People want to do business with those who show likability, respect, and accountability. This builds trust, which in turn helps your business. It takes a little effort to build the skills that make you more likable, but it pays off in every environment, work or not.

Here are a few tips to help you along the way.

Make eye contact. Focusing on the person speaking lets them know they’ve been heard, and that you aren’t worrying about what to make for dinner or about rush hour traffic. This holds true even if the conversation isn’t comfortable or going to bear fruit. So make eye contact and hold it.

Smile. Smiling shows enthusiasm and energy―what many people call charisma. It’s an easy way to convey warmth and likeability. Smiling is also contagious. People will walk away thinking you’re a friendly, relatable person, which is exactly what you want to build trust.

Stash the smartphone. And keep it hidden! Remember that paying attention part? Interrupting your conversation to peek at your email and texts is a sure likeability killer. So, don’t do it!

Give a firm handshake. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, you want a handshake that’s not too hard, not too soft. Research shows that people decide whether or not they like you within seconds of meeting you. A firm handshake contributes enormously to a positive first impression.

Call people by their names. I know this is hard for those of us who forget someone’s name the minute we hear it, but practicing using someone’s name in conversation helps us cement it in our mind. It signals that you’re interested in making a connection with the other person. People appreciate when you remember their name. Practice different strategies to remember names if you have trouble.

Listen more than you speak. Remember the old saying “you have two ears and only one mouth, and you should use them in that proportion”? Still as true as when your grandmother scolded you with it. Try not just responding to what someone is saying, but recapping what you’ve heard to ensure understanding. Say, “If I’m understanding you correctly, you said….” Try it, it works!

Flatter, but genuinely. Everyone likes to hear something positive about themselves. Tell people they look great today, or that you appreciate their efforts. Again, it shows that you’re interested in them. Be careful not to flatter too much; that can be creepy.

Say you’re sorry. Taking accountability for your/your company’s mistakes is the first step in banishing ill feelings. “I’m sorry” is not something we hear that often, especially from businesses. It works even when you’re not to blame! Rather, it’s an effective way to show that you’re putting yourself in their shoes and are trying to relate. Expressing that you understand someone’s experience increases trust.

Stand and sit up straight. Bad posture sends a message that you’re bored, don’t care, or grumpy. If you convey negative body language, no one will want to get to know you. In fact, according to psychologists, standing or sitting in an expansive way (legs apart, arms spread wide, leaning forward) conveys confidence. It also makes you feel more powerful, a step toward projecting likeability.

Keep your word. Remember that trust thing? Keeping your word, meeting a deadline, or delivering on time as you said you would engenders tremendous trust. If, in the rare event you can’t, remember to apologize.

Don’t complain or gossip. Complainers and gossipers, aka energy vampires, suck all the energy out of the room. No one wants to be around a whiner. It’s an instant turnoff. If this is you, stop! If you’re surrounded by these negative Nellies, change your situation.

Be inclusive. No one likes feeling left out, so don’t leave people out in a conversation or group setting. If you find that someone is being left out, try to include them. This shows that you’re paying attention and that you genuinely care about others’ feelings.

Don’t judge a book by its cover. First impressions, as much as we don’t like to admit it, can cause us to close people out. We’re all busy, but the more we make an effort to reach out to people to get to know them, the more likeable we become in their eyes.

Many of these tips come down to showing respect for other people. When we show respect, most of the time we get respect and trust in return. Now, try these easy social skills out today. We guarantee you’ll see results. Just sayin’.

Published: New Mexico Apartment News Magazine – September/October issue 2017

Sharon Dillard is the award-winning CEO of Get A Grip Inc., a national franchise kitchen and bathroom resurfacing company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Last time, I told you a bit about our growing pains. Well, the pains continue. Trying to hire more employees and the right people, making sure that everyone is doing what they are supposed to do on a daily basis, double checking everything, running the business day-to-day, putting out the fires that come with running a customer service-based business, then trying to find time for my family, on top of trying to workout at the gym and taking time for myself! I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Growing a business is always a juggling act. Here are some more insights I’ve discovered as our business has quickly grown.

