Improving Your Networking Skills

Networking is one of the most essential skills that an entrepreneur can have. Good networkers can more easily grow their business and create important connections that will allow them to improve the stability of their company in the future. However, networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, so here are some tips for anyone looking to improve their professional skill set.

Form Lasting Connections

Investing in deep, robust connections with a few people is better than having a long contact list of people you barely remember. People are more likely to want to assist you and invest in your future if you build genuine connections with them. Try not talking about business at all during the first conversation; actively listen to them without being distracted or trying to interrupt, and then ask questions about what they’ve told you. Always remember to follow up with people after meeting them, as well; saying you enjoyed meeting someone and remembering them goes a long way towards building a relationship.

Use Your Resources

Utilizing social media ahead of events in order to help you figure out who you want to meet and some basic facts about their background can go a long way towards setting you up for networking success. Having a goal in mind and the resources to execute it makes it less likely that you will be distracted by people you may already know or the general festivities. You can also use social media to keep up with people you’ve already met if you’re unable to meet with them in person or are busy.

Be a Superconnector

One of the most valuable things that you can do for someone else is to help them connect with others who can solve their problems. Taking the time to get to know people and work with them can allow you to successfully introduce them to others who can help them achieve their goals. Part of creating stable business connections is making the relationship a two-way street and ensuring that you also provide value to the people you connect with.

Networking primarily relies on building your social skills and creating a mutually beneficial relationship with people in your industry. Being good at it can allow you to take your business to new heights and make lifelong friends along the way.

This article was originally published on Matt Walker’s blog.

Hiking Trails to Visit in the U.S.

Hiking is an incredible way to experience the beauty of nature while getting some great exercise. Fortunately, there are many gorgeous trails to visit in the United States that can help you appreciate the majesty of locations you visit. If you’re interested in embarking on a hike in the future, consider one of these amazing trails.

Appalachian Trail, Shenandoah National Park

The Appalachian Trail is a 101-mile long hike through the wilderness, which can be experienced in short sections if you’re looking for a day trip. The 200,000 acres of the park offer gorgeous views of wildlife and undeveloped forests; an incredible place to explore and take in nature’s many wonders.

Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park

If you’re looking for a challenge, consider the Harding Icefield Trail. Eight miles long and gathering 1,000 feet of elevation each mile this journey is strenuous but well worth the effort for those prepared. The trail will take you past glaciers, through forests and alpine meadows, all while providing incredible views of the Harding Icefield. It is a truly wonderful experience for anyone looking to see some unique vistas.

Kalalau Trailhead, Kauai, Hawaii

Part of a much longer trail, taking this shorter hike from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapiai Valley allows you to see fantastic waterfalls and experience the stunning views provided by the Na Pali coast while still returning to the beach in time to catch the sunset or go snorkeling.

South Rim Trail, Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon is a spectacular sight to behold from any vantage, and the park containing it offers opportunities for hikers of many skill levels to experience its majesty. The South Rim Trail is a relatively relaxed hike, but for those with advanced skills, a rim-to-rim trail is also available. Make sure to bring plenty of water, especially in the spring and summer, when Arizona can get exceptionally hot.

Mah Daah Hey Trail, North Dakota

This 144-mile trail offers an amazing opportunity to experience the wild and undisturbed prairies of North Dakota. Bighorn sheep, bison, and wild horses roam throughout the area, providing many chances to see unique wildlife and observe the beauty of the midwestern plains.

This article was originally published on Matt Walker’s blog.

4 Ways to Develop Strong Business Relationships

What’s the difference between good and bad business relationships? Good relationships are built on mutual trust, honesty, and respect. Bad ones are built on deceit, backstabbing, and dishonesty.

The following are 4 ways to develop strong business relationships:

  1. Understand Your Audience’s Needs and Goals

Every company and brand has a target audience. It is the job of everyone involved in marketing and sales, from business executives to marketing and salespeople, to ensure that what they are communicating to their target audience is on par with their expectations.

