Build Better Business Relationships With 2 Simple Steps

coffee meeting

How many times have you met someone through networking or business connections and want to build a business relationship with them? What is an almost knee jerk action to do so – invite them for a coffee meeting (or lunch/drinks/dinner/etc).

Before you do, let me give you the two steps to dramatically improve your budding relationship:

1. Stop wasting their time
2. Know your why

I used to get asked for coffee meetings a lot. Used to – now I rarely have them.

For one thing, I don’t drink coffee, but more importantly – they were a huge waste of time. The person either had no idea what they wanted to talk about or they wanted to sell me the entire time.

My secret in killing the coffee meetings – I started asking people why they wanted to meet. It is amazing to me the number of people who cannot answer that question. Mostly I get a stammering close to, ‘so we can learn more about each others business.’

Not to be unkind, or rude, yet this is a media age: look up my LinkedIn, my website, my articles; email me to start a conversation. Requesting me to commit to the most time consuming event – of scheduling an outside meeting – to find out what I do is nutty.

Even if they have an idea of what I do and wanted to schedule a coffee meeting ‘to find out more’ or ‘get clarification’, I would ask them – right there on the phone or in the email –what is it they would like to know?

It can really take the wind out of a coffee meeter’s sails when you fill them in either right there on the phone or by email thereby eliminating their whole reason for getting together.

I cut to the chase to eliminate time wasters.

I am very happy for the coffee meeters – those that seem to have an endless supply of time on their hands to joyfully go around town and drink lots of java, then have lots of lunches followed by lots of cocktails or dinners.

I do not have that kind of time.

I am not special or better than anyone else in my network or business circles – all of our time is valuable. I have a thing – I will not waste your time and you are not going to waste mine. It is very simple.

Coffee meetings, or lunches, dinners – anything outside the office – may not be the most conducive to your audience. Perhaps a half hour phone call is better for them. Be considerate and ask what is best for them and their schedule. It is not all about you. You may be dying to get out of the office; but some of us are not.

Knowing your why is critical. Before you even attempt to engage someone in any type of meeting – you must know your why. What is your agenda, what are you looking to get out of it and equally as important – what are you bringing to the table for them?

Relationships are give and take; if you have nothing to give what is their reason for going? Be clear when you request time with the other person, give them the purpose.

Sometimes you may not have an exact why. For example perhaps you have met someone in networking that you think there might be good synergy between your businesses. This is your why, yet you should explain why you think there is potential synergy. How could you help each other. No one is going to jump at the chance to meet with you because you have a golden book of business for them with nothing in return.

Perhaps your why is information. If you are breaking into a business and you know of this person and are looking for advise – be honest and tell them. Do not try the ‘get to know each other’ bit when you are looking for an hour of schooling. That is disrespectful and trickery.

Do not feel as though you are being rude by asking them to qualify the meeting. I once was given the name of a woman that a mutual friend said I should call, using their name, because we should connect. I was an idiot. I did not ask why. But she did! When I called her up I told her our mutual friend had given me her name and said we should connect.

Her response was, “That’s nice – why?”

I was stumped. I told her that I honestly had no idea and apologized for intruding and wasting her time. She was very kind and told me no problem and that if I found that we had a mutual business interest perhaps we could reconnect then.

I ran into her a year later, luckily she did not remember me, and we had a great conversation. We did have many shared interests and we began to speak frequently. I did tell her about the first meeting we ever had and how it had really helped me. Sometimes looking like an idiot can be a great learning experience.

On behalf of your business and networking community – I gently request that before you type up that email or make that call to know your why and offer options that do not waste their time. We thank you in advance and look forward to hearing from you.

As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies and their leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – – to find out more about Career Polish and what we can do to help you.

Know What You Are Not To Excel In Your Career

my toolkitMy grandfather was an electrician and my father was a diesel mechanic. I am neither an electrician nor a mechanic. I use two things: duct tape and WD-40, what cannot be solved with one is solved with the other. Okay, occasionally I use a hammer…

I do have my own set of tools, a jigsaw, sawsaw (that’s what I call it), circular saw, table saw, levels, socket set, wire cutters and lots of other toys. I can use each one, although I do not have mastery of any.

