We live in a world of constant pressure and unrealistic expectations.
The super heroes of our youth and the heroes in the media today have warped our sense of what is realistic and what is humanly possible.
While it's sometimes difficult for us to admit that we're human, many people I work with have difficulty understanding why they overwork.
Think about it...what does your typical week look like? Or consider just one day?
If you're like many committed entrepreneurs who started a business because they were sick of the daily corporate grind and wanted to have freedom and control over their schedule, you probably...
have one, two, three, (four??) cups of coffee to get going in the morning...I'm so glad I quit coffee years ago! : )
check your email on your smart phone or tablet, perhaps before you even got out of bed...
go to the office and are immediately immersed in an overwhelming to do list, figuring out what to do because someone didn't finish their part of a project on time, putting out a couple of fires, dealing with an angry or frustrated partner or employee, looking at your to do list again - woefully, this time...
grab lunch on the go or eat at your desk, and then it all starts over again for the afternoon...
rather than leave at a reasonable hour, you stay late (maybe very late) to focus on your work that you couldn't get to because you were helping everyone else do their work...
when you do make it home, you probably check your email again, eat or drink something to relax from the day, then have trouble sleeping because there are lots of thoughts running through your mind about all the things you need to focus on tomorrow...
Any of this sound familiar?
This the classic pattern of an entrepreneur with Super Hero Syndrome.
For right brain entrepreneurs, we get an extra dose of Super Hero Syndrome. That's because our brains complicate things further because we have difficulty prioritizing, estimating how much time it will take to do something, and we don't think to consider what is already on our to do list before we commit to something else. (This isn't criticism. It's an acknowledgement of how your brain naturally organizes and processes information.)
When you're working these kinds of hours - as admirable and necessary as you may think it is - you are actually putting your business at risk, even while you think you are making progress. As a business owner, you need time to recharge. But when you are this busy for this amount of time, you put yourself at physical risk of adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems, obesity, colds, and a multitude of other health issues. All of these put your business - and your life - at risk.
If you are overworking, you have engaged the amygdala, a very small reptilian part of your brain that regulates the fight, flight, or conserve response.
But, in today's hyper competitive marketplace it's more important to be strategic than at any other time in history. If you aren't being strategic...well, you know what happens.
But, when your amygdala is engaged, you literally cannot be strategic. When you are in the fight, flight, or conserve mode of operating, you have an extraordinarily limited field of vision. At this point you aren't thinking long term. You're thinking "How can I make it through this crisis?"
Bottom line, you can't see opportunities, and definitely not the richest, most effective ones. And you can't develop the distance from your business to gain a strategic viewpoint or new insights.
All this is the result of overworking. And it's a self-perpetuating system.
If you take a moment to be honest with yourself, you know that's true.
It's time to save yourself from Super Hero Syndrome.
Identify what it takes you to recharge - and then schedule it. It might mean yoga, 8 hours of sleep, eating local, organic produce in your diet. Or a combination of all these. (This is just an example, and it's what saved me from my own Super Hero Syndrome.)
Get clear on the results you want and why you want them. Truthfully determine if they are essential to your business success and personal happiness.
Set very clear boundaries around your time to work, play, and rest.
So what are your Super Hero tendencies? We all have them, and sharing this in the comments below isn't a sign of weakness. Sharing this out loud, or publicly, is actually part of the process of Super Hero Syndrome Recovery.
In the next blog post, I'm going to talk about the brain function, beliefs, and specific habits that create this problem.
Hiring and evaluating new team members is a challenge for most entrepreneurs - and often an even greater challenge for overcommitted entrepreneurs. We're often in such a rush to make a decision and get someone - anyone - onboard that we neglect to use some of the best practices.
The focus today, when talking about jobs, is almost always on the jobs numbers and how hard it is to find a job. Left out of this conversation is how challenging it can be for employers to find the right person to hire amidst the deluge of applications. This can easily lead to overwhelm, which is even more stressful when you need to make a decision quickly.
