All posts by Jason Barnes

10 Simple Ways to Make Appointments Memorable

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Offices across the country are slowly opening up again, and clients are making appointments that the Covid-19 pandemic had long delayed. Getting your customers to book return appointments will be easy if you make their visits memorable for the right reasons.

The better the customer experience, the more likely they are to become regulars. How you take care of your customers is just as important as the service you offer.

There are a number of different ways you can make each appointment unforgettable. Doing so will improve customer retention, garner positive reviews, and increase your company’s revenue. Time to get started!

1. Make Appointment Booking Easy

If booking an appointment with you is unnecessarily difficult, your customers will definitely remember it—and not in a good way. Endless back-and-forths or unanswered phone calls will turn into a consumer horror story that your patrons will share with their friends.

Make your appointment-booking process as simple and painless as possible. When you do, the thing your customers will remember is its user-friendly nature. Customers will tell their friends how getting in to see you was a breeze, instead of warning others to stay away.

2. Greet Customers at the Door

Start off each appointment on the right foot. Expressing appreciation for each customer as soon as they cross the threshold of your business lets them know how important they are. If, on the other hand, you ignore them or treat them curtly, that rocky start will be difficult to recover from.

Even if you’re busy with something or someone else, make sure that you or an associate acknowledges every guest who walks through the door. Let them know you’ll take care of them as soon as possible. 

3. Deliver on Promises

You’re doubtless using some sort of marketing to reel in customers. Now you need to make sure you back up all your claims come appointment time. Are you boasting the best haircut in town or the fastest service in the area? Prove it.

A memorable appointment must include delivering on these promises. Customers who come in hoping these claims are true will be pleased to see that they are—and they’ll remember that satisfaction when they book their next appointment. 

4. Give Little Gifts

You can thank customers who make appointments by giving them a gift. You might recall the excitement you experienced as a kid when you received a lollipop at the doctor’s office. That small present turned an otherwise dreaded appointment into a joyful experience.

If a candy isn’t your style, you can offer discount coupons or referral cards to customers. This will encourage them to return and bring a friend. While the individual proceeds of each appointment will be reduced, the increased business will make it worth the effort. 

5. Make Your Waiting Room an Inviting Place to Be

Reducing wait times is important for all businesses that rely on appointments, especially during the pandemic. However, there will always be variables out of your control that will cause waiting times to increase now and then. 

How you handle long wait times says a lot about your business. Make your waiting room experience the best it can possibly be. Consider providing reading material, a television, a frequently sanitized place for kids to play, or individually packaged snacks (at least until your coffee bar can make a return). Customers will remember and be grateful to businesses that make them feel comfortable during inconvenient situations.

6. Look for Ways to Educate

Customers make appointments in order to receive services. While you most certainly will deliver, you can make appointments memorable by adding a teaching element on top of that.  

For example, let’s say you run a chiropractic office. Instead of just aligning your patient’s back, you can explain your methods and the benefits they provide. Customers will leave feeling better physically while being soothed by their increased understanding. 

7. Focus on Convenience

The less your customer has to do at the time of their appointment, the better. Streamlining their appointment experience and doing any necessary work for them allows them to sit back and relax instead of stressing about details. 

Look for ways to make appointments convenient for customers. You might allow them to complete any necessary paperwork online or let them check in through an app to reduce wait times. An easy appointment is a memorable one.

8. Get to Know Each Guest

Developing relationships helps businesses retain customers, but it also makes appointments memorable. When customers can feel a bond growing between them and their service providers, the experience will stay with them longer.

Think of ways you can develop relationships with customers while they’re within the walls of your business. Focus on communicating well and getting to know their backstory. These efforts to reach out will make a long-term impact from day one. 

9. Ask for Feedback

In your efforts to improve your business experience, ask your customers for feedback after their appointments. This will prompt them to focus on the details of their appointment, helping them remember it more fully. 

Feedback helps you fine-tune your business approach so you can make appointments more memorable for returning and prospective customers. Proactive improvement will enable you to provide the best services and edge out the competition. 

10. Go the Extra Mile

Ultimately, you should strive to go above and beyond with everything you do. Customers will note the attention to detail, and the extra effort you put into your business will resonate with them.

Be careful, however, not to overdo things. Attention that borders on officiousness can be off-putting, creating a negative experience for customers despite your best intentions. Strike a comfortable balance. 

Making your customers’ appointments worthwhile will increase your client base and draw new patrons to you with ease. With these 10 tips, you can make your appointment experience memorable—in a good way.

How to Handle Internet Outages When You Schedule Appointments Online

By | Scheduling | No Comments
9 Collaboration Mistakes You’re Making With Your Remote Team

Appointments make customer service so much easier. Not only do they cut down on wait times, but they reduce staff members’ stress levels. 

