The Truth about Leadership for Building a Fun Business

leadership

The Ten Truths for making business Fun

The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun

And building a business that sustains you for years to come:

This is the fourth article in a monthly series on Making Business Fun: This article is about the 5 business management Truths

The last article laid out the five building blocks of management of a fun business and you can read it here

The articles are based on my book, The Ten Truths for Making Business Fun, published in 2011. All of my books and other resources are available for free here

Building a Fun business: Leadership

What does it take to be the leader of a Fun business

leadership in a fun business

Great leadership in business can (for a while at least!) compensate for less than perfect scores when it comes to profit, passion, planning and many other pivotal aspects of running a Fun Business that sustains you for years to come.

If you are a great business leader of your people, then you’ve taken the Leadership Truth from my first book (download it for free here) to heart: “Your time, your health and your brain cells are gold,”. It’s also likely that you live the Truth from my second book (download it for free here) about leadership: “You have passionate beliefs, you walk the talk, and you are not afraid to dream,”. If so, you will more than likely have a business that does better than most.

I also once wrote that “a leader is simply someone we trust, and who is courageous, authentic and passionate.” This is clearly a great starting point because if your people don’t trust you, then no amount of systemisation, marketing or planning will get your business past a subsistence level. Inversely, when your people do trust you, see your courage and feel your passion, you will be forgiven for many other shortcomings.

Now, I’m going to invite you to take this thinking one step further.

Fun for Everyone

A Fun Business should be Fun for everyone involved. It should also sustain everyone – not just the owner – for years to come.

When I say everyone, I actually do mean Everyone (with a capital “E”): you, your family, your staff, your staff’s family, your suppliers, your contractors, your customers, your investors and even your community.

In fact, I am completely convinced (from everything I’ve seen and studied over the past 35 years!) that truly great small businesses are founded by and built around a leader who is committed to building such a business, for everyone.

Servant First, Leader Second

TTTMBF helping hand In his book “Good to Great”, Jim Collins talks about the concept of “Level 5 Leadership”. Leaders who operate at this level are passionate, authentic, driven and ambitious – but not for themselves.

Level 5 leaders are ambitious for their organisation and their people. Their ego doesn’t get in the way of how they run their businesses. They might be heading up massive global corporations, but they still fly economy (like the founder of Ikea) or do their own shopping at the supermarket on Saturdays (like the founder of Walmart) or answer their own phones (like the CEO of Nucor Steel).

This concept has a lot of parallels with “servant leadership”. Robert Greenleaf at Harvard University coined the term in the 1970s, but the idea has been around for much longer (a famous Chinese general wrote about something similar thousands of years ago). As Robert Greenleaf explains: “The servant leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead… (versus one who is leader first…).”

In my experience, every small, medium and large Fun Business that sustains all for years to come is run by a leader who sees their role as servant first and leader second.

Small Supermarket

A great example of this “leader as servant” notion comes from a client of mine who owns supermarkets. I remember the day we were discussing the structure of his business and we had drawn a new organisational chart in the traditional hierarchical model – the classic pyramid structure.

My client sat on top of the pyramid as the CEO. He had two different top managers below him, a bunch of store managers in the middle and all the shop staff at the bottom. We spent a lot of time talking about the structure and it became clear that my client was feeling uncomfortable.

We got up and walked around the room a little and suddenly his eyes lit up while he was stood on the opposite side of the table. “That’s it,” he said, “I am going to turn the pyramid upside down! I see my role as being at the bottom, not the top. My role is to support everyone in the business to do great work and grow as people.”

My client had that insight in 2010 and now his company has grown into a Fun Business that sustains everyone and will undoubtedly do so for years to come.

There is a quote by sales guru Zig Ziglar that illustrates the same principle: “You can get everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

Your Homework (The Fun Kind)

Think about some of the greatest business leaders of the modern era. Don’t imagine the rock star leaders who are household names for a while and then cash out and let everything fall apart behind them. Focus on the quiet, enlightened leaders of businesses that grow and develop year after year without fanfare.

In order to build a Fun Business that sustains you for years to come, you need to strive to become an enlightened leader. These leaders are committed, driven and ambitious. However, they don’t do it for themselves. They do it for the business and its people.

What can you do to embody enlightened leadership? It could be anything from regularly sharing helpful insights and nuggets of wisdom with your team to honing your emotional intelligence in order to find more empathy for others. No guru necessary – I promise!

Remember, if you want to have something you’ve never had before, you’ve got to be someone you’ve never been before.

Next Month, I’ll be talking about the myths of business growth

More on this topic:

 

AR Business-Life Coaching Principles

What is Business-Life Coaching?

And who cares anyway?

Getting help, Business Life Coaching, external support

Building a Beautiful Business starts at home…

What does it take to build your own Beautiful Business and Life? What is Business-Life Coaching anyway? What are the Principles of Business-Life Coaching? How is Business-Life Coaching different from any other form of business support or guidance. And above all, why should that matter to you at all?

Business-Life Coaching… It’s about everything

When thinking about building a Beautiful Business, we tend to think about:

Systems… Human resources… Killer products… Efficiency… Financial Management… IP… Culture… Asset Management… Strategy… Innovation… Marketing… Sales… Planning… Vision… Purpose… Systems… Quality Assurance… Profit… Cash flow

And possibly a bunch of others I’ve yet forgotten.

When did you last look in the mirror?

Which of those are the most important, do you think? Which of these matter more than any others?

They’re all important, no doubt, but the key factor in developing a Beautiful Business and Life isn’t in the list above. The aspect of business that “Rules them all”, in the words of Gandalf in The Lord of The Rings, is looking at you in the mirror… That’s right, You… Little Old You.

More money, more time, more balance, more life…

The Principles of Business-Life Coaching can be expressed in this statement:

If you want something you’ve never had before,

First, you’ve got to be someone you’ve never been before.

