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Time Lapse: Painting Pat Evans

Four hours of painting condensed to two minutes.

Painting time lapse

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Art of the Day: Jing Wen

Here’s my painting of Chinese model, Jing Wen.

I was drawn to the beauty of her strong angular features, the intensity in her eyes, and the fierceness of her facial expression. I love the contrast between the warm tones of her skin and the cool sea-foam and blue colors in the background. I have used a free brushwork technique that allows the background colors to interact with the subject to create a dreamlike feeling in the painting. She looks like an ethereal modern-day warrior princess.

Please leave me a comment to let me know if you like this piece!

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Bye Bye, Brutha-K

I’m saying goodbye to one of my favorite paintings – ‘Brutha-K’ has now been boxed up and is ready for shipping to Antigua. This painting joins my other piece ‘Antiguan Girl’ along with many other beautiful artworks from artists around the world being auctioned in aid of hurricane relief for Barbuda and Dominica. The ‘Art for the Islands’ Fundraising exhibition takes place on December 2nd in English Harbour, Antigua. I will miss him, but I hope he finds a lovely new home.

 

If you will be in Antigua, and plan on attending this event in aid of a very worth cause, please leave me comment below to let me know!

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4 Tips for Online Personal Branding

Are you branding your passion?

After years of being inundated by the “me, me, me” of social media, the term ‘personal branding’ has become little more than a hackneyed synonym for shameless self-promotion. Like my page… Endorse me… Follow my blog…

Whether you like it or not, the fact that you’re reading this article means that you’ve probably already established a digital footprint. Social media is here to stay. It’s where we get our news. It’s where we do our searches. Social media has become something of a parallel universe.

Your brand is already out there. Neglecting it, or pretending it doesn’t exist won’t do you any good. Instead, here are four tips for skillfully navigating the virtual landscape without smacking of desperation or disingenuity, and having some fun in the process.

1. Be yourself

Your online presence should be a reflection of who you are, as well who you aspire to be. Cultivating a personal brand is not about contriving a staid counterfeit identity, but of sharing what’s important to you, and intermingling your personal passions and professional expertise in authentic ways.

With a dozen or so major options to choose from, it should be easy to find a mix of social media platforms that comfortably matches the way you’d like to share your interests and insights. If you’re a pilot who likes cooking, Pinterest might be a natural choice. If you’re a makeup artist who’d enjoy video blogging, then you can start with Vine or Instagram and then move on to YouTube.

I use various platforms to express diverse and quirky facets of my personality. While I am a business executive who is passionate about transformation, I am also an avid reader, unabashed self-improvement enthusiast, and proud Caribbean native. My twitter account and Facebook page are a steady stream of inspiring quotes and encouraging aphorisms (which some may derisively dismiss as cornball platitudes), while I express my inner pedant, by tracking and sharing my book lists on Goodreads. What you share may not suit all tastes, but there are appreciative niches waiting to welcome the real you.

2. Give more than you take

In it’s purest sense, social media influence should be a reflection of the value you bring to your online community. There are many who place undue importance on building online turf by obtaining a large audience, or even faking it by buying followers. It is a far more valuable use of time to concentrate on the quality of the content you’re delivering, and on expanding your knowledge and deepening relationships though genuine engagement.

Don’t just ask people to follow you, but try to interact with and learn from them based on your shared interests. Don’t ask others for endorsements, get to know their areas of interest and expertise, and recommend them first. Don’t just insist that your friends and colleagues read your articles, but try to comment on, share and discuss theirs, as well. To be interesting, be interested.

3. Exercise good judgement

Your Internet-based articles, comments, photos, and tweets bear the invisible insignia: “This is who I am”. Each seemingly insignificant piece of shared flotsam becomes part of your composite digital identity. It’s essential to control what you put out there, and that you take precautions against harming your reputation or that of others. Don’t presume that because you don’t have a large twitter following, it’s okay to post shaming, racist or otherwise negative content for laughs or a rant.

You don’t have to be a slave to what other people may think of your online content, but be sure to exercise your best judgement, always.

4. Measure your influence

I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition.
— Bill Gates

Klout is a service that acts as a scorecard of your online influence. Klout analyses hundreds of social media markers (likes, shares, comments, followers) from up to thirteen social media sites, and creates a ranking score in the range 1 to 100. While Klout’s methods of scoring are undisclosed, your Klout score gives you an independent, albeit potentially fallible indication of how your influence measures up when compared to other online users.

Klout will also help you track how your influence varies over time. When I checked in on Klout for the first time in a few months last August, I realized that my score had plummeted to 65 after averaging 75 for a year or so. I knew it was time to get back into gear, and started actively sharing content, and connecting with my social media communities again. Within a few weeks my Klout rating was back up to the previous average. For the past three months, it has remained consistent, varying between 79 and 81.

You don’t have to sign up for Klout to be tracked by the service, but it’s a good idea to add the platforms you have a presence on to help aggregate your score.