This was quite obvious in a recent project.

I was changing out electrical outlets and light switches in all the rooms in my home from the almond to white. I love the white, so clean and fresh! I followed all the appropriate steps: turned off breakers, ensured no power to each item, had my wire cutters, flat head and Philips screw drivers and new switches/outlets.

I did pretty well, actually getting on a roll. I learned how to change plug in from the back to screw in to the side outlets and light switches. I made sure to put the wires in the new reciprocals exactly as they were in the old ones. I am woman, hear me roar!

I roared alright, right after only one of the three light switches worked in both bathrooms. Are you kidding me? I did it exactly as it was before – what happened?

What happened is I am not an electrician. That’s what happened.

My boyfriend provides gentle reminders that I am not a mechanical wizard. I will be working on a project and he will come up, in the most gentle and respectful way, and say, “Here honey, let me help.”

This is code for “good lord girl, let me take this over before you blow up the house.”

Do you know how frustrating it is to struggle with something for a half an hour and have someone come up and complete it in thirty seconds? Very. Very, very, very frustrating.

But here is the thing – I am not an electrician or a mechanic. My boyfriend pretty much is. Those are his strengths, not mine. The reason we work so well together is that we appreciate and recognize each other’s strengths – and weaknesses. We are that weird couple that actually enjoy finding and doing projects together.

We cannot individually be all things to each other in our relationship. He is the time/calendar structured person that can herd cats in a single bound and accomplish more in one day than most people can in a week. I am the creative, communicative, go with the flow, “flower child” as he calls me that adapts easily to whatever is thrown in the path and finds a way to make those lemons into garnishes for mojitos.

We also have similar qualities that work well: we are independent, driven, family oriented, big picture, very sarcastic, appreciate the moment kind of people.  We are a true partnership and it works very, very well for us.

Your career is a series of relationships.

You may have one that your partner does nothing but take from you and never supports your needs or goals. You may have one that they are unfaithful, giving all the best opportunities to someone else. Another might be a great learning experience, with them teaching you more about yourself than you knew. Eventually you find partnerships that allow you to contribute and receive, fulfilling your needs and goals and theirs.

There are two key factors to any relationship. The first is knowing who you are, what you like, what you want, what you will accept and what you will not.

The second is knowing your strengths and weaknesses. What can you give, what can you not, what are you willing to learn to be able to give and what are you not. These things change as you grow older and experience different situations, environments and relationships.

Remember, during each phase of your career – each relationship – it is your choice. You are never stuck anywhere. If it does not suit you it is not your obligation or requirement to stay just to make someone else happy. This makes you miserable and as such you cannot possibly give your greatest gifts to others.

If I were to give one piece of advice it would be this: be selfish. We have put such a negative connotation to being selfish. Oh, you will hear others tell you that you should think of others, that you are being selfish. What they are really saying is that you should not think of yourself, you should think of them.

You deserve to be selfish, it is a requirement! I mean selfish in a way of taking care of yourself. Define what makes you happy, pamper yourself by unplugging and enjoying only what it is that you enjoy doing. To get really flower child on you – until you learn to love yourself, how can you love anyone else?

Until you know your strengths, how can you provide real value to others? Until you know your weaknesses how can you appreciate and ask for them from others? Knowing yourself is a matter of respect. You learn to respect your strengths and learn to appreciate the strengths of others that happen to be your weaknesses.

Each relationship, each job or team, is a balance of individual strengths and weaknesses, respect and honor. When you find that balance between yourself, others and the relationships you know you have found a winner.


I hope you enjoyed this article and it provided value for you. If so, please click on the follow button so I may continue to share valuable content with you or the share buttons to share with your network.

I help people identify and set a path to achieve their career goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move in, move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business or territory, grow your company and strengthen your team.


Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a favorite speaker and seminar facilitator at colleges, professional organizations and companies around the US speaking to leadership, sales and athletic teams; transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

The Power of the Pause

mouth taped shutWe live in a reactionary world. Immediate responses may improve speed, yet they can damage quality, content and opportunities.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned as a leader, employee, service provider, parent, partner and family member is the power of the pause. One of my greatest teachers was my father.