As you’re reading this page, I imagine you want the future of your business and your life to be different than it is now. You want to grow, make more money, find more time, have greater work-life-balance, retire (with a bunch of cash), make the world a better place, be proud of the stuff your business produces, and make a difference.

And that’s great, I love supporting people that have exciting dreams and want to make a splash. It’s what I get out of bed for every day.

Are you the kind of person?

But none of us can have any of those dreams, unless we’re prepared to become the kind of person who builds the kind of business that makes the kind of profit you dream of, or that makes the kind of difference we dream of, or that is sold for the kind of dollars we dream of. Would you like to Discover what’s possible for you and your business?

Hence my focus on Business and Life Coaching. The “hard” skills as well as the “soft” skills of developing your business. I will teach you about the latest business management thinking, and we’ll design new systems customised to your business. We’ll create business and marketing plans that work and implement them. We’ll get clear about the Purpose of your business, you’ll implement controls and get good at numbers so that you have your fingers on the Pulse every day. We’ll get your staff firing on all cylinders. We may develop new products and come up with innovative solutions to bust past the hurdles that have held your business back.

You’ve Got All Da Moves…

We’ll do all that and much more besides, but at the same time we’ll be working on what it takes to be a great business owner who builds a Beautiful Business and Life. We’ll work on leadership skills, self management skills, developing your vision, prioritising what’s most important in your life, goal setting, strategic thinking, planning, communication, people management, how to get out of crisis management, and above all we’ll work on how to look after yourself.

Building a Beautiful Business and Life, is a journey out of your comfort zone. It means you have to be prepared to look at yourself, acknowledge that you’re the bottleneck that holds your business back and say:

“Now is the time to Change”

Further reading:

BQ Personal Development

leadership

How can I become a better

business owner and leader?

leadership personal development change

Business Change follows Personal Change

I believe personal development is integral to developing your business. The two always go hand in hand. It’s the reason I refer to myself as a Business – Life Coach, rather than a business coach. It all boils down to one word: Leadership.

Most business owners, in the deepest dark reaches of their mind, are afraid they’re not quite cutting it as entrepreneurs. Oftentimes, as business owners, we start our business on the back of a profession, a trade, or a skill we have learnt (plumber, architect, accountant, software developer, designer, mechanic, chef, retail manager) and we feel confident in that particular skill. Starting a new business is an enormous buzz. But once we start a business based on that profession, we suddenly realise it takes a lot more than being a great plumber to build a great plumbing business.

Time to think, doing nothing

Where’s the toilet paper?

Few business owners have studied to be a business owner, and even those who have attained an MBA or similar qualification, find they’re not prepared for the realities of life as a small business owner. Suddenly everything is down to you, the big decisions about whether or not to bid for that contract, or hire that expensive employee, or sign the lease for the new office, as well as making sure the toilets are stocked with toilet paper and that there’s ink for the printer. To top it off, your people look to you to have Vision, to have the answers and to be the leader.

Three pieces of good news about your leadership

It can be a frightening place to stand in the middle off, but there are three pieces of good news:

  1. You got this far and you’re still standing, so you must be doing something right.
  2. Your people actually want you to be the leader and they’re ready to forgive you just about any stuff up you’re going to make along the way.
  3. Leadership is something you can learn, practice and get better at.

What is leadership then?

Leadership starts with this statement:

Your business is what it is today, because of WHO you ARE today.

That may seem obvious. But what may not be so obvious is what follows.

Because what it means is this:

If you want SOMETHING you’ve never had before,

First, you’ve got to BECOME SOMEONE you’ve never been before.

Systems and knowledge are never enough

Many business coaching companies sell a “system” that will supposedly deliver a business that generates a million dollars of profit every year. Those systems are often well thought through, well presented and well worth looking into, but they rarely work, at least not by themselves. The reason they don’t work is that Change, business Change or personal Change, is never about systems and knowledge. Just like we all know the system for losing weight (eat less, and exercise more), most of us business owners already know most of what we need to know to Change our businesses.

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

And just like losing weight means becoming the kind of person who commits to a regimen of eating less and exercising more, changing our businesses means having to become the kind of person who commits to a regimen of developing as people, as managers, as communicators, as coaches… As leaders in other words.

We have to become leaders, the kind of people, who do what needs to be done, to build the kind of businesses that make a million dollars net profit (or substitute whatever figure is relevant for you).

It’s often referred to as the Be, Do, Have model.

Couldn’t I just flick a switch?

Becoming that kind of business owner, that kind of leader, who builds that kind of business, doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t flick a switch and suddenly become that person. Change is a Journey, an adventure, a process of growth. It takes time and commitment, and nobody can know, on forehand, what your adventure is going to look like or what the outcome of your Journey is going to be. Every business owner has his or her own Journey to make, and every Journey is different.

The one thing we can be sure of is this:

Change won’t happen unless you get on the Journey.

Getting on the Journey means stepping out of your comfort-zone and then staying there. You have to push off from the shore, get out onto the ocean, set a course for the horizon and not come back, because Change never happens in the safety of the harbour.

And you know this already. Take a look back over your life to date: It’s all been a Journey. Ten years ago you couldn’t have done what you do today.

But sometimes we just get stuck for a while in the safety of the harbour. Stepping out of your comfort-zone, leaving the harbour, is hard. The day-to-day of scrubbing the decks, repairing the sails and polishing the brass work gets in the way. And before you know it, the day-to-day is all there is.

The two questions you need to answer

That leads to two questions:

  1. How do you know you’re ready to get on the Journey?
  2. How do you get on that Journey?

The first question is the easiest as well as the hardest to answer:

You’re ready when you feel you’re ready.

More about the connection between personal and Business Change:

Being in the harbour

Do take a few minutes to watch this gorgeous TED talk by David Whyte, on past and future and journeys of Change.

There’s nothing wrong with being in the harbour for a while. We need to make sure the ship is seaworthy and safe, we need to make sure we know how to sail the ship, we need to learn to navigate and we need to get clear about the compass course we’re going to set once we get under way. The harbour is a great place to do all those things. But there comes a moment when the pull of the wide open ocean becomes irresistible. That’s when it’s time to go. And when you do: Set the course, hoist the sails, put your gaze on the horizon, and don’t look back.

