Listen with webreader

Today is officially my 15th year in business. I went to the courthouse on this date back in 2001 with the intention of setting up a business called Mitchell & Associates. The lady asked me if I had any associates and I said no. She then said I couldn’t call it that, so I had to come up with a name on the spot and the best I had was T T Mitchell Consulting. In 2007 I incorporated the business and not only got to add the Inc at the end of the business name but by law I was now the president and CEO of the corporation, which comes with its own perks and other issues. Since I’m the only shareholder I think I’m pretty secure in not firing myself any time soon.

Picture 179

I wasn’t totally sure what I was going to do with today’s post. Normally I post on Wednesdays on this blog but I felt this one should go out on the anniversary, and because it’s a later day I won’t have another post here until after the July 4th holiday, so I can give it some time to germinate. In previous years I’ve tried to come up with the same number of things to talk about as the date of the anniversary, and 2 years ago I did the same with a video highlighting the 13th anniversary. I decided that I would shrink that down to 3 items this time, along with sharing what I’ve previously put up and the video that went out earlier this morning.

Let’s start with the video, which explains how I got here in the first place and why I keep going on my own:


https://youtu.be/jrUlYd3K86c

Next, let’s talk about what being self employed is really all about; it’s not all pretty:

1. It’s mentally hard

Let’s get this out of the way; being self employed isn’t for the mentally weak. No matter whether you start off with clients or not, what you’ll find out over the course of time is that this isn’t an easy thing to do.

It’s not the work that’s hard; it’s the “not having enough work” and the “getting new clients” part that’s hard. It’s not the “I don’t have enough time to get things done” as much as “I have way too much time on my hands and need more to do” part that’s hard.

I came from a hospital background where, for the most part, the hospitals didn’t have to advertise because they were the only game in town. Over all these years I’ve found that the hardest thing to do, and I still have difficulties with it. I don’t worry about being shot down; I worry because it’s hard getting people to talk to me in the first place.

This is a reason I’ve diversified over the years. My initial intention was to only do leadership and diversity but I found that those areas are even harder to get through to people than health care sometimes, especially diversity. I expanded into customer service, ethics, executive coaching, communications, and a host of other related professions. All of these are integral to leadership, which works well.

I branched out into other areas when things slowed down because of the economy. Luckily I can write, as I have between 4,000 and 5,000 articles online and in magazines, two books on leadership and a book on social media marketing. I ran a SEO company for 7 years under the corporation and did some nice work, but that was hard because people know what websites are, but social media is a tough sell because there’s no guaranteed ROI (return on investment) like there is in other vocations.

I’ve also done budgeting, which doesn’t quite fit with anything I do elsewhere except for my finance blog, which oddly enough has made the 2nd highest amount of money for me online, with the first being my medical billing site and blog. I still have one client who has me helping her establish her budget every 6 months; she’s a great success story and I couldn’t be more proud.

The mental part is tough because it can make you question yourself, doubt yourself, and want to go back to bed a lot of times. It’s also a pretty lonely profession and, truthfully, it’s why I’m really happy I belong to a consultant’s organization where I can get together with other consultants who have gone through the same sort of things I have.

Still, there are days when it’s hard to overcome, days when you have to fight to get work done, days when you have to fight to do more marketing and phone calls so you can work on projects, do speaking engagements and write for pay…

At least I haven’t started drinking. 🙂

Mitch_kickball
It was 98°; whew!

2. It’s physically hard

When I began my business I was 41 years old; now I’m 56. I had a lot more energy at that time, to the extent that I could actually work 16 to 18 hours a day on very little sleep and even less food. I only ate when my wife made dinner, which is a major shame. I was also only 4 years into my diabetes diagnosis, and I wasn’t really in any difficulties at that time.

As time has gone on I’ve found that I sleep even less than I used to, even when I spend more time in bed, and often need to take short naps to get through a day if I’m not on the road. I’m now on insulin where I have to inject myself twice a day, as well as take both a diabetic medication and one for cholesterol (even though my cholesterol levels are fine; that’s an interesting story). Once I started walking and watching what I ate the aneurysms that diabetes had caused in my eyes left but now my right eye on the bordeline of glaucoma.

