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Could Your Perception Keep You From Economic Recovery #kaizenblog recap

Did you know there is an economic recovery happening all over the world? It’s hard to tell some days. As I wrote in Who Are You Supposed to Believe? perception is created by biases in our thinking. This is not a matter of being right or wrong. It really is a matter of managing how you make decisions and act on your perceptions.Perception and Perspective

We act on our beliefs all the time. We have certain lenses with which we see the world. With all of the stories about the national and global economies, it seemed natural (my perception, of course) to take the topic to the #kaizenblog folks. You can read the transcript Transcript for #kaizenblog – PerceptionKeepingYouFromEconRecovery

With Henry Ford lurking in the back of our minds (thanks to my friend, John), Valeria Maltoni(founder and co-host of the Twitter chat #kaizenblog) and I opened the conversation with the first question, Do you look at the economic indicators? There were mixed answers to this question with a “yes but” kind of reaction. It seems that most people look at the economic indicators but there were references to how there has been so much contradicting reports and analyses as well as they don’t fit the size of the business or they were just too crazy-making. Stephen Denny (@Note_To_CMO) added a dose of humour to this when he tweeted, “No. Like talking to my mother, looking at econ indicators is only something you do once in a while for sanity’s sake.” Meg Fowler (@megfowler) added this bit of wisdom ( which sounds really good advice for those who have to keep track of the economic indicators as part of their work), “You can be AWARE of something without being controlled by it. Knowledge is power.”

It seemed to make sense to go a little further with this question as our participants are all over the business spectrum from small businesses all the way up to major corporations. Are big companies more susceptible to economic shifts vs small business? Does it affect you? It seemed likely that our perceptions could be more influenced by our environment.

  • John Reddish (@GetResults) “Broad indicators are not always applicable to sm biz – niches, locales, often perform differently”
  • Stephen Denny “Yes, big co’s (by virtue of big-ness) feel macro trends broadly. Small co’s affected by local/niche”
  • Media Collective (@MediaCollective) “Typically sm businesses are more nimble and can adjust more quickly to market”

It certainly seemed logical that variables such as niches, locales, and size matter in how our businesses are affected by the economy as a whole. Tom Asacker (@tomasacker) brought in the importance of the taking a holistic perspective when he tweeted, “Macroeconomic trends important as they relate to cultural trends and subsequent market decision-making.” However, it was interesting to see how #kaizenblog participants returned to the theme of how perceptions affect performance.

  • Frederique Murphy (@IrishSmiley) “whether big or small, we control our own actions and results, so it really does affect us all in some way”
  • Cathy Larkin PR (@CathyWebSavvyPR) “For solopreneurs – econ indicators are too Macro.They seem true when biz pickup/slows down”
  • Meg Fowler “If you regularly use the economy as an excuse, you’re looking for limits more than opportunities.”

With perception, performance, and the acknowledgement that different businesses are responding to the economic recovery in a number of ways, it was time to parse apart how corporations versus small businesses are focusing their attention. Some say focus on your business versus the national financial news. Wise or unwise?

  • Mary Ann Halford (@MaryAnnHalford) “Focus must always be on your business – Nat’l economy is just a factor to respond to – not react to”
  • ‘Bahadur’ Sridhar (@AntarYaami) “Wise would be to keep the focus on the biz but keep spare eye on nat’l financial info too.”
  • Thomas Kuplic (@tbkuplic) “Sadly many hunker down and try to weather it. Hard to lean into wind in tough times.”
  • Amber Cleveland (@ambercleveland) “Always focus on your assets/your biz source positively for them…”
  • EJ Ellis (@EJEllisTweets) “Focus on your biz, but keep track of nat’l news. Can’t discount influence of econ news on others.”

A constant theme throughout the conversation was the idea of positive thinking. To bring it into the conversation more consciously, we asked, Do you find a positive outlook creates more opportunity? As Amy Blake (@BlakeGroup) pointed out with her example, bad economic times can come at any point. She explained, “1 of my worst days was when biggest client announced merger. Saw it in paper -no advanced info. Started looking for more clients!”

  • Mary Ann Halford “A3 positive attitude always makes a difference – it’s not what happens to you but how you respond to it.”
  • Stephen Denny “Pragmatic outlook improves opportunity. Always being open to alliances/opp’s/different structures helps”
  • Lois Martin “A3 Positive attitude definitely helps you spot new opportunities, see things in perspective. You do not react, you RESPOND.”
  • Tom Asacker “Positive outlook is fine, but need to experience pain WITH customers. Anger with status quo drives change/innovation.”
  • John Sternal (@SternalPR) “A3 Also helps to surround yourself with positive ppl, which can open up critical opps.”
  • John Reddish “Positive doesn’t mean Pollyanna!”

Frederique Murphy probably summed it up best, “Being positive/negative does not mean we don’t get negative things happening, but  it does mean we are taking charge.”

