Go Outside and Ask

Even though you may be surrounded by people in your start-up, you as the founder may feel a bit lonely. Here’s an apt metaphor for a founder’s situation. Think of you, the founder, at the neck of an hourglass; you have the board of directors above you and your team below you. However you tilt the hourglass, the only perspective you get is the “insider” perspective. But, despite all this top down and bottom up discussion, you still may have doubts and questions about next steps and you want to make the right decisions.

Founders need to ask for help from “outsiders” − mentors, experts, customers and potential customers. Instead of playing the “I’ve got all the answers!” charade, muster up your courage and reach out to key people for feedback and advice. Your investors have greater confidence in a founder who is unafraid and open to seeking clarity and advice from knowledgeable outsiders.

Here’s a way to request a meeting.  Email your outsider expert (subject: “Request your advice” or “Referred by Jim Z”) or leave a voice mail message with a simple request:  Hello Ms. X, I am the CEO of Y business and I learned (from Jim Z) that you have much experience in this area. I would very much appreciate your opinion regarding a major initiative I’m looking to implement. Would you have 30 minutes to talk with me by phone or over a cup of coffee in the next couple weeks? If that is possible, please let me know what days and times work best for you. 

( if email) Best regards,

your name (include your credentials and website address)

If you get a positive response, agree to a time and place and thank them.To keep good mentors, prepare your questions and possible solutions before the meeting. Be on time. Encourage your outsiders to be critical and direct; you want to know what you may be missing. Don’t try to sell them anything, nor ask them to do any work for you. Do not expect them to meet with you on a regular basis either. Be ready to wrap up the discussion at or before the 30 minute mark. If they want to extend the conversation, let them know you appreciate the extra time. If you found their advice helpful, and if they appeared to enjoy the conversation, you might ask if they wouldn’t mind talking again sometime after you have implemented their advice. Whether they agree or remain cool to your request, immediately after the encounter, show your appreciation with a modest gift card or a thank you note.

Don’t be shy, “get the answer to the test” as I like to say. If you need help with difficult conversations, ask me at Rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com

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An Intrapreneur Asks: How Can I Be Heard?

Are you an employee of a start-up itching to play more of a leadership role in your company as an intrapreneur? If you are a founder, you can bet that there are a some employees deep in the trenches with an entrepreneurial mindset; they want to develop, manage and lead smaller, revenue-producing projects within the company. Do you make it easy for them to share their ideas? I received this query from a frustrated employee that said it all:

Dear Rebecca,

How can I share my ideas for making my company better? I work in the customer service end of things, and I have ideas for speeding up orders and retaining customers. When I have suggested ideas to my bosses in the past, they seemed to agree with me, but nothing ever came of it. How can I get heard?   

A Frustrated Intrapreneur 

Dear Frustrated,

Here are 5 steps that will make it easier for your idea to be heard by the right people:

1) Check with your boss or HR to see if your company has a process or a proposal format for getting ideas to the decision maker. Just throwing out half-baked ideas is a good way for others not to take you seriously, or for your ideas to go nowhere.

2) Does your idea fit with the company’s mission and values? Is there a need for your idea? Have you any data or documented customer feedback regarding the problem you want to solve?

3) Can you explain your idea in a couple different ways (Power Point, graphics, a flow chart, etc) that are concise, simple and easily understood? Perhaps you haven’t been heard before because you speak in generalities, digress or talk beyond the average boss’s attention span of 15 seconds (or less)? If so, see my earlier blog for “Getting to the Point.”

4) What are the costs associated with the development and execution of your idea? How would your idea positively affect the bottom line? Or, if your idea had been implemented earlier, how would it have saved time and money, retained customers, decreased stress, etc?

5) How would your idea affect others in the company? Can you get the buy-in from those who would implement it?

If you address all these points and present them with a good dose of passion, don’t be surprised if you get an invitation to the boardroom!

If you are an intrapreneur wanting more tips for “getting heard,”
contact me at Rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com.