My weight went way up to the point where at one time I was near 300 pounds; ouch! Once I started walking and, of course, watching what I ate, I lost a lot of that weight, but I also developed high potassium levels that lasted for 3 years because there’s no medication to bring them down, and it means you can’t eat a lot of the healthy stuff that’s recommended because a lot of that stuff is high in potassium.

You also tend to sit a lot when you work for yourself which means you start having back and leg problems, problems with your hands because you’re always typing, and a bit of anxiety. You can fight some of that with exercise, making sure you get up from time to time from your desk, meditation (which I’m bad at) and buying ergonomic equipment but that doesn’t help when you’re driving upwards of 6 hours to business locations or flying all day.

Yet, these problems are a step up from the mental side because for the most part they’re easier to address. Strangely enough, right now I’m probably physically healthier than I was 20 years ago based on how I’m working on taking care of myself and that’s nothing to sneeze at. It takes a lot of work and a lot of consistency but it can be done.

Me_Rasheed Red Koi Memphis 2014
Hanging with a friend in Memphis

3. It can be immensely rewarding

The best part of going through the rough patches are the good things that can come from it.

The top 5 earning years of self employment total more than all the years I worked previously.

I’ve had the opportunity to travel to places I never thought I’d ever go (or even wanted to go), seen a lot of interesting things and had some intriguing experiences both good and bad, met some intriguing people, spoke to some very nice people and found a lot more people who agree with my principles than I ever expected to.

Even though I haven’t taken a vacation since 1999 (if family reunions count as vacations) I’ve had a lot of fun in a lot of the places I’ve worked in or visited such as New York City, New Orleans, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Washington DC, Las Vegas and Reno, Ogunquit (Maine), Tunica (Mississippi) and still haven’t had to get on a boat (can’t swim so I’m scared of being on the water lol).

I’ve had the opportunity to speak in 9 states, including the one I live in, and I’ve given almost 40 presentations over the years on a host of subjects. This year I’m actually going to my first non-health care convention, which would have never been possible if I was still an every day employee.

And I’ve helped a lot of hospitals generate a lot more revenue and bring in more money; helped some people become better leaders; helped some others focus on the important things in their lives; given business advice that have helped them be more self sufficient; and had the opportunity to write on this blog for 11 years, hopefully giving some pretty good advice while telling my tales with the intention of helping all of us be better at what we do and better people overall.

Self employment can be really rewarding if you’re able to work through the bad times to get to the good times. I wish I’d prepared better for it at the beginning but I’m glad to still be kicking around after all these years.

In closing I’d like to share the other posts and the one video from previous years of acknowledging my anniversaries; be lucky I didn’t do it for all 15 years. 🙂

My 10 Year Business Anniversary

12 Years Of T T Mitchell Consulting & Some Leadership Lessons As Well

13 Leadership Lessons From 13 Years In Business

My 14th Year In Business; 14 Thoughts…


https://youtu.be/roOzb1sdqYA

 

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2016 Mitch  Mitchell
Listen with webreader

Back in 1999, I was the director of patient accounting of a small 2-hospital system in central New York. We were on the verge of becoming a 4-hospital system, the paperwork already finished, and all hospitals moving to one new computer system, as the scare of what might happen at the millennium was pretty big across the country and, unfortunately, the software license for both of my hospitals was expiring at the end of the year.

Picture 50

Before the original 2-hospitals had merged, the one I started with was going through some tough negotiations with the local Blue Cross we had to deal with. For most of the year the hospital was getting a weekly check of an indeterminate amount because both the insurance company and the hospital figured a contract would be signed at some point in the year, which was the good thing. The bad thing was wondering when it would happen.

There was an immediate reason that was an issue. Even though the insurance company was sending the hospital money, officially they weren’t processing any payments. Therefore, we couldn’t record any payments or adjustments for any patients who had Blue Cross coverage for that year.

By July we knew there was a second immediate problem that was coming. Although our hospital had been promised that all of our A/R information would be transferred to the new computer system, because they’d had problems integrating one of the other hospitals we were told that none of our information would be transferred because there wasn’t enough time for the programming to be written.

In September we brought the new system up for the other hospital and everything went pretty smoothly. Yet, for my original hospital, there was still no signed contract and suddenly it looked like it wasn’t going to happen at all.

