Forget the ‘shoulds’ and focus on the wants

Today I was working with a coaching client who is at a crossroads and unsure what direction to take. We all have those moments in our lives where that question arises ‘ what do you want?’ It often seems far easier to know what we don’t want. Or if it is what we want, somehow we are holding back. Perhaps you’ve started your business after being made redundant, or you’ve been in business for a while and now you’re wondering about your next step.

As Lewis Carroll wrote, ‘if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there’.

To discover what we truly want involves knowing who we are and realising what is important to us

As we grow up we don’t really get a lot of help on those fundamentals, so we end up where we end up, until that doesn’t work anymore and it becomes so uncomfortable that we want to make a change. I know that was my experience and it’s true of many of the people I coach. What happens when we’re not sure about who we are, is we live into other people’s expectations, our families, our boss, our clients; which works for a time but inevitably we end up frustrated because our real needs are not being met. That’s where a lot of the ‘shoulds’ come from too. I should have a career, I should have more clients, I should be a success.

Telling yourself you should can actually get in the way; you put yourself under pressure and because it’s not what you really want you just end up feeling bad.

We all have those times when we are unsure or confused but actually part of getting clarity is acknowledging that you don’t know. All too often we are in rush to get the answer when we don’t even know what the question is.

So what steps can we take to help to get that clarity?

So if you forget the should, what difference does it make if you focus on something you want and how motivated do you feel when you choose your outcomes? Give it a try. Either say in your head or write on a piece of paper the issue you are struggling with, for example: I should invest in social media, I want to invest in social media, I choose to invest in social media. For each step notice your reaction, how you feel. It’s a really simple and quick process but it will help you clarify if it’s your issue or someone else’s, where your motivation is and whether it’s actually something you want at all.

Remember you may not get the whole answer immediately, especially if you are looking at a big question but what you get is information about what you feel and think and new information gives you a next step.

Sometimes it helps to think about the opposite of the problem you have to start to get a clearer outcome.

So for example if your problem is too many unpaid invoices the opposite is clients who pay on time and in full. It may seem obvious but all too often we can get caught up in the problem and unable to step away and refocus on what it is that we want to achieve. Then the more specific we can be about that outcome, what we will see, hear and feel helps to connect with both how we evaluate our experience and reinforces our desire to achieve it.

And remember you have experienced success in your life both in business and in general, so think about something similar where you did achieve your outcome and all the skills and qualities that enabled you to do that. You may find a whole new perspective where you feel more confident and are able to see what is possible.

After all, the clearer you are about what you want, the more likely you are to achieve it, the alternative is a bit like a car without a driver – where is it going and where will it end up?

Let me know in the comments if you’ve managed to turn off your ‘should’ button.

photo credit: deathtothestockphoto

Achieve brand fabulousness without spending loads of money!

The challenge

Achieve brand fabulousness without spending loads of money. Your budget (and time) is limited.

The solution for success

Don’t focus on what you can’t afford and instead follow these 5 MicroEntrepreneur-friendly tips to get started on a brand that you (and your audience) will soon begin to know and love.

Begin with a simple message

Call me old-fashioned, but when it comes to building a fabulous brand, I’m not much for the overly-fussy or over-produced messaging. Just like a successful entrepreneur needs to clear the clutter to focus on what is truly important to move a business forward, my #1 rule for creating a brand is to “keep it simple and authentic”. For a brand to be embraced and ultimately trusted and loved, it needs to be accessible and relatable, which is hard to achieve when your tagline is too clever or gimmicky.

Find your message by focusing on what your customers or readers love about your content, products or services. Try to capture that sentiment in a concise phrase and place it prominently on your blog, website or products. Just as Women Unlimited have set the tone for this very website by focusing on learning and empowerment, take the time to find your core message. It’s worth it.

docsTight budget doesn’t mean low quality

Don’t overextend your budget, business or yourself in order to achieve high quality design results. Explore alternatives to the very talented, but very pricey graphic designer you were recommended and create a logo at a more affordable price point by doing it yourself. When you leverage an online logo maker, you put cloud technology to work to create a memorable, high-quality logo. Plus, you’ll have a wide variety of design options to choose from, to inspire you creatively. Make sure that your new company logo can be modified for a variety of marketing materials such as a storefront sign, your company website, your email signature or your list of products and services.

