Posts tagged: entrepreneurs

The Tides of Confidence

PHOTO CAPTION: Delegates at the Pacific Youth Leadership Forum negotiate a confidence-building exercise at Camp H.R. Erdman, a YMCA camp located on the North Shore in Hawaii. The YLF was sponsored and hosted by Installation Management Command-Paci...

Confidence Comes and Goes

I was thinking about my confidence. How it comes and goes like the ocean tides. Sometimes, I feel supremely confident. Like my decisions, my thought process and my ability to ‘pull it off’ are good. No doubts, no questions. Then something happens. I’m never quite sure what happens. Suddenly, I’m questioning everything.

Like the ocean tides (although thankfully not as predictable!), my confidence almost disappears. I can’t control when I feel confident and when I don’t. For me, the first step is to realize when the tide is in (I’m confident!) and when it’s out (OMG, I can’t do anything right). The tricky part is to own the feeling and acknowledge when I’ve done something to deserve the feeling.

I Want to Be Confident All the Time

Because I carried a lot of responsibility at a very young age, I learned to depend on myself. And I know that I can… do a lot of different things, fix what’s broken, change, lead, and make good decisions. I know that I can come off as very confident. As a person who knows what’s going on and can handle things, and oftentimes, I can. But sometimes, I am paralyzed. I don’t know what to do and I can’t quite seem to muster any of that confidence that has served me so well.

In a heart beat, my confidence is like low tide, stinky and exposing everything. It’s like I only have 2 switches – on and OFF. This is not good. Cocky is bad. It doesn’t serve anything.  A dish rag doesn’t either. The really confident person stands a certain way. Even if they are unsure, they pay attention to their body language. They stand up straight, they smile, they’re usually kind.

Monitor the Tide

When it’s low tide , I try this: 1) take a deep breath (no really, do it now… take a deep breath)  2) stand a little taller 3) think of someone who loves me (unconditionally) 4) remember I can trust myself. Practice feeling confident when you’re not ‘feeling it’. Fake it ’til you make it. This is a very important skill.  Modeling this skill for our children is powerful. Realizing that confidence comes and goes like the tides, means that when I’m paralyzed… I have choices. And I won’t feel this way forever.

Image credit: Pacific Region Hosts   familymwr

Be Coachable — At Any Age

But I Haven’t Got the Talent

Sometimes I hear people giving up on their goal. That can be ok. Sometimes surrender is the right thing to do. But sometimes, giving up is a very bad thing. We act as if changing ourselves or working harder wouldn’t make a difference. In our hearts, we know changing could make the difference, but we’re lazy.

Be Coachable

Because I can be stubborn, I think I missed a lot of opportunities. One of the most important was, that I didn’t take advantage of finding mentors who could guide me. I didn’t know how important they can be. I did have one. He met me, helped me get out of a dead end job and move into a job that opened a lot of doors for me. He was a very smart but difficult person. Many people didn’t like him. That was because he, unwittingly, tested people and if they couldn’t stand up to him, he would lose respect for them. People didn’t like that.

I had my chance to stand up to him. One day he snapped at me. I looked him in the eye and said, “Bob, do you have a problem with me?” He stammered, “No, why?” I replied, “Well, you just spoke harshly to me and it made me uncomfortable. I’d like to avoid exchanges like that in the future.” He apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again. And it didn’t.

I think what would happen with others, although I never saw it, was that he would snap or challenge them and because he was abrasive (not tactful), they would shrink from him. If someone is trying to toughen you up, so you can face the world… then they need to challenge you. Instead of taking it personally, see it as an opportunity. If you are an entrepreneur, this is even more important because you’ll need multiple mentors and coaches to succeed.

The Coachable Mentee

I wish I had been more open, less dogmatic. Now that I’m in my sixties, I still work to be a more approachable and “influenceable” person. What does it look like? Here are few keys:

  • Good listener
  • Able to summarize and feedback the other person’s point of view
  • Strong but pliable

Being coachable doesn’t require talent… it requires awareness… and work. Got a story about being coachable?

