Most of us become entrepreneurs because we're good at what we do, and we want the flexibility to do it on our own terms. We want to put our personal stamp on something meaningful. It's exciting, it's hard work, it's fulfilling, and...it can be exhausting and stressful.
A recent Fast Company article, “How to prepare yourself for the ups and downs of entrepreneurship” talked about this confluence of opposites.
“The reality is that entrepreneurship is an emotional roller-coaster–it’s either going to kill you or make you stronger. Most entrepreneurs out there are wrestling with this flux day in and day out. No doubt, the lifestyle can be exciting. The work can be incredibly fulfilling. But it can also be insanely stressful at times.”
In my experience as an entrepreneur, I've found that there are two things that keep me sane:
- Building and maintaining a community
- Making time to feed my soul
Building a community
Working on your own can get lonely. Especially when you're in development mode and spending long stretches of time not talking to another human being. It's important to make opportunities to share ideas, get feedback, and simply connect with others for community, support and, let's not forget, laughter.
A few years ago I put together an AdviseHERy Board. The initial goal was to create a small board of directors (there were three of us, and this has now grown to four) who would help each other build our businesses, talk through issues, give feedback and ask questions that would move us forward. Over the years it has developed into an incredible support system both professionally and personally.
Another thing I've done to build community is join a co-working space. It gets me out of my home office a few days a week, and I can walk there, which is another benefit. In our current sharing economy, co-working spaces are becoming increasingly popular. Most even organize social and business-related events to help connect people.
Feeding your soul
The second thing that I think is really important for entrepreneurs - or for anyone really - is to take time (make time!) to feed your soul. Whatever that means for you.
We often get so busy trying to get that next gig or to keep up with all the responsibilities of business ownership that we forget to take time to rest and recharge. How often do you say, "I don't have time for a break," or, "I just need to get through this project, and I'll take a break"? Don't...put...it...off!
It doesn't have to be a two-week or even a one-week vacation (although I highly recommend them!) It can be a 30-minute walk three times a week. An hour a day reading something that has nothing to do with your work. A concert. The theater. Yoga. Whatever it is, factor it into your schedule and make time to do it. Feed...your...soul.
Oh. And don't forget laughter. You need at least one belly laugh a day!
Till next time,
Imagine this. You've been in the same role and company for some time now. You're ready to move on, but haven't been able to get started looking for a new opportunity. A friend invites you to a networking event and introduces you to a senior leader from a company that you've always wanted to get into. Turns out they're searching for someone with the skills and experience you know you possess.
You chat. She asks, "What would you say are your two greatest accomplishments?"
How do you respond?
Would something quickly come to mind? Would you be able to easily describe your accomplishments in a way that is clear, concise and compelling? Or would you hem and haw while searching your mental database and then say the first thing that pops up? Or, worse, would you simply panic and head for the bar?
My point is, you never know when an opportunity is going to present itself, so you need to be prepared.
In my last blog, Leadership and Learning - An Essential Combination, I talked about keeping your competencies relevant and up to date and continuing to learn. It's also important to periodically pause and take stock of your accomplishments. Write them down. Prioritize them. Categorize them - tie them to relevant competencies so you can use them as specific examples that demonstrate the competency. Having this information in mind and/or easily accessible will help you in situations like the scenario above and in performance conversations, your resume or bio, or other situations where you need to share who you are.
Here's a simple template you can use to capture your accomplishments. Use the Situation-Action-Result (SAR) format to describe the accomplishment and then define the competencies associated with it.
SITUATION: What was the goal or challenge?
ACTION: What was your role? What did you do to address the goal or challenge?
RESULT: What was the result (your accomplishment)?
What COMPETENCIES did you use?
When opportunity comes knocking, be ready to open the door!
Till next time,
In my last blog, Becoming a Leader, I shared that self-awareness is the first step in becoming an effective leader. This means understanding your strengths, values, accomplishments, development areas AND…recognizing (and admitting) any beliefs and behaviors that may be working against you. These are what I call your internal barriers; the “show stoppers” that are preventing you from getting to where you want to be.
