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A thought for December

December; and Christmas is hurtling towards us. Advent candles are burning, and calendars being opened. Chocolate and carols are everywhere. Christmas cards are pouring through the letterbox and into the Inbox. It is a happy time but also very busy. We are catching up with the people we will not see over the Christmas and New Year periods; writing cards, packing presents and planning, planning, planning. Everywhere there is happiness and fun! And we have even seen snow and snow people!

Like me I expect you are going to lots of Christmas parties, drinks and meals. Aren’t we fortunate! Lots of lovely people, excitement and laughter. Everyone seems to be looking for a different theme and one of the ones I came across was about props. Which prop might describe your business? What a clever idea.
I thought about it for a while because as a business mentor I use my management experience, and what I know about business methods and human psychology. It is all in my head. Then I had the great awakening!!!!! I do have three tools:

The Torch
My job is to identify the hidden and ignored places in someone’s business or personal performance and then to shine the torch on them; the dark is only scary because you cannot see the threats but if you have a friend with you and a strong torch you can see and deal with them. It might help that I am not frightened of the dark!

The magnifying glass
Once we have found what is lurking in the dark corners then the magnifying glass helps me to focus on it and examine it carefully with the person. What is really going on? And what does it mean? But no Sherlock Holmes’ hat!

The magic wand
Once the situation has been identified and properly analysed then we can build a solution together. There is nothing magic about it, but the person often thinks there is because the answer seems to come out of nowhere; once they focus results come very quickly.

So, what are the tools of your trade? What do they tell you about how you work?

It is a great game if you have nothing else planned for Christmas Day!!!

None of this is original.  I hope it makes you smile.

Have a wonderful Christmas and may 2018 bring you many good things!

If this has been interesting, please share it. If you want to see the tools of a mentor’s trade, then please chat with me. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

A thought for November

November already. Where is the year going? It is a gorgeous autumn. Beautiful crisp mornings and some sunshine on the trees as they change colour. Wonderful, provided there is somewhere warm to return to! The children had an enjoyable Hallowe’en and now are starting rehearsing for nativity plays. We are making lists and wondering if there are two Christmases a year these days!

As the days are shorter I was indoors doing chores listening to the radio and along came a trail for an interview with Ken Dodd. Apparently Doddy is 90 at any minute so there will be interviews and shows to celebrate. I am not a Doddy fan – not my sense of humour but I admire his longevity! However, something that was said did catch my fancy. When asked what he would like his epitaph to be he thought and said, “He did his best”. It struck me that this phase can be said in two ways. “He did his best” in a very downbeat way implying it was a poor effort; or “He did his best” as a great compliment implying he was continually good.

Doddy’s humour looks so effortless he must work very hard to produce it. Certainly after all these years he knows how to work a crowd. He presents long shows even at 89 and still leaves the fans wanting more. He values each of his fans and is famous for giving one person a show as he would 2000. So, his best is superlative. It would be a great epitaph.

Two questions then. Would people say you do your best? And what would you like your epitaph to be?

“Your best” is always a difficult question to answer especially as I asked what other people would say rather than what you would say about yourself. We are much tougher on ourselves than others are; we put up unreasonable barriers to our own success and create standards that are far too high. Leave that to one side, think about the last time someone congratulated you on doing something well? What was it? Did you really hear what was said to you or did you try to brush off the feedback? Mostly people thank us or compliment us for something we did because they mean it, not to ingratiate themselves. Next time someone says something nice about your performance please take notice of it and treasure it up. There are plenty of times when we deserve praise and we don’t get it so use it then!

Do you put yourself in situations where you can use the best of you? If you are good with people are you using the skill or flogging away at something else and ignoring the strength? Doing what you are good at is so easy; doing what you are poor at is a chore. Why do chores if you don’t need to!

What about your epitaph? What is the sentence that would best sum up your life? What might your partner say or one of your children write? What would a work colleague say or a customer? Would it be something you have already thought of or would it be something new? Someone said to me last week “you’re such an ace at thinking things through”. That was not something I had thought about myself, but it might make a good epitaph!

Of course, the other way of looking at this is what is the epitaph you are working on making your own. We are all a work in progress. We are growing and changing all the time. What might you be working on? When my mother was a young woman she had a period of depression and hardly spoke to a soul. As part of climbing out of that dark space she set about becoming a good friend so that she would find good friends. Fifty years later when she died I had dozens of letters telling me what a good friend she had been and giving me countless examples – she grew into that intention.

So, come on…. what are you going to work on? For what do you want to be remembered? And what are you doing about it today?

None of this is original.  Your relationship with yourself is unique. I think understanding yourself is the first step on the road to wisdom; and thinking about your epitaph does not mean you are going to die!!!!!!

If this has been interesting, please share it. Think about working with a mentor and please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

A thought for October

It is October. Autumn is here. The dahlias are beautiful; there are gorgeous berries and leaves everywhere. The days are getting short. Children are looking forward to half term already! And Hallowe’en is coming. Ghosties, ghoulies and bats are everywhere and parents are dreading carving pumpkin lanterns. Whether we like it or not Trick or Treat is now part of our landscape.

And what about you? What are your demons?

There are things in each of our lives and in every job, that we do not like doing. Do those tasks first and get them over rather than leave them until you have completed the rest of the list. When it is the last item on the To Do list you will not have the energy or the inclination to start it today. The task will either be left to terrorise you tomorrow or be done when you are tired and done not very well. It will probably take twice as long as it should. Do it early and bask in that feeling for the rest of the day!

However, that is not what I am talking about. I am pointing to the things which you dread because you are not trained properly to do them or do not have the necessary equipment or proper work place. How long are you going to host this ghostie? Make this the October when you face the problem and decide how to exorcise it from your life.

Is it training? Invest in yourself. Define what you need and go looking for a training programme to fill the need. If you cannot do whatever it may be there is a good chance others will not be able to do it either. There will be courses available. Remember to start at the right level, if there is a basic, intermediate or advanced course choose the right one. Learning is hard enough without making it more difficult by going in at the wrong level.

It might be that you choose one to one coaching because you want the personal touch and nowhere to hide. It might seem expensive but it could be money well spent if you define your objective carefully and select a coach who is an expert and has good references. Always go on the rule of three – get three proposals and choose the person who comes closest to your objectives and with whom you think the chemistry is best.

So far, it is all straight forward. Now I want to tackle those gremlins that will not disappear. These are the really scary ones; the little devils that perch on the end of the bed at 3am and will not leave you alone. They keep pricking you with spiky questions about issues that you have been avoiding or not allowed yourself to think about. Usually it is our subconscious trying to get our attention and if it wakes you up and keeps you awake it is serious. We all know these gremlins they will not go away and they will not let you get back to sleep. They natter, they nag and they frighten. Their modus operandi is to refuse to leave you alone until you take notice; they terrify you and paralyse you. There feels to be no way to escape.

These gremlins must be dealt with differently. If they were easy you would have tackled them already. These are problems where you cannot see an obvious answer or a good route forward. There are arguments for every answer and no clear winner. They can be huge issues where the gremlin is muttering that you will run out of cash soon; or they may be frightening crossroads where every road takes you outside your comfort zone; each option paralyses you rather than letting you choose a way and move forward.

The trick here is to share the problem with someone else and soon – I would suggest a mentor because that person will be objective and will respect the effect the issue is having on you. Family members and friends want you to stop worrying and to make things OK. Their emotional involvement makes it impossible for them to drive away the gremlins permanently. Find that independent person who has the knowledge to help you unpick the issues, understand your fears and craft a plan you can follow to chase the demons away. Sharing a problem like this really does bring it back into proportion. Once someone else helps you collect the facts and face them they are not so scary. A mentor will also find ways you have never thought of to solve the problem.

None of this is original.  Your relationship with yourself is unique. What frightens you is unique too because of your history and experience. Being frightened is not a weakness but sometimes the wisest response to a threat. You just need to find the best solution to the problem that poses that threat.

If this has been interesting, please share it. Think about working with a mentor and please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

A thought for September

It is September. Autumn is coming in fast. Already we are pulling the curtains much earlier, the leaves are changing colour and the berries are on the trees and shrubs. The children have packed their bags and are back at school. Sometimes it is a new school or even off to college or university. They are learning how to tackle the unknown and finding new ways of doing things.

And what about you? Did you have a great holiday away from all the demands of work? I hope so. And are you now back at work? Be honest, are you thinking “2017 is two thirds over but I am not two thirds of the way through my objectives”? Are you starting to feel anxious about achieving your targets? It happens to us all.

