What’s So Special About You?

What’s So Special About You?

Some of us can wax lyrical about our successes, experience and accomplishments, some of us are much more circumspect. Bottom line is, people have to know enough about you to feel safe – to connect, to trust, to spend time with you, to buy from you and so on.

If you have no difficultly talking about your successes, congratulations – you are probably in the minority. Your biggest takeaways from this blog are:

1. Monitor what you are saying to people. Is it relevant? Does it help them on their journey? Does it position you to get the credibility and attention you are looking for?

2. Bigging yourself up to boost your own confidence or make yourself feel more credible rarely works, and can often do you more harm than good, as can irrelevant boasting.

3. Remember that, just because someone else is not shouting about their achievements, doesn’t mean they don’t have any.

If you do have more of a challenge talking about yourself, you are not alone. Neurologically we are programmed to stay safe – this can often involve fitting in, not making yourself a target, and not challenging the status quo. Most often this happens unconsciously, you won’t necessarily know this is what you are doing. Look out for those times you hold back when you don’t agree, you don’t bother to share your successes or experience – even when it’s relevant to the conversation – that’s not just humility – it is quite possibly a neurological habit. It is also quite likely this practice has left you feeling frustrated, overlooked and maybe even cross with yourself or others.

Most of us need to be visible, credible and trusted in order to run our business – whether this is by staff, community or clients. The best way to do this is to comfortably and authentically talk about yourself. Easy to say, but how do you start to change long held habits?

1. Write a big list of all your achievements, successes and experiences – however small, or even insignificant they might feel to you.

2. Next decide which are relevant to your business and will help others either to connect and trust you, or with their own journey. Focus on these.

3. What are you most proud of, what are you happy to talk about and what makes a coherent story.

4. Practice talking about yourself, you will get more comfortable with it and you’ll start to develop new habits.

Why is this important?
I absolutely believe we are all special, we all have some unique skills as well as skills in common with others. If you can’t articulate what is special about you or what you do then you are making it harder for others to connect with you and do business with you.

Even more importantly than this, if you consistently underplay your skills and achievements, if you don’t talk about them – or even really acknowledge them to yourself from a neurological level they don’t get embedded into your unconscious, they don’t become part of who you authentically are – and you might feel awkward, embarrassed about, or oblivious to how special you actually are.

Remember that however comfortable or uncomfortable you are talking about yourself, what others might see as your special skills or talent you might take as common sense – because the chances are it comes easy to you.

If you are in the Brave Business group tell us what’s special about you, if you are not yet in the group join here

Why Are You Online?

Why Are You Online?

On last week’s FB live I talked about some of the myths around the benefits of the internet for small businesses. This was inspired buy Seth Godin who said

“The internet is a place great for discovery – but it is not a place where you will get discovered”

Seth Godin (2018)

It is very easy to get into the ‘transmit’ mindset – if you put enough stuff out there some of it will land, people will get to know about you, what you do and then buy your stuff, come to your event, download your freebie etc etc. One of the challenges with this approach is that everyone else is out there doing that too, that means there is a lot of noise and, depending on your craft / industry, potentially a very crowded marketplace.

Online marketing does work of course, with the right strategy and usually a fair amount of hard work over a reasonable period of time. The thing is what worked a couple of years ago doesn’t now, not just because social media algorithms change or email deliverability is tougher; people are becoming tired of the hustle, their defences are up – they are looking for the sell and not engaging with your content. You might well be thinking ‘why is she bothering to write this blog if that’s what she believes?’ and it’s a fair question.

People use the internet for three reasons (my opinion not evidence), for entertainment, to buy stuff and for information however they stay online for a fourth very critical purpose – to feel connected. Whether you are watching events unfold on the news, chatting to friends, sending work stuff or playing games connection, or feeling part of something is a key motivator for being online. This connectedness is one of the most strived for human needs. When you look to show up online, when you want to build your ‘community’, when you are sharing your stuff, connection is where you start.

There easiest way to get connected is to listen, to understand and to meet people where they are, then you can build rapport, a relationship and eventually take them on a journey with you. First – unless we are talking commodity or quick fix most people need to feel they are significant, that they belong in your world. This doesn’t matter what you are selling by the way, there are communities and clubs for all sorts of things and each of those have people who belong.

Look at Booking.com or airbnb for example – you are encouraged to be part of the club, build a profile, talk about your experiences, you can get rated as a customer as well as rating the accommodation – why? It builds connection people become invested in the site.

I was away in a campervan last weekend – and yes, there’s another example of community. Needing to find a campsite late in the evening, out of season, I reached for my phone and the internet. Sure enough, a website exists for the last minute freedom seekers like us; pitchup.com promptly found me a place to park my van for the night about 10 mins from where I was, and to some extent this was the commodity bit ticked I had my immediate problem solved – I was no longer looking at a very windy cliff top or layby. Where the website really won out though, was in its communication. Within a few minutes the campsite owner rang me, asked when we’d be arriving and said she’d look out for us. I felt like we mattered, we arrived got shown to our pitch, had a joke about pop roofs and how windy it was, we felt like we belonged (even though we are complete newbies in the campervan world).

I’ve used the camper van experience because it is a very simple example of how to build your business connection. Although the parts may be complex – lots of campsite owners, undoubtedly differing service standards, but one aim, make finding a place to stay a doodle. People might join the ‘club’ because it solves a problem, they stay in the ‘club’ because it gives them a feeling of being part of something. The first can be delivered solely by the website, the second is on the individual campsite owner and whether they make a connection, this is the bit that validates the website makes people part of the club.

If you are using the internet to deepen your business connection, and you should be, think about how you are using it. Whether it’s social media, blogging or using sales pages you need to connect to engage. Essentially, you need to be able to address one of the reasons people go online in the first place, entertain them, inform them or sell to them. This is the start of their journey with you, and for most of us our first encounter is one of the first two entertain and / or inform, this creates the opportunity for you to do the subsequent, more valuable, community building. Once you start to build connection through interaction, involvement and trust, then you start to form your own ‘club’.

Discovery implies some random lucky act, building a business is not like that – especially if you are building an online presence. Building a business requires you to get connected, possibly hustle less and listen more, and give people a reason to stay part of your business world.

Remember – entertain or inform people, ideally both, and make them feel like they belong in your community.

Creating Belonging in a Fragmented World

Creating Belonging in a Fragmented World

Creating Belonging in a Fragmented World

Belonging is a natural human need. Without it we do not thrive, and yet in a busy and sometimes overwhelming world, true belonging and the peace it brings, can be hard to find. For me, belonging is where you can show up as yourself and feel at home, you are accepted and loved for who you are, physically, emotionally, quirks and all.

A lot of my work with clients is rooted in neurobiology, and there are very good scientific reasons why connection and belonging are important to us. We are all hungry for meaningful connection in our lives – even when we have plenty already. When we feel connected, or like we belong, we function better as individuals and as a society.

While we might play down the need to connect and play up our individualism, self-sufficiency and independence – the brutal reality is that humans don’t function in isolation. We are connected creatures.

Put very simply, your autonomic nervous system, – the heart, brain, gut connection, is around 80% sensory fibres, which means it reacts to information picked up through your reticular activating system, (RAS), from what you see, hear, feel, smell and taste. It will seek to reinforce what you believe, look for more of what you are focussed on and most critically seek to keep you safe by prioritising information that suggests you might be in harm’s way.

