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What’s a lead?

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Refrigerated Real Estate Consumers


My definition of a real estate lead

A lead to me includes absolutely the following:

  • the full name of the buyer (both persons if a joint purchase)
  • an exact capture of their area and style of housing
  • pre-qualified with a qualification letter
  • a signed agreement that they consent to the distribution of their information to me and understand they’ll be working with me.
  • the lead must be exclusive to me or my company.

What most supply

  • name (sometimes correct)
  • email address (rarely their best contact)
  • city or zip code searched (is this narrowed or a broad general search)
  • share the fragment of information with 2-10 additional agents

What ends up happening

  • You and upto 10 other agents bombard the consumer with updates and QUESTIONS
  • You turn off the consumer because you’ve been left with more QUESTIONS than answers
  • You lose the consumer to someone else and are left begging for a response
  • You’re left discouraged and with a hole in your wallet

It seems to me

A better approach for any aggregator would be to connect locally a partnership with a Broker, and provide a lead capturing solution supported by their national site.  Endorsing the Brokerage from a national level  gives the local Broker credibility allowing a transaction to take place on the local site- The transaction of information. 

The wrap 

Agents must raise the bar and and begin to ask serious questions of the vendors that would provide fragments of shared information.  You must learn to just say no to antiquated products and force vendors to raise their bar. By doing so you force aggregators to engage a solution for consumers that is valuable enough that they would want to willingly submit their information, agree to pre-qualification, and yes, make the home buyer eager for the call by the agent by asking permission upfront- Permission marketing.

In the end, the consumers experience is what is most important, but the almighty dollar seems to continue to fuel poorly conceived dot-disasters to the online market place.  These so-called lead generation opportunities leave buyers frustrated and with a feeling of refrigeration- consumers are not meat.

Are there dot-somethings out there that aim to bridge the gap from search to purchase?  If so, I’ve not received your email.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Matthew Rathbun

    April 9, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    I’m reminded of issues that a certain company went through when they were “generating” leads from ther employees to ensure that minimum commitments were met. I got out of all my on-line lead generation systems. What I found was that the “lead systems” were costing me as much as I was making. So, had just one lead not worked out, I would have been in the negative.

    Agents need to do a little market research and check with other users out of their markets before signing up for services that generate potential client contacts.

    This is still a social buisness and it seems that some lead services are hoping that something comes by, as opposed to actually engaging folks and finding out what they are looking for. This goes back to Boardman’s post, yesterday. It’s important to have a connection and realistic mentality with your client. Why pay for a “lead” if they aren’t going to be a good fit for you?

    Sorry, Benn, if this wasn’t your primary point, but it’s a topic, that I think all agents should explore more.

  2. Benn Rosales

    April 9, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Matthew, no, it strikes at the heart- the solution (technology in this case) needs to bridge and build warm contacts, not refrigerated meat. The solution is introducing me to an opportunity, not an email address.

  3. BawldGuy Talking

    April 9, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    As usual, Benn, you’ve called it as it is.

    Leads generated by the agent’s own efforts, at least in my personal experience, are golden. Our batting average with those coming to us through our sites is well over half.

    I can’t even imagine the conversion rate you enjoy with the leads you generate.

  4. Teresa Boardman

    April 9, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Better yet lets not treat consumers like leads and let’s cut out the middle man. They add no value for consumers. If agents stopped working with the lead aggragators they would cease to exist and consumers would come to us.

  5. Benn Rosales

    April 9, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Teresa, that isn’t going to probably happen, they’re like weeds. The best we can hope for is a company that fills the void with a product that bridges the gap. I am no fan of aggregators by any stretch of anyone’s imagination…

  6. Jay Thompson

    April 9, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    I hate the word “lead” and try to avoid it like the plague. Leads are people. People buy and sell homes, not leads….

  7. Jonathan Benya

    April 9, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Here’s what I don’t understand:

    I have my own independent blog, and I get 50-100 visitors daily.

    I average 3-4 first-time calls from potential clients weekly.

    I average 3-4 first-time emails from potential clients weekly.

    So weekly, I’m looking at 6-8 possible leads.

    I spend $15/month on the blog hosting.