How do you get on the Journey?

And the second question: How do you get on that Journey?

There are many ways to strike out, but one way to get onto such a Journey of discovery, is with me. I take my clients on inspiring journeys like that all the time. You could think of me like the captain of the ship. I know how to keep the ship safe, I know how to navigate, how not to hit the reefs and how to get safely back into harbour at the other end.

And I’d love to come on your next adventure with you.

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

This is what the Adventure looks like with me:

Once you’ve decided that it’s time to push off and get under way, the process I will take you through is this:

  1. We’ll get very clear about the state of your business and life as it is at the moment. What are the strengths of the business? What are your strengths as the business owner? Where are the stresses in your life? What are the areas in the business that are falling behind? What are the areas you need to develop in as leader?
  2. We take several small steps first. You’ll get to put your toe in the water, feel what it’s like working with me. It’s called the Five Steps to Discovery Process, and it’s mostly free.
  3. We’ll get equally clear about what we want the other end of the Journey to look like. In 6 – 9 – 12 months what do you want your business and your life to look like, in great detail? We’ll develop an enormous set of Goals and picture of the desired future. The Goals will include tangibles, and intangibles. It will include financial targets, and KPI’s across all areas of the business and your life. It will include your state of mind and your health and wellbeing, and everything else that you need to explore and discover to build the business and the life you dream off.
  4. We’ll develop a strategic plan for the achievement of the Goal, with a wide range of monthly milestones.
  5. We’ll shake hands and commit to the Journey, get on board, set the compass course for The Goal, push off, and not come back.

Ultimately, making the decision to Change, to get on the Journey, is Fun. It may not always appear that way, when looking out onto the vastness of the ocean at first, but it will be the most satisfying decision you’ve taken in a long time… I promise you.

Further reading:

Click here to download my Free Guide to finding the perfect coach or mentor for you.

There are two types of entrepreneurs in this world

entrepreneur types

Let me introduce you to the Entrepreneur Type Scale:

I believe all business owners can be placed somewhere along a scale:

  • At one extreme of the scale are the Sales Entrepreneurs.
  • And at the other end are the Delivery Entrepreneurs.

scale

Few business owners are at either of the extremes of the scale, and that’s a good thing, because at either of the extremes it is very difficult to build a Great Business that Stands the Test of Time.

Being one or the other type is neither better or worse, but it is useful to ask yourself where you sit on the scale, because Sales Entrepreneurs have different challenges and build different businesses than Delivery Entrepreneurs do.

Entrepreneur Type Survey

I have created a special survey to help you find out where you sit on the Scale, it will take no more than a couple of minutes to complete and you’ll get a unique 2-page report from me showing where you sit, along with a report outlining the common challenges of each type, you might also face and some strategies to move forward with. Go and take the survey here now

This is what life looks like at the extremes:

Sales Entrepreneurs:

Sales Entrepreneurs generally build businesses that grow fast or fail fast. They chase the clients and the contracts. When they can’t meet demand for their product, they consider it “A Good Problem to Have”.

Sales entrepreneurs are passionate about closing deals, about pulling rabbits out of hats, about juggling 10 balls at once. They think quicker than anyone else around them; they have charisma; they operate on instinct; they over-promise, and trust they’ll be able to solve the problems created by their over-promising later.

When things go well for Sales-Entrepreneurs, they go very very well, and when they don’t, they DON’T. Books with exciting titles (Screw it let’s Do it”) are written about sales entrepreneurs, and the ones who make it become famous and are models of inspiration for millions (Richard Branson), while the ones who don’t are vilified (Alan Bond).

Sales Entrepreneurs are the rock stars of the business world.

Delivery Entrepreneurs

At the other end of the scale are Delivery Entrepreneurs. We tend not to hear about them as much as we hear about Sales Entrepreneurs, because they just don’t have the same “Sex-Appeal” that Sales Entrepreneurs have.

Delivery Entrepreneurs are the type who roll up their sleeves and are fond of saying: “If you want a thing done properly, you’ve got to do it yourself.”

Businesses built by Delivery Entrepreneurs grow more slowly. Their businesses might become just as successful in the end, but they take much longer to get there. And when they fail, they do so by getting stuck, rather than collapsing in a big heap. They develop lead feet and frustrate the hell out of everyone, rather than leave burning wrecks in their wake.

Delivery Entrepreneurs are passionate about the product (or service) of their business; They themselves are often experts in relation to that product or service (Think architects, designers, software developers, tradespeople, lawyers, etc). Their businesses grow, because customers get to love their product and in turn they tell their friends who tell their friends etc.

Business-Life Coaching

As a Business-Life Coach, I specialise in working with business owners who sit on the Delivery half of the scale.

I’ve always been a Delivery-Entrepreneur myself. When I owned a building company, I was a builder first and an entrepreneur second. I was passionate about building great buildings for my clients; on time, on budget and looking gorgeous. These days, I still often drive past houses, I and my building company built, and think back to handing them over to our clients with great pride. Still now, as a coach and mentor, I obsess about how to best deliver my coaching and mentoring programs, before I worry about how to sell them.

And so, not surprisingly, most of the clients I attract are of the same bent. Extreme Sales Entrepreneurs come to my website and wonder why the words “Business Growth” aren’t more prominently featured on the home page, as that’s the only thing that keeps them awake nights.

Why your business gets stuck

And that suits me fine to be honest, because if you are a Delivery Entrepreneur, I get you. I know precisely what goes on for you. I know about the reasons your business gets stuck sometimes. I know about your sense of overwhelm, and frustrations and I know how to get past them.

