Thursday, May 13, 2010

You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader (Mark Sanborn)

I absolutely enjoyed reading this book! Not only was it nice and short but quite encouraging. As the title suggests you do not need a title to be a leader. In today’s society we get caught up with job titles, status, and rank and file. In our every day dealings we say things like, “that’s not my job!” or “that’s not my problem!” and turn a blind eye. However the person who dares to make a difference, especially without a title is truly a leader.

Sanborn could not have said it any better when he said, we all make a difference, and it’s just our choice if we make a positive difference. If we don’t make a positive difference then we make a negative difference. It’s so easy to take the simple things in life for granted. A cheerful disposition, a kind word, a sweet smile, a friendly attitude…It’s easy to think that you don’t make a difference. But you do. When you wake up in the morning with a purpose you affect those around you. I have tried extra hard to have a chipper and friendly attitude since reading this book. Sometimes I think that what I do in my corner is “my business,” but I must be careful not to hinder someone else who is trying to achieve something positive. I feed off of people’s disposition easily. It can even change my mood from happy to downright depressed in seconds…So who am I not to think that I can’t have the same effect on someone else. We all make a difference…I will chose to make a positive difference.

Another point the author made was, “People who lead-whether or not they have a title-strive to make things better.” This describes my work ethic in print! I am always looking for ways to improve something, invent a system to make things more efficient, figure out a way to provide better quality service etc. I don’t mind talking to you about a problem you have at work or how things suck…BUT we can’t talk just for talking sake…we got to talk so we can make it better. That’s the purpose of us talking, right? I find it very difficult at work when others don’t adopt the same mindset…Especially when they have a “leadership” title! After engaging in a negative conversation, my next question is usually, “so what are you going to do about it?” To which I usually receive a disappointing reply, “nothing.” I realize we are not on the same page, and I struggle to maintain that friendly, positive disposition in a negative work environment.

ROI is a common term in the business world that means return on investment. However, Sanborn defines ROI as relationships, outcomes and improvements. It’s important that as leaders we don’t bully people into following us but rather foster relationships and influence individuals through our relationships. We use the art of persuasion and ultimately yield positive outcomes. I am not sure if persuade is the word I would choose to use. I would prefer to say “encourage.” Encouragement can go a longer way when you have an established relationship with someone. Relationships in this sense does not mean that you have to know a person’s family tree, and personal life but rather it suggests that you take an interest in that person as a person. You care about their feelings and you show that you care. You care about what they are doing, and so you ask.

We recently started talking about valuing our volunteers at BBBS (thanks to our VP of Partnerships). I realized that if we are able to build relationships with our volunteers then they would be more engaged with me, more engaged with the agency, more engaged with their mentee…They are more apt to call me back when I call, and I am able to have deeper and meaningful conversations with them about their match relationship. In the end, the relationships I am striving to build with these volunteers will yield better outcomes for our program. Right now I am trying to find the balance of building genuine relationships and being myself in the process. I must say that starting the day with a recognition that I make a difference and that gives me that burst of energy to answer the phone “happier” and push a little further.

Obligation or opportunity

In my job I call volunteers and parents about once a month to find out how things are coming along with the mentor-mentee relationship. After about call 59, I sometimes dread making the next call. The strange thing is that once I am on the phone with someone, I ENJOY talking to them…that might be because I love to talk! But it’s the process of getting there that can sometimes leave me with a daunting task that does not have to be so daunting. If I approach this as an obligation I am only going to feel like a slave to my job…Looking at my list of people to call looks more like a chore…But if I look at is as an opportunity…to make a difference, help someone, encourage someone, help strengthen a relationship, help problem solve (which is what takes place during my conversations) then I approach call number 59 with purpose and passion. And they are no longer call number 59 but Judy, Melanie, and Ingrid…they are somebody. Last week I posted the following on my Facebook status, “When you work with purpose, the work seems easier and more fulfilling!” This could not be truer for me.

I feel like I can go on and on about this book! I will end with a few highlights that I would like to take with me.

• Think like a leader – constantly feed your mind with new information and think critically.

• Make time to think – I imagine myself on a beach, with pen and paper…just thinking. On a day to day this can mean making that personal time with me and God alone.

• Take control of your life – Control what you can control and leave the rest alone!

• Remember to dream

• Make time to reflect

• Mirror those who are successful around you

• Retreat to advance. I love this one. At least once a year set aside some time where you can review your goals’ and objectives for your life. You should be inaccessible by phone or email.

• Enjoy the journey. Take time to enjoy life and don’t become so busy that you miss out on simply having fun. Remember the destination is just as important as the journey…So for every foot forward, take time to enjoy it!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Financial Matters for Couples!

Last week we had a very engaging discussion at our couples’ game night about finances. The question on the table was, “How do you create a financial system that is inclusive of both parties?” Since then, I asked for more feedback, ideas and suggestions.  Ideas and suggestions by others are written in italics.

Communicate, communicate and communicate some more!
Communication is key, as with every other part of marriage. Just like you have a regular date night, have a financial date night where you spend time discussing your current financial state, as well as your goals and dreams. My husband and I pool our resources and don't hide money from each other. We decided in the beginning that we would sink or swim together; do or die we are in it together, so there is no need to separate ourselves financially. That doesn't work for everyone, but it works for us, and I think it's a healthy option.

