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Most of us send and receive dozens of e-mails every day. The majority of those emails include a closing salutation – a word or phrase inserted right before the sender’s name.

Do you have one closing salutation that you use all the time, or do you have a handful of ones you draw upon depending on the content, tone and recipient of the message?

Do you notice other people’s closing salutations? Can you name the salutation of some of your closest friends or frequent business contacts? You probably can. My friend Amanda ends every email with "Cheers!" It's friendly and upbeat – just like Amanda. I've never received an email from Amanda that does not end with Cheers. It's part of her brand.

My closing salutation of choice is "thanks." I picked it up on my first professional job from a mentor named John. John was senior to me in rank, and I got most of my daily assignments from him. John said thanks for every work assignment I completed, no matter how small.

John's simple "thanks" made a huge impression on me. I could not remember hearing "thanks" very often if at all in the previous jobs that I'd held. I realized how underused "thanks" is in a business setting. I experienced first-hand the impact that a simple "thank you" had on my attitude, and I decided that I wanted to be the type of person who created the kind of positive feeling in other people too. So "thanks" stuck with me, and became my e-mail closing salutation of choice.

I admit there are times when "thanks" isn't quite the right closing salutation for an e-mail. At those times, I tend to use "Regards" or "Warm Regards." "Regards" is what I chose to use in a recent e-mail blast sent to everyone on the Leadhership1 Newsletter list.

The newsletter contained a link to a great article from Marcus Buckingham in Personal Excellence Magazine, and I ended the e-mail with "Regards, Susan." I immediately heard from my friend Rob who called into question my choice of the word "regards."

Rob did not actual tell me why he objected to "regards," but he sent me the following list of closing salutations implying that I choose a different one for future e-mail blasts.

I had so much fun reading the list that I wanted to pass it along.
Who knew there were so many ways to say "My e-mail is done now."

Enjoy!

Or should I say

Thanks,
Susan
_________

All best wishes,
Always in my thoughts,
As always, with affection,
As usual,
As ever,
Be good,
Be well,
Best Regards,
Best wishes for your future,

Best Wishes,
Bye for now...,
Cheerio,
Cheers,
Chill,
Cordially,
Enjoy,
Enthusiastically,
Forever yours,
God bless,

Godspeed,
Good wishes, always,
Goodbye,
Grace and peace,
Have fun,
Health & Happiness,
Hope to hear from ya soon,
Hope all is well,
I look forward to hearing from you soon,

I hope to receive news from you soon,
I'll be thinking of you,
Just to keep in touch with you,
Keep the faith,
Keep smiling,
Kind Regards,
Kind thoughts,
Later,

Later alligator,
Looking forward to seeing you again,
Lots of love,
Love,
Many thanks,
May the Force be with you,
Miss ya,
More later,
More shortly,

Most sincerely,
Over and out,
Peace be with you,
Peace & Love,
Peace out,
Peace and Blessings,
Peace,
Prayerfully,

Regards,
Rock on,
Season's blessings,
See ya,
Sincerely yours,
Sincerely
Smiles,
Ta ta,
Take care,

Take good care,
Take it easy,
Talk to you later,
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Thank you,
Thank you for your kindness and consideration,
Thinking the best for you,
Till we meet again,

Toodles,
Truly,
Until we meet again,
Until next time,
Very truly yours,
Waiting for you,
Warm regards,
Warmest greetings to all,

Warmest Regards,
Wishing you all the best of everything,
Wishing you the best,
Wishing you a safe journey,
With confidence,
With kind affection,
With kindest personal regards,
With warmth,
With gratitude,

With all best wishes,
With love,
With all good wishes,
You're in my thoughts,
Your friend,
Yours truly,
Yours faithfully,
Yours sincerely,
Yours regardless,

Yours most sincerely,
Yours always,
Yours ever,
Yours respectfully,
Yours,

Mother's Day - Time to Manage My Guilt

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It’s the Friday before Mother’s Day, and I pick up my daughter after school. She’s carrying a little brown bag brimming with colorful tissue paper and tied with matching curly ribbon. “What’s that?” I asked her. “It’s your Mother’s Day present,” she said grinning with enthusiasm.

The gift is an acrylic frame containing a beautiful photograph of Kate taken by her 5th grade teacher alongside a hand-written note that reads:

Dear Mom,
Thank you for all you’ve ever done for me. Thank you for coming home from meetings just to help me. You’ve always been there for me when I need you, and that’s one of the reasons I love you. Love, Kate

The minute I read the note, my heart fills with guilt. The fact that my daughter references my work makes me feel terrible. Why? Would I have felt better if her note had thanked me for our mother-daughter manicures, or our family vacation to Disney World? Yes, but why? It’s because I compartmentalize my roles as mother and working woman in two separate camps, and I think of Mother’s Day as a time to celebrate the mom camp.

