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Hear my silence

Hear my silence

I just finished reading a book called ‘Hear my silence’ by Karina Colgan, an Irish journalist who told her story of dealing with depression after being a succesful, strong business person and mother. She shares in the book how all-consuming and gripping depression can be on the life of the individual suffering from depression but also on their immediate friends and family. She gives advice on how to deal with depression from every angle, which I found extremely useful and encouraging.

I wrote a few comments on my facebook page about the book and unleashed a debate. Ironically it proved every point in the book that in Irish society we love to swipe this kind of disease under the carpet. According to statistics as many as 1 in 4 Irish people of all ages, all social backgrounds etc, will suffer from depression in their lifetime.

80% of the depression sufferers do recover and resume a normal lifestyle.

Some of the greatest minds in science, music, arts, writing and politics suffered depression (Edison, Roosevelt, Nixon, Beckett, Van Gogh, etc). I believe the message Karina wrote about is essential for a lot of people to hear about.

Here is a poem from the book that describes the motions of depression (written by Jo A. Witt, USA as printed in the book ‘Hear my silence’ by Karina Colgan, copyright of poem remains with Jo A. Wit):
When I’m hurting
It’s easier for you to walk away, than it is for you to reach out to me.
It’s easier for you to look away, than it is for you to see the depth of my despair.
It’s easier for you to look through me, than it is for you to see ‘me’.
It’s easier for you to distance yourself, than it is for you to really care.
It’s easier for you to hear, than it is for you to listen.
It’s easier for you to judge, than it is for you to understand.
It’s easier for you to label, than it is to get acquainted.
It’s easier for you to bask in your joy, than it is to feel my pain.
It’s easier for you to bewilder at my mysteries, than it is for you to probe deeply into the depths of my soul.It’s easier for me to look away, than it is to let you see the feelings betrayed through my eyes.
It’s easier for me to cry, than it is for me to talk.
It’s easier for me to walk alone, than it is to risk rejection.
It’s easier for me to push you away, than it is for me to be held.
It’s easier for me to distance myself, than it is to trust that you won’t hurt me.
It’s easier for me to die, than it is for me to face life’s challenges.It’s hard for me to smile when I am hurting.
It’s hard for me to talk when you won’t understand.
It’s hard for me to reach out when I need help the most.

If only you’d really look at me and see who I am.
If only you cared enough to reach out when I push you away.
If only you’d hold me, without asking why.
If only you’d acknowledge the validity of my feelings.

But it’s the easy roads that are most often taken.
And so I hurt alone.

Poem by Jo A. Witt, USA

In my view the poem truly describes the various emotions someone goes through in depression and how the world around them reacts. It’s frightening to think that even just understanding and being with the person with a non-judgemental attitude can help them move forward again. It is so simple and yet so often neglected. If there is someone in your circle that is suffering, do them a favour, read this book and give them understanding.

Become a meaningful specific as opposed to a wandering generality!

Become a meaningful specific as opposed to a wandering generality!

In the professional service industry, standing out from the crowd is vitally important. Most services are already available in one form or another, none of them are vastly unique. If you take the coaching industry for example, in the boom times, every second person and their dog was a life coach, thanks to the recession a lot of wannabee coaches are leaving the industry and those that truly mean business are still around.

The difference between working hard and working smart in the service industry is making sure people know what you are offering and who you are aiming at. We at our office recently looked at the services of B/Right Business Coaching and found in our niche audit that we were not specific enough and offering confusing services to a wide base of businesses. Hence our splitting the offering into 3 key areas and this one specifically targeted at start-up service businesses.

How did we make that decision? Well, our client base was already mainly service companies from one-man working from home type businesses to well established multi generation professional service companies. We have built our expertise in this area and have a great track record with start-ups, where we actually beat the statistics of companies making profit in their first 12 to 18 months as well as still being around and thriving after 3 years. So, when it comes to start-ups we know what they need, all we ask of our customers is that they are teachable and implement the suggestions in their companies.

If you are brand new to your service, you have the ideal postion of choice. You can choose who you enjoy working with, what kind of people you want to do business with and the kind of attributes they come with. The sooner you become very specific about your target market, the easier it is for people to buy from you and refer to you. The funny thing about being specific and putting your name to a particular type of work, means that you have an opportunity to have a good profit margin.

The challenge when I give workshops on marketing for professional services, is that business owners are afraid to be specific about their target market and their service, because they feel they might be losing out on other business if they go narrow and specific. In actual fact the wider and more general you remain, the more difficult it is to make money. Crazy fact!

So I guess, if you prefer to make less money, by all means stay general, but the risk of being very specific is that people recognise you for you do and cna refer business to you and you have the door wide open for profit. Funny enough, by being very specific, the other ‘general’ queries still come in and you can choose to take them on or not.

