Taking the dog leash off your employees

"Ever wonder where you'd end up if you took your dog for a walk and never once pulled back on the leash?" - Robert Brault

When I walk my dog, I let him decide where we go and how long we stay. If he wants to go left, we go left. If he wants to smell a bush for five minutes, he smells. Our walk is not for me, it's for him. He calls the shots. Just because he's on a leash doesn't mean I'm going to prevent him from pursuing what interests him.

Whether you're at a big company or a small one, chances are lots of the staff are on leashes. They can only move so fast, they have to stop when told, they're tugged to go right when their instincts say left. As an employee, you've undoubtedly felt that leash weighing you down some days. But, imagine a company culture where all the employees are allowed to move freely--without that metaphoric leash yanking them back.

Would creativity abound? Would productivity flourish? Would morale skyrocket?

Some of the most innovative companies allow their employees to pursue special projects. Some dedicate a day each month for staff to delve into something that interests them, above and beyond their daily work. Because who knows where they'll end up or what they'll discover, if allowed just a little bit of freedom.

Just like a dog who's allowed to decide the direction and destination on his walk, an employee who's given the ability to pursue something he or she is passionate about can yield amazing results. And, whether you're a dog or a human, who wants to always be told what to do anyway?

If you're the one who holds the leash, go ahead and create some slack in it today. See where the adventure takes you.

Losing friends: The clash of social media and politics

There are more people using social media today than there were during the last U.S. presidential election in 2008. More people tweeting and posting Facebook status updates about political news stories. More folks sounding off in real time during the presidential debates as they get annoyed, angered, or frustrated. Whether it's about Obama's health care program or Romney's binders full of women, people have an opinion. But, do you need to hear it? Are you starting to dislike your friends and connections because of it? Do you feel like Patricia?

According to a 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center, 40% of social media users say they were surprised by the political views that their friends posted online. Another 20% say they've blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone because the person posted too much political commentary. There's a reason they say you shouldn't discuss politics or religion. People feel strongly and no matter what their opinion, it's about 99.9999% unlikely that they'll unexpectedly embrace the opposite viewpoint.

Personally, I haven't unfriended or unfollowed anyone due to their political tweets or updates. However, I'm not going to lie, there are some people I don't quite see the same anymore. On one hand, can you really be friends with someone if you don't know the "real" them? Are our friendships bound to be more superficial that way? Or are there some things we just shouldn't discuss out in public? Or, only with like-minded individuals?

There's nothing like an election year to help you learn more about your social circle. But, do we have to? Should we just all keep it to ourselves? Or is saying whatever we want and letting the chips (or friends) fall as they may the best approach? Right or wrong, people don't seem to censor themselves much when it comes to social media. We've all been given a soapbox, and most of us use it at one time or another.

Has politics taken its toll on your social stream? Have you alienated someone when you shared your thoughts? Have you lost respect for someone due their support of a certain candidate or proposition? Is social media the place to share political views? Or are we all better off tweeting pictures of our meals and posting updates about our dogs?

The importance of self-editing

When you write something, anything, chances are you've written too much. Most of us have the tendency to say more than is needed. Sometimes those extra words are unnecessary; other times they may be just enough to undo what we've already written. A few extra words can change things.

Case in point, this homemade sign inside a shop door in my neighborhood.

As I started to read it, I thought it was so nice that they were reminding folks to feed the meter. Thank you very much, Mr. Shop Keeper. I appreciate that! But then they lost me on the next two lines. They almost felt like a threat and a little righteous. Saying "Did You Remember to Feed Your Meter" was enough. It was helpful. Adding "58 Dollars or 25 Cents? You Make the Choice" just wasn't necessary and it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. In this case, less would have been more.

The next time you go to write that blog post, report, advertising piece, press release, or anything else that you intend to put in front of the public, ask yourself, "Is there anything here that I should cut?" Have you already said it? Did you drone on passed your logical ending? Do you need those extra words or would it be tighter and clearer without them? Self-editing can be hard, but take the time to do it. Your writing will be the better for it.

The marshmallow path to success

Life is short, eat dessert first.

Have you heard that quote before? I love it. It's a great reminder for all of us to concentrate on the good stuff in life. But how does that apply to business? I'm glad you asked.

My new, edible addiction is Mallow Bits by Kraft. Have you tried them? They're hard, little marshmallows--the same texture of the ones you find in hot chocolate mix and sugary cereals. I have to admit, I like to pull those marshmallows out of the cocoa envelope before I make it so I can gobble down the crunchy goodness. When I leave them in the mix, I always wish there were more. Someone at Kraft must know I'm not the only one, because they've produced a large jar comprised of nothing but these yummy, white nuggets. They put the good stuff all together in one, new product. Can you do the same?

What service or product do you offer that you could repackage or market more prominently? Do you have a b-list product? Or maybe a service that doesn't get very much dedicated promotion? Do you have something that people really like that you could upgrade from supporting player status to superstar? Is there a Mallow Bits on your menu of services or line of products?

Listen to what your customers and clients like. Can you give them more of it?
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