Is Your Business Ready for 2018? — Part Three

Is Your Business Ready for 2018?

There is often a debate between the logical and intuitive sides of our brain. And more pointedly, the question of which is the best place to make strategic decisions from? I say both!

The following is the third of a four-part series on the topic of intuition and leadership, and more specifically the importance of setting a plan, as well as knowing when to veer from it. Part three below focuses on sharpening the tool of your intuition.

So far, you’ve created your plan for the next year, and you have given yourself more permission for when to veer from the plan when necessary. But how do you learn to develop and trust your intuitive spidey-sense over time, as a reliable resource to make decisions from?

I’m so glad you asked!

The first step is assessing your current relationship to your intuition. How much do you trust it?

Seriously, on a scale of one to ten, what would you rate for yourself right now? When you are committed to a direction or a plan, and you get that sense in your gut or your heart that something is just not right, how much weight do you give that inner signal?

Or when you are drawn to a particular direction that seems to make no sense to your logical mind, how do you integrate this?

One of the biggest reasons that I moved to France was to write my book on this topic of intuition—which I just secured a publisher for, by the way! This made zero sense to my logical mind as I was set on moving back to the Bay Area or Boulder, Colorado, where I have family, friends, and community. Yet I’ve learned some painful lessons throughout my life of what happens when I don’t listen to my intuition, no matter the circumstance. I’ve since committed to listening to and honoring this inner guidance.

As outrageous and left-field as this seemed, I trusted myself and the relationship I have built with my inner GPS over time, and made the leap as the intuition was too strong to ignore and it wasn’t going away. I’ve been here for over two years now and regularly check-in with the plan in my head and my inner antennae to make sure that this decision continues to feel right. And it does.

This first step is really the big one: beginning to listen to when you get those intuitive hits or inner sensations that something feels ‘off’ or ‘spot-on.’ The more you practice listening to what your inner guidance system is telling you, you can then integrate your inner knowing with outside data and metrics that will help you be a more well-rounded leader and person.

Having interviewed numerous business leaders and managers, it’s evident that everyone’s intuition speaks to them in a different way. It’s very personal.

So, how does your spidey-sense speak to you? Do you get a feeling or sensation in a certain part of your body? Do you hear a clear message or voice? Do you see images when you are in a creative or more open space? Or do you get downloads of insights in your dreams?

The key is to track the language of your own inner guidance and begin to decode it over time. The more you cultivate this relationship, the more you can build trust as you get more fluent with what this channel of information is telling you.

In part four, we’ll explore the next steps in what to do when you get an inner sense that the plan you have set course for needs to be altered.

Is Your Business Ready for 2018? — Part Two

Is Your Business Ready for 2018?

There is often a debate between the logical and intuitive sides of our brain. And more pointedly, the question of which is the best place to make strategic decisions from? I say both!

The following is the second of a four-part series on the topic of intuition and leadership, and more specifically the importance of setting a plan, as well as knowing when to veer from it. Part two focuses on striking the right balance.

If you read part one, you’ve just written down your business vision for 2018 and even broken it down into priorities and action steps. You even went so far as to assign accountabilities to appropriate staff, deadlines, and feedback loops so that you can be assured your plan will be executed on.

Perfect. Now you can sit back and watch the movie play out, right? Well, we all know the answer to that one. As the famous quote from General Dwight D. Eisenhower goes, “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

In other words, once you are in the heat of the battle, with all of the unexpected variables you didn’t know you would have to face, you need to know when to trust your gut and follow the script, or abandon the plan on paper, in order to be an adaptive and effective leader.

Imagine you just reviewed your budget for the year and already invested in two new salespeople, but a week later, lost a key client that you were way too dependent on. Or you approved your new website and SEO strategy, and then Google just changed their algorithms.

If we stick to our plan to the “T”—even when real-time data is telling us a different story—we need to be able to adapt. Sometimes this take swallowing our ego and pride, and be willing to pivot with new information. This is why developing a relationship with your intuition is so critical, as you can make adjustments on the fly as you are more in-tune with present-time feedback.

And the other side of Eisenhower’s quote is also essential: planning is indispensable. You can’t just go with your gut and not do your homework. Sometimes what we think is our intuition can actually be unconscious biases or assumptions that we want to believe in so much, that we get swept away by the moment.