  1. Communicate Ideas Clearly

The most important thing that every employee needs are to communicate their ideas well with others. This is usually done in meetings, but not everyone is good at communicating their ideas through unambiguous words and the ability to paint a good picture through metaphors, analogies, and stories.

  1. Seek Opportunities for Partnership and Collaboration

Leveraging the power of business networking and skill at using social media has made it easier for businesses to communicate with their audiences. However, it is important for businesses to have a defined strategy and know how to leverage the power of network meetings and social media to build partnerships and collaborate on projects.

  1. Break the Ice with Small Talk at Meetings

Small talk is a tough skill to master, especially in business. The most common mistake that people make when trying to break the ice with small talk is talking about themselves.

The best way to break the ice with small talk is by talking about others and getting their opinion on something. This will make people feel more comfortable and not as awkward.

It’s always difficult to get started with small talk during a meeting because it’s rarely clear to know how other people are going to react, but the longer people wait to get to know each other, the more awkward it can become for everyone involved.

Conclusion

There are many reasons people avoid communicating well. It’s hard to strike the right balance between giving and receiving feedback or simply not having enough time. However, mastering communication skills is essential in building strong business relationships.

This blog was originally published on Matt Walker’s blog.

Top 5 Best Fall Vacations

Fall is a great time to get away from the summer heat and enjoy cooler weather. The leaves are changing colors, the air is crisp, and you can even have an apple-picking adventure with your family or friends. Here are some of my favorite spots for fall vacations this year:

1) PA Dutch Country (Lancaster, Pennsylvania)

Bring your appetite to this historical region of Pennsylvania, where the Amish and Mennonite are known for everything from food and clothing to farming practices and traditions. Enjoy the annual Apple Butter Toss at Miller’s Market in Bird-in hand, a town that has hosted the event since the 19th century. It is also home to the PA Dutch Country Visitor Center and the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show.

2) Northwest, US (Washington, Oregon)

If you are looking for a natural retreat this holiday season, look no further than the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Bend, Oregon, is one of the most popular sports to spot fall foliage and other outdoor activities such as hiking and mountain biking. There is plenty to do in Seattle during your long weekend, thanks to its wide variety of museums and cultural centers.

3) Helen, Georgia (Northwest Georgia Mountains)

Autumn in the Nantahala National Forest is a sight to behold. Most of the leaves have changed colors by this point and can be viewed from numerous overlooks along Roosevelt’s Appalachian Trail. If you are looking for a more adventurous experience, check out the Nantahala Adventure Center to rent canoes and kayaks to explore the river around Helen.

Most of Georgia’s fall foliage is found on its highest peaks, including Brasstown Bald at 4784 feet above sea level (1354m). It offers spectacular views of autumn in North Carolina and Tennessee before the leaves are finally gone.

4) New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine)

New Hampshire is famous for its fall foliage. Dartmouth College’s Baker-Berry Library features a classic book about the region called The Foliage Season by Eugene Field, which describes New England in the 1880s when women were expected to wear long skirts.

Are you looking for an alternative to the usual New England outdoor experience? Try some local history at the Old Sturbridge Village, a living museum that recreates life in rural mid-19th Century America. There is also plenty of shopping, from antiques and handmade jewelry to classic books and even fresh-baked pies.

5) Colorado Plateau (Colorado, Utah, Arizona)

Whether you are a hiking or biking enthusiast, the Colorado Plateau is an ideal location for fall vacations this year, thanks to its many parks and recreation areas. The Aspen trees in the Maroon-Snowmass Wilderness of Colorado provide spectacular views all year long, but autumn is considered the most beautiful because of the variety of colors.

This article was originally published on Matt Walker’s blog.

Learn How to Motivate Your Team

When you’re in a leadership position, you can count on one thing to never change. That is the fact that human nature is very unpredictable.

Whether you just entered your first career leadership position or are an experienced leader looking to get the most of your employees, you need to know effective methods to inspire them.