Here are some examples.
You’ve been unhappy for several years in your current role. You’re bored. You know you have more to offer, but you don’t see yourself getting an opportunity to do so in this organization. And you can’t seem to crank up the initiative to look for an opportunity elsewhere. What’s holding you back? Fear of change? Self-doubt? Difficulty selling yourself? Procrastinator?
For the second time in the past 5 years you’ve been passed over for a promotion. You work hard. You know the organization. You always hit your goals. Yes, maybe you’ve had some difficulties with other team members, but only because you care so much about things being done the right way. What’s holding you back? Perfectionist? Short-tempered? Controlling? Confrontational?
You’ve just come back from your annual review meeting with your leader. For the first time in your career, you’ve received less than a stellar review. You sat there in a fog of phrases like “deadlines missed,” “disappointing results,” “lack of commitment.” You can’t believe that after all you’ve done for this company, the long hours and lost vacations, that it has come to this. What’s holding you back? Difficulty asking for help? Lack of work/life balance? Burn out? Stress management?
OK. Now it’s your turn.
As you think back over your career, what are the internal barriers that have prevented you from getting to where you want to be? These may be beliefs or behaviors you recognize in yourself, or ones you’ve learned about through feedback. Be brutally honest with yourself. That’s the only way to GET REAL about them and start dealing with them.
Write them down. Choose from those I’ve mentioned above, or from the list below or add your own. The important thing is to identify, acknowledge and admit them!
Here are some additional common internal barriers to consider:
Difficulty with authority
Fear of making the wrong decision
Lack of focus
Poor judge of others
Worried about what others think
If you completed the values exercise from last time and now have identified your internal barriers, you are on your way to building self-awareness.
Subscribe to my blog for more tips on GET REAL Leadership!
Till next time,
If you followed the advice in my last blog, "Look Back Before Planning Forward," you now have a plan of intentions/goals for 2019 along with specific actions that will help you achieve those goals. Bravo!
Often the work we need to do to achieve our goals involves changing our habits - either eliminating habits that work against our intentions, or creating new, more supportive ones. Either way, it involves change. And change can be difficult.
For example, maybe one of the things you want to do in the area of "eating healthier" is to limit dessert after dinner to weekends. No more weekday after-dinner sweets! But you've been having dessert after dinner since you were a kid. The meal just doesn't feel complete without it. How do you make that change (and stick to it)?
In his best-selling book, Atomic Habits, author James Clear says, "Bad habits repeat themselves not because you don't want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change...You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems."
The human brain is wired for immediate gratification. You know that piece of cake after dinner isn't contributing to your long-term health ("a moment on the lips, a lifetime on your hips") but oooooh, is it good! As Clear says, "the consequences of bad habits are delayed while the rewards are immediate."
To break or establish habits and achieve your goals, you need to change your systems. "Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results," Clear says.
Our habits are behavior routines that have been repeated so often that they become automatic. To change them, we have to become aware of them and replace them with good habits.
Clear says that employing the first three laws of behavior change - make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy - will increase the chances of performing a new behavior. The fourth law - make it satisfying - will make it more likely that the new behavior will be repeated, and thus become a habit. When you want to eliminate a behavior, i.e, change a bad habit, you flip the process: make it invisible, make it unattractive, make it difficult, and make it unsatisfying.
Turning the new behavior into a (good) habit comes from making incremental improvements every day. And the best way to do this is to add "a little bit of immediate pleasure to the habits that pay off in the long-run and a little bit of immediate pain to the ones that don't."
Success in nearly every field, Clear says, requires you to ignore an immediate reward in favor of a delayed reward.
"Habits are like the atoms of our lives. Each one is a fundamental unit that contributes to your overall improvement." - James Clear
Till next time,
Is it just me, or does rudeness seem to be on the rise?