 

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How to Get Motivated: Know Your WHY(s)

Big projects require powerful and sustained motivation. Big projects have deadlines; no slacking allowed. Motivation must be steadfast and consistent; not up and down.  If you ever biked, hiked or ran a hilly course,you know that going downhill requires control of one set of muscles and the uphill requires you to re-engage a different muscles to keep an even pace (notice everyone else slows down midway up the hill). That switching back and forth is more energy depleting than the flats. If your motivation runs high, low, hot, cold as you embark on your mission, I suggest you STOP RIGHT NOW and get your WHYs together.

The reasons for starting and finishing a project are your WHYs. A lack of solid, sturdy and visceral WHYs doom projects. They can’t be soft, murky WHYs like, I want to be rich and successful or I want to be somebody. Instead, your WHYs need to be specific and meaningful enough to drive through distractions. They have to be specific and targeted:

My son wants to go to X college; I’ve got to earn that tuition.  

I’m burnt out at my day job; it’s killing me to work for someone else.

This project will re-build my town and provide jobs for my neighbors.

I want to give my aging parents the house of their dreams.  

These WHYs are visceral, you can feel them. If you truly believe them, your brain releases a shot of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that spurs strong intention. Your heart rate picks up, you smile and you get to work. Know your WHYs and keep them front and center.

Every morning when you wake up, close your eyes and think of your WHY(s) for full minute. Feel your WHY(s) rushing through your bloodstream. (If those thoughts aren’t strong enough, think of the bleak alternatives)  When you workout, refresh your WHYs, pick up the pace on the treadmill or add a few more good pushups. Post your WHY(s) and share them with others. When you notice your mood or your focus waver, get out your WHY(s).  Your WHYs, if meaningful, specific and targeted, will keep your motivation strong and steady. At night, refresh your WHY(s). How will you make tomorrow better…and why?

Why not try coaching? Let me help you get closer to your WHYs with CoreFour Coaching. Write to me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com    

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Do You Know an “At-Risk Entrepreneur?”

It is midterm. This is the time of year, between December and February, when many college students drop out. Depending on your sources, the annual dropout rate ranges from 10-35%. Many of these students are very bright and aspire to entrepreneurship, but they don’t fit into the square boxes of academia. I call them my “at-risk entrepreneurs.” Despite their high IQs and creative gifts, they do not succeed in college because they exhibit one or more of the following:

  • Task Procrastination
  • Lack of control over social media and electronics
  • Disorganization
  • Poor time management
  • Irregular sleep patterns*
  • Untreated ADHD*

During a probationary period they can learn core skills and routines via coaching, or if necessary, get medical consultation.*  They can return to school better equipped. College is more tolerable; they can graduate and eventually start their own ventures.

If these At-Risk Entrepreneurs do not take charge of these weaknesses as young adults , they become the 50% or more of founders or wantrepreneurs aged 30-60 who drop out of entrepreneurship. Many of them either denied or tried to push past the need to develop better habits, core skills and routines. Anxiety, depression and deep financial woes ensue. But, they too can “go on probation,” and get the coaching or medical help needed to re-engage with their passion more psychologically and cognitively equipped.

Do you know an At-Risk Entrepreneur? If they are a dropout, tell them they can drop back in! Read about my CollegeCore for students and my CoreFour coaching for entrepreneurs. Write me at Rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com.   

 

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Get Motivated: Let “A” Help You Get to “B”

Don’t think for a minute that motivation is available 24/7 to high achievers. Many successful entrepreneurs need to jump-start their day with morning rituals, strong coffee, prayer, lots more prayer etc. Others go to outrageous extents. For example, I met a couple who hired a former Navy Seal to burst into their house, yell and call them names until they finished their big projects… (I took his number, just in case!)

What make these jump-start activities effective is what they do for our brains. These activities release extra calming (serotonin) or energizing (dopamine, endorphins, BDNF,etc) brain chemicals. The release of these chemicals brings us to action. We love the Seals, but they can be rather loud and expensive. Instead, consider a simple, practical and self-driven method that creates just enough spark to get you started − called “A then B.”