Understanding certain fundamentals of human behavior lets you get your subordinates to function not just effectively but also enthusiastically. Here are eight of them:

  1. More Personal AttentionIndividual conversations using a one-on-one basis is something of a lost art form in an age of digital and mass communications. Create relationships where you listen to everyone’s ideas, issues, problems, and suggestions.
  2. Identify Their MotivationsYou might not think that what gets your employees out of bed first thing in the morning is any of your business, but if you want them to care about your business, then you better find out fast.
  3. Give Them the Resources They NeedIf you ask employees to accomplish certain things and then fail to give them the things they need to get things done, you’re setting them up for failure. The resentment and poor morale will doom everyone.
  4. Constant Praise and ComplimentsGood qualities and high-caliber work need to be pointed out and emphasized regularly. Praise everyone you can at least weekly, if not more often than that.
  5. Purpose and Meaning People don’t just want a paycheck and benefits. The market has many places to get that. They also want to know that what they’re doing matters. Help them see how they’re serving others and creating a better world whenever it’s truthfully possible.
  6. Skill Development Helping employees develop new skills doesn’t just help them become better employees, it helps them become better people. Think win-win by helping them develop new skills they can also use outside of work or to advance their career.
  7. Involve Them Leadership isn’t sitting in your office emailing out instructions and delegation of assignments. Involve anyone you can in the decisions and information crucial to your work.
  8. Make Them Believe Make them believe that you have confidence in them. Better yet, make them believe in themselves.

Find employees you can trust and work with along these angles to make the most of your business.

Packing for a Camping Trip: Top 10 Essential Items

When it comes to packing for a camping trip, there are some things that can’t be left behind. These items may not be necessities at home, but out in the wilderness with nothing but nature as a shelter, they become all too important. Here’s a list of the top 10 essentials:

  1. Camping chair

Sitting on the ground all the time can take a toll on the back and body, not to mention it’s more difficult to relax. There also may be insects or toxic plants on the ground that may trigger irritation or allergies. A camping chair can be as simple as a stool or as elaborate as a padded recliner.

  1. Matches

For cooking and starting fires, matches are pretty much a necessity for cooking dinner, burning garbage, signal fires, etc. Plus they’re small enough to fit in your pocket. Long-length lighters work as well, but make sure to bring a few extras in case they break.

  1. First Aid Kit

This is a must-have for any outing. Whether going on a day hike, camping in the woods, or just spending an afternoon at the park, a first aid kit can mean the difference between life and death. A safety kit should contain antibiotic ointment to prevent infection, bandages in various sizes, and gauze to stop bleeding and clean wounds, at the least. It’s also a good idea to include scissors, safety pins, tweezers, hydrogen peroxide, and cotton swabs.

  1. Rainfly

A rainfly can mean the difference between a pleasant camping experience and a miserable one. If there’s rain, it prevents everything inside from getting wet or soaked, even if it does leak. It also provides some privacy for underwear, bathing suits, and other more private areas of your tent that may not be as private with just a door flap to close.

  1. Flashlight

The moment it gets dark at your campsite, visibility dramatically decreases. It’s important to have a light source in order to watch one’s step and locate all camping items. A headlamp works best for most since it is a hands-free option.

  1. Garbage Bags

It’s essential to remove all trash from the campsite at least once a day. Garbage bags are necessary for this, as they make it easier to pack up all the garbage and take it home. They also work well for storing food items, as well as shielding them from critters.

  1. A Small Shovel

If you are camping in a semi-wet area, it may be necessary to dig an emergency latrine or drainage ditch. A small shovel will be necessary for this. Shovels are also helpful for campfires and charcoal grills.

  1. Sunscreen

Even during a cloudy or rainy camping trip, UV rays will still be there and may burn skin. Use a layer of sunscreen to prevent it from getting burnt or irritated when exposed to the sun. A long sleeve shirt and sunhat will work as well.