So the question is, are you hiring (and vetting) properly so that you identify the person who is the best fit - the best fit for you, for your business, and for that person?
Most busy and overcommitted entrepreneurs either rush or pay too little attention to the hiring process because they need people quickly or have a hard time prioritizing. Sometimes it's a simple as not taking the time to get clear on what they really need their new hire to do. This is sometimes called the "Warm Body Syndrome."
Lately I've noticed that a number of my clients are having challenges with employees. In almost every case, the challenges stem from performance issues that could have been identified in the hiring process but weren't.
Here is a perfect example from one of my clients. (Names have been changed, of course.)
Sam runs a restaurant and was having problems with his chef. When we talked, Sam had set up interviews with 12 candidates for the chef position.
Let's face it, 12 interviews for a small business is a tremendous amount of time that can distract the owner from their normal responsibilities.
I asked Sam to cancel these (in-person) interviews and instead, set up a powerful phone screening process that would allow him to identify the top candidates in 5 minutes.
The Power of Questions
When you ask the right questions, you can streamline your effective hiring process by getting the critical information you need about a candidate and his/her experiences and qualifications.
Here are the questions we identified for Sam to ask, after I helped him get very clear about exactly what he needed this new hire to be able to do.
Tell me about your experience of running a restaurant this size and turning it around.
Tell me the problems you ran into doing that, and how you handled those problems.
Tell me what you like about my restaurant and what you think you might want to change about it.
Sam spent 5 minutes on the phone with all 12 people. This saved him 11 hours he would have otherwise spent interviewing...assuming he was able to stick to his timeframe of 1-hour interviews. And out of all 12 candidates, there was only one person who had the experience to do what Sam needed.
That person, on paper, wasn't Sam's first choice. But by asking the RIGHT questions to get to the right information, it was obvious who was best for the job.
That's not to say you don't also conduct an in-person interview - you definitely do for this type of position. But by asking the right questions to get to the most relevant information, Sam was able to save himself a tremendous amount of time that he could, instead, use to focus on other parts of his business.
So, people aren't really asking for exactly what they want. Either they are overwhelmed, or they are bootstrapping and can't pay top dollar, so they think they can't find the employees they want.
The truth is there are great people who have great qualifications...if you take the time to ask the right powerful questions.
What do you actually need this new person to do when they are successful in their role?
What question(s) can you ask that will evaluate whether they have this experience or not?
What do you really want to know about their experience in this area? (Sam wanted to make sure the chef he was hiring would respect the reputation, the food, and the setting of his restaurant.)
If you do this exercise and are hesitant to ask these questions, you probably have the belief that either you aren't worthy of investing in, or that deep down you don't believe someone could actually do the work, or that what you are paying isn't in line with your expectations.
Each of these 3 can be addressed if you're willing to do the work. Good hires are easier to find than most people think. It's also much easier, more cost effective, and far less stressful to hire the right person (by using these types of questions) than to manage, train or fire unqualified people.
As business leaders, we are always paying attention to the results we are getting in our companies. We generally have a pretty good idea of where we are at any given moment.
But if we're really going to be LEADERS, we also have to be clear about the trajectory our business is on. This isn't quite the same as having goals or a vision. It's actually measuring whether or not you are on course for that vision.
How do you know what trajectory your business is on right now?
It's pretty simple, really. Look at your financials, including your number of clients or orders so far this year, and multiply it by 4.
If you were to do the same things in future quarters that you're doing right now, this is what your year will look like. What you are currently doing, the current results you are producing, represents the trajectory of your business.
Is that what you want? Are you on course for your goals and vision?
If not, what are the top three things you can do to change the trajectory so that you can more easily meet the goals you set for this year?
These don't necessarily have to be huge things, or even difficult to implement.
Sometimes just a little shift in direction produces an entirely different result over time. Just like a shift of just a few degrees in the trajectory of an airplane's path can mean the difference between landing at your vacation destination or a hostile country, a slight shift in the direction of your business now can mean a dramatic difference in results by the end of the fourth quarter.