Online scheduling apps let you manage bookings in real time. But what happens when your internet crashes? Without a connection, you can’t see what appointments are coming up — much less adjust them.  

Don’t panic — you’ve got this. Here’s what to do:

1. Call Your Internet Provider Immediately

First things first: Reach out to your internet service provider. They’ll be able to provide information on the outage and give an estimated time when your connection will be restored. If the outage is unique to your location, they can send a specialist to come fix it.

With any luck, you won’t have to go the rest of the day without the internet. Until then, use the remaining tips below to continue serving your customers. 

2. Change Your Voicemail

When your system goes down due to an internet outage, you’re likely to get a bunch of concerned calls. While serving customers already at your store, it can be tough to field these calls.

To limit the flow, change your voicemail message. In your new message, explain the situation. If possible, include an estimated time the system will be back up. Include any other details customers might need, such as a special number to call for bookings. 

3. Take Appointments Over the Phone

As a temporary alternative, take appointments over the phone. Record these carefully to avoid overlap with existing bookings. 

If you don’t typically take appointments over the phone, remind callers of this. Otherwise, those who didn’t hear your voicemail may assume it’s the norm.

4. Open Walk-In Hours

One advantage of appointment-based scheduling is that it lets you prohibit or restrict walk-ins. Consider allowing walk-ins until the internet outage is over.

Beware that this can get chaotic. Ask your staff to be patient and to engage upset customers in calming conversations. 

This option works best when combined with phone- and paper-based scheduling. Encourage customers who don’t want to wait to make an appointment. 

5. Keep Paper Copies

Digital scheduling cuts down on paper waste. But if you experience internet outages once a month or more, printing out the next day’s appointment schedule is a smart idea. 

Make sure your printout doesn’t just show your schedule. To confirm or adjust appointments, you’ll also need customers’ names and phone numbers. If you offer multiple service lines, include which one each appointment entails. 

6. Ask Customers for Verification

When they book an appointment online, customers will receive a message confirming their upcoming visit. If they walk in claiming to have an appointment while your internet is down, ask them to show it to you.

While you want customers to feel trusted, you can’t risk someone stealing another customer’s time slot. Even if it’s an honest mistake, the customer who’d booked it is sure to be upset. 

7. Call in Backup

If the combination of walk-ins and anxious callers is more than you can handle, call in some extra hands. Another employee or two in the office can make a world of difference when your system is down. 

Keep at least one employee on call for emergency situations like this. On most teams, at least one person is always looking for extra hours. 

8. Send Some Referrals

You never want to lose out on business, but you also want to maintain your reputation. If the internet outage is more than you can handle, send referrals to similar local businesses. 

Trying to balance appointments made without software with a rush of walk-ins is challenging. Long wait times can frustrate and drive away customers. This short-term solution will help you out in the long run.

9. Use a Personal Device

Chances are, you carry a smartphone. Keep your appointment platform’s login details handy so you can pull it up on your phone in a pinch. 

What if your booking system isn’t mobile-friendly? Use your device as a hotspot for your internet computer. Beware that you may incur extra charges from your phone provider for doing this. 

An internet outage is nothing you can’t handle. Follow these steps, and you won’t just make it through; you’ll be even more prepared if it ever happens again.

Should You Offer Unlimited Vacation Time?

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To employees, unlimited vacation time is a dream come true. But the question isn’t how to sell the perk to your employees; it’s whether or not offering it is a smart business decision. 

Giving unlimited vacation time to workers comes with obvious concerns. How do you ensure no one abuses this benefit? How much will it cost the company? Will it inconvenience the team?

Unlimited vacation time has its benefits, but it’s not without drawbacks. Before you roll out this benefit, think through them carefully. 

Why You Should Offer Unlimited Vacation Time

Just ask your team: There are plenty of reasons to make vacation time an unlimited affair. With the policy in place, you’ll:

  • Attract and Retain Top Talent

If you want to hire the best talent, you need to give them benefits they won’t find elsewhere. Top candidates will have several options available, and they’ll look beyond salary numbers to make their decision.

Offering unlimited vacation time is a perk that stands out. Only a handful of companies, like HubSpot and Sony, currently offer it. Make sure you can compete. 

  • Increase Employee Happiness

Everyone wants work-life balance. Both new hires and tenured workers will be happy to see this perk added to your benefits package. 

Taking breaks frequently helps to cut down on the stress and burnout of a 40-hour work week. While you can’t afford for employees to take time off every week, they’ll appreciate simply knowing they can step away when they need to. 

  • Promote Ownership and Accountability

Employees who take control of their time are more effective than those who don’t. They’re more willing to think outside the box and need less hand-holding for everyday tasks. An unlimited time off policy can instill that sense of ownership in your team.