  1. Solar Charger

Even if this camping trip is rustic and off the grid, it can be a good idea to have a solar charger available in case of emergencies. Many camping models come with built-in flashlights, radios, and emergency alarms.

  1. Extra Water

It’s important to bring at least 50% more water than is needed on a camping trip. Dehydration is common and more may be needed than initially thought. Extra water is also good in case of emergencies. It can help clean injuries and put out fires.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, remembering to pack these ten essential camping items will ensure a safer, enjoyable, and well-prepared trip.

Steps to Take Before Terminating an Employee

Termination of employment is the end of work from a company. Below are steps that should be taken before terminating an employee:

Write a note

The only way to prove something is through documentation. Otherwise, it will seem as though it never happened. No matter how insignificant or informal it is, write it down. Keep documentation of any action taken before termination. The more documents you have, the more prepared you are when discussing termination with the employee.

Communicate clearly

All employees should be given job descriptions that outline their duties, even if it’s not formal. Functions and responsibilities should be stated clearly to each member and disciplinary measures should be outlined. Communicate corrective action and termination if need be. Each time the employee is in the wrong, he should be notified regarding his behaviors.

Be a good coach

Ensure you give appropriate feedback to demonstrate what is wrong and right through coaching. Coaching should be done to all employees. They should be encouraged to understand their progress before disciplinary action is taken against them or they are terminated.

Initiate a performance improvement plan

A performance improvement plan acts as a guide in solving problems and giving clear goals about what’s expected to improve. In some instances, verbal communication could be the better way to go. Use it to address things like attendance, communication, and other issues. Give a reasonable time for improvement. Some problems are less complex to handle than others. Write the conversation and plan. An employee should sign a document to acknowledge they understand. Have meetings and ensure every conversation is documented.

Conduct written communication

If things are getting out of hand, the next move is written counseling. It should state the areas where the employee has made mistakes and needs correction. Outline areas of improvement and how one should accomplish it. The document needs to explain that progress should be immediate, recognizable, and sustainable.

Terminate Employment

One can put in a lot of effort to assist their employees, and still see no improvement. It is the best opportunity to retrieve the documents showing how much help has been offered to the employee without change.

Before termination, review all the documents. It is prudent to contact a legal advisor or Human Resource representative to review the decision. Termination decisions can be supported and justified by the team.

Release the employee transparently and honestly, showing areas not worked on despite numerous reminders. Termination can be straightforward if documentation is available.

This article was originally published on Matt Walker’s blog.

Hiring Mistakes to Avoid for Improving Diversity

The Top Diversity Mistakes to Avoid

Having a diverse workforce allows your organization to enjoy a range of talents and personalities. Getting to this point, however, requires more than simply checking off boxes. Many companies get it wrong when trying to hire a diverse workforce, so by understanding their mistakes, you can avoid some of the most common pitfalls that employers face when hiring their workforce.

Checking Off Boxes

Some employers make the mistake of simply finding candidates that fit a “profile,” and hiring them, thinking their job is done. The problem with this is that they don’t often search for the best diverse candidates, they simply look for someone who fits the company’s diversity need. So they hire a gay man, a black woman and a senior-aged man. The problem is that they often look at little else than the person’s “characteristic,” placing them into roles for which they may not fit. This in turn leads to resentment from the other staff, which leads to a hostile workplace. Instead, dig deeply to find candidates who are outstanding in their field and hire the top talent—whatever their race.

Not Paying Attention to Inclusion

Let’s face it, some workplaces are toxic to underrepresented candidates. Many minorities in the workplace face daily microaggressions and overt behavior and policies that make them feel anything but included. These may include questions about their competency, a silencing of their ideas of policies that present their culture in a negative light. If your company’s culture is toxic, word will get out, and you will have a hard time recruiting the best diverse talent.

Allowing Personal Biases to Rule Policy

Many hiring managers will discard a resume with a name that is difficult to pronounce, or intentionally hire people of a certain nationality because they’re believed to be good at math. This is not only harmful to your talent, but can hurt your company’s bottom line. Hiring someone based on assumptions and biases can lead to a bad hire, which can ultimately cost your company money.

