It’s that time of year again. The pressure’s on to buy buy and buy more. On the heels of Black Friday (whoever came up with that name was cheekily brilliant), we now have Cyber Week! Everywhere we look there’s some corporate giant waiting to pounce on our wallets.
This mass media marketing is, of course, designed to make us think we must have that new electronic, or fancy pair of shoes. But do we really need it?
The same thing happens in our careers. We’re told we must develop our leadership competencies so we can climb that ladder that beckons us to the top. Managers tell us we must directly supervise employees to become a Director. And the message is, everyone must aim to be a leader.
If you’re an entrepreneur you’re hearing so many “must” do’s to earn multiple figures or market to our target niche. Business mentors are ripe with recipes for that one path to success.
Like the pre-Christmas mass marketing that dupes us into thinking we must have the toys, gadgets and latest of the latest, so do the manager, mentors, leadership books and business publications demand we need to be and act a certain way.
But are they right? Or are they really telling us how to reach their goals and their vision of success?
I’ve recently had the privilege of coaching a large number of rising stars in a sizeable organization. Their managers tapped them on the shoulder to attend an intensive leadership program. While some of them truly do have the goal of making it up the ladder, others are confused and feeling pressured.
What I find most interesting is when we peel the layers off their onion we find that their own career goals are in contrast to what they believe they’re “supposed” to do as defined by their manager, organization or business mentor.
This is when the confusion sets in. Questions invariably come up:
- Will the company still value me if I don’t want to move up?
- Will I be passed over for interesting projects?
- How will my colleagues view me?
- What value do I bring to the company?
If you own your business, your questions are likely:
- Why do I have to follow what everyone else is doing?
- Will I be a failure if I don’t make 6+ figures?
- Why does my sales funnel have to look like B-School’s?
These are natural responses and reactions. But what if I asked you, “What’s your definition of your purpose and the legacy you want to share with your organization or business?”
That changes everything!
I know this may seem obvious, but it bares saying: it’s unlikely you’ll ever be happy following what others do or what they expect you to do.
So now what?
While having a coach guide you forward is an asset in gaining clarity and perspective, you can start by tossing aside the previous questions and focus on uncovering your true goals and a path to achieving them. Start by asking yourself:
- Who is responsible for my career?
- How important is my work/life balance?
- Am I passionate about the work I do?
- Do I like being an expert in my field?
- Do I crave greater responsibility for and interest in leading others or the bigger picture?
- Is financial achievement my primary motivation?
- Am I open to moving laterally versus up, in the organization?
- Do I actually care what others think of my career direction and me?
The next step is getting clear on your beliefs. Try writing down 5 beliefs you hold regarding work and career. Compare these with your answers to the questions above. Do they align or are there disconnects? These disconnects are critical holes that need your attention; this is the vacancy between what you believe and what you desire. The idea here is to go into this space and honestly ask yourself which is your truth – your so-called belief or your so-called answers to the questions.
Please know there is no right or wrong answer. You’re entitled to your own career goals and a path to reach them. You’re also entitled to question your beliefs.
There are no musts or rigid rules in your career – only your ability to discover what is right for you. Like the catalogue full of enticing trinkets guaranteed to bring you joy and happiness, so too are your managers’ or mentors’ expectations for you – illusions painted by someone else.
The bottom line is – you get to decide. You actually need to decide. Getting clear and forging your true path is no doubt the most important career development step you can take.
There are very few of us who can create and build a thriving business completely on our own. I admire those who can.
I don’t know about you, but I have a small list of go-to women (okay, plus one man) whose expertise and encouragement enables me to grow and prosper in my business.
Each person has some piece of the “must have” information, perspective or expertise that I don’t have. For example, my pal in Toronto is a marketing whiz. I have my content strategist who always steps in and grabs the details out from under me at just the right moment (in case you didn’t know I’m a big picture kind of girl). There’s my techie guru across the continent and my mastermind American coach/entrepreneur buddies who help me wrestle down my next big idea. And not to forget my own executive coach – she’s always got my back.
