Monday Mornings with Madison

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The Power of a Winning Smile

It used to be that a salesperson or company employee could deal with a client for months or years by phone, mail and (most recently) by email and never know what they looked like or vice verse. The advent of social media, digital photography and video has changed all that. Most businessmen and professionals now have a profile on at least one social networking site (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, etc.). Such profiles often feature the person’s picture. Suddenly, a salesperson or employee is not just a faceless name and a headless voice. A picture makes the person ‘real’. Seeing an actual face establishes a deeper connection. And, arguably, the most important part of a person’s facial expression is the smile.

Ironically, if you Google the term “winning smile,” the top ranking results are for dental services. In the world of search engines, smile equals teeth. But in the world of business, a smile actually equals trust. A person’s look / expression can either inspire trust and confidence or conjure doubt and misgivings. A genuine smile (not to be confused with a grimace or fake smile) generally denotes pleasure, sociability, happiness and/or amusement. Smiling is something that is understood by everyone despite culture, race, or religion. Internationally known, cross-cultural studies have confirmed that smiling is a positive means of communication throughout the world. There is even evidence that smiling actually has a positive effect on business, sales and ultimately the bottom line. Continue reading

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Confidentiality in the Workplace

A merger. A game-changing deal. A new product launch. A major policy shift. New cutting-edge technology. An acquisition. A change in leadership. In today’s world of big business and even bigger transactions, confidentiality is of paramount importance. Yet, with today’s high tech, lightning-fast communication tools – such as social media, text messages, flash drives, email, cell phones, and the cloud – hot news can spread faster than a California forest fire. In small businesses, where employees feel more like family than coworkers, private information can spread rapidly through a company and beyond. In big businesses, employees may feel even more disconnected from their employer and ignore their fiduciary responsibility to safeguard company or client information. Indeed, it may even seem at times that the fastest way to disseminate information is to tell employees that information is confidential.
However, company employees are expected to treat all the information in the workplace with care and caution… not just hot news, but any and all information that is sensitive or privy. Every employee at an organization should be prudent enough not to disclose any information that the organization considers sensitive and confidential unless and until consulting with and getting permission from a supervisor. So how can a company ensure that the private information of its clients, vendors, employees and workplace remains just that: private? There are a number of strategies companies can implement that promote the values of privacy, discretion and confidentiality in the workplace. Continue reading

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To Get Satisfied Customers, Start By Controlling Expectations

No matter the business or industry and no matter if they are referred to as clients or customers, the key to their satisfaction often starts long before the product or service being provided is received. Customer satisfaction actually begins with expectations… and those expectations are often set by salespeople who are trying to make the sale. But if a customer’s expectations far exceed or outstrip the level and quality of the good or service to be provided, it is inevitable that the client will be disappointed or worse. If high expectations can result in disappointment, then the logical conclusion would be to lower customer expectations. The problem is that if a customer’s starts out with low expectations from a company, there is a good chance they won’t be patronizing that establishment much longer. What is a company to do?
The first step is to understand that clients can be demanding and will sometimes have expectations that are unreasonable. Unmet expectations, even if they are totally unreasonable, are a recipe for unhappy clients. Setting (finding the happy medium between overpromising and under-delivering) and controlling client expectations is one of the best things any professional can do whether an attorney, Realtor, mortgage lender, property owner, or accountant. etc. There are steps to ensure you have a happy and satisfied client at each stage and the conclusion of a matter. Continue reading

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The Best Time To Work: Early Birds, Night Owls and Intermediates

Virtually every organism on the planet — from bacteria to humans — has a circadian clock, a biological timing mechanism that oscillates with a period of about 24 hours and is coordinated with the cycle of day and night. And while it runs independent of external cues, it is influenced by sunlight, temperature and food availability. This internal ‘body clock’ guides the best time for many activities. The observation of this process in humans was mentioned in Chinese medical texts dating back to around the 13th century. Referred to as the circadian rhythm – from the Latin ‘circa’ meaning “around” and diem meaning ‘day’, this timekeeper guides activities of the body including the best times to eat and sleep.

Almost every function of the body oscillates during the day according to this clock. For example, body temperature is regulated in part by this internal clock. The body’s temperature is lowest around 5am, just before waking in the morning, and highest in the late afternoon. This may have some bearing on heart attacks, which are most common in the morning hours. There are indications that the circadian clock also helps to regulate metabolism. When altered or hindered, that biological clock can wreak havoc in the body. For example, people can experience fatigue and dizziness, known as jet lag, when crossing time zones. Others suffer from depression when living in places with minimal daylight/sunlight such as Alaska.

This internal clock seems to also impact a person’s chronotype; that is whether the individual is a morning person, a night dweller or somewhere in between. A person’s chronotype affects their productivity at work. How so? While a person’s chronotype may not seem like an important employment variable, it has a profound impact on every employee’s creativity, attitude, problem solving skills, and ability to socialize. And those variables have a direct impact on the bottom line of every business. It helps to understand how a person’s chronotype should fit with their work hours and demands.
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Managing Employee Requests for Time Off

Vacations are necessary for employees (and employers) to rejuvenate and recharge their batteries. For most, a summer vacation is a care-free time away from the non-stop grind of ‘work, work, work.’ But for business leaders and division or department managers, the summer means an influx of requests for time off. The same is true during holiday seasons such as Passover/Easter, High Holy Days, and Thanksgiving. While vacations and holidays may be a happy-go-lucky time for some, it increases the workload and stress level for others. Multiple requests for leave may arrive at the same time. Vacation requests may coincide with other requests for time off such as maternity leave, family reunions, jury duty, and/or sick leave for medical issues. Conflicts are inevitable. What is a boss to do?
Processing employee requests for vacations or leave needn’t be a nightmare. To minimize leave stress, the key is to set clear policies and plan well in advance. When followed, there are best practices which can help minimize problems with those taking leave and those who will cover for them while they’re gone. Some of these strategies may seem strict or even harsh but, in the long run, ensures the overall well-being of both the staff and company. Continue reading