If you’re a Delivery Entrepreneur, I’ve written a series of posts specially for you, called “The Ten Priorities: The Foundations of Building a Great Business and Life”. I will publish the Ten Priorities in serialised form over the next 11 weeks on the blog. You can find the whole collection of these posts by searching for Ten Priorities in the category box in the right hand column of the main blog page here

Where do you think you be on the Entrepreneurs Type Scale? I’ve created a simple little Survey to help you get clear about that. You can go and complete the questionnaire here, and when you do so I will send you a two page report showing where you sit on the Scale.

I look forward to discussing it with you. Gaining deeper insight on yourself, on who you are is the key to building a Great Business that Stands the Test of Time… I promise you.

Would you like to download my free 12 Question Cheat-sheet to help you find your next Coach? Click here.

Why I don’t believe in business coaching and why it works

Why coaching works

Why business coaching works captain the in the storm

Don’t talk to me about the storms and the reefs, Coach,  just tell me we’ll be safe

I was working with a business – life coaching client recently, let’s call him Peter. Peter set a big Goal for himself as part of our work together.

Peter’s Goal was so big, in fact, that I was bothered by it. You see, I know from experience, that setting Goals that are too big are likely to have a demotivational effect and worse, can lead to disappointment.

I challenged Peter and asked him if he felt confident the Goal was realistic, and if he felt he could make it happen in the time we had. Peter was adamant. Although he wasn’t sure if he could do it, he wanted to stretch himself and “set it out there”. Peter has done a lot of self-development work and he believes in a version of the “Law of Attraction”, which loosely states that you get what you focus on in life and in business.

Goal blown out of the water

3 Weeks later, Peter rang me unexpectedly. He’d just signed a new contract that meant he’d blown his Goal out of the water two weeks early.

Wonderful news, very exciting and I truly feel Peter deserves every dollar of that success, because he is one of the nicest guys I know.

Peter said: “There you go, I knew it, when you set it out there, the Universe will provide”.

And it’s such a comforting idea, isn’t it? The idea that there is some greater power that’s going to look after you in your time of need. It’s lovely that Peter felt confirmed in his beliefs. It will no doubt help him to remain motivated to move forward in his business and that was his biggest problem prior to coming to see me.

But it confirmed my growing confusions.

I don’t believe

You see, I do not believe in the “Law of Attraction”, or it’s many variants. I don’t even believe in traditional Goal setting anymore. As a matter of fact, there are a whole bunch of foundational principles of my profession of coaching that I have stopped believing in. Consequently, in the past years, I’ve adjusted the way I work with my clients to rely only on well-established scientific principles.

And my clients achieve great things in their businesses and their lives and I am excited and proud of the work I do with them. But the experience with Peter recently makes me wonder if I’m doing the right thing for my clients.

You see, Peter is an old hand at being coached and mentored. I’ve known him for years and we have done a lot of work together. Also, Peter moves in a world where he comes across self-development gurus of many ilks all the time, and he’s convinced by the self-development messages he hears from them. What’s more, Peter and I have become good friends over the years, so he felt comfortable enough with me to push back and set the Goal he wanted to set. It worked out great for him, but not everyone has Peter’s confidence or clarity.

The many contradictions

It’s all very well for me to question myself and my beliefs. I don’t believe anything in life or business is ever black and white, there are no simple rules. Here’s just a few of those contradictions in business:

  • A business must make profit or else it’s a hobby… but… Making profit is not the Purpose of business.
  • A business must have a plan to move forward… but… Planning is guessing
  • Goalsetting is important… but… Goals are not destinations, just directions.
  • Great leaders are fiercely ambitious… but… Not for themselves
  • Systemisation is critical for developing your business… but… I’d hate to live in a world where all restaurants are McDonalds.
  • Knowing how to “close” a sale is a key skill in business… but… The most successful people in business and in life “Give without expectation of return”.
  • Growing your business is fine… but… Don’t focus on growth (focus on delivery instead).
  • Change your business, make it grow, make more money… but… Not unless you yourself change and grow first.

Life is full of contradictions such as those. Sure, it would be easier if it wasn’t and we all like the idea of winning the lottery, but even winning the lottery turns out not to be as great as we thought. (Read about lottery winners and happiness here)

And so I believe questioning myself is healthy, it keeps me sharp and pushing the boundaries. But it’s not necessarily what my clients need from me.

The shortest route

business coaching The experience with Peter has shown me that most clients simply want to get from point A to point B, via the shortest route possible, with as few detours as possible. And they look for someone to help them get there.

Maybe, when they come across me, they hear my questioning, my lack of certainty and start to wonder if getting my help might take them up the scenic route to point B, and so they’ll move on to someone who promises to take them up the freeway instead.

And that’s a shame, because the thing is, I know I transform people’s lives and businesses. I have literally hundreds of past clients who will attest to that fact.

So what I need to do is to communicate that you can trust me to take you on an amazing journey and adventure, and that like the captain of the ship, I know how to handle the storms when they come up. You don’t particularly want me to talk about the reefs we might hit under way, you just want to know we’ll be safe.

And this blog post?… It’s doing exactly the opposite… isn’t it?… Ah well, Peter loves me anyway.

Would you like to download my free 12 Question Cheat-sheet to help you find your next Coach? Click here.

Further reading and research

You may be interested in taking my ”Are you ready for Change” survey. It takes 10 minutes to complete and I promise it will give you plenty of food for thought. I’ve written more about Change (with a capital ”C”) here.

Here is the link to my webpage about all my coaching, mentoring, guidance and training services

There is a lovely guest post from one of my clients, Geoff Anderson from Sonic Sight about his experience with business coaching here

Here is an article I wrote about how to go about finding the right coach for you and here is a link to my webpage about all forms of business support that are available to small business owners.

And here are three articles on how to go about finding the right business coach on Inc.com , on Entrepreneur.com and on Fastcompany.com. All worth a good read if you’re considering the idea of getting a business coach soon.

More about my own coaching background here

 

Frogmind, the Buddha and my Worries

anxieties worries

What I learned about my anxieties from the annual frog-orgy in our estate

Lady D and my good self have recently become Lord and Mistress of an ancient estate in Europe.