Whether you opt to “DIY” or work with a third-party, a high quality logo design will be provided in multiple file formats. These additional files are your design insurance policy: they guarantee that your new logo will still look clear and crisp when it is scaled up or down to fit a specific medium. Do not skimp on these extra file formats, because it could end up costing you more time and money later.

Create your power duo of products

Building a brand is not reserved solely for those who have big budgets, marketing agencies at hand, and a 60 second spot airing during the breaks of Sherlock Holmes. Two of the most practical products to help build your brand will also assist in building your business: business cards and custom pens. In fact, even with our professional and social lives migrating online more and more, business cards remain to be the easiest, most economical and practical way to exchange contact details with new connections. They make it easy to reach out again and remember a person or business.

It’s also easier and more affordable than ever to quickly create business cards online yourself. Custom pens are another great branded option for spreading your contact information. Think of a custom pen like a business card you write with – you are literally putting your contact details at your customer’s fingertips. A pen has a long life span and is often shared, thereby exposing your brand and business to even more people than originally anticipated. I am particularly enthusiastic about custom pens because of the versatility that comes with design possibilities – I’ve wrapped my business card around a larger barrel pen, or simply placed my logo and website in a large, bold font. Whatever your design, a potential customer could use a pen for months, even years, and with every use, your business name, phone number and website will be in plain site.

Combine results for greater effect

Just because you are operating on a tight budget, it does not mean that you cannot start building your brand equity. By reinforcing the same visual and verbal cues, you instantly increase the likelihood that your existing customers and potential customers will remember your business. Keep your colors the same, and use the same core visuals, especially in your messaging. Case in point: Burberry has been associated with its iconic trench coat and plaid pattern since its founding in 1856.

The brand preserved these consistent visuals, products and details, even when they fell out of vogue or temporarily decreased in value when counterfeiters were recreating the plaid and plastering it on cheap items across the globe. Under the leadership of then-CEO Angela Ahrendts and Creative Director (now CEO) Christopher Bailey, the Burberry brand once again capitalized on what made the brand quintessentially Burberry, and leveraged online e-commerce trends and social media to turn it into one of the fastest growing companies in the world.

Be proud of the assets you have created, and whether it’s your website, your phone number, or the kind of request to be reviewed on business directories, repeat that message everywhere you put your brand and magnify the effects. Your future customers, and business will both benefit!

Repeat, repeat, repeat

Now that you have your message and visual identity, put them where people can see them. Is your logo design and company message included in the signature of every single email sent from your business? It certainly should be. You want to add your brand and contact information to items that are easily seen and frequently used. How about on the top of your invoices, menu or list of products and services? Survey all of the materials that you use every day to make your business run. Can these items be branded economically? Are you due to reorder some items anyways? For example, before ordering more team uniforms, put your website on them (easily works on the left chest of a polo) or your phone number on the back of your t-shirts.

By doing so, you make it nearly effortless for potential customers to contact you about working together. Put lawn signs with your logo, website and phone number at your current job sites or leave flyers with a special offer for new customers at the counters of other local businesses. These economical branded items spread your company name while driving new potential customers. Start with a small batch of products to put into use and figure out what works best for your business, to stay within budget and increase your effectiveness!

photo credit: deathtothestockphoto.com

Have you got the information you need to succeed?

Ever heard the saying, If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it?

I used to hear it a lot back in my corporate days. There used to be “Management Information” everywhere, with whole departments just to produce the stuff. Which is great, as long as it’s used effectively.

How about you?

Did you think when you started your business that you would need to create an MI team at some point? I bet not. In fact, it can be quite liberating in the beginning to not have reports in place, as they can feel constraining. They can even feel pointless when starting out. After all, there isn’t a lot of stuff to measure then, is there? But, as your business grows, you need to make the shift into business owner and something you will need to make this role easier, is good old Management Information.

Why do you need Management Information?