Want more?

For more information on levering your online presence to build your brand, read Gary Vaynerchuk‘s feisty book ‘Crush It: Why Now Is the Time to Cash in on Your Passion‘. Almost four years ago, I read it in an afternoon, and it inspired me to immediately click on GoDaddy.com and buy a URL in my name.

For two more balanced perspectives on building your personal brand read these articles by Forbes contributors:
1. Why Introverts Excel at Personal Branding by William Arruda,
2. Personal Branding As Leadership by Glenn Lopis

Please join the conversation, and let me what you agreed or disagreed with, and what you’d add to this list!

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5 Ways to Inspire Millennials at Work

 

Business leaders, entrepreneurs and other professionals often bemoan the apparent lack of commitment, loyalty and ambition present in Generation Y employees. Those 80s and 90s babies buck workplace convention. They talk back. They want to dress differently, are bored easily and come across as wanting life handed to them on a platter. Why is it that Millennials seem to want to frustrate us by constantly asking ‘Why?’

Isn’t this much the same way each new generation has been perceived by the one before it? How many lectures did you hear during childhood about how much ‘easier’ things are now? Didn’t your grandparents go on similar rants with your parents? Could it be that Millennials are unwittingly challenging us to raise our standards?

The truth is that each generation gets progressively smarter, stronger, more creative. “More entitled, too!”, you might add. Perhaps. Technology is advancing at a mind-numbing rate. We’re all for advancement, but what really bothers the old-fogies is that many of the old rules don’t apply. We find it incongruously unfair that flip-flop clad software geeks who skateboard to work are changing the world daily.

How can we bridge the generational chasm? How can we positively influence the young adults who don’t happen to be Silicon Valley billionaires, but turn up somewhat disheveled and slightly late to work each day? How do we engage the Snapchat generation? More importantly, how do we start inspiring Gen Ys to start focusing their energies on developing the skills necessary to make them tomorrow’s capable leaders?

I read an excellent article by Graham Winfrey titled ‘Are Millenials Giving Up on Working?‘. The article’s accompanying infographic by training firm Virtuali highlights the following disturbing statistics:

  • 66% of millennials are disengaged at work
  • 91% of millennials plan on leaving their job within 3 years

Below, I have adapted the infographic’s five points to consider for increasing engagement and inspiring leadership in Millennials:

1. To inspire leadership, be a leader

The Millennial understanding of leadership is not one that springs forth from rank or title. Gen Ys will not bestow loyalty and obedience solely on the basis of tenure or seniority. “They have no respect!”, you may say, but young people believe that respect should be earned, and that leadership is lived out in our actions every day. To be a leader in the eyes of the younger generation, demonstrate that you are worth following.

2. To inspire leadership, consistently provide development opportunities

Young people do not view training programs as perks for good performance or a rewards for good behavior. As a consequence of growing up in the information age, Millennials believe that leadership development should be a universal benefit provided by employers. Adopt this attitude and watch your younger charges begin to bloom.

3. To inspire leadership, more show; less tell 

At its most effective, learning for Millennials should be personal, relevant and enjoyed. As leaders, we should seek to provide learning opportunities every time we interact with those under our direction. Provide clear proof to those you lead that you are personally invested in their growth and development, and their engagement will begin to skyrocket.

4. To inspire leadership, perfect your communication skills

No matter how much experience you have or how many accolades decorate your office walls, it is your behavior that will cement your value and reputation in the hearts and minds of younger employees. Above technical know-how, Millennials value your ability communicate clearly, how well you listen, your receptiveness to new ideas, and how effectively you show you care. Work on honing these skills every day.

5. To inspire leadership, provide diverse work opportunities

Gen Ys crave novelty and variety, and will not be willing to give their all at workplaces that do not offer new and interesting opportunities. To young people, loyalty is a two-way street. Here’s where some creativity is required. Shake things up sometimes. Make it part of your people strategy to provide new knowledge to your people on an ongoing basis through cross-training, departmental rotations and intra-office secondments.

Please share your own experiences and ideas for inspiring and engaging younger people in the workplace. Do you find it challenging to inspire them to give of their best? In what ways are you actively creating robust succession paths for leadership?

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31 Essential Email Etiquette Tips

In today’s fast paced world, the information we need is often right at the touch of a smart phone button. The convenience of tapping or typing out quick emails and responses makes it tempting to hit send without giving much thought to what we have written. The tricky part is that unlike with personal messages, business emails blunders may have serious and far-reaching consequences. Our tone may be misinterpreted by the reader, we may inadvertently include confidential information, we may offend a reader from a different culture. Not taking the time to consistently deliver professionally drafted emails will invariably color our attitude to work as being inattentive, immature or sloppy.

The standard of quality of our email correspondence forms as much a part of our professional presence as the way we speak and the way we dress. Every email you send will either help to build your reputation as a competent professional, or run the risk of destroying the way you’re viewed at work. Etiquette may seem like a stuffy, old-fashioned concept, but there is nothing old-fashioned about having excellent standards. Perfecting and consistently applying good email etiquette will go a long way toward boosting your reputation with colleagues and bosses for years to come. It’s never too late to start forming positive new email habits.