Said estate encompasses a pond, with a little waterfall, some 30 small goldfish and since last week a knot of frogs (Wikipedia informs such to be the appropriate collective noun).

The frogs suddenly arrived in our estate from foreign climes – the same Wikipedia article informs me that frogs are a bit like salmon, in that they return to spawn in their ancestral grounds.

And spawn they have. Since the frog’s arrival an enormous lump of frog jelly has formed in a corner of the pond (I marvel at the size of the lump versus the size of the little frog’s bodies). When the little black embryos become tadpoles it will get crowded in our estate’s pond. Next year’s “return to ancestral grounds” will be a spectacle.

Threesomes and moresomes

For a week, the pond was a hive of activity. There were couplings, threesomes and moresomes at any time of the day or night; lots of water spitting at stuff; pushing, shoving and clambering over the ever growing mound of jelly, and constant low rumbling croacking.

They’ve calmed down a lot by now. The knot of frogs is down to 5 from a peak of 12. The egglaying phase is clearly over, and they’ve started moving on, to the foreign climes they came from (more Wikipedia research required to find out where frogs hang the rest of the year).

What is it like to be a frog?

I’m fascinated by the frogs. I love watching them and listening to their croaking. And I wonder what it’s like to be a frog. Obviously, life is simple, being a frog in our pond, boring even – frog sex life is pretty intense when it’s on, but it’s limited to just a few days of lust in spring. Granted, life, even in our little pond, gets pretty brutal at times – there’s an enormous hungry heron who has the pond on his radar as a good spot for lunch – but it’s definitely simpler than my life.

My life is anything but simple. My life is full of worries and anxieties: anxieties about work, money, relationships and growing old. I worry about our living situations, my kids, my health and The Meaning of Life, and that’s just the tip of my anxiety ice berg.

I imagine frogs don’t have any of those worries.

The ultimate aim of many of the religions and philosophies of life, as I understand them, is to attain a state of mind akin to that of the frogs: Nothing matters, except being entirely present in the here and now. Being here and nowhere else.

Frogs are like that. I can’t look inside their minds, but I’m reasonably sure they have few worries in life, until the moment they see that long sharp beak of the Heron coming down for them.  But even then, it’s all “here and now”.

Frogmind

I’ve read about the Buddha, the Stoics and the Dao and I wonder if I should aspire to the simplicity of Frogmind. Cultivating Frogmind, is that the Ultimate? Is that the essence of the “7-fold path”, the path to happiness and fulfilment, the end of life’s suffering?

I’m not so sure, in fact I’m increasingly less convinced that getting rid of all my anxieties is going to make me happier, more fulfilled, or a better, more useful human being.

I think I am my anxieties. I think my anxieties are what make me human. They’re what make me unique, interesting, useful to the world around me. My worries are what make me strive to get better at life, at work, at love and at caring. My worries drive my creativity and resourcefulness. If I didn’t have my anxieties, I wouldn’t be so concerned about the wellbeing of other people. Without my anxieties I’d be an egoist, maybe a narcissist or even a psychopath.

Frogs are narcissists

I think frogs are probably narcissists, in that they simply don’t care about the wellbeing of others. The only thing that matters to a frog is: feeding, sleeping and fucking, and if any of those activities come at the expense of others, it’s of little concern to them, it causes them no anxiety.

None of this: “I better call Aunty Jane, or she’ll wonder if I’ve forgotten her”, or “Better not have another drink, or I won’t be fresh for my clients tomorrow”, or “I must remember to tell my wife I love her more often, or she might leave me”, or “Better not have that piece of cake, or people will snigger at me”. These anxieties don’t figure, when you practice Frogmind.

I sometimes meet people who have advanced a lot further along the path to Frogmind than I have. I notice their calm unflappability. Nothing touches them. Misfortune strikes, a friend gets angry, life’s challenges beset them and they just smile and carry on. Frogmind, no anxieties. I actually find such people difficult to be with, difficult to relate to. It’s like there’s something missing, something essentially human. In my world, anxiety is the essence of what it means to be human. We are meant to have sleepless nights, to cry, to get angry, to shiver with fear and also with joy.

I think Shakespeare said: “Nothing in life is bad or good, but thinking makes it so”. Undoubtedly that’s true, but without that thinking we might miss out on life’s mystery.

So I’m attached to my anxieties. I want to feel my fears and frustrations and joys and excitements and everything in between. I actually want to wrestle with my worries every day (well maybe not every day, it would be nice to have Sundays off, maybe).

But I do want to wrestle with them. I want to be equal to them, I don’t want them to conquer me, but equally, I do not want to remove them from the arena.

I’m glad I’m not a frog, and I’m glad you’re not either.


Successful Entrepreneurs are Resilient People

Successful entrepreneurs and Resilience

Prepare for the bad stuff in your business and back yourself to get through it.

resilience tree in business

Nervous Entrepreneurs and Bouncebackability

Famous entrepreneur Richard Branson wrote an international bestseller with the title: Screw it, let’s do it. It’s a great book and I am a fan of Sir Branson. I wish more of the giga entrepreneurs were like him (as opposed to some whose name shall not be mentioned in this blog, but whose new office has no corners). But the title of the book has done much to confirm the myth that successful entrepreneurs are wild risk takers. I think that’s a shame, entrepreneurs actually take as little risk as they possibly can, and from what I’ve seen in 30-odd years in and around business, it’s all about mental strength instead.

Business owners who do well are resilient people (more on resilience here), they have mental fortitude, they have the ability to bounce back from adversity and set backs.

When growing a business, adversity is part of the package, it gets thrown in for free. Being a business owner is not for the faint hearted. The highs and the lows can follow each other in quick succession. I always think getting a business off the ground, is a journey out past the horizon of an unexplored ocean, and I have yet to meet a business owner for whom it’s been smooth sailing. Sometimes we’ll receive favourable winds and sometimes we suddenly find ourselves in the midst of an unexpected storm.