To keep control over your business

Having key information to hand, will enable you to see at a glance what’s happening, and if there are any issues that need to be tackled. It means you get to know what’s going on without having to do it all yourself, which is essential for growth. However busy you are, to have your key information at hand to give you a ‘helicopter’ view of your business can be a sanity saver.

To make effective decisions

Once you identify any issues, you can take decisions quickly on any changes that need to be made. For example, you will quickly see if you are not going to achieve your turnover target for the month and can look to change something during the month to fix that. Not having MI often means that you are always dealing with issues after they have happened and can be bumbling along unaware of what’s happening right now.

To be more productive

You will also be more productive by identifying what is working well in your business and what isn’t. You can then do more of the stuff that is working well and stop the stuff that isn’t. See? More productive.

To be more profitable

You will be able to quickly see what is making you money and what isn’t, and tweak things accordingly. Having MI will give you a tighter rein over your financial figures so that you can react quickly to any shortfalls and won’t be caught out by a drop in customer demand or an increase in supplier prices for example.

To delegate more easily

To grow your business beyond ‘start-up’ you will need to be able to delegate. Whether that is taking on employees or outsourcing key tasks. Having MI will help you to retain control, without actually doing the tasks, and also help you to manage the other person’s workload. So I hope that by now you agree that you need to have some MI in your business, which leads me to my next point:

Where do you need Management Information?

I suggest that you start with the 4 key areas of any business. You need to consider what information under each of these headings is important in YOUR business in order to effectively manage it. Here are some ideas to help get you started, but just remember, you know your business best, so feel free to come up with your own.

Financial

  • Turnover (month to date, year to date)
  • Costs (month to date, year to date)
  • Forecast profit (month to date, year to date)
  • Late payments / Bad debt

Customers

  • Leads
  • Sales volumes (total, and split by product / service type)
  • Website stats
  • Customer satisfaction measure

Suppliers

  • Unit costs by supplier
  • Invoices received
  • Service levels

Team / Employees

  • Costs
  • Satisfaction measure (theirs and yours)
  • Work completed measure
  • Quality control

Some of these may be relevant to your business and some may not. If you spend only 10 minutes thinking about this I bet you’d come up with a great range of measures for your MI.

How do you put it in place?

Once you’ve decided what you want to measure, then use a way that fits you and your business to record it. After all, that’s the benefit of being the business owner, you can decide how you want to capture it and view it.

Some suggestions are obvious things like a spread sheet or a database that you (or someone in your team) keep updated. But it doesn’t need to be anything high tech. You can use a good old notebook and pen if it works for you.

Finally, a word of caution. You don’t want to end up creating lots of extra work here. Whatever you come up with has to add more value than the work it takes to produce it.

And, once you’ve decided what the important numbers are in your business, set up a regular time to update and review. I’d always suggest weekly, so that you can react quickly to anything that is not on target. Pick a regular date and time to get it done, and book it out in your diary now!

How do you keep your business under control? Let me know in the comments below!

 

photo credit; deathtothestockphoto.com

Is conflict is an inevitable consequence of business

With so many factors and variables in the mix, from internal and 3rd party dependencies, to technology and the pressure of client deadlines and paying the bills, conflict will always rear its ugly head from time to time.

But, do you ever find yourself experiencing the same kind of draining disagreements or bad feeling?

Because if your life sometimes feels like you’re stuck in ‘ground hog day’, then I’m going to share one of the best pieces of psychology I’ve ever found, that can help you.

It’s so simple and yet astonishingly effective that it will save you getting into needless and exhausting patterns of conflict, freeing you up to concentrate on what matters most.

Effectively managing and growing your business.

Its not just circles, triangles can be pretty vicious too!

To start let’s have a quick look at Steve Karpman’s amazing Drama Triangle, which can help you to understand what’s going on in those frustrating ‘conflict’ situations.

Each of these 3 positions are roles that we play, unconsciously, when we are in conflict situations.

Let me tell you about them and see if you recognise your favourites.

