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Who am I to be brilliant?

Who am I to be brilliant?

In my sorting through what seems to be an endless amounts of materials gathered over the 19 years I have lived in Ireland, I came accross a part of the Nelson Mandela inaugural speech. I don’t know whether all the meeting of people for the last time and saying goodbye to some of my favourite places, has made me a bit reflective and introspective. Or whether recent conversations with some close friends about stepping up and going after the next level that is out there for the taking if we feel we want it, is really what is making this speech very current and very relevant to more than any other time.

In talking to people about my move to Stockholm a lot of people feel that it is a massively courageous move to make and that if they could they would love to do the same. To be honest I am not sure whether I have the same viewpoint, for me my decision to move is based on opportunity and timing coming together. I am looking forward to the new challenge, with that I wouldn’t be human if I had no sentiments about leaving a lot of things behind in Ireland, but is that really courage?

I think all of our experiences both positive and negative ones lead us to become more rounded people. To me to stop evolving and not adapting and not availing of opportunities when they occur would really be limiting, frustrating and not what we were intended to be on this planet for. So whether that is courage or just making the most of life I am not sure.

I think all my career moves and businesses to date have made this move possible and it will allow me to explore implementing my skills from a different angle and that to me is refreshing. All I can say is that my move is based on all the right reasons for me personally and most of my true friends have been extremely similar in their view of the situation, which has been great to have so much support around.

If anything that is what all of us need when we are going through change: a trusted friend network that can support decisions which take an element of faith to make. These same friends will probably and highly likely tell you when you are missing the point too, at least mine do.For all of you wondering, whether you could make a bold move into a new direction, here is the text that to me is relevant to all of us pondering brilliance on a personal and business level.

Who am I to be brilliant? (excerpt form inaugural speech of Nelson Mandela 1994)

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us
We ask ourselves ‘who am I to be brilliant?’
Actually who are you NOT to be?
You are a child of God
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that people won’t feel insecure around you
we are born to manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us, it’s in everyone
And as we let our light shine
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

So next time you or a friend are pondering whether to take the next step, ask yourself the question…Who are you NOT to be brilliant?

Do you network or netvulture?

Do you network or netvulture?

Networking is key to building a business in the professional services industry whether you enjoy that part or not, it is an essential part of progression within companies as well as inside industries as business owners. If you have attended any networking events you can nearly recognise the various characters: those working the room eager to be seen rather than have any meaningful interest or conversation in anyone apart from themselves, those genuinely looking to help other people present and invariably you have the wallflowers who only speak when spoken to and in some groups you even have the insider cliques as well.

Over the years I have attended all kinds of networking events from the social setting variety to the formal dinner dance to a focused business exchange meeting and I even organised a speednetworking event before this became all popular and the rage. Living in a small city in Ireland networking is the only way to place yourself and your professional service on the map. I used to tell my clients if there aren’t 3 or 4 random business people in this city that have heard about you and your business then you just haven’t hit the map. In Ireland business is still largely done through who you know and hence the connection factor is extremely important. Connect well and it can make you, the other side of the coin being it can also break you, so be aware.

For a number of years I assisted people new to networking on how to get to most out of their experience and especially with fellow coaches I often had to teach them to have non-coaching conversations. Just because somebody asks you what you do and shows an interest, that doesn’t give you license to coach or consult or pitch for that matter. The last one pitching is relevant for all service professionals not just coaches. The purpose of networking in my view has always been to meet new people and walk away with a number of potentially good and useful contacts, not necessarily closed business, but rather the start to what could be a meaningful and mutually beneficial business relationship. Pitching should only enter the frame when you are specifically invited to do so or quote for actual work, any time before then you are having meaningful business conversation that may or may not be mutually beneficial and will help build up a business relationship. So becoming a good conversationalist will be helpful.

Recently I saw quite a different approach, which I can only call net-vulturing… If you have seen any of the Harry Potter movies, the whole experience felt like one of the vultures just grabbing hold of you and nearly strangling you to the point of total discomfort and unease whilst trying to get to your contact base. One of these experiences I observed and the other I was on the receiving end of. At first I though it might have been a stand alone freak incident, but when it happened again I felt compelled to write about it and I have to say 4 different unrelated businesses and individuals were involved, so there was no cross-over.

