Overwhelmed and Under-delegating?

As a leader, delegation is an essential skill for maximizing productivity and managing stress when workloads are large and deadlines are tight. The problem is, many entrepreneurs wait too long to entrust others. This is often where “delegating” gets its bad name.  When you are stressed out you are likely to delegate poorly. Here are a few ways to pass along tasks with greater success:

  1. Start letting go. Create a list of tasks that rank from “can’t/won’t let go” and “can let go.” Get comfortable with passing along the latter list – the routine, low risk tasks that eat up hunks of your valuable time. Eventually, this move will free up time to train others to take on some tasks from the former list, so you can focus on what you do best.
  2. Think about delegation when hiring. Don’t wait for disaster to strike. When you interview candidates it’s good to choose a few players who are fast learners and flexible within a job description. Know each individual’s strengths, weaknesses and range of skills.
  3. Be specific with your instructions. A most common delegating mistake is assuming your “delegatee” understands the task and the outcome. Make the instructions as simple and clear as possible. Some people do better with written vs. oral instructions. Show an example of the ideal outcome. Be clear about deadlines. Avoid having to hover and re-do tasks because of mindless communication.
  4. Hire a competent student. If money is tight, advertise for a “Girl or Boy Friday.” These persons can be low cost interns who just want to shadow or hang around a startup. They are often quite capable (see #3) to take on personal, household and low priority workplace tasks that can save you an immense amount of time.

Delegating is not easy, but often necessary. Think of your time and energy as valuable commodities. From a cost savings perspective (do the math!) it’s cheaper to pay someone less to do a job that costs you more.

Having trouble letting go and getting things done well and on time? Perhaps some Core Four Coaching is in your future. Contact me at Rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com

Worry Wisdom

Among the many attributes associated with entrepreneurs, the tendency to worry is high on the list. Worriers, like entrepreneurs tend to be conscientious, ambitious, competitive, and always on the lookout for opportunity. These positive traits may also associated with problematic characteristics that can endanger one’s ability to lead effectively: hyper-controlling, trouble relaxing and having fun, easily bored, obsessive and, in some cases, paranoid. Furthermore, my clients who endorse chronic worry often have trouble sleeping. In an earlier blog, I mentioned how one’s executive functioning (the ability to get work done, done well and on time) can be compromised without consistent, good quality sleep. A person with a strong cognitive core has constructive ways to manage worry. Here are some ways my clients have found most successful:

1) Choose a time of day (not when you get into bed!) to make a plan(s) for solving the problem(s). Put your plan in writing. Review it when worry creeps in. Worry cowers in the face of a plan.

2) In a non-worry state, create a drop down menu in your mind of other thoughts to shift to when worry sets in. It’s too late to compose this menu in the midst of worry. Your menu can include: a great vacation you had, an inspirational article or a lecture, a favorite song you can replay in your mind, the many things you have to be grateful for, etc. Just about anything that is unrelated to your worry should be on the list. It’s important to be able to shift to other thoughts and maintain perspective.

3) Think about how little worry has paid off in the past. How many hours, dollars and days could have been put to better use if you had managed your worry?

4) Share your worries with others. Speaking aloud to a mindful listener helps you separate facts from fiction, be creative, share solutions and derive a plan.

5) Finally, meditate on a quote by Seneca (c. 4 BC – AD 65) a Roman Stoic philosopher, “There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

What solutions to worry have you? I’d love to hear them! Share your ideas with me at Rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com

Your Values Run the Show

Before you can lead others – establish a mission statement, focus, direct and guide others to bring a product or service successfully to market – you need to clarify your core convictions, your values. The way you lead or run your business is an extension of how you personally conduct yourself on a day-to-day basis. Your values indicate what is important to you.

Your core values guide the behavior and the decision-making of your workforce. Whatever values you play out in your life, good or bad, will influence the behavior of your family members, your employees and the outcome of your enterprise. Your team(s) looks to you as the model for the values you espouse. As a leader, you need to show consistently what those “values” talk and walk like.  When the walk doesn’t match the talk, when core values are inconsistent, they become the source of mistrust, cynicism, and low performance at home and at work.

Values are:

  • What drive your priorities in life
  • How you like to spend your time
  • What give you the most enjoyment and satisfaction
  • How you relate to others

Clarifying your values helps you understand yourself and why you  choose to act the way you do. Knowing your values provides focus and identifies characteristics you would like to develop, live and lead by. Take my Core Values exercise  and learn more about you, your family and your team.

CoreCoaching is all about capitalizing on your strengths and developing aspects of yourself you want to strengthen. Contact me at Rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com 

 

Can You Handle the Truth? Accounting For Phone Time

Where does the time go? Why can’t I get more done each day? I want to finish my business plan, but other stuff gets in the way.