For our last question, we decided to find out what plans the #kaizenblog folks had. How are you planning the next 12 months? We got a variety of answers that included hiring or using coaches, accountability partners, diversification, focusing on customer experience, referrals, looking for what others may miss, networking, and staying flexible. As often happens in these conversations, there is so much good information and wisdom embedded in the chat that I can’t fit it all in the recap. There was a wonderful conversation about how sailing is a great metaphor for handling adversity as well as how managing your emotions is a valuable business tool.

Valeria Maltoni issued an interesting challenge towards the end of the conversation when she suggested we share examples of expansive thinking. What are your examples?

What are you planning for the next 12 months?

How can the #kaizenblog community help you?




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


Perception, Procrastination, and Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Given all the triggers that cause procrastination, leaving your comfort zone has got to be at the top of the list! Danny Brown (@dannybrown) got me tProcrastination and your comfort zonehinking about this when he replied to my comment on his blog post, Leaving Your Comfort Zone. In his post, he used Alex Wong (a ballet dancer competing on the television show, So You Think You Can Dance) who absolutely rules when he does a hiphop routine. I’d say hiphop is about as far from ballet as you can go! Definitely beyond the comfort zone!

I’ll admit that I oversimplified things when I left my comment.

Sure Alex Wong is a ballet dancer but he is a dancer. He knows how to move his body so it’s a stretch that becomes possible. The thing with getting out of our comfort zone is we make it seem so foreign. Many of our stretches simply take our current skills and apply them in a different environment or with different methods. As Alex Wong knows he can use his body to move to music, we can trust that we already know how to do what seems risky.

As a trained musician, I’ve certainly seen how other performers support or limit transferring their skills to something different because of perception. If I only play classical piano, then do I limit myself and say I’ll never play ragtime or rock because I think I can only play classical music?

So, what does this have to do with procrastination?

It’s about how we perceive what is outside of our comfort zone. We do make it seem so foreign. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a different kind of dance, music, or business strategy. When we reach a plateau with our small businesses and we don’t want to stay at that level, we know we must do something that is new to us. Consider this-just today, I was talking with a prospective client who is adding staff. She is completely daunted by the necessity of managing them so she has put off developing her system. The supervision and organization that comes with managing employees seems foreign to her even though she has had people working for her for a while now. She is already doing some of what she needs to do with her whole staff. Yet, she perceives that it is totally different than anything she has done before and there is a risk is she will do it wrong.

Procrastination is often tied to a lack of trust in ourselves. We don’t trust our skill set. We don’t trust that we can cope with the task. Leaving our comfort zone implies that there is risk involved and we won’t be the same afterwards. Maybe this is true, maybe not. It remains that we have the necessary abilities already waiting to be applied in a different way.

What are you avoiding in your small business?

What skills do you already have that are a bridge to beyond your comfort zone?

Which is more important-doing something perfectly or making the attempt?


The Power of Language

In the article, When Language Can Hold the Answer (The New York Times, April 22, 2008), Christine Kenneally writes about research done on language and perception. In a recent study at Cornell, Dr. Gary Lupyan added onto an experiment done with students at Carnegie Mellon in which he added words to describe pictures of “aliens” as friendly or unfriendly.  Dr. Lupyan discovered that all of the participants learned which label identified the “aliens.”  Most interestingly, the participants who used labels learned more quickly than participants who did not use labels.  Christine Kenneally sums up the debate with this question:  “Does language shape what we perceive, a position associated with Benjamin Lee Whorf, or are our perceptions pure sensory impressions, immune to the arbitrary ways language carves up the world?” Research has demonstrated that language and thought do have a relationship.  Language can enhance thought as an add-on feature to more primitive mental behaviors.  This is a good and bad relationship as language can enhance or interfere with our thinking.  Dr. Lupyan notes that language enables us to learn and understand completely new material and facilitate abstract thinking but it can also get in the way of how we remember specific objects.  Basically, how we put words and objects together in categories can be an aid or a hindrance. In research done by Dr. Dedre Gentner of Northwestern, she discovered that language gives us a structure to organize our thoughts. Steven Pinker of Harvard posits that, while a connection between language and thought exists, it does not force a particular line of thinking, refuting the theory set forth by Benjamin Lee Whorf and Edward Sapir. The debate may not have an answer yet but it is intriguing material as we consider how we use language in our businesses.  In business, we get advice about what to do in our elevator pitches, first impressions, and presenting a certain professional image. What do you do with this information? What words do you choose in your public messages? What words do you use privately with yourself? One client told me a story about how she was talking with a colleague about launching her business.  He jokingly told her to get some kind of counseling and reflected back to her that she frequently framed going out on her own as a negative. Give the same message consistently, it becomes believable. You can create a new reality for yourself, positive or negative. Self-fulfilling prophecies work both ways.  How do you want to be perceived?