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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


Do What Scares You-Latest Bloggertone Post For Your SME

The recent economic turmoil has triggered a lot of change for many of us. Whether you are seeking the change or it has been imposed on you, it is important to know how to handle any fear that accompanies your change process.

Read more about Do What Scares You…


Limiting Beliefs, Spirituality and Business Growth

Could your religious or spiritual beliefs limit your business growth? This past week, this came up in a session with a client. Recently I’ve written about how ethnicity, nationality or family beliefs affect how we lead and grow our businesses here and here. It’s a common theme in my coaching  with small business owners, particularly when they are about to transform their businesses. Fear makes us tell ourselves some crazy stories that somehow don’t sound crazy in our heads.

That’s really the trigger though, isn’t it? It’s the same for me too. Writing this post feels risky because I’m bringing up one of the “no-no’s” of conversation. I’ve got a story wandering around my head about how you’re not supposed to talk about religion or spirituality if you want to be taken seriously in business.

We all have stories in our heads about what we think is appropriate. We cloak our self-limiting beliefs in a lot of guises. Some of us have gender stories like “nice girls do…” or “a real man does…” Some of us have stories that have class distinctions about what “real” work is and what it means to be rich, poor, or middle class. These get activated when we set a goal that brings us closer to our heart’s desirSpirituality and businesse.

But what about our spiritual or religious beliefs? What role do they play? This is powerful stuff! There is something primal about the struggle between good and evil and the search for transcendence. If you couple these beliefs with messages that you are not good enough, a fraud, or undeserving, it’s hard to differentiate the intersection between your limiting beliefs and your spiritual beliefs. A lot of the clients I work with have a Christian background so I hear themes that center on being poor is closer to God or that one must atone for mistakes forever. My clients who practice Buddhism often describe a separation between their spiritual practice and the day-to-day operations of their small businesses. It almost sounds like their awareness shuts off in the business arena.

So, where is the “Truth”? It’s not in marrying your anxious thoughts and feelings with your spiritual beliefs. It’s not even  in compartmentalizing when and where you act on your spiritual beliefs. Many spiritual practices encourage compassion. This is also found in Humanism, New Age and pagan traditions. Some, including Christianity and Buddhism, teach one to be detached from egotistical wants and desires. What keeps us from extending these gifts to ourselves? Bottom line, we’re afraid of what we truly are.

We waste a lot of energy and time worrying. It’s human to feel scared when you decide to up your revenues to six figures or (gasp) seven or higher. It’s human to feel scared about offering your customer new products or services that will change your business model. And it’s human to feel scared about taking on the mantle of industry leader. It’s no big surprise that it’s also human to find excuses and reasons why we can’t fulfill our mission that thrilled us so when we wrote our executive summary.

Do we have to go public with our beliefs? That’s the ego again, right? It’s less about the public expression and more about the inner process that advises how we lead our businesses. See, religious or spiritual practices don’t limit business growth unless you’re thinking of doing something unethical. The answer is pretty clear there. Most people aren’t going to turn into players. We think we will but we won’t. That’s the fear telling a story again so we don’t take action. Most of us are decent, hardworking people seeking to make the world a better place. We just need to stop and rethink our theology or spiritual paradigm. The Universe, Source, God, or however you name that Energy that is so profound is there to sustain, encourage and challenge us to be the best people we can be. That’s it.

Imagine what would happen if we let go of our fear…






Dangers and Advantages of Taking Action-#kaizenblog recap

Ready for actionBefore reading this post, think about an action you’ve been putting off. What is so daunting about this action? What is easy about this action?

In our last Twitter chat, #kaizenblog, we discussed the “Dangers and Advantages of Taking Action”. As always, it is well worth reading the transcript Transcript for #kaizenblog – AdvantagesDangersofTakingAction

The most interesting thing about taking or not taking action is what is going on in our thinking. That’s where this chat’s conversation focused. Most of us have the tools or know where to find them (or someone who can tell us where to find them). Taking the first step really is based on our thinking.