The good news is, this policy can also promote accountability. No matter how many days team members take off, they still need to fulfill their responsibilities. Learning to balance their obligations and free time will help everyone grow. 

  • Save Money

Did you think you could cut costs by offering unlimited vacation time? The truth is, you can. As long as employees aren’t abusing the system, this policy has lower overhead costs than a traditional vacation plan.

With traditional vacation plans, employees accrue sick and vacation time based on hours worked. Companies were expected to pay this time out, even if employees left before taking their allotted hours off. With unlimited paid time off, employers only incur costs when workers actually take time off. 

Why You Shouldn’t Offer Unlimited Vacation Time

Not all organizations offer unlimited vacation time, and for good reason. Weigh these concerns against the positives:

  • Abuse of Privilege

While management always has the final say on whether workers can take time off, employees may still try to abuse the privilege. A worker who takes months off at a time with no thought as to his or her duties is not an asset to the company.

With unlimited paid time off, you have to be careful about how long of a leash you give. Allowing one employee to take a ton of time off for no other reason than because they want to can cause other workers to do the same. 

  • Underuse of Vacation Time

As strange as it sounds, some employees with unlimited vacation time actually take less time off than they otherwise would have. In fact, researchers suggest underuse of the policy is a bigger problem than overuse

Why? Because the policy can promote a competitive culture, in which employees take fewer days off to keep pace with their coworkers. They may fear taking too many days off will disqualify them from promotions or pay raises. 

One solution is to set a minimum. Perhaps employees must take at least one week off per year, but they’re welcome to take more if they wish. 

If you go that route, establish a norm. Do most workers at your company take between four and six weeks off per year? Then say so when explaining your unlimited vacation time policy. 

  • Misuse of Vacation Time

With an unlimited-paid-time-off plan, setting expectations is key. If this allowance involves trade-offs, make sure employees understand them.  

For example, must employees on the plan take calls and emails from work while out of the office? If employees are expected to be available for work every time they want a day off, they may not be so keen on the policy after all. 

Every business owner will weigh these factors differently, and that’s OK. Do what makes sense for your team; if it doesn’t work, try something else. Experimentation, including with employee benefits, is how great companies are built. 

8 Fall Activities Every Team Will Enjoy

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Fall is the best season of the year. The kids go back to school, and the weather cools down to a bearable level. But as workers break out their sweaters and jackets, they may need a boost before winter.

Team-building activities can provide this energy for your company. They’re a way for employees to renew their motivation and tighten the bonds of teamwork. After a summer of vacations, they glue everyone back together.

With that said, seasonal team-building events are key. Solely doing evergreen activities won’t provide the same spark. These activities are especially suited to the fall:

1. Take a camping trip.

Fall is one of the best times to go camping. You don’t have to worry about sweating so much or freezing to death. Plus, the mosquitos are gone, so the bug spray won’t be flowing heavily. 

If you take your team camping this fall, assess everyone’s comfort level. Some people may be thrilled, but others may be apprehensive. 

The good news is, camping doesn’t have to be hardcore. Cabins may be a better move than tents. The more experienced campers can always rough it on their own time.

To round out your trip, choose at least one of these outdoor activities:

  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Bonfires
  • Singing
  • S’mores 

Nothing helps people unwind like getting outdoors. And there’s no better time than fall to do it.

2. Visit a corn maze.

Another delightful outdoor fall experience is a corn maze. This classic activity provides some healthy competition in a low-pressure setting. 

Employees can do their best to get out of the maze in the fastest time. For maximum team-building value, try it in teams. Assigning roles like “scout” and “navigator” reminds participants everyone has a part to play. 

While you’re there, why not have a picnic? Bring along food and drinks to unwind after everyone exits the maze. 

3. Go apple picking.

Get your baskets ready for this team-building activity. Heading to an apple orchard is yet another way to enjoy the spoils of fall. 

At an apple orchard, you can collect bushels of fruit. But there are a variety of other things you can do as well. You can shop for different products, take a hayride, and get some cider. 

This experience makes for great family fun. Encourage everyone on the team to bring their kids and spouses along for the fun. 

4. Carve some pumpkins.

Now that it’s pumpkin season, help your team get their creative juices flowing by carving up these squash. Head to a pumpkin patch, and grab a big pumpkin for each person.

For a competitive aspect, announce a caving contest. After an hour or two, get everyone together to vote on their favorites. 

Afterward, these pumpkins can make great decorations for the office. Put them beside your front door, or in a conference space where everyone can admire each others’ work. 

5. Head to an Oktoberfest celebration.

Oktoberfest occurs from late September to early October. Chances are good that there’s a celebration happening in your area. Why not take the whole team out for some hearty food and beer? 

 If you can’t find a celebration near you, you can always throw one yourself. Cook up some German favorites together, or host a cooking competition. Make it a potluck for sake of variety.

