Some thoughts on hard things

Hands reaching out

President Obama famously had a sign on his desk that read, “Hard Things are Hard”. That really sums up this week. As if it wasn’t enough that we are embroiled in a pandemic, we have witnessed humans enduring pain, suffering, and death of a whole higher order. At the hand of other humans. How is such a thing possible? What do we do with it? How do we unpack it?

Last week, we talked about dealing with trolls. Of the tips we shared, numbers two and five are especially important this week, about dealing with negative messages (especially directed at ourselves). First, exercise compassion – pay attention to the remarks and see if there is a grain of truth that represents an opportunity for improvement. Secondly, if you have done something wrong, own up to it. Apologize and explain what you’ve done – if they’ve called you out on a legitimate complaint, say you’re sorry and tell them how you’re working to solve it. We’ve watched this playing out in real time this week, in a host of situations.

Companies and individuals have realized that silence is no longer acceptable. But speaking out isn’t enough. We need to look deep inside ourselves, do something to support others who are working to solve the problem, and figure out what personal action we need to take. Lego is a good example – they took a public stance. They donated money to support anti-racism causes. And then they looked for a contribution they could make, in their own house. You can read about it here.

For our part, we’re giving our privilege some deep thought. We will speak up more often where we should, and be quiet and listen where we must. Thank you for your patience with us. If you’d like to make a donation to an organization supporting anti-racism efforts here in Canada, here are three:

The Black Legal Action Centre

Black Women in Motion

Black Youth Helpline

And if you can support this event, happening today, or spread the word, we’d appreciate it.

I am Megann Willson, and I am a Partner here at PANOPTIKA. I’m better than I was yesterday. Not as good as tomorrow. And nowhere near what I hope to be when I’m done. I am listening, learning, and speaking…sometimes well, and sometimes in need of another lesson. Thank you for your patience. We’re listening here, here, and here. And we’d be grateful to have you join us for our weekly news.

What to do when the Trolls Show Up…

Troll in forest

You’ve started to get some traction with your social media posts or your blog, and then…the trolls show up. What can you do?

The natural urge is to feel defensive. To want to fight back. But is that in your best interest? Most of the time, it’s not. Here are some steps you can take when confronted with negative information:

  1. Remind yourself and your team that happy customers often say nothing – you may have many “likes” or “shares”, but much of the time, of comments
  2. Exercise compassion – pay attention to the remarks and see if there is a grain of truth that represents an opportunity for improvement.
  3. Consider the source – are they a “troll for hire” or bot, simply programmed by an algorithm to respond to certain phrases or topics?
  4. Don’t argue – looking defensive won’t get you anywhere and will add validity to their remarks
  5. Apologize and explain what you’ve done – if they’ve called you out on a legitimate complaint, say you’re sorry and tell them how you’re working to solve it
  6. Take the conversation offline – and show that you’re offering them another way to voice their concerns
  7. Push them out of the way – enlist your allies (customers, clients, or stakeholders) to help you build up the positive comments

Bear in mind that often the people who are bothered the most by trolls are team members who work their hardest to be good, kind, compassionate, and helpful. They’ll want to defend themselves. The best thing you can do for them is to have a clear policy and a place where they, too, can voice their concerns. Do that, and encourage them to support your efforts to manage what is sometimes a very unruly and discomfiting beast.

I’m Megann Willson, one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to see everything they need to know to make better decisions as they find, understand, and engage their customers. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or subscribe for weekly updates using the handy button, below.

5 Tips for Remote Meetings with Clients

Person working remotely

Online meetings really are the new normal. For “people people”, they can be difficult. They feel strange and impersonal. For those who prefer smaller meetings for interactions with others, the chatter from unmuted conversations and myriad images on the screen can be overwhelming. For the private person who separates work and home into distinct compartments, the blurring of lines can produce feelings of invasion, anxiety, or even violation. And the distraction of dogs, spouses, and kids, can mean that even the most focused attendees can easily get side tracked. Combine all this with wanting to make a good impression with clients, and you’ve got tall order to fill. We’ve been working remotely with many of our clients for decades, and we’ve got five tips for remote meetings with your clients that we hope will make your days just a bit easier.

