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

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

 

‘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. 

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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

Does the success of your business depend on you?

For many of us, we are our business – whether we call ourselves the business owner, director or solopreneur, we are the person that makes the difference.

So how could you impact your business success if you recognized and developed your leadership potential? Your reluctance to increase your prices, the client who expects you to be available 24/7, the team member who is demotivated; these are all leadership issues.

Effective leadership is key to the success of any enterprise and if you’re not leading your business then who is? None of us operate in a vacuum and our success depends on others. You may have a small team or there are relationships with clients, contractors and suppliers where your leadership and influence can make or break the business.

Perhaps you feel none of this is relevant to you, but guess what? You are already leading! As the business owner in those relationships, how you behave, what you prioritize is being ‘watched’; the signals you give out are telling your team and other key business partners how to respond to you. So if you keep letting your supplier deliver late, you are leading them to believe it’s acceptable, when in fact it may be having serious consequences on your service. They are taking their cue from you – some of that may work but some may be leading to failure. So wouldn’t it be useful to look at your leadership and identify what does and doesn’t work, then you can decide what to do about it.

If you can lead yourself, you can lead others

So how can you become more effective as a leader? Whatever your business situation there is one important person you need to lead and that is yourself.

We are often the person that gets in the way of our success because how we see ourselves, what we believe is possible for us and the business, directly impacts the results we achieve as well as our business relationships.

By understanding why you are the way you are, and clarifying what is most important to you, your true leadership will start to emerge. That self-awareness will in turn offer greater insight into the people around you. From that insight you will develop your natural influence, which is a key part of becoming an effective leader.

True leadership is about building relationships with others, which is why your relationship with yourself is so important. For example, if you don’t take the lead and manage your boundaries with that demanding client, that will impact your other clients, quality of service and your self-esteem.

Start by asking yourself these three questions

  • Who are you as a leader?
  • Who do you want to be as a leader?
  • How are you stopping yourself becoming the leader you want to be?

If your business success really does depend on you, can you afford not to invest in your leadership?

photo credit: deathtothestockphoto

Self-talk yourself to success

Self talk has a really significant impact on our confidence and self esteem. It also has a huge impact on your happiness, and success.

You may not think that you practice self talk. Perhaps when you think of self talk you imagine Beyonce or Victoria Beckham talking to themselves out loud, and it seems like a crazy, far-fetched thing to do. Maybe you haven’t heard of the term at all yet, but each moment of each day whether consciously or not, you have an inner dialogue running, talking to and about yourself.

The thoughts that run through your mind and the things that you say form beliefs, which impact your behaviour and in turn your results.

The thought manifests as the word; The word manifests as the deed; The deed develops into habit; And habit hardens into character; So watch the thought and its ways with care, And let it spring from love born out of concern for all beings… As the shadow follows the body, As we think, so we become.

– Buddha

Have you thought about what you are thinking?

What are you telling yourself over and over?

Do you talk to yourself like you would someone you love? For example:

“Ebonie you are a talented and passionate coach.”

Now you have a go, tell yourself something you would tell someone you love, and use your name.

I really mean it, have a go, and use your name.

The evidence shows that actually using your name and addressing yourself like you would another person, makes a significant difference to your choices and actions.

Talking to yourself in the 3rd person (while it may feel ridiculous at first) may not be so stupid after all, quite the contrary in fact. Ethan Kross of the university of Michigan conducted research published last year, which suggests that talking to yourself using ‘I’ can stress you out, whilst referring to yourself by name or as ‘you’ enhances self distancing.

This in turn allows you to review and assess the situation, and choose to exert self-control when faced with tempting options in the short term – from skipping a meal or a yoga class, to not taking a business opportunity which would be great for you, but is outside your comfort zone.

Over the years I’ve had my moments of self doubt, the days when my own personal negative committee come out and say “You can’t do this. You’re not a business person. You’ll never be a real entrepreneur – who are you kidding?”

Do you have thoughts like this sometimes?

Natalie Nahai explains how addressing ourselves by name and self talking in the third person; we give ourselves a level of authority which we will listen to, for example:

“Ebonie, you can do it. Take that action now.”

I have been practicing both and have found the research really interesting. The statement above really makes me think, and changes my mind-set in a way that “I can do this” just doesn’t.

How important is the structure of what we say?

I am a big fan of affirmations, I use my wisdom cards every day to give myself something to ponder on, and I believe the key is ‘saying something positive’ to ourselves and keeping an enquiring mind-set.

Just saying an affirmation that you don’t believe is not helpful. For example repeating to yourself “I am rich” will probably leave you more frustrated than before.

Noah St John Ph.D, author of The book of afformations uses creation afformations instead of affirmations (which in essence are empowering questions like “Why am I so rich? ”) and immediately change what your brain focuses on.

The problem is, that with some affirmations your clever brain simply won’t accept statements that you don’t believe. Humans are wired to seek for answers. If I ask you “Why is the grass green?” your mind immediately starts searching for the answer.

Afformations according to St John are a way of asking a question that changes your mind-set and gets you thinking differently.

So trying:

“How do run your businesses and life with such ease and grace?” will get me thinking differently to “I run my businesses with ease and grace.” which again is different from “Ebonie, you can do it, you have all the tools and resources you need to run your businesses and life with ease and grace.”

I’d love you to have a go at trying out these differing forms of self talk and let me know how you get on. I’m fascinated to find out which way works best for you – don’t forget to let me know in the comments below.

photo credit: deathtothestockphoto

How emotionally intelligent are you?

Would you say you are a good judge of character, can you read other people’s facial expressions and when you’re upset do you always know the reason why? If the answer is yes, then you probably have a higher than average EQ, Emotional Quotient, the measure of Emotional Intelligence.

However, if you find yourself like a fish out of water at social gatherings, are easily distracted and aren’t really interested in what other people are talking about, then you may have a lower than average EQ.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to control and express your own emotions and also to be able to understand, interpret and respond to the emotions of others. Imagine how frustrating it would be to have little self-awareness and be unable to understand why you or others are upset or angry. Wouldn’t it make life not only difficult, but also quite bland?

The benefits of having a high EQ are numerous and many researchers believe it can be more important than IQ in living a successful life.

People who have a high level of emotional intelligence are generally calm, content and in control of their emotions.

They tend to:

  1. Focus on solutions not problems. They are aware that ruminating on difficulties only reinforces negative emotions and stress, and prefer to put their efforts into improving performance instead.
  2. Resolve conflict easily. As they can understand others perspectives and empathise with them, they are able to prevent conflict from building and deal with it calmly and assertively.
  3. Be great leaders. Their ability to understand their team’s needs and what motivates them, as well as being able to build strong bonds, means they are effective and respected leaders.
  4. Not compare themselves to others. Their self-worth comes from within, so that other people’s opinions or achievements don’t affect their own sense of self-worth.
  5. Live in the present. If they haven’t achieved a goal in the past it doesn’t stop them trying something new, as they know that success comes from not letting failure change their belief in their potential.
  6. Not accept their negative talk as fact. Their positive attitude to life means they can ignore or choose not to believe the negative self-talk that we all have going on.

Fortunately, researchers have shown that emotional intelligence can be built and developed.

It just requires you to focus on four specific areas:

  1. Self-awareness. Recognise your emotions, thinking style and behaviour. Be aware of and accept your strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Stress busting techniques. Developing these enables you to avoid impulse behaviours or reactions that you may regret.
  3. Non-verbal communication skills. Improving these will mean you are able to understand others feelings and emotions more easily.
  4. Conflict resolution. Knowing how to avoid conflict before it starts, resolve it easily and having the ability to be assertive, will make you a great relationship manager.

If you’re now wondering what your real EQ level is, then why not try this test? Remember developing your EQ is all about having a positive attitude and being self-aware!

And don’t forget to let me know how you get on in the comments below…

photo credit: deathtothestockphoto.com

Getting the introvert, extrovert balance right in your business

In reality we all sit somewhere on the introvert – extrovert spectrum, and getting the balance right in your business can be a critical factor in achieving a successful business that you LOVE!

Unfortunately for most of us, this just won’t be a factor we’ve had time to consider.

When we work for other people we have little choice about our office environment, interactions or our work hours. It’s the reason why most of us have decided (or want) to get out of the corporate world and start our own businesses. The corporate job doesn’t care if you are generally an introvert or an extrovert, you either put up with it and get the job done or get fired.

