered. Three days after my C-section, I felt a little sore, but again, fairly normal and returned to being more myself in the weeks that followed delivering my son.

He could not have been more cute if he tried. The cooing noises he made, the little snorts and fidgets, it was all adorable, and I loved it. However, after about a week and a half post delivery, all I wanted was my normal back, my routine. I loved spending time with him, bonding with him and my husband and watching all the new skills he learned. But I felt like I was losing myself by only being with him.

I had always imagined that I’d take a full maternity leave, that somehow that’s what good moms do. It’s like this invisible pressure, if you love your kids and want to take good care of yourself, you’ll take the time to rest. And I’d always assumed that I’d want that time to sit it out and rest. But after that week and a half passed, it became two weeks, and I was ready to not be home. I wanted to see my co-workers, to be needed, to run some errands, something!

I didn’t want my identity to somehow be lost.

And as I had those feelings, I started to feel really guilty. Because wouldn’t a good mom want to stay home? I mean, wouldn’t they take more time to be home, after all, they aren’t little forever?? Why go back to work after only two weeks post delivery, who does that?? All those thoughts plagued me and it took a lot of time taking to friends and family to get them out.

But I finally came to the conclusion that if I feel better and fulfilled, I’ll be a better mom. For some women, that may mean being a stay at home mom, or taking a longer leave. For others, they may feel like they need to get back to work, even part time just to get their bearings back. It won’t look the same for every woman, and I never thought this would be me, but I think it’s the best decision I could have made.

When I come home, I’m a bit more fresh for my son, I appreciate him more, and I feel more put together since I was prepped for work, instead of being in sweats all day. When I come home, I see him playing with his Grandpa and Nana, and how happy they are to share love with him. Motherhood, it’s a challenge that nothing can prepare you for. But I believe it wasn’t meant to take over or to be done alone. Use the people and resources you have so that you can start to feel like yourself again too. There’s nothing more useless than a burnt out mother who resents her children because she tried to do it all or to be something she’s not. So if you’re the stay at home mom, embrace it. And for those who really want to get back to work, go for it–it doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy your children when you get home, and it doesn’t make you less of a mom.

Do motherhood your way.

 

 

photo credit: http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Guilt&view=detailv2&&id=82C2E2F678DDC901340752E0435ECDD17DB72323&selectedIndex=17&ccid=jCzbcWnl&simid=608053802902291952&thid=OIP.M8c2cdb7169e58a97a50a431cb849c33fo0&ajaxhist=0.

Business, Career, Change, Female Entrepreneurs, Growth, Healing, Uncategorized

WHY I HATE CRITICISM

It’s a fact of life; people are going to either give you positive or negative feedback. They might do it in a helpful way or in a more destructive fashion. It could be your boss, co-workers, friends or family. But the truth is, receiving criticism isn’t going to go away.

For me personally, I think I’ve always had a really hard time with criticism, both constructive and destructive. But when someone gives me the impression that I didn’t do a good job, or my idea was substandard, I almost feel defensive. How dare you tell me I didn’t work hard enough? How do you know what I put into this? It’s like I need to defend myself, my work. They could have told me I did something 99% correctly, but for some reason I don’t see that, my focus goes to the 1% that they are unpleased with. Know the feeling? 

I think this starts in childhood. We had a parent or adult figure in our lives that told us what we were doing wasn’t good enough…our grades weren’t perfect, our hair looked funny, or we didn’t do as well in sports as our peers. Then when we grow up, this voice doesn’t stop in our heads… it begs us to listen saying, “They weren’t too pleased…you screwed up again…”. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. Far too many of us live with that critical spirit and tone in our lives.

Nine times out of ten, our bosses, and family, and friends aren’t being critical of us. They aren’t trying to be destructive, they are trying to help. But when we hear them through the lens of our own hurt, our own past, we miss the message they are sending. Thus, it makes us defensive and appear wounded and snippy. I don’t think that is our intention. Today, and every day, let’s take some steps toward recovering our minds, silencing the negative voices, and hearing what our critics are really saying.

Business, Career, Change, Empowerment, Work Freedom

Why Transitions Are So Difficult

I recently went through a transition, a change. I’d been in a certain employment position for almost 4 years, I’d started the Monday after I’d graduated college. When I’d started, I’d thought that I’d found something I’d being doing for a long time. But what we don’t realize, is that as we grow, we change, our desires and what we want out of life changes…Here’s the good news; that’s totally okay! It is 100% okay to not fully enjoy what you are doing and to find what you like more. It’s okay to leave a friendship that isn’t right for you or a job that doesn’t fulfill like it used to. Sometimes, it’s God’s way of saying, there’s something better. 

Now this doesn’t mean that at the time you’d started on a particular path, that it wasn’t right for you then. Life, like nature, has seasons. There are so many lessons we learn from each experience that we take with us, people we meet that shape us, and a greater understanding of ourselves. But when that season is over, and you haven’t moved on to fall because you enjoyed summer so much, you end up missing on the next part of life, the richness fall could bring to your life, because you’re holding on to a season that is over.