What made the experience so uncomfortable is that the person interested in my contact base, really wasn’t interested in me, my well-being, but they were just out to self-profit and self-promote, which in my view was missing the whole point. I actually felt like saying ‘What makes you think I actually want to introduce you, when you don’t even have the respect for me?’, I obviously didn’t ask this question, but I sure as hell thought it and made a mental note to be seriously cautious on who I would introduce this individual to. If you want to be introduced to people I know, the first things I want to do is build a relationship with you to find out whether I can get to know more about you and your business, whether I like you and whether I can trust you and only then when all those boxes are ticked I may ask is there something mutually beneficial for you and the person you want the introduction to.

The other vulture type situation where I was an observer, was slightly different to the one I experienced, but it made watching people rather interesting. Here the netvulture was so intent on getting the contact, he nearly killed everything in it’s path to get the name and number, a little bit like what happens to creatures in ‘The Lord of the Ring’ when they get hypnotised by the ring. The individual on the receiving end reacted with stunned shock at the aggression of the pitch and because they were the lesser experienced they just handed over all relevant information, but you could see this didn’t sit well with them. An agreement was made for this vulture to meet the contact at another event a few weeks later and I have to say the whole thing came full circle. The unsuspecting contact was immediately whisked away to speak to the pitching party of the vulture team and I have never ever seen anyone leave a networking meeting with such urgency as the unsuspected individual did that time. I felt if time had been taken to nurture the introducer as well as the actual contact, an actual very profitable situation could have grown from it for all involved, but as it stands the introducer will not come near the vulture again and the contact I think will probably stay well clear also.

When you are eager to find business and new contacts, do it with respect for the introducer but also for yourself, sometimes it is worth building and nurturing a relationship over time that is based on real trust as opposed to going in with the hard sell, hungry for business type of tactic. Whether the economy is doing well or not is actually irrelevant in building a network of contacts, but only those that you have truly nurtured will stand the test in bad times, those fair weather hungry creatures will always let you down in the long run or when the favour needs to be returned.

Always remember in professional services people buy from people they know, like and trust and have something to offer that is beneficial to them. In networking you need to make the last part mutually beneficial and nurture the relationship over time…or at least that’s how I feel about it.

The key observation in both situations was that the damaging parties obviously had no idea they were having this effect, which is what fascinated me and has me writing about it. I wonder am I the only one observing this behaviour? Is is a sign of the times? Or am I missing something completely?

Pride, procrastination and other good things that hold us back from change

Pride, procrastination and other good things that hold us back from change

Change management has been one of my personal hobby horse topics for some time now, very likely because it is also where I started my working career and specialised in through my MBA. This economic climate is driving change and if any of you watched any European elections, the trend is very clear those that were in government get voted out and new guys with a change message get voted in, which I guess is not too dissimilar to what happened with the Obama election. People are fed up with the same inefficience at government level and choose a clear difference. If you are the owner of manager of a business or department, would your team re-elect you? If you are a solo-preneur, would you choose for you again?

Even though we all recognise that there is a need for change, often we assign the change to have to come from the outside as opposed to ourselves or within our business as well as outside. In Ireland a lot of the economic crisis has been blamed on the global downturn and if that picks up the local economy will also improve… hmm, forgetting inefficiencies in our public sector, government as well as banks, spending patterns and other general head in the sand type policies from the people in leadership. But that is a totally different discussion. When it comes to change, it is amazing how often we are totally unaware of our own resistance to change and we even convince ourselves that it is just a matter of time before things will turn around for the better or we make statements that it isn’t too bad, etc. etc.

We all have unique ways of holding ourselves back and having experienced some extended periods of major upheaval, I have had to get very much up close and personal with my own resistors. One that took me by surprise a bit is the power of pride in stopping change, pride of achievements and what I stood for closed off opportunities that were presenting themselves quite clearly but my pride didn’t allow me to see them or even contemplate pursuing them. In some cases even to the extent of alienating people with ideas and suggestions. I don’t believe I had to diss my achievements, but I did have to sideline personal pride or stubborness to get out of the impasse I was in and that took a good bit of mental persuasion to say the least. I had little peptalk sessions to be open to opportunity and also invented a rule to give something at least 1 week of proper consideration before moving away from it and that helped keeping an opportunity mindset.