Avoiding the mistakes that many HR directors make when trying to diversify their companies is important. By eliminating personal biases, creating inclusive workspaces and recruiting based on talent, you can ensure that you get the best employees to run your company.

Originally published on Matt Walker Kansas’ website.

The Best Places to Travel in 2021

It’s safe to say that for most people, traveling is at the very top of their bucket list. But with so many places to go, it can be hard to narrow down where to visit first. Luckily, we’ve gone ahead and made a list of top places to travel in 2021 for your consideration. 

  1. Alaska 

Those looking for a unique vacation experience may want to consider visiting the coast of Alaska. It’s the perfect opportunity to feast your eyes on incredible wildlife such as humpback whales and polar bears. Alaska also has beautiful parks to offer with grandiose mountain views and an opportunity to kayak along beautiful rivers and streams. 

  1. Big Sky, Montana 

Fans of skiing will find themselves enamored with what Big Sky, Montana has to offer. It has 5,800 acres of land for people to ski on and has recently become the home of Montage Big Sky, a luxury ski resort offering a private golf and skiing community as well as an impressive 11,000 square foot spa.

  1. Buffalo, New York 

People who appreciate arts and culture will be delighted with everything Buffalo has to offer. The city’s visual art’s scene is incredibly underrated and has recently opened its doors to a brand-new gallery called K. Art. The gallery is unique to the United States as it is Native American-owned and dedicated completely to Indigenous art.  

  1. Burlington, Vermont 

Wine and cheese aficionados will have a blast visiting Vermont. The city of Burlington is known for their natural wine selection as well as the many house-made cheeses they offer. Despite being known for their gorgeous landscape, Burlington’s city life is just as exciting. You can find just about any type of cuisine under the sun, from Dominican fusion to Chinese fare. 

During the winter, Burlington is ideal for skiing and snowboarding while in the summer, you can enjoy activities such as kayaking, paddle boarding, and even windsurfing. Burlington has something for everyone, no matter what time of the year it is.

Originally published on Matt Walker Kansas’ website.

How to Be a Motivational Leader

Motivational leadership is all about providing inspiration to other people in addition to motivating them to achieve their goals. Motivational leaders are not born competent persons, as most of them have to work hard to gain much-needed qualities. Since becoming a motivational leader is something that one can train for, here are some key tips on how to become a motivational leader.

Becoming a better listener

Motivational leaders are often involved in providing guidance and leadership to employees. More often than not, motivational leaders will find themselves handling different employee issues. The quality of being a good listener is thus indispensable. Generating such a good relationship between the leader and the employees requires a commitment to strong building relationships based on trust and understanding.

Communicating effectively

Feedback control is crucial for motivational leaders and their employees. Good motivational leaders should, therefore, be competent in communication, just as much as they are good at listening. Such leaders have to be competent in self-articulation and should have a good understanding of the audience. When communicating, a motivational leader should understand the audience in terms of its needs and qualities.

Competency in problem-solving

An excellent motivational leader will often find problems to solve every now and then. To add value to the employees having such problems, it is an added value to be competent in problem-solving. For them to solve problems, motivational leaders are required to have a good understanding of these problems and come up with potential solutions.

Leading by example

Every competent motivational leader should be able to theoretically outline and chart the way forward and lead in that direction. To become a good motivational leader, one must be willing to take the risk and put to practice the theories that he or she advocates for. For a motivational leader, leading from the front increases his or her reputation. Leading from the front does not mean going at all alone but rather involves providing good incentives for the rest of the employees to follow.

Transparency in leadership

Trust and transparency are two important virtues for motivational leaders. To be trusted by the employees, the leader must earn their confidence. Such trust is largely based on the leaders’ commitment and should thus be cultivated.

This article was originally published on Matt Walker of Kansas’ entrepreneurship blog.

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