Here are 31 essential professional email etiquette tips which should help you make a positive difference in most professional environments:

 

1. Ask yourself: Is it email worthy?

Avoid introducing highly confidential or private matters over email. If you would hesitate about broaching the topic publicly, then you should carefully consider the appropriateness of the contents before hitting send. Some topics should only be discussed behind closed doors, and face to face. Make a commitment to thinking twice about discussing sensitive issues via email.

2. Use a well-crafted subject line

Never leave an email subject line blank. Readers often decide if and how soon to open an email based on the subject line. Make a habit of giving your readers a concise snapshot of the contents to follow by using a precise and unambiguous subject line. If the topic in an email thread has changed, keep the subject line current, as well. Consider keeping the original subject in brackets.

3. Use an appropriate greeting

Each new email should always begin with an appropriate greeting and the name of the person you’re writing to. Dear _____, Good day _____, Hello _____and Hi _____ are all appropriate email greetings, in decreasing order of formality. Out of courtesy, try never begin an email with just the recipient’s name, or by going straight into the content. Save very informal greetings for casual friends.

4. Open on an agreeable note

Being pleasant to deal with, even in challenging situations, will increase your influence and help others enjoy working with you. On the other hand, being a Gruff Grady or Pessimistic Pete may have colleagues ignoring your emails until they’ve worked up the courage to open them. Make a commitment to conveying warmth in the very first line of every email. Sharing related good news, giving a sincere compliment or a personalised word of appreciation is a great way to open an email message.

5. Be concise

If your email recipient cannot quickly process what you have written, this is guaranteed to reduce the probability of a prompt response. Be concise when writing emails. Use clear language and avoid rambling sentences. Respect the recipient’s time. Don’t attempt to convey long drawn out incidents or complicated concepts via email. Be clear and up front about the email’s purpose and what you’re asking.

6. Maintain a positive tone throughout

Just like spoken communication, effective written communication is best achieved with a positive attitude. Using active, positive language and a high level of respect and courtesy in your emails will set the tone for your reader to mirror your behavior, and respond in like manner. Select your words carefully. Avoid negative or emotionally laden words, accusing statements and blaming. Practice using empathy, neutral word choice and clarifying questions instead.

7. Be structured and thorough

Be thorough. Email replies should answer all previously posed questions. Always respond point for point before introducing new information or making requests of your own. Avoid table-tennis email matches by making your best effort to pre-empt further questions by crafting a well-considered, thoughtful and efficient response.
Be structured. If you’re asking three questions, enumerated them clearly. When you’re responding to emails, do the same.

8. Use the AIDA formula

Use the AIDA formula when composing emails to improve the likelihood of a positive response to requests.

A: Get the attention of the reader with an appropriate subject line.

I:  Stimulate their interest with a pleasant opening sentence.

D: Create desire by explaining the details of the situation, clearly stating what’s in it for them.

A: Give a call to action with a request that outlines what you wish to happen next.

9. Use white space

Always make your emails simple to read and easy to scan. Do your best to minimize the need for scrolling, bearing in mind that many emails will be read on mobile devices. Make use of white space by limiting the length of each paragraph, and keeping your email to a maximum of three or four short paragraphs. Each paragraph should only be three or four lines long. Use paragraph titles in bold if you must cover more than a single topic in one email. Use bullet points or enumeration to add clarity to your content when possible.

10. Conclude intentionally

Make it a habit to close your email with confidence. Confidence breeds attraction and respect. End your email in a positive, optimistic manner that demonstrates you have confidence and anticipate the required response outlined. If you expect a response, conclude by saying so e.g. “I look forward to your response”, or “I look forward to us setting a meeting time”.

11. Sign off cordially

Your closing should be both warm and reflection of your personality. ‘Warm regards’, ‘Many thanks’ and ‘Cheers’ are all appropriate email sign offs. Don’t ever just close with your name alone, or worse – by abruptly leaving the reader hanging.

12. Always use a signature

Always use an email signature. A signature is an important contact tool, which makes it easy for your recipients to reach you. Set up an automatic signature on each of the email platforms you use, including all mobile devices. Your email signature should include your full name, position, company name and telephone contact number.

13. Use Cc and reply with care

Avoid drama, confusion and unnecessarily clogged inboxes, by taking the time to send email messages only to the right people. Be careful when replying to emails where numerous others have been cc’d. Instead of automatically clicking ‘reply all’, ask yourself if every one of the recipients needs the information in your message. Remove recipients who aren’t relevant. It is not necessary to respond if you have only been included in the cc line.