    I spend approximately 1 hour a day blogging.

    I can close a lead a week (actually 1.2) from blogging leads alone.

    If I can close 4-5 leads monthly from blog traffic alone, at a cost of $15 & 30 hours of prospecting (writing) each month, why on EARTH would I pay $50-$75 for a lead with a company that averages a 20-25% closing ratio? I figure if a lead generation company charges me $60/lead, and 20% (1 in 5) make it to closing, I’m paying $300 per lead that actually closes, right?

    Let’s say my time is worth $50/hr. That means the time I spend blogging each month is worth roughly $1,500. ($50x30hours). I close 5 leads that month, and I’m spending the same amount on my blog as I would for a lead generation service, PROVIDED THEIR LEADS CLOSE AT 20% or BETTER!!

    It sounds to be about the same, but the difference lies in the fact that I’m being called by the client, not the other way around! By the time they contact me, they feel as if they already know me because they’ve met me, my listings, my team, my dogs, you name it, and there is a personal connection to me before they’ve ever even heard my voice! It makes transactions go much more smoothly, in my opinion, and instantly eliminates many of the hurdles you see with leads you’re paying for!

  8. Gabe Sumner

    April 9, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    This post demonstrates an extreme ignorance about how the Internet works and what Internet consumers want.

    Internet users enjoy the anonymity of the Internet. They enjoy being able to browse at their own pace. They want to be empowered to do their own searches and research. When they have questions, they want clear simple, truthful answers. They do not want to be forced to submit information they are not ready to give or take steps they aren’t ready to take.

    It might take MONTHS for the lead to mature; as a person progresses from curious, to interested, to serious, to ready. When the time comes though, most people will remember the agents, companies, and web sites that were honest & helpful to them.

    Any web site that makes someone pre-qualify for a loan to even ask a question (or worse do a search) will fail! Miserably!

    To speak to your points above; you will never get want you want because the Internet is purely consumer driven. There are thousands of web sites and the successful web sites will be those that allow consumers to approach the home buying process on their own terms.

    I understand that in an ideal world you would like leads where the person is primed and ready to hand you a stack of cash with minimal fuss…but there isn’t any web site that will be able to do that for you.

  9. Eric Blackwell

    April 9, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Jay, you nailed it, man. I agree totally.

    I feel a post coming on…. These folks are PEOPLE who are searching for what we have to sell. They may not be ready to buy yet, buuuuuttttt…they will decide whom they buy through based on who is helpful.

    “Lead” well and “lead generator” ought not to be in the lexicon IMO.

    Best;

    Eric

  10. ines

    April 9, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    I’m with Jay – the first step is to stop calling them “leads”.

    If I may interject here: Gabe – as much as I totally agree with you and so will most of us in this platform (sorry if I generalize) – this post is about Lead Generation Companies that actually sell a product, they “sell” leads. I personally don’t use don’t companies and use the process you describe in my own site – the question for me is, if these companies are going to sell these leads, shouldn’t they be complete? and real? if not, what exactly are they selling…….people’s privacy and anonymity? ……just a thought.

  11. Bill Lublin

    April 9, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    @Benn – I have a ton of stuff to say about this whole thing, but frankly its another post – I think you are absolutely on the right track and have part of the answer, but haven’t yet gone all the way with it – leaving a little for me to get my teeth into later on – for which I thank you “oh provider of all things that are good” (or more appropriately, the husband of “the provider of all things that are good”!)
    @Jay AND Eric – As another Bill once said ” what’s in a name?, a lead by any other name would smell as sweet…” They are leads until we meet them – at which time they become people, but while I don;t agree with much of what Gabe said. I do agree that anonymity is part of the internet experience, and until we remove that anonymity, the “leads” haven’t yet coalesced into “people” because we haven’t yet met them.. and that part is our job – and one that we shouldn’t allow anyone else to do – unless we don;t want to be in business any longer…
    @Gabe – I admire your courage if not your perception when you say “This post demonstrates an extreme ignorance about how the Internet works and what Internet consumers want.” about this particular author and these particular commentators in this particular arena –
    And I have to disagree with you when you say “the Internet is purely consumer driven” – That is simplistic and untrue – the majority of succesful business models are either ad driven, or looking to be driven by fees and referrals paid by real estate professionals – Is there another internet service which is paid for by the consumer using it? Even Amazon, Ebay, and every other e-commerce site I can think of has their business model fueled by the vendor rather then the consumer – The only part of the Internet that comes to mind as completely consumer driven might be the pornographic portion of the net which I am told by others is actually paid for by the consumers- and if I did miss one or two examples which are not ad driven or fee & referral based, they are in the underwhelming minority-