Image credit: Banksy on Twitter

Just Connecting Isn’t Enough

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Me Likey/Me Don’t Likey

Most of us have good work relationships. We get along with people, we know how to help colleagues, we enjoy building our business. In 2016, we know we need to have a strong network so when we need to change jobs (either our choice or our company’s), we’re ready. The part most of don’t like is the meeting strangers, making small talk, finding common ground and then figuring out whether this connection is worthwhile or an annoying person I want to avoid.

5 Ways to Make It Easier

When you watch a really great networker… what do you see? Someone who smiles easily, makes small talk like a champ and instinctively knows how to make friends. There are a few people who really can do all this well. But most of us, need to work on it. We need ideas, tools and support. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Set a numerical goal for the number of new connections you want to gain every month. Why? Because if we set a goal, we’re likely to reach it. I recommend 5-10. LinkedIn is a convenient place reach out and ask for the connection.
  2. Write down 5 places where you might meet new connections. Does your church/place of worship have a social group? If you belong already, it could be a good place to make connections. If you don’t belong, maybe you could join. The point is to think of places where you are already comfortable and go from there.
  3. Reach out to 10 contacts a month.  Look through your business cards, LinkedIn connections or address book. At the end of each month, find people  to connect to in the coming month. Jot down the following:  name, contact information (phone/email/mailing address), what you might say. If you take a few minutes to do this preparation, you will reap many benefits.
  4. Say thank you to 5 connections a month. Again, I recommend you jot down the names, contact info and what you might say. These people could be customers, old work connections, volunteer contacts.
  5. Review your contacts for people YOU can help. It’s amazing what happens when you give.

Connecting Isn’t Enough

Connecting isn’t enough because if all you do is meet more people and your association never goes any deeper, then you haven’t built a relationship. Engaging with others, thinking about how you can help them and consciously building relationships is the key to thriving in a changing business world. Got something that works for you? Please share.

Image credit: Social Media

The Power of Asking

Sales Stinks

When I work with entrepreneurs, the most significant skill they lack is very often in sales. And sales is all about understanding the customer’s need and then asking for their business. It’s that simple. Ask good questions, listen to the answer, match their need with what you have to offer. If you can’t give them value with your offering, then offer to help them in some other way. A contact, a resource, a smile and an open mind. You’d be surprised what you have to offer.

What If They Say No

The down side of asking is… what if they say, the dreaded, “NO.” Well, it’s likely that they will. Not every person you ask to help you, buy something, share something, etc. will be willing. But you will get nothing if you don’t ask.

Be Yourself. But Ask.

The other down side is that people often feel that there’s a formula for asking. That pushy people get ‘better’ results than the more mild mannered. This is simply not true. The person who offers value, is the one who wins the business or the relationship. There is no one way to ask. I can guarantee though that if you are authentic to your own style… you will do significantly better than if you act like you think you should. The difference between the successful entrepreneur and those that are not, is that one learned to ask, the other didn’t.

How do you ask? Try something like this. “I’m trying to grow my business and I’m wondering if you would have any need for ‘xyz'”.  If they say “No, thanks.” You could try, “I appreciate your time. If you know of someone else who might benefit from my xyz. I hope you’ll pass along my name.”

Simple. No one is offended. No one was pushy or aggressive. Just a simple ask. Practice in your personal life. Let me know how it goes.

 

Image credit: Jules Renard

Job at Google? No Thanks.

Google, The Holy Grail of Employers

A lot has been written about interviewing and working at Google. William Poundstone has a book. Here’s an article from the NY Times, and there are probably hundreds more. My question is, what do you give up when you work at a big (50k + employees) company? (I worked 17 years at Eastman Kodak, 120K employees.)

Free food, dry cleaning,  onsite child care, convenient transportation, gyms etc.  The free sushi may flow, in some offices you can bring your dog and when you tell people you work at Google, they say wow, good for you. The list of benefits is long and generous. Only a company with huge margins could afford to offer all these.

Do Perks and Prestige Kill Innovation?

