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Category Archive: Self-Management

CEO Mindset: Be the Goose, Be a Better Leader

empathy, leaderWhat does being a goose have to do with being a great leader? Well, it starts with a story…

The Farmer and the Goose

Once upon a time, there was a farmer who had a flock of geese. One day a fox came into the yard where the geese lived and tried to snatch a goose. There was a terrible flurry of wings and beaks pecking at the fox. Eventually the fox was driven off but one goose was left with a broken wing. The farmer saw all of this and went to help the goose. But the goose kept hissing and running away from the farmer. After chasing the goose around and not catching it, the farmer asked, “how can I be the goose?”

Concerns and assumptions may interfere

There are times we avoid asking certain questions like “how can I be the goose?” because we think it is not becoming or appropriate. After all, generally being a goose is associated with foolishness. Also there are times when we feel disappointed in or angry with a team (or staff person’s) member’s behavior.  But at the same time, who will get things running smoothly again? Ultimately, it is our model that shows others what is expected. Asking ourselves to examine more closely why we are avoiding the difficult situation or people can highlight what concerns and assumptions are going on in our heads.

Great leaders are empathic

There is some confusion as to how an empathic leader behaves. Empathy is not sympathy or pity. It does not imply or state agreement. Empathy is putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and understanding his/her perspective. You do not even have to agree but acknowledging the other person can give you insight so you can identify the actual problem (which can be very different from what is being reported), if your vision and expectations are clearly communicated or the strengths and weaknesses of your team. While people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are lionized for being harsh, driven leaders, the statistics of disengaged workers (63% of workers worldwide are not engaged) is a wake up call for leaders in small and large companies. In a 2014 survey conducted by Lee Hecht Harrison, it was reported that 58% of managers fail to show understanding towards their employees.  And how many anecdotes have you heard about people enjoying their work but unable to tolerate the organizational culture?

How to “do” empathy?

As Henry Ford  once said, “The secret of success – if there is one – is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and to consider things from his or her point of view as well as your own. ” It is both easy and hard to do.

  • Quiet yourself- If you have a chatterbox in your head, you will remain focused on your opinions, assessments and thoughts.
  • Listen actively- Ask questions, reflect back what you heard, summarize both agreement and disagreement and request suggestions for resolving the issue

  • Watch the nonverbal cues- Eye contact, tone of voice, speed of speech, posture and choice of words are all hallmarks of how engaged the person is in a conversation. If something feels off, even if you cannot identify what, acknowledge the disconnect by stating, “I think I missed something here” or asking “do you have any additional concerns?”.
  • Lend a hand- Asking how you can help get a task done opens the door for conversation. Your team member may say he/she does not need the help but your offer lets them know you noticed.
  • Practice, practice, practice- Even the most empathic of us have off days or get distracted by the enormous amount of work and responsibility. If you are new to expressing empathy in a leadership role, it might feel awkward. No matter your experience level or stress level, empathy is improved with use.

“How can I be the goose?”

Asking the question is the start of empathy. When you see a staff member struggling, you are like the farmer wanting to help the goose with the broken wing. As you go along, you may notice that some people respond well to questions about how the work is going while others may need to hear you tell them to take a break and refresh themselves. Empathy gives you a better sense of how your small business is functioning and lets your team (and staff) know you want them to be well and perform well.

 Related posts:

    How To Be the Sun When Leading Change

    Great Leaders Develop Via Relationships With Self and Others

    Leadership, Mindfulness and Practical Enlightenment

 

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What Stories Do You Tell Yourself While Growing Your Business?

Two recent conversations with clients illuminated how incredibly powerful belief can be. Business owners and executives  with growing companies are faced with a myriad of details to review, problems to manage and decisions to make. And while it is easier to anticipate how much capital you might need or staffing changes, it often comes a surprise when uncomfortable emotions are triggered during the process.

fear, belief, CEO MindsetGrowth is change and change triggers emotional responses in all of us

It isn’t the passion or eagerness for the new direction that are at issue. It isn’t even that you are doing something wrong. It is the uncharted waters of growing your business that triggers the emotional response. Yes, other companies have grown successfully and you are putting the right pieces in order. The uncomfortable emotions may be

  • Doubt -Is this the best way to grow? Am I the right one to lead?
  • Confusion – Why are my partners expressing negativity? Why is my staff reluctant to adopt our new policies?
  • Apprehension – What’s going to happen next? Will we find the right customers?