  • Persecutor – When we are feeling persecutory we are critical, judgemental, and bossy. We think we are the only ones who can do the job just right and that unless we tell people what to do and take control of the situation, it will all fall apart. We think we know better, that we are more experienced, faster, more efficient and get cross when people don’t do things the way we would have done them.
  • Rescuer – This role sounds much nicer doesn’t it, but still, at its heart is the belief that we are better than the person we are trying to Rescue. When we are in Rescuer role we do things to ‘help’ other people without checking whether they want the help or not. So when I do part of someone else’s role or job without checking what they want first, I am rescuing.
  • Victim – This role is a hopeless role. This is when we are down on ourselves and down on other people, life, the universe and everything. When we are feeling like a Victim, we feel out of control and we can’t see what we can do to make things better. We’ve lost trust in ourselves and the world. We all have days like this; when we wonder what we ever started this business for, as nothing seems to be going right and we don’t feel like we’re up to the job.

It is possible to play all these roles in our own head in quick succession.

For example ‘Why did she do that? Now we’ve missed that deadline, what was I thinking leaving it to her (Persecutor)?

Oh what’s the point, I’ll never be any good at this and I was never going to get that pitch anyway (Victim).

She looks really upset, I can’t let her know how cross I am, maybe I’ll tell her to take a long lunch break so she can relax (Rescuer).

All of this goes on in our own head but the one thing that doesn’t happen is ‘addressing the problem and finding a solution’.

It takes two to tango!

Of course, it’s not just us who play these roles. Our clients, our staff, our sub-contractors and our family do too.

If one of our sub-contractors tells us last minute, they are going to miss the launch date for the new website because they’ve had so much work to do, we can respond in a number of ways.

We might want to tear them off a strip for being so unprofessional (Persecutor) or you might want to give them more time even though it puts your business at a disadvantage (Rescuer) or we might not say anything and just feel defeated and hopeless (Victim).

If we do shout at the sub-contractor, they might criticize us back, telling us how demanding we are, or they might go into Victim and admit to not managing at the moment,

Once we are on the Drama Triangle, we move round the positions, so we might start off feeling critical (Persecutor) and end up feeling hopeless (Victim).

The only thing that is for certain, is that once we fall into the trap of playing the roles on the triangle, everyone involved will come away feeling bad.

So what can you do to avoid the trap?

We can switch to the Winner’s Triangle instead.

Here’s the approach.

So instead of Persecuting, we Powerfully state what we need and what we want.

Instead of Rescuing we take Responsibility for our own needs and we Respond to the needs of the other party to find a way forward.

And instead of being a Victim, we allow ourselves to be Vulnerable, if only to our self.

We tune in to how we are feeling and we take Responsibility for our own needs and feelings.

So when that web designer phones up to let you down you:

Tune in to how you feel about the situation (Vulnerable) – maybe it’s OK, as the content needs tweaking – so more time is OK, or maybe it’s critical that it goes live ASAP.

Respond to the designer, taking responsibility for your own needs, respond to their needs and take responsibility to find a solution that works for you in a Powerful and Potent way.

Sounds simple, yes?

Well like any new skill, it takes practice but it is without doubt worth the effort, as mastering the Winner Triangle can help you to master managing your business.

Let me know in the comments if you recognise yourself in these positions.

photo credit: deathtothestockphoto

Growing your business is a lot like training!

Do you swing between feeling good and challenged in your business? Here’s how to keep them both in balance.

Lift.  Relax.  Lift.  Relax.

If you spend any time in a gym, you’ll have seen how weightlifters train. It’s a gradual, conscious process of slowly building up strength through challenge and release.

It’s that combination that allows the muscle to regenerate and grow stronger.

However, if you over-challenge that muscle before it’s ready, it gives up. If you attempt an Olympic weight when you’ve just lifted your first 20kg, you’ll risk long-term injury.

Running your own business is the same.

No achievement comes without stretch. But if we stretch ourselves too far and too fast, we put our businesses at risk by relying on something that’s not safe or sustainable.

Understand your personality to know your risks

We all have natural preferences for how we get things done. Your personality and the sum of all your experiences make some tasks much easier for you than others.

So here’s the tension.

Working with your natural strengths allows you to maximize your energy. It’s often more fun. It’s what you set up your business for.

But without stretch, nothing happens.