But my question is, what can you really accomplish (vs. working at a smaller company)? I know first hand the benefit of all the training and rubbing elbows with really bright people. I also know how much inertia a large corporation generates. The very thing that builds the company, is what holds it back.

Besides search, where has Google, with all it’s billions, really innovated? (I’ll give them Google Earth/Maps). They have tried in vain to create a Face Book competitor (think of Google Friend Connect, Google Wave, Google +, etc.) They have spent years trying to crack the way ‘people’ connect… and they haven’t succeeded yet.

What About YouTube?

One could make a case for YouTube. It brings people together to share, but I would suggest that YouTube’s ‘socialness’  is purely technical.

There have been almost no improvement in the interaction/social aspects of YouTube. Commenting is just as linear and lame as it’s always been. There’s no way to see comments in the context of the where it might be relevant in the video. Every time they come out with an “upgrade”, I think oh, good, they’re finally going to improve the viewers experience. But no, the upgrades make things easier for YouTube.

Look, if you want to work at Google, great. I wish you well and I know you’ll meet lots of smart, interesting people. If you want to really use all parts of your brain and general capacity… then I hope you aim for a smaller company. Let me know how it’s going, wherever you work.

Photo Credit: William Poundstone

No Is A Complete Sentence

What I Learned

My grandmother used to say, if someone offers you something and you don’t want it… say, “not today, try me tomorrow.” I thought she was nuts (well, she was, but not for saying that.) Women are taught to say yes. We are rewarded for saying yes… “Yes, I’ll make dinner and do the dishes.” Yes, I’ll volunteer at the school. Yes, I’ll run those errands, put a band aid on that cut, work that extra shift and on and on. I never learned to say no. I learned to try to please people, even at the expense of my own well being.

 Why I Can’t Just Say Yes All The Time

So I had to learn to say no. One “no” at a time. It was hard. Every time I said no, I felt like I was disappointing everyone. Then it began to dawn on me. I’m not the only person who can do whatever needs to get done. Often, I wasn’t even the best person to do it. When I said no, it gave someone else a chance to give, to help, to learn, to show they cared. Who knew?

The Power of No

Who knew I could say no, feel better about myself and provide someone else with an opportunity? I didn’t know it then but I know it now.  If you are one of the lucky people who learned to say no early in life, I envy you. I’m going to be watching you, to see how you do it.

Image Credit: No is a complete sentence

Attention Is the Rarest & Purest Form of Generosity

31 January 2008 31/366 Watching the 2nd season of The Wire. "Sometimes things got to play hard".

What does love look like?

Let’s talk about how we show people that we care. Do we buy things for them? Do we cook for them? Clean up after them? Provide a home? All of these things take a lot of time… and energy.

Attention, the rarest of commodities

What is one of the most important (and ‘cheapest’) things we can do for our children, spouse, friends, relatives, employees?

We can listen to them. Look them in the eye and give them our full attention. Try to do it for one full minute. Is it difficult? Do you feel like you ‘should’ be doing something else? email, texts, reading, exercising, paperwork, etc.

Giving someone our full attention isn’t easy in the age of distraction. Check out this terrific post by the wonderful Beth Kanter on improving focus (simple ideas to practice) when there’s too much going on.

Practice

Just for today, pick one person. Turn everything off. Sit down with them and ask them a question and then listen to the answer.  Can you repeat back to them what they said? Did you really hear them? Were you able to ask follow up questions? Did you understand how they felt, whether they told you or not? Be generous with your ATTENTION, with the people who mean the most to you. Let me know how it goes.