This is not some sort of emotional collapse and you are a basket case. It is simply the process of adapting to a new way of doing business.

But let’s focus on you, the leader

Doubt and fear aren’t bad things or even to be avoided. They are simply emotional responses to the ambiguity present in the growth plan your business is following. You don’t know what the outcome will be. The deciding factor is what beliefs emerge with the emotions. For insecure leaders, it is common to start questioning your abilities (do I have what it takes? Can I inspire and lead my team?) or have old stories come up about how you are lacking in some way. Secure leaders (those who use the CEO Mindset) have learned their stories and exhibit more self-trust, tolerance of ambiguity and adept access to their emotional intelligence.

Key thing to remember

Doubt and fear are simply emotions and not reality. Take a moment to consider what you fear? Then ask yourself, “

  1. Why do I fear this?
  2. What am I expecting?
  3. Why am I expecting that outcome?

And keep asking yourself these three questions until you have the story clear in your head.

The story of fear and belief

It is not a question of fearlessness. (That might be a story you need to throw out because it creates an impossibility for many of us.) We cope with our experiences from childhood through adulthood by telling ourselves stories about who we are, how we ought to act and who we could be. In the intersection of fear and belief is the choice to tell the same story or change it in some way. I have had more than one client get an “a-ha” moment when they realized that their alcoholic parent or playground bully doesn’t get the last word on their ability to grow their business. Another client found he couldn’t create the culture he imagined when his company experienced a major financial crisis. Still another client had to leave a toxic business partnership to realize her potential. These moments were all based on old stories that had to be retold for my clients to embrace the CEO Mindset.

Go ahead

Feel the fear and the doubt. Ask yourself what is fueling these emotions. Then determine the truth or reality of your concerns. Are you fearing financial ruin? Well, if there isn’t enough capital, then that is real. If you fear that you are not up to leading your company as it grows, check to see if there is a skills gap or a confidence gap. Learn what you need to know and then practice. As someone once told  me, “With practice comes mastery…With mastery, comes the ability to do more.”

Fear can lead you to believe a lot of things. Clarify your stories and let go of what isn’t serving you well while you grow your business.

 *iStockphoto by Anson Lu

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Why Transparency Supports Healthy Organizational Culture

transparency, organizational culture, small to mid-sized business, business owner, CEOSome of you may know that I host the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz every Friday (you can read about our more recent conversations here) and often there are interesting lessons or insights that come from the live chat. As someone who coaches business owners and executives to become better leaders, a healthy organizational culture is often a topic or very near the surface.

But what is organizational culture?

For the small to mid-sized companies I work with, culture is often the expression of the business leader. Since small to mid-sized companies are more compact and connected than larger corporations,  it is easier for the business owner/ CEO to express to everyone how he/she wants things to be and, in growth organizations, to become. That means values and behaviours are obvious and the meanings and purposes of these values and behaviours is idiosyncratic to that company. As an example, one of my clients makes it a point to be available for face to face conversations, ask questions  and share a lunch with everyone once a month. Another client in a bigger organization believes in hiring smart people  and he lets them know his expectations and then gets out of the way for the day-to-day execution of these expectations. He is doing what he is good at and, consequently, so are his employees.

Transparency and culture

You may have heard a lot of discussion about transparency in various places. According to the Business Dictionary, transparency is

“Lack of hidden agendas and conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation and collective decision-making. [Also as definition] Minimum degree of disclosure to which agreements, dealings, practices, and transactions are open to all for verificaton.”

One would think that smaller organizations would have less machinations and hidden agendas than their larger counterparts but politics are everywhere.

What could possibly go wrong?

Most small companies operate in a clear and legal manner. But there can be some pitfalls or unforeseen consequences when corporate culture stems from the leader as alleged actions by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his administration are being reported. Now the temptation is to say that politicians are corrupt anyway but I remember working for a doctor who would lose his temper in such a dramatic fashion and belittle others that people were literally afraid to speak up in meetings. Consequently, this small organization had high turnover, backbiting amongst colleagues and absolutely no faith that your immediate boss would ever back you if you needed it.