When I did my first coaching course in 2001, the training mentioned that in life we often receive little nudges to encourage us to change into a new direction or change something about ourselves, but when we keep ignoring the little nudges they tend to grow into seriously big trucks coming towards you hitting you off your path and throwing you into a new direction and no matter where you move to these trucks keep finding you until you get the message and change. Well to be honest I think sometimes I must just be a slow learner because up till now my life has been full of nudges and quite a few trucks and you think that at this stage you learn to recognise them and adapt sooner.

When the economy started to go south in my line of work, I did what most entrepreneurs were doing I thought let’s wait and see if it will get better, I procrastinated like no tomorrow and did all sorts fo non-effective business building or reorganising on a very superficial level. Until the proverbial truck hit and I had to take big action from leting staff go to closing down the office location and retreating back to working from home. The old tactics of building business were no longer working and it has made me rethink everything to do with this business and I am working on more dramatic changes, but only after it nearly floored me as a person as well as the business.

Procrastination shows in multiple forms and it is up to you to recognise what you do, once you know how then you can change it. I have seen people hide in IT land, meetings, networking events, books, etc… but the real essential change isn’t getting done even though they know damn well that something needs to change, even if what exactly isn’t so clear. My suggestion for you is to find your procrastinator and then work at reducing the time it spends consuming you, it’s amazing what change you can bring about. Hint, hint, it’s probably somethign you do every day more than once per day.. for no particularly logical reason.

Focus on what is important to you, not what everyone else says it should be. In a time a rapid change, which is now happening around us, there is a tremendous potential for new creation and re-invention of you and your business. One book I read early in my MBA always comes to mind when I think of re-invention, namely the Semco story where the company nearly went under but thanks to serious maverick actions the workers managed to turn the business around and in the process entered several brand new markets, produces products and services it never originally had, etc.at the same time they also challenged every bit of management thinking and came up with a brand new internal model. (Book: Maverick by Semco)
So if your business isn’t working as it is, then maybe it is time to go back to the drawing board and do something drasticly different, engage your staff in the process as they are often the best to spot new opportunities.

The fear factor is another one of those great show stoppers, if you are stopped by what other people might say… here is a newsflash most of us think about ourselves about 90% of the time if not more… so for you to get on someone else’s radar screen, you want to be seriously special to them. If you are seriously special to them they will also want the best outcome for you and that means communicate your fears and ideas in equal measure and bring them along, you might be amazed at the support. Breaking into a new area may feel uncomfortable and as long as you don’t expect perfection from the first step it can also be very liberating and invigorating.

If something is no longer working whether it is your business, a person in your team or just you… look at the situation from every angle and see if you can find the cause of the problem and if you don’t find a cause then I urge you to pay even more attention because it is very likely a little nudge, which if ignored turns into a truck…so look at change options. If you are living in a state of change overwhelm, where the need to change is so obvious and so clear but you really don’t know how to get your head and actions around it, then I advise you to hire a coach or trusted advisor to help explore options. Whatever you do, make sure it is what you see as the best option and not what people tell you to do. Some advice is good, but then keep your own critical thinking ability in check as well as everything you value in life and business and when the advice still fits after that little detour, then maybe it is the best way forward. Time is relative in these kinds of change periods, so let that not be the decisive factor, but clarity, values, peace of mind to have made the right decision and excitement for your new direction are a must.

For now all I will say is that I am personally changing into a new direction, I am proud of my achievements in my business for the last 9 years and have absolutely no regrets of my current decision to pursue a new direction. What it is exactly remains private for now, as for the coaching business this will transition into an e-business with outsourced coaching. This blog will remain because I enjoy writing about business and where people can improve. At the same time I am excited to explore my new adventure, so what is your adventure going to be?

Challenge 100: are you up for it?

Challenge 100: are you up for it?

Challenge 100 was an original brainchild of mine when I first went looking for work after finishing my degree in marketing. I set myself the goal to collect 100 PFO letters, which loosely translates in ‘please find other’ (or some equal words to that effect of lesser printable nature) in other words letters of rejection. My dream job at the time was in management consultancy, so I wrote to every job ad in the Sunday Times, any company advertising through the university or any I could possibly find a HR name and address for. My thinking was that if I collected 100 rejections without any yes,then I would reconsider my career choice and guessed that it wasn’t for me. I had a dedicated file for all the letters and numbered them, so I would know how I was doing… as one does, no?