You walk through an airport and it’s like “bumper-people” – people walking and talking on their phones and not paying attention to what’s in front of them. Or what about people who have a long (and loud) conversation on their phone without considering that maybe no one else really wants to hear it? Or when you’re in a restaurant with someone and throughout your conversation you can see that they have one eye tilting toward the mobile which they’ve left on the table top because they’re waiting for an “important call.” So what am I, chopped liver?
Seriously, people. Put the phone away. Talk softly. Look where you’re going.
And it’s not just phone etiquette. It’s common courtesy and respect for others that seem to be taking a back seat to some individuals’ needs to be first in line, to take all the credit for something (that they worked on with others) or to shape their environment so that it works best for them, regardless of the consequences or how it might impact others.
A while back I wrote a blog about “The Young George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” (Leading by example. Ahem.) I’ve borrowed a few and added a few to create Karen’s Rules of Civility.
Smile – even at a stranger – you never know what amazing things may come of it.
Say “Please and Thank you.” Always.
Be accountable. Do what you say you’re going to do by when you say you’re going to do it.
Be on time. Being chronically late to meetings or events or dinner shows a lack of respect for others.
Remember, we’re all human; we have good days and bad days. Don’t glory in someone’s bad day.
Listen. Put down your cell phone and engage in conversation.
Be kind to one another. (Borrowed from Ellen DeGeneres).
Tell the truth. Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
Be curious. Never stop learning.
Forgive. Life is too short to hold a grudge.
It’s not rocket science. Set the example and hopefully others will follow.
You can hear more on this blog topic in my podcast, Rudeness is NOT a Core Competency. Let’s bring courtesy and kindness back!
Till next time,
Most of us have a tough time receiving feedback, especially when it’s uninvited. We either immediately reject it (“What does she know anyway?”) or we take it so personally that it tampers with our basic self-esteem (“I can never do anything right.”)
Yet here’s the thing. Feedback is a growth opportunity. The key is in having the right mindset to take advantage of that opportunity.
Shift your thinking. In her book, Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, talks about two mindsets – a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence is a fixed trait and that it’s talent not effort that creates success. People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believe that “brains and talent are just the starting point.” They recognize that continuous learning is essential for great accomplishment. Practice a growth mindset by being receptive to feedback.
Ask for it. Not from everyone, but from people you respect and who know you. They may have some ideas that can help you grow. They’ve been waiting for your permission to share them with you. Be specific in the ask. “I want to be sure I’m conveying confidence when I’m presenting. What observations do you have, and how can I improve?” Research shows that people who seek feedback have higher performance ratings and are happier overall.
Conversely, a 3-year study by Leadership IQ found that the biggest reason new hires fail (46% of them fail within the first 18 months) is because they cannot accept feedback. Seriously? You’d think that, being new, they’d be more open to it. Nope. Of those who fail, for 26% it’s because they’re uncoachable and for 23% it’s due to lack of emotional intelligence (which also relates to being able to accept feedback.) Only 11% fail due to lack of technical skills.
Listen. Even when feedback is uninvited (or unwelcome) allow yourself to just listen. Ask for clarification – and/or a specific example – to be sure you understand what the other person meant. If you feel an emotional response coming on, take a breath (not a sigh and eye roll) and say something like, “Thank you for that feedback. Let me think about it.” Then really do think about it and pull from it what is useful.
Take notes. When someone gives you feedback jot down in your own words what they said. That will take the sting out of it and also give you the opportunity to tie it to specific examples in your work or behaviors. Look for patterns. Maybe there’s a non-word you use all the time that is impacting your credibility when presenting or speaking to customers. Writing that down will make it real and help you think about how to fix it.
Say thank you and follow up. Feedback is a gift. Say thank you. And one of the best ways to show your appreciation is to actually implement what you learned from the feedback. It doesn’t mean that you have to make every change. What it means is that you have to at least think it through and capture the nuggets of wisdom that will contribute to your growth.
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates