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CEO Mindset: Are You Contagious?

CEO Mindset, emotional contagion, neuroscience, Imagine you start your day in a terrific mood. The birds are singing, the sun is shining and you are looking forward to today’s client meetings. Then, you meet the office curmudgeon on the way in and have a conversation. Suddenly, the day isn’t quite so wonderful or your work so engaging. What happened?

 You caught the bad mood

Yes, seriously. People have this ability to both sense and take on another person’s mood and it is called emotional contagion. It can work both positively and negatively. While this may seem a bit on the strange side, consider this. Humans are social animals so we have the ability to read both verbal and nonverbal cues. This includes empathy and other aspects of social connectedness. Research since the 1700′s has noted that people will unconsciously adopt the posture, tone of voice, facial expressions and other outward signs of emotions. It seems that the nonverbal cues, including micro-expressions, are the most powerful and we will mimic or synchronize ourselves to match another person.

Recent neuroscience research

Curiously, we have a section of our brain called the insular cortex (which is in the cerebral cortex which is located in the front of your brain) which is thought to be responsible for perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning and interpersonal connectedness.  Since our brains work so quickly, we are often unaware of how well we can both sense and blend ourselves in relation to another person’s behavior. Essentially, humans are wired to note both subtle and overt clues to begin, maintain and grow our social connectedness.

What does this mean for business owners and executives?

If you are a business owner and/or an executive, you are in a position of authority. Leaders create, by words and actions, the value system and preferred behaviors. With this authority, your staff and/or team watch you more. There is a much greater likelihood that you can infect your company with your moods. This can put you at odds for creating that warm and human-centered organization you imagine.

Try an experiment…for about one week, stop yourself 3 times every day and ask yourself,

  • What do I feel?
  • What am I doing?
  • How is my team/staff acting right now?
  • How is my team’s behavior reflecting my mood(s)?

Supporting your CEO Mindset

Noticing your own emotional state will help you determine if you are contagious in a positive or negative way. And reinforce your emotional and social intelligences. Using the CEO Mindset is more than understanding your role in your organization. It also facilitates how you understand the effect you have on your staff/team.

Are you contagious? And is it more positive or negative?

Related posts: Leadership, Mindfulness and Practical Enlightenment

                         Giving Thanks Is a Hidden Leadership Tool

                         Using the CEO Mindset For Smarter Communication

 

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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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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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Using the CEO Mindset During the Mid-Year Business Plan Review

CEO mindset, business plan, small business ownerWhen you reach the middle of the year, is it a time for celebration or redoubling of efforts…or both?As leader of your organization, it is your place to seek out and tell the truth about what is working and not working. This can be a tough role but necessary.

Assumptions get in the way of good business practices

Your willingness to see things as they are and  not what you wish them to be shows up in testing assumptions. As an example, one of my Irish clients is really excited about launching his product in the US. However, he had a number of assumptions that just did not hold water hen he looked at them more closely. For starters, he assumed he knew how American consumers thought about Irish products. He also did not realize the costs involved as well as the various legal (immigration law, small business law, employment law, etc.) issues that needed preparation. It was in the business plan review that he was able to test his assumptions before committing large amounts of  money.

But there are other assumptions that need testing

1. While I could spend a whole blog post on the cognitive biases that could interfere with a small business owner’s performance, one can quickly prove demoralizing as well as financially dangerous. Sunk cost fallacy which is the thought process that “I’ve committed so much money to X that I have to make something of it.” Some might say that this is throwing good money after bad.

2. “There is money for all of our plans” could be another assumption if cash flow is not monitored. Taking time to go through the financials, even if you are not a money person, does matter since it indicates if you need to step up business development or maintain your current course.

3. “I’m sure it’s getting done” I’ve worked with a couple of business owners who found out the hard way that not holding their staff accountable cost them thousands of dollars. Without asking your people if they are fulfilling their assignments or having agreed-upon measurements, you are potentially telling them that you are incompetent or disorganized.

There are more assumptions you might be making about time, your role(s) or any number of things. The key is to ask questions, even to what seems obvious, so that you have a clear picture of how your business is performing.

That is the CEO Mindset

Whether you have the title or simply take on the mindset, you are CEO. This makes you the one who sets the tone for the whole organization and shows through words and actions the most desired values and behaviors. Whether you use a SWOT analysis or another tool to answer the questions, you show a curious, honest and pragmatic type of leadership. Taking this approach during the mid-year business plan review promotes problem-solving, brainstorming and acknowledgement of successes and failures. Question your assumptions and stay willing to see things as they are.

How can you access the CEO Mindset?

Here are some suggestions to start implementing the CEO Mindset for yourself:

  • Be a pragmatic visionary. Take your vision, build business goals that support it and measure your results.
  • Examine the data for trends, patterns or anomalies
  • Stop and listen so  you can become aware of your assumptions
  • Manage your attitude. Notice if you are overly optimistic, frustrated or tired can affect how your evaluate your data or interact with your staff.

What other assumptions need to be questioned by the business owner/ chief executive?

What are the best tools or resources for asking the right questions?