1) Select a physical activity (Activity A) that will spark enough motivational juice needed for your must-do activity (Activity B). Activity A should be a desirable activity that puts you in a good mood and pushes you physically a bit beyond your comfort zone. Activity A should take no longer than 30 minutes.

2) Identify the task (Activity B) you need to complete or get started on. Today, for example, I have a boatload of writing that I love to do, but it means a few sets of two hour stints in a chair. It being a sunny and warmer Sunday, it’s the sitting for hours part that I’m not psyched about.

To get my brain’s chemistry working for me, I have elected a winter bike ride (Activity A). It is a physical and mental challenge greater than the mental challenge (Activity B) that awaits. So, today I suited up for a cold and windy 30 minute ride. I pumped up my tires (already uncomfortable) and chose the nastiest bunch of hills I could find (really uncomfortable). As I pushed up those hills, I could feel my brain’s juices ramping up, as I surpassed my comfort zone to the top. I said to myself with a big grin, “If I can do this, then I have the fortitude to sit for the rest of the afternoon and pull off some mighty good writing. It will be awesome!”  My KITA (I’ll let you figure out what that stands for) bike ride, gave my brain enough of a boost to hunker down and meet my writing quota for the day.

You don’t need to go to those extremes. Just be sure to add some self-mentoring talk to Activity A as you take a fast walk around the block, or do 25 good pushups and 20 jumping jacks, or bicep curls with cans of tomatoes− something that gets your heart pumping and your mind in gear to execute Activity B.

Let me know how the “A then B” strategy works for you!

Need some help in getting things done well and on time? We can do this! Read more about my Core Four Coaching for COREageous Entrepreneurs. Write to me at Rebecca@mindfulcommuication.com

 

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Coffee, Tea and Productivity

Is bringing your work to a coffee shop (CS) more conducive to better focus and getting things done than at the office? Finding the right environment for maximum productivity doesn’t have to be a monastery or a round trip flight to and from Chicago (my favorite!). If you’re looking for a place that might make a big difference in your daily productivity, give a CS a try. Here’s what I gather from students’ reports and various articles on the subject:

Despite the ambient noise that varies as a function of the CS traffic, it is a negligible nuisance when compared to the more obtrusive interruptions at work.

At a CS there’s a different social dynamic in play: no cell phone calls (take it outside please), no loud talking and very busybodies. People, for the most part, respect each other’s need to concentrate. Several of my more introverted clients prefer a CS over the chronic expectations at the workplace to smile, greet and engage in small talk.

Most CSs have large windows and much natural sunlight versus the artificial office lighting that can have unhealthy side-effects.

CSs are less-stressful than the workplace. Discussions between people are more relaxed, and people feel freer to share creative ideas and say what’s on their minds.  A CEO of a startup in Boston likes to hold his performance reviews at the local Starbuck’s. He claims that his employees open up more, take criticism easier and offer more interesting solutions than if they had these discussions in the office. The mood is lighter and there’s a positive energy vibe in a CS that’s hard to duplicate in an office setting.

Even if you work at home alone without the office gaggle, just getting away from your desk and being around people and different sounds and scents can give you fresh perspective on an otherwise tired task.

Need a new boost to your productivity? Different minds need different ways to focus and get things done. Let me help you find it! Email me at Rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com

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What “Disorganization” Sounds Like

Let me share some thoughts inspired by a recent Shark Tank episode…

A contestant demonstrated a very unique product that piqued the Shark’s interest. When asked about his background, he listed numerous talents, brainy feats and escapades that led to the development of his new product.  Instead of his colorful past being a plus in the Shark’s eyes however, his history raised a red flag. One Shark called him “too disorganized” so she was “out.” (For those of you new to Shark Tank, “out” means not interested in the deal.) The contestant appeared perplexed and somewhat taken aback by her comment. What might have saved him? A statement or two, immediately following his list of exploits, conveying a passionate and enduring commitment to the success of the current product might have kept him in the running.