So, what are those top three things you can do, change, or implement to change your trajectory to be on course for your destination? And when would you like to begin making those changes? (Hint: the right answer is "Now".)
People often ask why I named this company Loving Leaders. After all, it is an odd name for a company serving executives and entrepreneurs, right?
The truth is, I was tired of seeing the greed, the stress, the intimidation, the manipulation and the value extraction of the current leadership paradigm. I knew we needed an entirely new leadership paradigm - one based on creating sustainable businesses with:
leaders who love what they do
leaders who want to create environments where their employees love what they do
employees who love to come to work and do a great job
customers who feel - yes - loved, taken care of, and appreciated fully.
That's what I'm all about. I'm interested in helping people create sustainable businesses that intermingle with their sustainable lives.
What I had been seeing in the business world seemed to be working toward, or at least ending up, with the exact opposite. Greed, stress, intimidation, manipulation, and using people up until they burn out simply destroy sustainability.
My belief is that a business can only be sustainable when the leaders and the team members truly love what they do, feel supported by the work they do and the company they do it with, believe they are contributing to something greater than or more important than just the work itself, and when the customers or clients can actually feel this through their interactions with the company.
My particular specialty is in helping people tailor their business so they can love it. That's a fundamental piece when creating sustainability.
I work with people to establish all sorts of metrics to gauge how their business is doing. A specific one I use in my own is "personal fulfillment". I measure fulfillment levels of myself and my team because each person's level of fulfillment affects the business. It affects how we feel about the work we do, our energy and commitment we bring to the table when we're actually doing the work or interacting with clients and potential clients, and quite frankly, it affects how creative and resourceful we are when coming up with new solutions.
Fulfillment is defined as "reaching our potential individually."
When I told my mom I decided to name my business Loving Leaders, LLC, her response was "That doesn't sound very business-like to me." And I said, "Exactly. That's the problem." (Meaning: That's the problem with business.)
We've associated anger and greed and stress and difficulty with business, rather than love, creativity, responsiveness, generosity, fulfillment and wealth. Leaders are rewarded for working long hours, working much harder than they need to, and getting as much out of their employees as they can before the employee decides to seek employment elsewhere.
Rarely are leaders in traditional business rewarded for love, creativity, responsiveness, generosity, fulfillment and wealth. Maybe they get acknowledged for some of these things, some of the time, but as a business paradigm, it's a fairly lonely one.
Recently a client I have worked with continuously for 11 years said "I really respect your commitment to me. I never thought I would meet anyone who cared about my business as much as I did. Thank you!"
That's the kind of business leader I want to be. I hope I exhibit this level of commitment with every person I work with and inspire them to do the same. That's why Loving Leaders exists.
Love is about giving people, our businesses, and important things in our lives the attention, devotion, commitment, and sometimes the kick in the ass, they need.
Love is about respecting something fully. It means wanting the best for it. It also means not letting it off the hook.
Loving Leaders - It's who we are. It's what we do. It's who we help others become. Do you love your business like I do?
Are you strategically and proactively planning for the seasonality of your business?
Every single business I've worked with experiences a seasonal impact.
Most people think the only organizations with seasonal impact are industries like farming and retail, etc. But consulting firms, creative and design agencies, technology companies, financial institutions, airlines, etc. also experience a seasonality.
Small to medium sized business owners often don't think about the seasonality of their business. If you're interested in building a sustainable business, then you really have to build a responsive business. That means anticipating the seasonal impact - whether that's releasing a software product and you need more developers and testers for a brief period of time, you need to hire designers for a big project, you need to find freelancers for an experiential marketing campaign, or you need to plan your vacation when you have downtime because you are a solopreneur.
Identifying the Seasonality of Your Business:
Look over the last three years of your financial reports. This is a good starting point to figure out the seasonality of your business. However, you may also need to look at time sheets, software release timelines, or other important documents that give you insight into the seasonal aspects of your business.
Look for crunch times and slow times. Look for spikes in revenue, as well as dips in revenue.
Look for any indication that implies you are more busy or less busy than at other times over the past three years.