I’m reminded of the joke we used to make in the early days of the PC revolution: “You can divide the world in two camps: Those who have experienced a catastrophic hard drive failure, and those who are about to.” The business owners of the world can be divided in two camps as well: Those who’ve had a significant setback and those who are about to have one. And so it follows: entrepreneurs who have achieved a measure of success, have bounced back at least once after facing setbacks; Successful entrepreneurs are resilient people.

The two principles of resilience

There are two principles of resilience that are characterised by the following two quotes:

Accepting that anything could happen, good stuff as well as bad stuff, doesn’t make one a pessimist. There is a big difference between pessimism and being an optimistic realist. Pessimists will imagine the worst and not be able to see a positive way out. Optimistic realists on the other hand, acknowledge that bad stuff will likely come their way. They simply accept that it is part of the adventure, but they back themselves to be able to manage their way out.

Successful entrepreneurs and Resilience Nervous Nellies

Successful entrepreneurs do not walk around with their fingers crossed, hoping it will all be ok, somehow. They know that anything can happen, and they prepare for it. Great small business owners are generally ‘Nervous Nellies’ with active imaginations. But that doesn’t make them pessimists, far from it. They’re constantly on the lookout for what may go wrong and they plan for those eventualities. They ask themselves: If XYZ were to happen, how could I respond to minimize the impact of it? And they trust themselves to be able to get out from under the hammer when it falls. (More about planning here).

I cannot stress enough how important it is in business to look all possibilities straight in the eye. Positive thinkers, personal and business development gurus alike, often beseech us not to visualise the bad stuff in life. Instead, they say, we must focus on the positive things we want to manifest and we’re assured that because of the universal “Law of Attraction” and our “Abundance Mindset”, it will all fall into place, and if not, we’ve somehow not thought positively enough.

Positive Thinking is Nonsense

Successful entrepreneurs and Resilience Believe me: Positive Thinking is nonsense. Instead, accept that the bad stuff will hit you at some point, as it undoubtedly will, plan for it, learn to trust yourself that you’ll have what it takes to weather the storm, remind yourself that the storm is not caused by an intrinsic shortcoming in your personality and finally, take the quote from Ms Grotberg above to heart.

Why I like Edith Grotberg’s quote so much is that it reminds me that we can all become more resilient. If resilience were a character trait that only special people like Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Warren Buffet are born with, there is no hope for the rest of us. But just like we can learn to manage our anger better, become more assertive, or teach ourselves to become better listeners, we can also learn to become more resilient.

These are some of the steps that will lead to improving your resilience over time:

First of all, it’s really important to understand that Resilience is not about being unaffected by the storms;

Resilience is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure

You will be knocked sideways when the bad stuff happens. That’s ok, what matters is what you do next. Ms Grotberg suggests three statements to repeat to yourself and to remind yourself off often:

  • I Have: strong relationships, community and structures; these are external supports I can rely on;
  • I Am: a person who has hope and faith, cares about others, is capable and proud of myself; these are inner strengths that can be developed;
  • I Can: communicate, solve problems, gauge the temperament of others, seek good relationships—all interpersonal and problem-solving skills that I have acquired.

These statements are what are often referred to in various psychology disciplines, as a “Reframe”. While simply reading them here won’t turn you into a resilient rock overnight, they are powerful nevertheless. I suggest printing those three statements out and hanging them above your desk and read them out to yourself regularly. If you do, you will slowly start to strengthen your optimistic realism and change your self-belief, especially when combined with a focus on self-compassion, being kinder to yourself (more about kindness in business here).

Optimistic realism, reminding yourself of the “I Have, I Am, I Can” statements combined with practicing Kindness to yourself will mean you’ll recover from the bad stuff, quickly, and continue build a Great Small Business… I promise you.

Further reading

More about Personal Development and Leadership here

#BusinessResilience #startup #entrepreneurmindset #realtalk #motivateyourself #NeverGiveUp #Resilience #FunInBusiness

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Small Business

Time Management, Procrastination and Laziness

Procrastination, Business Coach

Procrastinating My Life Away

Procrastination, Business Coach

The nonsense in my head and what I do about it

Today, I’m writing about procrastination, laziness and time management. Well, I say “today”, but that’s a relative concept, isn’t it. “Today” was meant to be last Monday, it’s now Thursday. And in unrelated news, my desk is as tidy as it’s been for weeks, my email inbox is empty and I just pulled a magic looking sourdough from the oven an hour ago.

Your business coach wonders: “Am I really the right person to write about procrastination? It’s clearly not one of my strength areas.”

Procrastination, time management and laziness… Tricky topic. On the one hand I’ve written before (here for example), that laziness doesn’t actually exist as a character trait. On the other hand however, some people just seem to get so much done and they’re disciplined and they get their heads down and don’t come up for air until the job is done and then they jump straight into the next thing and get that done too. I even know people who are so disciplined, they consistently don’t look at Facebook until after dinner and every day turn their email off for large blocks of time. Those people are on the Marvel Super Heroes Team in my book: Doctor Discipline or somesuch…

Time to get some nibbles

Procrastination, Business Coach Hang on, I’m about 200 words into this article… Time to jump up and get some nibbles from the kitchen.

Hi there, I’m back, 2 hrs later, but still.

You see in this case, part of the problem I’m having is that even as a business coach, I’m not sure yet exactly what I’m going to write. I’m searching for inspiration. I’m waiting for the Muse to strike me. One of my heroes, Oliver Burkeman from the Guardian, however, says in this interview  that waiting for the Muse is futile. Just do the thing, sit down and write, and see what happens, says Oliver.

It’s a technique I’ve used, with some success, in the past… But today… Not so much.

Procrastination and perfectionism

Procrastination makes me feel inadequate. There are some fascinating thoughts on procrastination, in this article by Costica Bradatan in the New York Times. According to Costica, procrastination is all about perfectionism. Our Vision is more perfect than the reality can ever be. We fear that the thing we want to create, build or write is going to be a disappointment compared to our vision of it and so we resist creating it. I can sort of understand that, but I don’t think I am a perfectionist. “Close Enough is Good Enough” has generally been my motto in life and consequently I “Get Shit Done”… Not as well done as some others might Get Their Shit Done maybe, but Done nevertheless. I pride myself on my ability to make things happen.