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Business Travel Tips

A half century ago, the average employee or manager at a company could go his or her entire life and never take a ‘business trip.’ Business travel was really just for top executives and traveling salesmen. That is no longer the case. Today, thanks to the Internet as well as and greater transportation options, companies have expanded their geographic reach. Local companies can provide their products or services regionally, nationally or even internationally, with the only restrictions typically from government rules and regulations. With such massive market opportunities has come a greater need for employees to visit clients and potential clients that are farther and farther away. Employees are also traveling more to conferences and trade shows to gain knowledge and hone skills. And, thanks to the expansion of travel choices – such as airlines that provide regular, non-stop flights to more cities and the expansion of fast rail travel — it has never been easier and more affordable for companies to send employees to far-away destinations for business. Likewise, companies are increasingly able to hire top talent in remote locations and have them commute to corporate headquarters as needed for meetings or training.
All in all, business travel made up over 48% of all air travel in the U.S. in 2012, which totaled over 460 million person-trips. However, although it is more affordable and there are more options, business travel comes with its own set of challenges for the person doing the traveling. Security considerations have made travel more tedious, exhausting and time-consuming. Time management is another challenge as employees look to make the most of travel time, and manage the impact of travel on family and personal life. For those new to business travel, it can be painful to learn the ins and outs of traveling. For those traveling for business more and more often, it can be just as challenging to lessen the impact of travel personally and at work. That said, there are ways to lessen the drain and maximize the value of business travel. Here are a few tips to make business travel a little easier.
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Mind Matters – Part 2

Everyone wants to have a good memory. It is essential for career success. But there are a multitude of factors that impede memory. Common memory reducers include things like lack of sleep, stress, vitamin deficiency and trauma. Less common memory cripplers include such factors as illness, diseases such as Alzheimers, poor blood flow to the brain, brain hemorrhages or injuries, and tumors. Beyond all these, there are a multitude of additional variables – such as ways that the brain works — that impact memory. Often memory is affected in ways that neurologists haven’t even begun to understand. Indeed, scientists agree that memory is one of the functions of brain that is still not well understood.

However, every day, researchers are learning more about memory…. How memory works and how it can be helped to work better. While memory research had previously been focused on what happens when a memory is first formed and on what happens when a memory is retrieved, it is the in-between time when it appears many aspects of memory storage happens. Numerous studies are finding that sleep is actually an important tool in the memory retention process. Here are the latest strategies and research on sleep and how it may be the key to improving memory.
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Mind Matters – Part 1

Professionals are always looking to have an edge over their competitors. Most people want to be successful, and bring their “A Game” to every endeavor. A big part of performance in any career is mental capacity, acuity, and agility. Memory plays a big part in that. However, until the last few decades, scientists and doctors understood very little about how memory works, where memories are stored, and what might improve or harm memory. But in the last 50 years, science has made great strides in understanding memory and the human brain.

Indeed, memory is one of the purposes of the brain, and it is described as the ability to protect acquired information consciously and connect it with the past. Having a good memory is a crucial ability in everyone’s life. History is peppered with scholars and leaders whose memories were so remarkable that they never forgot any information they learned in the past. Simonides of Ceos who lived 5th century BC was able to keep in his memory thousands of poems. Cicero was known for his ability to remember names. Ferdinand Marcos, the former Philippine dictator, claimed to have memorized complicated texts in one glance. He could recite the Philippine Constitution forward and backward. He also passed the Bar Exam in 1939 with an almost perfect score at 98%. When his score was contested and he was forced to retake an oral Bar Examination, he got a perfect score.

Everyone wishes they had such a good memory. However, many people complain about forgetfulness and weakness of memory. Nowadays, forgetfulness has become a very common problem among both young and older people. There are many variables that can impact memory. Let’s dub them memory killers. Here are just a few. Continue reading

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Time to Prepare

It seems that warnings to “be prepared” are everywhere. Across the central U.S., residents are being warned to prepare for possible tornados. Although tornado season had been relatively quiet this year — with only 72 tornadoes nationwide in April which was 70 percent below the 10 year average, — May brought a swath of tornados from Texas to Minnesota that included 16 twisters in a single day in North Texas and one that devastated the town of Moore, OK. Out west, California is already contending with forest fires in the Santa Barbara area and residents in fire-prone states are being warned to prepare for possible forest fires. States all along the Atlantic and Gulf coastlines just marked the beginning of this year’s Hurricane Season on June 1st. Last week was Hurricane Preparedness Week. Natural disasters lurk around every corner.

Just as individuals need to heed the warning to ‘be prepared,’ businesses are tasked with the same assignment. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preparation is primarily about anticipation and avoidance. Prevent loss. Avoid damage. Minimize harm. Is your business prepared for the next possible disaster… natural or otherwise? That depends on how much you’ve anticipated what could possibly go wrong and spent the time, energy and resources to prepare. It is time to prepare. Ready?
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It’s Showtime – Part 2

Once again, you or your company is sending a team to attend the biggest trade show or conference of the year. The top salespeople have been approved to attend. A lot of pre-planning was done to ensure that the company’s investment in sending a team to the show will generate a great return. After all, management will want to know after the show if the money spent was worthwhile. It is important to ensure that attendance at any trade show generates a solid return.
Preparing in advance is the first step. Everyone on the team needs to understand the goals for the conference and that the conference experience should improves business and enhance the bottom line. Here are practical tips for staff to get the most out of every trade show or conference attended. Continue reading

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