Communicate More. As the team grows, communication becomes harder, but also more critical. As it becomes harder to update everyone, or assume that everyone knows the direction the company is headed, it becomes more important than ever to keep everyone in the loop. It may seem like a waste of time to hold those weekly staff meetings when the phones are ringing, customers walking in and appointments to keep, but those weekly meetings, emailed memos, or bulletin board postings keep the information flowing. And they ensure that everyone is on the same page working towards the same goal.

Let Technology Help. I bet there are processes in your business that could be streamlined or a piece of software or app that could make them faster or easier to manage. Like scheduling software for meetings, phone calls or social media planning. And technology allows us to set alarms and reminders about appointments, meetings or due dates, too. Could you use Dropbox or Google drives to share the latest documents or other information everyone needs? Take some time to figure out where you can implement automation to free up more time and mental bandwidth for your team members where it makes sense.

Outsource. If you need support but don’t want to hire full-time team members yet, consider contractors or freelancers to help fill the gaps for you. You’ll get specialized, high-quality work without having to give them an office or pay benefits. You and your employees can focus on your key objectives and goals and let the specialists do their thing.

Say No. No business owner wants to turn away customers. But sometimes you must, because you don’t want to sacrifice quality. That sometimes means saying no to someone so you can focus on a more valuable opportunity. Remember, value comes in several forms – it could be based on the quality or length of the relationship, how passionate you are about the business they bring, or other factors.

Don’t Overwork. You want to work hard to sustain your growth and reach the next level, right? That’s great! But what often ends up happening is you end up overworking yourself and your people. This lack of work-life balance is dangerous, and can lead to burnout. Leaders need to model behavior, and to let employees know that they aren’t expected to work overtime and until exhaustion. It’s important that this starts at the top. Because everyone’s brain needs time to replenish before it can be productive again, the same as the body. Show that your company respects health and wellness by respecting people’s needs.

Growth is both exciting and anxiety causing for companies. There are things you can do to ensure that you can manage the growing pains, and thrive during these periods. Use these tips to spend a less time suffering and more time prospering. Just sayin’.

Published: New Mexico Apartment News Magazine – July/August issue 2017

Sharon Dillard is the award-winning CEO of Get A Grip Inc., a national franchise kitchen and bathroom resurfacing company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Every company goes through growing pains. They can be challenging, yet exciting. Get A Grip is feeling some growing pains right now. We’ve just broken ground on a new building – we’ve outgrown our office and warehouse space! And we’ve added people to the team to help us keep up with the growth. We’re also adding new products – hence the need for more space. New people and products, a new facility, too tight space – it all adds up to good problems for a business to have. No matter what size your business is, growing pains are common. So here are some lessons we’ve learned to help you work through this time of opportunity and challenge.

Invest back into the business. Growth means spending money on additional staff, technologies, office space, supplies and much more. So keeping an eye on the bottom line by projecting monthly sales and expenses, collecting payments quickly, setting up a cash reserves and reconciling your monthly bank statements is vital. Learn how to decipher financial statements, too, so that you know what resources are going where, and why, and where you need to add or reallocate money. 

Hire smart. The desire to control things often means we don’t hire people to help us grow soon enough. And yet, as a business starts to expand, everyone must evolve from a multitasking do-it-all-myself mindset into a big-picture leader who inspires her managers and employees to meet and even exceed the business’ goals. So hire smart and soon.

Manage your time. Whether your business is a startup or a long-time company, you must prioritize your calendar so that you focus on the most important things. Delegate the time-consuming administrative tasks, although important, can be easily given away. You’ll free up your time to concentrate on the activities that only you can do, that help you address your current business growth.