How to balance stretch and release

A key personality factor in getting things done is understanding whether your natural strength is thinking or doing.

We’ve all grown up learning how to do some of both, and of course we need to. But we’re naturally better at one than the other – meaning that we do it more automatically, and with less stress.

The difference between Thinking and Doing personalities

If you’re a Thinker by preference, you’ll be energized by ideas, connections, purpose or visions. You’re likely to enjoy working with concepts or which have a strong fundamental purpose.

However, when a Thinker is under pressure, tired or stressed, you’ll find it challenging to get things started, or to stick with something that involves lots of implementation. Too much of that, and a Thinker ends up with a pile of ideas, and business that doesn’t move.

A Doer, by contrast, loves to get stuck in and keep things moving. If you’re a Doer, you’ll want to make practical progress you can see, right now.

On the other hand, when you’re under stress, you’ll resist having to take a step back to evaluate what’s going on. That means that a stressed Doer risks haring off in the wrong direction, wasting even more time and energy.

Why your preferences shape your success

When you’re well rested and energised, you can easily compensate for your weaknesses. You can use your weaker muscle because it’s had enough rest.

But working in the way that isn’t natural takes more effort.

That means that as you get more stressed, you’ll revert even more to your preferred way of working. So a Thinker finds it harder and harder to take effective action, while a Doer buries themselves deeper and deeper in mindless busyness.

And the problem you’re facing? It’s just got worse.

How to work with your weaker muscles

Firstly, work out whether you’re a Thinker or a Doer by nature. It may be clear to you, or take the free Vitally Productive online assessment to help you.

Look for circumstances where you’re likely to need your ‘weaker muscle’ for an extended period. Thinkers are likely to be challenged by a big practical project, while Doers will be stretched by a period of extended analysis or thinking.

Your goals is to use your natural muscles as much as you can, while managing the amount of stress you place on your weaker ones.

Firstly, consider how you can maximise your existing strengths in that project. Just asking yourself that question often brings up new ideas and ways you could approach it.

So, here are the 5 keys

  • Build up your weaker muscle before you need it. That could be learning a new skill you’ll need, doing research and planning in advance or creating habits around doing routine jobs that are challenging.
  • Consider what systems you can put in place now to make your life easier when the pressure builds. Automate as much as you can, especially for things that you tend to delay doing or that take more effort for you.
  • Bring in help that supports your area of weakness, ideally before you need it. Once you hit stress, you’ll be much less able to think clearly and take action to outsource or delegate.
  • Spread the load by starting work on challenging areas before you need to. You’ll almost certainly have a tendency to want to put it off by telling yourself it will be fine. It might be, but at a cost.
  • Schedule challenging work for times when you’re well rested. If you find mundane tasks massively difficult, you may need to do them first thing in the morning, no matter what conventional time management tells you.
  • Balance out your challenges by doing work that plays to your natural preferences. Whether that’s over the course of a day or a week, make sure you give yourself time to recover. Lift. Relax. Lift. Relax. What’s one thing can you do in your business today to use your natural strength and build your weaker muscle deliberately?

Let me know in the comments!

photo credit: deathtothestockphoto.com

 

Packing a bigger punch: A checklist for collaborating successfully with another business

If the last recession did one good thing, it was to prompt many small business collaborations. These businesses joined forces to create more substantial and attractive offerings to rival the bigger players.

Collaboration with another business certainly brings many great benefits to a small company. These include accessing a bigger customer pot and pooling resources to secure greater buying power for marketing elements such as advertising.

It also enables small businesses to combine forces to create broader and more attractive product or service packages, offers or promotions. These help them to compete more effectively in their marketplace, but without requiring a sizeable investment in their infrastructure.

There are many great examples such as web design companies combining forces with SEO specialists, personal trainers doing promotions with independent sport shops and retailers offering joint loyalty card schemes. Sometimes a collaboration is just a one-off involvement, say around a specific event (eg a hair stylist and a beautician sharing the cost of a stand at a wedding fair), or it can be more involved with a close tie-up over time to offer a distinct suite of services, products or customer experience to the market (eg an IFA working closely with an accountancy practice).