What is your reaction? Are you reacting? Lots of us flounder. We go on doing what we have always done and expect it to produce different results; of course, it doesn’t; we get more of the same. It is only if we change that we create change.

I want you to confront a big question. You are only as good as you will let yourself be. How much room are you giving yourself to change, develop and grow?

There are many routes to creating that change. However, as a business mentor I want to suggest you look at mentoring. Why?

Recently I was listening to Harriet Harman being interviewed by Peter Hennessey. It was fascinating.

When the Labour Party came into power in 1997 she became Secretary of State for Social Security responsible for 80,000 staff and for processes that impact most of our lives. She did not do well and there was much talk about her being sacked. She said to someone “Tony won’t sack me, he is my friend”. The reply was “No, he is the Prime Minister, that is his job”.

Later she was asked why she did not stand for leader when twice as Deputy Leader she had run the Labour Party whilst it selected a new leader. She said at the time it never occurred to her.

Both are situations where a mentor would have been asking questions and helping her work with the answers, encouraging her to take appropriate action and to stretch herself. We would have seen and helped her explore the possibilities.

So why do I say you are only as good as you will let yourself be? You are the only asset in your business that will appreciate. Everything else starts its obsolescence before you unpack the box. You can improve and grow every day. You have the potential not to be just good but to be great.

In the musical world, theatre and sport we regard it as natural for someone to have on their team a person whose role is performance improvement. This is not yet as widespread in the business world as it should be but listen to the real hotshots and they cite a mentor somewhere in their careers as critical to their development.

What is a mentor’s role?

  • To be objective and tell you the truth. Remember the Emperor’s clothes in the fairy tale?
  • To help you identify opportunities and help you capitalise on them. Then entice you outside your comfort zone to exploit them and let you grow.
  • To help you avoid trouble by helping you identify it and then either avoid it or develop a strategy to get out of the situation with as little damage as possible.
  • To give you confidence and inspire you to try new things, face the things that block you and experiment
  • To help you review your performance and spot where you can improve.
  • To support you through the rough times and celebrate with you when there are successes.

A good mentor really gets you: what motivates you, what your aspirations are and what your constraints are. They get inside your head and you can hear the questions they might ask even when you are not with them!

They are secure in their own skins and so do not need to compete with you. They share their experience and their knowledge of both management and personal skills and help you develop them.  Of course, I think mentors are a good thing because we focus on you and your issues in the real world. However please choose who you work with very carefully.

Chemistry is hugely important. This is a highly personal relationship and if you do not get on at the outset it is unlikely to improve. I offer everyone a strings free blind date in which we can talk for an hour or so and really get a feel for each other. Recently I was incensed when I heard someone offer a 15-minute free phonecall and call it a selection process. That is nowhere near long enough and certainly there should be no question of payment. This is a very important decision on both sides.

Experience is vital. Make sure your possible mentor has run something successfully. It might be a big or a small business but they need to know what it is feels like to have to juggle cashflow and lie awake at 3am worrying about the sales funnel. If they have never had that experience how can they understand what drives you?

What is their approach to the work? We are all very different so ask and ask again until you understand it. Just to give you an idea what I mean let me outline my approach. Having had the blind date and deciding we like each other I start with what is on the client’s mind; that thing that finally brought them to me. Then I work both forwards and backwards until we have looked at the whole business: its history, current trading and the future. We work at the client’s own pace, there is no rush. We identify your goals, the facts and practicalities of the situation, what your options are and what you are prepared to do to reach your goals. Not everyone is prepared to take the obvious route and we may need to create a strategy that fits with your comfort zone.

Any session will focus totally on you and your business but it is not threatening in any way. We talk over coffee. You will know the answers. It will feel positive and exciting.

If you feel threatened, judged or the mentor seems to be taking over your business get away from them quickly. Those behaviours are not ethical.

None of this is original.  Your relationship with yourself is unique. Are you aware of your potential? Are you developing it? Are you challenging yourself to grow? Are you taking the action required to meet your goals? Do you want your legacy to be “s/he was always the best he could be” or “s/he could have been great if only……”?

If this has been interesting, please share it. Think about working with a mentor and please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

A thought for August

It is August. The British summer is in full swing and we are seeing some sunshine. People are happy either because they have been on holiday or their breaks are approaching fast. The roads are quieter, the days are long and the heating is off.


So, this month I am only going to write a short thought because you have better things to do than read it!

Donkey Sombrero

At the moment, I am seeing clients who have work and childcare to juggle. A couple have taken their daughters (as it happens) to work for the day. It has been a revelation!

We all know the stories about how children observe what we do for a living. The mildest is “my Mum giggles on the phone all day”. They say what they see and occasionally what they hear.

If your twelve-year-old was with you for a day’s work what would she say?

Some of the things I have been hearing:

  • We went to this swanky hotel and mum spent her time chatting to people and eating cake.
  • This man came and talked to mum about a leaflet. He kept saying you will know what to do. And she was full of ideas and kept drawing them on a pad.
  • Mum was talking to people on the phone – she was polite, she didn’t get angry she was just happy.
  • We stuck all sorts of pictures on a board to show someone. It was fun!
  • We went to see the accountant and talked about the results – Mum says it sounds like we might get a special holiday!

I could go on and on. The point is what would your child see if they were with you for a full eight hours? Would it be you demonstrating knowledge that they had not seen before and did not know you had? Or would you be showing off a skill that is completely natural to you but never seen by your child? And what about your attitude to work? Is it all about passion, motivation and excitement?  Do they see the hard work, focus and commitment you suggest they need!?

What do they observe and what would they say? What do they make of you?  Is your work persona consistent with the parental advice you give? Does it make them proud of you?

And perhaps more importantly what do they think about work? What do they think about your passion and doing what you love? Will seeing what you do motivate them to find the right career path and use their talents and skills? Are you a great role mode, the best you can be?

None of this is original.  Your relationship with your children is special to you but would their observations make you a better person and are you giving them a good model?

If this has been interesting, please share it. If you are thinking of working with a mentor, please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

If you are about to go on holiday have a great break.

A thought for July

It is July. Wimbledon transfixes us and strawberries and cream are everywhere. Schools are breaking up and excited children are looking forward to a long, hot summer. Everyone is mesmerised by holidays and sunshine. Part of this is displacement activity as the UK is going through a really hard time recovering from terrorist attacks, the shocking fire at Grenfell Tower and its aftermath, and an unstable government trying to deal with Brexit. It really is time to say Keep Calm and Carry On. Let’s love the life we have.

Sand,spade and bucket

At the moment, I am seeing several clients who have come to me because they are overwhelmed by advice. They are at crossroads and need to make decisions which will set their course for the next few years. It is a stressful and frightening time as well as one full of excitement. They are looking for help and reaching out to everyone around them for input. Often in doing this they do not have the full facts or do not share the full facts because they might be embarrassed or they are too personal, or they are just so close to the various elements of decision they forget to share them.

As human beings, we like nothing more – it is so flattering to be asked for our views. And so, people around my future clients are full of good advice (or so they think) and not backward about sharing it whether it is really sought. This means it comes at full throttle and the recipient has no armour on so it can hit some soft spots.

Having delivered their contribution to the debate these friends then move on, back into their own lives. They leave the wreckage they have created and often the person is in a much worse place than when they started. Heaven forfend but if any of the friends were malicious there could even be an unexploded bomb planted for later. The poor person is on information overload.

Our nearest and dearest can be great advisers because they want the best for us and they want to keep us safe. However just a couple of words of warning. Ask yourself:

  • Are they objective or do they have their own agenda for you – ensuring you remain the family bread winner or main care giver for example.
  • Do they have the same attitude to risk that you have? Are they more adventurous or more cautious?
  • Do they really understand the issues and how you feel about them?
  • Are they realistic about your skills and interests? Do they know the things that you find hard to do?
  • What happens if you do not take their advice?
  • What happens if you take their advice and it goes wrong?

They might be the right people to guide you but if not look elsewhere.

There are lots of other places to get advice:

  • The Web – just make sure you know what the question is
  • Through personal or management training courses – choose the provider carefully and make sure they have the breadth and depth of skills and experience you need
  • Through taking professional qualifications and participating in support groups
  • Reading the right books – again make sure the authors you choose are the go to experts in their fields
  • Various types of coaches – just check them out and be sure that you select someone who can demonstrate they know their stuff and they are objective.
  • Mentors – genuine mentors will share what they got wrong as well as the things they got right and save you the pain!