Review your business’ processes. The processes your business uses to do routine tasks: payroll, incoming sales calls, inventory, etc. become key as your business grows. By writing these processes down, eliminating duplication and extra steps, you can identify bottlenecks to growth, and be able to quickly bring new people up to speed. This ensures that your business is positioned to quickly ramp up and continue to grow. 

Check in regularly. Review roles, responsibilities, and goals regularly – whatever regularly means for you. Meet with the team at least weekly to talk about what is working and what is not. Written goals and responsibilities hold everyone accountable, and keep everyone on track and moving forward.

Don’t forget the customer. Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you can ignore phone calls, emails or in-person meetings with customers. It’s your customer that’s pushed you into growth mode. Keeping your existing customers happy is vital to continued growth – they are your best referral sources or your worst nightmare if they feel ignored or unloved. So answer the phone, reply to emails and greet people at the door as if they were the only person in the world.

Every day is a new day with all the new challenges that it brings. For companies in growth mode, these ideas should help you manage those growing pains. Sometimes it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees, and tweaks are all that’s needed to make a difference. Just sayin’.

Published: New Mexico Apartment News Magazine – May/June issue 2017

Sharon Dillard is the award-winning CEO of Get A Grip Inc., a national franchise kitchen and bathroom resurfacing company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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As leaders (or future leaders) in our companies, communities and beyond, we need to build great teams, set high standards and look for ways to improve. But we also need to build our own leadership brand – the reasons that people see us as leaders in the first place. And continue to look to us for advice, mentorship and direction. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way to build a successful leadership brand.

Know Who You Are as a Leader: Do you shoot from the hip or are you a deliberator who gathers information first? Someone who directs from experience and instinct or someone who seeks collaboration before making decisions? Somewhere in between? When you know your own leadership style, you can evaluate how well it is working with your people, and then adapt it to fit the circumstances. Being flexible and open to meeting people where they are is your job as the leader.

Take a Leadership Inventory: Leaders must possess strong self-awareness. That is, they understand their strengths, weaknesses and where they can make an impact. Evaluate your core expertise, experience and credibility. Where are you ahead of the competition in your industry or organization? Where do you fall behind and could use some study or improvement? You don’t have to be all things to all people, but you should recognize where you shine and where you need polish.

Find Your Own Mentor: Take a look at the larger business world for role models, mentors and coaches of your own. Consider joining a peer group network to gain a larger perspective on what makes a leader successful in different organizations. Then use what you’ve learned to improve your own leadership abilities within your own company.Create Your Narrative: Now is the time to tell your unique story as a leader. Steve Jobs positioned himself as an innovator in technology. Warren Buffet relies on his image as a down-to-earth, tell-it-like-it-is person to run one of the most successful companies in the world. People listened and still listen to them. Once you’ve found your unique story, keep it simple and share your point of view and insights from that position.

Now Tell the Story: Start with your employees and customers – tell them the story of what makes you unique as a leader. Use social media, newsletters, blogging and letters to the editor to explore ways of getting the word out. Find hot button issues and share your perspective, always staying consistent with your message. And customize the story for each channel you’re using to tell your story. People follow leaders because they want to be inspired and motivated. So inspire and motivate them with your story. 

Give Back: Part of being a leader is acting like one. That means mentoring people in your organization, and contributing to the success of your industry and community. Serve on committees and boards. Sponsor business and non-profit group activities. Spend time nurturing the next generation of leaders, wherever you find them.

Leaders come in all shapes, styles, and forms. Stop to think about some of the leaders that have inspired you or even some that have made you mad. The qualities of good leadership skills will become apparent, as will those that you find ineffective (and thus don’t want to model). Use these tips to build your own leadership brand, and you’ll be successful in demonstrating to others that you’re a leader worth following. Just sayin’. 