The reason why I think transition and change is so hard for us, is because we like the familiar, the old, the comfy and the perceived “safe”. I have a family member who has a particular chair that is falling a part, but he won’t part with it, because “that’s his chair”, he’s always used it so why would he pitch it? We assume all change is bad, it’s going to be worse, because as our survival instincts kick in, they tell us, “stay safe”, “don’t try something new”. Even at certain restaurants that I frequent, I have a hard time trying a different menu item, because I already know what I like. We all get accustomed to our habits, and creature comforts.

As human beings, we don’t “do” change. But I’ve found that the more I give in to what lies ahead in the future, the less I cling to comfort, the more happy and joyful I become. I’ve given in to what my talents are, I’m not trying to make myself something I’ll never be. There’s a distinct role that we all play in life, and the world needs you to play your part. A screw driver can’t do the job of a wrench, not one is better than the other, they don’t compete for who looks more prestigious. But when you need a particular tool, you’re so glad you have what you need and that they don’t all become wrenches! In the same way, if we fight the changes in life, the seasons that are meant to center us, to bring us back to who we truly are, then we miss out. We truly miss out on our joy in life, because only our distinct gifts will truly fulfill us; living in the talents we were given.

Business, Career, Female Entrepreneurs, Growth, overcoming, Personal Development, Uncategorized

My Worth & Value: It’s Not in What I Do

I grew up in a home that stressed the importance of achieving. Good grades were hung on the refrigerator, special meals baked for getting into an academic club, and rewards for being the “best” reader in sixth grade. It was as if my mom almost loved my sister and I more if we brought home something that showed achievement. I remember one day she even told me to not bother coming home if I hadn’t gotten an “A” in a particular class. It was this tough, militant-minded way of going about reaching achievement that left me burnt out in college and confused as an adult.

I did very well in high school. I was the nerd, the track runner and a strong introvert. Most people in my classes would consider me fairly bright but also quite quiet. Once I got to college, I realized how much I was being challenged by particular classes; I chose to take the math and the science courses that would challenge me. You see, my mom always wanted me to take those courses because she said that writing and what I liked to do, didn’t have much value in the real world. So I set off on a course to do something I didn’t love as much, in an effort to make her proud or earn her love. I wanted to feel as though I’d accomplished something worthwhile, as if my identity could ever be found in what I did.

It took me changing my major, changing schools, to understand, I’ll always be me, a writer and a thinker, and that I also have a mind for business and organization. You see, you can’t really change the gifts and talents you have. Sometimes the world appears to put one gift or talent above another, but that doesn’t make yours any less important. We don’t know the impact we have on others, what we might bring to another person. To deny the world what we uniquely have from our Creator, is both wasteful and selfish.

After college, I tried to find meaning and acceptance in my careers choices; being a go-to person, someone others could count on, and knowing all the answers. And honestly, sometimes I was. But whenever I was criticized, it felt like my very core was being “attacked”, my sense of accomplishment dwindling. That’s when I realized, whether I’m super liked in my position, whether or not my title is impressive, I’m still Christina Bennett. I’m enough because I’m me, not because of my gifts or talents, but solely because of who God made me from day one. There isn’t another person that is just like me or you, or can ever touch the world in the same way. Now, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with goal-setting and trying to achieve. I would encourage all to set clear goals to live an intentional and impactful life. However, when your sense of worth and value is wrapped up in your title or station in life, it becomes a problem. Because what happens when one day, you don’t have that “thing” anymore to say you are… what happens to you then?

So slowly, I’m unlearning the desire to keep up with the Jones’ accomplishments, unlearning the need to be first or to have all the answers. I’m bringing what I have to the table and honestly, it’s enough. I’m letting go of the voice of my mother saying I needed and “A” on a paper to come home. Unlearning the need to accomplish things like my friends or family do. Because we aren’t the same people, with the same gifts so why would we ever think that we should achieve the same things? It’s a lie we believe, one we tell ourselves that we should be like someone else. But just like a fox can dig and bury things in the ground, they don’t expect to fly like the eagle can. And likewise, the eagle doesn’t question why it can’t dig like the fox. He accepts he was meant to soar in the sky.

So whatever you are, the eagle, the fox, be “you”. Do what you’re meant to accomplish. It’s your life to live, your impact to make, so make it exceptionally you.

 

 

Photo Credit: http://iysigirl.com/wpcontent/uploads/2012/07/bigstockphoto_accomplishment_-_road_sign_273784811.jpg

Business, Career, Impact

Leaders vs. Managers & Team Member Relationships

What comes to mind when you hear the word “leader”? Inspirational, motivating, guiding, patient, humble, team-player, sacrificial, and strong, are some descriptive words that come to mind for me. I think of someone who has a vision and shares that vision with a group of people, to inspire them toward that same vision or goal. I see them drawing out the talents in others to create that same vision and to make it a reality.