Grateful is an understatement.
Naturally, we all come with unique skills, experiences, and viewpoints so no two businesses will ever look alike. I’ve taken courses and bought the books; learned the winning formulas for this and that; tested and failed; adapted and flourished. And my truth from these experiences is that, yes, I can learn the logistics but I will never succeed to my own standard of achievement if I don’t bring ME to the business equation.
Let me explain.
I’m driven by my values of uniqueness and professionalism. Therefore, I believe that for me to be successful, I must bring my distinctive thinking and way of being to my business. And I must do that by using my expertise to provide my clients with a respectful, encouraging and authentic experience.
My differentiator in business is me.
I’m super clear on what strengths I bring to the equation. I’m also well aware of where I fall short.
I’ve always placed a high value on self-development and I’ve done tons to understand who I am and what makes me – well, me.
When I started my business I relied heavily on my strengths, and I still do. Unlike many people, I didn’t have fear or doubts. I didn’t have sleepless nights of worry and panic.
What I did have is a deep belief in myself.
And that, my friends, has come from being really committed to working on my personal and professional development.
Doing the work includes time, curiosity, coaching and a deep-seeded focus on the process. And now I bring a similar process to my business.
The best part is that I’ve created flow in how I run my business. I know what I’m good at and what causes me sheer havoc. I know how to shift things around to draw on natural strengths that minimize my stress when my computer crashes!
Why am I telling you all this? Because I believe we all have the capacity to succeed. And the truth is, we just need to understand our uniqueness and our qualities and capitalize on them to create our own flow.
I quickly became tired of the “formulas to success” – other people’s methods. I’m sure they work wonders for them, but not for me. Having my business isn’t about cutting corners. It’s hard work. And when I use my strengths and fill the gaps by hiring others who have those talents, I can move mountains and I am happy!
I tell my husband that my quality-of-life-meter when up 50% the day I hired a graphic designer, brand strategist and technologist. And it zoomed higher when I added my content strategist to the mix. You see I’m a knucklehead when it comes to labouring over details. Ask me to create the vision and I’m good.
By now you may be wondering why I’m focused on my business and what it takes to run it. Here’s the thing, this same approach, no matter what you do or where you do it is key to your career. Know yourself, understand your own process that works for you and surround yourself with top-notch people who are better than you at what they do!
My team gets me and I give them space to do what they’re great at. With them, I’ve created my own specific, unique and successful process for my business.
You get to where you want to be by knowing exactly who you are. (Tweet It!)
The truth can hurt sometimes and we often find out our hard truths indirectly.
Maybe you’re left out of a gathering of friends.
Or a job you thought you were perfect for, didn’t pan out.
Of course, one-off situations like this are not cause for alarm but paying attention to patterns in the way people respond to you can give some clues as to where your blind spots lie.
Your friends tell you that you weren’t included because you aren’t flexible and it was a last minute event.
And the hiring panel provides feedback and tells you they need a candidate who is conceptual.
Do any of these stories resonate with you? If you’re like many clients I’ve worked with, when faced with a truth about yourself (from someone else) – you might feel gob-smacked.
The good news is that you’re in great company. Almost all of us have qualities we don’t have full awareness about. Or we believe we have certain shortfalls or characteristics and they’re not at all how we’re perceived.
How does this happen?
Let’s break this down by starting with how others perceive us versus how we see ourselves. These two perspectives could be miles apart like in the examples above. But before you jump to the conclusion that others’ perspectives of you must be the truth, it’s important to understand that self-awareness does in fact have two sides:
Internal awareness – your own perceptions of yourself
External awareness – how others perceive you
Now here’s the key – it’s as important to know who we are as to know how we show up in the world.
Let me give you an example.
I’m highly resilient but I hate conflict. I tend to avoid difficult situations and challenging conversations with others. In the way I see myself, I run to the hills when the going gets tough but I’m known to others as being able to handle high-pressure situations. Funny that.