But there are other things to consider:

  • Lack of common definition of privacy and discretion: (thank you to Lois Martin for highlighting this) With multiple generations in the workplace, privacy and discretion have morphed over time and it is up to the leader(s) to clearly state what clients and the public can know about the company. This can be also seen as professionalism.
  • We live and work online: There are risks and responsibilities as this McKinsey report discusses. Cybersecurity is an issue for all businesses, regardless of size.
  • People may bring a negative perspective from their previous employer: As you grow, you hire new people and they bring all of their experiences, good and bad, with them. Their stories may color how they share information, show intiative or handle disappointment in your organization.
  • Euphemisms: Transparency depends on people saying what they mean. If you are “demising” jobs, let people know to expect their job may be eliminated.
  • Consistent ethical code: Transparency is really an encapsulation of certain values — respect, integrity, honesty — and if you are cutting corners, your employees will cut corners and this, ultimately,  affects attracting and retaining your customers

When you stop to think about it, it brings up all sorts of questions about organizational culture, individual behaviour choices and the validity of an ethical professional code.

What could go right?

Of course, there is always another side. Part of the most recent discussion about transparency are the advantages it gives to businesses. Small to mid-sized businesses may have been onto this for some time. Quite often you know your customers by name and understand how important that “know, trust and like” factor can be.

  •  Differentiation is clear: While you have much in common with your competitors regarding customer service or even type of product or service you offer, your words and actions, source of materials, vendors and clear wording on policies (without the super fine print) and procedures invites trust.
  • Happier employees: If you have ever worked for a boss who was tough and fair, you worked for a leader who was transparent in his/her expectations.  A 2013 TINYpulse employee satisfaction survey reported that transparent managers had a “correlation coefficient 0.94 with employee happiness.” Good management fosters better morale and productivity.
  • More accurate information about what customers like/dislike: Open, two-way communication with your customers enables better data gathering on what your customers buy from you and what sorts of improvements are most desired.
  • Clear internal communications: When the business owner/CEO takes the time to listen and interact, it becomes clear that the whole organization is supposed to listen and interact.
  • Supports accountability: When the decision-making process engages both the leaders and those assigned to executing the business goals, it is easier to know why a goal was chosen, who will do the work and when it is scheduled to be completed.

Transparency helps you develop a healthier organizational culture

It does take some work and maybe even retraining on your part to become more transparent. On the  other hand, having the ability to know who works for and with you simply provides an excellent foundation for transparency. On that you can build out how the values of honesty, respect, integrity and professionalism will be expressed in your culture.

What reasons do  you believe that transparency is important in a small to mid-sized business?

When could transparency harm your small to mid-sized business?

How much transparency is needed to develop a healthy organizational culture?

 

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Leadership, Mindfulness and Practical Enlightment

leadership, mindfulness, meditation, CEO MindsetThis post is from this month’s newsletter and since this topic has been cropping up in my writing, in the Twitter chat,  KaizenBiz and in my newsletter, I thought I would share it with you as well. In a conversation over the last few days on Twitter, it seems that many people are wondering just how to deepen themselves as leaders as well as cope with the stress of leading a business in a quick change environment. What if we took Peter Bregman’s suggestion in this HBR Blog Network post and treated laughter as a business metric? Is there an ROI for meditating or simply being in the moment?

Where is the stillness?

For many of us, it is the start of winter and it’s easy to become more like a hibernating bear with the longer hours of darkness. Perhaps that’s why I get a kick out of the Christmas lights and public holiday displays. These shiny, twinkly and even gaudy lights are moments of child-like fun. Standing in the morning or evening darkness in the still, quiet (yes, even in a city) air is an invitation to look around and up. Perhaps you notice the stars or the stark branches against a dark sky? This moment of stillness is mindfulness. There is nothing else but this moment…and you are here.

More than just the latest leadership craze 

Meditation and mindfulness are very popular right now in leadership circles.You may have heard of people like Bill Clinton, Bill Ford, Rupert Murdoch or Marc Benioff are active meditators. Nelson Mandela who recently died has talked about how meditating changed and supported how he was able to lead South Africa as it started its transition away from apartheid. And there is good reason for this. While it is easy to dismiss it as some woo-hoo or fluffy stuff, there is ample research pointing out how even 15 minutes can ease chronic pain, stress and inflammation. For leaders, there are additional benefits increased focus, creativity, composure, memory and agility of response) that you would use multiple times during a typical day.

Doesn’t have to be transcendental either

There are many reasons why people do not develop the habit of meditation. For some, it is difficult to sit still or maybe a particular style isn’t quite “right.” If you can breathe, you can meditate. It is that simple. Try an experiment, breathe slowly and deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth for 5 minutes  What do you notice about your body? Your mood? Many people report feeling quieter and energized at the same time. And that’s just 5 minutes. Others find that eating something and really paying attention to the color(s), smell, appearance and feel of the food provides a similar response. I’ve even had clients describe walking or running as the way they quiet their minds and return to the office ready for whatever is on their desk.