To paint a picture, I knew a business owner who treated his team like family. He was blue-collar and a very smart man. He paid his guys well even when other companies were cutting back. On Fridays, he’d order some pizza and drinks and have all his team members take a break to enjoy a treat. When he say someone doing some exceptional work, he made a point to go over to him and let him know. Every Christmas, he put on a huge party with no limits for the workers and their families. He wasn’t that leader who spent all his time in a padded office, disconnected from his team but he saw the value in connecting with his team, his business and getting to know his team members. Sadly, he passed away in 2013, but his ripple effect, his legacy is still discussed today because of how much he cared.

You see, your team members can tell if you as a leader care or not; it can be felt. We are humans, not robots, and not transactional creatures. Life, even your work, is all about relationships. If you’re going to call yourself a leader, but you don’t take the time to connect with your team, to be in tune to the goings-on in the office setting, or to do some of the “grunt” work from time to time, just to show you’re on their side, then your impact won’t be as strong as it could be.

Many business owners and leaders decide to outsource a lot of their decision-making to others on the team, managers, bosses, supervisors or other team members. But the issue with doing this is that many times the leader, the one who inspires and uplifts the team, is then not the person that you ever see again. The vision the leader may have may not shift or be shared by the other middle men in the organization, and thus they become out of touch. The vision needs to be strong and shared amongst all, and the leader can’t outsource everything, or they may lose the morale of the team.

To my earlier example, that leader lead by example. He took the time to connect everyday, even if it was just for a moment with his team members. He was willing to do the dirty work alongside his team for the comradery. It makes me think to a biblical example. How Christ lead by example, he didn’t ask his apostles to do anything he didn’t do. He washed dirty feet, and ate with the worst of the worst. It’s that kind of humility that speaks to people. It’s walking alongside your team and serving them well. It doesn’t mean you walk away from them and outsource your business but rather you connect, you lean in.

It’s in that attitude and spirit that companies thrive and team members feel valued. It’s business at it’s best.

 

Business, Career, HigherEducation, Uncategorized

The Trouble with College: Why it’s not helping Students

When students get their high school diploma, it seems like the world couldn’t be sweeter. They have their colleges lined up, their dreams in front of them; it’s an exciting time. College is supposed to be this bridge to adulthood, the place where your dreams can come to fruition via the “perfect” degree program and study abroad opportunities. But is college really preparing students for real world experiences? Is the insane amount of student loan debt, worth a private school pedigree? Is there actually a J-O-B at the end?

Now as a disclaimer, I do believe in education and that certain programs and degrees can open up doors for students that otherwise, they couldn’t have been able to reach. However, I do believe colleges are doing their students a big disservice.

When you go into the financial aid office, they are fully ready to sign you up for loans, federal loans, Parent PLUS loans, or even to suggest private loans. There’s no emphasis on getting students to work part time while in school or discussions on whether your degree in Medieval history, will help you land a job. Why are they not discussing the fact that your degree should be marketable in today’s economy? Why not work with current companies and employers and discuss what positions they are in need of, and to then design degree programs to fit those needs? There’s so much complaining of the government and the student loan crisis and to them I’d say, I agree. But there is plenty blame to put on colleges and universities who live in a fake academia world where there doesn’t need to be a job at the end of this academic road.

They also don’t discuss what jobs will be available with those degree programs. For example, an English student maybe should learn to blog, periscope, get out on social media with their craft. But no. All the emphasis is drawn toward the scholarship of Shakespeare or British literature. There’s nothing wrong with learning about that but it needs to have a medium or an outlet for a student to make themselves marketable in that same field. There needs to be a practical way of getting a student to use their education in today’s market.

There’s also no discussion on ROI, Return on Investment for degree programs. For example, a Petroleum Engineering student, while a more marketable field, should know how much money he or she is fronting and what they’ll then make in that career, for the next 30 years. There should be more discussion in the offices before you sign up for a program or loans, hey, this may cost you $300,000 if you go to this school and it will only payout $40K a year maybe, assuming you can find a teaching job. Leading students down the rabbit hole and making them think their degree is the ticket to Willa Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, is wrong, dishonest, and misleading.

In today’s world, I think that degree certificate programs, internships, and state schools are all great investments in your educational future. They can provide all the necessary “today’s world” education and can help you determine what you actually like, for a fraction of the cost. But for students to go into college thinking that it’ll guarantee a job, or a job you would like, that’s just a pipe dream and false.

If colleges want to survive, they need to act like businesses. To do this, they need to have better career track counseling BEFORE they sign students up for programs. Get students educated on what jobs are out their, what employers want. They should stress internships and work on developing better relationships with local businesses. Career centers need to reach out to students to get them in the right programs for their interests by work with current companies to find out the needs and demands of today. By doing this, that will bring in the alumnae money back into the system, because their graduates won’t be broke and it can be a functional, self-sustaining process.

 

 

Photo Credit: http://www.businesspundit.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/college.jpg.