So what does this mean? What I think of myself and how others see me in the frame of conflict is miles apart. There must be something here I’m just not getting. Shouldn’t the two perceptions – internal and external – be congruent?
Let’s dig a little deeper.
We all have a persona from which we think and behave. But did you know your persona could actually be broken down into three distinct personas?
You have your:
underlying persona – you at your most natural (this is where you get your motivation from)
everyday persona – how you tend to behave and how others might see you
overextended persona – who you are and how you react under stress
Lumina Learning, a tool that I use to help my clients build self-awareness, makes use of years of research and psychometric testing to figure out exactly how we show up in different situations and how to leverage the strengths in each area. Lumina testing measures 24 different qualities that make up you and figure out the amount of each quality for your three personas.
So when I was thinking about writing this blog, I became really curious about my tough quality. So I pulled out my Lumina Spark portrait and guess what I discovered? My peeps are right!
My tough quality measures at 3% when I show up in the world (everyday) but I have 64% toughness in my underlying persona. Hmmm. For years I’ve bought into the idea that I just didn’t have the ability to face conflict despite the fact that underneath it all I’ve got a fair amount of capacity for facing conflict.
So why is this?
Well it could be many reasons. But, I do know that even though I naturally have toughness, somewhere along the way I must have believed it wasn’t a “good” quality to have or didn’t value it enough to develop aligning behaviours. It really is just undeveloped.
Whatever the reason, the point how others see me is spot on. I know that people see me as being able to be tough when it’s called for. But my take on my own ability is off. So, now that I have that bit of information, I can focus on how I can show up comfortably (to me) and appropriately when conflict does arise. I actually have it in me to do it.
The same goes for when people perceive you one way and we know differently. When this happens, it’s time to sleuth out which is closer to the truth. And then put that strong quality to work or stop using up energy when it isn’t in you.
That my friends, is self-awareness!
It’s understanding yourself, as objectively as possible, and leveraging that understanding to create a life and business that aligns with our natural inclinations, not challenges them.
Curious and want more? I’ve got a FREE webinar May 12th that takes a deep dive into why getting to know yourself is critical for your business – Build your Biz by Being YOU!
For years I thought that competitiveness was non-negotiable – a survival skill, a tool of war, a race for first and the only path to success.
Growing up in an all girl family with three very smart and accomplished sisters, being competitive was the only way to stand out. I didn’t know any other way to shine.
It didn’t matter that I don’t have a competitive bone in my body. Who cares what my preference is – this was about doing what I needed to do. It was about fitting in, showing up and rising above my sisters.
Of course, this belief didn’t stop there. I carried it into my career and used my practice of competitiveness to climb the corporate ladder and step boldly into conversations and situations that made me cringe.
I didn’t know at the time that I was exercising a muscle that just simply did not want to grow (and didn’t need to, either). I always had a really uncomfortable feeling in my tummy when I attempted to be competitive. It bordered on traumatic. And yet this is what I thought was expected of me.
As I shifted my career to one of executive coaching, I focused on the process of self discovery. Not just what I’m good at or what I like but deeply insightful and disruptive learning about who I really am and what my natural tendencies are.
I learned one day that I have ZERO tendency for competition. This was equally earth-shattering and liberating at the same time.
On one hand, I had spent years trying to be good at something that just doesn’t fit.
On the other hand, I felt so free. I gave myself permission to sit back and watch while others fought the race. And the funny thing is that I wasn’t left behind. I moved at exactly my pace so I could be successful without the noise and stress of someone else’s game.
FINALLY, I could work with my strengths and stop worrying about anyone else’s expectations about what I should or shouldn’t be doing.
Here’s the beautiful colorful splash that set me free:
What is it, you ask?
It’s my personal Lumina Spark Mandala. No one else has exactly the same splash. It tells me where my strengths and tendencies are as well as my gaps or non-preferred qualities.
