Rules of thumb.

Meredith Paige Avatar
Baby holding adult's thumb

In no particular order:

A fantastic employee is immediately fantastic.  Day one, they surpass your expectations even though they’re hardly trained.

A reader sent his father-in-law’s gem, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” Thanks Brian!

Micromanaging is a sign of distrust.  If you find yourself micromanaging someone, ask yourself if you would be better off finding someone else to do the job.

Motivation is intrinsic: If you have to cajole and persuade a staff member constantly, you’re wasting your time.

Employees should be treated as well as clients. Full stop.

Wear nametags at (even fancy) gatherings. People won’t approach others if they’ve forgotten their names. I got this rule from my new friend Nick Gray’s book and monthly newsletter.

Connection can’t be bought.  Whether trying to connect with your customers or staff, there are no shortcuts. You must put in the time and hard work. No app or template can do this for you.

Take photos of stuff, especially at the start of your business. “These are the good old days,” and your origin story depends on these relics. I wish I had a photo of the painter’s shirts I made by ironing our logo onto 500 Walmart white undershirts because we didn’t have enough money in our first year to have shirts professionally printed.

Use specifics when giving praise.  “Good job” or “Thanks for sharing” leaves the person feeling unseen. Tell them precisely what you liked: “I’m stunned by the time we’re saving in the warehouse just by installing that doorstop.” 

Acronyms confuse people.  Spell things out, especially at the beginning.  And don’t write on your resume: “I used GHT software to fix the UYL report for the HUD department head.”  Nobody has any idea what you’re talking about.

Don’t rush when explaining something. You’ve likely processed something for hours, so start from the beginning and go slowly so others can process it too. I always forget this and have to back up in the middle when I’ve lost people.

Your spreadsheet is logical to only you. When onlookers first see your spreadsheet, they have no clue what they’re looking at. Like showing your work on a math problem, spreadsheets “show the work” behind your presentation. Start with the takeaways and conclusions, and only show the spreadsheet if someone wants to see the backup to your conclusions. Otherwise, you’ll lose your audience as they try to figure out what cell B13 refers to.

No more than 7 words on a PowerPoint slide: Any more, and you’ve lost me. And certainly, don’t add a spreadsheet to your slide.

Go “slide-free.” One woman told her clients, “If you’re looking for pretty PowerPoint presentations, look elsewhere. I only spend time on what matters, like insights, trends, and opportunities.” WOW, right?

Small changes can make an enormous impact:  Try facing your desk away from the doorway. You’ll decrease interruptions, get home earlier and spend more time with your kids – all from a 45-degree turn of your desk.

You’re likely doing something (very) right if it feels like a slog. And if it feels like a slog to you, it also feels like a slog to others. Keep slogging so when others give up, you’re the only one at the finish line.

What rules of thumb do you know to be universal?

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