I have to explain why all of this was a big deal. If you’ve ever been to either a doctor’s office or a hospital, you know that it’s rare that insurance companies pay a bill in its entirety. This means there’s either going to be billing to the secondary insurance or billing to the patient. Normally, if there’s a problem with an insurance company hospitals can self pay patients and deal with it on the back end, but since the insurance company was sending us a weekly check we had to treat them as if they were legitimate patients with coverage, whether we actually knew they had that coverage or not.

201701

November comes and it’s time to physically start merging two business offices into one location. We had to do that while running two different computer systems and trying to find time to send the billing people from my original hospital to a totally different location to try to learn how to use a computer system they weren’t really going to be privy to for the longest time. We moved both offices to an offsite location, which was a major intrusion in our trying to keep up with the work financially, but we did the best we could.

Finally, the contract was signed… Thanksgiving week! The following week we finally started receiving invoices showing us payments and denials… and they were monster files. The directive we had was that we had 3 weeks to process everything we could because they were going to shut down the system two weeks before the end of the year; ugh.

You can’t imagine how much work had to go into trying to post a year’s worth of payments, let alone allowances and denials. Frankly, even with me helping to post these things and training a couple other people how to do some of it, the best we could do was process only payments, leaving almost everything else alone until we’d done at least that part. We got all of those done within 2 days of them shutting down the computer system, which means we only got to post a few allowances and denials.

All of this was because of the final issue. I’d been told by the VP of Finance that I had to try to come up with an idea of what to do with not only the Blue Cross claims, but all other outstanding claims that were on our soon to be defunct system. The best thing I could come up with was to print everything on paper, a lousy idea because all billing was electronic, and this meant that we were going to have to work off green bar paper (who remembers that?) and type everything into either the new system or our electronic billing system manually do be able to do anything with all those claims.

That’s why we had to shut down two weeks early, because the amount of detail we were going to need, and the upcoming holidays, meant we had to be off the system so we wouldn’t change any information once we’d posted all those payments.

Suffice it to say that although we got all those claims, what we ended up having to go through for the next 18 months, before our department was shut down and sent out to another city, was almost impossible to overcome. Through no fault of our own, we were left in a situation without a real viable solution for success. I came up with the best idea I could, and the supervisors who reported to me and I came up with the best working solution we could to address the backlog, but it was always a horrifying experience up until the end.

...!!!?? Orlando
corinne glaziou via Compfight

You might be asking why I’m talking about this particular bad scenario in my history.

This past weekend there was a horrific shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The gunman, who announced his allegiance to ISIS before carrying out what most people are calling a cowardly act, killed 49 people and injured 56 more (some of them quite serious) before he lost his own life. That it was a gay club that, according to some, he frequented might make this entire story quite strange, but it is what it is.

Over the past few days there have been more arguments for gun control or less gun control, more legislation for the protection of the LBGT community or voices saying there’s enough, and a host of other things. The battle lines have been drawn and, as I said above, it is what it is.

The one thing that’s bothered me in all of this are people who are railing against the President by saying “he’s not doing enough to stop this.”

Frankly, I think this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard some stupid things in my life.

The scenario I wrote about above wasn’t close to anything like this, yet there wasn’t a real solution to the problem. I wasn’t getting any help, and nothing I’d asked for was going to be given to me, so I came up with what I came up with, which was as good as it was going to get, but it wasn’t all that great.

There are two things that keep running through my mind after something like this weekend happened which, as we all know, isn’t the first time this had happened even in this country, but has been happening all over the world for at least the last few decades or so.

The first is that everyone who’s saying “someone has to do something” doesn’t have a single idea what to do. If there was one neighborhood in one city in one country where all the terrorists lived it would make everything easy to take care of. But life doesn’t work like that; heck, it took 11 years to catch up with Bin Laden, and he had kidney issues.

11 settembre 2001 - 11 settembre 2011
Riccardo Francesconi via Compfight

We’re still trying to chase down members of Al Queda, the Taliban, ISIS and any other group most of the world is against but there’s no real success, and some of the brightest military minds in the world are on the case. If they can’t quite figure out what to do and those clamoring for something better can’t come up with something better, then it’s just a waste of breath and everyone should just shut up about it. I’ve always believed that if you’re going to complain about something you should try to have a solution, and it seems the one solution about banning Muslims from entering the country isn’t going to solve anything since the killer in Orlando was born in New York City.