My dad rarely reacted, only in danger situations. While teaching or listening, he always paused before responding. He took a split second to not only listen to what we said, but to measure and monitor his response. It was a very powerful tool. It also gave us the time to reflect on what we just said – normally realizing that it was probably something we should have re-framed.

Taking a pause before answering a question allows you to do the same – think. It also conveys to your audience that you are listening to their questions with respect to them and your answer.

The dictionary defines respond as to say something in reply; it defines react as to respond or behave in a particular way in response to something.

I have different definitions.

React – to act without thinking, impulse
Respond – to act with thought or purpose

We become conditioned to react, we learn to respond.

One of the problems with reacting is that we condition our audiences on what to expect. It can be a dangerous precedent in reacting. There is normally that one person in an organization that people avoid because they react – immediately and normally in a non-positive way to news. Temper tantrums, flying objects, colorful language, fits – you name it, it is not pleasant. It creates a communication and career barrier.

My son is a react kind of guy. If it pops in his head it comes out of his mouth. He has helped me become a responder. I know how he is, therefore I have learned to modify my responses to him in order to lesson his reaction.

Oh, I am understanding, I am patient, I am kind and it gets old. That is when he started the journey of going from reaction to responding. We are not there yet, but it is a choice and a continual effort. I stopped understanding, being patient and kind and told him that I was not going to hear of it. His reaction impacted me too negatively for me to continue to be the understanding doormat.  Others are doormats for those who react. Things were more difficult for a period until we made the boundaries of respect.

When you respond you respect your audience; when you react you disrespect them.

Another challenge with reacting is that it damages your credibility, accountability and those around you. Lash out in a reaction and saying you are sorry does not take away the event. It lessons it, it is workable, but you have to do much more work to get back to where you were prior to the reaction.

A bit of bad news would send my son in a tizzy. Any future plans were immediately scrapped and the world was ending – right then and there. After calming down, the world was actually the same right place that it always was and a simple sorry was thought to be the magic ticket to erasing the tizzy.

It does not work that way. Reactionary tizzies implode the worlds of everyone involved. They have to take time out of their day to accommodate the tizzy, putting all their priorities aside to make it through the storm. How can your team count on you or believe that you are going to hold it together if you cannot handle a bump in the road?

The client wants to add this aspect to the program – the world is not over, it is called adaption. Figure it out that is what they come to you for – your expertise. Having a complete meltdown and then apologizing a half hour later is not going to instill confidence in your team. It will actually diminish their respect and level of confidence in you.

I am not throwing stones, where do you think my son learned to react? I used to react, and sometimes it just felt good. But I realized the damage it was creating to me, my family, my colleagues and my career. I learned to stop, think, listen and respond. Sometimes a very minimal response is the key to waiting for the reactionary impulse to subside.

When hearing unpleasant news, being confronted or facing a challenge, take a breath. A small count of three to five can be the difference between imploding your career and moving into the next level; between building a bridge and burning that sucker down or allowing the small, unexpected whims of misery change the course of your future.

LinkedIn – Taking a Connection to a Relationship

business high fiveLast week I had the absolute pleasure to speak to the Indianapolis chapter of Human Resource Professional Development Association about LinkedIn and utilizing it to build a personal brand internally and externally. There was one question that I think can be asked in many different ways but boils down to four words:

How do I connect?

Not in a sense of click on the connect button or accept, but how do I really connect with someone after we become connections.

I think one challenge or misconception about LinkedIn is that there is no true communication or connection. It is simple to click a button, request or accept a connection; however it leaves us feeling flat. A simple button does not open the door to communication.

The problem is not with LinkedIn – it is with the user.

The tool is only as good as the way in which you use it.

I have a small tiller. It sat in my garage for a few years all bright and shiny but useless. I also had an area in my back and side yard that was perfect for a garden. I used to be frustrated that I didn’t have a garden and how much work it would be to create that space.

Last spring I used the bright shiny tiller and created my garden. It made quick work of it and by the summer I had a wonderful garden full of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, peppers, herbs, cantaloupe, watermelon and asparagus.

I could complain about not having a garden or I could use the tools I had to create what I wanted.

It is the same concept with LinkedIn.