Well the fact that the target was 100, the whole attachment to the outcome was gone. I wanted a job for sure, but at the same time in my chosen career geting a foot in the door wasn’t easy. I did have a job, which would have been a stepping stone, but not quite what I wanted to do all the same, so I didnt have the financial pressure of having to find something in a hurry hanging over me either. What happened was that the company that held rejection letter 27, actually contacted me (after I received 35 letters) in a rush to have me starting on a project preferably the week after. So sometimes a no isn’t quite a no, because requirements can change so quickly. The company had won an international project and desperately needed people with languages and a business brain, so that’s how I got started.

If you are currently unemployed and looking for work, apply the same approach, although I do believe the days where they actually posted you a lovely ‘thank you for your application, you were unsuccessfull but we we will keep it on file’ is well and truly over. This means you may just need to keep track of all the applications you make in a particular sector and aim for 100 applications in a given career before moving onto another one. Oh, and hint hint to all of those companies hiring, if you want to make a lasting impression on applicants, do send them a nice printed letter (or a lovely e-mail should budget be too tight for letters, ink and a stamp), they won’t expect it, but they will tell other people, which is positive PR free of charge. (In this economy free PR is always helpful).

If you run a business or work in sales, I challenge you to contact 100 new people in 100 days or less to speak about your business or company you represent in order to gain new business. If you just want to have better quality of life, do 100 things to improve your life, starting today. I also think everyone should have a list of the 100 fun things to do this lifetime and 100 places to visit and people to meet, etc. etc. whatever rocks your boat really. But for the last few, the time frame isn’t nearly as important as for those that you want to have short term success with.

The time frame is of importance, 100 attempts over a lifetime may be very achievable but with large time gaps also rather inefficient. I tend to set the challenge for 100 days or less, and yes the overachievers reading this stuff you can do it all as quick as you can… just give it more than 3 weeks all the same… new habits do need nesting time. The minimum action is 1 thing every day, which is achievable in job searches, business contacts or life improvements. If you do nothing 1 day then double up the activity another day, especially in sales or business making good contacts at weekends may not be all that happening, even though they say a lot of business get’s done on the golf course, sailing boats, bars, etc…so be open for opportunity.

The focus of the challenge 100, is to hit 100. You may have a sub-goal whether it is more business, a job, lifestyle change or other target, but the primary one is 100. By focusing on the activity number, you take away the emotional attachment to one rejection on its own. By remaining detached from the outcome, the odds are that you will hit your sub-goal a lot sooner and often from rejections that you had already written off, which was the case with my first job.

If you hit 100 rejections, then I would challenge you to examine seriously what it is you want and set out in a new direction with a new strategy. If 100 people in a row tell you clearly they do not want your business, then maybe it just isn’t viable as it is, then maybe it is time for re-design of your service, product or exploring other options altogether and letting this one go. One thing is for sure when you keep track of your challeng 100 contacts or actions, you will also know that you have given it a good shot and if for whatever reason it didn’t work after 100 good shots, then maybe it’s just not meant to be.

There are two way to approach the challenge you can start by making a list of 100 people, companies, actions and tick them off as you go or as you make a new contact add it to a pre-numbered page. I typically choose the latter approach because new opportunities keep coming up and then when they really become dead leads I cross them out. Some of the items may remain on the list for a while and others will barely be added and then get crossed out, but as I said the aim is 100, so if 20 leads to nothing it is no big deal and who knows in time they may well change their mind.

Currently I have a challenge 100 going for myself and I am on number 20 since this morning, but may still hit 22 before I go to sleep all the same…damn the overachiever in me always has to do this…:-) …
So now I ask you, are you up for the challenge 100????

Be like water

Be like water

I came across the saying  ‘Be like Water’ a few months ago at a marketing seminar and James Schramko put up this quote as part of his presentation, which is originally an ancient chinese saying, but he also made the point that when water hits a stumbling block it goes over it, around it or under it. It doesn’t get frustrated, it doesn’t kick it, it doesn’t stop because of it, it just finds a way over, under or around it. The statement has remained with me ever since, because so often I do get frustrated and annoyed at stumbling blocks and I can safely say whilst I do my best to ‘be like water’ I sure haven’t mastered that art, yet.