Perhaps “disorganized” was not the best word choice. To most people “disorganized” means a cluttered desk or misplacing your keys. The Shark may have chosen that word to represent a few less obvious concerns related to disorganization that can doom a startup. Founders, it’s important to know the less obvious ways that you can appear “disorganized” in the eyes of investors:

  1. As much as creativity is an asset to an entrepreneur, having many simultaneous and disparate activities going on are liabilities. It suggests you have difficulty focusing in on one thing that requires deliberate, consistent and sustaining dedication like a startup. Problem: An Investor will see herself doing all the work or exerting too much effort directing and monitoring you than it’s worth.
  2. Indirect and lengthy answers to simple questions suggest a disorganized mind. Or, perhaps you introduce ideas into the conversation that are unrelated to the main point. Problem: An investor may sense the need to constantly corral your attention to the topic or task at hand. Exhaustive repetition, interruption and re-direction is too great of an energy expenditure for a busy Shark.
  3. Do you engage in too much levity when there should be seriousness? Problem: You may be a nice guy or gal and fun to be around, but when it comes to spending other people’s money and getting things done, joking around is a waste of time.
  4. Is your presentation delivered in a logical sequence? Problem: Potential backers do not want to work harder than you to figure out your plan from start to finish.

The bottom line: Examine your sales pitch and presentation. Make the changes necessary to avoid being perceived as “disorganized.”

Do you need an expert set of eyes and ears to identify the red flags that could discourage customers and investors from wanting to work with you? Contact me for Core Four Coaching Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com   

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5 Steps For Getting to the Point

Time is a constraint for you and those you’re trying to persuade.

The hour of yesterday is the 20 seconds of today. While you prepare to be heard, keep in mind that the average attention span 20 seconds or less!

1) Know your Objective, don’t just start talking! Research shows that in the first 7 seconds people make approximately 11 different judgments about your worthiness to be heard.

Ask yourself – What do I want to achieve? Why do I want to have that conversation? Have one objective in mind – stick to one objective only. Don’t sidetrack to other related topics or you come across as unsure, unfocused and wishy-washy.

2) Write down your bullet points first in simple and direct language. Now, create a brief sentence with each major talking point. Listen to yourself and edit out redundancies, empty words like “really, great, stuff, uh” and other fillers. Edit out repetitive words like “like, I, really, right,” etc.

3) Use a Good Hook is a headline that grabs attention.Ask yourself, “What is the single best statement or question that will get me to my objective?” A hook is a statement that satisfies a need, one that is  contrary to common experience, a worry, or is the best interest of the listener:

Beets cure insomnia

Did you know reading the wrong way can make you stupid?

What is the best kept secret of Fortune 500 companies?

What is the most unusual, exciting, dramatic, humorous part of your message? That will help shape your hook or opening line.

4) If you’ve hooked your listener, they will want to hear more.  The Body of the message should build a case. It should answer – Who, What, When Where, Why, and How. No more than one sentence for each.

5) Ask for the Action you want them to take in the Closing. It’s your bottom line. What do you want your listener TO DO? Set up an appointment? Get some time off? Invest in your company? Buy your book? Is there a time limit? “The deadline is 3:00 this afternoon,” or “Our sale ends tonight at midnight.”

Crisp articulation, a pleasant sounding voice and vocal dynamics give power, certainty and charisma to your message. Annoying vocal/verbal tendencies (hoarseness, mumbling, too soft or too loud, an unintelligible foreign accent, etc ) can distract a listener from your content.

Practice your “20 second or less” commercial. Start with your main point (one sentence hook or idea in a nut-shell) and support your point with 2-3 main supporting facts. Have more facts ready, if folks want to hear more. Rehearse and record your 20 second message. Try it out on a friend. Get feedback.