 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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When Growing Your Small Business Is Like A Resurrection

Growing Your Small Business, resurrectionLike a lot of small business owners, *Sharon has been scraping by over the past year or so. Sales are slow so there is less revenue. On the positive side, Sharon has been able to cut costs without harming how she serves her customers. Plus, there are some opportunities that look good over the next few months. The downside is that she has to be more involved in the tasks she used to delegate. It’s going to be rough until she can spark a resurrection of her small business.

Test of leadership and your CEO Mindset

When things are going well, it’s much easier to do those things that leadership experts tell you to do. You can listen, keep  your emotions on an even keel and take time to plan and consider tactics and strategy. That’s not to say you can’t do it now but it takes far less energy in good times. One story I hear from small business owners here in the US and Ireland is that it’s the day-in, day-out of finding ways to maintain the business with dwindling resources. They are questioning if their businesses will last until their pipelines produce revenue and if the revenue will be large enough. These are resilient people but the length of these challenges is affecting their optimism and motivation. It’s hard to balance the long-term view with short term needs.

Growing your business is more nuanced than at first glance

Many times we think of growing your business as coming from a place of strength and plenty. This is true but not necessarily the whole picture. When your business performs feebly and you set up a business development plan, this sets the stage for a growth phase. After all, you only have two options — resurrection or close the doors.

5 Ways to a resurrection

1. Check your mindset. It has to start with you. One of the hallmark parts of using your CEO Mindset is acknowledging your emotions. Sure, you might feel angry, scared, worried, frustrated, de-motivated or uncertain. These are normal responses and avoiding them doesn’t make them go away. They exist, recognize them and know you choose your next action.

2. Controlled expression of emotions. In 2008, I wrote a post about using freak out moments. One of my clients was so aggravated with how her business was performing, she wished she could have a temper tantrum. She was half-kidding and we were in a private place so I encouraged her to do it. She didn’t even last 5 minutes. Write, draw or act like a two year old so you don’t inadvertently take it out on your staff or other people. Note – Since you are the leader of your organization, do this with no staff present and you cannot be observed.

3. Decide how much urgency you want to place on growing your small business. There is a difference between emergency and urgency. Emergency is panic and interferes with your decision-making. Urgency is just enough pressure to communicate importance and desire. Does your small business matter enough to you to make it work again?

4. Make a plan. Once you assign urgency to creating growth, it’s time to decide on strategies, tactics and goals. Start with what is currently in place (do a quick SWOT analysis if you’re not sure) to know what is possible. Identify your target customers, why they should buy from you and how your business is specially suited for them. Tactics are how you want to reach these particular customers and the goals are the specific actions that execute the tactics. Focus the time frame to no more than 90 days with scheduled reviews and include accountability partners with every goal so things stay on track.

5. Begin immediately. When you’ve recharged your motivation (and, if applicable, the motivation of your staff), take action. Make a phone call, write an email or whatever you are acccountable for. Focus on your behavior and choosing action.

Resurrection your small business takes commitment and time

Small things like a five minute deep breathing exercise at the beginning of your work day,  making one phone call at at time to trusted people in your network and keeping a to-do list from the plan will add up. Use your CEO Mindset to lead the resurrection of your business. You can hold your head high when you give it your best shot.

What tips or ways would you add to resurrecting your small business?

How can small business owners manage expectations as they lead this type of growth phase?

 *Name and other details have been changed to maintain confidentiality

About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, a small business coach and trainer 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.

iStockphoto by mycola

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Managing the Small Business Owner: Control, Influence and Limitations

Managing the Small Business Owner: Control, Influence and LimitationsA coaching session with a client and a post on Forbes.com about span of control set a theme for me last week. How much do small business owners have real control and how to manage the limitations?

The traditional definition of span of control is “the number of people who report to one manager in a hierarchy. The more people under the control of one manager – the wider the span of control. Less means a narrower span of control.”

Important distinction for small business owners

In my work with small business owners who are growing their business, the question of hiring and managing employees comes up over and over. There is some anxiety about increasing one’s span of control too fast but more questions arise around trusting employees to move the business forward. It’s great to see one’s hard work come to fruition when you add new hires or create an executive team out of current employees.

CEO mindset, control and influence Click here to read more »

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You Don’t Do This Alone

Small business owner getting helpYou know you don’t grow your small business alone but so many of us get caught up in questioning how to ask for help. Truth be told, I’m just as guilty as anyone else. In a conversation with a friend and colleague, he asked me why professional women have a hard time asking for help. After thinking about it, I came away wondering if it is less about gender and more about our perception of our own competence and ability to solve problems.

It seems like you’re walking on a tightrope. How much do you say? How do you say it? There is a perception that if you show a weakness, people will perceive you as incompetent or that your business is fly-by-night. So that presents a dilemma. How do you ask for help without appearing weak?

We don’t know everything and we are not good at everything. There, it’s been said. We’re not superhuman.

It’s time to take advantage of our network. Is it a treasure trove when you need help with something? Sometimes our network inspires us because we spend time with people we aspire to emulate. Sometimes our network provides us with support when we share common experiences. Our networks also provide us with resources we aren’t aware of or have forgotten.