Here’s where it gets interesting. What you believe to be harm’s way and what I believe could be profoundly different, sure – burning buildings and mad axe men (unless you were at last year’s Brave Fest), are potential harm, but there is also a massive variation in our individual perceptions of danger versus safety and in our tolerance of the perceived risk. It is these perceptions, or how you feel, that creates the chemical reactions on which your body functions. Much of this activity takes place within the limbic system of your brain.

Connection and a feeling of belonging – creates a sense of bonding and empathy, it reduces risk perception for most people. This is in part because we feel safe, can afford to be more vulnerable and let others get closer. This is very different to ‘fitting in’ where we adapt our behaviour, our look, even our opinions in order to fit in with the group we are with. This can have the exact opposite neurological effect to belonging, creating a state of heightened awareness, sometimes an internal clash with your internal values, or loss of identity, even feelings of anxiety. Fitting in is not good for the human condition, even though it is what most of us are taught to do from a very early age, through subtle conformity, at school, in clubs, peer groups, professions, long before we get to culture, religion, sex etc.

Anyway, back to business before I really get on my soapbox. Recent neuroscience research – check out Matthew Lieberman’s work – shows our brain’s default state is social thinking – when it has no tasks to process our brain defaults to social processing or making sense of other people and ourselves.  Your brain is busy working to make sense of other people; what they think, feel and desire and how that relates to you. In other words, how and where we belong and when lack of belonging puts us at unacceptable risk. Social isolation creates the same reaction in the brain as physical pain, the distress it causes is very real and has major health ramifications.

It also has ramifications for how you do business. If you can create an environment where those you want to connect with, your business community, (not just your clients), feel connected like they belong, they will hang around and you will have a greater opportunity to influence and serve them.

How do you create a sense of belonging?

First of all, belonging is usually values or belief driven. This means people will buy into your why, your reasons for doing things or believing what you believe, long before they buy you. They will connect through because you inspire them or they are on the same journey, or fighting the same injustices and because they are trusted and can make a contribution. Yes, you read right, to feel like they really belong your clients want to make a contribution. Whether this is as simple as feeling their opinion is valid and heard, or whether they want to feel aligned with what you stand for in some way, they want a common experience – something they can be part of.

I can already feel some of you prickling and saying this is very ‘coachy’, but it is absolutely true of product too. The obvious example is Apple versus the rest of the IT world, but let’s think a bit more laterally – what if you buy toothpaste. Some people will buy the cheapest, some will have a favourite brand and others will make a choice based on sustainable palm oil and deforestation – that is belonging. Evidence also suggests that people will pay a premium to feel like they are part of something doing good. Whatever you sell, to a large extent you are selling the experience.

To create belonging around your business you need to define the experience you give people. Communities people want to belong to have some common characteristics. These include shared experiences and common outlooks; they are a place where members can self-identify as part of that community; members need to feel they are adding value to the community, sharing, learning and contributing, and that their engagement makes a difference.

What can you do to create this around your business? First up, it takes time, most people are quite capable of doing this, they just give up too early. You need to put the effort in, to be authentic and human. The temptation to only share the glory stuff, or to big up what you are doing – success or drama, won’t build you the connection or belonging you need. Here are my five tips for creating belonging.

  • Be real – share what you believe in, what you stand for, what you won’t allow.
  • Create desire for association – give your community a reason to belong. This is about experience, what you do for them, what they do for each other, how this exchange takes place, often the simplest things work best – the creation of an online group, meet ups etc.
  • Showcase members of your community – share their successes, not just your testimonials, show your wider community what your closer circle (often your actual clients), are doing and their experiences.
  • Create a way for people to exchange knowledge and ideas – as well as sharing your knowledge widely and freely – remember people like to add value, don’t be too precious about controlling ideas and information.
  • Build rapport – this is critical, depending on the size of your business you may not have personal interaction with every person, but they need to feel they have a personal relationship with you and your team – not your company or website, belonging is personal.

If you take nothing else from this blog take this –

“People remember how you make them feel more than anything else – handle those feelings with care”

Connection and belonging are hugely important to me in life as well as business, it was the main motivator behind Brave CoWork. I know not everyone can join us in Stratford, although you are welcome to drop by if you are in the area and need a place to work, grab a coffee or hang out with some great people (I’m talking about our members here as well as the Brave team).

If you’ve enjoyed this and want some virtual co-working join us in Braver Business (our Facebook community).  

The Power of Story – Part 2 of 3

The Power of Story – Part 2 of 3

Your Internal Stories Are Your Reality.

First up, your brain is a very clever piece of kit – until it’s not. It has a sophisticated neural network as we discussed in part one of this series, the trouble is it doesn’t differentiate between real and imagined. Which basically means whatever you are thinking about, focused on or actually doing has the same amount of power over how you feel, how you show up and what you actually achieve. Great news if you are feeding your brain with empowering, self-affirming stories – the trouble is most of us do just the opposite. 

We are wired to stay safe, to repeat patterns and to fear the unknown, therefore most of your unconscious narrative serves exactly that purpose. Unconscious is the key bit here, you repeat the stories, or patterns so frequently they are just part of who you are – you probably don’t even recognise them as stories – they are just part of who you are. Unless you can identify these stories, they will continue to drive your life – and you will probably call it fate. One way of finding them is to look at your favourite excuses or our ‘inner critic’, both of which serve to stop us taking risks that might impact our ‘safety’. 

Your identity – or how you see yourself, is totally tied up in the stories you tell yourself! 

I’ve talked to 1000s of business owners and leaders over the years and sadly many of the stories I hear, often from outwardly successful people are stories of ‘not enoughness’ in some form or other: not bright enough, not lucky enough, not connected enough, not fit enough & so on… Many of these stories build out to create firmly held self-limiting beliefs, things you can’t do or won’t achieve. 

It’s one thing knowing this but understanding why it happens and what to do about, it is where story gets really powerful.  Many of these beliefs grew from stories created in moments of emotional processing. Daniel Goleman (1995) calls this Emotional Hijacking – essentially something happens and your limbic system, particularly your Amygdala reacts to the stimulus more quickly than your more logical neocortex can think and plan its response. The limbic system fills in the actual knowledge gaps with story drawn from previous emotional encounters and from this a physiological reaction often reinforcing your values and beliefs. And so the hijacking cycle is created.

Fixing this is not as simple as saying a few affirmations – it’s not what you say out loud that has the impact, but what you truly believe internally. This said story is still a fast and sustainable route to behaviour change.

Step One: Get familiar with your stories,

  • What do you repeatedly tell yourself? (think inner critic here if you are struggling)
  • What do you really believe about yourself?
  • What excuses do you consistently make?

Once you bring these into your consciousness you can start to unpick them. I find Robert Dilts’s Neurological levels model helpful here.

Let’s start from the bottom, Environment represents where and when, Behaviour is what you do, Skills represent how you do it, Values and beliefs why, and identity is who you are (or how you see yourself). Spirit then represents you vision /purpose.

When looking to make a change in your story (or your beliefs), you need to work at a level above where the problem exists – so for the most part this is at identity level – most challenges come from what you believe to be true about yourself (or your internal stories).  

Having identified your stories step two is deciding whether or not they are helpful and empowering or whether they limit you. 