The second is that we have to get used to a reality in this world that anyone who’s willing to give up their life for a cause, no matter the cause, is pretty hard to stop… almost literally impossible. Sure, sometimes there might be some odd signs that hopefully someone notices and reports, but for the most part we never see them coming until it’s too late. Even with professional, smart people in charge, no one could stop 9/11, the bombings in France, the IRA attacks in England back in the day, Pam Am Flight 103, the Munich Olympics in 1972, Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma bombing, President Kennedy… you name it, feel it, hate it and then try to name a workable solution that would have definitely prevented it.

There are a lot of things good leadership can overcome. That’s why I write this blog and have written my books, because I know that good leadership is ultimately better than bad leadership. However, I recognize that even good leadership can’t solve everything, especially when the deck is stacked against them.

My situation proved that to me. Terrorists should prove that to everyone else. Sometimes the best we can do is try to do the best we can do and hope it works out for the best, and not give up and let bad situations and bad people keep us down. Sometimes that’s the best solution available; it’s a lousy solution, not a real solution, but if the remnants of a supernova were coming our way, we wouldn’t be able to solve that one either.

Just something to think about. As many people have said over the centuries, let’s try to be good to each other; it may solve more issues than it causes.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2016 Mitch  Mitchell
Listen with webreader

This isn’t the post I was going to write until I happened to just notice that my last post was the 1,300th of this blog, which started in February 2005. Sure, I might be near my 1,700th post on my other blog in a shorter time, but this is the one that got it all started, the blogging and extra writing beyond my first book and the two newsletters I used to write.

Picture 40

I usually highlight the previous milestone post and say some things about it, but though I just linked to it I want to talk about the early posts on this blog.

The funny thing about this blog is that if you decided to view the first blog post here you’d see that it’s not actually the first post I wrote on this blog. I’d actually lost all the posts that were on this blog via the host I was sharing with my friend Kelvin at the time. Luckily I was able to find those posts via a major Google search that took some considerable time and even then I left some posts alone and let them die with the wind.

The actual first post for this blog was just a quick introduction of who I was and what I hoped this blog would be about. It was fairly short. The funny thing is that I wrote a second post on the first day that was even shorter, where I was introducing my newsletter and linked to the one I’d written the night before; I’ve made that one private. I didn’t quite have this blogging thing down at that point, that’s for sure.

The first post I wrote the next day was even shorter than the second post; I was going in the wrong direction. I should actually make that one private, but I’m not going to. I did make private the next two posts on that same day though, one because I was mentioning a seminar I was putting on, the other talking about a seminar I was going to that I wanted to let others know about. Those weren’t great posts by any means, but I was trying to be helpful.

After beginning the first day with another very short post talking about Wegmans and linking to Forbes, I finally wrote my first “real” blog post, titled Black History Month; Why Don’t People Care More?. I think that one’s still a pretty quality post and, scarily enough, the question is even more valid now that it’s 2016; that’s also pretty depressing. It figures though, that the first real post here was on a diversity topic, even though the overwhelming majority of posts on this blog are about leadership.

Me_collegejunior01

One thing I did that I would recommend no one else ever do at this juncture is that I posted most of those recaptured blog posts on the same day, April 29th, 2006. In retrospect, that was bad SEO and messed up my chance to let this blog look really vibrant by not spacing the posts out at least one a day until I’d gotten through all of them. I think that probably hurt the readership of the blog because who was going to try to read upwards of 100 blog posts that all went live on the same day; pure silliness on my part, but the euphoria of finding all that I did overcame my good sense at the time.

Talk about timing. On the 24th I’ll be celebrating my 15th year in business, even though LinkedIn has already told everyone I’ve already hit that milestone; sigh… lol I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do with that one, but it means that this one gets to be the compilation post of the last 100 where I get to name my favorite posts. I also get to talk about the milestones within the last 100 posts and what I’ve done during this time.

For instance, December was special because I had a post a day the entire month. A couple of those posts will definitely be in my top 15. The post after my 1,200th was my introducing my latest book at the time, Leadership Is/Isn’t Easy, which I can honestly say has had lackluster sales, but at least I wrote it. 🙂 This series of posts also included the one highlighting my 14th year in business, and I talked about business while linking to the video I did celebrating the anniversary talking about leadership.

What did I write about? I touched upon 12 specific topics out of the last 100; here are the top 5:

Leadership – 49

Business – 14

Motivation – 8

Health Care – 7

Diversity – 6

I think that’s pretty well rounded, don’t you? Notice that almost half the posts were on leadership? It seems that wasn’t enough posts to get me on a list of top leadership bloggers though; oh well…

It took me 13 months to write 100 posts on this blog. Out of the top 25 posts viewed on the blog this year, only 3 in the last 100 made the list, and only one of those would be in my top 15. These are the posts:

9 Motivational Lessons From Beethoven – 118

When Employees Don’t Get Along, Blame Leadership – 114

You Must Believe In Yourself – 112

By the way, LinkedIn told me that more than 100 people viewed each of these posts within the first 3 days it was live… go figure. lol

Enough of that. Let’s close with what I consider as my favorite posts of the year. The one I’m leaving out is the third one above, with 112 views, as it would have made this list but I don’t want to be redundant:

Reverse Racism? Let’s Talk About Inclusion…

9 Ways To Make Leadership Easy

What Do You Do When There’s Nothing To Lose?

Do You Know What You’re Talking About?

You Can’t Be A Good Leader Without Integrity

We All Have A Little Bit Of Good And Evil In Us

Leadership In The Community

The Difference Between Negativity And Good Advice

22 Leadership Lessons From Star Trek TV

New Things Are Sometimes Old Things

White America, It’s Not Always About You

Will Your Customers Forgive Your Bad Behavior?

Dr King’s Dream Is Dying; Race Relations Is On Its Last Breath

It Takes A Lot To Change A Habit

That’s all I’ve got this time around. If I survive the rest of the year, as I turn 57 at some point, and make it to my 12th anniversary of blogging, by next August or so I hope to be close to or hitting post #1,400. I hope you enjoy some of what I’ve shared above, and I hope some of you keep coming back to see what else I have to pontificate about as time goes on.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2016 Mitch  Mitchell
Listen with webreader

Last Wednesday a new refrigerator was delivered to the house. Before that happened, my mind kept wondering if the current refrigerator, which was failing fast, would produce something memorable before its final hours or go out like a lamb.

refrigerator01

It decided to strike out, so around 7:30 in the morning it started to leak from the hose that was attached to the ice maker. The ice maker stopped working almost 2 years ago, and we even had a repairman tell us that it couldn’t be fixed. Yet, no one ever thought about turning off the water that was supposed to be going to it; oh well…

It turned out that the copper hose that was attached to it had corroded on its own after almost 16 years. This time around my wife decided we should switch to plastic. I didn’t have an opinion on that, but after reading the instructions I did have an opinion that we could probably install the new hose ourselves. I’m nowhere close to Mr. Handyman but my wife has some skills and I have determination so I figured we could handle it.

Turns out we couldn’t. No matter what we tried we couldn’t get the hose to stop leaking from the point of attaching it in the basement. We knew we had the right tools and the correct parts, but we were out of our league.

I decided to turn to someone who last year came to clear the kitchen pipes when things had started backing up on me. I knew he’d be up for this and I had no qualms about calling him. He said he’d be at the house at 3:30 Friday afternoon, which was perfect since I could be home then and had plans for later in the evening.

Of course 3:30 came and went. Up came 4:30, then 5:30, and I told my wife that it looked like he was going to be a no-show. We decided to go out to dinner, as that had been our plans.

I finally heard from him via at 7:30. He said he’d had to work until 6PM and wanted to see if he could come on Sunday. Initially I didn’t want to do it; after all, he could have texted me much earlier so I wasn’t sitting around waiting for him. Also, if he got off work at 6PM then why did it take him another 90 minutes to finally text message me?

I almost never give second chances with things like this, but my wife said that we needed it attached and that she would be home until noon on Sunday, since I was going out of town to visit my mother. Since I really wanted the ice maker to work, I wrote him back and asked if he could be at the house between 10 and 11:30 because my wife needed to leave the house by 12:30. He said that was great.

Sunday comes, and my wife texts me at 11:50 to say she hadn’t heard from him. Now I’m irked because I didn’t listen to my inner Spidey senses, and once again he’s shown a total lack of respect, decorum and professionalism. He eventually sends her a message at 12:45 saying that he’d been called into work and asked if he could come Monday, Memorial Day. She texted me asking what to do and I said we’d find someone else, which she relayed to him.