14. Use exclamation points sparingly

Excessive use of exclamation points puts you at risk of appearing overly emotional or immature, and of offending the reader. Only use exclamation points lightheartedly to convey excitement, never to convey anger, frustration or disappointment. As a rule of thumb, use a maximum of one exclamation point per email, and say no to using multiple punctuation marks e.g. ??? or !!! or ?!?

15. Be cautious with humour

Humour, irony and sarcasm can easily get lost in translation without the tone of voice or appropriate facial expressions to back them up. Comments perceived as funny when spoken may be interpreted very differently, perhaps even as offensive, when written. In a professional exchange, it’s better to leave  humour out of emails unless you know the recipient very well.

16. Be sensitive to your audience

People from varying backgrounds speak and write differently. Miscommunication occurs more often over email when we can’t see each other’s body language and facial expressions. Higher context cultures e.g. Asian, and Caribbean may appreciate a more polite, personal approach compared to lower context cultures where you can get straight to the point. Learn to balance your approach, and when in doubt, choose to err on the side of courtesy.

17. Respond in a timely manner

Emails should receive a response as swiftly as you would return a phone call—generally within the same working day. If you can’t provide the response or action within the required time frame, acknowledge the email and state clearly both your intended delivery date, and what your plan of action is e.g. research, contact supplier. While you may not be able to respond to every email immediately, avoid keeping the sender waiting for more than two business days.

18. Proofread before you send

Always read through each email before sending. Proofread to verify that you have not forgotten important details. Check thoroughly for spelling and grammatical errors and to ensure clarity of meaning. Set your email program to automatically spellcheck before sending. Be sure to double-check that your recipient’s name is spelled correctly.

19. Ban text-speak from your emails

Many common text-message abbreviations, emoticons, acronyms and slang are not appropriate for professional emails. Make it a habit to avoid using shortcuts to real words, even when you’re sending emails from mobile devices. Save the abbreviations such as Gr8, 4 u, IKR and BTW for instant message conversations with casual friends.

20. Avoid using ALL-CAPS

Writing emails, or portions of your emails in capital letters is considered to be shouting. Be courteous to your readers. Don’t yell; always avoid using all caps in written correspondence, even for emphasis.

21. Do you need to talk instead?

You may have started composing an email only to realize that the topic is too cumbersome to be effectively handled via this medium. Never use email as a means of covering a mistake, dodging an uncomfortable situation, or avoiding personal contact. ‘Well I sent you an email’ is a refrain too often used to avoid taking full responsibility. Pick up the phone and request a meeting when the topic is a potential “can of worms” i.e. has many parameters to be explained or negotiated or that may be potentially confusing.

22. Give a heads up when needed

Some emails should never be sent cold. It may be much more effective to prepare your reader in advance for what you are about to send. If your email is more than a few lines long, be sure to contact the person in advance to let them know. If you agree to do this in advance, emails also serve as great reminders of the salient points from quick meetings or telephone discussions.

23. Never send an angry email

If you are upset, disappointed or displeased about something, take a moment to calm down, then deal with it face to face, or over the telephone. Refrain from delivering bad news, reprimands, or firing an employee or supplier via email. Email is forever. Avoid writing something you may regret. Even if you are in the right, never adopt an arrogant, condescending, or demanding tone. Practice composing every email as if you were addressing a future employer or your most important client.

24. Be considerate with attachments

When providing email attachments, be sure to carefully list each item you are attaching, with a brief explanation of why you are sending it. Use meaningful file names for each attachment, and avoid sending large and numerous attachments unless necessary.

25. Run away from one-liners

If you’re expected to respond to an email, don’t cherry pick the points you will address. Be courteous enough to address all points thoroughly and respond using full sentences. Unless necessary, avoid sending one-liners such as ‘sure thing’ and ‘oh ok’, which do not advance the conversation in any way. If a response is not expected or required, don’t send one.

26. Avoid read and delivery receipts

Email delivery and read receipts are discourteous, and run the risk of annoying the reader, before he/she has even had a chance to read the message. If you want to know if your intended recipient has received your message, politely request a reply within a specified time frame, or pick up the phone and ask.

27. Respond to angry emails with care

When you receive an angry email, it is important to respond with great care. Investigate the details of the situation fully and speak with the offended party in person. When you respond, apologize first. Nest, express both concern and an empathetic understanding of the impact of the circumstances. Thirdly, explain. This way, it does not look like you’re merely letting yourself off the hook with an excuse.  Finally, offer a remedy or solution.

28. Respond to calendar invitations

Meeting invitations are emails, too. When you receive a meeting invitation via email, it is impolite to ignore it. Respond within an appropriate period of time letting the meeting organiser know if you plan on attending. You can accept, decline or accept tentatively. If you’re declining, be sure to edit the message before sending—briefly providing a polite explanation of  why you won’t be able to make it.

29. Avoid SPAM

Cute poems, off-color jokes, threats of 7 years of bad luck, Nigerian bank account promises, and other email hoaxes are often vehicles for malicious content. Worms, viruses or Trojan horses can find their way onto your computer and the company’s information systems via these emails. Delete junk mail as soon as you receive it. In professional settings, make a commitment never to forward this type of unsolicited email to anyone.

