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Be a Leader. Be Yourself.

A woman can always tell the difference between a knock-off Coach purse and an authentic one.  Whether it’s the slight sheen of the faux-leather, the minor enlargement of the checkered-pattern, or the one-shade-off color brown of the bag, a girl always knows.  Similarly, an employer can always tell when their boss is putting on a show or being inauthentic.  

In today’s workplace, being a good leader means being genuine, dependable, and engaging.  It means being authentic.  What does that mean, exactly?  To put it simply, a leader should be someone whose actions align with the values they promote.  For instance, if you tell your friends that wearing deodorant is highly overrated, then you shouldn’t wear deodorant — okay, bad example.  Please wear deodorant, it’s a total necessity and not at all overrated.

Anyways, as a boss, following your own belief-system leads to a better staff retention, improved employee performance, and more united team.

Unfortunately, to be a good leader, you can’t just “be yourself.”  It requires a little more effort than that (sigh, why can’t life be simple?). But here are the steps to take to become a stand-up leader.

1. Communicate.  Some days, you might have to send an email to your staff at 1am even though you told them to grab a cocktail when 5 o’ clock hits cause they’re off the clock.  Point being, why are you sending a mass email when you told your employees they were off for the night?  Why is your behavior conflicting with your spoken message?  Communicate — EXPLAIN —  to your employees that the reason for your behavior is circumstantial and outside of your control.
2. Don’t be a saint (and by that I mean this: try not to be ‘holier than thou.’)  Show your flaws, make mistakes, be human.  Set a good example, but don’t make your employees feel like you are made of marble.  You weren’t crafted by Michaelangelo himself, so don’t act like it!
3.  Understand your audience.  Pretend you are Jimmy Fallon on the Late Night talkshow — what kind of joke would you tell?  Probably not the same joke that you’d tell to your 80 year old Southern Baptist grandma (or at least, I hope not…). Anyways, what do your employees value?  How do they think?  And how can you convince them that your actions truly do match your words?

Remember that authenticity achieves positive results.

And it might be worth it to buy the real Coach purse — it’s better quality.

Creativity: Let it Flourish

Above all, what skill do you think a leader should master?  I’ll let you guess.  Any idea?  No?  Cue crickets chirping… 

Alright, alright — your silence is killing me so I’ll just tell you.  Creativity.  (Hence: dfs CREATIVE concepts.) Creativity is a powerful skill which needs to be cultivated and coddled by leaders. Creativity needs to bloom like a bright yellow sunflower on a hot summer’s day — or, in DFSCC’s case, blossom like a bubble-gum pink rose outside of our office steps.

And FYI — productivity and creativity do not have to clash. In fact, the two go hand-in-hand. By withholding your creative thinking, you are holding back potential discoveries.

So… As a leader, how do you manifest organizational creativity?  

This time I won’t wait for your response — I’ll give you the answer right now. That’s how sweet of a blogger I am. At DFS, we’re sweet as sugar. Yes? Yes. Okay, I’m getting sidetracked.

Manifesting Creativity: A Brief Guide Presented By Yours Truly

1.  Create a work environment in which new solutions and ideas can flow.  Provide clarity about which direction your workers should aim their creativity towards.
2.  Define strategic concepts.  And by that, I mean aim creative thinking towards the goals of your organization and the customers you serve.
3.  Spread art on one slice of bread and commerce on the other like you’re cookin’ up a mouthwatering PB & J. Don’t be creative for creativity’s sake — focus your creativity towards commerce.  For example, how will your new idea make your clients a profit?
4. Provide a space for collaborative expression. Creativity is a social culture, one that is founded upon collaboration. There should be a place in which co-workers can bounce ideas off each other like players at a ping-pong tournament (Yes — those do, in fact, exist).
5.  As a leader, you should act in a way that your role is to guide but not fail.  Does that make sense?  Basically, creativity needs structure to flourish — but it also needs to not be constrained.

Phew, that was a lot.  I hope my advice made sense — because if you embrace creativity in the right way (which we do at DFS, whoop whoop!), your organization (and clients, more importantly) can truly benefit.

Becoming a Better Boss: How to Communicate

I had this boss once who never quite understood how to articulate his thoughts properly. It wasn’t his fault, necessarily, he just wasn’t taught how to communicate.  Let’s just say, it made working for him a challenge. I became stagnant in my job, started to care less and less about the work I was doing, and eventually I quit.

Turns out communication skills are a necessity when you’re a boss. Otherwise, your employees are left in the dark without a match, a flashlight, or a pair of night-vision goggles…And that can cause problems. That can cause people to bump into walls or stumble and fall.  

So, how can you improve your communication skills as a boss? Take it from someone who works for a (Girl)boss. I’ve got a few tips for you based on my new experiences.

1. Be straightforward — let your employees know if they’re doing a good job.  And if they’re not, well, let them know that, too!  How else will they be able to make improvements?  Employees should know where they stand — be as transparent as you can.  Like a glass door, a floor-to-ceiling window, a clear umbrella, a — okay, you get the point.  Be open and honest.