There are different motivations for business collaboration but, essentially, each party wants to gain something positive from the experience. This doesn’t always happen. In some cases one half benefits more than the other, in others disappointing sales volumes, few new customers or deviations to the results originally envisaged is the upshot of joining forces.

When it comes to collaboration with another business for a marketing campaign or promotion, we have devised this checklist to ensure the planning around the venture produces a result that’s pleasing to all.

Considering the customer…

Have we clarified who our target market is for this project? Whether you both work in the same market, or a similar market, it is good to articulate who the target customer is for the collaboration. There may be subtle points of differences between your two customer bases and any campaign should reflect this. It may be that the collaboration brings you into a completely new market – say with a bigger spend and different priorities. In which case it’s important to be clear what the motivations are for this new customer profile and how your combined offer needs to be communicated to them.

Have we got an obvious synergy? It’s important both business offerings complement each other for this campaign and that your synergy is obvious and attractive to the target audience. If one side is perceived to be weaker, or the combined offering is hard to grasp, the collaborative promotion will be less effective.

Are we clear what our combined offer rivals? It may be that your combined offer brings you new competitors. If so it’s important to be clear what their competitive advantage and price is in comparison to your collaborative approach – as that will be what the potential customers compare you to.

Have we planned the customer experience for this collaborative offer or promotion? This means being clear about which business does what and when, to ensure customers gain a smooth and seamless experience. Be clear who ‘owns’ the customers at which point to avoid any confusion. If for whatever reason something feels disjointed or disappointing, the customer will walk away or may complain very vocally.

Have we identified how our branding will apply here? The collaboration may require a merging of the two brand identities and values; it may be that one brand is consciously selected to be more visible than the other or a hybrid/ new brand emerges for this venture. Whatever the decision, it is important that the visual representation of the brand(s) and their value(s) is thought-through to avoid any being weakened or damaged by the collaboration. Again, think of your joint approach from the point of view of the target customers. Will they be pleasantly interested in this campaign? Or will they be baffled or put off?

How we are going to make it work…

Do we both agree why we are doing this? If there are mixed or conflicting expectations on what the desired outcome of the collaboration is, then the parties may be disappointed with the outcome, or the collaboration may not work as effectively as it could. Compare also how you complement each other through your internal systems, processes and general approach. The more ‘harmony’ there is across the two businesses, the easier it will be to work together to the customers’ benefit.

Have we established communication points between ourselves? Both during the preparation phases and as the campaign rolls out, it is good to have established regular points of communication. This will enable both businesses to discuss the effects of the campaign and any issues which arise.

Does our campaign have a clear call to action and we know who is doing what in converting enquiries into sales? Clarity is essential here to avoid any duplication of effort between the two of you, or delays and missed opportunities because both of you think the other is ‘handling it’.

Are we clear what data and insight we are both capturing to evaluate the success of the campaign? The more consistent the approach to the metrics across both businesses, the easier it will be to pool the results and make realistic conclusions.

Have we established our review points? It is important to plan the points when you’ll both take stock and evaluate whether the collaboration has achieved what you set out to. Of course, you will be communicating along the way but it is also good to pencil in points when you review (as objectively as you can) how it’s going from both sides.

Summary

Collaborations, especially when it comes to devising a broader or more attractive offering or marketing promotion can really help to grow small businesses.

To ensure your collaboration is a success and serves both businesses well, invest time in planning the initiative together and have frank and open communications throughout. Also evaluate how the collaboration is likely to be viewed by the customers. Which competitors, for example, will they be likely to compare you to? Is your price, offer components and added value competitive against these?

If you are going to rival a bigger player, you need to offer something distinctive but also seamless. If the experience remains one of two mismatched halves, it’s unlikely the customers will return.   

In contrast, and to end on a positive note, your business size and combined resources may in fact give you a versatility, flexibility and responsiveness that puts the bigger businesses to shame… and gets customers queuing up with you for more.