30. Your email is a reflection of you

Are your emails scattered, disorganized or filled with typos and grammatical mistakes? Are your emails curt, too short or have a rude or negative tone? Do your emails ramble on without getting to a clear point or request? You may not think so, but if your colleagues or bosses think so, they may also think poorly of your professional standards. Make your email a reflection of you. Begin with the end in mind; think of the professional image you want to project and make it a habit to ensure that your emails always reflect this.

31. Share the knowledge

Don’t assume your direct reports are familiar with the email etiquette standards you expect. Explain to them clearly the guidelines everyone should follow. As a minimum, ensure their email signatures are set up and that they adhere to standard company fonts and stationery. Share this post with your colleagues if you’ve found it to be useful.
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10 Ways to Stop Talking Too Much

Are You a Chatterbox?

Do you know someone who talks too much? I’m sure you can think of an acquaintance or colleague who makes you want to head in the opposite direction as soon as you see them coming. Maybe you’re bringing to mind the aunt or uncle who starts off asking how you’re doing, but without even giving you a chance to respond, launches into the tedious details of the medical procedure they underwent six months ago. The person you’re thinking of may be a sweet, friendly and well-meaning magpie. Or he may be an extroverted windbag—always cracking jokes and full of gossipy tidbits.

Guess what. The person you’re thinking of is you! To the irritation and dismay of those around us, we ALL talk too much sometimes. Whether our chattiness is needy or noisy, when we start over-sharing, we become tolerable only in small doses. We leave the person we’re yammering to wondering why we keep rambling on long after they’ve lost interest.

On the occasions when we talk too much, we miss the generous stream of verbal and non-verbal clues heaped on us by our disinterested audiences. We miss the folded arms, stony faces, wondering eyes and vague remarks of the bored. We fail to notice how conversations sometimes break up as soon as we appear. Like the fat kid at a birthday party, we obliviously eat more than our fair share of cake.

The Dangers of Talking Too Much

We all gossip sometimes. Occasionally, we become over-excited and hog the flow of conversation. Most of the time we manage to keep our chattiness from getting out of control. We have all had instances, however, where running our mouths has had far-reaching consequences:

  • Talking too much can destroy our friendships
  • Talking too much can cause strife in our family lives
  • Talking too much can cause co-workers to distrust us
  • Talking too much can keep us from advancing at work
  • Talking too much can get us fired

One of my newest coaching clients is a talented and engaging young man. He completed university well ahead of his peers and is holding down a good job with a large company. He has identified one major challenge he’d like to work on: sometimes he talks too much. I’m inspired by this young man’s wisdom and bravery. He has recognized what most of do not—that the words that come out of our mouths should always be under our full control. Together we will work through strategies to help him develop high levels of discipline governing his speech. This will place him even further along the road to success in his career and in life.

Here are 10 steps we can all take to help us take control of unguarded speech:

1. Take Responsibility

Whether you’re an occasional over-talker, or a full-time blowhard, recognizing that there is room for improvement, and that you have the power to change is the first step to succeeding at any personal goal. In his brilliant book, ‘The War of Art‘, Steven Pressfield writes, “There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny.” All bad habits can be broken.

2. Keep A Log of Transgressions

Benjamin Franklin built his strong character by recording his progress on personal development tasks every day. He was famous for keeping a special notebook for this purpose even into old age. Keeping a record of the number of times in a day when we shoot off at the mouth can help us to gauge the severity of our over-talking. To become more mindful of when your mouth should be kept shut, record the following in a notebook daily for at least a week:

a) Each time you offered up criticism or hurtful opinions about other people
b) Each time you let confidential or unflattering details slip about a friend, family member or colleague
c) Each time you blurted out inappropriate personal information or secrets
d) Every instance when you rambled on in conversation giving unsolicited details

3. Become a Good Listener

Listening is hard work. To become good listeners, we must develop a genuine interest in other people. One of the adages from Stephen Covey’s best-selling book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People‘ is “Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then be understood.” Look for opportunities to ask people open-ended questions about themselves. When they respond, instead of looking for the first opportunity to jump in and relate a similar experience, ask them to elaborate.  You will find that others enjoy talking with you a lot more when you give them the opportunity to talk about themselves.

4. Be Sensitive to Cues

A conversation should be an ongoing exchange. As in a game of tennis, if someone decides to hog “the ball” instead of volleying, the game will be over. People will generally let us know when we’re hogging the ball—we just need to pay attention to the cues. Their eyes will stray, they will fiddle and seem distracted. They respond to our drone with a few polite smiles, nods and okays, all the while thinking of clever ways to escape. Learn to sense disinterest in others and either engage them or be the one to end the conversation.