I suggest you dump down all the stories you tell yourself regularly then ask the following questions:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Does it serve me?

Some stories when you look at this way are clearly not true – your logical brain can see that straight off, these you need to deal with. The best way to deal with them is to consciously focus on the evidence that proves them untrue. For example:

I can’t do public speaking – for the vast majority of us that is untrue. Public speaking may be undesirable, terrifying even, but you could do it. So, what is in the way? It’s not the ability to speak – and you probably have examples of when you have spoken in front of others to prove it, at school, at home socially – even if you weren’t perfect, you did it, draw on these to evidence the fact that you can speak in public then build up your skills and knowledge through practice. If you focus on it enough your brain will start to look for more evidence and gradually replace the ‘I can’t story’ with a new one.

Some beliefs you hold may actually be true but believing them may not serve you. I couldn’t run a half marathon may be true, but if I’m training for a 10K that belief probably doesn’t serve me. It is possible for a human of my age to run a half marathon, because they do all the time – so therefore it is possible with training, so what I need is a plan, a load of practice and a new story – I’m not planning to run a 10k by the way. If that were my belief it would absolutely serve me, I don’t like running.

Finally, the best way to deconstruct stories that are not true, or don’t serve you, is to decide what you need to believe to achieve what you want to achieve or be the person you want to be.  The trick here is to make the new story a stretch but believable, if I were to run, however well I trained I’m unlikely to be an Olympian! It is quite possible I could get to half marathon stage with time and effort though.

Once you identify what you need to believe creating the right story to support it becomes easy, for example, if you actually needed to speak publicly focus on your message not the act of speaking. Your message is what drives you, create compelling stories around why you are sharing it, what you have done so far and where you have evidence of speaking previously – then start to take some action, whether it is practice or small presentations – or the dog act, this sends messages to your limbic system that undo the emotional hijacking you may have previously created. A new story forms.   

In short, you choose what you believe either consciously, in a focused empowering way, or unconsciously by default based on your past experiences and beliefs – either way story is the answer.

This week is national storytelling week in the UK, do yourself a favour and check out your own stories.

If you need some more help join us in the Brave Business Community www.facebook.com/groups/BraveScene/

The Power of Story – Part 1 of 3

The Power of Story – Part 1 of 3

How Your Brain Creates Story

Storytelling seems to have been around for as long as we have. Cavemen used story in the form of drawing and signs on rocks to share tales and teach about hunting; ancient Egyptians used story to educate, entertain and communicate – both visually and audibly; ancient Greek philosophers – such as Plato, told stories that still impact the world today. They understood the power of story, even if they didn’t understand the neurological workings of why story is important.

“Those who tell stories rule the world”

Plato (about 2400 years ago)

The way we tell story and consume story has changed throughout history in line with technology available – the way we process it has not!

In this three-part blog series we will explore the neurological impact of story, starting today with how we create stories in the first place.

Basically, story enables us to make sense of the world around us. It helps us to connect, to understand and to see perspectives other than our own. We can dip into a make-believe fantasy world for while, explore other realities and immerse ourselves in things it may not be practical to experience in ‘real life’. 

Interestingly, accuracy is not the most important thing when processing information, coherence is. Your brain is attempting to sort and react to billions of pieces of information from internal neuro pathways and external stimuli every second. It has to prioritise which bits of that info create a threat to your safety in some way and deal with those.  

Think about it like this – if your brain were a rail system the objective is to get trains from start to destination as quickly and safely as possible. Information fed to the ‘controller’ forms the basis of decision making – does the train go straight through, does it need to change line, does it need to stop completely? The sooner the controller can process that information the sooner he can move on to the next train. If the controller can see the whole rail circuit, what else is on the line, what the weather is like etc, then he can make a rapid decision. If he can only see part of the picture he cannot. This slows the progress of all trains.

Your brain uses narrative to process information quickly – that narrative is derived from memories, experiences and neurological conditioning. There are a number of different parts of the brain involved in memory formation, the key ones in terms of narrative are:-

The hippocampus, which stores linear and autobiographical information: time, space and people, if you like; the amygdala which attaches emotional significance to memory. This emotional significance is critical in how we process information – strong emotional responses such as shame, guilt, grief, and fear can create a physiological trigger when faced with similar information in the future.

The amygdala is also key to forming new memories – particularly those related to fear or threat to safety. When information is incomplete the brain processes what it has drawing on narrative from your memory to ‘join the dots’ and create the appropriate physiological response.

The neocortex is responsible for higher functions and processing in humans – it stores ‘facts’, language and reasoning. The challenge is that overtime we transfer ‘memories’ from the hippocampus to the neocortex as facts – whether they actually happened the way we recall them or not.

Why does this matter? From a very early age we tell ourselves stories about our actions, our experiences and the actions of others, these stories create a reality within which we exist – this can either expand our perspectives and horizons or constrain them depending on the types of story we tell ourselves.

Ultimately, story – whether internally or externally created, enables us to relate, to connect and to engage emotionally. It drives our behaviour, our feelings and the action we take. Consciously or not we all use story to process information and the quality of your stories has a direct impact on the quality of your life.

Next week we will be looking specifically at how to manage the stories you tell yourself and about yourself, before moving on to how connect with others using story.

In the meantime, think about what stories you regularly tell yourself, do they serve you or hold you back?

Strategic Blogging

Strategic Blogging

Honestly, hot on the heels of an extremely busy client workload, a retreat in Marrakech and Brave CoWork’s first open day, strategic feels a bit of a stretch for me right now. I think flying by the seat of my pants probably has it covered.

I believe when you are playing big, going for what you want in your business, strategic can look like chaotic; strategic can get lost in the chaos; and strategic can become something to think about when you come up for air.

There are many things that impact on strategy, not least the culture of your business, and yes this still applies if you are the only person in your business – you might call it your style or your personality, essentially it is still the culture in which you operate. The Brave culture is very much one of trying new things, being ok with not having all the answers before we start, respecting all team opinions regardless of role in the business and accepting that not every initiative or launch will work. This only works because there is a strategy underneath it, a loose one on occasions but a strategy all the same.  This means that when we think about risk, about new initiatives, we can very quickly decide whether they are on mission or not. Then we decide whether they are viable or not.

You might legitimately be thinking ‘how does this relate to blogging?’. Have you ever had that ‘oh sh*t’ moment where you realise you’ve not sent anything to your community for a few weeks? Swiftly followed by – what can I write about? If you have you are not alone. Focused, valuable content is something many business owners struggle with. Strategy sorts this. It keeps you and your business focussed on what you want to talk about, where you add the most value and how you connect with potential clients.  Random blogging might be fun; it doesn’t necessarily help your business or position you as a thought leader or even a contributor in a specific field. Constantly having to think of something to talk about can be really hard work.

Imagine a scenario where you know exactly what you are writing about for the next 3 months, the topics are aligned with your key business messages and what you want to be known for, and you are talking about stuff that matters to you, that you are knowledgeable about and the words just kind of flow out of you.  Congratulations if you already do this, it makes life so much easier.

If, on the other hand, your inner cynic is in overdrive about lack of spontaneity, being out of touch, manipulating the market etc etc, no-one ever said you can’t be controversial, tap into topical issues, or even re order your blog plan if it suits you. What having a strategic plan does is it enables you to get more intimate with your audience, to be provocative and challenging because they are familiar with what you talk about, they may or may not agree with you, but they have given you a platform.