Requesting or accepting is step one, but there is more to be done to start conversations and build relationships. It begins with a few simple steps:

Say Thank You
When someone accepts or sends you a request, thank them for the connection. It is a simple thing to do and opens the door for the other person to respond.

Be Selective if You Choose
Although some users will not allow you to send them an invitation unless you actually know them, some do not accept connections unless they see a business reason to do so.

Key word there: business reason.

You can address this either in the invitation or in the follow up. In either one, instead of using the template that LinkedIn provides for a connection request, simply put a statement such as, “I noticed that you are connected to Bob Inbox, who I worked with at DCB company…”

Follow Up Without Demanding
You have sent/accepted a connection and sent a thank you, now is time for a conversation, not a request for a coffee meeting.

Send them an inbox message and begin with – again – a business conversation or topic. It could be something about their company or position or that you appreciated a comment that they left on an article. From there you can let them know that you would like to know more about what they do, about their company or their insight on a certain matter.

Do not assume that just because someone connected with you on a business social platform that they are willing to take a couple hours out of their day to meet with you in person. Everyone’s time is valuable.

If someone immediately suggests a coffee time I ask for what purpose. I am trying to eliminate time wasting activities in order to devote my time to my clients. The hairs on the back of my neck immediately go up when I get an instant coffee message. I don’t know you, I don’t know what you want, you want me to give you at least two hours of my time and more than likely you are going to try to sell me on something.

Instant coffee meetings do not equal instant business relationships.

With a few extra minutes, consideration and thought you can start conversations that build relationships. LinkedIn provides a platform, you have to provide the effort. As LinkedIn says: “A healthy professional life starts with healthy relationships.”

For Crying Outloud Don’t Tell Me You are in Sales

Do you know the quickest way to alienate or mislead prospects and potential contacts?

You might be doing it every time you network.

How do you answer the questions, “What do you do?”

If you answer with a title, you are alienating or misleading.

A title in this situation is either a name for your position or a generalized scope of field.

“I’m a manager”
“I’m in sales”
“I’m in communications”

Say any of these and your inroads to beginning a relationship are pretty much over, conversation dead before it started.

You did not answer the question – what do you do?

You have randomly and generically assigned no meaning to your value whatsoever.  People are looking for a way to escape your vicinity.

Titles are meaningless

More often than not, titles do not convey an accurate portrayal of your position and value.  There are exceptions, of course.  If you are a Pediatric Oncologist that pretty much sums it up.  There are also those who are very elevated within their industry or career that they use a simple title to underplay themselves because their reputation precedes them.

But for the vast majority of us – titles stink.  Not only do the not reflect who you are; they also allow the other party to assign your value based on their own personal experience.

Poor insurance agents, they have such a bad rap.  People normally assimilate them with never ending phone calls, follow up emails and endless conversations about term life insurance – snore.  I worked in the financial industry in brokerage, banking and insurance and have yet to meet an insurance agent who truly wants to talk my ear off about term life insurance.  But the negative reputation precedes them.

There are a few out there that do fall into the stereotype, as well as unfortunate souls who have been party to their badgering and mind-numbing conversations.

If you are an insurance agent who happens to come across one of those unfortunate souls and you introduce yourself by your title, you have just allowed them in less than 2 seconds to immediately categorize you as the same as that other agent.

Do not think you are going to talk your way out of it to change their mind about you.  They have already assigned a value to you and will not be listening to how you are not that person, they do not care.

In telling the other party that you are “in sales” they will most likely translate that into “I’m going to try to sell you something right now!”  Why?  Because there must be some unwritten law that, as consumers, we much be subjected to the pushy sales person at least once in our lifetime.  It is never a pleasant experience and one we are not likely to forget.  That is the impression that stays with us, despite hundreds of interactions with solution-based, customer centric sales professionals.

Manager – what does that mean?  I have had managers who were awesome, mentoring leaders who cared about their team.  I have also had managers that didn’t give diddly-squat about anyone but themselves.  Which one are you?  Giving me just the title allows me to assign that perception to you.

It is not what you are called, it is what you do

Instead of using a title, try introducing yourself as the value you provide to your clients or company.

A friend of mine attended a talk I gave about networking and elevator pitches, which is in line with what I am saying in this blog.  He is an insurance rep.  I know, stop cringing.