The problem wasn’t that he had to take care of his regular job first. The problem is that once he’d made a time commitment, at the very least he could have contacted us to say that he wouldn’t be able to make it so that we weren’t sitting around waiting for him. Within both of these instances he had lots of time to reach out way before we were expecting him, yet it seemed like he either didn’t have the inclination to do so or the belief that he was in any way responsible for following through on his obligation, no matter how it manifested itself.

In my mind I tied this in to a leadership trait of bad leaders. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a person in an authority position tell someone they were going to do something and never followed through, whether they had the intention to do it or not. When I was a compliance officer, I had to deal with multiple times when department directors didn’t provide what we needed to conduct an audit, and sometimes they didn’t even show up for meetings they said they’d come to.

Luckily, because of that position and its direct link to administration I was able to force people to do the right thing, but does anyone believe it should have come to that if someone in a leadership position had affirmed their participation.

If you want to lose any loyalty from employees all you need to do is ignore their needs while lying to them. Even if the lie isn’t intentional, because something else came up, it’s still important to reach out to those employees to let them know what’s going on, and then to do whatever you can do address their needs or the needs of the department as quickly as possible. A laissez faire attitude or a pattern of broken promises makes you an ineffective leader, and you never get those employees to truly work for you again.

Never make promises you don’t expect to keep. If your intentions were good and something comes up, address it early and make sure you follow through on what you said you were going to do. If you don’t, you’re probably not going to last all that long as a leader, and someone else is going to get paid, which happened in my case. Yesterday someone else I called showed up in 20 minutes, fixed the issue in 5, and he got the money the other guy would have received, with a nice tip on top.

Somewhere along the way, I “lost” the first guy’s contact information; strange how that works isn’t it?
 

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2016 Mitch  Mitchell
Listen with webreader

A few weeks ago I was talking to someone on Twitter, a writer. We were both lamenting the need to think about hiring others to do some of the more mundane things we have to do, being self employed, that could possibly leave us more time to work on our craft.

photo (19)

I said that one of my goals was to get to the point where I could hire someone to clean my house once a week. She said that she couldn’t imagine anyone else cleaning her house and that if she actually did hire someone she’d feel compelled to clean the house first so that whoever showed up didn’t think bad about her house being messy.

I thought that was pretty funny because that’s exactly the same type of thing my wife says all the time. The one time she allowed someone to come to the house to help clean was when we were going to throw a large holiday party the day after I spent the night in a sleep lab, and she felt she needed some help with last minute cleaning. Even then, the areas she asked the person to clean were areas that she’d cleaned days before so that those areas wouldn’t be what she considered “nasty” to have someone else working on.

I have no such qualms. Many years ago when I was single I had someone come in to clean my apartment every couple of weeks. I’m not super messy but I do tend to accumulate a lot of clutter. I also felt overwhelmed because I was driving an hour each way to work, sometimes coming home late and every once in a while going back into the office on the weekend. Add in that I was in two bowling leagues a week and, when I wasn’t working late, bowled 2 other nights if someone called needing a substitute.

I’ve never met a single male who’s had any worries about having someone come into their space to clean up, and some of those guys were pretty nasty; just sayin’… Yet, I’ve met a lot of women, way more than 70%, who couldn’t conceive of someone coming into the house to clean, no matter how much stress it would relieve, let alone the reality that they could afford it.

Suffice it to say that, in general, men and women think and act differently about a lot of things. The same type of thing applies to leadership as well. Over the years, I’ve worked mainly with women employees. I’ve had maybe 6 or 7 men who’ve worked for me over the course of 30 years as compared to at least 250 or so women. I’m not going to say I’m an expert in working with women, but I can easily say that once I found my groove I was certainly skilled enough to know how to work well with women and enjoyed it immensely.

When it came to leadership positions I’d have to say the ratio was around 65-35% men to women. They were mainly peers, but I did have occasion to report to female leaders. What I’ve encountered has almost always been different than working with men; I’m not saying better, just different.

I’m not an idiot, so the last thing I’m going to do is try to illuminate the differences in women and men as leaders. Instead, I’m going to relate how, because of working with so many women, I communicated differently with women leaders and how they communicated with me. I tend to believe that the way I communicate is what’s actually shaped me into the person I am now, falling into a place I don’t believe I’d have ever reached if I’d only interacted with men or mainly men. Let’s take a look at it.