The mandala is made up of four quadrants marked by different colored energy. I have a high degree of yellow energy, which denotes enthusiasm and optimism, conceptual thinking and ease in social situations. Big Picture Thinking and Extraversion mark this.
The green energy in the top left quadrant speaks to being in touch with feelings and the ability to resolve conflict through listening. Inspiration Driven and People Focused mark this.
Red energy comes across as very direct and upfront. It can mean comfort with competition and the willingness to initiate and provide direction within a group. Outcome Focused and Discipline Driven mark this.
The lower left quadrant, of which I have very little, is reserved for organized people, having a penchant for evidence-based behavior. These are often our introverted friends who like to work independently. Introversion and Down to Earth mark this blue quadrant.
It’s not that we have one thing and not another. We all have all qualities to varying degrees – like a continuum for each characteristic. Unlike many other personality assessments, we aren’t one or the other of opposing aspects. We can have both – it isn’t either/or.
It’s not that I didn’t know myself before I used Lumina testing. It’s just that it provided insight that I just couldn’t put my finger on. It revealed truths about who I am that helped me step into those qualities instead of trying to conceal or override them.
All this to say it’s had a profound effect on how I manage my business. I continue to refer to my mandala and my Lumina Portrait to make sure that I’m not straying too far from the things that make me, me. I have to – my business depends on it!
What about you? Could your business benefit from a little more YOU?
What would you say is the number one barrier between where you are and where you want to be?
A) I don’t know where I want to be!
B) I know where I want to go but have no idea how to make it happen.
C) I’m scared!
D) I don’t think I have the skills/knowledge that I need to get to my goal.
Join me for Build your biz by being YOU!
This FREE webinar will set you on your road to action by starting with you – your biggest asset.
How many of us find ourselves being picky about who we date or spend a weekend with? I bet most of us. So why is it we aren’t picky about who we connect with via email and social media – especially when it comes to business?
I recently posted a tweet about Twitter being the airport lounge of B2B. Got tons of hearts on that one. I also wrote a blog about the new noise causing stress – social media and the barrage of emails from people selling us things. I get it. Social media has become the grand master for small business marketing. It’s super cheap, highly accessible and can be done in 10 words or less. Sounds great!
The problem is that entrepreneurs cast their nets so widely I feel like I have to duck and dive with all the free offers and promotions. The other problem is the majority of entrepreneurs/on-line businesses all sound the same. (Believe me – I’m not saying I’m an exception.)
How is it possible to figure out who’s who in the zoo? Let alone if what they offer is of any real value. It’s the Wild West out there and anyone can hang a shingle and call themselves a coach or strategist. Suddenly everyone’s an expert. And maybe social proof isn’t – well just isn’t credible anymore?
For me, the amount of time I’ve used up trying to keep up with everyone online is taking a huge toll on my business and stress level.
So I’ve decided I don’t have to follow the lemmings. I can be picky. In fact, I’ve decided that being picky is actually strategic when it comes to social media.
Let me explain.
I’m shaking up my approach to inviting people into my world.
Before I subscribe to your site I check out who you are, including credentials. Do you give any deets on your FB page about your biz, education or past employment? Is your LinkedIn bio up to date and factual or is it stuffed full of filler? And how and what do you say in your tweets? I’m not a fan of constant profanity or meanness so if that’s your game, chances are you aren’t making it in my door.
Over the next few months I’ll weigh out if the value you offer me is worth the follow. A big name doesn’t always equate to a follow. I’ve unsubscribed to even the biggest names in the biz. They may be amazing but they aren’t for me.
And speaking of value, I’m looking for sites and people who challenge the status quo to help me stretch my thinking or who offer up well thought out systems for my business. Most of all, I want to surround myself with people who authentically want to make the world a better place.
By now you may be saying to yourself, “she doesn’t get it”. Social media is ALL about connecting, sharing information and staying on the pulse of culture. Here’s where I diverge. I’m in business and I admittedly use social media for the cheap marketing. BUT, here’s the difference, like any shop or service business owner, I want to work with a specific clientele and there are people who want to work with someone like me. So, like my clients, I want to be picky in whom I serve.
