Monday Mornings with Madison

Monthly Archives:
June 2014

Do Less: Eight Things to Give Up – Part 2

There are many things people know they should give up because it’s just plain bad for them. Putting too much salt in food. Smoking cigarettes. Texting and driving. Drinking alcoholic beverages in excess. Getting sunburned often. Then there are a number of things people do that they think are perfectly fine but it turns out they aren’t. Chewing ice (which is bad for teeth). Protecting clothes using mothballs (which are stuffed with pesticides that are toxic and are ingested when smelled). Drinking skim milk instead of full-fat milk (which is fortified with powdered milk that oxidizes cholesterol and causes plaque buildup in arteries and increases the chance of a heart attack). Using a computer for more than three continuous hours a day (because it causes carpel tunnel syndrome, impacts posture, strains eyes, and – because of being increasingly sedentary – increases the propensity for heart disease).

Then there are things that people do professionally that they suspect are not good, but they do them anyway. In fact, deep down, most people know these behaviors negatively impact success. Yet, they do them anyway because they don’t truly realize just how harmful these behaviors can be. These are thought processes and actions that sink careers. There is much to be said about doing these things less in order to thrive more. Last week we looked at four such behaviors and thought processes to stop. Here are four more to give up. Continue reading

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Do Less: Eight Things to Give Up – Part 1

We are forever reading and hearing about the things we should do more. Exercise more. Eat more healthily. Walk more. Laugh more. Read more. At home and at work, there are evermore demands. Do. Do. Do more. Well, here’s a thought. Perhaps instead of doing more, we should be doing less?

When it comes to business and career, there are thoughts and behaviors we would be well advised to do less. In fact, what sets high achievers apart from others is not that they do a lot, but rather that they don’t do a lot. The most successful people have mastered the art of filtering. They eliminate unproductive thoughts and behaviors and focus only on valuable activities that produce maximum results. They cut away things that are distracting or destructive. The go-getters and rainmakers of the world (in every profession and occupation) strip away most time-wasting, mentally-depleting activities and thought processes that diminish, delay or drain productivity and reduce accomplishments.

So for a change, we recommend not adding to your list of things to do, but rather embracing a list of things to stop doing. That’s right. Do less! Give up these eight thought-process and behaviors and see what happens. Continue reading

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Travel Etiquette: Dos, Don’ts, and Super Don’ts

The solstice — which heralds the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere – officially begins on June 21st this year. In addition to hot weather, summer also ushers in the end of the K-12 school year and summer break for colleges and universities. It is the time of year when families and professionals alike take vacations. And it is also the time of year when many professional associations hold business conferences. All in all, it makes for a very busy travel period. That is why, in addition to packing sunscreen and sunglasses, travelers should also make sure to pack their best manners and patience. Travel can be daunting and it can also bring out the worst in people. Without a huge supply of good graces and respect for others, one person’s bad manners can ruin someone else’s good time or worse.

Case in point. It was a year ago that the government of China felt compelled to issue a set of official conventions to be followed by Chinese citizens when traveling. The guidelines were posted on the Chinese central government’s website. Behaviors that the Chinese government was hoping to eradicate amongst Chinese travelers included “spitting, littering, cutting in lines and defacing historic treasures”. What prompted this edict was the behavior exhibited by one 15-year old Chinese tourist visiting Egypt last year who carved his name into a 3500 year old Egyptian artifact/relic. In addition to causing an international uproar, the teenager’s rude behavior was harshly rebuked by his own people.

All would do well – whether traveling for business or pleasure – to follow well-established protocol for what is and is not socially acceptable behavior when going out into the world. Here are a few tips and cues to keep in mind (and share with others) when traveling…. And don’t assume you know better. While everyone agrees that bad manners are annoying or offensive, sometimes we don’t realize it may be us. Read on to ensure you don’t offend others! Continue reading

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Specialist or Generalist?

It seems that professionals and businesses alike are constantly pulled in two directions, like a rope in a tug of war. On the one hand, intense competition and increased complexity beckons for people and companies to specialize not only in a particular field, but to further specialize within that field to a subspecialty, and perhaps even a niche area within that subspecialty. The specialist is the authority on a given topic, with a depth of knowledge that far exceeds most others. The specialist may know very little about most things but knows practically everything there is to know about one particular thing.

On the other hand, because of the complexity of the world, there is also tremendous pressure to stay current with many different subjects. The generalist has a wide body of knowledge. While the generalist does not have deep expertise about any particular topic or area, he has a rudimentary (and perhaps sometimes even greater) understanding of a great many things. With this broader perspective, the generalist is able to see angles, connections, and big-picture implications that others might not see.

So which is better? This constant battle between specialist or generalist occurs in all businesses and for all types of professionals: accounting, law, finance, real estate sales, lending, finance, etc. What makes the most sense for today’s marketplace? Is it better for a professional to be a Jack-of-all-Trades or a Master-of-One? Should a company try to be all things to all people, or should it zero in on select services or specialties and do only that? There are solid arguments for either position. How does a person or company decide whether to generalize or specialize? Continue reading

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Attention Deficit, Part 2

Defined as “the concentration of attention or energy on something”, focus is clearly a behavior that businesses want from their staff and customers. Employers want employees to focus on their work. Companies want clients to focus on the marketing message, sales pitch, product displays or services being offered. But, with all the diversions and noise that compete for our attention and energy in today’s world, it is very easy to fall prey to distraction. If everyone is being driven to distraction, just how much is this lack of focus affecting business, and what – if anything – can be done about it?

Some economists and business strategists see focus – not ideas or talent — as perhaps the scarcest and most desirable resource today. In a sense, focus is seen as the distilled, concentrated part of a person’s mind. Focus is what puts a person “in the moment”. It is the difference between hearing and listening. It is the first essential element upon which all business transactions start. Some experts have even gone so far as to say that only companies that learn to effectively capture, manage, and keep attention — both internally and out in the marketplace – will be able to succeed in the increasing information-cluttered world of tomorrow. So how does a company capture, manage and keep focus, especially that of customers?
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