Raquel & Me

First, I’m not as direct with women leaders as I can be with men. That’s because I’ve never had a woman leader think that I might be weak in the way I’m talking to her. I’ve had some men here and there who made the mistake of thinking that kindness is weakness.

Second, I’ve learned to have a lot more specifics ready to address when working with women leaders as opposed to working with men. The reason is that women are generally more apt to want to understand an issue than many men are. I’m only talking about leaders here and not all employees. Many times I’ve found that male leaders will either stay quiet and walk out of a meeting not understanding what’s going on or act like they know what’s going on and put their foot in their mouths. Every once in a while that happens with women leaders, but not as often.

Third, I’ve found that my own behavior allows me into the inner circle than it does most men when it comes to the sorority of women leaders. I’ve had more business lunches with women than men, and it’s not because I’m hitting on them or condescending to them. It has more to do with talking to women as equals, which I don’t see as often with other male leaders. I like to think I’ve been able to inspire a level of trust with women that doesn’t happen as often with men at work. This is a small thing, but I can tell a woman leader if she’s got something hanging off something she’s wearing without her thinking that I’m being lascivious in any way whatsoever.

Fourth, I’ve learned to listen better and to be prepared for a lengthy story. In a way, it’s reminiscent of learning the listening skills of the Navajo, who have a roundabout way of getting to a point by telling a story. The conversations can be nuanced such that something could be missed if I’m not listening properly. Trust me, I’ve made that mistake enough times to know better because often questions need to be asked to get the information that’s really needed to push forward.

Women leaders don’t get to the point as often as men do, and often that’s a good thing because if one listens, you’ll get almost everything you need in more ways than one, which helps to alter the solutions because of the different layers. It gives me a chance to get it right the first time instead of having to go through lots of starts and stops.

As I said earlier, I treat men and women leaders and peers the same; for that matter, I treat all employees the same. Because of the lessons I learned from working with so many women, I’ve been able to use skills I’ve developed to better use when working with all leaders. I do recognize that my skills are better suited to working with women leaders though, at least initially.

With men, I’m either given carte blanche or having to give information on a more regular schedule that impedes the work I’m trying to do. Frankly, I love the carte blanche thing much more; who wouldn’t? But the other end… ugh.

Like I said, different, not better or worse. This is based on what I’ve seen and observed; what are your thoughts and realities on this subject?
 

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2016 Mitch  Mitchell
Listen with webreader

My most viewed YouTube video is a review I did comparing Verizon FiOS to Time Warner Cable, with over 17,000 views. My second most watched video is also about Verizon FiOS with over 6,600 views, where I talked about trying to get my 2nd phone line in and all the issues we were having at the time. It literally took a month for me to get everything into the house that I was supposed to have.

20160517_233657

Months later I realized I had an issue with the second line. I have a fake name in the phone book for my main number, which helps me to eliminate anyone who calls asking for that person and just hang up the phone after telling them no one with that name lives at the house. We set that up about a month after moving into the house in 2000 and it’s worked very well for us. What we discovered is that the second line, which we both use for business purposes, was using that same name, and helped explain why certain potential business contacts might not be picking up the phone.

I called Verizon and asked if we could change the name that went out on that second line but were told that both lines had to show the same name. That couldn’t continue, but it took me 9 months to finally decide to change things over.

I went to the Time Warner office because I still have an alarm system through them and asked if they would claim the second phone number and move it back to them so I could have the phone back in the name I wanted it to show. The customer service guy gave me the box, told me to hook it up to the phone in a few days, and all would work just fine, and the cost would be the same as what I was paying Verizon; that sounded pretty sweet.

The day comes, I hook up the modem, and… nothing. No dial tone whatsoever. Then I remembered that the guy said I might have to call to have the service activated, so I picked up the other line and called them. I wanted to talk to a technician so I hit “0” and actually got to talk to someone.

He asked me if I’d hooked the modem to the phone and I said yes. He asked me if I’d hooked the modem to the cable and I said “Uhhh, I have Verizon FiOS. I mentioned that to the guy at the office when he gave me the modem.”

He said “Oh. The modem won’t work unless it’s connected to cable. We can’t connect it to the Verizon service either which means we’re going to have to send a technician out to you.”

This means I’m without a business line for 3 days since I have to wait until Friday for the technician to come. Truthfully, the calls I’ve been getting lately haven’t been all that great so I’m not upset by what I might be missing. However, I am upset a little bit by not getting the proper information up front. Turns out I could have had my phone line last week if I’d known about the cable issue.