And guess what? Given this is business, being picky is strategic. If I’m not strategic on where and with whom I spend my scarce time, I won’t be giving my clients what they deserve.
I’m all about quality. If I follow you, I’ll spread your love. If I work with you, I’ll spread your love. Which may be odd considering that on-line business seems to be all about quantity (or am I missing something?).
It makes me wonder if we’ll hit a saturation point in this Wild West? In the meantime, I’m more than happy if you use a similar strategy when adding me to your community.
Are you being strategic in your business?
I remember taking a big sigh and letting out a lot of unwanted air when I stopped working for a large organization.
Slipping into my home office every morning with my hot latte felt like heaven – no chitter chatter, no one else’s lunch bag ruffling and best of all, not having to listen to the unsubstantiated theories on who’s going to get then next coveted job.
Fast forward a couple of years and I noticed my shoulders starting to tighten and my head slightly ache by the end of my workday. I don’t keep music on when I work, and my client appointments don’t take up every hour. So what was underneath this tension? These feeling were the same as I used to get at my former workplace.
At first I felt a little panic creep in. Was I headed to toward the big S(tress), god forbid. Was I afraid? You bet!
So then I started to purposely pay attention to what was going on around me. Where was I letting my attention roam? What was I hearing? What was I doing?
Eureka! I discovered that I was, in fact, in the early stages of noise stress.
But how could that be? My ears weren’t hearing banter, shuffling, clicking or muffled sounds of tense board meetings.
The noise was coming from my computer in the form of emails, instant messaging and social media in the form of a constant onslaught of written words aimed at grabbing my attention.
In my quest to feel “connected” with the world, I had managed to follow every successful on-line entrepreneur, coach, techie and writer out there! They all seem so smart and successful. I could learn from each of them. They could be my online mentors. And they offer great free advice.
And don’t get me started on Groupon and other online markets. Like a great fashion or home décor magazine, they have everything I don’t need!
Now I don’t for a second blame anyone else for enabling this noise – and it’s definitely noise – creep into my head. I did it to myself.
But here’s the thing. If you don’t take control over what you let into your inbox and social media feeds, the noise level will just keep rising. It’ll draw you into the care and feeding cycle of social media. Worst of all, it’ll impact your production, your time, your mental health and even your confidence (cause let’s face it, there’s always someone smarter, better looking and more creative in the virtual world).
So what to do? Here are 6 tips I’ve found to dim the clamor and relieve the tension in my shoulders:
1. If you work from home, keep your work email and social media feeds free from on-line shopping carts – after all, if you work in an office for a company you wouldn’t go shopping on work hours (I hope)
2. If you do work for someone else, leave your personal iPhone, or Android safely in the bottom drawer of your desk with the ringer and buzzer off
3. Schedule time once or twice a day to check your social media if you must; otherwise wait till evening – it’ll all still be there
4. Choose to follow only your top 7 on-line mentors – the people that you continually get value from and unsubscribe to everyone else
5. If you do subscribe to a new business/website to get their free opt-in or make a purchase, immediately unsubscribe afterwards. If you think they’ll give you ongoing value with amazing information, keep the subscription BUT drop another website/business off your list that isn’t giving you real value
6. And finally, be mindful of those who follow you and make it worth their while every time you tweet, write a blog, or email – make it your goal to be on their top 7 list!
I’m so glad I got afraid of the noise. It made me realize I only want a community around me who share ideas, believe in the idea of reciprocity, have something relevant to say and most of all, who I can give value to.
Now how about telling me how you manage the noise?
Bedazzled by Shiny Baubles?
Disheartened by Not Getting the Real Work Done?
Before I give you the answer, I want to tell you about my penchant for all things new.
I worked for a large organization and was lucky enough to lead some pretty innovative files. That should have been enough to keep my curiosity and creativity fulfilled. But it wasn’t.