When you write a blog you are engaging in a transaction with your audience. You are trading your knowledge for their time – if your knowledge or opinion isn’t worth their time they won’t read your stuff. If they don’t know whether it’s worth their time or not, because you are not strategic in what you talk about, it’s a harder decision to make.

If no one is reading your blog what are you left with – your google ranking for that blog. Guess what, if you are random about what you talk about you might get lucky, but the chances are you won’t have included subjects you want google to know you for or keywords your potential clients use. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying strategic blogging will have your SEO covered, it’s nowhere near that simple and I’m not an SEO expert. The reality is talking about the subjects you want to be known for is beneficial for humans and for SEO.

How do you get strategic about your blogging?  Think about the top three key things you want your business to be known for, and start there. Once you have those key messages you can create specific content that adds value to your audience and positions your expertise where you choose.

For example, one of Brave Scene’s key messages is bravery over blame – having the courage to explore what gets in the way, over making excuses and blaming others or your circumstances.  I talk about the stories we tell ourselves about the neuro biology of those stories and how to change them. Last week, for example, I talked about learning as a procrastination technique, about how we use the need for more knowledge as a cover story for our not enough-ness

I keep a sheet on my wall with our key messages on. While the key themes of what Brave Scene is about are constant, the specific messages might vary from quarter to quarter depending on what’s topical, what the business is focussed on – such as the CoWork launch. The sheet that goes on the wall is specific to that quarter. Once it’s up, anyone can write down ideas or comment on ideas. We draw from the news, from conversations with clients or from things they have learned and read about. When we come to look at our social media strategy – of which blogging is a critical part, it’s easy to pick subjects from our ideas chart; subjects that are on message, in line with what the business is doing and things I feel strongly enough to write about. This ideas sheet doesn’t just cover your blog strategy by the way, it will also have your Facebook live, podcasts etc. all covered.

None of this means you can’t add something in if something happens that your business should have an opinion on. What it does mean is the pressure if off when you get busy, when like us over the last month, your strategy looks like chaos, you still have focus – you might actually get that blog done and stay in touch with your audience rather than disappearing off the face of the earth until you are less busy. Consistency is everything when it comes to engagement.

My challenge for you this week is to pick one of your businesses key messages and come up with a couple of blog ideas from them. If you don’t know what your key messages are, defining them is a great place to start.  If you are in the Braver Business group and would like to share your ideas or get some feedback, feel free to comment on the post I’ve started about this. If you are not yet in the group and would like to join, click here.

Strategy is your friend, and your guide, use it wisely.

There’s No Such Thing As A ‘One Man Band’

There’s No Such Thing As A ‘One Man Band’

Well ok, technically there is, but not when it comes to running a business – you might be a sole trader, solopreneur, or freelancer – this doesn’t mean you work in isolation. Increasingly, business structures and roles are becoming more fluid, people have more than one line of accountability and smaller businesses regularly work with individuals and teams they don’t directly employ.

It is this last group I most want to talk about. Connection is key to human existence and this includes in our work lives. There is plenty of emerging research (Seppla 2012) that shows emotional well-being, physical health and life satisfaction are all enhanced by strong social connection. So how do you first identify who is really in your team, and second, ensure you create strong social connections within your team – especially if you work remotely from each other.

If you are a small business with no direct employees it’s likely your team will vary in size and membership depending on what you are working on. There are likely to be a few consistent people though, and they might not be that obvious. In the context of connection – and not being a one man band – your team includes anyone who impacts your business, your decision making and who has influence over what happens with your business, and yes, I’d include family members, friends, clients and mentors in this group; as well as your accountant, people you outsource to, use as freelancers or work as a freelancer for. All of these people can impact on how your business performs and how you feel about work.  For all of you who said you work for yourself so that you don’t have to manage people – I’m sorry. You may not have to line manage, but we all manage the people around us to some degree.

This more fluid management comes down to basic human connection, how you show up, how clear you are about what you need and how prepared you are to listen to what others need. Human connection is mostly about belonging, an innate survival strategy for many species including humans. To maintain connection, people often strive to fit in at the expense of really belonging, this in turn causes internal incongruences, dissatisfaction and even stress. If you are wondering what the difference is, fitting in is where you moderate your behaviour and attitudes to be accepted as part of a group and belonging is where you feel accepted for being who you already are. The sort of connection that enhances wellbeing – and business success, is one where members feel they belong, are accepted for who they are and can contribute without fear of personal rejection, (even if that specific contribution is rejected)

How do you make this happen?

There are four key influences on effective social connection:

  1. Work with the right people – it can be very tempting to just pick people you like, people who are like you or people who won’t question you too much. This is not your dream team! Work with people who share your values, believe in your goal, and who have different skills to you. These people will challenge and question, not to be difficult, but because the outcome matters to them too, they belong on the mission.
  2. Clarity – there are many clarities needed when it comes to working with others, especially if you are working remotely. The most important is that everyone involved understands the mission, the stakes and their role in it. It is also important you know your team members on a personal level. I don’t mean you have to be down the pub or in each other’s houses every five minutes, but you do need to know about each other. You need to be clear about what motivates them, what is going on for them, what makes them vulnerable and what allows them to flourish. Social time is important for connection even when you are remote, do things like having a coffee break together over video calls, meet up face to face from time to time if possible. Most of us under communicate – this this can be disastrous for clarity, especially remote and fluid teams, it can be very easy to feel disconnected or out of the loop. As the ‘manager’ it’s your role to ensure people stay included and connected.
  3. Use technology to enhance connection – I’ve mentioned video conferencing above – if you work remotely it is one of your best friends, even if people feel a little wary to begin with. It is the next best thing to face to face as far as connection goes – most humans have a visual preference when it comes to communication. They feel better able to understand, to empathise and to stay safe when they can see the other person or people. There are many other tools for project management, messaging, tracking customer journeys all of which help your business stay more connected. The important thing here is that you pick a couple or three things, ensure all involved know how to use them and what is expected of them, then use them consistently.
  4. Accountability – sounds like a no brainer, but it’s amazing how often things are just left in the ether in the hope someone will deliver on the task. Setting expectations for your virtual team is important. It creates clarity, it gives people freedom to act. Most freelancers, service professionals and remote workers chose that path for similar reasons, one of which is freedom over micro management. Clear expectation works both ways, it also enables you to keep people on track and on time.

None of us can run our businesses without other people – whether they are our clients, our families supporting us or actual team members. It is worth putting in the effort up front to create genuine social connection with the people involved in your business. When they belong, they are bought into your mission, there is a level of mutual respect that enables all parties to show up, contribute their best and even mess up occasionally. These are the people who will go the extra mile if needed, who will have your back and who will stay connected even in tough times. It’s on you to build these teams and create connection.

If you want a practice, or feel like you may need a bit of social connection yourself, join Braver Business the Facebook community for business owners, creatives and entrepreneurs who are brave enough to show up and do what that believe in.

 

How Accountable Are You?

How Accountable Are You?

Accountability is huge for small business owners, entrepreneurs and freelancers that I speak to. It’s also a double edged sword. Many people muddle accountability with rules, loss of freedom, and obligation – for some the exact opposite of why they went into business for themselves.

In my view, clarity and accountability go hand in hand. If you are not clear about what you want to achieve, where you are going and how you are going to get there, it is very difficult to hold yourself – or anyone else, accountable for progress or lack thereof. Yet lack of clarity is one of the most common things I see in small business clients – and some not so small businesses, for that matter.

Without accountability you are free to go with the flow, to set your own direction to do stuff on your own terms – all things many business owners relish and state as reasons for going into business in the first place. You are also free to procrastinate, under deliver, miss deadlines, forget stuff, make excuses and a whole lot of other stuff that makes life as a business owner so much harder than it needs to be.

The thing is, when it’s your business, your livelihood – as well as that of your family & your employees, if you have them, you are it – ultimately the buck stops with you. That can be a heavy burden to bear alone – especially when you are wedded to a vision of freedom and pleasing yourself. It is no coincidence that one of the major selling points for mastermind groups and online forums is accountability – it genuinely can be hard to go it alone.

There are three parts to accountability and all are equally important –

  1. MindsetThis is probably the most talked about and the least practised. Most of us are very good at making excuses for ourselves when we are scared or don’t want to do something. This retrofit reality doesn’t serve you. If you find yourself making an excuse for your actions, inactions, procrastinations etc. stop and look at why. What is really going on: are you scared, do you lack knowledge, is something misaligned with your values? There will almost always be an emotional trigger and it’s only by understanding that trigger that you can decide whether to act differently or not. Holding yourself accountable for your mindset is not the same as giving the voice in your head free reign, in fact it’s the opposite. It is questioning the stories you are telling yourself, deciding whether they are helpful or holding you back. Just think, if you took the action you really wanted to take instead of making an excuse how much closer to your dreams would you be? And finally, learn to deal with not getting what you want – don’t waste time making excuses, blaming others and wallowing in self pity – you can only control how you respond to stuff not what actually happens to you.
  1. Clarity – If you are not absolutely clear about what you want it’s hard to set goals, involve others and follow up on outcomes. Clarity is the first pillar of a brave business; without it you are destined to wander around in the wilderness. Clarity allows you to involve others, whether it is to help you to be accountable or to work with you, or to buy from you. My number one rule for any new project is get clear – get clear about what we want to achieve and get clear about what we are prepared to do and not prepared to do to make that happen. This enables two things. First, we get clear about goals, targets and aspirations and measures of progress & success we can be held to account for. Second we can delegate. Successful delegation is a whole blog in itself – and something that comes up frequently for some of our larger clients as well. Here are the highlights:
  • Be clear about the outcome you want?
  • Be clear about what you are delegating – the task, responsibility for outcome, accountability for outcome?
  • Ensure the person / people you are delegating to have the skills to undertake the thing you have asked of them.
  • Be clear about how / when you are available for questions, feedback, sign off etc. depending on the degree to which you have delegated
  • Tell people what you need but not how to do it – in other words delegate, don’t micro manage.
  1. Structure This is really about skills and systems, and it’s easy to learn. How many times have you been derailed by something that appears to come from left field and needs all of your attention, or something that becomes more urgent than it is important because you have put it off for so long? Structure prevents this. Structure removes the chaos that imprisons you, kills your creativity – and reduces your potential for success. Structure creates the freedom and the ability to do things on your own terms that so many business owners crave. As a, mostly, reformed chaotic I’ve learned this the hard way! Here are a few simple structures that help you stay accountable without feeling constrained.
  • Stay compliant – it’s hard to miss GDPR at the moment, and changes in legislation will demand your attention from time to time. Here I’m really talking about the regular stuff that happens in your business every year, every quarter, every month, things like tax returns, VAT, accounts, monthly obligations that may not be automated, stuff that needs to stay current like insurances and professional obligations like indemnity and CPD if it is relevant to your business. A dated reminder system will prevent the last minute derailing I so often hear of.
  • Create realistic to do lists – maybe the top three things you need to do and stick to them
  • Set reminders – give yourself headspace to concentrate on what you are doing without the risk of forgetting important things or even dwelling too long on one thing at the expense of other tasks.
  • Set goals, measurable targets and deadlines for all crucial activities and projects – especially if it only involves you!
  • Get comfortable asking for what you want – if you don’t know, no-one else can help you – even if you are paying them to! Asking for help is a bit like delegating, get clear first then ask others if they can help you achieve.
  • Have accountability meetings – it would be fair to say this is easier with a leadership team / board, an ‘accountability buddy’, a mentor or coach or a mastermind group, but don’t ignore this if you prefer to work alone – meet with yourself! Set time aside to honestly review what’s working, what’s not and what needs to happen next. Then do the same for others involved in your team and people who you have delegated to.

If you don’t get accountable to yourself and to your business you risk drifting, getting stuck or being caught in a storm too often.  Accountability is a habit like so much else in our lives, and creating, changing or consolidating any habit can feel like hard work at the beginning. Take each of the above steps in turn and look at where you may need to change your habits.

 

Remember – lack of accountability fuels your excuses, frustrations and lack of progress.

 

Vulnerability Is A Strength

Vulnerability Is A Strength

Last week I talked about vulnerability in my online class.

It struck me prior to this class that we are often taught to find the pain or vulnerability in our potential clients and market to that.  We are taught to start by helping to associate people into their pain – then tell them how you will help solve that problem. Done well it undoubtedly works, whether it is the right thing for the person on the receiving end or not.

So, this is where I start to p**s off many people who train speakers; tell you they will grow your business 10x; teach you to build funnels, sales pages, trip wires that convert like crazy. Most of them demonstrate the technique perfectly while exposing your pain, your weaknesses at selling yourself, speaking, converting to sales, and if you are cringing right now because that’s you, I’m sorry. Here’s the thing, this method gets results, good results, results which convert to many sales if it is done well. How many times have you bought a course, a coaching session etc. that you neither needed or used because you got caught up in the moment?  Not just me then!

Ethics aside, the trouble with this approach is that most people don’t do it well, most people don’t spend years learning and perfecting their techniques, most people grab hold of a formula and try to make what they do fit. At the same time, they feel uncomfortable – either because they don’t know the formula too well or it doesn’t really fit with how they like to show up, or worse, it has them doing the very things they hate in others.

The result – it damages you. You look insincere or incongruous. I’m not exaggerating – your integrity is at stake here. If people are getting mixed messages, whether that’s in person, on video or in writing, they will not trust you, they will not believe in what you are selling or even saying. If it doesn’t feel right – don’t do it!

I am not saying that selling, marketing and promoting yourself is wrong or bad or even icky – it is essential. Essential, if you want to connect with your audience, your potential clients and your existing clients. What is also essential is that you connect in a manner that is honest and real for you. This, by the way, is not the same as natural and easy, you are still putting your stuff out there, you are still risking rejection, ridicule even. The difference is that you are doing it from a position of strength, of belief – if not quite in yourself yet, belief in the need for what you do, the value it brings and the way it helps people.

The power of vulnerability in business is in your vulnerability – not your clients’ vulnerability. When you can get real, when you can share what you believe, why what you do matters, how it is part of your bigger story, then people can connect with you as a human being, they are attracted by shared values, by your vision, and by a sense of belonging, of feeling genuinely understood. They know you can help them. And you, you get to stand in your own truth, and to attract exactly the people you can best serve – the same ones that are likely to be the easiest to work with and who get the most benefit from what you offer.