  12. Brian Columbus

    April 9, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    On the surface, your “lead standards” make sense. There’s validity in not wasting time with half-hearted buyers. Like any relationship (business or personal), there needs to be some level of commitment for both sides in order for things to work out. So I ask, why bother “chasing leads” at all? Why not spend your time marketing to the type of customers you really want: sincere, motivated and qualified consumers. Focus on getting referrals and repeat business. Focus on the relationships (people) and not the data (leads).

    (BTW – If you’re looking for a dot-something to help with that…I’ll send you an e-mail shortly.)

  13. Benn Rosales

    April 10, 2008 at 7:55 am

    The post that says leads are a bad word and aggregators that lack a product that they own will surely fail, have already been written- I know because I wrote them.

    This post is something much deeper and much to the heart of any startup that wants to offer antiquated methods to real estate practitioners that lead them down a 1.0 path. Some here get that, some here do not, but my larger point will be understood by a vendor that is looking for the niche that will fly through the ages,

    It is the point that will build what some used to call a lead into a buyer who wants to willingly participate. The meat being if you had reached that level of bliss with the consumer with a product they wanted, you’d have recieved more than bits and bits should not be sold (or purchased). When purchasing bits the consumer is destined to become chewed by the pack. Again, this method was created by aggregators but somehow the agent becomes the vilain.

    There is a better way… I’ve seen it, and I’m going to show it to you… stay tuned.

  14. Gabe Sumner

    April 10, 2008 at 8:24 am

    Bill Lublin,

    I don’t believe saying “the Internet is purely consumer driven” is simplistic. Instead, I believe it is a fact to keep in mind for anyone who wishes to succeed in this environment.

    Of course there are web sites that are supported by ads or sales. However, those web sites delicately place their revenue model on top of a solid customer-centric experience…or they will become irrelevant.

    Google is a very good example. In the beginning Google was a text box, one click and then the answer to your question. With this “simplistic” approach they became the greatest force on the Internet.

    Now Google obviously has AdWords; but notice how careful they have been about infusing ads into their product. Notice they have never allowed the “natural” results to be tainted with ads. Do you know how much companies would be willing to pay for top-spots? Millions & millions of dollars are being lost. But Google understands that as soon as they start down this path, they lose the confidence of their users. That confidence is really the only thing of value they have.

    If I have a web site where I am trying to offer value to customers during the real estate transaction, it is not in my customers interest to:

    – Demand of them questions they are not ready to answer.
    – Exclusively give their “lead” to 1 agent who may or many not respond.

    ines,

    Regarding the companies you describe, it does not surprise me that the leads they generate would be flawed. Their core business model is flawed. Thank you for the clarrification.

  15. Gary Ashton

    April 10, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Hello,
    I think that really we have to view our lead generating websites as a 24hr virtual open house.

    We all know that the best way to meet buyers, the traditional way, would be to sit in a well publicised open house or in a heavy traffic area, and wait for potential buyers to walk through the door.

    Well, in actual fact, the open house brings in all sorts of potential buyers as well as plenty of lookers, from the next door neighbors to the couple doing some remodelling and looking for interior design ideas. They are all interested in the home but with varying degrees of interest towards actually buying a home.

    The internet lead is very similar and in a lot ways exactly the same. It’s an virtual open house that the buyer can enter at any time of the day or night…and we don’t need to be there.

    Most real estate sites at some point will require the user to provide some kind of information about themselves. Those who have no intention of revealing their identity can create a fake, but plausible e-mail address, and a fake, but plausible phone number, and then they have access to the rest of the site.