You see, I was addicted to the next great thing. In fact, I loved generating new ideas, new programs, and cutting edge initiatives. My favorite pastime was brainstorming with like-minded out-of-the-box thinkers.
You can imagine how much fun I was having. The dopamine was frantically flowing through my brain. But like any habit, there was a price.
The shiny objects of my affection meant I had a really hard time focusing on the real work. I’m talking the work I was accountable for completing – the meat and potatoes of my job. The things I couldn’t simply delegate to my staff. And trust me, I was a good delegator.
If you’re like me and go after shiny baubles because they’re fun, creative and leave you feeling energized, then chances are you’re also disheartened. It’s really hard to have one without the other.
If you’re an entrepreneur this can be the death-knell for your business.
Luckily for you, I’ve learned how to break the habit, dial back the chemical release, do quality work, meet deadlines and still allow a little creative fun and games.
The answer can be found in 2 words: creativity and discipline.
In this case, neither word is more important than the other. In fact, you can’t successfully have one without the other.
Let me explain.
If you commit to a daily practice of discipline then you can carve out time within that practice to create or play with shiny baubles. Consciously limiting your creative, brainstorming or idea generation to specific chunks of time will leave you feeling responsible, useful and with time to meet your accountabilities. You’ll stop the never-ending chase for the high because you’ll get your needs met without the guilt, shame and pressure of not getting the real work done.
But here’s the hook – you must commit to taking that allotted time each day to be creative. Otherwise, you’ll not be disciplined. You’ll lose motivation, interest and end up completely disheartened with no energy for anything. It has to be a continuous cycle of creativity feeding discipline feeding creativity and so on.
People like us need to keep our juices flowing, but not overflowing. We need just enough to keep us engaged, motivated and yes, disciplined. And we need discipline to provide us with the right amount of time and focus to get our real work done and still make time for creative idea generation.
Here are ways to put this concept into practice:
• Protect space in your calendar each day just devoted to creativity.
• Ideally make creativity time at the end of morning or afternoon – don’t start your day with it or you’ll find yourself too high to focus on the real work.
• Think about who you most enjoy brainstorming and being creative with and meet with them at least every few weeks. The idea of riffing off each other will keep you anticipating and committing to the creative time.
• Adopt the Start ⇒ Do ⇒ Finish rule. Chunk your work into small pieces and do one chunk until it is complete. Only then can you move on to something else.
• Log off your email, web browser and anything else that’ll keep you from focusing on the chunk of work in front of you.
• Let others know what you need to be successful at this (like letting you know when they see you getting speedy etc.). You aren’t an island even if you might be a solopreneur.
• Commit to your disciplined plan with an accountability partner.
• Notice when you’re getting overly excited (high), speeding up and talking fast – sure signs you’re overflowing with dopamine. Give yourself a time and space to dial yourself back down.
• Remind yourself you’re on the path to new habits and this takes time – lots of it. Forget the 21 day rule – just another myth from the ‘70’s.
Sounds easy? It’s not.
Making this kind of shift takes a deep level of commitment. That’s why my final bullet point is this:
• Sometimes we just need more help. Hire a coach to be your champion. They’ll keep you accountable with the added bonus of helping you get underneath the bedazzle and on top of disheartened.
As for the two questions at the beginning of the blog? They’re critical questions to ask when you find yourself getting sidetracked and hunting for the next greatest
Up until a few years ago I believed that the faster I moved and the harder I worked, I would reach the Holy Grail of success. In today’s fast-paced world it was so easy to ramp myself up to follow the illusion of ambition. I put in long hours at work and self identified as a “high producer”. I became addicted to the thrill of creating at a fast pace. The endorphins would flow and I would announce unabashedly to my boss “I LOVE my job!” And at times I did love my job. But there was a cost.
Fast forward several years and everything is different – especially my perspective. I have learned that life is a marathon – not a sprint.
So what changed?