Image credit: Listen closely   photographer credit: 20 questions

Quote credit: Simone Weil Image credit: Quotesville.net   

I Hate Being A Grown Up, Maturity is Overrated

Maturity means:
Be Strong not Stubborn
Firm not Harsh
Flexible not Fickle
Humble not Proud
Helpful not Showy
Affectionate not Hurtful
Annoyed not Resentful
The Glue and not the Crack
Being You yet Accepting others
Brave yet Grateful
Helpful yet Modest
Right yet Wrong
Successful yet Grounded
Angry yet Composed
There are a lot of benefits to being a grown up and there’s a bunch of sh*t too. In reading this ‘definition’ of maturity, I was struck by the list of ‘opposites. “be the glue, not the crack.” The reality is that sometimes we are the crack. No matter how hard we try NOT to be. It’s complicated to be right yet wrong, successful and grounded, firm and not harsh.
The reality is that some of us will mature more fully. Lots of things get in the way of being mature… #1 is ego and I equate a big ego to someone who isn’t confident. They push and pull their way through life. The sharp edges never wear off. No. Matter. What.
My favorite saying on this list and the one I’ve worked hard on is “angry yet composed.” Being raised a ‘girl,’ I was taught, shown and constantly reinforced – girls don’t get angry. It’s ok for boys, after all, they’re boys. (Yeah, I feel sick too). Growing up in a very dysfunctional home, it was easy to be angry. I was good at it. I had a lot of practice. so what was I supposed to do with it. Channel it into new lipsticks and hairdos?
Remember, I was born before the legislation that changed the lives of American women forever, Title IX (pros and cons article). The law that sports had to be equal for men and women. Prior to Title IX, sports were not available to women. Hell, we’ve only had the right to vote since August 26, 1920. 95 years! There are women alive today who couldn’t vote in the early part of their lives. It’s hard for me to imagine.
So now that traditional outlets for learning, growing, understanding winning and losing, choosing our own destiny, etc. are available to us, finding a way to be angry and composed is easier. Not easy, but at least today, I’ve got a clue.

Curiosity – Brought Back the Cat

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Now that I am old(erish), I thought my curiosity about the world would decrease. After all, it’s gotten me into plenty of trouble.

When I read, “The Routine Gene – Can Productivity and Creativity Coincide?” I knew that my love of ambiguity/curiosity was alive and well. That’s because I have a high CQ (curiosity quotient). This is in contrast to my IQ (aka Intelligence Quotient) or EQ (Emotional Quotient).

Our “curiosity quotient is measured by how inquisitive and open to new situations we are. People with higher CQ, dislike routine, but embrace ambiguity and have a knack for finding simple solutions to complex problems.”

The following quote (from the article) describes my approach to routine and creativity:

“The art is finding the balance between turning everything you do that is repeatable into a well-oiled machine (call it ‘a routine’) whilst keeping all your attention and senses open for serendipity and creativity. The best entrepreneurs zip through life on autopilot where their creativity isn’t needed and bring intense focus to those areas where they can make a huge difference.” This manifests itself in various ways; I generally eat the same thing for breakfast. Steve Jobs wore a black turtle neck and jeans.

If you are bored with your work or your life, maybe you need to figure out how to up your CQ. I like to ‘feed’ my curiosity. Here are few ways that I do it:

  • Watch a movie and imagine I am the director. What would I have changed? Who would I have cast?
  • Take a walk outside and appreciate the simple complexity of nature. I look very closely at tree bark, rocks, flowers. I look at the pattern, the texture, the color and I smell everything.
  • Listen to someone talk about what they love to do. Somehow, watching and witnessing their joy and passion is completely inspirational.

How do you feed your curiosity?

Photo credit: Eugene O’Neill Quotes

Oh Behave

To control Information Technology (IT) costs we think about and act within the enterprise as a whole, in part because we sell enterprise and mid-level solutions. We apply an Enterprise Architecture (EA) strategy which at the top level is comprised...

 

Maturity is the ability to live in multiple contexts; the ability, despite our losses, to courageously inhabit the past, the present and the future all at once.” David Whyte

Being a grown up is hard.

Sometimes it’s easier to live in the past or in the future. Or to live too much in the present, sacrificing our personal well-being to chase some ideal.

But peace of mind comes from integrating the past, the present and the future. To know our singular place in the world. To acknowledge that only the events and genes that have brought us to this place in time – are what is important.

Find support for your journey.

Photo credit: Controlling  Wonderlane