Enlightenment can be practical

Leadership is largely an art and based on our mindsets. There are plenty of posts telling us how to identify a bad boss and none of us want to be that person. If you’ve read my other writings about the CEO MIndset, you know that there is an emotional life to running your business. Try an experiment…every day for 1 week, simply breathe deeply in and out for 5 minutes while sitting comfortably with your feet on the floor. Put a timer on, if it helps. Notice how you feel immediately afterwards and then also notice how you feel later in the day. If, after a week, you notice a positive difference, maybe it’s time to make it a regular part of your day.

While leadership fads come and go, meditation and mindfulness are practices that stand the test of time.  It might even enhance your executive presence and inspire your staff. At the very least, it will support you as you develop the CEO Mindset and grow your business.

If this is an area of interest and  you would like to see a webinar, in-person event or an individual consultation regarding meditation, mindfulness and the CEO Mindset, please let me know. Plus, if this post piqued your curiosity (there are other goodies as well) and you would like to subscribe to the Key Notes newsletter, please fill in the form on the upper left of this page.

I wish everyone a lovely and relaxing holiday season and may you have the best year yet in 2014!
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Giving Thanks Is a Hidden Leadership Tool

Thanks, gratitude, emotional intelligence, leadershipWith all of the recent interest in emotional intelligence and leadership, it is easy to wonder just what the fuss is about. When you break down mindfulness, you discover that it is simply focusing your attention to where you are and what you are doing at this moment. Break it down even further and couple that with this week’s  US holiday of Thanksgiving and you discover that one of the elements of emotional intelligence, gratitude,  can deepen your ability to lead more effectively.

Gratitude is a “chosen attitude”

With the human tendency to pay more attention to the negative, it can be hard to see positives. However, recent research has made some interesting discoveries about gratitude.

  • Better ability to ride out negative events
  • Energizing
  • Able to help others or access compassion more easily
  • Exemplifies emotional maturity
  • Helps access mindfulness more easily
  • Promotes physical health

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. According to Richard Emmons, researcher and author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, gratitude is both a cognitive and emotional process. Indeed, gratitude doesn’t work unless both are activated. Gratitude gets its power to influence our behavior when we choose to use it.

The intersection with leadership

Recent leadership research keeps coming back to the best leaders being the most emotionally intelligent. Gratitude reinforces the most basic pieces of emotional intelligence by combining both internal awareness of your emotional life with the external awareness of how we interact and experience other people. Appreciation of what is in your life is a way of opening yourself is certainly an aspect of the CEO Mindset. But there is a transformational piece that is a direct link to your leadership.

  • Saying thank you to particular people for their performance encourages loyalty and good will
  • The  positive attitude demonstrates resilience and the ability to tolerate positive and negative events competently
  • Helps remove the “white noise” of our lives and work so you can think clearly about how you want to lead and where you want your organization to go
  • Keeps you open to listening to positive and negative feedback so you continually learn how to lead better

 What will you give thanks for?

See for yourself how gratitude can be transforming. Keep a gratitude journal everyday by writing down three things you are grateful for. They can be anything from thanking someone for telling you how you are doing a lousy job to acknowledging the beautiful sunset you saw on your commute home. Find out how you aren’t as stressed by negative events. Make someone’s day by thanking them for his/her hard work on a specific task. Increased loyalty, positivity and productivity are pretty good outcomes if you are willing to cultivate gratitude into your daily schedule.

 How will this add to your leadership?

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CEO Mindset: Confidence When Your Business Is Struggling

CEO Mindset, confidence, business owner, business executive, turnaroundWhen I wrote the post “Confidence- An Often Overlooked Business Tool,” I received some great feedback. However, one theme that came up in conversations with Irish business owners as well as other business owners is the importance of having a realistic perspective. Business owners and executives must be truth-tellers first to themselves and then to the stakeholders.

Call it what it is…a turnaround

One of my clients is in the midst of a turnaround. His business is seriously struggling and there are a number of larger economic factors which are working against him plus some mis-steps made by himself and his staff. To his credit, he recognizes that staying focused on the here-and-now brings him one step closer to getting beyond this mess. He has moments when he feels doubt about getting through.

Turbulence and doubt

These are the roughest times for any business owner or high-level executive. It is not uncommon for a business owner to hide in his/her office and worry. Time seems to change by speeding up or slowing. You watch the business’ finances dwindle at an alarming rate and may have creditors or the bank calling to discuss how you’re going to pay them back. This is a scary and turbulent time.

Try a little tenderness

There is a surprising first step that must be taken. Apparently Otis Redding was onto something here. Treat yourself with compassion. Odds are, you didn’t try to get into this mess. In a 2012 study about self-compassion, researchers discovered that treating yourself with kindness and mercy produces four effects:

  • see the possibilities for change and making amends
  • increase the desire to make the changes
  • take steps to correct the situation or follow through on planned action
  • compare self with those doing better as if to use them as role models

Instead of berating yourself, acknowledge that there has been a failure. This allows you to treat yourself with compassion and open your mind up to find possibilities and cope with the consequences. Consistent with Carol Dweck’s work on the fixed mindset and the growth mindset, it is apparent that believing you can find a solution or learn a way to manage a problem is much more empowering. This is true even when you are faced with noxious choices.

Paradoxical thinking

This type of thinking is part of the growth mindset. Paradoxical thinking is the ability to hold contradictory concepts at the same time. You can tell yourself the truth that things are dire. However, for this to be truly paradoxical, the business owner (or executive) must also hold the concept that there may be a way out. Bear in mind that this is not arrogance or willful blindness. Confidence requires self-belief, humility and open mindedness if it is to be any use to you.

Taking action supports the feeling of “I can” and fosters confidence

Finding confidence when your business is struggling takes compassion, paradoxical thinking and an growth mindset. This is not necessarily an easy process but it is a necessary one.  Anyone leading a business is used to taking action and producing results.

To rebuild your confidence, start with basic questions:

  • What does the business do well?
  • What does the business owner/ executive do well?
  • What resources are available?

Taking the answers to these questions and developing a plan of action means

  • re-establishing yourself as the leader of your organization
  • communicating clearly to and with your staff
  • identifying what needs to be addressed first
  • re-connecting with customers
  • following up with leads and prospects
  • providing an optimistic, strong and thoughtful perspective

Possibly the greatest test of your career

Looking back isn’t productive. Regret eats away at your confidence. You are in this situation now and it needs to be rectified. There aren’t even guarantees that you will lead the company to an ideal result.

Even so, do:

  • Treat yourself with compassion
  • Acknowledge that this is a terrible situation and there is a solution or a way to manage the turbulence
  • Identify what is still working, your leadership skills and available resources
  • Develop a written plan and take action

Finding your confidence while your business struggles is a challenge. There are plenty of reminders of problems. But for your company to exit the situation with any degree of grace, you have to believe you can find a way out and get things moving in the right direction again.

Confidence enables finding the possible.

About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, executive coach and trainer who guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives in the US, Ireland and Northern Ireland to be comfortable in their own skin. Change can be growing your business, expanding in the US or adapting to a new leadership roles. Visit my Services page to see how we can work together or schedule your complimentary coaching session here.

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More On CEO Mindset – The “Right” Habits & Less Ego-Driven Leadership

CEO Mindset, leadership, habits, leaders, Tweak Your Biz, KaizenBizAs some of the regular readers of this blog know, I blog on Tweak Your Biz and KaizenBiz as well. If you have missed my latest posts there, here they are:

Becoming CEO Of Your Small Business Means Finding “Right” Habits

For many successful small to mid-sized business owners, having the CEO Mindset is everything. While I’ve talked about how small business owners (even sole proprietors/ sole traders) are really CEO’s of their companies on Tweak  Your Biz and here, this is just the beginning.

Every day there are things we do or don’t do that influence the direction and pace of business growth. A lot of this is much more internal than it might seem at first glance. One area that is written about quite  a lot is the habits or common behaviors of  famous business leaders.  Reading these posts leads you to believe that if you just did these things, you would be successful. My post isn’t one of those posts. Often what is left out is the work and the business leaders did to find the “right” habits that work for them. So, before you think “if only I did X”, remember they had to do the work of finding what works for them. Becoming CEO of your small business means finding your “right” habits.

 

Is It Feminine Leadership We Crave Or Less Ego-Driven Leadership?

Once a week, I have the pleasure of leading a chat on Twitter called #KaizenBiz. (Shameless plug here: Every Friday at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9amPT and all are welcome) If you are not familiar with this chat, we take business topics and apply critical thinking, enhance our skills and deepen our self-understanding. This past Friday (August 16, 2013), we looked at The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them Will Rule the Future and the ongoing global conversation about gender, traits and leadership.  There is a perspective that the lack of women in executive roles contributed to the organizational failures that triggered the global recession.

Is there a female style of leadership? A male style?  Are people wrong in their rejection of so many men in decision-making roles as found in recent surveys? Could it be more likely that highly effective leaders of both genders exhibit the same traits? Read this post and add your thoughts.

 

Thank you

Thank you for taking a look at these posts, commenting, sharing or simply thinking about them. I look forward to sharing more posts next month.

 

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Confidence – An Often Overlooked Business Tool

small business owner, Irish business owner, confidence, busines tool

This blog has been a little quiet as I’m after being in Ireland for a business/family visit. While I was there,  I watched the new television programme, Taking Care of Business on RTÉ. Like Fergal Quinn’s show, Retail Therapy, a struggling business and its owner are the focus for each episode. While there is much conversation about business plans, debts and the relationship with banks, the most striking thing that is talked about is the low confidence level each business owner exhibits at the beginning of the episode.

Ireland is a tough place for small business owners right now

I had quite a number of conversations with various small business owners while in Ireland who described their frustrations and worries. There are many questions about the rising tax levels, continuing austerity budgets, the obstacles business owners face accessing credit, the high debt levels and the actions taken by the Irish government.

Confidence has taken a hit

Confidence is a remarkable thing. It is not the belief that you can do no wrong nor that everything is going to be the way it was.  It is the belief that “I can handle this somehow”, even under pressure. However, when you are faced with what seems like never-ending obstacles, confidence can be undermined so even normally confident people get to a low moment. As I’ve written before,  it’s not unusual to question your values, choices and actions during a major crisis of confidence. It is also overlooked as a business tool during times of crisis because it seems so tenuous and airy-fairy. Yet, it is the underpinning for what makes a small business owner effective.

To be confident, you need focus

Daniel Goleman, who studies emotional intelligence has discovered that focus is an important ingredient in confidence. In an interview with Dr. George Kohlreiser, he quoted Kohlreiser as saying:

“How you manage your own emotions is determined by how you focus. The mind’s eye is like a flashlight. This flashlight can always search for something positive or something negative. The secret is being able to control that flashlight – to look for the opportunity and the positive. When you do that, you’re playing to win. You’re able to focus on the right things and maintain that positive self.”

Getting that groove back

Someone once wrote that “It’s not a hill, it’s a mountain when you start out the climb” in reference to changing one’s heart and mind. There is a tension between old expectations and current reality. However, building up confidence brings the small business owner back to what makes him/her tick. This is the focus.

For some business owners, they need to be meeting prospective customers. This is where they get get their groove back. For others, they need to be doing something else to get their groove back…meeting with current customers, revising the business plan or accessing help from an outside resource. For my coaching clients with struggling businesses, the return to basics (reviewing the business plan and current goals, looking at up-to-date financial reports and completing a SWOT analysis) plus acknowledging the emotional aspects gets their feet back on the ground and their minds looking forward.

Confidence…that overlooked business tool

For Irish small business owners, indeed small business owners in many places, it is an uphill climb. The slow pace can feel grueling and the wins seem so small. It is so easy to think so-and-so has it easy because of their location or specialty but you don’t really know what their story is. And it’s tempting to ignore that you have certain skills, have faced adversity before or that there are other small business owners like yourself.  People gauge how well your business is doing by your posture and how you speak (Amy Cuddy has a fascinating TED talk about body language and confidence). Your prospects get excited if you are enthusiastic. Your staff and/or outside resources will feel more secure that you are projecting solidity. And most importantly, you will discover you can weather what comes your way. Confidence isn’t about the bad stuff going away. Confidence supports finding a way to face forward and seek solutions.

**After 2 active conversations on LinkedIn started due to this post, I wrote a companion post, “CEO Mindset: Confidence When Your Business Is Struggling“,  to flesh out more about what makes confidence such an important business tool.

 

About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, a small business coach and executive coach who guides established small business owners in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US to use the CEO Mindset and be comfortable in their own skin. I have a deep appreciation for learning and understanding my client’s business style and culture. Whether you are re-focusing your small business or expanding in your own backyard or into another country, my 3 keys coaching process helps clients move from being excited about growing to having the tools to make it actually happen. Curious? Schedule your complimentary coaching session here.