I see vulnerability as a real strength, there are so many things you can’t do without an element of being vulnerable. You can’t try anything new, you can’t say no, you can’t stand up for stuff you believe in, you can’t risk being different – without vulnerability you are destined to settle for the safe, the familiar, the groove you’ve already carved for yourself, probably at great personal cost.

Vulnerability allows you to grow, to take risks, to stand up for what you believe in – it’s not about being weak or needy. Most importantly, vulnerability is real, we all feel it sometimes. When you share yours appropriately for the situation and audience, of course, people will connect with you.

Genuine, honest vulnerability keeps you real and I’d say it has just as powerful an impact on people, as the scenario I described at the beginning, just that you get to keep your integrity and reputation.

Do you love what I’ve said or hate it and totally disagree with me – I’d love to hear your views in the comments below.

Connect or Risk Extinction

Connect or Risk Extinction

I’m writing this following my recent business retreat in the Artic Circle – I’m warm, snug and hauled up in my office at home. For all business owners and leaders, space and time to just be is critically important. I believe much of our real growth comes from conscious, and sometimes unconscious, introspection. If we bounce from one thing to the next to the next – whether work or pure fun – we don’t actually have time to consolidate what we take from each experience. Do this for long enough and one of two things happen; either you become overwhelmed or you become an adrenaline junkie. Neither are sustainable, but worse, both risk your ability to really connect with what is happening around you and within your business.

Connection is one of the five pillars of a brave business. Without connection you risk extinction – both as a business and as a human being. Put simply: we do not and are not designed to function in isolation. In this context, connection has three layers:

  1. Being connected with yourself, your purpose, your values. The stuff that is absolutely true to you.
  2. Being connected with the people that you want to do business with, the people that help you in business, and the people who support you within your friends and family. In short, other human beings you are connected to with your business in mind
  3. Being connected to the planet, as part of an eco-system, as part of a bigger structure than you. This means how you interact, what impact you have, what you depend on, and what impacts on you from a broader environmental perspective.

It is this third one, being connected to the planet, that has been really brought home to me while I was up in the Arctic Circle. It is one of the few places on the planet that if you don’t pay attention to your surroundings, if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on with the environment around you, you could quite literally find yourself in a position where your actual life is in danger.

We went snowmobiling whilst there. When we set off it was -26c and as we got deeper into the forest and the mountains, the snow closed in making navigation increasingly difficult – thankfully we had Mikko, our fabulous instructor and guide, with us who has been connected to that land for generations ensuring our safe passage.

You know, it’s such a privilege to be in nature, to be awed by its power and to experience that feeling of real connection to the planet; it is hugely important. It reminded me that as a business you don’t exist in isolation. As a business, you have to work with the elements that you find yourself in, the surroundings that you’re in, and with the infrastructure that you have. And, there is always a way of doing that.

Kiruna, the town I was based in, is a great example of this. It is actually very isolated, especially in the winter, both by its terrain and its weather – yet its two main streams of revenue are mining (about 75%) and tourism (about 20%). In simple terms it has developed its own eco system. Despite the mining, the air’s really clean, the water’s really clean and, when they’re not frozen, people drink from the rivers. In the winter they build with ice blocks from the rivers, and all the food is locally sourced – sustainable, organic food. You know, it’s just such a clean, eco infrastructure.

You need to think about this in the context of your business. How do you get to have that kind of a sustainable, repeatable, clean way of running your business? I’m not just talking about being ‘eco’ here. I’m talking about how you streamline your operations, your business, to make sure that you’ve created something that fits with the environment that you are in. By this I mean it’s easy to get the resources that you need, and that you are contributing back with those resources – this might be in terms of sales and service, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be making a charitable or pro-bono contribution. It means you do something that enhances the eco system you are working in. That flow makes business sustainable, fun, easy; all those things that are really important if you’re going to invest such a huge chunk of your life into your business.

In the Braver Business group, this week is all about connection. To help members stay brave about the action they take in their business, we regularly roll through the five pillars of brave business. If you’d like to join in with this week’s connection challenge spend some time thinking about your business’s eco system and answer the following questions:

  1. What does that system look like?
  2. What role does your business play in that system?
  3. What do you rely on to make your contribution?
  4. What value do you contribute?

Once you have answered these questions you will have an idea of your flow in relation to the system you operate in, what’s great and where you may need to focus more attention or make changes to ensure sustainability.

If you’d like to join the Braver Business group and share some of your findings join here  

Be Connected – to what you do, who you do it with and most of all, what you believe in

Be Connected – to what you do, who you do it with and most of all, what you believe in

In the wake of the Business Show we are just digesting what we learned and what delegates believe is really troubling small business owners right now. This is as well as following up on conversations individually with people we met and talked to during the two days, of course.

Two things really struck me from the conversations we had – firstly, people really liked our stand because it was different, that was a great conversation starter and secondly, people felt it was inviting and friendly, and that we were interested in them, not just trying to give away leaflets or info. 

For me it is these conversations that make it worth us going to the big shows and expos. We are there to learn from and connect with people. Sure, it’s a great place to showcase what we do, but at the end of the day unless we have made a connection and given people a reason to stay in touch we are largely wasting our time.

Which brings me nicely back to what did we learn?  There were a few things that came up in conversation over and over, and while they are not surprising, they are certainly worth paying attention to. Connection was a real biggy, and it showed up in a number of ways.

  1. Being connected to what you do, that for most of us business is not just about want we do. It’s about why, what drives us, what really matters – in other words once you get past a basic survival level it’s not just about making money, it’s about purpose and feeling you are connected to something bigger than you.
  2. This was just as stark when talking about choosing who you do business with, we want to feel connected. Who are the people in the business and do we connect with them at a base values level? Does it feel right, do they fit with what they believe. It was interesting here how many people talked about wandering around the exhibition being ‘pounced on’ by exhibitors – people launching into ‘this is what I do’ conversations without first engaging in any kind of rapport building. I have to say this is also true of people walking around the exhibition trying to sell their services to exhibitors, (a pet hate of mine).
  3. Feeling disconnected – many people said they struggled to feel like they belong in the small business world. At the beginning, you set up, get all excited about what you’re doing and the difference you’ll make, you maybe even have a rush of great clients / customers. Then you start to realise it’s down to you, and often just you. The business world is full of competitors, people selling this, that and the next thing to increase your revenue tenfold, get you a six or seven figure business etc. It’s noisy, confusing and not necessarily what you believe is right, hence the disconnection and perceived lack of belonging.

I believe that, in this loud and fast paced world, many of us are striving for connection, we want to belong, but not necessarily to conform. We want to connect but not necessarily compete. We want to contribute but are afraid of being ridiculed, or worse, ostracised. It sounds obvious, I know, but as a species, humans are connected beings, we are stronger together. I also believe we are more disconnected than we have been in many decades. Each one of us needs to help the world become more connected again, and we do this by taking the time to know those you do business with, by sharing some of yourself – even if it makes you feel vulnerable. By looking for common ground, and by being prepared to move on if something does not fit with your values and sense of self. This way not only does the world get more connected but we each feel more connected, less lonely, more able to do what we do.