After the talk he took time to think about the value he provides to his client.  He asked himself why do his clients work with him, what are their goals and what does he help them achieve.  He then assigned a new way to introduce himself and tested it at his next networking event.

When asked what he did, he responded, “I am a retirement coach.”  It is an anti-title because it is an unusual title that prompts a question.

The question is key.  You want that type of response, it means they were listening and have opened the door for you to paint your picture the way you want and engage them.  Just a word of caution: don’t get too cutesy, it will have the reverse effect.  If you assign a title that is so outrageous or cutesy people will assign it no value and not care to ask what that means.

It is not a matter of time

I am not a big fan of the two minute rule.  Coming up with two minutes to describe yourself equates to me two mind numbing minutes that I will never recover.  Do you realize most people stop listening after about 15 seconds, if you are lucky?

I love going to networking events where everyone has a very lovely, down pat 2 minute speech and when it is my turn I use all of five seconds.  The looks on the faces is awesome.

Short and sweet.  If you blurt out everything in two minutes what have you possibly left for them to ask you?  You have told them everything.  They will probably smile and nod politely and might even add a non-committal remark like “that’s nice”.  Conversation is one way and over.

Turn it around

Engage them, evoke a feeling, connect with a problem, use humor – be human!  You want to build relationships and that means connecting on some level.

An excellent way to engage another person is to make it about them.  Once you give your value – and they ask you a question – turn it on them.  Use them as an example, ask them a question to frame your response in a way that is meaningful to them.

When asked to expand, someone in sales (ick – I know) may ask, “do you have enough clients?” Other options could be starting a question with: do you find, have you ever, what is X like (some component of their business), what is your biggest frustration with, don’t you hate when and so on.

I have two segments of clients that I work with: those looking to move in, on or up in their careers and those in some form of sales.  I cannot assess which category a person is in by looking at them, or even hearing their title.  Someone may be in sales and be secretly looking to change jobs, industries or careers.

After receiving a question to my introduction, I might say, “let me use you for an example; if you love your job but are still struggling with building a solid book of business this is how I would help.” Then end with “…and if you hate your job, I am there to help you find and get the one you love.”

I say might because I do not have a down-pat response.  I have a good idea of what I want to say but never memorize it.  I want it to be fresh, relevant and real to the person I am talking to, therefore I vary it every time.

Now in following these tips, you might just find that you are the center of attention in the conversation.  That’s nice, but do not let it continue.  Bring it back to them.  Ask them questions about what they said, what they like about what they do, about their clients, markets, industry or company.  Give them genuine attention.

One of my favorite quotes is by John Wooden, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

Your title is your reputation, your value is your character.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Keep Telling Me You Are Right Does Not Make You Right It Makes You Annoying

not listeningWe all know that person, that one person that no matter what is always right.  Always.  No matter if they know the subject or not they are the end all be all authority on it.  And, to top it off, they have to have the last word.  Period.


It could be a spouse, significant other, employee, boss, co-worker or friend – but they are there, in your life and you know exactly who I am talking about – don’t you?


I was married to Mr. Always Right. – of course he would say he was married to Mrs. Always Right – but he would be wrong.  At times it was annoying; however, there were aspects that I could appreciate.  He is one of few standup guys and if he believed in something he was not going to let it go.  I always knew where he stood – I never had to question or guess.


As time went by I learned how to communicate with him in a more effective manner – i.e. just say “ok honey” and let it drop instead of trying to combat him or win him over to the real right side.


I have known him for 25 years and we have both grown up enough to realize when we each get in the “I’m right no matter what” mode and let it go.  Given a bit of time whether it is five minutes or a couple of days we can then resume the conversation with a clearer view and admit that we either disagree or that one or the other was wrong.  Yay, kudos to us, we are being adults.


Before I take that big old pat on the back I will admit that we put a lot of effort into our communication and relationship because even though we divorced we still raised a child together.  So it was because of our son that we worked really hard at becoming friends and cohorts rather than combatants.


So what do you do when it is a colleague, boss, networking partner or customer?


Basically – suck it up cupcake.  Wining isn’t always the point.