IMAG0271

Three weeks ago I wrote a post talking about leadership and customer service and the week before that I wrote another post about the importance of listening so one can respond to questions and issues properly. I wrote about those two things based not only on what I’ve seen as a consumer but also what I tried to address with my team members, where a bit part of the work they did was talking to customers. I used to say that it’s hard to properly answer customer questions if you’re already talking or doing something else before they finish telling you what their probably is. We can’t always assume that every person we talk to has the same issue that the person before them had unless we caused the problem.

I thought back to the day I was in the office in front of this guy. I remembered that what he told me was a 2-minute process ended up taking 10 minutes, and that he seemed confused a couple of times as I stood there waiting for him to get things done. I think his issue must have been that I wasn’t the typical Time Warner customer since I didn’t have their cable or internet, which might have been something they weren’t set up for or expecting.

I’ve wondered if maybe he’d been listening and actually heard me mention FiOS that he would have realized that I couldn’t perform this installation on my own. I’ve also wondered if this was a true leadership fail, not because there was obviously a failure but because it’s hard to think of everything that could possibly happen when it seems a bit inconceivable.

In the end I believe that even if the Time Warner guy I was talking to wasn’t totally listening, he wasn’t really at fault in this case. Although I doubt I’m the first person who’s ever asked for just a Time Warner phone, based on his confusion the day I was in front of him I do believe it might have been his first time dealing with this issue. In that case, if it’s a rare enough issue that this was his first time dealing with it (I’ve been going there for years to pay my monthly bill but he’s been there maybe the last 6 months) then it’s hard to blame leadership for this one at the same time.

Sometimes it’s not anyone’s fault when things don’t work out. I think this is one of those times where everyone gets a pass; how often does that happen? Am I being too nice? Do you agree with me? Let me know your thoughts.
 

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2016 Mitch  Mitchell
Listen with webreader

“Life is about success not perfection” – Alan Weiss

A few years ago I wrote an article titled Is It Bad Reaching For Perfection where I talked about the reasons why going for perfection aren’t bad, but that it doesn’t take perfection for one to be successful.

10
Leo Reynolds via Compfight

Almost 6 years ago I wrote another post talking about a friend of mine, her drive for perfection, and how it was going to hold her back from being successful. Unfortunately that one turned out to be true in more ways than one.

I’ve always known that I wasn’t perfect, but that didn’t stop me from going for it. I have this belief that to attain perfection would be the ultimate thing to do, even if in the end there would probably be little benefit to it.

In another month I’ll have been self employed for 15 years. That’s not bad since an overwhelming number of people don’t make it 5 years. I’m not patting myself on the back for that one because it hasn’t always been a smooth ride.

I haven’t always made it easy for myself because for years I was trying to find the perfect way of marketing my primary business to an industry that doesn’t work like other industries, that being health care. Because of that lack of success I kept trying to find new ways, modify some of the old ways, hoping there was a perfect solution that would lead me to great success.

I finally found my solution, though it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely out of the box. I decided to stop marketing to my primary industry because those folks don’t want to talk to me. For that matter, most of them probably don’t even understand what I do; I’m good with that.

Instead, I work in concert with other organizations who do the grunt work and then contact me to see if I’m interested. For the most part that’s been the business model I’ve had success with for most of my 15 years in that area. I figure why keep banging my head against the wall, so I’ve decided to give myself a break on that front. It’s not a perfect solution but it’s a workable one that’s been pretty beneficial; I can live with it.

Once I decided to let that one go, I found that I brought a bit more peace of mind into my life. It’s allowed me to market my other services, maybe not with great success but at least I now have people talking to me. It’s allowing me to work on my 4th book, this time on motivation. It’s allowed me to get paid a lot more than I previously was for writing articles. Best of all, it’s allowing me to stay closer to home, which is imperative as my mother’s health declines.

All of our lives are built upon our successes, large or small. Mine range from helping a hospital increase its revenue $730 million in a year to finishing my second book on leadership to doing seminars and speaking engagements across the country. I know I’m not close to perfect, but I’ve done some things others never will, just as people have done some things I’ll never consider doing (like climbing mountains or jumping out of planes; ugh!).

I’m looking for more successes, and I’ll take what I can get. What about you?
 

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2016 Mitch  Mitchell