If you need a place to start look at where you feel like you belong now, look at where you feel you don’t belong and compare – somewhere in there are the specifics that help you to be more connected.  Have fun, explore and be brave enough to take the right action for you.  If you like Brave Scene and what we are about do join the Brave community 

 

How Are You Using Social Media

How Are You Using Social Media

This morning I opened my Linked In messages to find 14 new messages – 2 from people I know well, 5 from people who have been connections for a while and message me every couple of months to tell me about there products and 8 from new connections who’s first contact with me is to try to sell me something. One even said ‘without my help your business will fail’ – I’d love to know what crystal ball he’s looking in.

On a more serious note though, in my mind social platforms – including LinkedIn, are about building connection, developing relationships and sharing good, helpful, value led stuff. They are not about connecting with as many randon people – especially those with plenty of connections, then flogging the guts out of your product and service, while at the same time destroying any potential relationships you might be building.

Does this mean I’m some fluffy coach who thinks selling is evil? Not at all, I have made money through LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. I sell stuff to people I first connected with on social platforms and I’ve even employed someone after building a relationship onLinkedIn. I have one guiding principle though, which is value first. Very few people actually like being sold at – by this I mean the unsolicited pitch that pops up in your messages – and this applies to all social platforms. I’m not talking about sales conversations after you have built a relationship, or established that the other party might be interested in what you have.

I guess what I’m saying here is if you want to use social media to grow your business – and there’s nothing wrong with that, use it for what its best for, engaging people in what you believe and what you do, expanding your reach and credibility, building relationships and getting to know interesting people.

If you do connect with me, connect because I am useful to you, you are interested in me or my business or because you may have something that I need, then take the time to get to know me. That way I may finish up doing business with you, I may recommend you to my network, or connect you with someone I know. Don’t look at my profile and think – target market or has lots of connection, and definitely don’t follow up my acceptance or your request with a sales pitch.

I’m sure I’m not alone in opening LinkedIn or messenger with a sinking feeling when I see 12 sales pitches.

Lets change this, lets get really connected with each other.

Own Your Presence

Own Your Presence

We all know people who can just walk into a room and own it. People pay attention to them, they might want to be noticed by them – or hidden from them depending on the circumstances. The mood, energy and attitude of these people impacts the room. They are the rapport leaders – for good or bad, they influence how others behave, interact and even what they think. These people are connected energetically, they are noticeable, they have a presence.

When we look at the constructs of our society it is geared towards needing to stand out, needing to be heard and to have an impact – and that is certainly true for business owners. In short, we are geared towards valuing extrovert behaviours.

We see this in the workplace, in schools, in many social clubs and certainly at parties – outgoing, sociable people, ones with lots of friends, ones who ’know’ lots of people. All are considered more noticeable. According to Susan Cain, in her book ‘Quiet’ this happens to an extent that people with more introverted tendencies fear they are at a disadvantage or even ashamed of their quiet natures, and somehow less worthy. She talks about society’s bias towards extroversion and how many introverts feel that in order to progress they need to develop more extrovert styles. She also points out that somewhere between a third and a half of the population favour introversion as their natural style, and by denying the value of this we are reducing the connectedness, the creativity of society, we risk losing some of the great talents that lie within introverts who cannot express themselves in this noisy world.

Let’s be honest though, introvert/extrovert/ambivert – we all need to have an impact, and we all need to have that impact in a way that suits our style, personality and values – in other words we need to be real and show up as ourselves.

Wherever you sit on the introvert/extrovert spectrum there are challenges and wins for you when we get down to presence. And for most of us we have a natural preference, but move backwards and forwards along the introvert/extrovert spectrum depending on the circumstances that we find ourselves in.

Let’s look at extroverts first – you find it easy to walk into the room and seek attention, you like being in the spotlight, you have something to say, you’re on form and you easily tune in and engage with people around you, you carry the conversation on and on and never tire.

But, and it’s a big but, if you are not given that attention you are quite likely to crumple quickly, feel insecure, try harder to get noticed and probably be more inclined to talk about yourself and your accomplishments, not listen too closely to what others are saying and as a result not engage very well. People around you may tire of you your tales and your Duracell bunny style energy.

We need extrovert behaviour in business to get the conversations going, to start the exchange of creativity, to hold the energy for the room sometimes – just note this is extrovert behaviours, any one of us can learn and adopt these.

If you are an introvert then all I’ve just mentioned forms part of your worst nightmare. You are much more likely to listen, not get your point across, or not even be noticed, while at the same time finding the whole affair exhausting. You’d much rather slink into a quiet corner and have a conversation with one or two like-minded people.

We need introvert behaviours – that quiet introspection, to step back from group think, to allow individual creativity and revelations, which can be later developed or refined by a group. We need leaders who listen and are driven by what they believe is right, and not just a desire for the limelight – and again these introvert behaviours can be learned by any of us.

Of course, these are two extremes and as I said before you are most likely to move around the spectrum with a whole range of learned behaviours that allow you to function reasonably well in situations which are not your preference.

So, let’s come back to having a presence, being that person who owns the room – and just to be clear this is about authenticity, being real. It is not about being an introvert or extrovert, it’s about understanding what behaviours you can step into to have the impact you need to have in any given situation.

I believe there are three things that enable you to show up with conviction – confidence, position and clarity.

Confidence – understanding what value you bring to the table

Position – where are you coming from, what do you know, what do you need to share, what is your opinion.

Clarity – where are the lines, what are you prepared to do or not do in support of this thing or issue, what are your personal values around it?

And your answer to those three questions will vary depending on the circumstances, the issues, and how important a given topic is to you – and that’s ok.

The final piece of work around presence is self-management – and again what you need to do is both circumstantial and dependent on your introvert/extrovert tendencies.

Story, communication and energy all impact on your presence and with some planning and some attention they are all controllable.

Check in on the stories you tell yourself. Do they drive you to greatness or are they holding you back? Where might you need to do some work on your stories (or excuses) in order to achieve what you need to achieve?

Communication – be yourself, if you are not shouty, rah, rah – then don’t try to be. You’ll feel odd, look fake and lose impact. By the same token if you have something to say, say it, your way. If you are more dramatic then go for impact – be yourself.

Here’s the thing with communication, particularly when you really need to make an impact, practice and precision matter. Plan beforehand – even if you prefer to wing it! Know what you want to say and how you want to say it – then practice. This will make you more confident, more able to find a rapport with the people, and more able to lead the conversation in a connected way.

Energy – your energy is a huge part of your presence so control it. Use your physical presence to reinforce your message, not to undo it. Remember, actions speak louder than words – ensure your body language supports what you are saying. And ensure your mood or state does not undermine your impact. In short, think about the energy you are spreading and ensure it matches what you want the people you are with to feel.

We covered a lot her. Fundamentally, presence – or owning a room – is about paying attention, being true to yourself and who you are, while at the same time being mindful of what people need from you. It is about being able to connect, to share energy, and to move people with your courage and conviction. Personality type is not an excuse, or a cop out – it is a vehicle for understanding behaviour and how to show up in a congruent but powerful way, whether you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert.

So go have some fun with this, pay attention to what you do currently and where you could be more impactful, then practice.

Thank you for reading, if you’d like more insights like this, join the Brave Scene community.

Manage your Mind – are you feeding the Squatter?

Manage your Mind – are you feeding the Squatter?