    Other users will only provide a good e-mail and yet others will provide a working e-mail and a working phone number. However just because the working phone number and working e-mail user has provided all the correct information doesn’t mean that they are looking to buy a home. They may still be a inquisitive neighbor or some one doing research regarding interior decorating and they needed to see pictures of homes etc.

    The point is that internet captures leads at all stages in the buyers life cycle just like the buyers and people coming to view traditional open houses. Some maybe in the very early and formative stages and have 2 years to incubate before they buy. Others may not even know they are thinking about moving but the research they do for another project brings them to the realization that they need to “upgrade” to get what they want in a home ie they can’t make a silk purse out of a sows ear 😉

    I guess all I’m saying is that internet leads are at the end of the day either real people or fake. The real people will at some point be looking for a home. It may not be next week, next year or the next decade but it’s very likely they or someone they know will be involved in a real estate transaction. If you treat that lead with respect and give them some attention they will remember you via your drip campaign when they do enter the actual buying stage.

    I don’t reject someone just because they are using my site for research. I hope they will remember it as a user friendly site and refer their friends and family and eventually become a client themselves when it’s their turn to buy 🙂

    I look forward to hearing any one elses opinions as I would like to convert more of my leads just like everyone else that uses the internet as a way of generating business for themselves and their team 🙂

    As exclusive agents for Nashville.com we generate anywhere from 15 to 50 leads a day…and not all are immediate buyers 😉

  16. Vicki Moore

    April 10, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    There is a better way… I’ve seen it, and I’m going to show it to you… stay tuned.

    I wait excitedly, Obi Wan. 🙂

  17. Bill Lublin

    April 10, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Gabe;
    When I said simplistic I meant just that – not dumb, just simplistic- It (the statement) didn’t take into account all of the levels that truly drive the internet- And please don’t get me wrong – I am not suggesting that there are not sites that are simply there for fun or for the experience of sharing like the gutenberg project or archive.org, I objected to summing up the entire nature of the Internet in that one sentence-

    I would disagree with your perception of google’s careful insertion of adwords- they’re just geinb honest about identifying ads- something that newspapers have done for years, and a laudable action, but since they’re banking large, I would respectfully say that the reason is not because they love the consumer experience, but because they don’t need to do anything else. Businesses need to act as businesses in order to survive and to have the participants in those businesses survive and even thrive- I don’t think that is a bad thing or a good thing – just a thing we need to recognize when we look at the structure of our electronic workplace

    I do agree with you that we need to keep the consumer’s experience in mind, because even if the motivation of the business or person operating the web site is commerical, they defeat their own pupose if they don’t make it a good consumer experience, because many consumers will then choose not to participate.

  18. David Carroll

    July 6, 2009 at 2:11 am

    Brilliant article and the comments are equally as insightful. If only I got my head out of the gutter of software development with our FREE IDX Property Search a year ago and found this very post, I would have had a great reference for all the naysayers about redefining lead capture I’ve encountered this past year. Check out our video on this very subject and let me know your thoughts. http://www.softRealty.com/video/LeadCaptureRedefined/.

    I never understood the mentality many agents have regarding the “unregistered” use of their IDX Search. Some agents believe that if you’re not ready to pony up some identification with “forced registration,” you have no business on their site. How ridiculous!!! Gary Ashton’s comment said it perfectly in his assessment of people who do or don’t give their information. I talk to brokers and agents everyday who say they force registrations to capture leads, but would never fill out those forms themselves. However, if they don’t push some sort of registration, they won’t be able to begin nurturing a relationship with this lead. What they don’t consider is you also can’t connect with qualified home buyers leaving your site or giving you fake information. The very people that do give you factual information have probably given it to every other site they’ve visited and may not be a qualified buyer.

    As a “dot-something” technology company, as it were, we have addressed the concept of nurturing relationships online with “Lead Capture Redefined.” This is where we approach the lead capture process with a consumer driven approach. Let them search anonymously while giving the agent the ability to connect online. If the consumer sees value in the correspondence, they’ll identify themselves. There is much to be afraid of with identity to begin with on the internet. Give your new visitors time to get to know you as an agent, search your site, and return periodically. Don’t give them a reason to “lie” with fake information. Rather, engage early and establish trust.