Published: New Mexico Apartment News Magazine – March/April issue 2017

Sharon Dillard is the award-winning CEO of Get A Grip Inc., a national franchise kitchen and bathroom resurfacing company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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By Sharon Dillard January 2017

The New Year is a great time for a ‘fresh start’ with new goals, but the key is not to let your accomplishment or (lack thereof) of these goals dictate your overall happiness. Work on learning how to create your own happiness – it will serve you better throughout your entire year.

Focus on Your Outlook on Life. Happy people generally don’t rely on outside sources and influences to determine their own self-worth and sense of well-being. The happiest people I know usually have a better grasp of understanding and how they react to a situation. They look for internal sources of positivity and good energy, rather than waiting for ‘life’ to provide them with happiness.

Take a Step Back when Stressing. It’s easy to get caught in a downward spiral of stress when a problem arises. One thing that helps me is to ask myself, “Will this be causing me this much stress a month from now?” It never fails to help calm me down and provide some perspective to the problem. We’ll never be able to completely avoid the stress the world throws at us, but how we cope with it daily plays a huge role in shaping our overall happiness.

Cut Off Negative People. Your surroundings impact you tremendously. If you spend time with positive people, you are more likely to be positive. So, do you best to cut out the naysayers in your life. This is a lot easier said than done; everyone, even your lifetime family and friends, can go through rough patches. Don’t be too quick to pull the trigger and chop these people off, but if you realize their negativity is more the norm, rather than the exception, it might be time to consider distancing yourself from them. It might be hard, but remember – you have just as much responsibility to take care of yourself as you do anyone else.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others. It’s easy to look at someone else’s life and think, “They’ve got it made. I wish I had what they have.” Whenever you find yourself thinking these negative thoughts, remember – we compare our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel. It’s almost impossible to find true happiness based only on comparisons.

Train Regularly. It’s much harder to judge and feel bad about yourself after a workout. Plus, physical training releases endorphins! Even something as simple as taking a brisk walk with a pet or going for a leisure bike ride really pays off. I cannot stress the importance of taking care of your body enough. If you take steps toward getting fit and being happy with yourself physically, you will be astonished at how much more cheerful you’ll be every single day.

Plan Time to Relax. Positive people realize that relaxation – taking time to slow down, set aside plans and goals, and simply loosening up – is key. Everyone relaxes differently; for you it could mean spending time with friends and family enjoying good food and other social activities. Or, it could mean being by yourself reading a book. Either way, you need to take time to enjoy life and give yourself a break from all its stresses.

Spend Time Outside. Nature is one of the best and oldest healers we have; it clears the mind and relaxes the body. Take a second to admire the beauty of our planet. It’s a great way to recharge your positivity battery!

Accept the Things You Cannot Change. Positive people embrace reality as a way to learn and grow. Whenever they experience disappointment, failure, or set backs, they work hard to get back up. They don’t give up. That doesn’t mean they ignore or minimize negative emotions; they just do their absolute best to remind themselves these emotions and feelings are temporary.

This is a brand new, fresh and shiny 2017 we’re all heading into. Remember to take time and focus on creating your own happiness. Take a step back when stressing; do your best to surround yourself with positive people; don’t compare yourself to others; take care of your body and mind; and accept there are some things you can’t change. Just sayin’.

Published: New Mexico Apartment News Magazine – January/February issue 2017

Sharon Dillard is the award-winning CEO of Get A Grip Inc., a national franchise kitchen and bathroom resurfacing company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Holidays at Work

November 2016 by Sharon Dillard

With the holidays just around the corner, I can already feel everyone’s (including my own) stress levels rising. To make the most wonderful time of the year even more enjoyable, try these tips for surviving the holiday season while at work.

Plan time off well ahead of time. Don’t wait until the last minute to ask for time off. Talk with your family and coworkers to find out how much time and when they would like to take off so you can work your way towards a compromise you’re all happy with. The holidays are a busy time for many businesses and sometimes there needs to be all hands on deck. You don’t want a stressed out your boss or co-workers – that only adds to your own stress!

Let your clients and co-workers know your schedule. If everyone knows when you’re going to be gone, they won’t try to contact you with work-related issues and questions. Plus, you should never assume that everyone celebrates the same way and at the time as you.

Go easy on the decorations. Your office doesn’t need to look like the North Pole; leave the musical dancing snowman, smelly candles, and potpourri at home. I have reduced my stash down to one box full of the most meaningful ornaments, tree trimmings, and decorations. The holidays are a festive time, but your eye has to stay on the prize – work and customer service.

Party! The annual holiday work party is the one work event you should never skip. It’s a work function, so be punctual, happy, and professional. Also, make sure you take time to make the rounds, especially if you have a guest to introduce!

Keep gift giving small. If you decide to give coworkers gifts, keep them small and low cost. Or, if possible, do something for the entire department! It won’t bother anyone if they know those cookies came from a bakery instead of your oven.

Organize something for others. Does a local charity organize a gift, food or clothing drive for disadvantaged families? This is always a winner – who doesn’t have fun buying toys and needed items for a family?! Put a donation box in your office and it creates a ton of good cheer for everyone. Plus, it is an easy way to get involved in the community! It also makes your office look good to customers who visit.

Keep snacking to a minimum. Candy does not equal holiday cheer, so don’t sabotage your own health goals. It’s ok to indulge during this time of year, but try not to go overboard. You’re going to be surrounded by delicious treats and food everywhere, but stay strong! You’ll feel so much better once the new year comes around.

Don’t stop moving. Shorter days take their toll on everyone’s energy. Throw in bad weather, increased traffic, as well as a sense of needing to get everything done before your time off and the levy could sap even the Energizer Bunny. One way to get energized at the office is by exercising. Skip the elevator and use the stairs, park in the last row in the parking lot, or even go for a walk outside each day at lunch. Even though it seems like exercising will drain your energy, you’ll be surprised at how much it improves your mood and gives you tons of spirit!

Give thanks. Did you know that being grateful increases your happiness and motivation? Take a few minutes each day to write down different things you’re thankful for.

The holidays can be a fun and joyous time, even when you are working. Stay calm and focus on what needs to be done at the office while you’re working, so you can relax both there and when you are away. Just sayin’.

Published: New Mexico Apartment News Magazine – November/December issue 2016

Sharon Dillard is the award-winning CEO of Get A Grip Inc., a national franchise kitchen and bathroom resurfacing company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Just Sayin Sept Oct 2016I was recently talking with my son Ryan, who works here at Get A Grip as Senior Vice President, about how busy we are. But despite how much we have going on in the business, and in our personal lives, we’re taking it all in stride. We’ve both developed routines over the course of the past years to help us deal with unexpected events. Most importantly, these routines help us stay ahead of the game by providing balance between home and work. Staying organized helps us get through each busy day and leave work at work when the day is done.

Here are some ways that help keep me organized and ahead of the game.

Keep a notebook: I keep a spiral notebook with me at all times, so when I make new plans or come up with new ideas for projects, I can jot them down immediately. This way I can stay focused on the now, and don’t have to worry about whether or not I’ve forgotten about important long-term projects I might have on my plate. 

Plan ahead. A few minutes of planning and preparation can save hours of time and loads of frustration. Think ahead to what you’ll need, what issues may come up, and what can you do ahead of time to delegate. For example, instead of waiting until dinnertime to figure out what to eat, plan it the night before or in the morning before you head out. Check your freezer, find a recipe that fits what you have, and you’re all set! A few minutes of planning allows you to stop worrying about it for the rest of the day. That’s all kinds of headspace freed up for other tasks!

Start the day with structure: Go through email and social media updates that have piled up overnight and prioritize what needs to be done. First, delegate what you can so your team can start working as soon as possible. Then, knock out your quick tasks, and schedule bigger items into your calendar. Finally, delete all the unimportant and unavoidable junk that clutters our inboxes daily. 