5. Practice the One Sentence Rule

Practice responding to any question in a single thoughtful sentence. This will require some effort. Compose your response carefully before speaking, instead of thinking aloud and rambling on. Then pause, and wait for a response. If your conversation partner is interested in what you have to say, they will dig deeper and ask questions. If they don’t, this is a clue that you shouldn’t continue talking. You should aim to own only 30%-40% of the talk time in any conversation.

6. Calm Down

For some of us, talking too much is a defense mechanism—a sign that we are feeling nervous, tense or uncomfortable. One great way to slow down our racing inner clocks is to spend a few moments in meditation each day. Sit or lie quietly with your eyes closed and a half-smile on your face. Focus on your breathing. Feel all the rhythms of your body as you inhale and exhale. Do this upon waking, and several times per day for ten breaths. Work toward spending as much as 30 minutes daily bringing your mind in tune with your breathing. You will begin to feel a greater sense of control and calm in everything you do.

7. Embrace Solitude

Sometimes when we talk too much, we’re performing—working hard on presenting the best version of ourselves. We’re uncomfortable being alone, and may find ourselves constantly craving an audience. Stillness requires discipline. Spend 30 minutes to one hour a day engaging the practice of a quiet activity that requires concentration. Read a book, or listen to an audiobook. These quiet activities will help you to exercise your mind without simultaneously engaging your mouth.

8. Work up a Sweat

Talking too much may be the result of having excess nervous energy. Vigorous exercise is a great way to rid ourselves of the desire to keep talking. When we tire out our bodies, our brains settle down as well. Even people who talk too much as a result of ADHD benefit from significantly reduced symptoms as a result of regular exercise.

9. Build Mystique

People are more interested in those who have a bit of mystery about them. We don’t need to blurt out all the details of what’s going on in our lives all the time. Speak generally. The less we say, the more interesting we become to friends, co-workers and even lovers. Keep some things to yourself, and allow others to discover more about you over time.

10. Commit to Self-Improvement

At times, we over-talk as a result of insecurity. With bosses, colleagues and strangers, we overuse conversation is an attempt to improve our image. We brag about our achievements and season our conversations with names and details that help us seem more successful, and our lives more glamorous. This insecurity may also cause us to become judgmental toward others. We inadvertently criticize people and spread unflattering gossip as a way to bolster our self-image. When we discipline ourselves to invest more time working on becoming better, we have less of a need to cover up our inadequacies by trying to convince others of how great we already are.

 

 

 

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I’ll Always Come Back to You

KING OBSTINATE – I’LL ALWAYS COME BACK TO YOU!

And at an early age in the cane field I start to sing
I’m from a family of 13, and you know that’s a lot of mouths
So I decided to go away to help Papa out

But I’ll always come back to you, I’ll always come back to you
And if I can’t come back I’ll cry to nyam funghi, I’ll die
I’ll always come back to you, I’ll always come back to you
And if I can’t come back I’ll cry to be at Brother B, I’ll die

Antigua and Barbuda, you know we’ve had some trying times
So in order to survive I had to sing the Calypso rhyme
Europe, Canada and America are few of the places I have roamed
But regardless of where I have been, I always come back home

I’ll always come back to you, I’ll always come back to you
And if I can’t come back I’ll cry for Labour Day, I’ll die
I’ll always come back to you, I’ll always come back to you
And if I can’t come back I’ll cry to hear what Papa say, I’ll die

Antigua and Barbuda, even though we were far apart
I spoke of you so many times, even though it broke my heart
I keep telling them about our beaches, the coral reefs and indented shores
Where you could play a game of warri, or a card game of All Fours

I’ll always come back to you, I’ll always come back to you
And if I can’t come back I’ll cry for Sailing Week, I’ll die
I’ll always come back to you, I’ll always come back to you
And if I can’t come back I’ll cry to play withe dem Yankee chicks, I’ll die

Antigua and Barbuda, I stuck with you every step of the way
And I am still on the battlefield up to this very day
I’m your true ambassador, who has no office
And who gets no salary, but I owe my country this

I’ll always come back to you, I’ll always come back to you
And if I can’t come back I’ll cry to swim on my beach, I’ll die
I’ll always come back to you, I’ll always come back to you
And if I can’t come back I’ll cry to hear Brother Connie preach, I’ll die

I’ll always come back to you…

John Hughes, Betty’s Hope, Newfield, Green Bay, Jennings, Liberta, Blizzard, Parham, Willikies, Cobb’s Cross, Potters, Ovals, Cedar Grove, All Saints, Cashew Hill, Old Road, Bolans, Seaton, Falmouth, Five Islands, Buckleys, Green Castle…

 

Happy Independence Day, Antigua and Barbuda!

 

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How to be a Winner: 10 Attitude-Adjusting Commitments to Make to Yourself

The Comfort of Mediocrity

Growing up, I struggled with low self-esteem. Sometimes I would get ‘A’s at school, but because of my poor self-image, I would often get ‘C’s and occasionally ‘F’s. I was bright and talented, but I was not confident enough to apply myself to my studies or to sports or to art. I was inconsistent – at everything.