I’ve seen business leaders dream incredibly big and inspire the whole boardroom with audacious targets for the coming year, and truly believing it was doable. Yet, moments of dissolution would occur due in part to not making the time for getting critical feedback from other key stakeholders, or breaking their vision down into bitesize action steps.

So, how do you find the balance of creating and committing to a plan, and then allowing yourself the flexibility and freedom to veer from it?

In part three next week, we’ll explore how to get in-touch with your intuition to sharpen your own judgment calls.

Is Your Business Ready for 2018? - Part One

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There is often a debate between the logical and intuitive sides of our brain. And more pointedly, the question of which is the best place to make strategic decisions from? I say both!

The following is the first in a four-part series on the topic of intuition and leadership and more specifically, the importance of setting a plan and also having the freedom to veer from it.

As the end of the year winds down, it’s a natural time to reflect on how this past twelve months went. Yet, so often, we steamroll right into the next year with New Year’s resolutions we’ve declared on Facebook Live or Instagram, as well as promises to ourselves that we often don’t follow through.

The same is true in your business, where one year after the next can feel like rinse and repeat—when the same frustrations, challenges, and stagnation continues in a perpetual time-loop.

Promises and resolutions are not enough. They’re a start in admitting that something is not how you want it to be, and setting a new intention forward. But inspiration alone doesn’t pay the bills.

So, how do you build an actionable business plan for the upcoming year that actually works? Here are the steps to creating a practical and executable plan.

·     Create Time to Strategize. With all of the last-minute sales, holiday plans, and typical overwhelm, now is the time to carve-out your strategic hours to work ON your business and create a plan. If you don’t protect your time to think strategically, it simply won’t happen.

·     Write Down Your Company Vision. Do you know where you are driving your business? If there’s not a larger context for where and why you’re going in the direction that you intend, it makes it quite difficult to have a yearly action plan that can spell out the steps necessary to build toward your goals. And it also makes it really difficult to inspire others if you are not clear on your direction.

·     Take an Honest Assessment of Where Your Business is Today. Get out a piece of paper (or open an electronic doc) and make note of what you need to:

o Start doing

o Stop doing

o Continue doing based on last year’s results

o Ask yourself, what’s not working in your marketing activities? Where are you dropping the ball with customers? How can you improve your cash flow? This one step alone will make a huge difference in creating new strategies and action steps for the coming year.

·     Prioritize. What comes first: purchasing that new CRM or getting your budget in-place for the coming year? Should you update your website, or do you need to hire a personal assistant to free yourself up with more time? Assess which action steps will have the most positive impact on your business and place them in order. And then double-check to see if that’s really true.

·     Break It Down into Bite-Sized Steps. This is the critical step that often gets missed. It’s one thing to declare lofty or even practical goals for your business. It’s another thing to then roll-up your sleeves to look at how to break these down into smaller steps over time, and establish project plans for each initiative in the new year. This may seem time-consuming, but I guarantee you the time you take to work ON your plan will bring huge rewards in having a clear, detailed strategy for leading into the New Year.

·     Calendar Your Plan. Now that you have a sense of your top priorities, how are you going to space them out over the course of the next year? Does the order still look right when it’s down on paper? Don’t try to do everything in January—that’s not going to happen. So, what is a realistic pace to achieve your goals?

·     Accountability. Who’s going to be accountable for the various steps that you’ve declared? How will you create feedback loops and project management meetings to stay on top of progress? What’s your protocol if projects are running behind schedule?

As the old saying goes, you can’t have different results if you don’t have a different approach. This is your best opportunity right now to make the year to come your best year yet. Are you truly ready to lead your business to where you know it needs to be? What’s in the way? The first step is waiting for you to get started.

 

The Conversational Bubble: Downloads from My Tour with David Whyte — Part Four

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The following is the final part of this four-part series of posts inspired by my conversations and deep listening with celebrated poet, author, and business consultant, David Whyte. I had the privilege of accompanying him and some hearty travelers on one of his tours through the countryside of West Ireland to experience the magic, poetry, and wisdom of the ancient Celtic culture and beyond.

One of the biggest themes that David pointed out, in terms of how we get in our own way as leaders, is when we get stuck in our own conversational bubble. Our conversational bubble forms when we assume we have all the answers, are not really open to feedback from the outside, and lack the vulnerability it takes to ask for help.

In fact, leadership gone bad is on display daily in our media channels. When you rise to the top on the org chart or hold any leadership position in business, government, athletics, or any realm, any flaws or shadow aspects are highlighted for all to see. In fact, we have been seeing a daily barrage of prominent leaders (ahem) that have a hard time admitting they don’t know something, aren’t able to own when they’ve made a mistake, and cannot take the next steps to repair the problem at hand to move toward a solution.

So, let’s take a closer look at what forms a conversational bubble around leaders, and how to pop this for more effective and impactful leading.

#1—Assuming We Don’t Know

When we advance in our careers through being recognized for our skillsets and abilities to solve problems, a false sense of confidence mixed with some arrogance can easily creep-in—i.e. that we have all the answers, as this was what got us to the top. A danger around complacency can sink in that “we’ve arrived” as we can start to unknowingly close off to the feedback and wisdom of others as this might be seen as a threat to the success we’ve achieved to date.

When a leader makes it to the top, there is more at stake. They’ve achieved the gold medal, the result they’ve been aiming for, or the top position that they’ve dedicated themselves to achieving. There’s more to lose as all eyes are on them to direct the department or business direction. And any misstep will come with more criticism than before.

Yet what got you to the top is not what you need to stay there. As the business landscape changes like the seasons and the next disruption in your industry is right around the corner, being open to change and adding other perspectives to your leadership direction is critical.

When we assume we know, we lose our curiosity and open-minded approach to a situation. Our strategic minds keep us safe in this way as we don’t have to risk being seen as not knowing. Yet in instead of standing in our vulnerability, which actually brings people closer instead of further away, we add a protective bubble that keeps others out.

So, instead, how do we make friends with the unknown and welcome this to our strategic decision-making? What if you started your next meeting by declaring that you don’t know the answer to the problem you’ve been facing and want to hear what everyone else has to say about this?

#2—Asking for Help

Having open feedback loops is critical to a leadership team’s success to get real-time data on what’s happening on the ground with customers, with staff, and the user experience. Yet too often, leadership teams can become insulated within their own departments and section of the org chart.

Asking for help is vulnerable and can be hard to do. But when we take this risk, people can actually contribute to us in ways that weren’t possible before. The leaders that I respect the most ask for help when they’ve hit a dead end, and have the confidence to show that they can’t do it all alone. This adds to a thriving company culture where dialogue and new perspectives add to the company’s growth and bottom line. And most importantly, this is one of the fastest ways to pop the conversational bubble that can form around each of us.

Where do you know you need to ask for help?

#3—Being Open to Feedback

We all say we want feedback, but do we really? Even if it’s tough to hear? The more we can stay open to what those around us see and feel, the faster we can make adjustments to lead effectively. One of the fastest ways to pop the conversational bubble is to allow space for others to enter the conversation.

You already know what you think! When you are stuck or want to make sure you are looking at a situation from a 360-degree view, bringing in other perspectives at the right time is critical.

One powerful question that Jonathan Raymond,—CEO of Refound—asks, is “What is it that you think I don’t see about our culture?” This type of question immediately shifts the power dynamic, allowing the employee to feel respected and contribute valuable feedback that can add to the organization.

#4—Getting Fluent

As David Whyte reminds us, “What language do I need to learn for the world I want to enter?” He spent years as a naturalist on the Galapagos Islands before he would become a world-renowned poet and organizational consultant. For someone who has spent decades refining his words to inspire and challenge others, he had to unlearn all of this in order to listen to the conversation that was happening around him. Often, it’s the language of silence that enables one to hear the conversation of Darwin’s Finches, the Galapagos Tortoise, or the Whale Sharks.

And same is true in boardrooms around the world. What language do you need to learn if you want to engage with your customers? How are the different social media platforms more or less helpful in speaking effectively? Where do you need to get more fluent, which truly includes listening, if you want to better understand your new hires or the tension that may be happening with your business partners?

If we stay content with the language we know, we don’t stretch ourselves to stay relevant in the marketplace.

And sometimes the language we need to learn is simply being able to listen to the deeper intuitions and gut instincts that have been clamoring for our attention as we go about our day.

All of these techniques are guaranteed to pop us out of our current conversational bubbles into a more engaging dialogue with the world around us, where we can learn from each other and continue our leadership development.

Half a Shade Braver: Downloads from My Tour with David Whyte — Part Three

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The following is part three in a series of posts that are inspired by my conversations and deep listening with celebrated poet, author, and business consultant, David Whyte. I had the privilege of accompanying him and some hearty travelers on one of his tours through the countryside of West Ireland to experience the magic, poetry, and wisdom of the ancient Celtic culture and beyond.

In my last post in this series, we looked at your willingness as a leader to lead by example and have the courageous conversations in your business (and life). But what does it actually take to gather the courage to confront a person or problem that you may have been avoiding for a number of reasons?

Self-Honesty

When I think about the things I’ve avoided—or witnessed this pattern in business owners and managers that I’ve worked with—the first step is a willingness to take ownership of what is being avoided. We have an amazing ability as human beings to be in incredible denial about our behaviors and impacts. There are a million ways we can each deflect from taking full responsibility for an action and blame someone else or the situation, that we are probably embarrassed or feel shame about. Yet, there is no power or real self-authority in blaming others as the source of the problem (and solution) is always outside of us. By definition, if we carry around a victim mentality, we are not empowered to change. And the only way for change to happen is to first own what it is we are avoiding and why.

Articulate Your Resistance

Once you can name what you’ve been avoiding, you can get into a relationship with it and understand it better. The more you can articulate your resistance to what it is that you are pushing away as a leader, you can better understand what is holding you back. I recommend allowing the resistance to fully be there, and let yourself either write down or speak out loud all of the reasons why the conversation you know you need to have, should be avoided at all costs. This helps discharge some of the pent-up fears and defensiveness that is holding you back.

And the second part here is to look underneath all the resistance to what it is protecting. Ask yourself, “What’s at risk if I speak with _____?” For example, “If I confront my direct manager about some of his behaviors that are having a negative impact on fellow staff, I might lose my job.” This might be a very reasonable fear. Yet I have to weigh out how much I’m willing to put up with. At the same time, there might be a golden opportunity to make a difference if something I’m noticing is off the radar of a fellow staff member and they are open to my feedback and experience.

When we can articulate our resistance and get into relationship with it, we now have power over the very thing that’s been difficult for us, versus the other way around

Incremental Steps Forward

One of my favorite sayings from David Whyte is the notion of “being half a shade braver.” Can we be just half a shade braver than the day before? What incremental step can we take, instead of going from 0 to 100, that is actually more practical and kinder to ourselves? We can put too much pressure on ourselves that we need to perform at an unrealistic level, and then our own inner critic can do a number on us where we never even take the first step.

If you don’t take that first step to losing weight, writing the first page in your book you’ve been dying to write, calling one of your clients who still owes you money, investing in your marketing activities like you may have been talking about for months, or whatever goal has been hovering over you, if you don’t take the first step, nothing happens.

The Courageous Conversation: Downloads from My Tour with David Whyte — Part Two

The Courageous Conversation: Downloads from My Tour with David Whyte — Part Two

The following is part two in a series of posts that are inspired by my conversations and deep listening with celebrated poet, author, and business consultant, David Whyte. I had the privilege of accompanying him and some hearty travelers on one of his tours through the countryside of West Ireland to experience the magic, poetry, and wisdom of the ancient Celtic culture and beyond.

The crackling from the fireplace was in full roar as the waves of warmth started to permeate the old Irish cottage. The lack of insulation was made up for by the huddled bodies crowded into the space, waiting for the rich, baritone voice of David Whyte, our host and guide of the wild countryside of West Ireland and County Clare, to set the tone for the day.

Minding the Invisible: Downloads from My Tour with David Whyte — Part One

Minding the Invisible: Downloads from My Tour with David Whyte — Part One

I recently had the pleasure of accompanying the celebrated poet, author, and organizational consultant David Whyte on one of his tours through the countryside of West Ireland to experience the magic, poetry, and wisdom of the ancient Celtic culture. The following is a series of posts that are inspired by my conversations and deep listening to this lineage holder of oral tradition.

One thing I’ve admired about David is how he has become one of the few poets who has crossed the bridge into the business landscape and brought his transformative conversations to the world of organizational development. He has consulted with Chanel and other top brands focusing on conversational leadership and getting at the core of what leadership teams are needing to discuss or identify what they are painfully avoiding.