Make your Oktoberfest celebration a party by playing trivia games related to the occasion. Does anyone know when the first Oktoberfest was celebrated?

6. Rake leaves for your community.

Looking for a way to have fun while helping others at the same time? Sign up to rake leaves for local businesses or elderly community members. Doing so unites your team around a common cause while giving them some exercise.

Maybe someone in your group knows someone who needs help with the leaves. If not, you can partner with an organization oriented toward community service. Senior citizens, people with disabilities, and nonprofits could certainly use the help. 

Nothing feels better than making a difference for others. Ring in the season by doing it together.

7. Do a Halloween escape room.

Your team is full of smart cookies. Put your puzzling skills to the test by heading to an escape room. Find a Halloween-themed one to fit with the season.

Be sure to book a time around Halloween before things fill up. Work through the clues together without scaring yourselves into a tizzy. Do it in record time, and your team will earn a spot in the escape room’s record books.

8. Go to a Haunted House.

As another suspenseful activity, you can go to a haunted house this season. Even the calmest of your colleagues will have trouble holding it together. See who’s the most scared, and make memories you can laugh about for years to come. 

Don’t let the season go by without a bit of team building. It doesn’t take a lot of planning to enjoy each other’s company. And whatever your team’s preferences, fall has something fun for everyone.

How to Make Your Company Vision Resonate with Employees

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How to Make Your Company Vision Resonate With Employees

You may find your company vision inspiring, but do your employees? Does it encourage every team member to put their best foot forward? If not, you’ve got some work to do.

If your company’s vision resonates with employees, they’ll gain a sense of purpose that makes them more engaged. In turn, you’ll be more likely to actualize that vision.

No company is founded without some sort of vision. But putting it in just the right terms can be tough, much less keeping it top of mind on your team. Check out the following ways to make your vision hit home with your employees>

1. Connect the vision to your employees’ values.

Employees sometimes have trouble connecting their values to their work. This can lead to apathy, burnout, bare-minimum work, and frequent turnover. If this spreads across the team, even leaders can fall into this mode.

The solution? You need to show how it connects to their values. Workers generally gravitate toward careers that align with their values. Having a vision that aligns with those values is critical.

Performance reviews and team building sessions are great opportunities to do this. Think of them as chances to get to know your employees better and ask about their values. Once you find those connections, you can make them clear to your workers. 

Furthermore, identifying your employees’ values can open up different avenues for accomplishing your vision. Community involvement, for example, is a great thing to incorporate into your vision. Considering that your employees are community members themselves, they’ll see tangible impacts of their work.

2. Include your company’s culture.

Your company vision shouldn’t be some lofty statement disconnected from your workplace. A holistic vision should connect to the environment of your company. 

Make sure your vision statement includes taking care of people. You might get specific by mentioning:

  • Fair compensation
  • Generous PTO
  • Healthy office relationships 
  • Leadership and growth opportunities
  • Recognition for good work
  • Freedom to take risks
  • Diversity in the workplace

Factoring employee care into your vision will help workers see themselves in it. Who doesn’t want to work for a company that cares about them?

3. Embrace transparency.

In just about any company, hierarchies exist. While hierarchies can enable efficiency, they can also obscure information and seed distrust between employees and their leadership. These tensions can jeopardize the team’s cohesion.

In a transparent work environment, information flows freely. By extension, employees are more likely to share their perspectives and feedback. And with this culture of trust, workers are better able to align themselves with the company’s vision. 

Transparency is easy to call for but tougher to implement. Leaders must be willing to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Workers must take bad news in stride.

4. Reference the vision in planning sessions.

Following from transparency, employees must see your company’s vision carried out in its work. During planning meetings, point out the connection between each plan of action and the vision. That way, individual actors see how they are contributing. 

Not only does this make employees feel significant, but it reinforces your company vision by making it tangible. Pointing to specific components of yours when making decisions speaks volumes to the team.

5. Pass it down through mentorship.

Mentorship is a great approach to professional development, but it’s also valuable in the context of your vision. By pairing employees who have already internalized the company vision with those who are just starting out, you ensure your vision trickles throughout the team. 

You don’t need a rigid mentorship structure to make this happen, either. Informal one-on-ones, like lunches, spread your vision more surely than top-down commands. There’s no need to play drill sergeant when it comes to promoting your vision. 

6. Tell stories.

Storytelling is part and parcel of making your company vision resonate. Humans are story-driven beings, so tell a vision story your employees can relate to. 

Think about the way that your company began: Did you start it in your garage, highlighting your company’s hardscrabble ways? Maybe an angel investor gave you a leg up, speaking to your vision of lifting others up. 

Keep an eye out for times when you can tell these stories. They can happen at retreats, meetings, or even one-on-ones. Keep it fresh by weaving in fresh insights based on the occasion. As long as they are genuine, you’ll help people resonate with your vision. 