I must say that I truly love this idea! I never thought about having a financial date night before, but I sure will try it. Thanks Karon! I too believe that both parties should pool all their resources together and create a financial system that is fair and balanced. No one person should have more power because they make more, or more power because they are male (sorry, my feminist side just kicked in there:-).
SAVE like your life depended on it!
My non-married theory is to start off by trying to live off the equivalent of one person's income so that you can easily pay off debts or save for a house with the other income. I know one couple that managed to pay off all their debts in one year and another who used the money to buy a house in cash after five years. Then having your shared expenses (way below the sum of the two incomes) and I'd at least start by trying it so that each party pays their fraction of the household income (i.e. if both parties make the same, they split the costs 50/50, however if one partner makes 75% of the total household income, then they pay that share of the expenses.). I think it'll create a fairer share of "me" funds between the partners. But I'll let you know if it works once I actually try it.
I must confess I am a save-a-holic…in remission! We know how to live on one salary…especially when we only had one salary for the first two years of our marriage!  We got married when Jared had 2 more years of med school and I just graduated from college. We were both unemployed for the first three months, and it was literally my savings during college that held us over until I found a job. Thankfully, neither of us had any debt coming into marriage…no student loans, wedding bills, car payments, etc. I can only credit God and my father’s cheapness for that.
I probably started saving when I was 5 years old. By 10, I knew the concept of simple and compound interest and charged my dad 50% interest if he every borrowed money from me. I loved lending because it grew my savings! Because that was ingrained in me since I was a child, there has never been a day where I never had any money saved in the bank.
Adrienne, you reminded me that with the right focus we can pay off our house in 5 years!!! Whoooo, what a goal! I might have to start that 5 year plan when Jared graduates from residency…
Right before we got married Jared read an article on MSN relationships about how to handle finances. It said to give each partner equal "spending money" per month regardless of what each person made. We took the principle and use it today. We consider each other's income 100% OURS. The combined income is used for expenses and savings...Technically Jared contributes everything towards expenses and I contribute everything towards savings...that's just how it worked out practically...And then once we bought a house, the total savings decreased and the difference went towards the house. Our equal spending money goes into a separate individual accounts...I had to insist that Jared do this because his spending money ended up morphing with the expenses and we were never sure what he had to spend or save. The idea with the equal spending money is that each person can do what they want, spend it how they please and the other person should not be upset by it. Anything that comes out of our savings is discussed and agreed upon...and if we can’t agree we table the discussion until we can come to some compromise. Examples of that would be buying a house or car. There has never been a decision that we could not agree on even if we start on different sides of the fence.

We I have a joint "Bill Account".  A certain percentage of our income goes into this account each month to be used for all of our household bills.  He is the primary bread winner, so the percentage that he contributes is greater than the one I do.  We also have a joint savings acct that we both try to contribute to on a monthly basis. We also each have a separate checking acct that we use solely at our own discretion.  This helps eliminate fussing over the small things that come me getting my hair done or him purchasing some electronic device. It also helps us surprise each other occasionally with gifts!  Anytime the need/desire arises for one of us to purchase something "big", we discuss it with each other and usually pay a portion of the price from our individual acct and a portion from the joint acct.  As for giving LARGE amounts of money to family members...we don't "lend" anything.  If we can't afford to give it away, then we don't do it.  And we discuss and agree on these matters before any transactions are made. Both of us are always open minded about these types of issues, but if both parties do not agree, then a suitable compromise is made that each person is ok with.  Again, this method has worked great at our address, but it may not be for everybody….Often times if there is something that I want that my spending money does not cover, he will just give me money from his acct to prevent us taping into a joint acct, and vice versa.  We may be different that way from many couples but we really haven't had major problems in this area b/c we trust one another and we make our financial needs known to each other.  He knows that I like to spend money and that makes me happy.  I also know that he would rather save and plan for our future.  This way, he has managed to give me the spending money that I need, (b/c he doesn't require as much), and I am aware of this so whenever he needs/desires extra from me, I have NO PROBLEM giving it to him.

One thing that I must say that one of the biggest predictors of a couples’ financial success is their attitude towards money and each other. The key is for both parties to be happy and comfortable with the arrangement. Whether one person has more spending money because they spend more, or  the other person pay more bills because they make more, the key is to agree and be happy with this. One person should not be left feeling hurt because they have less spending money because they make less…(I personally would feel this way if I had less spending money because my husband made more) or one person should not be upset because they are a saver and don’t spend as much but their spouse is a spender. It’s important that each person not only understands their spouse’s spending style, but try to respect it…as long as it does not jeopardize the family budget.

More practical tips on dividing your income! Thanks Matt!

LONG TERMS SAVINGS JOINT-1 joint long term savings account for major purchases (home, car or serious emergencies with 6-9 months of expenses available) contributed to together with 10% of our incomes.

SHORT TERM SAVINGS SINGLE-1 personal short term savings account managed privately by each partner for gifts, mainly, or individualized purchases that you don't necessarily want to get "permission" to spend. Like my Amazon addiction...Again, 10% of income.... See More

SINGLE RETIREMENT-10% of each income goes into our individual retirement.

JOINT BILL ACCOUNT-30% from each income goes towards a joint bill account (rent, utilities, groceries, gas...)
SINGLE CHECKING-40% from each income goes to individualized checking.

Other suggestions:
  • If one person is solely responsible for managing the expenses the other party should know where ALL the usernames and passwords are for all accounts. You never know what can happen to your spouse where you would suddenly need to manage the expenses…How frustrating would it be if you have no idea where to find the online electric bill etc. that needs to be paid!
  • Track ALL your income and expenditures from ALL your accounts in one place –
  • Track your monthly expenses in an excel spreadsheet and email it to your spouse every month.
  • Don’t forget life insurance, retirement, emergency savings, long term and short term investments. There are nonprofits who can offer financial advice. Check out the black urban league.