But some things don’t get done that way. The difficult stuff is always the stuff you can’t get done by rolling up your sleeves. The stuff we procrastinate over is the stuff that requires us to be courageous, the stuff that requires us to expose some of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Young Grasshopper gets a kick up the backside

Procrastination, Business Coach So what’s difficult for me about writing this article and why I think I’ve been procrastinating over it for such a long time, is that I don’t feel qualified to talk about procrastination, because I do so much of it myself. Me writing about procrastination, inefficiency and wasting time is like a junkie writing about heroin addiction.

But hang on… Stop right there young grasshopper. By that logic we should not be allowed to talk about anything we haven’t gained a PHD in. Nonsense, clearly. Maybe being a procrastinator is precisely what qualifies me to write about it. Let’s face it, who wants to get weight loss advice from a supermodel? I’d much rather listen to someone who’s struggled with weight loss as much as I do, and who may have found something that’s helped him. One of the things that makes AA so effective is being with a group of people who “get it”.

So let’s start this whole thing again:

At the AA meeting

Hi my name is Roland and I am a procrastinator…

Here’s what has helped me sometimes, and sometimes not (and then at least I end up with a clean desk)

I’ve learnt is that procrastination is always, a sign for me that there is something else, something unexamined, in the way.

It’s either:

  1. I don’t know what the actual thing is I’m supposed to be doing
  2. I’m not sure how to actually go about doing this thing
  3. The prospect of doing this thing doesn’t excite me
  4. The consequences of not doing this thing at this moment are not all that bad.
  5. I don’t have enough confidence in my own abilities, or skill or experience.

(In the case of the procrastination I went through over writing this article it came down to numbers 1 and 5.)

Knowing that that’s how it works for me, I’ve learned that I first need to become aware that I am procrastinating, because sometimes I am avoiding the thing so much I don’t even realise I am procrastinating. And then, once I’ve realised I am procrastinating, ask myself which of those 5 hurdles is getting in my way. In nearly all cases, once I clearly verbalise what is getting in the way of doing the thing I’m supposed to be doing, it disappears. The moment I verbalised my fear of not being credible, because I am procrastinator myself, I realised how silly that fear actually was, the hurdle disappeared, and I could sit down and finish the article into the form you are reading now.

Most procrastination hurdles we throw up for ourselves fade when brought out into the light… I promise you

#TimeManagement #Procrastination #FunInBusiness

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I offer Fun in Business Intensive Program, which can help you turn around procrastination and use your time to ultimately have fun in doing business. I will help you avoid threats and allow room to discover new opportunities that result in extraordinary business success!

Fun in Business Intensive

The Work-Life Balance myth for Small Business Owners

work life balance
work life balance myth
“By all means, put your life into your business but don’t let your business take over your life!”

I often hear people carry on about creating work-life balance. You probably do as well. Actually I reckon you’ve told yourself a few times that you should create more work-life balance, haven’t you? But work-life-balance is a myth for most people, especially for business owners.

It’s a nice concept. All ideas about life that revolve around balance are attractive and sensible.

Absolutely. Except for one thing:

For small business owners, your business is your life. So how do you go about creating a balance between two things that are largely one and the same?

Work-Life Balance is a Silly Idea for Small Business Owners

Ask any small business owner in the midst of getting his or her business off the ground and to a sustainable state, and they’ll tell you they virtually never switch off, they’re really never not at work. There is always a part of their brain that’s on the go:

  • I wonder what would happen if I bought that second vehicle?
  • Am I going to get enough money in this month to pay everyone?
  • I wonder if changing the headline on my website will have a positive impact on my Google ranking?
  • Where am I going to find my next new employee?
  • I think there’s an opportunity to offer my products to aged care facilities… How can I best approach that market?
  • We’re out of toilet paper in the office… Don’t forget to pick some up tomorrow on the way in.

It never stops… does it?

Conventioanl Wisdoms Are Not Going to Work for You

work-life balance The conventional idea of work-life balance is actually a nonsense for most small business owners. You can’t close the door behind you at 5.30, go home and switch off. Your office might be at home anyway, or you need to catch up with some admin after the kids have been put to bed.

That’s how it is in small business. Your business is such an important part of you that somehow separating it from your “life” and creating a balance between the two is simply impossible.

But at the same time it has been proven time and time again that everyone needs to switch off, everyone needs to sleep 7 to 8 hrs on average and everyone needs to have social and personal connections with others and that’s before we talk about kids and family, hobbies, sport or health.

How do you manage that as a small business owner so that you don’t burn out, become unhealthy and forget your kid’s names and birthdays (and they yours?)

I believe it starts by acknowledging that life as a small business owner is not the same as life as an employee. It won’t ever be and conventional wisdoms about work-life balance are simply not going to work for you. No point beating yourself up about it, no point telling yourself you “should” go home at 6 and not take the laptop. If you don’t finish that quote tonight you’ll miss the deadline and then the whole thing comes to a screaming halt… Tonight you’ll just have to get back to it as soon as the kids are in bed and if it takes to 2 am to finish the quote…so be it.

Frustrations and Joys

But there are both frustrations as well as great joys to being a business owner, and one of the greatest joys of being the owner is the fact that you can do exactly what you want, when you want and no bastard can tell you different.

I often work on the weekend. As a matter of fact I am writing this article on Saturday evening as we speak (Nigel no friends obviously)… But I don’t mind… On the contrary. I’m going to take off half a day on Monday to do two yoga sessions in the middle of the day and on Thursday I am spending several hours cooking dinner for my daughter and her family and I’ll probably knock off work by lunchtime.