Yes, they may be wrong or refusing to see your side of things but take a moment here and think about it – are they really listening?  Do they really care?  Is that someone you want to convince?  Is it worth the effort convincing them?  No to all.


If, by some strange miracle all the stars align and flying pigs come down holding a big banner for them to read saying “You are wrong – admit it” and they actually do see your side I will bet dollars to donuts they will be resentful.


You made them say they were wrong.  You “won”. You made them look foolish.  Even though all these statements begin with you it isn’t about you – it is all about them.


It is always about them.  Let it go.


Let them speak their peace and let it go.  Do not give them any more fuel to the fire because they will not give up.  If you keep giving them a little spark they are going to stroke that fire for all it is worth.


All it will do is upset or frustrate you.


Over what?


The entire relationship needs to remain open and positive to continue the working relationship and sometimes in relationships you just have to let it go.  Yes, you really are right, yes, they really are an idiot; but those things are not going to change and in the grand scheme of things is it worth damaging a relationship over hearing that you were right?




Learn the signals.  Recognize when they start climbing on their soapbox.


Learn to diffuse.  Stop engaging in the conversation.  The less you contribute the less they have to work with.


Bite your tongue.  So often we want the last word – trust me, I know this one well.  Fight the urge to have to have the last word – it is just another spark.


Don’t take it personally.  They are not really attacking you.  They would hold the same argument with an inanimate object if it would fight back.  Let it go.


Sometimes you have to let the other person think they “won” in order to salvage the relationship.  It is okay, this isn’t a professional sport where keeping score matters in the end.


This is a business relationship that is built on fluid dynamics.  There are ebbs and tides and learning to go with the flow and gently modifying the course helps ensure smooth sailing.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


Six Steps For a Genuine Apology

The screw up – it is what makes us human, what helps us learn and grow, it can be something we can look back at and laugh at one day or, untreated, it can cause major damage to professional and personal relationships.


I found a great quote the other day: “An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” ~ Orlando A. Battista


We all make errors, but to correct them, to salvage relationships and to create moments that we can actually laugh about one day takes one key event: the apology.


It has been said, or sung – I know there is a song about this, that saying sorry is the hardest thing to do.  No, not so much.


I’m sorry.


See, pretty easy.


The hard part is meaning it, saying it correctly, understanding the ramifications and the willingness to follow through with the appropriate actions.  Oh yes, there is far more to saying you are sorry than just spitting out those three little words; or two if you are using a contraction.


The Preparation


Do not say it on a whim. 


If you have messed up with a boss or co-worker do not simply pop your head in their office or cube on the way back from the break room and say, “sorry” then go on as though nothing every transpired.


If it is a personal relationship – don’t simply text them “sorry” or “sry”


Both of these convey lack of effort, care or consideration.  In other words they are empty or fake apologies.


Do not say it just to shut them up.


Sometimes when in the midst of a screw up you want to say “I’m sorry” just to shut the other person up and stop the verbal assault.  This will not work.


Understand why you are saying it.


Do you even know why the other person is upset?  If not, do you know why you want to apologize?  Do you need to keep peace with your boss or co-worker or keep a friend in your life?


You need to try to understand their point of view; but you also need to understand your motivations.  If you are okay with the screw up completely severing the relationship then there really is no need for an apology now is there?


If there is a need – swallow your pride and step up to the plate.  If you are waiting for the other person to come to you to open the door to make it easier for you to apologize to them then I hate to tell you but you will be waiting for a very long, long time….


The Execution


Make it real.


If you are saying you are sorry just to keep the peace the other person can spot that a mile away.  It will do more damage, not only is there a screw up but now you added insult to injury.


Do not use it as a way to justify.


The apology is not the way to sneak in one more attack on “I was right and you were wrong.”  You may need to explain your point of view but it is not the time to attack their thinking or actions.


Saying things like, “I did not see or consider your viewpoint.  I may not see it the same way that you do but that is no reason for what I said to come across as dismissing your viewpoint – I am sorry.” Goes a lot further than, “I don’t see how you can see it that way but I’m sorry I snapped at you.”


Take responsibility.


“I really thought that I understood the parameters of the project and your expectations, I should have clarified, I am sorry I screwed up, I should have come to you” let’s your boss know that you are taking ownership and that you were not being dismissive.


Do not blame your screw up on someone else, they did not make you screw up or be a butthead.  You did that all on your own.  You may have misunderstood something, and that is what you need to let them know – you misunderstood and therefore you screwed up.


The apology is about you meaning you are sorry and making amends to them – not the other way around.  Do not use the apology to try to make them feel guilty into apologizing to you.  The only way this apology is about you is in your admitting your error and correcting it.


If action needs to be taken – do it.


If you screwed up due to lack of knowledge or skills now is the time to recognize it and ask for help in getting the required skill set to make sure it does not happen again.


Sometimes it is a matter or learning a process or procedure better; sometimes it is utilizing the resources that are right there in front of you: your teammates.


Maybe you continually put something off to the last minute and it is a critical piece for your teammate in order to complete their job.  You need to take steps to make sure that you stop giving it to them at the last minute or the apology was empty.


Use language and delivery that they will understand and appreciate.


My most scary work apology was when I potentially created major damage with a new and lucrative client and could have cost the office a lot of money.  I was in my role for just a few months when I did my major screw up.


As soon as I realized it the first thing I did was panic.  My boss was going to kill me, I was out of my league here and I was going to be fire, life on earth would end as I knew it and the cosmos were going to come crashing down on me.  I told you, I panicked.


The next thing I did was go to my team and tell them what happened and asked for their help.  What do I need to do to correct this is the first thing I asked.  I didn’t ask them to fix it for me, I asked for their expertise and guidance.  (Emphasizing the above point here.)


I then put their plan in action and started unraveling the damage I had done.


Then my boss came back into the office.  With this kind of screw up I was not going to call him on the phone, I knew it best to be face to face with him.  I gathered all my information and documentation and forced myself to walk into his office.


This is where I used a delivery he would appreciate and understand.  My boss was a man of few words and wielded a great deal of respect and fear.  I knew I had to be short, to the point and direct – very direct.


“I need to talk to you for a minute.  I didn’t just screw up, I really fu@%ed up.  Here is what I did…and here is what I am doing to correct it.”  I then outlined in a professional and succinct way where I was in the process, who was helping, what the timelines were and the anticipated results – what the possible negatives were and how those could be corrected if they happened.


I then braced myself in my little high heel shoes for the onslaught.


He looked at me and said, “Ok, keep me posted.”  Then he left for the day.  Holy crap!


The whole experience was one of my biggest professional training sessions ever.


Don’t expect anything in return.


Once you apologize the recipient has choices: to forgive you, to work through it or to continue to be upset.  That is their choice, not yours.  Do not expect that just because you feel bad, apologize and take steps to make sure it never happens again that all will be sunshine and roses.  It may not.


But that should not be a deterrent for apologizing.  If an apology is the right thing to do then do it for that reason, not for an end result.


Be prepared that you may be put to the test to see if you really mean it.  This means that your actions from here on out need to support your apology and subsequent words.


Saying you are sorry is hard, as is any follow up actions that you need to make.  However, if the relationship is worth saving then it deserves a genuine apology.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

You Don’t Get A Cookie For Peeing On The Floor

It is ironic to me that we can see the clarity and prudence of bits of wisdom for some aspects of our life but not for others. By “we” I am including myself in this one – not throwing stones.

Not rewarding bad behavior is one of these sage little tidbits that is often selectively applied.

I apply it with my dogs. Having five there is a continual training process going on in my house. My dogs all go out first thing in the morning and do their business – both kinds of business, all five, every morning. It is their schedule. Sometimes I have to remind them when they come to the door to “go potty” at which point they look at me with dopey dog eyes saying, “oh yeah, I forgot” and they promptly go back in the yard and poop. Yes, my brilliant dogs sometimes forget to poop. Anyway, when all five have conducted business as a whole then they all five get a treat.

When I leave the house I remind them all to be good and upon my return if they have then they all get a treat. If one has decided to destroy a roll of paper towels, de-stuffed a cushion or peed on the floor then none of them get a treat. They do not get rewarded for bad behavior. One of my dogs will even put himself in the corner if he misbehaves, he knows no reward for bad behavior.