The last number of months, actually 26 to be exact about it, have been challenging to the extreme at times and I have often felt that something was out to break my spirit whether it was conscious or not, intended or not, self-inflicted or not, I am not judging it, all I can say is that it hasn’t been easy. To stick with the water analogy it’s as if I got swept away by a river and at times hit the swirly bits where everything is in overdrive and moving all around you and you don’t know which direction you are heading in anymore.

In the past 2 weeks, things have defintely gone into change overdrive again, but maybe from a good point of view… maybe it’s the waterfall that leads to a gentler part of the river. I am not sure yet where it is leading, but everything is changing all around me and for once I am no longer fighting it.

Actually on a funny note, sometimes the waterfall seems to find it’s way out through my eyes a lot lately and as a friend pointed out to me tears are a promise of a better tomorrow. I sure hope that is right, this time. Tears are a relief and anyone that claims that you shouldn’t, may want to try it some time and see if they feel better after, mostly they are an energy release of some kind.One day last week I was out walking at sunrise and I am naturally drawn to water and rivers, it was so peaceful and serene. Little duck families were out swimming and I thought how often are we like the ducks looking serene and in control above the water to the face of the public that is or isn’t watching, but if they only knew the legs were working like hell under water to stay going. So often have I looked in full flow and control to the outside world and felt the complete and utter opposite below the water.

Those days I tend to reflect either that it was a challenge and one that I managed to overcome happily or the odd time I wasn’t fully happy with the performance or outcome, but it was the best available at the time. So I guess whether we paddle like hell or not, in the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. One thing is for sure though you rarely see ducks paddling against the current and maybe that is the lessons for the paddlers amongst us.The weather has been beautiful over here, when I can I spend time in nature, so I took an afternoon and I spent a good bit of time just enjoying the sunshine, reflecting. letting thoughts flow by and writing or doodling a bit whilst sitting on the river bank.

The next thing this seal swims by, enjoying himself and just going with the flow of the river tide swimming at leisure and then twirling around onto his back and letting the flow take him wherever the river is going. An amazing sight! It looked as if he hadn’t a care in the world and really loved going with the flow, doing his thing, minding his own business, not caring about all the people on the riverbank trying to take pictures of him or not. Although I did get the impression he was playing the viewing public a little bit, but maybe that was just my imagination giving the character a bit of meaning.

Again, nature has a gentle way of giving us lessons, if we care to notice them and to take them on board. To go with the flow is a good one for me, as I have a rather impetuous nature that wants to create flow and totally get’s in the way of myself or any flow for that matter. The other observation I took out of the seal behaviour is that whilst I mostly do my thing, I would often care what other people think and sometimes even too much. In the end of the day it doesn’t matter as long as what you do is enjoyable and doesn’t harm anyone or anything around you or yourself of course.

Those two images stuck with me for the last number of days and I have been doing my best to let the chaos around me unfold itself without trying to control it or me for that matter. I have to admit some of the insights that have come as a result are interesting and even some decisions that I didn’t think were ever within ball park range have come around. I have reflected back and forwards on so many things from work to family to friends to places to live to travel, etc. etc.

I did adopt the be like water approach to let thoughts just pass through, not assigning meaning to them, but just letting them flow like water. The ones that resonate kept flowing with stronger currents and are receiving some attention, but some have just drifted off. It will be interesting to flow towards the ones that hold the solutions or are the key changes, but only time will fill in the details. For now, the motto is ‘gentle on me’ and that effectively means going with the flow of the water wherever it leads to.

Having been so driven and goal oriented all of my life, this really feels strangely alien to me but at the same time it feels right and the right thing to do for now. One surprising idea that has come out is that a change of location may be on the cards and when I started playing with what it would look like and some of the must haves of this new destination, the first thing that popped into my mind was that it needs to be near water!!! I have to say the whole water analogy has grabbed my attention for sure… but yes, I have always found water a really comforting and healing presence… so I guess that is really no surprise.

As for the other changes and decisions, there are a few, but I guess only the inner circle of my friends know these and the rest of you will just have to stay tuned to find out what they are…

For now, go find a river or water near you and see if it has any lessons or messages in it for you, if nothing else stay in flow and go with it!