    Bill, Ines, and Teresa, we met at REBarCamp PHL. I wish I was following this site earlier on. You guys ROCK!!!

    Benn, I’m digging Agent Genius with every new article I get a chance to read. I feel that guy who just discovered the box set of “Lost” for the first time and am playing catch up from several seasons back.

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Opinion Editorials

Managing bipolar disorder and what I wish my employers understood

(EDITORIAL) This editorial offers a perspective on living with bipolar disorder in the workplace, giving employers insight into how to support similar team members.

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bipolar disorder

I met Jacob Martinez (Jake) a few years back at one of our offline events. He is an eager and ambitious person that always wears a smile (and seriously, it’s an infectious smile), always seeks to help people around him, and is kind and positive at every interaction.

In his most current effort to help others, Jake asked what I thought about his writing about his new bipolar disorder diagnosis, something that most people hide and pray no one discovers. But not Jake. As he dug deeper into the rabbit hole of available information, he realized there was little available discussing how this diagnosis impacts career paths, and almost nothing available to help employers to understand the nuances.

And let’s face it – there are plenty of people hiding their diagnosis, and employers that could be missing amazing talent simply for not understanding how to accommodate.

The following is about Jake’s journey with his diagnosis, how it has impacted his career, and his ideas on how hiring managers and business owners could interact with people living with bipolar disorder in a way that keeps their talents in full use on the job. This isn’t scientific and the suggestions aren’t based on some HR seminar, no, it’s meant to give you unique insight that most people don’t share – I want you to read this through Jake’s eyes. It’s a brave look into working with this challenge:


As someone who suffers from bipolar disorder, I’ve struggled to find resources that would help individuals like myself jumpstart our careers and learn to navigate working full time with a mental health disorder. Most generalized stories about mental health disorders and the workplace focus more on how things didn’t work out and not on how they started or advanced their careers.

Many give examples of individuals with mental disorders in high-ranking positions who end up leaving their specialized field to work as part-time cashiers or other less stressful and less triggering roles in order to seek a better work environment for their mental health.

I’ve also found that there is a lack of resources for employers when it comes to helping employees with mental disorders. Not many employers are prepared to do so, nor have this skill in their wheelhouse. Without this knowledge, training, and experience, how could they understand the struggles of what it’s like to work with a mental disorder and be expected to provide the necessary support to help their staff?

Many factors contribute to this being overlooked or left unaddressed, such as the stigma behind people with mental disorders in a work environment, or simply because no one knows how to talk about it. When I apply for jobs, I always ask myself “Do I put in an application that I am someone with a condition that needs reasonable accommodations? Is that even an option?” How would I even begin to ask an employer to understand what I am going through? And while I’m still figuring this out and working through what my diagnosis means for my career, I’d like to share my experience and start talking about it.

Like many young individuals, I started college bright-eyed and with a hopeful outlook. I navigated internships, jobs, and full course loads but only to exit with a mountain of debt and depression that can be best described in a meme. Many, with no prospects out of university and an average GPA, end up working menial jobs to get by, hoping for their big break.

For me, this time was spent at Torchy’s Tacos, a local Austin Texas favorite. My luck finally came through when I found a new opportunity. I thought to myself, how hard could it be to deliver packages to people? Especially in a city like Austin where anyone could make a business out of cleaning cat litter boxes. This company, I thought, was going to be my lucky break – my jumping-off point. And it was for about a year. That is until my bipolar diagnosis came in.

Suddenly dealing with bipolar disorder…

I experienced sporadic shifts between depression and hypomania. With my diagnosis came a new understanding of what my limits and strengths were. I understood that stress only made it worse but that physically moving around was the best way to cope with it. Working in a warehouse-type environment allowed me to run around, helping to melt my stress away physically.

But when it came down to job performances, some weeks were better than others.

When I did well, management would make comments like, “I like this new you,” or “whatever is happening, don’t change it.” But nothing was said when I didn’t do so well. Comments continued to dismiss the real issue that I was heading towards an uphill climb of mania. And as I climbed higher and higher, more mistakes began to happen – small ones that added up beyond anything I could control. With each and every episode of mania or depression I had, the trust I had taken time to build and cultivate slowly began to fall apart.