Remember, your vision isn’t only — or even mostly — for you. Your team needs regular reminders of why you do what you do. If you can articulate your vision well, you’ll motivate your employees to go above and beyond. 

How to Inspire Your Team’s Creative Impulses

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Creativity is more than the ability to crack a clever joke or paint something beautiful. At work, it’s essential for growth and innovation. A team that thinks outside the box can solve difficult problems in new, cost-effective ways. 

The trouble is, genuine creativity is tough to incentivize.. Simply telling your team to be more creative certainly won’t work. But rewarding creativity can also have adverse effects. It can stifle a creative process that should be rewarding in and of itself. 

Because of this, some take an “either you have it or you don’t” approach to creativity. But creativity can be cultivated, just like sales or leadership skills can be. 

With the right leadership and culture, creativity can flourish. Here’s how to be that leader for your team:

1. Diversify your team.

There are plenty of reasons to be inclusive at work, but there’s no question diverse teams are more creative. If everyone on your team comes from a similar background, you’ll likely approach issues the same way. That may make coming to a consensus easier, but challenges are necessary to refine ideas. 

Diversifying your staff involves bringing people from different cultural, religious, ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds together. Gender, sexuality, and age are also important axes to consider. 

To deepen your team’s diversity, bring in a broad range of personality types, values, and abilities. This approach helps you appreciate the perspectives of a full person rather than a single demographic component.  

2. Empower fresh faces.

When people first start out at your company, they’re still getting used to your processes and culture. That doesn’t mean their perspective isn’t valuable, though. 

In fact, someone who isn’t fully integrated into your organization may be more valuable, creatively speaking. They can bring fresh ideas that aren’t hindered by the baggage that seasoned employees may have. 

Ask for their input during meetings. Run proposals and innovation ideas by them. Better yet, give them a project of their own to lead. 

A new employee’s creativity can also fuel the creative impulses of senior team members. In this case, a little competition can be healthy: Let employees of different tenures push each other to come up with new ideas and ways of working. 

3. Promote fictional media consumption.

The media we consume impacts us immensely. Fictional media, whether it be books, film, or television, positively impacts our creativity

Why? Because fictional narratives engage us in scenarios that aren’t found in the real world. They allow us to think through unfamiliar possibilities. Non-fiction and journalistic media simply can’t do that. 

The good news is, your employees are probably already watching TV and movies on their own. Encourage them to think critically about what they’re viewing. Consider following a series or franchise together and discussing it. Another option is to start a book club at the office to promote fiction reading. 

4. Support risk-taking efforts.

A primary reason people shy away from taking risks is they fear the consequences of failure. However, risk-taking is inherent to creativity. You can’t have one without the other. 

Ease the pressure of risk-taking for your team. Compliment people who are willing to take risks. And if an effort fails, don’t punish the people who gave it a shot. In fact, throw a party for the “biggest fail” each month.

A supported team is a risk-taking team. The more confident you can make people feel in themselves and their actions, the more willing they’ll be to try new things.

5. Don’t lead with limitations. 

When embarking on a new goal or plan, some leaders kill creativity by starting with the negative. Before the first dollar has been spent, they worry about costs. With no reason to worry about the team’s commitment, they wonder whether contributors are up to the task.

Don’t stifle your team’s imaginations. Give people the resources they need, empower them to try new things, and express confidence in them.

What if roadblocks come up? Worry about them at that time. When you set expectations around a project, what matters most is opening space for people to articulate their vision. Ground these ideas in practicalities later.

6. Visualize data. 

Words and numbers on a page can only do so much. Being more creative with how you construct and communicate data creates a flywheel effect, spurring more creativity. 

Mindmapping, flowcharts, diagrams, and hierarchical charts are great ways to represent information. They spark creativity by showing the relationships between sets of data and illuminating nuances.

Invest in a data visualization tool that even non-technical team members can use, like Tableau. Challenge people to come up with their own intriguing visualizations.

7. Enhance your office environment. 

A drab, depressing office environment doesn’t exactly encourage creativity. An inspiring office space feels fresh, exciting, and joyful. 

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be expensive. Paint the walls a lively color. Bring in some plants and natural light. Hang your favorite art pieces up, and decorate your desk. 

While you’re at it, give employees more creative control over their personal space. Autonomy breeds creativity, which you can tap for work tasks. 

Creativity isn’t just for people in the arts. Just about everyone has a creative impulse that can be valuable to a team. The key is to invest in those impulses and bring them out whenever you can.

6 Ways to Make Self-Growth More Fun

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Can personal growth be fun? It certainly can be, but it can also be a struggle. 

When the focus is put on growing pains, people are turned off by growth opportunities. They get anxious and decide that the outcome simply isn’t worth the effort. 

Giving up isn’t a good idea, either for your personal well being or your professional life. Even though some try to keep these aspects of life separate, they tend to spill over into one another

It’s time for a fresh perspective on personal growth. To make the process not just manageable, but enjoyable:

1. Take a focused approach.

Before the fun begins, you have to narrow your focus. Thinking of personal growth holistically can be overwhelming because it comes in so many colors and approaches. For example, personal growth could encompass any of the following:

  • Becoming a more productive person
  • Building “hard” skills, like software development
  • Gaining “soft” skills, such as empathy
  • Kicking bad habits
  • Enhancing your physical body through exercise
  • Eating better
  • Pursuing your passions
  • Growing spiritually 

Chances are, you want to improve yourself in more than one of those ways. But in order to make the growth process enjoyable, you need to focus. Multitasking will not be effective: You’ll spread yourself too thin, and your growth won’t be as substantial.  

With that said, focusing doesn’t mean saying “no” to growth opportunities right in front of you. It’s about prioritizing what’s most important to you in your current situation. After that, look at what development processes contribute to your priorities. 

Developing a good habit, for example, may be the key to kicking a bad one. Likewise, spiritual growth could lead to mental clarity that enhances your productivity. There may be more overlap than you think. 

2. Bring a friend along on your journey.

Personal development should be about improving yourself, but it doesn’t have to be a solitary process. Doing it with a close friend can make it more fun. Not only will you be able to build off of each other, but you’ll both enjoy it more. 

The key is choosing your partner wisely. Look for someone you trust who’s pursuing similar types of personal growth.

Then, it’s about collaboration and accountability. Start a book club together. Collaborate on a passion project. Check each other’s progress toward the goals you decide on.

3. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Whether you are on a personal growth journey with someone specific or individually, avoid comparing your growth to someone else’s. It’s better to measure yourself against past versions of yourself. 

Competing with yourself can be incredibly rewarding. Feeling like you’re better than you were yesterday is a great reason to get out of bed and work hard. 

Even when competing against yourself, avoid endzone thinking. You’re a work in progress, like everyone else. There’s no such thing as a “best” you, so don’t stress about it.

4. Get in touch with your inner child.

When it comes to personal growth, it’s important to discover things about yourself along the way. Remember how fun exploring a new subject could be as a kid?

Giving structure to your personal growth journey is good, but you need to leave room for surprises. There’s a lot of fun in self-discovery, which is a great incentive to keep growing. Expecting any one outcome from your journey is limiting and stressful. 

5. Travel to new places.

Traveling supercharges your self-growth. You can learn so much from being in another place and experiencing different cultures. 

But in order to grow from traveling, you need to interact with the people at your destination. Simply going somewhere to sit on a beach and sight-see is tourism, not true exploration. Meeting new people is a constructive way to challenge your perspective on life.

6. Try out new hobbies.

Hobbies are inherently personal. But don’t write off a hobby before you give it a shot. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it forever; just try it. 

By testing out new hobbies, you flesh out your sense of self. Just as importantly, you grow in your understanding of the community that engages in the hobby. 

Say you’re a sports fan. Role-playing games may not seem like a natural progression, but who knows? Participating in them could give you a better sense of team dynamics, which can deepen your appreciation of physical sports. 

Engaging in new hobbies is an excellent growth strategy to cross with the second, collaboration. Trying something new together is both less intimidating and tends to produce faster growth. 

Personal growth shouldn’t be something you dread. Don’t overemphasize the difficulties. In fact, if you think about self-development the right way, it can be the most fun thing you do all day. 

How to Build a Relaxing Office Environment on a Budget

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Your staff may be stellar. You may be the best at what you do. But neither necessarily mean your clients are coming away happy.

One of the easiest ways to soup up your client experience? Sprucing up your office space.

The environment you create sets the tone for how clients interact with your business. A winning office can make customers excited to come in, reduce complaints, and build customer loyalty. 

You want your customers to feel comfortable and calm. This is especially true if you’re in a line of work that makes people nervous: law firms and doctors offices, pay attention.

The good news is, you don’t need a full renovation or an interior designer to make your office a more welcoming place. Take a look at the following ways to create a relaxing environment without breaking the bank:

1. Declutter the office.

In an office, things will pile up. And if you just keep stuffing things in nooks and crannies, you’re only creating a bigger problem for the future. 

Take care of clutter by dedicating time to clean up the office. Be thorough: When you work in the same space consistently, it’s easy to miss things that customers are sure to notice. Mess can make them feel uncomfortable at best and claustrophobic at worst. 

Once you’ve gotten rid of things that you don’t need, reorganize your office to give it a full reset. It’s an opportunity to try something new instead of sticking to the status quo. In doing so, you create space both physically and mentally for your customers.