Need help getting to the point? Contact me at RebeccaShafir@gmail.com to set up a personalized 30 minute phone training session. 

 

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Two Steps to a Smooth Re-entry

To echo my previous blog, let me remind you that the most powerful transformations begin with small, consistent steps.

The most common refrain I’m getting from readers this week is: “I just returned from time off from my project, and I’m having a tough time getting back in the groove.” This is where your brain is saying, “I am struggling to shift gears” or “I can’t get a foothold back into my routine.”  Hopefully, you had some hunks of restorative downtime – you caught up on sleep, you let your mind wander so that your subconscious had a chance to work on solutions and new ideas. Bravo! Now, make your re-entry into the world of work smoother:

  • If you don’t have a simple morning ritual, a jump-start to your day, find one. See my earlier blogs on this topic. If you had a morning ritual, maybe it’s not as potent as it needs to be. It’s okay and advisable to tweak a ritual – maybe add little more push to last year’s routine, or replace one step with another to keep it fresh. For example, I’ve begun alternating a slide workout on M,W,F with a holding position on T and TH. I’m adding no extra time, just a little spice. One of my students is starting off his morning ritual this year with a strong cup of coffee instead of waiting till after. Keep your routine simple, novel and effective or watch it fade.
  • Do 1-2 tasks that require some deep productive work starting today, short bursts of 30-60 minutes, to refresh your concentration. Reward yourself in a small, but appreciable way for re-igniting your brain’s super powers.

Take just those two steps and call me in the morning!

This is your year to make things happen! Let my CoreFour Coaching be the push you need. Email me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com. Happy 2018!       

 

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Resolve to “Go Micro” (Part One)

After tonight’s killer boot camp, the instructor announced that between January and March a flood of new, resolute members will descend upon the gym. We were asked to be patient and encouraging to new members. She assured us that, come mid-March, our class size will normalize with only a few new members remaining.

Why does this happen? Combine the pressure to regularly get to the gym, to be patient and accepting of oneself, and to tolerate too much discomfort too fast causes the high New Year’s Resolution crash and burn rate. These admirable, super-sized intentions are a great strain on one’s limited willpower reserve.  What results is a sense of failure and another blow to one’s self-esteem.  How can you avoid this?  If you are thinking about any New Year’s resolutions for you and your business, I advise you to plan first and then “go micro.” Ask yourself:

  • Which new habit would have the greatest impact on your family and your business?
  • What would you gain from your new habit? And conversely, what will you lose by not following through with this resolution?
  • How will you break down your resolution into micro steps making change more gradual, least uncomfortable, noticeable and worthwhile?
  • Do you need a coach or a partner to motivate you and monitor your progress?

 

Jess, a 40 year old founder of a small home furnishings company, wanted to keep her meetings under 20 minutes. Her meetings typically ran over 40 minutes. She knew that shorter, more efficient meetings would yield greater productivity for her team, plus she’d get home earlier to her family at night. She tended to address topics off the top of her head and over talk. Jess recognized that her poor planning and gift of gab were problems. After previous failed attempts to stick to the 20 minute limit, I suggested we chose just three micro steps and apply one at a time:

1) prioritize the top 2-3 topics for the meeting

2) write out the key talking points , and

3)  have an analog clock in view so as to pace herself.

Interestingly, Jess reported that the analog clock was the most helpful step in staying on track. She remarked, “I got a sense of what 20 minutes felt like and what I could reasonably accomplish in that span of time.”

These small steps improved other inefficiencies such as: dependency on Jess to remember the main points, her over-talking and wasting time. Three meetings later, after applying a micro step at a time, the new habit was in place. The benefits of the micro approach? Staff demonstrated 20-30% better follow through, there was less confusion about priorities and next steps, attendance at meetings increased resulting in better staff connection, and Jess was getting home sooner. Resolving to a micro step approach can make a New Year’s resolution stick.

Let me help you “Go Micro” and accomplish more this year. Email me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com and let’s get started.      

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