Then came the drop – an episode of depression so deep that it’s hard to recover from. For myself, this began as a result of multiple episodes and when several “options” were laid out on the table by my employer.

First, my employer recommended that I take Family Medical Leave Assistance (FMLA). For someone like myself who never knew what FMLA was, I didn’t know where to start and what this meant. No one told me I would not be getting paid and that I would have to use my sick and personal time off to supplement my income. As someone who has built their identity around working, taking time off felt like an attack on my identity at the time.

Subsequently, I was also told I could be released for making any mistake (no matter how small or slight), attempting to change the work culture, or requesting anything unreasonable such as requesting time off for anything other than medical. My manager also called my episodic shifts a “stunt.”

Every time he said this, I lost faith in him, and he lost trust in me.

Some of the hardest words someone with a mental disorder can hear from a manager or mentor are, “When you pulled that stunt, I can’t trust you anymore” and “we will no longer be working together if you do that again.” His words cut deep and only made each episode worse—finally leading me to turn in my two-week notice.

During my time there, none of my managers ever asked if something was wrong when warning signs showed up. They just assumed that I had already checked out and given up. I felt like a cog that was replaceable and could easily be overturned. Trust was required to help me battle my mental demons, and in this case, that trust was broken on both ends. No one came out of this on top, coping skills were not utilized as they should have, and no one reached out like they said they would.

After reflecting on this experience, here’s what I’ve learned and wished my employer did:

Trust: Trust is earned, not given as the adage goes. But for an employee living with bipolar disorder, trust is given before it is earned. I made the choice to trust my employer (and my entire team) by opening up about my mental health and battles – I had to. And while not everyone may be prepared to open up about what they’re dealing with internally, it can help.

Doing this tells people that you’re asking for help and are making yourself ready to receive it. It signifies your willingness to allow others inside. This can be beneficial to you as it helps your team members become better at recognizing warning signs and understand when to check in to see if you need help. My recommendation here to anyone working with someone who has a mental disorder: Listen if we choose to open up, don’t be dismissive of our efforts, and trust us when we ask to carry more for the team.

 

Don’t assume: Someone opening up about a diagnosis can’t expect everyone at work to have a background in psychology or psychiatry and to understand when comments like “I like this new manic you” are harmful and dismissive.

Not everyone is going to be interested in researching and learning how best to help a team member who is dealing with a mental health disorder. So, don’t assume that they know.

What would have helped me and maybe changed my situation would have been to be more honest and direct about my specific needs upfront. For employers, try to also understand our needs and limits with stress. Ask your employees directly what they need from you in order to make them feel more comfortable. Another way of tackling this would be to ask your employee about some of the coping strategies they are learning in group therapy sessions. If you know your employee is going to group therapy, if you feel comfortable with it, check in with them and encourage them to keep up with those sessions. When assigning unique projects or extra tasks, it’s also helpful to explain what you are asking and offer employees the best ways to achieve it.

 

Ask for and give reasonable accommodations: In my case, I eventually learned that taking time off was not an ‘attack on my identity’ as I had previously felt. I learned to accept it as part of living with bipolar disorder and know when to ask for it. Pushing for myself was empowering and was the best thing that could happen in that given moment.

So, if you’re someone who struggles with bipolar or other depressive mental health disorders, the best thing you can do to help yourself, while building courage and confidence, is to speak up and be your own advocate. Ask for accommodations.

For employers with a team member struggling with a mental disorder, when it comes to giving that team member time to themselves, it should never be a fight or argument. Change the schedule, do what you can to make accommodations, and support someone who needs time away for treatment.

 

Give helpful feedback: In my experience, my previous employer either avoided giving me feedback completely or made dismissive comments like, “I don’t know what the hell happened…”, followed by something positive. Like many others who suffer from bipolar disorder, ineffective and unclear communication can easily lead us to spiral from misinterpreting details and having self-doubt.

I would have benefitted from receiving clear and specific feedback, whether that was immediately after a mistake or as a conversation during team lunch. This small amount of open dialogue could have allowed us as a team to resolve conflicts, improve teamwork, help me build my self-esteem, and improve my performance.