If you want advice do go looking for a range of views and do it in such a way that you can question the source. Make sure that it is an adult to adult relationship. A classic example is if your Dad tells you what to do is the relationship on an adult basis? Could you walk away?

So, some thoughts about evaluating advice from where ever it comes:

  • Are you crystal clear about your crossroads and the choices available to you.
  • Does the source understand your context: your financial situation, your timescale etc.
  • Have you put all the realities and the constraints of the situation on to the table to form part of the picture?
  • Have you opened yourself up to questioning – especially the awkward ones.

Looking at it from the other side my job is to be and stay objective no matter what. I need to move at the right pace for the person; not too fast, pushing them hard and not too slow, holding them back. A critical friend draws from the person all the facts which affect the decision and then helps them weigh those until the right option for them emerges. After that we move on to crafting a solution that will get them where they want to be in a way that suits their skills and beliefs.

None of this is original.  This stuff is very specific to you. How you make decisions is very personal but when they are important do not let the onlookers dominate you with their views and then leave you to pick up the pieces. You dictate the timing and you decide whose judgement is worth combining with your own. Be confident with the decision before you put it into action. Good luck.

If this has been interesting, please share it. If you are thinking of working with a mentor, please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

If you are about to go on holiday have a great break.

A thought for June

It is June. The sun has been shining which is just as well as some horrible things are happening around us. We are all devastated and sending sympathy to those who have been affected and praising our wonderful emergency services. Most of us are hanging on to doing normal things and living ordinary lives so I am writing this from that viewpoint. Let’s enjoy the fantastic lives we have.

 
Family Bike Ride
 

I was talking last month about finding clients’ mojos and judging by my Inbox this struck a chord with many of you.

As part of the work I am doing with those clients we are looking at how we treat ourselves. The answer is not very well. My clients beat themselves up for everything and put themselves down at every opportunity. They blame themselves for being no good at anything and say things to themselves that they would be horrified if anyone else said. They would not tolerate it if they heard other people saying these things to anyone who worked on their team. They might use words like unreasonable or even say it is bullying. We tell our subconscious what to believe and act on in many ways – how we treat ourselves, with what we surround ourselves and what we say to ourselves.

These days most people know something about how the subconscious works; that it is working on at least ninety per cent of our stuff; that it is a little child within us trying to protect us; and if we do not send it messages it will fill the gap!  The most important thing about the subconscious is that it believes what we tell it and it does not know the difference between reality and imagination.

How are you treating yourself?

Let’s start with the simple stuff. The first simple fix is, are you putting the right fuel into your subconscious’ fuel tank? This means:

  • Sleeping long enough and well (more often than not).
  • Working sensible hours (the majority of the time).
  • Relaxing.
  • Eating properly (most of the time).
  • Exercising.
  • Socialising with people who enrich your life.
  • Seeing the sun.

I know that this sounds a lot but these are the jigsaw pieces that make up a happy, healthy, productive life. And I am only asking most of the time! If you need professional help in any of these areas then get it, now!

The second easy fix is to look at your subconscious’ environment. Is it enhancing your performance? This means:

  • Have you the space that you need?
  • Have you the light you need?
  • Is it warm when the weather is cold and cool when the weather is hot?
  • Is it well ventilated?
  • Do you work best in quiet (and is it?) or with some background sound (have you got it?)?
  • Are you sitting in a comfortable chair?
  • Have you all the equipment you need? And properly arranged, close at hand?
  • Is it sending the right messages and enhancing your environment?
  • Is there anything else that makes you feel good in your work place?

This sounds a lot especially if money is short but do the best you can to enjoy the space you spend time in.

The third fix is not so easy. It is how you manage your relationship with yourself. Do you treat yourself kindly?
It means:

  • Listening to how you speak to yourself and being positive and not judgemental.
  • Catching yourself doing something right and saying well done.
  • Catching those negative thoughts and deleting them before they take hold.
  • If you are not so good at something then do not punish yourself, do something about it – learning and training are lifetime activities and fun!
  • Do things you enjoy. If there is lots of stuff you hate then delegate it.

All this looks easy when it is written down but it is not. Depending on how much of a bully you have become it takes time – take it one step at a time and do not give up! You may well need someone like me to help you and make you laugh! Or you may need a good hypnotherapist or NLP Practitioner. If you do I can recommend some great people.