I had a desire for success, but I wanted to do well without actually trying. I was mortified of daring to really study. What if I tried my best and then failed? Even worse, I was scared of putting in the effort, and actually succeeding. That would mean I would have to continue working hard to keep it up. Then the pressure would really be on. I remember being angry at my parents for not pushing me, but deep down I knew that it was my responsibility to live up to my own potential. It was only after leaving university that I decided to face my fears and begin working hard. It was only after adjusting my attitude that I began to succeed.

The comforting lie of mediocrity is that if we don’t bother to try, we won’t ever have to take responsibility for succeeding. Most people continue to fly beneath the radar and live below their potential because they’re terrified of deciding to be successful. Let’s face it, success is a scary thing.

Attitudes + Habits = Destiny

I read a lot. I soak up non-fiction, business books, books on self-development, classics and biographies. My reading is driven by a thirst for knowledge and for an appreciation of different perspectives. I am curious as to why is it that some people are happy, while others are not. Why is that some people succeed, and others don’t? After reading hundreds of books, and through my own experiences, I can conclude that the secret of success is a simple one.

Our attitudes, plus our habits shape our destiny. Our way of thinking shapes our prevailing attitude towards life. Our attitudes in turn direct our actions and our reactions. These daily practiced actions and reactions take on the predictable pattern that forms our habits. How we think, how we feel and what we do every day takes us step by step along the path that is our destiny.

It isn’t rocket science. The path you are on right now can be traced back to what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling and what you’re doing. If you feel like a victim, you will not act like a winner. If you think that you haven’t been given enough opportunities in life, you will not develop the habits that will help you to succeed.

If you want to achieve the happiness and success you desire, you must reset two things: your attitude, and your habits. In order to succeed, you must commit to adjusting the thoughts that go through your head every day. To be a winner, you must commit to reshaping your daily habits.

Here are ten commitments to make to yourself today to re-adjust your attitudes, re-shape your habits and re-set your destiny:

 

#1. I will succeed

Decide to challenge yourself to achieving the biggest, hairiest goal you can dream up for yourself. That dream exists in your heart because you know you have what it takes to do it. Don’t play it safe. Dare to make the new commitment to yourself: I will succeed.

#2. I accept full responsibility

When you make a decision to win, you must also accept responsibility for making it to your goal no matter what. Whether you’re from a challenging background, have no resources or have physical disabilities, you must make the commitment to yourself to accept full responsibility. Continue to say to yourself “I am responsible”. Repeat it over and over until it sinks in: “I accept full responsibility for my success”.

#3. I will decide on a strategy

Long-term success does not happen by accident. Figure out what needs to be done in order to achieve your goal. You don’t need to have the entire plan in mind; begin with a general idea. At each stage, you must know exactly what needs to be done next, otherwise you will choke. Commit to always pushing yourself to decide what comes next.

#4. I will do the work

This is the absolute hardest part. Planning and preparation can be fun and easy. Starting is hard. Doing is hard. Continuing to work after you’ve experienced failure is the hardest of all. But as every champion will tell you, there can be no success without first overcoming obstacles. You must do the work it takes to succeed. Commit to yourself: I will do the work.

#5. I will learn each day

In order to be a winner you must always be learning. Continuous growth and development are absolutely necessary to be a winner. Study your craft. Expand your mind. Read. Take the time to carefully analyze what’s working well, and what needs to be discarded. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. Make the commitment to become better each day through learning.

#6. I will compete only with myself

There will always be people better looking than you, more talented than you, richer than you, smarter than you. Make the commitment to compete only with yourself. When you constantly challenge yourself to be better than you were the day before, you will come out on top. Commit: I will compete only with myself.

#7. I will make no excuses

Life constantly throws us curve balls. Hurricanes happen, banks fail, we get ill. Regardless of what fate throws your way, just keep going. Forget what’s happening around you and find inspiration in your added challenges. Refuse to ever make excuses.

#8. I will give 100%

In order to win, you must persist until you succeed. You must force yourself to give 100% of yourself every time. If you don’t, you just won’t make it. Go out determined to win every battle. There are so many stories of people who came so close. But that’s not you. You will make the commitment. You will always give 100%!

#9. I refuse to play small

Doing the work, learning every day and competing with yourself is not easy. The decision to succeed demands sacrifice and passion and dedication. Never pretend to yourself or anyone else that you aren’t going to win. The voice in your head that says you’ll never make it will always be greater than the external voices of discouragement. Once you become master of the voice in your own head, haters will not even exist for you. Poof! They will disappear. It’s not about being arrogant, just refuse to play small.

#10. I will never give up

Your journey will be a series of  ups and downs. There will be victories and there will be defeats. But, even when things look darkest, even after repeated failures, don’t ever give up. You’re on a path. You’ve chosen your destiny. You have made the commitment to succeed, and succeed you must.

