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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 not 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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How To Use the CEO Mindset For Smarter Communication

Small to mid-sized business owners, executives, smarter communicationWhile driving one day last week, I stopped to make a left turn. There was oncoming traffic (we drive on the right in the US)  so I was ready to wait. One of the drivers gestured that I could take my turn. That seems considerate enough but there was a problem. He hadn’t stopped rolling. His idea was that I should take my turn while his car was still moving. As you might imagine, I hesitated. Was he really letting me go? And if I did make the turn, what were the possible consequences?

Sometimes we say one thing while we’re sending a completely different message

It was interesting to note my emotional response. I wasn’t sure which message was the true one. This happens in the workplace as well. Take one of my clients, Barry (not his real name) who had a clear vision for how his company could grow nationally. Unfortunately, he also had a habit of over-analyzing trends, opportunities and the performance of his company to such an extent that it muddied how he expressed his vision and expectations to his team. Another client, Rachel (not her real name) would assign tasks to one of her staff but then do the task herself  because “I know how to do better and quicker.” For both of these clients and for others, the bottom line was that they claimed to value the skills and input of their staff but their actions said otherwise.

What you do carries more weight than what you say

Since small to mid-sized organizations are much more intimate, the decision-makers have greater influence on corporate culture. The words you use (including swears and pejoratives), the volume at which you speak and when you speak send a strong message to your staff how to treat one another. Another potential trap is to assume that everyone looks at the world through your eyes and your sensibilities. Let’s say you spend long hours in the office because you believe that is essential to success but tell your employees that they can have flex time and vacations. Which part of your message are they going to listen to the most? I’ve even had a business owner tell me that he limits suggestions and recommendations because he doesn’t want to hear bad news.

There is a smarter way to communicate

In past blog posts, I’ve written about how the CEO Mindset supports the business owner/ executive to be more effective.  But what does this really mean? For a leader to truly use the CEO Mindset, he/she must pay attention to what is going on internally and externally as well as the other aspects of leading and managing a business. To effectively communicate, you have to use many of the same things.

The intersection between the CEO Mindset and communication uses both the internal and external awareness of the business owner/ executive:

  • Builds trust- Consistency in verbal and nonverbal message goes a long way
  • Lets people know where the boundaries are- Ineffective communication styles give contradictory signals so people aren’t sure what is acceptable
  • Charisma is over-rated-  Be yourself and give a complete message. Motivational speeches do have their place but substance is what your team is looking for.
  • Paying attention for better listening- It is remarkable what stopping and paying attention, even for 15 seconds, can do to prevent misunderstandings and unnecessary clarifications
  • Know clearly what your message is- There is a time and place for chitchat. When you want people to know where the business is going next, how to solve or prevent problems or get tasks done, state clearly what you want people to hear.
  • Flexibility-  You may need to vary your words or the pacing of how you say things. Sometimes flexibility includes fully listening first before you say anything.
  • Pay attention to the emotions- Someone can say what you want to hear but if you don’t hear what they are really feeling, the issue will come up again and again.

When business owners/ executives develop their skills and are comfortable in their own skin, communication tends to go more smoothly. Sure, there are days when everyone makes mistakes but good communication builds good will. Are you like the driver in the story and giving mixed signals to you team? Using the CEO Mindset encourages you to monitor your communication style and self-awareness to foster stronger communication with your team.

 

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7 Reasons Why Upgrading Your Business Networking Events Matters

Business networking, business owners and executivesI recently attended the Boston Irish Business Awards Breakfast hosted by the Boston Irish Business Association and the Boston Business Journal last week. As I listened to the inspiring stories, quite a few of the honorees mentioned people they had met who were helpful to them as they developed their careers and businesses. They described how they met these people through common organizations or through other introductions. It was clear that networking had made a difference!

Networking is key part of building your small to mid-sized business

There is a reason why we go to events and spend hours standing, talking and listening to people we don’t know. But have you thought about why you choose one event over another? Here are seven reasons that occurred to me as I was listening and meeting the people sitting with me at the awards breakfast… Click here to read more »

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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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