None of this is original.  This stuff is particular to you. It is worthy of many books (and there are many). Of necessity, I can only scratch the surface and generalise widely. There are two important messages here. Firstly, this is a common issue and secondly if you are managing yourself unfairly recognise it and then craft a plan to deal with it bit by bit.

If this has been interesting, please share it. If you are thinking of working with a mentor, please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

A thought for May

It is May. What a gorgeous month, especially this year. The gardens may be short of water but the plants are looking wonderful; the flowers are fantastic. Sometimes the sun is shining and people are happier – except maybe those students facing exams. We are planning barbeques and getting out into the fresh air. Holidays beckon. Life feels good.

Except I have recently started work with a couple of clients for whom life does not feel good. They have come to me asking whether I can help them find their mojos. For some reason, they do not understand, they have misplaced their motivation and life is dreary – same old, same old.

If you work for someone else one of their leadership tasks is to keep you motivated. If you have employees, colleagues, associates then it may be your job to keep them motivated. However, whichever way we look at it we are each responsible for our own motivation; for getting ourselves out from under the duvet each morning and for giving our work and our lives one hundred per cent of what we are. When we feel good about what we are doing the world is a great place. Each day is a new and wonderful gift. Without your mojo life is not such fun, more of a chore.

Why do mojos sometimes go missing?

It seems to me there are three principal reasons:

  1. We are not doing the things that we are passionate about
  2. We have let the balance slip so there is too much SMOG (Should, Must, Ought, Got to) and not enough “I love it” on our To Do lists.
  3. There is just too much to do and too many other people who are demanding things from us – life feels out of our control

What are you passionate about?

  • Is it the work itself? The hands-on stuff. Using your creativity and skills to produce something of which you are proud.
  • Is it the result of the work? What it does for others? Making life or work easier or more fun.

It is usually one or the other. What is it that excites you? Go back to when you started. What took you in the direction you now follow? Look for that passion again. Once you have found it then nurture it, blow on the embers. Nothing can survive without food and care. You are a plant that needs good soil, sunshine, water and food. Your mojo needs attention.

Then be honest, what is getting between you and doing that thing? One of my mantras is do what you enjoy and are good at, delegate the rest.  Focus on whatever it is that gives you joy. Or is it because you have got stale? Could it be you are no longer challenging yourself? Your skills are good and you are resting on your laurels rather than stretching yourself and seeing how far you can go. Should you be setting yourself new targets and venturing into less familiar territory? Staying in your comfort zone all the time can become boring. Once bored we start to feel miserable.

Sometimes we need to remember what we do that is unusual and great. We take our own skills and abilities for granted. We need to remind ourselves how exceptional we are. I am passionate about people keeping affirmation diaries. We overlook our triumphs and successes because we focus on what we did poorly, not at all or could do better. We run ourselves down by not catching ourselves doing something right. We do not hear people telling us what a good job we did or how talented we are. Take five minutes at the end of every day to think of three things you did well and capture them for ever by writing them down. Find something every day that brought pleasure into your life and congratulate yourself. Remember how to look for something good rather than something that could be improved. This is where we brag!

Sometimes we need to go right back to basics and look at what would deliver something new and different to our clients; things they do not even know they need until we do it. And this something will challenge us and remind us how special we are.

Sometimes we also need to do things for other people. Just recently I have been around businesses who are taking their social responsibility very seriously and adopting charities where they want to help make a real difference to people disadvantaged by horrible circumstances. The sponsoring business has people excited by doing something different and not just for profit and the charity is excited by a sponsor that has great ideas and makes doing stuff look easy.

Sometimes we need to discover our own inner voice again and listen to it rather than cave in to all the other demands that those around us try to put on us.

Sometimes we need to re-orientate ourselves and make sure we are around people from whom we can catch excitement; people who love life and radiate lots of positive vibrations. If there are miserable people in our lives do we really need them?

So, if your mojo has gone missing go looking for it.  Find your passion again and give it time to re-excite you. Or develop it to relight your fire.  Or find an enthusiast to enthuse you.  Or try working with other people to share what you find easy to do to help them on their way back.  Look at the balance in your life and see whether you are too much at other people’s beck and call rather than pursuing those activities that refresh and nurture you.