 

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10 Ways to Spot A Weak Finance Executive

My career in finance and accounting began in 1997 when I landed a job as an Audit Associate with Ernst & Young. In the years since, I’ve worked with three of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms, as well as Financial Controller and CFO in several industries before removing my accounting hat to take on the role of General Manager.

The expectations of the role of the chief accountant, finance manager, financial controller, finance director and chief financial officer have evolved over the years. The accounting profession is no longer the realm of ‘bean counters’ in dark, dingy offices piled high with papers and over-flowing with adding machine tape. Today’s accounting professional is no longer just an administrator or cost cutter, but a part of the heartbeat of the organization’s success.

More than ever, there is an increasing demand for highly skilled accounting professionals. Today’s finance executive is a key partner in the business, creating value and providing a high return on investment. Top performers expand their repertoire of skills beyond the purely financial to become true leaders within their organization. Unfortunately, weak financial managers still outnumber the excellent ones. Here are ten ways to spot them:

1. Weak finance executives frequently miss deadlines

Ineffective finance managers forget that for financial reports to be effective, they must be provided to decision-makers in a timely manner. The most basic requirements of finance managers are that they have fundamental accounting skills and the ability to provide timely reports by effectively managing the finance department. Strong financial executives work well under pressure to produce timely, reliable and accurate information.

2. Weak finance executives confuse working hard with delivering results

Finance is a demanding field that often requires working long hours. Ineffective finance professionals seem to get addicted to putting in long hours without tying the strenuous effort to tangible goals and visible improvements. Excellent finance managers put in the work required, but become noticeably more efficient over time. They focus on adding value and becoming better at what they do, rather than just burning the midnight oil.

3. Weak finance executives are stuck behind their desks

Have you ever met a chief accountant who lives behind his or her desk? While the finance function crosses all areas of the business, ineffective financial executives are out of touch with the day-to-day happenings of the organization. Failing to understand the importance of having “a finger on the pulse”, ineffective finance managers do not assert themselves as leaders, they fail to expose themselves to the front line, and miss the opportunity to get to know others. As a result, ineffective financial executives find themselves ignored by both colleagues and line staff.

4. Weak finance executives do not have the support of the GM or CEO

Your financial controller might be a poor one if he or she has not developed a strong relationship with the boss. The relationship between a financial executive and the general manager  is one of the most critically important to the success of the organization. Skilled finance professionals make it a priority to win the trust of leaders and make sure that there is open and frequent communication.

5. Weak finance executives are poor communicators

Poor financial executives lack well-developed communication skills. They often appear uncomfortable interacting with others and fail to engage effectively with people at all levels of the organization. Skillful financial executives clearly and concisely communicate the financial performance of the company and the availability of resources both orally and in writing. They are also not afraid of delivering bad news and will provide information to bosses and shareholders without having to be asked.

6. Weak finance executives have a limited understanding of the business

Your finance director might be a poor one if he doesn’t have a solid understanding of all aspects of the business. A common red flag of an inept accountant is a failure to grasp critical processes and non-financial drivers in areas such as sales, production or marketing.  An effective finance executive will have well-developed commercial skills. He or she will be intimately familiar with functioning of the various cycles in the business, their strengths and weakness, as well as their relative levels of criticality to success.

7. Weak finance executives fail to attract, build and retain effective teams

An excellent finance director is only as good as the team supporting him or her. Many executives fail to remember the importance of attracting the best and the brightest people. They fail to create a nurturing environment which challenges young professionals. Many managers expect hard work from their junior accountants without providing them with coaching, rigorous development plans and a clear path for advancement. When ineffective finance managers fail to build loyalty and trust, they find themselves suffering the disrupting cycle of losing key people, rehiring and retraining.

8. Weak finance executives provide poor cash management

While every company encounters liquidity challenges at some point, companies with unfit accountants encounter frequent difficulties meeting important financial obligations, paying key suppliers, and missing payroll. A strong financial executive will think ahead in order to skillfully juggle scarce funds, negotiate with suppliers and perform miracles to ensure that staff are never paid late.

9. Weak finance executives fail to appropriately challenge the management team

Inept CFOs often find themselves intimidated by their colleagues, and allow them to get away with murder. Having the self-confidence to appropriately challenge fellow executives about targets, variances and overall performance is a critical requirement of the skillful financial executive. Incapable accountants demonstrate shaky leadership qualities and lack the gravitas to hold the executive team accountable.

10. Weak finance executives fail to add value 

Weak accountants are undisciplined, pay insufficient attention to detail and often produce low-quality reports which are riddled with errors. Ineffective finance managers have the under-developed interpretive skills which result in poor forecasts based on faulty models with incorrect assumptions. A sound finance executive is fiercely committed to achieving results. He or she is passionately engaged in achieving the goals of the company, and this hunger drives excellence in his or her work. Competent financial executives are highly disciplined, fluent with their numbers, able to think strategically and have the ability to translate plans into effective action.

Here’s a short version of this blog post as a Slideshare presentation: