Thursday, January 23, 2014

Your Intrinsic Brand

In reading a "how to" recently about all the steps we as entrepreneurs must take to brand ourselves, I quickly understood why so many of my clients felt extremely overwhelmed by their to-do lists. There were about 30 items on the recommended list. If I did all those things, I would never have time to serve my clients, let alone time to enjoy my life.

I firmly believe we ARE our brand. We radiate our values and beliefs in every conversation, every encounter, every project we take on. Here is an example everyone can relate to: remember last fall when it was local election time? Did the dozens of cardboard signs on any corner persuade you to think differently about a candidate? When you hear a candidate speak or watch them on a television ad, you intuitively know who is being genuine and who is trying to project an image to get your vote. There is an intangible something about each one of us that radiates to others. That is the origin of our brand.

I'm not suggesting that we don't use whatever avenues we choose to present our businesses in a favorable light, if that method appeals to us. I am saying that we don't have to make ourselves crazy trying to blog, tweet, use Facebook and other social media sites and the 25 other things the so-called experts recommend to get our businesses noticed. Choose the ones that appeal to you and consider that enough. Track your results for a period of time and see how they are, then tweak if necessary.

We are in charge of our own wellbeing. We literally cannot use every medium available to us. Take care of yourself by choosing one or two venues to connect with your audience and let the rest go without a backward glance. Give yourself a little freedom. Isn't that one of the reasons you went into business in the first place? Ah....relax.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Access to Unlimited Energy

I've been noticing how many of us remark about a dip in energy from time to time and how when that happens, there is a tendency to see the energy as residing in or being generated by the body. Here is a shift in perspective that may be helpful: energy is an unlimited substance. Unlimited, as in we will never run out. Our thoughts or consciousness is what gives us access to the unlimited reservoir or river of energy that flows through us physically, as well as flowing through all life.

I recently read Dr. Amen's book on brain science, where he provides evidence that every thought we think creates reactions within the body that either send healthy chemicals through our system and energize us or toxic chemicals through our system that drain us. There are no neutral thoughts. He builds a strong case for always leaning in the direction of positive thinking.

An easy way to remember it: positive thoughts and feelings give us access to greater energy flow. Negative thoughts and feelings restrict our access to that flow of energy.  Of course, there are other factors, such as environment, diet, health and how well your personal values are being met which affect your energy level, yet the easiest place to begin is with our thoughts. It is incumbent upon each of us to know ourselves well enough to know what gives us a boost to think and talk about and what makes us feel deflated. This will be unique to each person. Being outdoors always lifts my mood and energy, but some may get that same lift from driving, or listening to their favorite tunes. If your energy flags from time to time, notice what you were thinking about or listening to at the time. If it happens more than once, this may be a topic that is a drain to you. Reframe it or steer clear of it if you can.

Remember that you always have access to greater energy and look for ways to let it in and renew yourself.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Get Unstuck: Declare Your Ambiguity

Whether you are starting a new project on your own or working in collaboration with a team, those murky areas where you aren't clear what the facts are, what you want, what's even possible can stop you and the group in your tracks and the whole project can come to a lock-kneed halt. To get unstuck from this, use a tool I borrowed from Mary Beth O'Neill at LIOS (Leadership Institute of Seattle):

Declare Your Ambiguity

There are 5 steps to this process:

  1. Declare The Ambiguity. Own up to it. Sometimes everyone is thinking the same thing, but no one wants to say so, wondering silently whether their peers have as many unanswered questions as they do, but not wanting to look incompetent. As long as this murky feeling sits with you and/or the group undeclared, you aren't really dealing with it, but it is still there.
  2. State What you Are Clear On. In any given project or scenario, there are pieces you have clarity about, and pieces that are somewhat foggy or less clear, or a total blank. Begin with what you are clear about. Maybe it is the outcome, or the start date, or the timeframe. Whatever you are clear on, state it as a place to begin. This is like putting down the puzzle pieces you definitely recognize and you can build on them.
  3. State what is unclear, undefined, or murky. "This is where I feel I'm grasping in the dark," or "Here is where the lines begin to fade for me," are statements describing that feeling of not knowing where you stand. It might be different for you than a colleague, but by stating it you open a dialogue that can be clarifying.
  4. State the information that would clarify. "If I knew what the budget was, I'd feel better about providing some solutions," or "Who, exactly, is our perfect customer for this service?" or "How long will we be in this temporary office?"
  5. Ask for what you need. Be specific: "Ray, can you let me know by tomorrow when the vendor is available and what he will charge for this part of the project?" 
Once these steps have been taken, more pieces of the puzzle come into focus and you can move forward. When working solo, you may want to have a thought partner to talk through your ambiguity with, such as a coach or friend. If you are one who journals, you might work it out on the page in a mind map format. Repeat as often as required. Keep moving toward the things that light you up.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Identifying High Potential Employees

I was recently asked what some of the identifying characteristics are for employees who have the potential to lead. Here is a partial checklist:

  • They see the big picture and how each segment supports that picture
  • They are comfortable communicating up and down the org chart and are good at building relationships
  • They are innovative thinkers who expect to find solutions and do
  • They have a knack for putting people together who will collaborate and cross pollinate well
  • They manage their energy well and know how to prioritize
  • They convey ideas easily and build enthusiasm among team members for those ideas
  • They look for the best in people and encourage them to bring their best game
  • They are inclusive, building bridges between people with cultural and philosophical differences
  • They hold themselves and others accountable for results
  • They manage resources well: time, people, $ and space
  • Because they listen well, they engender trust among peers
  • They are willing to ask for help, ideas, feedback
This isn't a complete list, by any means, and yet if an employee exhibits many of these characteristics, they will likely stand out from the crowd and be a good candidate for a leadership role.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Genius In You

How often do you acknowledge the brilliant, creative ideas you come up with? We all have them, you know. The thing is, when they come from us, we tend to brush them off. “Someone else must have already thought of this by now,” we say to ourselves.

Maybe, maybe not. It’s a good thing George de Mestral was not thinking that way or he would not have been the creator of Velcro. He was out for a walk one day and came back with his socks full of stickers. He examined them closely and learned that the hooks on the ends of the spines made the stickers stick and thought how beneficial that would be if he wanted to fasten something easily. It was a million dollar idea.

We have them all the time, but most of us have not learned to appreciate our own genius. We have been conditioned to believe that genius is rare, that it is reserved for the privileged few. Because George de Mestral acted on the idea, it was made a tangible reality. The concept was golden whether or not he was the one who brought it about. How many times have you had ideas that later were manifested by someone else? Rather than kicking ourselves when this happens, we would benefit more by seeing it as tangible evidence that we have brilliant, viable solutions and ideas.

I recently attended a mastermind session where eight strangers generated dozens of ideas for solving each others challenges. Was there anything special about this group? They seemed like ordinary business owners. It happens every time people come together to help each other. We each have access to brilliant thinking that we can call upon to come up with solutions to any challenge. And although it is fun to do it with a group, we do not require a group for this aspect of ourselves to emerge.

If you would like to further develop this capability in yourself, here are two things you can do:

  1. Begin to notice and acknowledge to yourself all the great ideas you generate. Every time you brainstorm with others, you are producing ideas. Acknowledge the wealth of ideas coming from you and those you interact with. Mentally give yourself credit when someone else runs with an idea you had long ago.Use this skill more frequently and consciously. Like any other thing you do, the more you do it the easier it gets.
  2. At least once a week, think about the challenges you are handling in your life and business. Choose one to focus upon and generate a list of possible solutions. Do this exercise when you are relaxed, in a good frame of mind, and will not be disturbed for at least 20 minutes. Trust the solutions to come, set a timer, and, without censoring, write down every possibility that comes to you. You can refine and test this list of options later. For now, get in the habit of expecting to generate ideas and then seeing those ideas flow easily onto the page.

    Most of us are far more capable than we realize. We are designed to be creative and when we acknowledge the brilliant, creative aspect of ourselves, all sorts of magic begins to happen. Then ideas bubble up like a natural spring. Why not make it a point to spend a little time each day with someone who could really rock your world in a positive way—spend a little time with the genius in you.