 

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Managing the Business Owner: Do You Need to Get Up Early?

Ever since January, I’ve been seeing post after post about how the most successful people (read: leaders and CEO’s) get up very early in the morning. As if the only way to be a successful CEO, you have to be up at the crack of dawn to exercise or begin working or what have you. It might be true for small business owners and executives…and it might not.

The last straw

Margaret Heffernan’ s post was the last straw. Her  point was that leaders get up early because they are excited about what they do. They are fully engaged and not lazy. They use the early hours to exercise, think, plan or just enjoy some quiet time before their day starts. Now, you might wonder why I would ever want to rant about that?!

My rant is really simple…there isn’t one way to be successful. The posts that say that getting up early make it sound like that is the only way to build a successful company and career. However, the way you schedule your day may not even be indicative of laziness or lack of engagement.

Self-care is an essential piece of leading a small business

It is well documented that sleep deprivation is not just a few hours lost. Immediate effects include poor memory, trouble concentrating, appetite disturbance (higher tendencies to eat too much) and difficulty tolerating even garden-variety stress. Continued sleep deprivation is correlated to depression and mood disorders, attention deficit disorder, drug and/or alcohol abuse, increased likelihood of high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke plus cognitive impairment. Sleep deprivation and ignoring other parts of self-care can lead to burn out and/ or feeling trapped or resentful of your business. Not exactly the best recipe for building a sustainable business.

Use caution when reading advice

Yes, even my blog.

Normally I’m a big fan of Margaret Heffernan but I do wonder about her supposition that a leader might be lazy or disengaged. As small business owners, we have to be careful about what we read and how general the application might be. Some of us chose to start our business to maximize the quality of our lives. It does seem strange when you are working long days or worrying about finances that this is a better quality of life. On the other hand, control over our income, time and autonomy is in our hands most of the time. Some of us are parents, volunteers in our communities or simply want to create another way to do business and be successful. While we may want to be develop ourselves so we are better leaders and managers, it is important to remember that different things work for different people.

Working mega-hours doesn’t make you successful by itself

All those posts that got me riled up aren’t really about who gets up early or stays up late. It’s about what we do with that time. There are ways our time gets used up that make a work day seem far too short. Between making sure we engage with social media, do things that increase our visibility, network, do the work our clients hire us for and so much more, productivity can get away from us without a plan.

Some suggestions to keep yourself healthy:

  • Even experts don’t have the answers that will fit you 100% of the time- We need inspiration, new ideas, fresh perspectives and education. However, notice how you feel about the advice you are reading. If it feels like something  you would never do, trust yourself.
  • Remember you have physical limitations – No matter how much you love what you do, your body will let you know when it has had enough. Make an effort to eat well, sleep and take time away from the office.
  • Create a schedule that suits you – If you are an early riser, a late night person or something in between, make the time work for you. Use the Pomodoro method for specific tasks and schedule specific days for overall activities.

Do you need to get up early?

Only you can really answer that. Use the early morning if it provides you with time to think, get moving or do a little work before the rush of the day. Conversely, if working at night allows you that necessary time for concentration, use that. When you read blog posts that tell you that the only way you are a “real” leader is if you do X, ask yourself if this is true for you. If you are not sure, try an experiment with the recommendations you read about.

There are many ways to be successful…design your own!

 About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, a small business coach and executive coach who guides established small business owners in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US to be comfortable in their own skin. I have a deep appreciation for learning and understanding my client’s business style and culture. Whether you are re-focusing your small business or expanding in your own backyard or into another country, my 3 keys coaching process helps clients move from being excited about growing to having the tools to make it actually happen. Curious? Schedule your complimentary coaching session here.

 

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Managing the Business Owner: What Do You Want?

What do you wantFour words that strike fear and make an otherwise capable professional unable to make sense.

What do you want?

When I ask this in a coaching session, there usually a release of breath and a nervous laugh. Then the avoidant answers come out. Formerly articulate people stop putting two sentences together. I have noticed that it isn’t so much that we don’t know what we want (yes, I’ve been struck dumb with this question too). We know all too well. We are dreamers who see ourselves making that dream salary, gaining recognition as a “go-to” person, serving our customers with excellence and living that satisfying life we crave.

Negative messages and negative experiences Click here to read more »

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