None of this is original.  Yes, people use the term work/life balance to describe this. I do not. It is much more important than that. This is about nurturing your essence and always growing, becoming superlative in those areas where you have very special talents and enjoying the buzz that this gives you. And if your mojo refuses to be found come to me and let me help.

If this has been interesting, please share it. If you are thinking of working with a mentor, please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

A thought for April

It is April. The days are getting longer – we are going to work in the light and coming home in the light. The spring flowers are wonderful, the tree blossom is fantastic and we are all looking forward to Easter Eggs and Easter Bunnies. The children are already on holiday and if you are a working Mum you are juggling all the usual chores, all the pressures of a new tax year and child care. Or maybe you are a working Dad taking your share of this busy three weeks.

So, with all these different roles; all these different skills you are exercising; all the business demands you are meeting how do you value your time?

If you work for someone else, it is easy they assess the value of the job; they assess your skills and make a bargain to pay you £X. Ever thought how much that is an hour? Go on do the maths: divide your annual salary by 52 and then by 5 and then by 8. Then plus that figure up by 15% to cover NI, employee benefits, pension contributions, office costs etc. 15% might not be enough!

Now ask yourself are you delivering the results to justify that figure? Are you giving a full hour’s work in return for that pay? How would you improve yourself to be worth more? Do it and then renegotiate!

This is all quite straight forward if you are an employee – just do it every year to check out where you are.

What if you work for yourself? I find my clients can do the maths so far but then when it comes to putting that value on their time to invoice it they have a real blockage. It is more like find a number and then half it and take off a further 10%. Yes, I can bring myself to ask for that and the client might pay it.

So, when I ask why were you/are you worth that to someone else but not now you work for yourself I hear all sorts of answers. Like:

  • It’s what the industry pays
  • It’s what the competition pays
  • It’s the rate for the job
  • It is laid down by the trades union
  • It is laid down by the professional association
  • It is what the margins justify
  • I am not the one doing the asking
  • My skills were quite rare and my boss knows that
  • I was quite good at what I did

Now put your previous hourly rate alongside the level of experience you currently have. Experience means that you work faster than an apprentice, a trainee or someone newly qualified. You solve problems differently because you have solved them before; you avoid expensive mistakes and pitfalls. You are a seasoned professional so you can find answers and create solutions that a newbie cannot. Clients pay more for creative solutions whether it is the design of a building, an elegant website or a gorgeously iced cake. And maybe because you work for yourself you work more consistently – for more of the 60 minutes in that hour.

So, be objective, these are the factors that dictate how you value a person’s time. Put a value on your working hour. I doubt very much that it is less than £50.

The next task and the most difficult one is to believe it. What happens if you don’t believe it – you undercharge. And what happens then? It becomes easy to find customers; they are pleased with your (bargain) work and your (rock bottom) prices so you get very busy; but you do not make any real money. You are then trapped: you think if you put your prices up you will no longer be busy but if you do not take the risk you will never make decent money. So, what do you do?

My job is to get you to think about this. And to get you to believe that you are worth the right figure and then to use it as you calculate your prices. This can be quite tricky as most self-employed business people think that other business people buy only on price. The truth is we do not. When we buy, we evaluate:

  • Will this do what I want?
  • The quality of the product – how durable is it? How long will it last? How robust is it? How much maintenance will it need?
  • Is this good value?
  • How creative is it? Is it ahead of the game or behind it?
  • Does it give me more features than I originally thought I wanted?
  • Will I get delivery when I want it and how I want it?
  • How will it make me feel? Do I feel this is quality or bargain basement?
  • Am I forming a long-term relationship with this supplier? And if so, is this an outfit with whom I want a long-term relationship.

If we only bought on price why did Woolworth fold and why are John Lewis a huge success?

And what makes your business any different? Only how you feel about it. Often my job is to help clients believe in themselves and what they do. Once you believe you can ask for your price confidently and get it.

So, this April ask yourself whether you would employ you? Are you good at what you do? If yes, why undersell yourself? Give your clients an opportunity to understand how good you are and what a great bargain they are getting for their money. Remember clients are as suspicious of something that is too cheap as they would be if something is too expensive.

None of this is original. We instinctively know about worth. We are good at putting a price on a product until it comes to ourselves. Do not fall into the trap of undervaluing yourself – your work is good quality and worthy of a good price. Good work is never expensive; but always good value.