The great joy of being your own boss is that you have the ability to design your work and your life to suit yourself:

  • Want to burn the midnight oil tonight? Great, go for it.
  • Want to sleep in tomorrow and go for a walk? Nobody’s going to stop you.
  • Wake up and the sun is shining, the surf’s up and it’s monday? Grab your board and jump in the car and have a ball.

And if that means you have to catch up tonight and tomorrow night, all good… You’re the boss.

To me, having the flexibility I have is the biggest reason I would never want to work as an employee ever again. It would drive me insane.

Idealised Pictures

Have I sketched an idealised picture of life as a small business owner? Probably.

Do most business owners actually have such a perfect life? Are most business owners actually living the dream?

No most of them don’t for one main reason: Guilt.

Guilt

guilt trip Business owners don’t take off and go surfing when the sun is out and the surf is up because of guilt.

True, right?

Tell me. how many hours a week do you think you have to be at work, working, not to feel guilty? Is it 40 or more?

Truth be told it’s not about the hours, is it? It’s about being seen to be the first one in the door in the morning and the last one out the door at night.

Really? Is that what you started your business for so you could always be the first one in the door and the last one out?

I had a first coaching session with a new client the other day. Talking about the logistics of having regular coaching sessions with me, led to her concerns about her work commitments and how to fit in the hours working with me. She said, can’t we have our sessions in the evening maybe, because today when I left the office I felt I had to make some kind of excuse about why I left the office for the afternoon. I feel guilty leaving the office when they’re all working hard on a Friday afternoon.

I often say that small business owners are the most guilt driven people on the planet (even worse than Catholics, and that’s saying something obviously)

Food for Thought

So think about this… You have created your business. You have given it life and you’ve done so, because you wanted it to provide a certain type of life for yourself and your family and to make you feel proud and challenged and excited and engaged and rewarded; to build on your resourcefulness, to maximise your skills and experience and expand your opportunities in life.

And instead? You feel guilty for wanting to sleep in tomorrow and get to the office at midday.

Do you see my point?

Exactly… You know what to do tomorrow I think!

More about the myth of work life balance and small business owners and yet build the Great Business and Life you dream off here.

Death is the Big Event — The Most Important Party in Your Life

dying death life choices coaching

Death is the Big Event

How we ignore the most important event in our lives

dying

A few weeks ago, back in Holland, I had a meeting about planning for a big family event with my brother, my mother and a consultant who is going to help us put it all together.

It was a good… effective meeting… well run and facilitated by the consultant, who was incisive, experienced, empathic and understanding

Nevertheless it was a pretty odd experience… Because you see, the event we were planning for is my mother’s funeral and the consultant was the undertaker….

The fact is my mother is going to die in the foreseeable future… so the meeting was about making arrangements for that event…

And the oddest moment of the meeting came right at the end of the meeting: The funeral director got up to say goodbye to us and he shook our hand in turn and he said: “It was really lovely to meet you and I look forward to seeing you later”…He will indeed see my mother later…

But she will not.

The most important event

But I think it’s really strange: There are all kinds of important events in our lives… being born, turning 21, getting married, having children, turning 50 or 60; 25 years of marriage You could argue that dying is actually the most important of all of those events, or at least as important as being born.

And we go through enormous contortions to prepare for all of those events. We might be planning our wedding day for years even and the planning that goes into getting ready for having our first child especially… wow… babyrooms, new car, baby equipment, prenatal yoga classes… you name it

But preparing for dying?

We don’t really even talk about death, let alone preparing for the actual event

Last minute panic

We just don’t do it, and so when we die, it’s is this incredible and enormous panic that we put on everyone else around us and they have to rush around finding the right photos and write the right text for the card; suddenly they have to make decisions about coffins, and speeches and music and endless other stuff, all in the space of a couple of days and then there is potentially one of the largest parties we’ve ever been part of and it’s all about us, (it’s certainly the last party we’ll ever be part of) and we’ve just left it all up to the poor suffering kids, relatives and friends.

death and taxes As they say: you can be sure of only two things in life: death and taxes (and even taxes I’m not so sure about sometimes), but death is gonna come around, no matter what you do, we will all die and there will be a funeral and there will be a party and people will say things about us and there will be a heap of stuff to organise.

As sure as God made little apples, this will happen to each and everyone of us

Yet we walk and live and breath and talk and dream and think in absolute denial of that death most of the time. As if it doesn’t concern us.

Why is that?

I think it’s because we think it’s all too scary. We just don’t understand. We can’t comprehend what it will be like this death thing and so no matter what we really think about death and what we really feel about dying, we just use the time worn clichés to talk about it: “Well she had a good innings didn’t she”… “At least she didn’t suffer at the end”… “She looks like she is at peace now”…

Clichés

The clichés around death and dying are incredible and I also have noticed myself struggling to avoid some of those clichés when trying to say something meaningful to friends who are going through the journey of Death. But clichés are a topic for another newsletter.

I want to tell you a bit more about the meeting instead.

It was actually a really good experience having this meeting with my mother and brother and the undertaker and talking about death

It brought us closer together

For my brother, who is the one who lives in Holland, it’s going to be much easier to make those initial decisions and get things moving, when she actually dies

Joint decisions

For both of us it it will be easier to make joint decisions, because we have a sense of what is important for my mother around dying and her last moments amongst us

For the funeral director it will be so much easier to give us what we need, because he has met her and got to know us a little

And for my mother? Well she feels loved and cared for and, most importantly, she feels that she is still a little bit in charge, which, if you knew my mother you’d realise is right up there with breathing for her.

Funny moment

One of the funniest moments in the meeting with the funeral director came when we were talking about the party/ wake afterwards.

We were brainstorming about the kind of gathering we had in mind… the venue… what time… what drinks… how long and how many people and at one moment my mother was getting all fired up about how at parties like that she hates that kind of stupid finger food: The sad sack sausage rolls and pathetic party pies; The kind of horrors that get handed around at standup parties: “Those things make me make me physically sick” she said… It all went silent for a moment and we all looked at each other … and my mother said… oh yes… that’s right… i’ll be dead anyway