References to family vacations, or fun mother-daughter outings would have clearly acknowledged my role as a mother – free and clear of any association with my career. For some reason those references would have made me feel better on Mother’s Day.

After more thought, I realize that my daughter sees the movement between my roles as mother and working woman much more seamlessly than I do. My reasons for trying to compartmentalize the two are lost on her.

Her message to me is one of acceptance and appreciation, not one of insufficiency or guilt. The latter emotions are self-imposed. My daughter’s note does not fault me for being a working mom, but rather acknowledges it as reality and thanks me for putting her needs as a top priority alongside the needs of my career.

Only time will tell what impact my dedication to my career will have on my children, but for this Mother’s Day, I am going to try to appreciate the spirit in which my daughter’s lovely gift was intended.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you wonderful working moms!

Up North

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I just got back from a week "up north" which is the Minnesota way of saying a vacation in the northern part of the state usually involving a cabin and a lake. Going "up north" is what Minnesotans do in the summer. With over 10,000 lakes to choose from, there are lots of places to go up north. Our place of choice is Park Rapids, Minnesota.

To imagine Park Rapids, just think small town Americana at its finest. Main street has two candy stores, a movie theater, ice cream parlor, small gift boutiques, coffee shops, and a book store called Beagle Books that features two docile canine companions – neither of which are Beagles.

The particular resort we visit in Park Rapids is called Half Moon Trail. It's a beautifully landscaped, quaint resort situated on Boot Lake. There's no TV, no internet coverage, and no cell phone reception at the resort. It's forced family togetherness time at its finest.

Each of the 18 cabins at Half Moon Trail has a gorgeous view of the lake, full kitchens, and updated bathrooms. Rustic camping it is not. Half Moon Trail is a family resort promoting interaction among the families – many of whom who have been returning for over 10 years. We are definitely the newcomers with this being only our third summer there. Openings for new families become available only through minor miracles. The place is just that good.

Dave and Mary are the ever-gracious owners of Half Moon Trail. They create a wide variety of family activities ranging from bingo, to potlucks, to campfires, to a rock sculpture contest, to the infamous carpet ball tournament (think outdoor billiards played with your hands rather than a cue stick). Friendly competition is very much alive and well at Half Moon Trail.

The unmistakable highlight of the vacation for me this year was hearing my TV-obsessed five year-old son declare that fishing was better than TV. Who knew he’d voluntarily trade in an episode of Sponge Bob for a fishing pole?

There is an endless list of things that I appreciate about Half Moon Trail Resort, but the thing I appreciate the most is that it's the one week a year when my love for my family does not have to compete with my love for my career. For one week a year there are no competing interests between work and family because there is no ability to work while at the resort. With no available access to e-mail or voicemail, I can be mother of the year for at least one week a year, and I relish the role.

As much as I love our time up north, it's not the way I'd choose to spend the other 51 weeks a year. My personality craves a much more hectic lifestyle. I crave the challenge of creating sanity in my life amidst the demands of daily life. With that said though, we have already put down our deposit for next summer. Don't look for our cabin to be one of the rare and coveted openings available for new families at Half Moon Trail Resort.

Personal Excellence

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What does personal excellence mean to you? For me it means doing all I can to support working women in their quest to achieve success and sanity. So imagine my excitement when I was invited to submit an article to Personal Excellence - The Magazine of Life Leadership.

Double my excitement when I learned that my article had been accepted. Quadruple my excitement when I learned that my article would appear in the July issue alongside articles by Michelle Obama and Jim Collins (Best-selling author of Good to Great).

Michelle’s front page article called "I Believe in You" looks at exercising the power of hope. Jim’s article called "Start a Stop Doing List" challenges each of us to make life a creative work of art. My article called "Success and Sanity" proposes that success and sanity replace work/life balance as the realistic goal for professional women.

When the magazine sent me the edited proofs, my excitement dropped a little. My already short article had been shortened even further. But more problematic than that was the picture of a man that had been placed in the middle of the article. Why would a picture of a man appear in the middle of an article promoting women's success and sanity? I was sure that people would assume I had placed it there, and would look for implied meaning that did not exist.

I was faced with a dilemma. Should I ask them to make changes, or should I accept the article as is for fear that appearing high-maintenance might jeopardize my chances of having the article published?

I’m sure you’ve faced similar dilemmas in your career. When should you speak up against things you don’t agree with, and when should you bite your tongue?

My suggestion is that you choose your battles wisely. It’s a valuable phrase I learned from my day-care providers early in my children’s lives. It’s a phrase, and a philosophy, that works well in both parenting and business.