 

Show appreciation and have open dialogues: What is equally important for employers to do is to let us know that you are paying attention to and appreciate our efforts, regardless of how small or large of a task we complete. In a warehouse, things are extremely routine, but it doesn’t take a lot to thank someone for trying.

A few small words and gestures could have been really helpful in breaking me out of a depressive funk or a manic episode and can certainly help someone else in the future.

 

Practice mindfulness: At this moment, let’s check in with our emotions. In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT Therapy), some of the questions they ask are about checking in with your emotions and your thoughts. Are you in control of your thoughts or are they in control of you? Are we still in touch with our emotions? Perhaps we are cross at ourselves for playing the victim to our mind’s frustrations?

When it comes to mental disorders, employers need to be more understanding of what their employees are going through. However, we as individuals should also be able to look inwards and see what we are feeling. Core mindfulness is a skill to develop no matter what position you work in or what you’re dealing with. Mindfulness teaches awareness of thoughts and feelings, the focus on the here and now.

From my experience, learning to control my thoughts and emotions is an effective way of dealing with my bipolar disorder. While it took time to discover, I learned that my mindfulness practice was running around the warehouse and moving. This allowed thoughts to flow in and out of my mind without having to give them any power over me. Knowing this made me feel stronger and clearer. Finding a mindfulness practice to help you cope takes time and experimenting – so try different things and figure out what works for you.

 

Ask for help: If you’re struggling with a mental disorder at work, there is nothing wrong with asking for help. That help may look differently for everyone, be it talk therapy, telling a co-worker, or taking time off. Either way, sometimes the best way to help yourself is to start asking for help. If you’re someone who has a co-worker struggling with a mental disorder, pay attention and reach out to them if they need help.

While I’m still learning to navigate my bipolar disorder, this experience has taught me (and hopefully others) some helpful lessons. I have learned to manage it better and am continuing to advance in my career path.

My hope is that companies make a more concerted effort to improve their training on mental health disorders in the workplace. I also hope that by sharing my story, I can help others with bipolar disorder to excel at work.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer slowing you down? Does it make a simple job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment to improve your productivity.

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better equipment, better work

What is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes.

In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on StackExchange.com an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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Opinion Editorials

Gift keepsakes to family and friends using Google PhotoScan

(OP/ED) Coming up with gift ideas for those that are more difficult to buy for is a stressor. Try Google PhotoScan to gift memories this year!

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Google PhotoScan

Every year when the holidays roll around, I’m posed with the same issue – coming up with a good gift idea for my dad. He’s one of those people who gives great gifts but is very difficult to buy for, so I always feel a gift-giving disparity.

In typical parent fashion, when you ask what he wants he just says “nothing” or “quality time with you.” The latter is great and all, but I can’t say that my presence is always that exciting.

This has forced me to come up with more creative ideas which wind up being more meaningful gifts. So, I guess all is well that ends well.

This year, my plan is to scan boxes and albums of old family photos and put the scans on a thumbdrive so that my dad can save them to his computer. Being that I don’t currently have my printer/scanner in working condition, I had to look into alternatives.

In the past, I had tried Cam Scanner. This was fine for saving images of physical copies of signed documents, but it wasn’t so different from taking a picture of the document with a phone’s camera. There were still shadows and glares.

I decided to try Google’s PhotoScan and, from my first attempt, I knew this would be the winner.

First off, it’s free to use so that’s a wonderful start in my book. And, it’s intuitive and user-friendly.

The way that it works is that you hold the phone over the photo as if you were going to take a regular photo of it. The app turns on a flash so that it illuminates the photo while running the scan. After taking an overall scan, circles pop up in the four corners of the photo. You move the camera to align with the circles as it scans each corner of the image.

With the five different scans, the PhotoScan app pools together one scan that is basically a digital version of the physical photo. Even if you’re in bad lighting or have the photo sitting on a dark table or carpet, it eliminates the glare and shadows and doesn’t factor in the background.

All of this and it automatically saves my photos to not only my iPhone’s camera roll but also to my Google Photos account.

I’m excited to continue working on this project and can’t wait to share it with my dad. My next plan is to use PhotoScan to scan cards and other paper items that take up space!

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