Let me start by saying that you’ve already impressed me: You’re reading this article. Many of my new entrepreneurial clients would find it almost impossible to do what you’re doing this very moment. I’ve concluded that most entrepreneurs – especially those of the female variety – rarely relax and do something for themselves. It’s not that they don’t want to. It’s that they don’t have the time. Or think they don’t.
As a personal coach, I spend much of my time helping people just like you to get a life – a personal life, that is. My clients and I work together to discover how they can find the time to do not only what they simply must do but also what they really want to do. To build balance into every one of their days. To make their lives more “person-friendly.” The result? Within a few weeks, one stressed-out client excitedly reports that she’s signed up for dance lessons. A busy businesswoman now shares season basketball tickets and even plans to attend some away games. Another can spend a few hours every Sunday going through her magazine pile, reading articles like this – without feeling guilty.
One thing coaches do with clients is make “requests.” My First Coach’s Request is to consider me your coach during the next few minutes. I guess you spend most of your typical day and much of the evening creating projects, supporting employees and/or coworkers, picking up dropped balls, putting out fires, juggling family obligations etc. When you find yourself with some spare time, you feel the need to give it away, either to fellow workers or family members. The generosity of your entrepreneurial spirit causes you to do many things for many people. Now it’s time to lavish some of that generosity on yourself.
Coach’s Request No. 2: Carve out a specific time at the beginning and at the end (yes, there is an end) of each day for planning and solitude. Simply make two appointments with yourself. Write them in your calendar. Highlight them. Honor them! Use your evening time to set up the next day’s schedule and reflect on the day just ending. Also, take this opportunity to review what went especially well. Use your morning time to make last-minute schedule changes and prepare mentally, emotionally and spiritually for the new day. By sticking to a schedule, you’ll manage your time more efficiently and effectively. And there’s a fringe benefit: Your energy and creativity levels will soar. Deliberately setting aside daily time like this for yourself is what coaches call practicing extreme self-care.
As an entrepreneur, you know that your strength is in your ideas. In my role as a coach, I’ve found that women like you seem to have an ever-flowing fountain of creative, original and exciting thoughts. That’s all fabulous…except that this artesian well of ideas can distract you from the project at hand. You can easily lose focus and may find it hard to take even one of those wonderful ideas to completion. Your time seems tight because it’s so scattered. Thus your greatest asset can become your greatest liability in your path to success.
Coach’s Request No. 3: Buy a notebook and title it “Idea Catalog.” Start writing down all of the possible opportunities, projects, initiatives and goals that are sloshing around in your head. Make daily additions. After one week, select one of the ideas (yes, just one) and start working on it. You should plan in detail how you will carry your goals out. Schedule all of the steps in your calendar. Then stick with that idea to completion. Don’t get sidetracked by all the other ones. As new ideas come to you, enter them into the catalog. Then set the catalog aside. Don’t start on a second idea until the first one has seen fulfillment.
We all have our weaknesses. And we all need to accept this fact – then realize that for every area we have trouble mastering, there is someone nearby who “owns” that same area. Each of your weaknesses is another person’s strength. Thomas Leonard, a master coach, often referred to as the father of the coaching profession has developed what he calls “The Attraction Program.” This program teaches people how to consistently focus on their strengths and delegate their weaknesses. I use it in my coaching practice, and as clients work through it, their integrity levels climb: They no longer try to fool themselves and others into thinking they can and should do everything and do it well. Instead of trying to create strength out of weakness – an exhausting, frustrating and time-gulping task–they focus on their existing strengths and ask others to fill in their gaps. As a result, my clients often find themselves almost effortlessly attracting the people they need.
Coach’s Request No. 4: Interview the people around you – family members, friends, colleagues – and ask them to help you create a list of your strengths. Then work at expanding and enhancing these strengths. Your growing success in these areas will inevitably attract people to you who own other areas – abilities and talents that can complement yours. And you will develop confidence and create the opportunities to delegate your weaknesses because you’re now able to hire more help, barter services or goods, and align yourself with companies and individuals who are eager to benefit from your strengths.
By practicing extreme self-care every day, working from your Idea Catalog, and using the Attraction Program principles, you’ll be able to custom-make your life to “fit” you perfectly – both professionally and personally. And now I have one Last Coach’s Request: Take a moment to evaluate the fun in your life. Then commit to a specific action this week to either create some pure fun where it doesn’t exist or to substantially add to what does.
Can a personal coach help you minimize risk?
Who likes to take risks? Some people do, but most of you who read this probably think it applies to the “other guy.” Who does takes risks? We all do, but it is essential for some to develop strategies that soften or eliminate possible adverse outcomes. Those strategies might be called “experiments,” and it’s very appealing to think they might be “risk-free.”
What Do We Mean By Risk?