Batch up your tasks. Sometimes it’s easier to do one type of thing multiple times, like an assembly line. Group like tasks into batches – phone calls, filing, correspondence, paying bills, etc. You’ll be more focused, instead of paying attention to several things at once. Plus, completing a task feels very satisfying! This strategy will also help you keep clutter to a minimum by filing or getting rid of papers right away.

Use checklists. Checklists are great for routine tasks. They reduce errors and help minimize your stress, especially when you are overworked or are in a rush. Plus, if you’re not around, someone else can pick up your checklist and run with it!

Use technology wisely. Keep phone numbers and other often-used data on your computer and/or mobile phone. Online organizers – which you can access via your computer or your phone – can combine your calendar, address book, to-do lists, and so much more. They also send you pop-up reminders about meetings and deadlines, which can provide a huge relief knowing you’ll never have to worry about missing an important meeting or appointment. The effort it takes to master these tools will save you tons of time (and lots of sticky notes) in the long run.

Stick with what works. Choose make up, clothes, shoes, a phone, etc. that work for you and stay with it. Don’t waste time (and money) on the latest and greatest fads when what you have already suits you perfectly!

Give it your full attention. Efficient people put most effort towards their most important projects, and minor towards the rest. So it’s okay to eat ready-to-eat healthy meals, or bring store-bought cookies to school for the bake sale, because you’re focused on getting that work project done, or helping your kids with homework.

These ideas have helped me stay focused at work and at home. I can leave work at work, be fully present at home, and vice versa. So give yourself a break and stop beating yourself up about the little things. Tomorrow is another day to start again. Just sayin’.

Published: New Mexico Apartment News Magazine – September/October issue 2016

Sharon Dillard is the award-winning CEO of Get A Grip Inc., a national franchise kitchen and bathroom resurfacing company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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VideoGamesGrowing up, all I could think about was what the future held and where I was going next; the fact that I was ‘young’ never really entered my mind! These days, I’m doing my best to appreciate the strength I still have, plus finally having the freedom to do what I’ve always wanted. Certainly, getting older means accepting that gravity is working against me now. But, it doesn’t mean I have to feel or act like the best years of my life have already passed me by. Here are a few ways that have helped me look and feel vital, even as I grow older.

  1. Surround yourself with fun, lively and interesting people. The flipside of that is to avoid spending time with people who complain about how old they feel; often they will just pull you right down with them and make you feel old too. Instead, surround yourself with people who feel and act young, both inside and out.
  1. Work your brain. A study published in Journal of the American Medical Association shows that brain exercises can prevent mental decline, and the benefits can last for years. Do puzzles like Sudoku, word games, play Scrabble, and make sure to read, read, read. In addition to keeping your brain healthy, you might learn something!
  1. Seeing the world and discovering how other people live can add years to your life. Plus, taking the time to plan wonderful things for the future gives you something to look forward to. If your physical or financial circumstances prevent getting on an airplane, train or traveling by car, watch travel documentaries or read books about faraway destinations and their histories and people.
  1. Eat healthy. Healthy foods, especially those with Omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, walnuts, and seeds, help improve your mood, maintain bone strength, and help prevent visible signs of aging. Omega-3s also keep your skin radiant, a sure sign of health.
  1. Exercise every day. Remember, even if you’re achy or tired, you don’t have to run a marathon every day. Just get moving! Soon you’ll forget about how tired you are, and you’ll have more energy to do all of the fun things you truly want to do. And not only does regular exercise help you lose weight, build strong bones and tone muscles, it boosts your mood, relieves stress and improves mental functioning.
  1. After all that healthy eating and exercise, take time with your appearance. Get your hair done (including coloring to hide the grey if that’s what you want). Wear clothes that you feel good in and flatter your coloring and body. Get a mani/pedi and show off those hands and feet. Freshly painted nails make me feel gorgeous every time! And if taking time with your appearance means getting help in the way of medical treatments like Botox or wrinkle fillers, don’t be afraid to just do it!
  1. Be spontaneous. When you do something out of the ordinary and on barely a moment’s notice, this can make you feel alive and young. As a grandmother, I now pay attention to children because they know how to be happy, young, and carefree.
  1. Most of all, give yourself a break! Stressing about getting older is worthless –it happens to us all. And stress, as we all know, makes us feel and act old! I help relieve stress by exercising, being with friends and family, and taking time for myself. Even 10 minutes of alone time to meditate can help prevent age-related changes in the brain.