In reviewing the changes that the editor had made, I decided that I needed to choose a battle about the picture of the man, but not the other editorial changes they had made. I asked them politely if they would change the picture to a woman, and they graciously agreed.

When choosing a battle, it’s best to begin with the assumption that people will accept your suggestions. No need to go in with both guns blazing. Reserve the big guns until after they have said no, and after you have rationally decided that this issue is really worth fighting for.

There will undoubtedly be times in your career when you face issues that are really worth fighting for. However, remember that each of us has a limited number of free-spin cards. There are only so many times that we can go to the mat for an issue, call in our favors, and demand that people do things our way.

Part of working for a company means learning to accept decisions that are right for the business even if they are not right for you individually. In the end, I promise that you will discover greater personal excellence when you learn to choose your battles wisely.

Read articles from Michelle, Jim and me in Personal Excellence Magazine.

Venturing Outside Your Comfort Zone

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Has anyone been watching the new Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien? I have. Last night during the opening monologue, I learned that George Bush Sr. went skydiving for his 85th birthday. Wow – I’m impressed! I’m only 45 and you could not pay me enough to go skydiving. I am the total opposite of a thrill seeker - a self-professed chicken. There are very few things I choose to do that push me outside my comfort zone.

Are you a chicken like me, or do you welcome an occasional adrenaline rush? When is the last time you voluntarily ventured outside your comfort zone? Did you go WAY outside your comfort zone or did you stay near the fringe? What inspired you to challenge yourself, and how did the experience make you feel?

Last month when I was on vacation, I ventured WAY outside my comfort zone by participating in an outdoor challenge called Quantum Leap 2. The challenge involved climbing a 35 foot telephone pole, pulling myself up onto a small wooden platform, standing there long enough to catch my breath before jumping to the ground with trust that the total stranger managing the rope attached to my body harness would not let go.

The experience was part of the outdoor challenge course at Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona. I knew that the challenge was 10% physical and 90% mental and that was part of the problem. I was scared to death. Part of my fear was fear of heights, but the greater part of my fear was fear of failure, and fear of public humiliation among a group of my peers.

Thankfully, Neil was there to help me. Neil was the tanned, rugged, outdoorsy type assigned to guide our challenge. Neil began the challenge by reminding us that the philosophy of Miraval is to live in the moment and to be mindful of our journey. As such, making it to the top of the pole need not be our goal. However, I could tell by the determined look in the eyes of my fellow Type-A participants that reaching the top was our only acceptable outcome.

Collectively, we began putting on our harnesses. Neil’s calm, centered demeanor was a comforting contrast to my growing panic. He instructed us to decide amongst ourselves who would go first and who would go last. He challenged us to think outside our comfort zone. If we are people who typically go first, then go last, and vice versa.

I immediately volunteered to go first, not because I typically go last, but because I had been thinking about this challenge for three years and could not wait another minute to begin. As background, I participated in a similar outdoor challenge at Miraval three years earlier and had not made it to the top. I’d let fear stop me that time, and the feeling of failure had stuck with me. As a person who typically accomplishes my goals, I could not let go of what I perceived as failure. I was determined this time to make it to the top of the pole no matter how scared I was.

My husband climbed the pole first and waited for me on top of the tiny platform. Partnership is part of the experience of Quantum Leap 2, and perhaps his emotional support, the feeling of teamwork, or sheer determination was the incentive I needed. My heart pounded with every step I took on the metal staples of the pole, and my mouth was totally dry by the time my feet reached the last staple. I nervously pulled myself up onto the tiny platform and stood up next to my husband. I felt an amazing rush of relief and accomplishment. Wow, I really did it! I remembered thinking if I could do this, I could do anything!

On the countdown of 3, 2, 1, we jumped, and I’ve never been so happy to be back on the ground and out of a body harness. I glowed with relief and excitement! I cheered as the other participants made their way to the top of the platform too. It was so much fun to witness the thrill of their accomplishment. One woman was having an especially difficult time making it from the pole to the platform, and we all rallied around her shouting advice and encouragement from the ground. When she finally stood up on top of the platform we celebrated the victory with her. It was a vivid reminder of the power of teamwork. Together we can accomplish more than we can alone.

I don’t plan to tackle any outdoor challenges again in the near future, but I do hope the lessons I learned at the challenge stick with me. I hope I can remember to enjoy the journey, not just the destination, and I hope I can remember that most challenges are a test of our fears more than a test of our actual abilities. This summer, I strongly encourage you to venture outside your comfort zone. Try an outdoor challenge, or take on a professional challenge that makes you a little nervous.

A wise mentor once told me that it’s good to be scared of professional challenges because it means you’re pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. The potential to learn, to grow, and to gain self-confidence are greatly enhanced when you’re venturing outside your comfort zone. My experience at Miraval is living proof of that!

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