For more marketing and business development tips contact Michelle Daniels, Extended Thinking

photocredit: deathtothestockphoto.com

 

‘The Leader Inside’ – skills and strengths that make women excellent entrepreneurs

In the past, business was viewed as very much a man’s world, but as opportunities for women in the workplace have expanded, female entrepreneurs have started to seize the initiative and make their presence felt. Indeed, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor there were an estimated 126 million women starting or running new businesses around the world in 2012. Meanwhile, 98 million female entrepreneurs were in charge of established companies and 48 million women business owners employed one or more people in their companies.

It’s not surprising that women are taking to the business sphere in such numbers. Female entrepreneurs can possess a whole range of skills and strengths that make them excellent leaders and decision makers, and here are just a few.

Social and emotional intelligence

One of things that can help to set businesswomen apart is their impressive levels of social and emotional intelligence. According to Simon Baron-Cohen, professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, while men tend to think in a more systemised manner, women can be better at empathising.

This may help female entrepreneurs in a whole range of ways. By being attuned to the feelings of those around them, women can build strong interpersonal relationships that benefit their businesses. These skills are helpful when it comes to building trust and growing influence. They might also help women to create more harmonious working environments. In addition, strong emotional intelligence could prove useful when it comes to responding to customer needs and desires. Ultimately, this is good news for companies’ sales figures and their bottom lines.

Of course, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the personalities of men and women in the business realm, but women are typically associated with higher levels of this particular type of intelligence.

Curiosity and lifelong learning

Many women, particularly those working in male-dominated industries, must work especially hard to achieve the success they’re after. They also often feel a strong need to prove themselves and show that they’re more than capable of performing their roles. One effect of this continual striving is that women can be more open to and curious about lifelong learning opportunities. By taking additional qualifications to enhance their CVs, they can be sure to demonstrate their skills and expertise beyond all doubt.

One popular option among ambitious entrepreneurs, both men and women, is the Masters of Business Administration (MBA). Many people who are either already running a company or in full-time employment opt for the executive MBA. Designed for working professionals, these courses tend to be flexible and allow students to fit their study around their busy schedules. For instance, learners can often attend classes in the evenings and at weekends. This can be a must for busy businesswomen who struggle to take time out during the typical working day.

The thirst for knowledge and readiness to learn that many female entrepreneurs show is helping to redefine gender roles and stereotypes in the workplace.

Cooperation and collaboration

Another skill that is often associated with women is a willingness and desire to cooperate and collaborate with others. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that supports the idea that women are often eager to pool their knowledge and abilities with others to achieve the best results, and a number of scientific studies have backed this idea up. Research conducted by Peter Kuhn and Marie-Claire Villeval for the National Bureau of Economic Research suggested that women were more likely to defer to their peers in group scenarios.

Knowing when to delegate tasks and when to tap the expertise of others is a crucial business skill. It can help people to run their organisations more efficiently and effectively, and enable them to gain a competitive edge over their rivals. In contrast, trying to be a jack of all trades and micro-manage all aspects of a business can have disastrous consequences for bosses. As well as causing potentially unmanageable levels of stress and pressure, this approach can lead to mistakes, not to mention foster discontent among workers, who may feel undervalued or unappreciated. The best business leaders tend to be those who know how to put a good team together and who then go on to make full use of the talents of their personnel.

Striking the right balance

Another string to the bows of many businesswomen is the fact that they often have interests outside of the work arena that can help to give them a more balanced approach to their tasks. Lots of women play important roles looking after loved ones. This can bring a myriad of benefits to businesses. By striking the right balance, bosses stand a better chance of being able to think clearly and avoid suffering from tunnel vision. Also, by operating in different capacities in the office, at home and elsewhere, women can ensure they bring a wide range of skills to the workplace.

Given the many advantageous qualities that women have to offer the world of commerce, it should come as no surprise that they’re making such big waves in modern business. It seems likely that as opportunities for women continue to expand in many countries across the globe, the influence and success of female entrepreneurs will go from strength to strength. 

Image Credit:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/125303894@N06/14387367072/sizes/c/

 

Generate your ‘own’ creative solutions

So are you following the top five actions of successful leaders, making sure you use the top six tools to measure your impact on social media, practicing the seven habits of highly effective people? It’s enough to put you off isn’t it?