What are the dangers and advantages of taking information? Deb Morello jumped in with her response, “Believe advantages of when to take action and when not to take action is part instinct and part “learned skill” from experiences.” Patrick Prothe (@pprothe) Some don’t take action to keep their options open. For fear of making wrong decision vs. iterating, learning from mistakes. Also avoid action until they uncover one more data point to support their cause. & then delay further b/c of new info.” Prothe’s two themes were echoed by others as potential dangers. Josip Petrusa (@josippetrusa) tweeted, “Danger: A backlash, wrong decision. Advantage: leadership, strength. The circumstances of the situation are also important.” Stephen Denny added a further follow-on with this delineation, “Taking action subsets: taking an option (low risk, uncertain confidence), all-in (high risk, high confidence). Big diff”

There was a lot of discussion about how not planning ahead and not having enough information. The catch with not having enough information can be doubled-edged. The first is that not having enough information does limit good decision-making and critical thinking about a situation. On the other hand, as Patrick Prothe pointed out, it is easy to delay when you use your perceived inadequate information as an excuse to avoid moving forward.

Underlying much of this is a lack of confidence. But as Chanelle Schneider (@WriterChanelle) pointed out two other fears that may be behind a lack of action, “…fear of backlash or lost support.” With this in the background, there were recommendations to use critical thinking and do a risk assessment. Some of this may depend on the size of your organization and the type of task you are avoiding.

There were two other perspectives that were important to include with the advantages and dangers of taking action. Diane Court (dc2fla) reminded us, “It’s essential to put considered action in perspective. Most of what we can do can be adjusted (not final, not devastating)” An additional aspect to what’s behind the choice to take action or not was put forth by Tom Asacker (@tomasacker), “Lack of action reveals lack of passion and purpose.” Mr. Asacker’s point is one that is commonly overlooked. How often have you not done something simply because it didn’t light your fire? Or you went through the motions because you thought you were supposed to?

The first part of the chat seemed to skew to the negative. Why do you avoid making decisions? Lizzie Pauker (@lizziepauker) answered, “So many responses go back to our emotions. Decision making sometimes  requires making check of emotions & be objective.” Josip Petrusa added partly serious, partly humorous response, “because it is easier to avoid them than deal with them, ha”  Ah, true! On the same vein, Alfonso Guerra (@huperniketes) stated, “Fear of success is powerful: people afraid of seeing what they’re more than they ever imagined.”

But what if our environment discourages taking action. There are many big corporations (and small businesses) who put bureaucracy ahead of anything else. This can be very daunting as Stephen Denny remarked, “Often in corporate situations, fear of approval/process/accountability/mgmt, etc” Makes you wonder how much is lost every day.

As I pointed out in my framing post, choice overload can act as a paralyzer. Sometimes it can feel as if all choices are the right ones. You want to do right. As Diane Court explained, “Choice overload…isn’t so much fear of action, as wanting to the “right” or “best” action 1st time out.” Deb Morello reminded us, “In the end u r true to yourself, yes, in whatever context – 4get about choice overload, what was your first instinct?” Is it that simple? Are we overthinking our choices of actions?

However, if we’re trying to act “correctly” due to passion, purpose, or some psychological issue, emotions are going to get caught up in the process. Stephen Denny tweeted, “Often huge diff betw dreams + execution. Preconceptions of outcomes/difficulty turn out differently.” Laura Crum (@LauraLCrum) pointed out, “Advantages [of taking action] are worth the effort but not until we can overcome our emotions.” Josip Petrusa added, “What’s interesting is right/wrong changes in every situation. Our ability to read situation first will decide our outcome.” So getting past all of this may lead to what we’re willing to tolerate. Some of the #kaizenblog participants stated they were willing to tolerate uncertainty, sleeplessness, and hard work. Perhaps if you aren’t willing to tolerate some or all of these discomforts, you aren’t ready to take action? As Caroline Di Diego  (@CASUDI) pointed out, sometimes we put of action because we’re not ready to handle the consequences of our choices.

 Alfonso Guerra’s earlier point about fear of success and the focus on the negatives of taking actions led to the third question of the conversation. What does success REALLY mean to you?

I5Design (@I5Design) responded, “The difference between leading and managing. Letting people succeed and fail (controlled failure) and guiding them to growth.” Other responses included feeling pride in one’s accomplishment, financial wins, feeling valued by organization, and making positive contributions to someone else. Bringing a holistic viewpoint (after all, we’re not always working), Tom Asacker contributed, “Success=love, pray, eat. In that order”

Given that we were talking about taking action, I offered the #kaizenblog participants (and the quieter members, well, aka lurkers) a challenge: State one action you will take this week that you’re putting off

  • Chanelle Schneider: Pitiching ideas to “some major news outlets”
  • Deb Morello : Taxes
  • Patrick Prothe: Connecting with one person outside of regular network “F2F” and write more consistently
  • Laura Crum: Work on my life/work/play balance
  • M Zayfert (@mzayfert): Connect with those who I met during network mixers and conferences

For those that didn’t publicly accept the challenge but are doing it anyway, feel free to tweet or send a direct message about your progress. For those who publicly stated their challenges, I’ll check in with you later this week.

For additional tips on how to take that first step:

  • Patrick Prothe: “To help with taking action, perhaps check out Action Method” 
  • Alfonso Guerra recommended the Pomodoro Technique
  • I added, set a timer for 20 minutes so you can focus on your task. When the timer beeps, you can stop working or set the timer for another 20 minutes.

What do you believe are the advantages/dangers of taking action?

What does success really mean to you?

I invite you to take the challenge: Stated one action you can take this week that you’ve been putting off.



Who Are You Supposed to Believe?

Perceptions, Perspectives and BusinessThe economic bad news seems to be piling on lately. Ben Bernanke says we have a long way to go and there is still anecdotal evidence that people are losing jobs. And yet…there is growth and the US economy is not in recession.

But it doesn’t feel that way as Dawn Rivers Baker explained in her analysis in Small Biz Trends. If you’re the owner of a small business who is looking for financing and can’t get it, your perception is that things are very hard indeed. If you are a business owner who had one big client who has either cut back or ceased to do business with you, your perception is that people are slow to spend their money. If you are in an industry less affected by the economic turmoil, your perception of the current business climate will be on the other end of the spectrum.

I asked on LinkedIn,

Would you describe the current small business climate as sluggish but positive, chaotic, or anxious?

There seem to be contradictory news reports, indicators, and advice as to how to lead and manage your small business through the recovery. How does this affect the business vision and how you plan to go forth in the last quarters of the year? Have you changed any goals? And…how do you maintain your morale so you don’t burn out?

 The answers were positive in nature, even enthusiastic. Ed Moloney responded:

To me it is simple. If the small business owner is looking at his or her business often from the outside in and asking for others to give their opinions to the best way to change things then I think the climate is good and opportunities are endless. I think people get caught up in the media or the negative of the government or the economy. They also focus to much on getting the work done and not enough on working on the buisness. The fact is most business owners are great at what they do IE accounting, car cleaning, cooking etc but may not be great business people. Fact is most business owners spend way way to little time prospecting for new business

Both Mike Welch and Gwen McCauley echoed the theme that small businesss owners have to work on their businesses. I’ve written about this in the past in many posts. Without taking time to keep track of the big picture of your business, how do see opportunities or keep your strategic plan fresh and timely?

 That’s what’s interesting about perception. Perception is created by our biases in our thinking. Our culture, gender, experience, and temperament contribute to how we see the world. Our perceptions feed our perspectives so we start seeing nuances in just how full or empty the proverbial glass is.

And these nuances in our perception are what makes it possible to weather bad and good times. Basically, we tell ourselves stories about our experiences. For example, if you perceive that your prospects are too reluctant to buy from you, you will change your behavior towards them. Maybe you’ll keep approaching them until you  become a spammer. Maybe you go through the motions but stop listening for when the person is leaning towards your product or service. Maybe you don’t even follow up with your prospects. The opposite perception could be that there are customers everywhere and they want to work with you. Your behavior will correspond to that perspective. When I asked a similar question on Facebook, Deb Carducci and Kate Hannisian both answered that they look at their customers to get information that will inform their perceptions.

Who should you believe? Your perceptions are important. It seems if you add an open attitude to gain additional information such as analyzing your action plan to see what can be improved or connecting with successful business owners, you are more likely to perceive what is possible.

How do you perceive the current small business climate?

Does keeping track of the big picture of your business keep you focused on how to maintain and/grow your business?

What strategies do you use to keep a positive perspective when facing adversity?

Join us for the Twitter chat #kaizenblog too discuss “Could Your Perception Keep You From Economic Recovery?” on Friday, August 6, 2010 at 12pm ET/5pm BST/9am PT


Lessons Being Learned and a New Logo

New logo for Ability Success Growth

It’s been an interesting experience moving my business to a more sophisticated level! I’ve been challenged by some wonderful people who see the value and potential of my coaching business. It’s been fabulous thinking and re-thinking about what I want my business to do, to be, as I work with small business owners through the various stages of the entrepreneurial life cycle. I am reminded that we do not build our businesses in isolation.

So, ta-da! Here is my new logo! I’ll have a new website in a few weeks.

I invite you to share my process so far.

These questions can be used to get you clear on how you want to be seen and heard:

1. Does my business still light my fire? Measuring your passion is important when stretching yourself to fulfill your aspirations. Passion fuels motivation which leads to choice which leads to action which leads to results. Positive or negative, the results can be used as fodder to excite, prove, or tweak your business model.

2. What is easy to do? Why is it so easy? We come with so many abilities that we can easily follow through on tasks we perceive as fun or lacking difficulty. For me, I enjoy program development. Seeing a need and coming up with a tool that helps entrepreneurs get comfortable in their own skins and go beyond that is fun.

3. What am I afraid to follow through on? Why is this so hard? There are parts of our business we make mysterious or difficult because of fear. I’ve been noticing a feeling of intrepidation when I take an idea I’ve always wanted to do and make it part of the everyday reality of my business. We anticipate change will disrupt who we are, our relationships, and demand more than we can give. (I wrote more about perspectives we carry when facing adversity in It’s Not a Hill, It’s a Mountain.)

4. Who do I know that can help me and how do I help him/her? The self-made successful business person is a myth. None of us achieve without help from family, friends, colleagues, coaches, mentors, and strangers who just get so excited about our Big Idea. All of us have something to offer these generous, lovely people so find out how you can aid them to building the next stage of their business. Ask a question, make an offer, and accept an opportunity when it presents itself.

What questions help you move forward to fulfilling your vision? Who challenges you to be awesome?


Are you WYSIWYG?

WYSIWYG is one of those terms thatWindow and chair made me chuckle when I first heard it. It seemed cute. Actually, it is pretty clever when you realize that it refers to “word processing or desktop publishing in which the screen prints text exactly as it will be printed.” (according to The term stuck with me as a computer thing for quite some time but recently it took on another dimension. Two things started a thought process. On Twitter, there have been numerous conversations about transparency. Some of the questions center on what is transparency, how much is necessary, and how to use it when marketing. To add more depth, Chris Brogan, a social media marketing expert and president of New Marketing Labs, ( posted “Cafe Shaped Conversations.” The blog post centered on the importance of the human touch when conducting business. This post follows a consistent theme that Brogan writes about how being yourself as an effective business tool. This is illustrated by Carol Jordan of You Are Here Books. His point is to connect with people through social media the way you would connect in-person in a focused and genuine manner. Many of us have rules about how a business person should look or act. Even if you have been in business in one capacity or another, you may have set up some rules or guidelines which begin something like, “people in my position must…” Fill in the blank. Now, what would happen if you broke this rule? Would you appear more genuine, more at ease? Would your business development be less strenuous and less stressful? Is it okay to be “what you see is what you get?” As I look back at the early days of my business, I had rules about what I thought a business owner should be like. Certainly, I was anxious to appear competent, contained, and serious.While this is not the first business I have started, it is the business that best suits me and my talents. Frankly, I did not trust my abilities or my knowledge base. I tried to cram myself into an elevator pitch. I began to feel like I was wearing someone else’s clothes. Looking at yourself, how would you describe your style? Your business? Being comfortable in one’s skin exudes confidence that we are okay no matter if we are succeeding or failing. It enables us to be authentic and connect with people. We have heard sales trainers and coaches talk about the “know, like, and trust” factor in converting prospects into sales. Instead of a transactional process, what would make doing business more about being yourself and acknowledging the person who wants your products and services? By using “what you see is what you get,” you cut out silly rules that cramp your natural abilities and personality. What makes you comfortable in your own skin? It is a common fear that someone will find out you are a fraud. However, this is usually an unfounded fear held by extremely competent, intelligent, and ethical people. As entrepreneurs, we continuously push ourselves out of our circle of comfort. Remembering that we come with great abilities and a record of success enables us to settle into our authenticity. Check your rules. Are they supporting you or thwarting you? Get rid of anything that interferes with your natural connection with people. Dare to be WYSIWYG!

Fear, the Economy, and Your Business

While I was watching the news last night, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s quote about fear was repeated several times.  FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 

With the absolute mess the economy is in and the likelihood it will last awhile, it makes sense that people feel fear.  Fear is an amazing emotion!  It has a contagious quality that quickly takes over our thinking.  In fact, fear is probably the #1 issue that my clients talk about.  They want to know why they feel afraid, how to manage it or eliminate it, and what effects fear has on how they run their businesses.

Truthfully, you cannot run a businesses from a place of fear.  It takes over on such a primitive level in your brain that it essentially turns very capable and intelligent people into much more simple creatures like crocodiles or amoebas.  Basically, you are in the fight or flight reaction. 

I’d like to open up the conversation and ask you to add your thoughts, advice, and best practices for how to not only maintain your business but also include how to create growth and opportunities.  What concerns you the most?  What works for you? Let’s talk…



I keep seeing the IBM ads in which the point is to do something.  Like the characters in the commercials, most of us do not follow through with our ideas and goals.   We spend a lot of time ideating, inspiring, imagining, et cetera.  This is the trap. 

It is so easy to think we are busy doing something when we are doing little more than contemplating our navels.  Business owners spend time on the “right” website, business cards, brochures, attending seminars, and other details of the business.  This is not doing. 

Here is the interesting thing though…Choosing to avoid real action highlights the anxiety and stress of growing a business into a lucrative enterprise.  I was talking with a client today about why she was accepting the indecisiveness of an important resource.  This is somebody who can help her get over a major hurdle that will bring her to the next step in launching her business.  I suggested to her that there is a payoff, a gain from inaction. 

This concept can seem strange at first.  Why would anyone want to annoy themselves by remaining stuck and courting failure?   Some of the reasons that clients have shared with me have been that they felt fearful that they would have additional responsibilities, have to work more hours, make mistakes, or lose out on time with friends and family.  The all-time, best reason I have heard is the fear that one will actually be successful and a major hijacking of one’s personality will occur.   

The bottom line here-fear will prevent you from taking action! How powerful is your fear?  What is triggering this fear?  How important is your business?  What can you implement first?  Answering these questions will make it easier to take the first step.  Get out of the trap and identify what tools and resources will support your implementation.

 ***Check out my website and see the resources that will support your growth  and action at!