We all have the most amazing piece of kit at our disposal, it’s with us all the time, capable of running complex software, handling masses of information and operating 24/7 – it’s the ultimate super computer – I’m talking about your brain!

I meet people all the time who are frantically chasing success – many of whom have not actually stopped long enough to define what success means to them. Even though many of these people know how to do the things they perceive will make them successful, few actually get round to doing them.

The brutal reality is that only the minority of people find the success they are looking for – the majority settle for what they know they can do. I believe this is down to the relationship you have with your brain.

Fundamentally, your brain hates change, it likes to create patterns – neuro pathways, kind of like high speed railways – no stops and A – B in the least time possible.

To enable this to happen, your brain takes any given stimuli and attempts to fit it into something already known – in effect it does a search & find on all the files in its memory and throws up the closest results, and most of the time this is perfectly good & an uber efficient way of dealing with the massive amount of data inputted every second.

Where it goes wrong is when the info has been slightly misfiled in the first place. You attach an emotional response or even a whole story to a specific stimuli and then create a behavioural response to that stimuli which may not serve you – it may not even be true.

I often talk about this as the squatter in your brain – your self-talk feeding the memory bank often with misfiled information. The trouble is, it can be very easy to focus on your self-talk, its active, quite literally, in your head and for many people consistent.

The challenge is that energy is directed to whatever we are focused on and that’s great if we are focused on what we want or are aiming to achieve.

Because your brain’s primary job is to keep us safe / alive, then most often your default focus is on what you don’t want, your fears and your limitations. Guess what, your energy goes on what you don’t want.

Your self-talk – the squatter – feeds on this energy, consuming it and leaving us less able to do the stuff that matters to us.

So ask yourself two questions:

  1. What regularly occupies space in your mind?
  2. In this where you want to focus your energy?

Kicking out the squatter takes a bit of up front conscious effort and focus, but is well worth it. Your brain is quite capable of changing its neural fast tracks, or building a new network. Essentially, anything your brain is repeatedly confronted with, it will rapidly learn, adapt to and make sense of the unexpected circumstances to create new patterns. This is called neuroplasticity.

When you’re a child or adolescent, when you are new in a place or role, feeling out of your depth is almost a daily occurrence – it becomes a familiar state and your brain knows how to adapt.

As you get older and more settled, you often have more choice about what you do and operate to easy comfortable familiar things. Those you believe you are good at. They take the least amount of cognitive effort.

The down side though is when you do the same stuff and stay in your comfort zone, your brain doesn’t have to work as hard – tasks are unchallenging and repetitive. It shrinks, loses versatility. it is always running the same patterns. This of course leaves more room for the squatter!

For most of human existence in history that was just fine, but the world has changed since the industrial revolution, the pace of change is increasing due to changes noticed from generation to generation, in health, in what we could do.

By the 20th century, technology made a significant difference to speed of change.

And in the 21st century the digital revolution has changed the world – 4 exabytes of new info in 2012 (that’s 4 billion billion new pieces of info created in a single year – more per year than in the 5000 preceding years of humanity).

Fast innovation has also changed how we socialise. We live in a much more info cluttered and noisy environment and as such have to adapt, but also protect ourselves from the complacency of old patterns and habits.

New things – new skills, don’t always come easy.

They need practice, a bit of dedicated time committed to them, until they become familiar – in other words we have created new neural pathways for them.

It is through consistently challenging your brain with new things, new environments, new tasks that you can recreate the learning environment your brain was used to when you were a child. This is how we continue to expand our thinking, develop new knowledge and hone our skills.

It’s more than just new knowledge though. The stories we tell ourselves play a big part. Even as a child we are influenced by those who matter to us: parents, teachers, siblings. We start to shape what we believe we are good at and what we are not. Most of us then gravitate to areas we do well and do more of that widening the perceived good/bad gap because we are focused on developing the good.

You’d be surprised how many business owners I work with who proudly tell me they don’t ‘do’ maths – they’ve never been any good at it! Many are shocked when I say get good at it then – you can’t run a successful business without understanding the numbers! I do of course help people to understand where their story came from – if it’s really true, or just an excuse – and I help them to understand the maths they need for their business, put into context what it means.

So how do you kick out the squatter?

  • Pay attention to how you feel & react
  • Do one thing at a time
  • Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want
  • Practice
  • Keep track of what works

And finally just know that an active, challenged brain is much healthier, more responsive and more likely to keep you sharp in your later years than one which has developed its set patterns and routines and stayed with them.

If you want to stay active and challenged in business, join us in the Brave Scene community.

Do You Have A Minimum Viable Product?

Do You Have A Minimum Viable Product?

You wouldn’t go out and buy a truck load of shoes without first testing out what sells, what’s in the other shops, what the profit margins are etc, etc. Yet when it comes to service business it seems we have gone ‘product’ mad. So much time and effort is consumed by designing and creating programmes, digital products, courses frequently with little or no consumer research.

Stop!

Before you put hours of your time and money into your next big thing, do your homework.  Create a minimum viable product and test out the market.

According to Eric Ries, (Lean Startup Movement), a minimum viable product (MVP) is a version of your product which allows you to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.  This means before you go all out, you create a kind of prototype for your new thing. This enables you to check out what customers actually like, what they will pay for, what doesn’t work as well before you commit too much to the product.

In my view, this is a great way for creatives and entrepreneurs to work – build the first one, then tinker about based on feedback and experience to create something better, more desirable and hopefully more profitable.  It really suits those who tend to be a tad impatient, who have an idea and want it actioned yesterday, as well as those prepared to put in the time to refine and test.

Most importantly an MVP gets your idea into reality, it gives you that all important customer feedback without you spending weeks developing and refining something that nobody wants.

Sometimes the MVP is actually a concept – not a fully developed product. Dropbox is a good example of this, when they first started – once they had some early sign ups (but no product), they created a video explaining what dropbox did, how it worked and gave a full list of features & functionality. Their sign ups for the service went from 5,000 to 75,000 in 24hrs – convincing them that the product was viable and worth the development time.

Currently, online courses, ebooks and other digital products are booming – not just in traditional training setting, but accountancy, law, design, and this is of course led by an increase in digital consumption.

But just because you can make a product (digital or physical) doesn’t mean you should.

Before you get caught up in the product trap answer the following questions:

  1. Does it fit with my goals, business model and direction?
  2. Does it excite me?
  3. Are my audience consuming this type of information in the way I am proposing to deliver it?
  4. Does it meet a currently unmet need?
  5. Do I have (or have access to) the knowledge, time & financial resource needed to do this?

 

Still with me?

Then chances are an MVP is your next step. Here’s how to get started.

Get your ideas out of your head, on paper, on post its, pictures whatever works best for you. Then organise them into how they form your ‘product’ and decide what is the minimum you can do to still give your client a good experience and test out what is working.  Remember the purpose of this is not to be the ultimate bells & whistles version, it is the get something out there and see if it flies version. Yes, keep it congruent with your brand and values, but don’t spend months developing something before you have the necessary market research.

As soon as you have decided to test an MVP start talking about it, raise some interest. And when you start to share it with client, be sure you have some effective feedback systems in place to learn about their experiences, likes and dislikes and therefore refine your main product.

Remember, most successful business owners don’t just dive into the market with a high cost, highly refined product they have several iterations and refine as they go – a bit like software upgrades.

We’d love to know what you’re up to and how you might have used MVP’s