The word means different things to different people. How you approach risk depends on Who you are (e.g., values, talents, personality); What you want (e.g., goals and objectives); How you do things best (e.g., strategies, tactics, tools). From time to time, we come across a quiz or checklist that purports to measure “risk orientation” (financial planners like to use these), but actually, they measure toleration for risk –“How much can you stand and still sleep at night?”. Your actual risk orientation/approach can be better assessed by looking at your overall approach to life, for which we have some valuable measurements: standard quizzes, self-assessments, professional assessments. Then you can create your strategies to reflect your strongest and most comfortable ways of behaving and being. You can be who you are and still get what you want.
Create New Strategies To Replace “No Risk/No Reward”
Take a look at the messages about the risk that you communicate to your team. In many large, small, and independent companies, managers and owners will accept only “successes” from their employees (and themselves).
This creates an environment where caution prevails, and risk can be a frightening road to “failure.”
When we replace risk with “experiments,” we find there are many more possible acceptable outcomes. Experiments are neutral–they are performed to test results, not to succeed or fail. Replace the “Pass-Fail” mentality with a strategy of responding to various outcomes with alternative actions…perhaps new experiments. The results of these experiments become a road to learning and improved performance. You behave more like a coach, supporting, encouraging, and applauding this brand of learning.
As a manager or business owner, how can you encourage a creative, entrepreneurial spirit without incurring unacceptable risk? Just a few tips…gained from experience coaching those who prefer experimentation to risk:
- Reward problem prevention as much or more than problem solutions.
- Ask for what you need in various ways from a wide range of people.
- Act without delay while responding to outcomes immediately.
- Stay on track and see your experiments through.
- When you must risk, provide yourself with insurance against a negative outcome.
- Do not get locked into only one acceptable result; allow for several possible outcomes and plan accordingly.
- Do not ignore your intuition/instinct/gut feel.
Craft Experiments That Suite Your Talents And Style
Savvy companies encourage their prospective customers to “try before you buy.” We have seen this growing trend applied to ice cream, cars, software, health clubs…and a wide variety of products and services.
Now we introduce the mirror-image of this approach, perhaps a new trend: “Try before you sell!” You can experiment with many “offers” –may be variations on a single product or service–and see what your customers/clients will choose to buy. Then, provide what they choose, rather than asking them to choose from what you provide. In this kind of experiment, you do not risk developing, producing, marketing, and distributing what nobody will buy.
To create both comfortable and practical experiments, you must know something about yourself and your preferred and natural ways of behaving.
1. If you require a lot of information, data, backup, certainty, then build this into your experiments. But, on the other hand, do not ignore your own need for a solid information foundation to adhere to someone else’s idea of entrepreneurial or innovative behavior. [You might recognize yourself as a Five-Point in the Enneagram, a Fact Finder in the Kolbe Index, a high C in the DISC.]
2. If you fit the profile of the “classic entrepreneur” –the “Ready/Fire/Aim” approach–then you might want to know about some new evidence that shows “seat-of-the-pants” decision-making can often produce better results than using complex statistical formulas that process voluminous data.
“Bounded rationality,” as the intuitive decision-making process is known, is gaining respect as a valid method for choosing among two or more alternatives in situations ranging from stock-picking to career moves.
3. If you are the “Frugal Entrepreneur,” you might enjoy a “quick and dirty” approach for those opportunities where the fast response might attract new customers or clients without incurring much risk or expense. Look for situations where you can present something to the marketplace without spending a lot of money. Then, see who buys!
4. If you find yourself wanting to develop and implement smoothly running systems (computer or otherwise) for all the functional areas in your business, then build similar strategies for your marketplace experiments. To create minimal-risk experiments, you might want to apply some or all of the following tips:
- Increase your window of time–which gives you more time to recover or respond.
- Monitor your experiments carefully, but not with stress-producing frequency.
- Keep your eyes on the desired outcomes; the big picture.
- Document your experiments–thoroughly.
- Make sure you have support/backup from others familiar with your systems.
- Be clear on what evidence indicates the experiment is over.
- Understand cause and effect from prior experiments.
- Decide in advance on systematic responses to all possible outcomes.
Examples Of Risk-Free Experiments
Some examples of typical business situations and some possible approaches:
1. Career Planning: You know you want to make a significant change but are unsure of the magnitude (change departments; change functions; change companies; change professions?). First, try out a job on a project basis or a particular assignment. Do not quit your day job–instead, moonlight or develop a new business in parallel.
2. Training or Consulting Company: Consider turning around the classic methodology: Research/ Develop/ Market. How about marketing first…to determine what new products or services or formats will attract new business?
3. New Business Start-Up: Don’t fall victim to an “Edifice Complex”– the temptation to lease or buy or build expensive new office space ahead of solid revenue performance. Consider the examples of successful businesses that began in a garage or a home office. The principle here: let your expenses follow your revenues.