2. Change your color palette.

Have you ever considered how much color impacts the way clients experience your office? It’s a big deal. 

You can cultivate a relaxed mood in your office with earthy colors. Try a warm white accented with green and natural-looking wood. If you rely on warm colors, like reds and oranges, you’ll create a more cozy/sleepy vibe. If you use dim colors, your space might feel depressing. 

Aside from painting, you can freshen up your office’s colors by:

  • Bringing in plants that complement your furniture
  • Allowing as much natural light into the office space as possible
  • Putting art on the walls that depict serene, earthy scenes
  • Rolling out soft, neutral rugs
  • Replacing old drapes with flowing, semi-transparent curtains

A relaxed atmosphere keeps people calm yet alert enough for an office. It’s like what people experience when they are in nature. 

3. Check the temperature.

It’s easy to forget how much of a difference adjusting your thermostat even a few degrees can make. With that said, temperature can be a tough thing to get right in an office.

Everyone will have a different opinion about how warm or cold it should be. Employees may want control, but customers should also have a say. Find a happy medium: Maybe your chilly team member can put on a sweater, if it means setting the thermostat where customers want it. 

Don’t be afraid to adjust your thermostat frequently. If someone comes in shivering, turn the heat up a notch. And if they start sweating, switch it right back down.  

4. Provide snack options. 

Snacks are delicious, but they also lend a certain ambiance to an office space. Even if they aren’t hungry when they come in your door, customers like to know they have options. Munching on a cookie or apple can be soothing while they wait. 

Speaking of, it’s important to have a variety of snack options. Leave out some healthy options, but don’t be afraid to squeeze in salty and sweet snacks as well. Particularly if appointments run long, customers will be grateful for the bite. 

5. Don’t forget a good demeanor. 

Your office environment includes the people in it. Don’t forget to smile and maintain a positive demeanor.

Some employees are naturally gifted at making people feel welcome. Those who don’t may need to work on their relationship-building skills. Add people with a good aura to a relaxed environment, and you’ll have a winning combination.

Just because you don’t have a budget to completely change your office space doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Do what you can right now, and save the bigger changes for when you have a little more play in your budget. 

6 Team Reads That Are Perfect for COVID-19

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Finding time to read is tough. One silver lining of COVID-19 is that many of us are spending more time at home — the perfect excuse to crack a book. 

Between that and remote work’s cultural challenges, an office book club might be just what your team needs right now. Reading a book together is both a bonding opportunity and a recipe for team-wide continuing education. 

With all the books out there, though, settling on one can be overwhelming. Narrow it down by suggesting the following options to your team:

1. “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Live in a Busy World” by Cal Newport 

In a world of constant updates and notifications, it’s easy to get distracted. That’s why a book like “Digital Minimalism” is so important: Not only does it bring awareness to digital time-wasters, but it suggests strategies for breaking free from them. 

Newport goes beyond the typical tech-detox advice. Instead, he argues for a complete rethinking of how we interact with digital technology. Especially on a remote team, it’s a topic worth talking about. 

Distractions destroy productivity. Use this read to get your team talking about what a more focused digital life might look like for each of them. 

2. “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo

For good reason, leaders are taking a hard look right now at racial biases and tensions that might be affecting their team. Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” is an unapologetic look at how and why those things often get swept under the rug. 

DiAngelo comes from the world of corporate diversity programs. Throughout her book, she refers to that experience when explaining why white people struggle to talk about racism.

Your team needs to read things that challenge and inspire them. Use “White Fragility” as a jumping-off point for a heart-to-heart chat about how inclusive your company really is. Having a book to refer to can open space for people to acknowledge others’ experiences and right wrongs.

3. “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel

At times, the pandemic can feel positively apocalyptic. Why not lean into that? Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” offers a lot of parallels.

A finalist for the 2014 National Book Award, “Station Eleven” tells the story of a traveling group of performers twenty years after a devastating flu pandemic destroys the world. After making their home in an abandoned airport, the group tries to reconnect with what’s left of humanity. 

“Station Eleven” bucks the myth that only nonfiction books are valuable team reads. In fact, reading fiction can sharpen employees’ emotional intelligence and creativity. Plus, they tend to be engaging, fast reads. 

4. “Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me” by Charlamagne Tha God 

For a great book about mental health, look no further than “Shook One.” This memoir by Charlamagne Tha God traces his emotional challenges as an adult, as well as his success in media, to the traumas he experienced as a child. 

To add depth to Charlamagne Tha God’s story, the book also includes insights from Dr. Ish Major, a clinical psychologist. These sections provide a professional edge and tips for managing anxiety to the radio star’s story. 

Why read this one with your team? Because mental illness is still stigmatized in many workplaces. Maybe it could encourage someone on your team to ask for help in these trying times. 