We create communities rich in connection. When we connect with others, we want to know what they think about, feel about, struggle with and celebrate. Typically, this is a reciprocal relationship. Think about the last time you were meeting people at a networking event. Who smiled at you? With whom did you laugh? Who did you really want to schedule coffee with right away? Within your existing network, who makes you feel good? My friend, Kate is one of those people for me. I don’t have to say a word about my business and I walk away feeling like a million bucks.

What would happen if you asked that person for help? It could be you need a referral for a virtual assistant, a lead on new clients, to hire additional staff or ask for business. Sometimes you need a simple sounding board or a good laugh.

So, what would happen?

What do you think gets in the way of asking for help?

*For more information like this live, check out my no cost webinar, “Achieving the CEO Mindset For Small Business Success” Thursday, March 31st, 7 pm BST/2pm ET. For more information and to register, go to Programs

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CEO Mindset: Ready For Next Stage Of Your Business?

Business Owner thinking about next levelMaybe you’re a little bored, a little itchy or exasperated with your busines lately. You often hear small business owners talk about going to the next level. What does this mean exactly? And what will happen if you do grow in size, sophistication or both?

If you had a crystal ball, what would your business look like in 1 year?

Part of what makes us ready for the next stage is having a vision. This vision does feed into our business’ basic mission. That doesn’t change. Remember your Hedgehog Concept? As you think about the new kind of customer you want to attract or the new line of services or products you’re designing, daydream what you would be doing differently.

As you fill in the details of your daydream, this becomes the outline of your strategic plan for the coming year. Put it writing. Make it real for yourself. This is where you might notice some internal thoughts, beliefs or feelings growing in intensity.

What could get in the way of going to the next stage of your business? Your assumptions.

It’s that combination of being so excited about doing something you aspire to and feeling nervous about making it actually happen. What are your assumptions? For some people, it is about being expected to be extraordinary, give up more time out of an already demanding schedule or becoming someone you are not. For others, they assume everything will be okay and the changes will be minimal. It’s more likely somewhere in the middle.

Challenge your assumptions

  • What do you really want?
  • Which skills do you need to augment?
  • What is so important about taking your business to its next stage?
  • What would happen if your business stayed the same as it is now?

And an equally important question…

In a recent interview on Entrepreneur.com, Scott Eblin asked a crucial question for this process, “What is it that only I can do?” This question is essential for small business owners as they are often an integral part of the work of the business. When you increase the size, change business structure or work with a more preferred client, this makes different demands on the business owner. You can’t be as casual as in the startup days. More administrative tasks will take up your attention and time. You may find you need to conract certain jobs that you used to do or even hire people to do those jobs. Typically systems need to be formalized across the organization. For example, just this week I was talking with a client about his options for managing business development projects. Right now they are in his head but he’s finding that he needs to delegate some of the project management tasks to others in his organization.

What do you need to do to be ready for the next stage of your business?

*For more information like this live, check out my complementary teleclass, “How To Use the CEO Mindset For Small Business Success” Tuesday February 22, 7 pm ET

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But I’m Not a CEO

When you think about yourself as a small business owner, do you think of yourself as the chief executive officer of your organization? Surprisingly for many, the thought just doesn’t even enter their minds. The strangest part of this is that the responsibilities are very similar.  Sure the scale of the business is different but take a moment to think. What do you really do as leader of your company?

 Take a look at this comparison and see if it sounds familiar:

CEO Responsibilities

Small Business Owner Responsibilities

Sets the vision and tone of what “X Company” is all about

 

Articulates vision (and, often, the mission) of what the small business is all about

 Designs and explains the strategy  of how the business will develops  and grow over time

 

Designs a strategic plan/action plan that includes product/service development as well as marketing

Seeks out the talent to make the above happen

 

Often connects with complementary professionals in network, hires consultants/contractors or employees to meet the goals set in the above

Keeps everyone accountable to the stated business goals

 

Sets up an accountability system with a peer, mentor, mastermind group or coach for own performance; Maintains consistent contact with complementary professionals, consultants/contractors or employees as accountability measure

Makes sure that revenues (and    even profits) are healthy

 

Knows “cash is king” so makes sure revenues are stable, growing and making a profit

 Still think you’re not a CEO?

For some people, it feels too grandiose. Maybe you’re a sole proprietor or it just sounds like it ought to be in a boardroom of a Fortune 500 company. That would be a mistake! Businesses succeed when there is someone dedicated to planning and executing the business goals. Sure, there aren’t always other managers that will implement your strategy. And sometimes the business owner has to act as technical expert.

It’s not about the size of your organization.

Nope, it’s not about size or even your business structure. It’s not even about putting those three letters under your name. It’s about having the CEO Mindset. Small business owners who realize that they are more than simply the worker bee are better positioned for challenges and opportunities.

There three things that they do well:

  1.  They understand and accept that their business is a separate entity.
  2. They make time to imagine and plan for the next quarter, the next six months, 1 year or beyond.
  3. They take care of themselves with solid advisors, healthy diet and rest.

How many of these things are you already doing?

You sure you’re not a CEO?

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