I was recently chatting with a friend and we were discussing some professional challenges. We were talking about how we are both rather outspoken and how that is not always a quality that is appreciated by others. We jokingly concluded that rather than calling ourselves blunt, we instead should add to our resume that we have excellent communication skills and are capable of addressing issues and articulating concepts that some may find difficult. That started me thinking--the stories we tell and the pictures we paint are what others see.
We are often asked the questions in interviews “What are your greatest strengths?” or “What is your greatest weakness?” How do you answer that? How do you talk about your strengths in such a way that you come across confident, but not cocky? And weaknesses--no one likes to talk about their weaknesses. It’s hard. Here is a few of my personal examples.
The Truth: I am able to herd cats into a uniformed pattern to accomplish a task.
My story: I excel at building community and team in order to achieve consensus in a group to complete projects and tasks.
The Truth: I will work myself sick and silly to achieve the desired results.
My picture: I am tenacious, do not give up easily and am willing to put as much effort into a project as is necessary to succeed.
The Truth: I am an emotional person.
My picture: I am passionate and you will often find me pouring everything into a project.
The Truth: I expect as much from all of my team members as I am willing to give myself which sometimes leaves me disappointed.
My story: I aspire to inspire people to achieve 100% buy-in to the success of a project.
It’s not just the words and phrases you use to tell a story or paint a picture though. It is also your attitude. People will spot a con job. If you are trying to snow them with pretty, flowery ideals and you don’t believe them yourself, you will encounter problems. The key is to flip the script in your mind. When you believe it, you can sell it.
What is the story you want to tell? How will you paint your picture? When was the last time you adjusted your point of view in order to put forth the image necessary to succeed?
Many companies and organizations rely on management or internal team members to provide training and professional development for their employees and volunteers. It is true that people that are already a part of the organization may have the knowledge and skills to accomplish the tr. training. But is the training and development as powerful and effective as it could be?
Having a fresh face come in to train your staff or volunteers and provide professional development can make a big difference. Why? Here are my top three reasons:
Worried about leaking secrets or information to an outsider? Don’t be. As a professional presenter, my reputation is everything. If I run about telling your secrets,my reputation and my livelihood wouldn’t last long.
Professional presenters can add that new shine to your information, provide you with the best opportunity for great results and make the most out of your staff or volunteer development.
What other challenges do you face when providing training and professional development? I will be happy to address your issues in future posts.
Have you ever found yourself so mired down in the details of a project that you cannot see the big picture? All of the tiny tasks have you so focused that you are incapable of seeing how they interact with one another and thus what they mean to the end game. A more cliche’ phrase--”Can’t see the forest for the trees.” When was the last time you over committed and found yourself completely run down? How do you avoid this trap? If you find yourself in that position, how do you get out?
I remember one time when I had said yes about five too many times. To say I was stretched thin was an understatement. I was pulled in so many different directions, giving away so much of my time and energy, I was completely depleted. However, I didn’t know that. I knew I was busy. I knew I felt frantic. I knew I was over committed. I just had no idea how to get off the merry-go-round. Then it happened. Two friends kindly invited me out to lunch. Even though I was busy, I “made time for them, because they were important”. While at lunch they both began to talk to me about how concerned they were. They saw the spiral I was trapped in and thought I needed to take a step back and evaluate priorities, including making myself and self-care a priority. THEY WERE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! I shed many tears during that lunch and came away knowing I had changes to make. After passing some responsibilities to other very capable people, turning off some commitments that didn’t feed me (not in the literal sense, but in the sense that when I participated in these activities I came away tired and drained rather than energized and excited) and committing to saying “no” more often, I had my life back in control and I began restorative care.
I have had similar experiences when working on projects. I and other members of my team each have or piece of the puzzle and it is obviously the most important piece of said puzzle because it is ours. We are all so busy focusing on our piece that we fail to see the puzzle as a whole picture. You have to have someone who stands back and can see how all the pieces fit together in order for things to come together for a completed, smoothly run project. If you are the team leader, that should be your job. However, sometimes even as leaders we get so micro-focused that we just can’t see it. You need someone that can stand beside you and help you dial out your vision to regain the big picture.
The point is this, in both your personal and professional life you should develop a circle of people who you can count on to intervene when you find yourself so deeply lost in the trees you can’t see the forest. No one is immune to blind spots. We all, at one time or another, get tangled up in our own head or activities and have trouble navigating out. If you have a trusted circle (I recently heard this referred to in a talk by a local business woman as “your personal advisory board”--thank you Coco Duckworth) you have a team you can turn to when you need encouragement, mentorship or just a healthy dose of reality. Here is what my personal advisory board looks like. I am not using names. Let’s see if those that know me well can identify themselves or others they know.
The Sage - This is a strong woman who has done and seen much. She is wise, strong and opinionated. She has always been honest with me and happy to provide her strong female perspective when needed. She is the female role model I lacked in my youth and I am grateful for her in my adult years.
The Cheerleader - Always in my corner! This lady is always rooting for me to succeed, no matter the project. Furthermore, she puts her efforts where her mouth is. She is always there to lend a hand when I need it.