5. “Acting with Power: Why We Are More Powerful Than We Believe” by Deborah Gruenfeld 

COVID-19 has made many of us feel powerless. Fight that sense on your team by reading Deborah Gruenfeld’s “Acting With Power.” Gruenfeld manages to be radically positive in a way that’s authentic and original. 

The best part about Gruenfeld’s book is that it’s steeped in her own research. By analyzing the techniques of actors, she redefines personal power as the part you play in someone else’s story. “Acting With Power” encourages the meek to embrace their power by adopting an actor’s mindset.

6. “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams” by Matthew Walker 

At risk of repeating a worn-out joke, this book will put you to sleep in all the right ways. That’s because many of us could benefit from getting some more sleep. 

Sleep is one of the most underestimated and least understood parts of life, but it’s also one of the most important. In “Why We Sleep,” Walker explores the things that sleep does for our bodies and our brains. After reading it, you’ll definitely think twice before staying up past a reasonable bedtime. 

These books touch on different concerns and topics. Put your team’s heads together, and decide what you need most right now. And if the one you’re interested in isn’t chosen, remember: There’s always another read down the road. 

How to Make Group Counseling Work for Your Team

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Even the strongest team sometimes hits a rocky patch. That doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause, but rather that a group conversation is in order.

Group activities are critical for whole-team wellness. If group dynamics are an issue, however, a basketball game isn’t going to solve them. Group counseling may be just the ticket to get things back on track.  

Similar to individual talk therapy, group counseling involves unpacking things together in order to create space to grow. The beauty of this approach is that it can be used regardless of the team’s challenges. 

But you can’t simply sit everyone down and hope they figure it out. To make group counseling work on your team:

1. Discuss why you’re doing it.

The word “counseling” can be scary. Don’t blindside members of your team. When people don’t know why they’re being asked to engage in group counseling, they may approach it with apathy or even hostility. 

To create a sense of safety, give your team an honest “why.” Although there’s no wrong reason to invest in group counseling, common reasons for doing so include:

  • Resolving tensions that have been building on the team
  • Promoting harmony through stronger communication
  • Building a stronger sense of community in the office
  • Giving team members tools for conflict resolution
  • Ensuring a new hire gets a great team experience

2. Destigmatize counseling.

Unfortunately, mental health services are still stigmatized in some circles. Things are changing, but years of assumptions are difficult to break. And those assumptions can lead employees to resist the idea of group counseling.

Do your best to normalize the concept of counseling. If you go to therapy yourself, that would be a good time to bring it up. If not, mention a few celebrities or other cultural icons who’ve benefited from it. 

Make clear, too, that group counseling isn’t designed to diagnose anyone with any disorder. Nobody is going to walk away with a prescription or in a white coat. The goal is merely to promote harmony on the team. 

3. Be clear about who needs to be there. 

A group counseling session is similar to any other team meeting in at least one way: If someone doesn’t need to be there, then they shouldn’t be. You’ll want to limit attendance to the individuals who need it. 

If it’s just the sales team that is struggling to get along, don’t add marketers into the mix. If just three salespeople seem to be at odds with each other, you might not even need the whole sales staff. 

What if multiple departments could use counseling? Start with the most interested one. Let them show the rest how productive group counseling can be. 

4. Get a professional to facilitate.

Counseling is a skill. It may look easy, but that’s because facilitators spend years practicing it. 

Because many group counseling sessions look like any other conversation, business leaders are sometimes tempted to take it into their own hands. But having a certified counselor lead the session both ensures a better outcome and takes pressure off the leader. 

Look for a counselor with a Master’s in the field and an active license. As a neutral party, that person can come into the situation without the baggage that employees and managers have.

If you’re not sure where to start, ask for referrals. Chances are, someone in your entrepreneurial network has tried team counseling. 

5. Consider the when and the where.

Part of getting everyone on the same page involves scheduling. Before choosing when and where to hold the group counseling session, ask yourself:

  • Will the session happen during or outside of regular work hours?
  • What day of the week works best for everyone? Are weekends an option?
  • Will you use the office space or go to a more neutral location? 
  • How long should the session last?
  • Might a follow-up session be needed?

If someone on the team isn’t comfortable with a certain time or place, listen to them. It’s vital that everyone involved is ready to open up. 

6. Decide what to do afterward.

After the group counseling session, bring everyone back to discuss their experience. Assessing how helpful the session was will help you decide whether to schedule a second one. 

There’s nothing wrong with a one-off counseling session. If the team found it valuable, however, it might be worth setting up a monthly or quarterly conversation. If budget is an issue, consider attaching an annual session to a team development day.

Group counseling can help not just struggling teams, but also thriving ones. Simply being more comfortable around your co-workers is reason enough. When in doubt, talk it out. 

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