We sell on 3 key points: productivity and focus for high achievers through B/Right Focus Coaching, work/life balance and time-management hrough B/Right work life balance and start-up advice for professional service companies through this site B/Right start-ups. The commonality is that each service involves business coaching and is targeted at the professional services industry, but each have very distinctive needs and demands, hence a niche is available. We had this challenge of making 3 niches, because we decided to become more specific after a number of years in business.

How do you select your niche? First of all look at the various areas of experience you come with, your CV is a good starting point, even if it is an ecclectic mix of odd jobs, there may well be themes and generic trends that are unique to you. You can draw on personal experiences, because if you have personally experienced how to turn particular situations around for the better and you have designed a service around this, it may well work. Basically you are looking for a hook or angle to promote your service to a target market that is identifiable. Take start-ups for example, they are identifiable they tend to go to start your own business events, they can be found in enterprise competitions, they hang out in incubator centres, which is quite specific. Business coaching potential clients however as a target group is wide, varied and very non-specific, so also very hard to find or refer on to you.

The starting point is your own life and business experience and then you bring in the types of people you would like to sell to. I chose professional services, because it’s an industry I have pretty much always worked in from my management consulting days up to now. If your background is in retail, music, sports, etc. there may well be a potential niche angle of people you would like to work with and understand. Narrow it down to their attributes, which are things like teachability, having budgets, innovative, etc. The more specific you are, the easier it becomes to find these individuals.

Once you know your specific service and your specific target market, then it is a case of going out to find them in big numbers, which if you managed to define previous part in great detail, then they should be easy to find. Next step then is to go and spend time with them and truly understand their behaviours.

The real message here is to pick a niche that you know you will enjoy, identify the kinds of people you want as your clients and then go make your mark in this corner of the market. One of my mentors came up with a saying ‘A niche will make you riche’ (imagine a french accent at the end) . Become a meaningful specific in order to be profitable in your service business.

What animal are you?

What animal are you?

I am reading a book called ‘Dare, take your life on and win’ by Gary Leboff and normally books that ask me to work through all sorts of exercises before moving on to the next chapter annoy me as it disturbs a peaceful read. This one triggered some interesting questions, so I decided to play and have fun with it. So in the first chapter the author asks you to pick an animal that represents you and then he asks you to explain why.

I thought about it for a while and decided my animal was a Koala bear, as a child it was a favourite teddy bear and one of the first I ever received and the Koala creature has always intrigued me, so it felt like a match. Then the description made me think a little more, because most pictures of Koala’s are high up in a tree overlooking things and whilst they look nice and cuddly, I have been told they can be quite vicious when they lash out.

Hmmm, so what does that tell you about me…? (and some of my clients will now be sniggering at this stage)

My explanation is quite simple, I do like to see the bigger picture and will often distance myself to gain perspective, whether that is in business or in personal situations. I am generaly quite friendly and I often am told that I have an air of serenity about me, but equally can be found guilty of sledge hammer subtle comments. I do tend to do my own thing and like my independence a lot, so maybe the analogy and choice of animal is rather more revealing and accurate than I had originally thought.Considering I grew up in the Northern Hemispheres I havent actually learned an awful lot about Koala’s and have only seen them whilst on holiday in Australia, but even with limited knowledge I did gain a few nice insights. If there are Koala experts out there that feel like filling me in on the other attributes, please do let me know.

I question you, what animal represents you and what does that say about you?

It is fascinating once you detach yourself from the actual being and transfer yourself on to something else like an animal, what you learn in terms of perspective. I love learning, so I am always reading new books and keeping up-to-date with tools and techniques that may help my clients, but before I implement the techniques in my practice I try them for myself, because if they work on me I can give firsthand feedback on why it is a useful technique.If you have an animal insight or story to share as a result of this blog post, please do contact me, I would love to hear the insight you gained.

Do you feel like screaming – STOP – leave me alone! I need more time!?

Do you feel like screaming – STOP – leave me alone! I need more time!?

Owner managers of small and medium sized businesses have an interesting balancing act to work in order to keep ahead of their schedule, they often have to be the king or queen of multi-tasking and in the end of the day all responsibility and accountability stops at their door, hence the person under most time pressure tends to the boss.

In my experience from dealing with entrepreneurs, the following scenario is quite common and really crept up on these people over time, unplanned and by accident, read-on to see if you recognise anybody.
It is Monday morning 7am and the owner has arrived early, before all the other staff comes in and before the phone starts ringing off the hooks, clients, suppliers and employees start taking over your schedule, so you could just get some work done. It is your favourite time of day without interruptions. As soon as 9am passes, all hell breaks loose and welcome back interruptions galore. You have some great people working for you , but yet somehow the receptionist doesn’t manage to fend off those telemarketing interruptions and finance is now also passing you account queries, not to mention the fact that all difficult clients always end up being referred to you. At times you feel as if all you ever do is answer phones, deal with people conflict, staff not performing or taking liberties, in all honesty you sometimes even question whether they are committed to the same company goals as you or whether they ever considered that their job description actually entails the duties they were supposed to perform. Anyhow as soon as 5.30pm arrives, you can relax again and work in peace for at least another hour or two to finish off that one urgent request and look into your jam-packed e-mail inbox. The next time you look at your clock, it reads 9pm, no wonder you feel drained, tired and hungry and you finally decide to call it a day and vow to make up for it at the weekend. On your way home you question, why being in business is great? And sometimes you even dare to contemplate that your nastiest alter ego, came up with terms and conditions for the owner manager work arrangements.
Does this story sound all too familiar?