I want to learn and develop and grow my business, to be successful on my own terms, so I do take an interest in my learning. What I notice however, is a plethora of emails and tweets and articles about what you need to do to be successful. Everyone of them has ‘the answer’ and a number of them are inviting me to spend quite a lot of money with them. Although it is important to invest in you as part of investing in your business, you’re likely to get a better return if you’ve taken some time out to reflect on what you want rather than responding to the latest ‘answer’.

In fact had I been following some of that advice on ‘content marketing’, I should probably have used a title like five tips for reflecting!  There is value in some of those tips and guides, but I want to advocate another way of becoming more successful, which is learning from your own experience and spending time reflecting on your future.

We are all busy enough running our business or developing our career, alongside running a home, having a family, taking care of parents etc., so sometimes there is benefit in taking a step back and reflecting on where all that activity is taking you. Life can be tough and complex, and old approaches based on repeating existing answers will no longer sustain business. Rather we need to be able to generate our own creative solutions to the challenges we have to manage.

As Plato said ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’ and with the 24/7 pace of life today, choosing to make time for reflection can be a challenge but without it we will stagnate. I’ve seen it variously attributed to Henry Ford and Albert Einstein, but you may be familiar with that quote about doing the same thing will get you the same result. In fact I think it goes on that if you expect a different result from doing the same thing there lies madness! This implies that in order to make a change you need to reflect on what is happening now. What is working, what is not working and through understanding that, what could you do differently? Doing something different means you cannot continue to get the same result. Ok you may not always solve something first time, so reflect again and then do something else different. This is part of that creativity I talked about earlier, being resilient and flexible in our action actually comes from this kind of reflection.

Generally our culture values action more highly than thinking and the idea of sitting down to reflect can feel a little alien, so how can you structure your reflection. A simple approach comes from Kolb’s experiential learning cycle which in essence asks four questions:

What

What happened, what did you do, what did you experience, what did others do, experience?

So what

What is the significance of what happened to you, what meaning does it have, how did you feel?

Now what

In light of your reflections what new action will you take?

And when

What timescale are you committing to?

As with any new skill, the more you practice the more effective you become, so you may find yourself asking those questions in the moment and not just after the event. It may be the case that you only reflect when something goes wrong or fails, a helpful practice in itself, but it can also be beneficial to reflect on your successes so that you can build on your strengths. It’s how you discover what makes you so great at what you do, which has benefits in terms of greater self-awareness and confidence.

Just as important is taking time to reflect on your future. No matter how long you have been in business there will be times of transition, when you want something different – whether it’s rapid growth or entering new markets. So there is value in thinking about that, what it might look like and what it will give you.

What reflection gives you that all those top tips can’t, is your own solution for success and a process for accessing your own inner resources that will enable you to achieve it.

photo credit: deathtothestockphoto

Motivation Monday: Have you mastered your passion?

When we bring our passion to life and go into business so that we can ‘live the thing’ that we’re passionate about, we sometimes forget the level of skill that’s required to fulfil our ambitions. The new credo is ‘it doesn’t have to be perfect – just get it shipped’ but sometimes we just need a little push to take us to the next level, where we find that we’re capable of more mastery than we ever imagined.

Sit back, take a break and ‘watch Japanese yo-yo world champion BLACK tell the inspiring story of finding his life’s passion, as he gives an awesome performance that will make you want to pull your yo-yo back out of the closet…’ and just maybe take your own passion to the next level.

A look back at the women who pioneered the female ‘start-up’

Sometimes we need to look back to look forward. In this TED Talk, Dame Stephanie Shirley gives us insight into a time when being a successful woman in business went against the grain, and how things have changed dramatically for women wanting to start their own enterprise. So if you think you’re up against it, and are looking for inspiration, listen in to the kinds of challenges she faced when starting out.

‘Dame Stephanie Shirley – the most successful tech entrepreneur you never heard of. In the 1960s, she founded a pioneering all-woman software company in the UK, which was ultimately valued at $3 billion, making millionaires of 70 of her team members. In this frank and often hilarious talk, she explains why she went by “Steve,” how she upended the expectations of the time, and shares some sure-fire ways to identify ambitious women …’