  1. First, plan in advance, just as you would for a face-to-face meeting. Email an agenda, if you’re in the driver’s seat, with no more than three key topics you want to cover. Or if the client has asked to meet with you, a simple, “what would you like me to be prepared to work on for our meeting?” goes a long way to setting the stage that they’re still as important as ever, and that you are taking the meeting seriously.
  2. Next, find a good space. In a small space like our big city condo, that can be a challenge. We’re lucky to have a dedicated office space, but not everyone does. Whether it’s your couch, your dining room table, or perched on your bed with a virtual backdrop, what’s most important is to eliminate distractions as much as possible, so you can give the client your full attention.
  3. Then, dress up how you want to show up. If your colleagues are into pjs and t-shirts, that’s their call. If you’re trying to mirror the client and their style is more relaxed than it might normally be, you can still do your smartest smart casual and not make a misstep. You need to present yourself in a way that makes you feel confident and comfortable.
  4. Also, when you’re online with the client, do the same thing you might do in their office. Pay attention to their environment. Learn what you can about them that might help you create a richer connection. Find out how they like to live and work. Show some empathy and ask how they’re holding up, if this is a new way for them to work.
  5. Last of all, ask yourself how you need to meet, to best accomplish the goals of this interaction. Even though it is currently “flavour of the month”, do you need a video call at all? Just because everyone’s on a Hangout, a Zoom, or a Teams right now, doesn’t mean those are the right tool. Maybe just the sound of your voice is enough. Or an email. Or even an old-fashioned handwritten note. Marshall Mcluhan said that the medium is the message, and he was never more right than right now.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know to make better decisions. You can find us on Twitter, on Facebook, or on LinkedIn. We can meet you online, or hop on a call. And if you’d like more news you can use delivered straight to your inbox, sign up with the handy orange button.

Get Close to Customers…From a Distance

hands reaching out of monitors to make a transaction

Even as the great re-entry begins, we’re all realizing that the way we do business will have to change. Probably forever. So how do you create those close ties to customers that have been proven to result in greater lifetime customer value, more referrals, and less push, more pull marketing efforts? How can you get that close to customers, from a distance?

First, you need to really reach out and understand what’s happening with your customers now. All bets are off. Any assumptions you had in the pre-pandemic days are gone. You might actually be at an advantage if you’re starting a new business – you won’t have to dismantle any old habits. But let’s assume you’ve had good customer relationships thus far. I hope you’ve stayed in contact during the quarantine, distancing, and slowdowns that have occurred. Whether you’ve decided to stop, start, continue, or change your marketing tactics and relationship approach, you need to validate. That’s not so easy if you can’t see customers in person, or as often, as you used to. (Partner Steve Willson has some excellent tips in this video, though. We hope you’ll like, share, and subscribe to the whole series).

After you’ve got the lay of the land, there are four things you need to think about:

  1. Is there someone I can refer to those customers, to show them I’m putting them first?
  2. How can I give those customers what they want, or solve a problem for them, before I talk about me?
  3. How can I reward the ones who have already purchased during this crazy time we’ve been going through, even if their own businesses or incomes were suffering?
  4. Who is in their network who could become a customer, if I can encourage them to give me a referral?

Just this morning, I was discussing with a client of mine, what changes they want to make in their business, and that the time is now. When everything is shifting, there’s no better time to make the changes you’ve known need to be made. Keep thinking about your customer first while you do it. (If you want to dig deeper into customer service, we highly recommend reading Shep Hyken’s Cult of the Customer). If we didn’t have customers, we wouldn’t have businesses.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know to make better business decisions. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. And if you’d like to receive timely ideas and tips to help you find, understand, and engage customers, sign up for news you can use with the orange button.

The Best Time is Now


I didn’t get the blog written this week. I have a new client. In these pandemic times, that is fantastic news. And this client, well, like many businesses, they’re fighting for their lives. So I owed it to them to make sure they got some time from me. I also had commitments to a strategy planning session with my CCSBE Board. I also had work with our collaborators at Platinum Pivot. All this to say, if you miss your target and need to stage a recovery, the best time is now.

That wisdom has been around for a while. There’s an old Chinese proverb, often quoted, that says the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now. Readers usually see a post from us on Thursday or Friday. Funny thing, though. We’re regular people, and once in a while, commitments just get in the way. We break promises even to ourselves. I bet that’s happened to you, as well. My friend, coach Debbie Adams, would tell you that when you’ve fallen off the wagon (your plan) you’ve got to chase that wagon!

We’ve all been going through unprecedented times. This week, conversations with clients, contacts, and colleagues have been taking on a different tone. They’re feeling a shift, like the frenzy of video calls is subsiding somewhat, and they’re getting work done. They’re looking at their businesses and making changes. They’re holding strategy sessions and planning for the future with a frisson of hope. These are good things. So if you’ve got something you’ve let slide, and it’s important to you, the best time is now. I just did it, reaching out to you.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know to make better decisions. If this was helpful to you, I hope you’ll share on social. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Or you can subscribe to our news, straight to your inbox, using the orange button, below.

Make Space for Positive Thinking

Sunrise from space

Happy #spaceday. If you know me, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of all things space. That’s not what I’m going to talk about today, though. I want to talk about the importance of positive thinking in tempestuous times.

Business people the world over have been encountering unprecedented levels of turmoil, upheaval, and disruption. With so much change, and so many challenges, it can feel overwhelming. It can lead to a negative attitude, pessimism, and cynicism. Covid-19 isn’t the only thing that’s infections. Negativity is, also.

We’re all entitled to our feelings, and it’s reasonable to let yourself experience a full range of emotions. However we can choose where we direct our focus. Like driving a car, where we focus is where we steer, and where we steer determines where we end up. The mind is like that, too. If we make space for positive thinking, it will soon snowball, leading to an overall improvement in our mental wellness, and in our work and home lives. So make time for some positive thinking today. Stick with it. Good things will happen in no time. Attitude is altitude!

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m a Partner and CEO here at PANOPTIKA. Our name means “see everything”, because we work with our clients to help them see everything they need to know to make better decisions for their careers and businesses. You can also find us on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on Facebook, or sign up for weekly insights using the orange button, below.

5 Productivity Hacks for Working from Home

Image by Tina Koehler from Pixabay

I’m going to start with the best hack of all. Go easy on your customers, employees, your kids. Most importantly, go easy on yourself. So yes, absolutely, it’s easy to fall into an unmotivated abyss. But the opposite doesn’t have to be climbing Mount Everest. Make a to-do list for the day and make sure you have things on there for work, for yourself, for family, and then for friends or community. Then slash it. Under each of those categories, ask yourself, “If I could only get one of these done today, which one is my must-do”? Focus on those, give them your best, and know that you’ve done enough. Don’t try and be the productivity Queen or King. 

Next, find an accountability partner. In your regular office, perhaps you had colleagues who would send cues like, “Hey, how’s the Perlmutter Project going?” , which would prompt you to think, “I’d better get on that!” Find a friend who needs the same nudge and agree to call each other once a day just to see if you’re on track for the one thing you’ve said is your most important thing.

Working from home might also feel like a good excuse to lounge around in your pj’s and work whenever you want. “Whenever you want” can easily can blur the lines between work time, and personal time and become all the time. Plenty of people are suffering from that now. It’s one thing to be comfortable, but the reason we dress up and show up at work should be for ourselves. When we feel confident, we sound confident. So if you’re making phone calls or connecting on video, dress for the way you want to show up. Not for the way you’re feeling right now. You’ll feel more productive, and you really will get more done. 

Plan ahead! If you’re sharing a small space, working around kids and school, phone calls, video calls, for more than one person can be a challenge. As much as possible, coordinate your calendar and practice time-shifting. Everyone has to give 100% on this, so the key is to be generous with your time, but greedy with your schedule. This will let you get things done without having the added apology time that close-quarters friction can cause.

And number five, try a modified Pomodoro. Let’s call it the “tomato sandwich”. Do a task you’re not thrilled about, but that must be done, and sandwich it with a thin layer of something you really want to get done for you. Wrote a draft of that report? Excellent. Treat yourself to a nice cup of tea. Finished your latest group video call? Read that interesting article you’ve been meaning to start. It might be Pavlovian, but it works!

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA. We help our clients see everything they need to make better decisions for their businesses. You can find more ideas on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or click the button and subscribe for our Friday News You Can Use.

What to do if you realize normal wasn’t working

Image thanks to Tony Prats via Pixabay

Have you heard Jessica Salfia’s poem, “The First Lines of Emails I’ve Received While Quarantining”? It talks about the “new normal”, and more. Truthfully, we’ve heard so many people say they are waiting to get back to normal. Or that they’re trying to normalize their business processes, “under the circumstances”. Or that they don’t have time to think about strategy right now, because they’re just treading water, or trying not to crack the thin veneer that’s separating them from the chaos. Does that sound familiar?

It makes us think. What if, or how might we? How might we use the crisis to knock on the door of an opportunity? How might we use our time differently, to make our businesses over into the kind of businesses we’ve wanted or deserved all along? Let’s face it, everyone is doing things they’ve never done. Learning, implementing, trying, failing, and trying again. So we’re asking you to consider this: create what we’ll call a One Team®. (If you’re a team of one, you might need to reach out and form a Mastermind group to be your One Team). That team’s job is to select one thing that everyone agreed before all this began, would make a massive difference to either your customers or your colleagues, if it could just be sorted out and implemented. Then give the team license to take one day a week to think about this, and only this. Really work on it. Come up with ideas. Test. Prototype stuff. Make drawings. Research. Ask questions. They get a buy on all video conferences for most of that day. Then at the end of that one day, they have only one online meeting to explain their one most important lesson learned, to offer one thing up that the rest of the company can use, and to make one ask that will carry them forward to their next step. Then you let them repeat this process until you can see the change they’ve made. Because they will. We’re sure of it.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them to see everything they need to work on to make better decisions for their businesses. Find us on Twitter and Facebook, too. On Fridays, we send News You Can Use to our subscribers. You can become one by signing up with the orange button, below. 

Flatten the curve. Stay safe. Stay home. 

Why Goal-Focused Research will Net a Better Result

Many businesses are taking this unexpected or forced downtime, to research customers, find out more of what they can do, and opening themselves up to new ideas. That’s fantastic! However the crisis mentality can also cause us to simply throw ideas at the wall and see what sticks. In this time of tight budgets and extreme risk, there’s a better approach.

Set specific research goals. Think about what you want to achieve, and then be intentional about what you need to know to make that happen. Research what you need, nothing more. Constraining your thinking will provide a better result than simply undertaking catch-all inquiries.

And this weekend, please, stay safe at home.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. If you’re trying to figure out your way forward, I’m here to help. You can find our business on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or subscribe to weekly news you can use.

Is it getting hard to focus?

Based on a completely unreliable, unscientific set of observational data gleaned from #socialmedia, we’ve noticed (and heard during phone calls) that many people who are suddenly forced to work from home (or who are used to working from home, and have had partners or offspring thrust into the mix) are having trouble with focus. 

Steve and I have been working with clients for nearly twenty years, helping them focus on what’s important when they are surrounded by irrelevant data and daily distractions. Here are a few tips that will help you get some real work done:

  1. Get dressed. OK, maybe you don’t need a suit and tie. But schedule at least one early and one later-in-the-day video call, to incentivize yourself to “dress up and show up”.
  2. Make a list of things you want to get done, then prioritize. Get it down to ONE. If you can do this one thing, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something. Then start it. When you’re done, reprioritize based on current information, and start again.
  3. Work in short spurts of about 25 minutes (read up on the pomodoro technique). In between, get some oxygen – go out on your balcony or stride around the room, just get air for a minute or two. In between, give yourself two minutes, no more, for one of the following.
  • Schedule two minutes for news and social media consumption – endless scrolling, scrolling, scrolling might have been amusing last week, but if this is our new modus operandi for a month or more, that will get old, PDQ.
  • Read something that is business-y, but unrelated to your vertical or domain, and then figure out the connection.
  • Drink a big glass of water. 

And every time, before you sit down to work again, please, wash your hands. 

Stay safe out there, people. Keep your distance. Don’t touch me, and I won’t touch you. If you need help with your business, or planning a new one, let me know. You can also find us on Twitter:  Steve or Megann. We’re also on LinkedIn or Facebook. Under the Store tab, you can join a MasterMind group or explore coaching with us. Or you can just wait for news to arrive in your inbox, on Friday afternoons. (Just in case you’ve lost track of what day it is).