We’re all getting older, but that doesn’t mean we have to feel or act like we are ready to be put out to pasture. Because with age comes wisdom, and I’m wise enough to know that you’re only as old as you feel. Just sayin’. 

Published: New Mexico Apartment News Magazine – July/August issue 2016

Sharon Dillard is the award-winning CEO of Get A Grip Inc., a national franchise kitchen and bathroom resurfacing company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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We’ve all heard the saying, “People do business with those they like, know, and trust.” It’s true! Business and personal success is all about the right connections. These connections – colleagues, employees, customers, friends, and partners – and more importantly, the people that THEY know, lead to new opportunities. But how do these connections actually form?

Many of us instinctively recognize when someone is only in it for themselves. These are the wrong connections, right? Right! Here are some ways to find and cultivate the right connections, where everyone involved believes in the principal of win-win relationships.

  1. Ask questions first. Before you launch into a hard sell with a prospect or a bragging session with a potential new friend, take time to ask them about themselves or their business. When you ask questions, you help your customer (and potential new friend) explain what they’re looking for and recognize your interest in them as genuine. Questions are fundamental to relationship building, and the more skilled you are at asking them, the stronger the relationship you’ll create.
  1. Really listen. There’s nothing worse than feeling ignored, or like you’re the distraction when it’s obvious that someone isn’t focusing on the conversation. Really focus on what the other person is saying before you respond. Nobody likes a person that seems to only be waiting for their turn to talk.
  1. Remember things. Do you remember when you would walk into a local store and everyone knew your name? Or asked about your dog or cat? Or mentioned they liked your new haircut? When you remember one or two details about someone – a customer, a vendor, or a friend – you show you value that person. Everyone likes to feel important, and showing you took the time and interest to listen to someone enough to remember these details is one way to do that.
  1. Be honest. Be honest about yourself, your own business and your capabilities. By creating an open culture, especially about your own shortcomings, you encourage people to be honest with you. I’ve found this is one of the biggest things that helps build trust.
  1. Talk about yourself. Once you’ve done all of the above, you can make it personal by revealing something about yourself. Just be sure it’s something genuine your potential connect can relate to and isn’t too personal. It’s important that the connection be real.
  1. Connect Face-to-Face. While it’s often much quicker and less stressful to email a connection, face-to-face meetings create far more meaningful connections – both for personal and business relationships. If your potential connection is far away, consider using Skype or FaceTime to put a real face to the conversation.
  1. Be patient. Like most important things, it takes time to develop lasting relationships in your personal life and in business. So don’t rush the process. We’re all busy, but expecting an instant connection with anyone is unrealistic.
  1. Make time. The flip side of being patient is making time to connect. Schedule lunch or coffee dates with friends and potential business connections to strengthen the relationships. Attend networking events yourself regularly without expecting an instant increase in sales. Ask your employees and colleagues to leave the office periodically to attend networking events organizations. The fresh ideas you all will learn and new people you will meet will inspire you all further.

Our real goal in making connections should be to learn from, and build real relationships with people who challenge us to stretch our thinking. Of course, friends, relatives and people who are just like us are important, but to be truly successful and reach our full potential, we should create important and meaningful connections with a broad sweep of people. When we’re open to the universe putting the right people in our path, we’re sure to find connections everywhere. Just sayin’.