The reality is time management is vital for every owner/manager and whilst days like the one above will probably happen to even the best time-keeper under the sun occasionally, they should never be a regular working pattern. In my work on the RTE show ‘How long will you live’ I am invited when business owners are not managing their time and due to the stress that they put their bodies under, they are likely to shorten their lifespan and attract all sorts of stress related illnesses, anything from high blood pressure to heart conditions etc. Obviously the participants tend to have one thing in common, definitely never making time for themselves or even to look after their own health. As busy owner managers, they often forget to look after the one resource that drives everything; you wouldn’t expect your car to continue working if the fuel ran out or the engine gave up, so why expect it from our body?

The start to resolving lack of time management is always to become aware of how you currently spend your time. With my clients I would ask them to track every 15 minutes of their day from start to finish for 2 weeks, including breaks and interruptions and I ask them to note who interrupted them for what reason, to establish trends. When you are aware of where your time is going, you can actually take charge and change it. The tracking exercise will show some very interesting trends regarding quick coffees, quick questions, communication deficits with staff, training issues and delegation problems. So in order to start resolving the problem with time, analyse how you spend it at the moment.

The next step then is to list all your tasks, roles and regular occurring responsibilities, start with annual items, then narrow it down to quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily tasks. On a year planner you can map out expected peak times, where you need to allow for more staff, more delegation and plan to have time for yourself. With the various lists identified, I then ask clients to translate the list of duties into an ideal week plan, where if they had full control over how they spent their time this is how they would use it. I ask them to map this out on an A4 sheet, broken down in hourly blocks, whilst taking into account when they are most alert and work best on difficult or complex jobs, in the least alert body clock time of day I ask them to schedule meetings, because you always pay attention with a person in front of you.

Once you have your ideal week designed, then the goal is to work 1 perfect day as planned per week, not 5 just 1. If you hit 1, then aim for a second perfectly planned day. If you don’t hit 100% any given day, don’t worry, most of us will find that if you work at an 80% as per planned time, your satisfaction and productivity rate is well above average and you start sensing feelings of accomplishment and getting things done. Also be aware that there are odd days where only 40% goes according to plan, these are the ones to accept as exceptions and learn from for future reference.

The rest is a case of choosing between the typical time management actions: Do, Dump, Delay or Delegate!

If you are curious on how you could improve or fine-tune your skills, fill out the wheel of success in time management. For each spoke on the wheel give yourself marks out of 10 of how well you perform on this element (1 meaning very bad and 10 meaning there is no room for improvement, you have mastered the art already). At the end connect the points and hopefully your wheel can actually drive your business forward, if the shape looks no-where near a wheel and has lots of edgy points, then you are in for a bumpy journey. The good thing is though that you have identified your areas for improvement.

Enjoy the road-trip to time management success!

Thought leadership

Thought Leadership

Thinking doesn’t cost us any money, just time and space to allow ourselves to explore those passing thoughts and feelings. In business we are often so caught up in the running of our work and staying busy, that time to think is considered more of a luxury rather than a necessity.

At a recent business seminar one of the speakers relayed a story of deciding when is it your time to think. So when is it. For me time in nature and walks or runs are a great time to think and let random thoughts settle in for a while or just even pass through.

When you are looking to become the leader in your market space, your ideas and thoughs generate an interest and a following. If people are talking to you about your blog and ideas, you have a following, so be careful what you write about especially on this worldwibe web of information.

I am often surprised at the comments I receive about my blogs and sometimes in my view the most unlikely people read them, yet it is a great conversation piece. It’s as if I am letting people into a piece of my mind and they can choose to comment or stay silent and agree or disagree.

When does a random thought become a leaders comment, though? Is there a minimum mass required or does it just happen naturally?

On this blog I will aim to publish my musing about business and leadership in general, whereas my other blog will remain more personal and I will share some of the ideas I pick up on from the books I read. If you follow me on facebook or now me well personally, you know I am an avid reader and on average read between 2 and 10 books a month.

I think a meeting early in my introduction to all things self-development left a lasting impression: Charlie ‘Tremendous’ Jones said ‘leaders are readers’. Libraries have always been a favourite place of worship for me, so I just continued my visits and added to my personal library on a regular basis.

Let me just end with an interesting quote, which resonates with me: 

“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance.
Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations.
Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary
to make it a reality.”
–  Ralph Marston.