Do these complaints sound familiar? If you’re serious about improving your productivity and finding the waste in your day, being accountable for your phone time is a good place to start. Of all the distractions and interruptions we need to control for, smart phones and tablet use rates as Number One!

We typically underestimate the time spent on our phones. As an exercise I ask my clients to write on a slip of paper how many minutes or hours a day they think they spend on their phones and tablets. Their estimate is sealed in an envelope. Using one of the apps below they track the actual time spent on their phones for one week. After seven days their written estimates are unveiled. The estimates are often off by 50% or more! These apps can also tell you how many times you check your smartphone, what apps you use the most, reminders to take digital breaks and help you set limits on phone and table use. You all know that I’m not a big fan of GAGs (Gimmicks, Apps Gadgets) except for the ones that can keep us from over-using them! The truth can be liberating. If you care about productivity, the truth can also motivate you to make needed changes. Check out these links:

Moment – Screen Time Tracker

A Handy iOS Feature

Also read: Become aware of just how much your use your smartphone!

After the shocking reality hits home, you might take the next step and track your reasons for your excessive phone use. In subsequent blogs, I will address the most common reasons and their solutions.

I’m always happy to get your comments and requests for topics. Email me at rebecca@mindfulcommunication.com

A New Solution for Anxiety: The Alpha-Stim

Perhaps the most common concern my entrepreneur clients report is anxiety and its cousin, insomnia. Founders have every reason to be anxious. In fact, if they are perfectly at ease with their startup, I get suspicious!  For those  new to  entrepreneurship there are constant battles between vision and reality, hope and doubt, deadlines and the worry of having no deadlines at all.  I encourage my entrepreneurs-at- risk to hold off on big, costly decisions until they get a handle on their anxiety. Control over anxiety means:

  • consistently good sleep
  • giving emotion a back seat when solving a problem
  • being able to re-frame mistakes and setbacks and move forward
  • the ability to inhibit impulsive actions and reactions.

Emotional control is one of the four core skills essential to healthy and successful entrepreneurship.

A review of the most helpful of anxiety-reducing activities include: meditation, yoga, exercise, visualization and  mindfulness training etc. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another fine option, but it requires regular sessions and practice. Others benefit from software tools like The Muse, Wild Divine, Heartmath and other kinds of biofeedback. The usual objections to these approaches include “not enough time,” or “the more I try to quiet my mind, the louder it gets.”

Let me tell you about another safe, effective, well-tested approach for anxiety, insomnia (and depression). It is a form of cranial-electrotherapy called Alpha-Stim. It is a user-friendly, handheld device the size of a cell phone. It requires no practice or effort by the user, and it can be used while doing most other activities except driving.

Moods and emotions are controlled through electro-chemical signals in your brain. When these signals aren’t functioning properly, the hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate your emotions can become unbalanced resulting in an anxious state.

The Alpha-Stim device generates a signal that produces a waveform conducive to calmness and a better state of mind − the Alpha frequency  (8-12 Hz). The Alpha-Stim has been very helpful with many of my clients. For those that notice no change with the Alpha-Stim, other approaches such medications or neurofeedback may be more helpful.

To learn more about the Alpha-Stim go to www.alpha-stim.com or email info@epii.com.

If you are local to the Boston MetroWest area, we offer a personalized Alpha-Stim demonstration and educational session at the Hallowell Center in Sudbury, Mass. If you’d like to make an appointment call 978 287 0810.

 

Steer Clear of the Subtle Saboteurs

First thing in the morning, start out visualizing your most productive and satisfying day. What kind of day, from start to finish, would give you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment?  If you can see it, then you know what to aim for. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve got your to-do list. But, in visualizing your perfect day, how will you tackle the more insidious distractions that could divert you?  Distractions aren’t all about noise and interruptions. If you haven’t addressed the obvious, then now is the time: shut the damn door, turn off the bleeping phone and tell people to leave you alone. If you’ve covered those bases, let’s address some of the sneakier distractions:

Unpreparedness reinforces your wanderlust:  If you set up a schedule the night before, which I highly recommend, all the pieces are in place. Your schedule should have THE TASKS and all the little sub-tasks listed below it for getting each TASK done. Then you can have a blast checking off each little sub-task as you complete it. Otherwise, if you just list the tasks, it’s like facing an inferno.

Dehydrated and de-nourished. Before you sit down to work, start off with a breakfast high in protein, good fats and plenty of water, especially if you suffer from anxiety and attention problems. Your brain is fat, protein keeps you sharp and water helps everything.

Unjustly rewarding yourself with gaming, FB time and other things you don’t deserve till you get the real work done. Newsflash: You have to earn your goodies− a good lesson to start teaching your kids now before electronics and endless fun screws up their brain circuitry for good.

Let me help you steer clear of the subtle saboteurs stealing from your success. Contact me at Rebecca@MindfulCommunication.com

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

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.

 

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    

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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