Published: New Mexico Apartment News Magazine – May/June issue 2016

Sharon Dillard is the award-winning CEO of Get A Grip Inc., a national franchise kitchen and bathroom resurfacing company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Alone Time

March 2016 by Sharon Dillard

Spending some quality time by yourself can make a world of difference in your thinking and in your body. But making yourself a priority, even once in a while, is really hard for many of us – especially those of us with family responsibilities. However, spending time alone can recharge your spirit in ways that being with people, even ones we love, cannot. Here are some reasons to be alone, and ways to make solitude easier (because it’s hard in our ever more constantly connected world) and productive.

  1. Dump the guilt and realize that being alone doesn’t mean lonely, sad or antisocial. Our culture tends to turn a desire for solitude into a bad thing. But seeking alone time can be healthy, with plenty of psychological and physical benefits. Some people, particularly women, feel guilty about taking time for themselves. As caregivers, we should be taking care of everyone else, right? But taking care of yourself not only models healthy behavior for others, it keeps you happy, healthy, and strong.
  1. Schedule time alone and disconnect. Set aside some time each day to unplug from everything and everyone. You can wake up early, get to the office early or stay late, stay up later than everyone, or even use your lunch hour as a break for yourself. Turn off all your devices. Meditate. Write in a journal. Walk. Sit in the sun outside. Go to a park and eat lunch. Enjoy the time you have alone. Once a week or month, schedule a whole day when you get away from everyone – go to the movies by yourself, eat a meal alone, go for a solo hike, bike ride or drive.
  1. Alone time allows you to relax and actually give your brain a chance to rest. Being “on” all the time means your brain is also “on.” It needs a chance to catch up, rest and recharge. Being by yourself means you can clear your mind, focus, and think more clearly.
  1. Solitude helps boost concentration and productivity. By removing distractions and interruptions, your concentration will increase tremendously! You’ll be able to get much more done in a shorter period of time.
  1. Quality time alone allows you to discover yourself. Being part of a group is wonderful, but it’s tempting to always go along with the group’s decisions and opinions. That may not always be the action or thinking you would follow if you were on your own. The clearer you are on your own thinking, decision making and needs, the more you can contribute to the group.
  1. Solitude can mean time to think. I don’t know about you, but my to-do list is endless! The temptation to add to it all the time often means putting off thinking other, equally important, thoughts. This can stifle creativity and actually make you less productive as a whole. Distractions are everywhere – your television, computer or any other electronic device; even the people we love the most can often be a distraction. It’s hard to think of a solution any problem, big or small, when these distractions are disrupting your focus.
  1. Alone time can enhance your relationships with others. By spending time with yourself and getting a better handle on who you are and what you want, you’ll have more clarity about who you want to your spend time with and why. You’ll appreciate your relationships even more! 
  1. Don’t be afraid to close your door. Or if you don’t have a door, put a sign on your wall that asks people to come back later. If your space can’t be closed off from distractions, try wearing noise-cancelling headphones to block the world out. Once you begin making time for yourself, you may run into resistance from others – they want your attention like always! But don’t let that stop you. Let them know that you’re still there for them, but you need your designated alone time. They’ll quickly realize that you taking time for yourself means you’ll be back to them refreshed.

The demands of life and business can mean finding time for ourselves is a challenge. But the effort is worth it – both for your body and your spirit. Now, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” formula for solitude. Try different activities for 15 minutes at a time and see which work best for you. Or take an hour, or a day. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of fine tuning. A refreshed, enlightened and confident person is better than being stressed out, distracted and grumpy, right? Just sayin’.

Published: New Mexico Apartment News Magazine – March/April issue 2016

Sharon Dillard is the award-winning CEO of Get A Grip Inc., a national franchise kitchen and bathroom resurfacing company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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