But when setting up on our own we have so many pressing things to focus on, such as managing the business and earning money, that it’s all too easy to forget to pay attention to how our energy flows.

And that’s a real shame because you will be shocked at the spectacular results getting it right will produce and just how much happier you, and the team, will feel at work.

This is exactly why I want to show you what you can do to get the balance right and to provide some practical tips that will dramatically improve your business…

A product of our environment

I’m guessing you already have a fairly good idea of where you are on the spectrum.

If you’re an extrovert, you get your energy from being with people, you come away from large gatherings energised and alive.

If you’re an introvert, you probably try to avoid these meetings. You get your energy from being on your own. You hate small talk and prefer to have intense one to one conversations about ideas.

Me, I’m an introvert.

Open plan offices are my idea of hell, all those people and all that idle chatter when I want to focus.

I can’t think with noise, so the radio has to be off and ideally I like my work space to be devoid of all living things. If I’m making phone calls, I either make them in the office (if I need to take notes), or I go for a ‘walk and talk’ if we’re creating, as walking gets my imagination going.

My extrovert co-worker is the complete opposite.

She loves the radio on, she’s always on the phone and she’s great at front of house, going and meeting new clients and building relationships.

Her energy is endless and she is still bouncy even at the end of a day filled with people. She is charming and chatty for more hours in one day than I can manage in a week.

Maybe you can recognise your preference to one of those descriptions?

Understanding your preferences and aligning these with the way you work will make a stunning difference to your performance.

Ask yourself these questions to explore if you could improve your work environment.

  • Do you have the right work environment for you?
  • Can you shut the world out when you need to if you’re an introvert or do you have enough opportunity to meet with people and engage with them if you’re more extrovert.
  • Do you have enough noise, enough silence, enough solitude or enough sociability to make your work day a pleasure?

It’s not what you do it’s the way that you do it…

It’s not just where we spend our time; how we spend our time is critical too.

This year I’ve really changed the direction of my business.

I’ve been earning a lot of my income from training, mentoring and coaching, all of which I love, but I was doing too much of it and was exhausted.

I was going from one lot of people to the next and however lovely they were (and they all were) there was just too much time with people and not enough time alone for me to thrive.

So this year I’ve cut back on face to face work and am looking at more passive products.

In contrast, a marketing friend was spending so much time researching, writing copy, emailing and designing campaigns that she felt isolated and lonely and the buzz went out of her business.

She’s much more extrovert than her work was allowing her to be so she’s changed.

She has 2 ‘people days’ for her meetings, webinars, and lunches and then 2 ‘head working days’ where she works alone. The 5th day she tries to leave free for ‘spontaneity days’ which she loves.

So look at what you’re doing to see if you’ve got the right balance.

  • Does anything need to change in the work that you do or the time you spend doing it?
  • Are you working all the hours you can but still feel you are making no progress?
  • Can you employ someone to do the bits that don’t suit you (your extra productivity doing what you love will more than balance what you are paying to out-source)?

Interacting with yourself and the team

The final element to consider is how your business interacts and how you interact with yourself.

What helps you to think, be creative and solve challenges?

I know a lot of companies where brainstorming or meetings are common but it doesn’t mean that this is necessarily the best way for you and your business. In fact there are many times when the time, effort and money it costs to have meetings is a complete waste in comparison with the outputs and value that they actually achieve.

So it’s worth really challenging yourself to stand back and consider the following.

  • How do you think best?
  • Do you think better alone or with one other thinking partner?
  • Do you actually get your best ideas when you are hanging out with people by the coffee machine, just chatting?
  • How can you create more high quality thinking time that suits you?
  • How do your team like to work and how can you accommodate their different needs?

Taking your work home

Finally, how do you balance your needs with the people in your personal life?

If you have kids and you’re an introvert who’s had a day full of meetings and people, it’s going to be tough going home to more people who need you. Think about how you can take some quiet time before you get home, so that you have some energy left for those nearest and dearest to you?

Similarly, if you’re an extrovert who has had a day of spreadsheets and invoicing and then you’re going home to an empty flat; your needs for social contacts are going to be unmet, so could you arrange to meet friends for dinner at the end of days when you’ve been on your own too much?