    (first published on my Biznik profile in 2011)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Who Is Driving the Boat?

There are many facets to each of us. We think we've outgrown the petulant child and the rebellious teenager aspects of ourselves, but we never really do. The best we can do is make a conscious decision in any given moment about who we want manning Command Central. Who is driving the boat that is your life?

We have had one of the rainiest Seattle winters/springs on record this year and I noticed feeling a little curmudgeonly more than usual. When I stopped playing pool and simply playing for the fun of being with my partner, I took a closer look and sure enough, the surly teenager aspect of my personality was at the helm, pouting because the weather "sucks." If she couldn't have sunshine, she simply wasn't going to play.

I wonder how often some part of us takes over, in meetings ("Will you shut the hell up and let me talk, mush brain?"), when we feel unappreciated ("I'm the one who had this idea to begin with!") or frustrated ("Argh! Why don't they make these backup systems more user friendly?").

The truth is, these sub-personalities are shifting in and out of Command Central all day, and it's easy to allow one of them to take over without even being aware that we have done so. What are some solutions?

We can become more aware of who is in charge in any given moment or situation. Although you might have different names for them, most of us have at least these familiar characters in our personality:
  • Capable Adult Leader
  • Critical Parent
  • Frightened Child
  • Rebellious Teen
  • Loving Protector
  • Warrior
Most of us are familiar with the Critic or as some call it, the Critical Parent. That's the voice you hear in your mind when you over spend and it says, "You didn't really need that. You should put some away for a rainy day." You might also recognize this voice when someone tells you what to do, rather than asking you: "You can't make me. I will find a way to not do this because YOU are not the boss of ME."

When we recognize that we'd like the Capable Adult Leader to be in charge, and someone else is, we can simply allow them to speak their mind (perhaps in a journaling session) then say, "Thank you for sharing, now the Adult is taking over."

This technique has been valuable to a number of clients over the years, and to me. I'm dusting it off and putting it to use. Who knows when Seattle's summer will actually arrive? I want to enjoy my days with no sulking teenager spoiling any of them.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Who Is On Your Dream Team?

For the last nine months, I've been working on the Tap Your Inner Genius program, designed to help individuals and teams recognize and utilize their inherent brilliance in their work and lives. One theme that has resurfaced many times in the research has been how collaborating with others takes our creativity to a higher level.

Specifically, we generate our best ideas when we have a team to work with where there is some common understanding of the objective and big picture, and each team member has their own areas of specialized knowledge that is different from other team members. In other words, we benefit from rubbing elbows and mixing our thoughts with a diverse group.

Since many of us work solo, or on teams where everyone has the same background and training, how would we assemble such a brainstorming team? And how would we best utilize our time together for generating ideas?

Here are five tips I've gleaned from the research and experimentation:
  • Bring together a group of 7 to 9 individuals who do not work together every day. According to research, this is the ideal number for creating an energetic, lively conversation that is still manageable and not too time consuming for everyone to participate.
  • Invite people from diverse specialties, like financial, legal, creative. We often hang out with our peers. Be adventurous and invite in sharp people from backgrounds you know little about.
  • Let there be a wide range of age and a good mix of gender. These multiple perspectives help us see challenges from lots of angles.
  • Alternate between individual time generating ideas in solitude and coming together to generate ideas in a group setting. You might circulate an email in advance of the in-person meeting stating what puzzle you want to solve and asking each person to come with 3 ideas. Then, when everyone convenes, those ideas will spark other ideas and you are off and running.
  • Be honest with yourself about what your strengths are and where you most need support to round out the skills available to you. The most accomplished people in every field surround themselves with capable support.
You may want to form a loose mastermind group that agrees to collaborate together to help each other arrive at innovative solutions for each other on a rotating basis. Or, you may choose to work with individuals who are good at things you aren't good at on a one-on-one basis. None of us is good at everything. Round out your team with people who think differently than you do. You may be surprised at what you co-create.