If this has been interesting, please share it. If you are thinking of working with a mentor, please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.

A thought for March

Thank goodness it is March. There may still be winds and chilly nights but the daffodils are out and the crocus and snowdrops are wonderful. Easter eggs are in the shops (but some of us have given up treats like chocolate for Lent so we are trying not to notice). Spring is just around the corner and so is the new tax year and for many of us the end of our financial year. It is a good time for reflection before we start the whole process again.

So how do you intend to reflect on 2016/2017? The figures are a great place to start but they only tell so much of the story. We need to be honest with ourselves about:

The revenue – did we do enough? Charge enough?

The costs – are they about right or did we get tempted and buy things we should not have done or pay too much for a de-luxe version? Do we question our ongoing costs regularly? I have a client who has a spreadsheet dedicated to each of her marketing activities right down to each event she attends to analyse whether it was worth the cost and time investment – good for her.

The profit – are your margins right and are you making enough money?

Every question generates an answer that will pose more questions. All the answers add up to doing it again or changing to be more effective. Great information.

Then the next big question is how are you doing? What a nasty question! I am inviting you to do some self appraisal. I think this is the best sort: it is done with the best possible motives, there is no conflict about the facts backing the comments and the boss is gentle! Or should be! This is also a wonderful opportunity to praise your successes and affirm all the things that you are doing correctly.

Thank goodness form based appraisal systems are going out of fashion but we need to look at our own performance systematically (then we can move on to those who work with us). I love the old-fashioned approach which looks at knowledge skills and attitudes. So, let’s look at you.

How is your knowledge?
You probably need a whole range of technical, managerial, business and legal knowledge. What is the list? Do you have everything on it? Is it broad enough? Is it deep enough? Are you up to date?

If any answer is “No” how do you plan to train yourself?

Are you using your knowledge creatively to look for new angles and generate new ideas?

How are your skills?
Again, you need a whole range. Which skill sets must you have? Which would be useful? Do you have any gaps? And of course, we all need great communication skills especially verbally – how are yours? Knowing you need a skill is only half the story you need to be able to practice it effortlessly. So how good are you at doing the things you must? And is this good enough?

And how is your attitude?
Are you positive, inspirational, flexible, “can do”, good at prioritising, focused on important issues, warm and all the other things you need to be? Would you employ you or do you cause yourself difficulty?

So, draw up the template for your job and then examine how you are doing in each category. You will be great at lots of things, mediocre at some and poor in others. Create a plan to develop yourself.

Getting outside feedback
It maybe that you can do the analysis of how you are doing but would it be more effective if you get some feedback from others.

Uber boss Travis Kalanick was videoed recently swearing at one of his drivers and had to apologise. He says “I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up. This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it”. Sounds like he had nowhere to go partly because his behaviour was videoed and partly because of the public outcry it exacted. His diagnosis was a lack in knowledge and skill and his attitude ….. the whole nine yards. Now he knows and can do something about it.

Hopefully you are not caught on camera so, how do you find out what the effect of your skills and attitudes might be? If you genuinely want to improve you need good information from people you trust who are good at analysis. The important elements are:

  • Be sure you are in the right frame of mind to receive it
  • Ask someone you trust and respect for honest feedback. Be specific about what you want to know so they can focus.
  • Listen gratefully to their information. DO NOT react.
  • Think it over and consider where you can improve.

Then plan. You do not need to tackle everything at once. Pick the important areas or those where you can make a quick change. Then just work through the plan. Simples!

There is an old management spectrum that goes like this:

ddddd1

You may now be consciously incompetent in a few areas which is great because you can do something about them. The aim is to improve and so expect to become consciously competent before you become unconsciously competent. It is a gradual process.

All the way through this process I hope you have been noticing all the things you are doing right, unconsciously competently and well. Please make sure you have acknowledged them, celebrated them and affirmed them. Enjoy the good things!

None of this is original.  We all know we need to pause and reflect sometimes and think about where we need to change or improve. It is hard to find the time but the benefits can be enormous. You are an asset that will appreciate if you invest in your own training and development. Sometimes it is hard to do alone, if you need someone to support you then you could consider a mentor.

If this has been interesting, please share it. If you are thinking of working with a mentor, please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.