The Empath - My sweet, sensitive, caring friend who can see right through any facade I try to put up. She is always able to make me stop, take a breath, step back and spend some time in the moment to prioritize things in my life.
The Creatives - Yes, there are more than one that fit in this category. They are the ones who are always sharing their creative new ideas with me. I am inspired by their visions and energized by their ideas.
The Homies - Yes, there are more than one of these too, and there is a healthy mix of males and females in this group. They come to the rescue when you just need to have an adult beverage, good food and let go of responsibility for an bit. They are super important to the self-care and that is super important to being able to maintain a demanding schedule.
The Spouse - My husband is someone who steps into any and all of these roles at any given moment. He is super smart. He has an incredible talent for big picture and forward vision. He is my rock. I am very fortunate to have him in my corner.
Who sits on your personal advisory board? What do they bring to your table? Can you think back to a specific time when your advisory board really pulled your bacon out of the fire? I would love to hear your stories. If you recognize yourself as a member of my board, I’d love to hear from you too!
We’ve talked about building the perfect team. We’ve talked about how to be a better volunteer and volunteer leader. While these tools will help you succeed in your business or projects moving forward, you can’t succeed all the time. This week on the agenda is failure. Failure is a scary word and often carries with it negative connotations. However, I have learned that failure is not an option. It is a necessity.
I read a comment on a board in our co-working facility recently. It said “Failure is the compost in which our successes grow.” I had to sit with that a bit, but as I did I realized--whoever said that was exactly right. (By the way I did try to find out who should get the credit for this quote, but had no luck. If you know, please share.) If you are attempting pretty much anything you may not get it right the first time. You may, and likely will, fail to some extent with your first attempt or two, or three. That’s okay. It is okay so long as you learn from the failure(s) and try again until you get it right.
I kind of consider myself a failure expert. Gosh, that sounds negative, but I don’t mean it to be. In my almost 49 years on this planet, I have failed much and at a great many things. I even failed at failing successfully until recent years--meaning that if I failed at something, I was apt to just not try doing it again. It wasn’t until I met someone who helped me understand the success of my failures that I learned to fail successfully. That someone happens to be my husband who is not only my spouse, but my best friend and one outstanding mentor. When he helped me start my first business, a community and online presence for local crafters and artisans, I didn’t know anything about running a business. I had always worked FOR other people. Having never been a business owner, I found myself bumping around in the dark quite a bit. I misstepped. I spent entirely too much money on many wrong marketing strategies. I built the business I thought everyone would want rather than the thing everyone actually wanted or needed. What happened? I had a small business that didn’t make money. (It even lost money.) However, I also had a small business that created an amazing community of creative people. I helped launch several cottage industry businesses. I learned to network and build valuable community relationships.I even had a great deal of fun. The business, by monetary standards, was not a success. What came out of it were valuable lessons and many other types of success.
Helping the cottage industry businesses was a challenge. These were folks that had unique hand-made products and they were trying to get their products in the hands of customers. Some were doing it for a full-time livelihood, others were doing it to make ends meet. Regardless of the reason, they were passionate about what they were doing and needed help. Some things I learned and use in helping my clients today: Ask questions--don’t assume you know the answer. Ask more questions and dig deep for what motivates a person and to find what their limits are in terms of what they are willing to do to make their business a success. Provide a plan and clear map of next steps. Be ready for Plan A to fail and always have a Plan B handy.
With my second business, I built something that I knew people needed, because I had customers before I had a business. I used the lessons about where to spend money and not to spend money to save unnecessary spending. I used the relationships I built with the first business to grow the new business. I still didn’t make a lot of money. That was because I had much to learn about valuing and pricing my services. That is a lesson I am taking into future ventures, including this one.
While neither of these businesses made large amounts of money, they were successes by my standards. My husband helped me realize that in the absence of financial success lay the successes of my relationships in the community, the understanding I have gained and the experience I bring to the table when consulting with prospective new entrepreneurs or business owners who are stuck and need new perspective. It is my job now to take these failures, turn them into lessons and share them with all of you.
Look, if you don’t get the results you wanted from a particular activity, project or business. It may be a failure. The question is, can you possibly plan for failure? Once you recognize it can you avoid it? If you can’t avoid it, can you recover from it? The answer to these questions is "Yes." Planning for failure can be as basic as a Plan B. If it looks like Plan A isn’t going to pan out, how can you pivot to salvage what is going right and fix what isnt? If you can’t avoid it and the plan goes off in the ditch, you can dig out. I am going to give you a big tool and insider secret right now. Are you listening? You will seldom be able to dig out of the ditch alone. You need someone or even more than someone in your corner. When you are in “it”, it is difficult to see what has gone or is going wrong. It is also often difficult to be honest with yourself about what your role was in causing it to go off track. Having someone that will be honest with you about what went wrong and then help you dig out of it is so very important. Perhaps even consider a professional such as myself to get into the ditch and help you navigate out.
Simply, failure is not a game ender, just a game changer. It is how you identify, navigate and recover from failure that matters.
What failures have you experienced? Did they remain failures or become future successes? What did you learn and do differently the next time? I hope you will share your experiences. Together we learn and do much.