When you are clear on the seasonal flow of your business, you can make plans and take strategic action to influence that seasonality.
For example, if you've had a slow first quarter every year for the last three years, ramp up your marketing in October. (Yes, I understand that won't help this year, but at least you'll be prepared for next year.)
Or, if you have need for freelancers multiple times throughout the year, put your job postings up permanently so you always have access to a qualified pool of freelancers.
There are a million and one ways to strategize around pattern analysis, to offset patterns, take advantage of patterns, or just be informed.
For example, a design firm I work with traditionally had a dip in the first quarter of the year. When we examined the financials closely, we made the decision to spend extra time in the fourth quarter of the year focusing on business development.
The result? In 2013 they already have their best first quarter ever! That means they have business booked January, February and March already and it's more business than they've had in any year. That's being strategic!
But...be careful about making assumptions about seasonality.
Just because other people say December is slow in your industry, doesn't mean it has to be that way. For example, in my industry (coaching), people always say December is the slowest month. But for me, December is usually the busiest of the year.
January is usually my slowest. So I'll take advantage of that by ending this post now and taking some much needed down time. :)
What is the seasonal impact on your business...and what are you planning to do about it?
With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays and ending the year, it's time to set your vision and goals for next year.
The holidays often provide down time - time for reflection.
They can also generate inordinate amounts of stress, making it hard to find the time, or the desire, to reflect.
As a leader for your organization, it's critical to find the space, time, and perspective to create a vision and set your goals for the following year.
So...how to plan for next year, amid the end-of-year chaos?
Here's the truth.
You can't be strategic - have a wide field of vision - if you're under stress. Our bodies are biologically inhibited from being strategic when we're stressed.
If you're one of the many folks who can't find the time and space to plan for next year amid the hustle and bustle and family and gifts, give yourself permission to wait until you have the time, space and perspective.
Plans made under pressure or in haste are usually short-sighted, fraught with problems, and incomplete.
This is how to tell if you gained the perspective required for strategic thinking:
You are calm.
You can think about the future without being distracted by the current and immediate past.
You are able to paint a picture with words about the future state of the business.
You are able to anticipate pivot points, bottlenecks, and challenges between the current reality and the vision you've painted.
If you feel stressed, limited or stuck, then you haven't yet gained the perspective to plan properly.
When I'm working with executive coaching clients, my work often focuses on what needs to be fixed, what is acute, urgent, a crisis or what's wrong in the business. However, I've discovered one of the most important things I do is help people take a moment to realize the progress they've made.
Since it is November, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner, I encourage you to do an exercise to help you take stock of where you are, how far you've come, and what has made that possible.
First, list all the changes and progress you've made this year.
Be sure to include things like major projects you completed, new clients you've landed, new employees you've hired, new partners you've brought on board, and all the communication and blog posts, emails, tweets that you've sent out this year. And, of course, all the lessons you've learned.
Next, list all the things that are working in your business and that you are grateful for.
This would include things that you never, or hardly ever, have to think about. (Hint: When you don't have to think about something and it gets done anyway, that's a sign that things are working.)
What's the purpose of this exercise?
It's easy to get caught up in the doing, the to do lists, and all the tasks and activities.
When I think about all we've accomplished in my own business, I marvel at our abilities and capabilities - and all the ideas we've come up with.
Consider how much you actually impact others, and how much you are rewarded for that impact, whether it be financial, good will, name recognition, thank you letters, raving reviews, referrals, etc.
It is important to acknowledge all you've done this year, and the trajectory that you are on.Looking at all the things you've accomplished, all the things that are working that you're grateful for, and all the things you never even have to think about.
Think about the trajectory you are on, the leader you are becoming, the business you are building, the impact you're making and will continue to make.
Take a moment. Let it sink in.
Now add one more item to your to do list:
Thank the 5 people who have been most instrumental in helping you...whether that's a phone call to an old mentor, email to a former teacher, a gift to a business partner, a hug to your coach, or a big hug to your spouse or partner. Just do it.
Gratitude is a sign of maturity, self-awareness, and leadership.