When I arrive home if any try to jump up on me they promptly get a reminder not to do so; however if they back off and sit when told then they get lots of affection and praise. No reward for bad behavior.

I applied the same philosophy to my son when he was growing up. When he was little he would attempt to go through a whining phase every once in a while. If he started whining I would ignore him. When he would realize that his theatrics were had attention he would say something to me about if I was listening or some other ridiculous remark, to which I responded in a very matter of fact voice, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you, all I hear was this horrible, irritating whiney noise. When you talk to me in an appropriate manner then I can hear you and will listen to you.” And I would walk away. No reward for bad behavior. I have given my son so much material for a therapist down the road…

Often times I find people allow bad behavior from the object of their affection or co-workers. What is worse is the excuses that they come up with for this person’s behavior. If you are interested in someone and things are going great but all of a sudden they start ignoring you how often is the phrase, “Oh, I know they are really busy” come in to play? So you make an excuse for them not returning a call that they said they would, or breaking plans etc. Then you assume ownership of this and try to “help” this person but making the call again, re-planning etc. You are rewarding bad behavior. Knock it off.

On the surface it appears that you are merely making excuses for them but really you are providing and validating a reason for them to treat you poorly. You deserve better than that! People are busy, yes, however; does it really take that long to make a quick call or text? Nope. Face it, if someone wants to reach you they will, if they do not reach out let it go and do not establish a pattern that you deserve less than respectful treatment.

In the workplace it is very easy to become the dumping ground for co-workers or bosses. I have a friend that is the ultimate worker, a boss’s dream. He is hard working, comes in early, doesn’t complain, takes pride in his job, goes above and beyond without being asked and truly gives 110% every day. He had a boss that would frequently ask him to complete some menial tasks for other workers because 1. They needed to be done and 2. The other workers refused to do them.

This is a management issue, an example of poor management on so many levels – but I won’t get into that side of it. My friend was being used because he was a good employee and the boss was rewarding the bad ones by having my friend complete their tasks. The light bulb finally came on and he realized the reward for bad behavior.

The next time his boss asked him to complete other’s tasks he calmly explained what was on his agenda for the day, all the tasks that he was responsible for that needed to be completed, and asked his boss which was a higher priority because in his mind his tasks were of high priority but if his boss would rather he not complete his job for the day in order that the menial tasks get done then that would be his call. His boss became a bit flustered and my friend told him that he would like to help him but it was important to him that he give his full time and attention to his job as that is what the company was depending on him to complete so he unfortunately would not be able to do the other tasks.

It is ok to say no. This should be done in a professional and non-confrontational manner; however it is important to reclaim your respect within your world. Your time, talents and attention are just as valuable as anyone else’s so why allow someone else to de-value you?

In networking I had a young lady that routinely would set an appointment with me then cancel at the last minute. We are in a networking group together so I gave her a bit more leeway than I normally would, but after the third time I was done. When she reached out once again I politely declined the offer. She apologized profusely about the prior cancellations and I thanked her for her apology; however my time is very valuable and therefore I can only schedule appointments with others who value time as much as I do and suggested that perhaps down the road when she has more control over her schedule we might find the opportunity to sit down.

No one will value you unless you value yourself first. If you are going to blindly assume that my world revolves around you then please do not waste my time. There will be another project, another networking opportunity, another potential prospect – but I will not give you another opportunity to disrespect or de-value me. I have refused to work with clients because of their disrespect, their attitude that because they are paying for a service this somehow gives them a right to be disrespectful to me or anyone I am connected with. Wrong, move on.

The last two statements may come across to some as self-serving or bold; perhaps. They may even give the impression that I am demanding; I am. Demanding of myself because here is the thing – I value myself. I give 150% to my clients, my family, my friends, my networking and business partners; anyone that I choose to have in my life in any way. I value them and therefore I openly and willingly give all that I can to them.

I do not expect anything of others that I would not expect of myself. I treat others with respect, dignity and honesty. I respect the individual and therefore believe that they believe to be treated in this manner; and it is an easy thing to behave in this manner because I respect myself.

If you find that you are giving cookies for other’s peeing on your floor take a step back and see how you are encouraging this behavior. It might just come down to a matter of treating yourself with more respect in order that others will do the same.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Coach-Strategist
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.

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