2.  Indeed, you should give your employees feedback. But you should also allow them to provide you with feedback. Good communication is a two-way street. Everyone deserves a voice, yes? Yes!  And take your people’s input into account — don’t just blow off their suggestions or concerns like you would an old friend from high-school. (At DFSCC we all communicate and value each other’s thoughts no matter if it’s about weather, advertising campaigns, marketing collateral, or shoes.)

3.  Don’t be like a distant boyfriend or spouse who constantly travels overseas for work.  As the leader of your tribe, you should physically be present at the office.  Be available to your employees. Side note: We actually love our time together. That’s what building a great team is all about. You WANT to be together.

4.  Show some recognition for your employees every once in a while.  Let them know they’re valuable — it will give them warm-fuzzies inside. Praise keeps your team motivated to keep up their good work. Everyone deserves a pat on the back for a job-well-done. #WordsOfAffirmation

Now. . . Go forth and communicate (effectively)!

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What Separates Goals We Achieve from Those We Don’t

2 words, 8 syllables.  Delayed gratification… What exactly is gratification, how does one delay it, and why is doing so beneficial?  Yeesh — do you have a headache?  Me too.  Let’s break it down.  

Take this example.  

Instant gratification: picture yourself pulling up to the Starbucks drive-thru with a crisp $5 bill in hand.  You buy yourself that new overpriced S’mores Frappucino you’re mid-afternoon brain is telling you you need now now now!!  You take a sip and all your fears and worries melt away and you drift into a sugary bliss.  But your $5 is gone.  Spent. Tossed into the hands of a barista.  Yikes.

Delayed gratification: you forego the Frappucino and instead brew a cup o’joe at home or work.  You shove the $5 in your piggy bank to put towards your BMW savings, throw a Splenda into your home brew, sip, and smile. 

So basically, the gist is this: do you want a little now or a lot more later?

By delaying gratification, you can save yourself a lot of cash, boost your willpower and more quickly achieve your long-term goals.  Specifically, delaying gratification is a great skill to acquire when working towards career objectives.

But…How do we stick to our goals?  How do we deny ourselves that sugary, caffeine-filled 16 oz cup of Starbucks deliciousness?  

Number 1: Factor in fun when choosing how you plan to achieve your work-related goals.  If you enjoy the task you’re doing, or the work environment you’re in, you are more likely to stick with it in the long run.
Number 2: Sprinkle in a few immediate benefits whilst in pursuit of long-term objectives.  Listen to music while working, nibble on some fruit snacks, or scribble in your planner in 6 different shades of pink pens.
Number 3: focus on the positive.  Reflect on the good, throw out the bad.  Make your work experience as positive as it can be.  Your situation is all about your mindset.

All in all, don’t make your life horrible just for the sake of achieving a long-term goal.  While delaying gratification can lead to prosperity, the here and the now is also important — reaping benefits immediately doesn’t always have to take away from your future ambitions.  It’s all a balancing act — so, instead of wasting $5 on that Frappucino every day, treat yourself once a week!  Or, in my case, treating myself means running by the Village Grind for an iced americano on the way to work at DFS Creative Concepts.

Reap All the Rewards: Develop a Mentoring Program

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Sometimes I get lost — even with the help of my iPhone GPS blaring in my ear. Siri shouts “Turn right!” at the exact moment I take a left onto the interstate. And while it’s tough getting lost on the way to work, its worse when you feel aimless and adrift at work.

Luckily, there are mentoring programs to provide direction and support to lost employees. To keep your organization at tip-top shape and to ensure your employees are doing what needs to be done, think about developing a mentoring program. Sound difficult? It can be. But I’ve got some tips for you to make your life a whole lot easier. And I’m putting the tips into a list for you — because, in my opinion, lists make info easier to digest.

So grab a pen and write the list down, why don’t you? Or, better yet, take a screenshot. Oh, technology. How you’ve simplified everyday tasks. Anyway, let’s move on to that list I was talking about, shall we?

How to create a successful mentoring program: Define your objectives.
* Why do you need a mentoring program in the first place? What are your business goals and how can this program help you accomplish them?

Structure your program.
* How do you want this program designed?  Would an online program or an in-person program be more advantageous? Consider the pros and cons of each — make a list! 

Who are your leaders?
*Build leadership roles within the program. Your mentors need to act like leaders — define their role and allow them to lead the initiative.

Promote your program. 
*Outline some rewards or benefits for your employees.  They need some incentive to do this program as well.  And make sure your employees know how to enroll in the program — don’t overcomplicate it!

Oh, and don’t forget to properly train your mentors. If they don’t know what they’re doing, the program might lack success.
*Get some feedback. Allow mentors and mentees to provide comments or critiques.  What better way to make sure your program is reaching its objectives?

Mentoring programs can be beneficial for everyone within your company — both for mentors and mentees.  It’s up to you to figure out how exactly you want to design your program, but by following the list above (and formally structuring your program) will allow you to reap all the rewards within your company. At DFSCC, it’s what we do – and find our mentoring program to help us immensely. Try it out!