How can you get the balance right?

Ultimately you need to remember that this is your business and your rules.

It’s all too easy to fall in to the trap of chasing after deadlines and doing what we think we should be doing, but this isn’t always the most effective way to work.

Sometimes you need to step back and look at how you can make your business work for you, rather than you working for your business.

You need to assess your working environment, what you are spending your time doing, how you are interacting with others and whether you have the work life balance you need.

We went into business on our own so we could thrive, succeed and enjoy our work more, so let’s pay attention to what we need and make sure we create work that suits us.

Recognize yourself in this post? Let me know in the comments!

photo credit: deathtothestockphoto

How to deal with that ‘difficult’ client or colleague…

Do you work with someone who really presses your buttons? They take credit for others’ work, always find fault, are always talking about themselves; undermine you at every opportunity. Ring any bells? No matter how positive you might be feeling, they somehow manage to trigger you so that you end up feeling irritated, annoyed, withdrawn, upset.

What if that person is a client?

Or a team member you manage who never listens, or the supplier who wants to haggle over their price?

Difficult people are everywhere! If we accept the premise that people buy from people they know like and trust, how do you handle it when you find someone difficult? If you want the situation to change, it really is down to you to do something about it. Perhaps you’re reluctant to confront these kinds of situations — you don’t like conflict, you want to be liked. But the reality is, that it won’t get better and can get worse, with misunderstandings and resentments simmering under the surface that can erupt inappropriately. Poor working relationships can be a source of genuine stress, not only for the individual involved but for everyone in your business.

So having decided you really do have an issue, what should you do?

The place to start is ‘you’

Are you sure the other person is really the problem, could you be over-reacting? Have you always had difficulty with the same type of person or behaviour? Whether it’s a client, your business partner or a member of the team you lead; understanding your own impact on the situation means you can do something about it.

You can’t change someone else but you can do something differently.

As a first step, how does your perception of the situation change if you think about the ‘difficulty’ as a behaviour, rather than it defining the whole person, particularly if you notice you have a similar reaction to several people. Try to keep your emotions out of it as much as possible.

Ask yourself two questions: what are the facts in this situation and what’s the story I’m telling myself about those facts? Making this distinction allows you to stand outside the situation and be more objective, rather than simply reacting. Separate yourself from your emotional reaction and ask yourself what you would do when you’re ‘at your best’.

Another useful approach is to view the situation through the eyes of the person who triggered you. Counterintuitively, one of the most powerful ways to take control of the situation, is to find a way to appreciate where the other person is coming from. For example, a client of mine had a real issue with a team member he perceived to be lazy and slow. In fact, this director (my client) was not comfortable delegating, and expected his team to undertake tasks in the same way that he did. This meant he was constantly finding fault where really there was none; it was just a different approach to prioritising and handling the job. So rather than judging his colleague as lazy, and by exploring his own role in the situation, we found ways to address the issue.

By shifting focus back to the more strategic aspects of his role, the director is now better able to let go of the detail and the team member feels more appreciated (and is therefore more productive)! The truth is, however, that sometimes your worst fears about another person turn out to be true. You may even have confronted the person directly and with objectivity, but the issue hasn’t been resolved. So you may decide to let go of that relationship, having considered other approaches. Sometimes that is the only solution but it’s important to consider other approaches first.

We all have blind spots, so it may simply be that no one has ever told that individual how their behaviour affects others

I recently worked with the MD of a small business, who was having difficulty with a key team member who had played a significant role in winning a big contract. The individual was not turning up for meetings, calling in sick and when she did come in, was working to her own agenda. With support and guidance the MD realised she had given her subordinate too much power in the sales effort, and was struggling to reign her in. She sat down with the team member and expressed her concerns and restated her objectives and role.

Ultimately however, the individual was managed out of the business — the behaviour didn’t change and she became an increasingly disruptive influence with the rest of the team. If all else fails, an individual leaving the organisation may be the best outcome for all concerned. Not tackling these “difficult people” is a disservice to the individual, other team members and ultimately the success of your business.

Oh and guess what – we are all potentially someone else’s difficult person!

Have you had to face this situation? Let me know in the comments below.

photo credit : bigstockphotos.com