Feel Like an Entrepreneur?

Two business owners were talking. One was having a pretty good run with his new, and growing business. The other had suffered a series of bad turns and hard luck.

Entrepreneurship

The one with the better business asked, “So now do you feel like an entrepreneur?” 

The other answered “Heck no. I feel like a pile of manure.”

Running your own business is not for the faint of heart 

It takes a whole lot more than a smart new idea to make a business tick. If yours is a wild and disruptive idea (think Uber and AirBnB) you may truly have some potential, but you will quickly find that the details of finding money to make money and managing everything can really be a bigger challenge than you ever expected.

It takes much more than an idea to become an entrepreneur. Click To Tweet

Several times a year I speak to audiences on college campuses. After my talks, I get the usual line of attendees who want to ask questions, make comments, and otherwise share things. 

It never fails that I get a student or two who is convinced they will conquer the business world as we know it with their new idea. I ask them to explain. So far I have never heard anything earth shattering. 

I am not  sure if that is because we don’t teach enough creative thinking or whether we are truly failing to impart the full truth about what it takes to make a business go.

Sidebar: As I write this, it occurs to me that many of the more famous entrepreneurs of our modern era never went to college or never finished (think Gates and Zuckerberg). I digress.

Getting the Entrepreneurial Bug

There are those among us who are natural entrepreneurs. Others get the idea after spending too many years working for others. For me I caught the bug early in life. I watched my single Mom quite a stable, secure job to live her dream. 

Mom was a gifted interior designer. She did that work for other companies before setting out on her own. Slowly but steadily she built a well-respected and thriving business. Solopreneur she was long before that was  a thing. 

I wrote about the 10 things she taught me. See that article here.

I’ve had the opportunity to start three businesses and three non-profits. Each one was a labor of love. Believe me when I say I didn’t do it alone.

Somewhere along the way mentors had taught me one key principle. Ideas are great, but before you commit big resources (and energy) test it with several faithful advisors.

If you can get them interested, then you might have something. Otherwise, it’s just a dream.

To All the Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Here are my simple rules of entrepreneurship.

  1. DO – live your dreams, but be smart about it. Test your ideas with a few trusted advisers. Be open to their honest feedback. Tweak your plan if it looks like you must.
  2. BUT – don’t get totally discouraged. Dogged determination does create some very exciting possibilities. (I still don’t understand how Jeff Bezos survived the first 10 years of Amazon).
  3. EGO – Your ego is good when used the right way. Watch who you alienate as you grow your idea. You will need friends sooner than you think. NEVER take yourself too seriously.
  4. FUN – have fun doing what you decide to do.

Leaders: Do You Have a YES Face?

Yes face picture

There is a story about Thomas Jefferson when he was President. He and a group of close advisors rode horseback across the countryside. They came upon a river swollen by recent rains.

On the bank was a man without a horse. He gazed at the river not knowing how he would get across. One by one the men on horseback started across. Each making it to the other side.

Finally, it was Jefferson’s turn. The man asked if he could jump on with Jefferson and ride across. Jefferson obliged.

Once everyone was across, one of the other riders asked the man why he chose Jefferson; asking if he knew Jefferson was the President.

The man said, “President? I didn’t know that. I just knew his face said YES while all you other guys’ face said NO.”

If you’re in a leadership position, do you have a YES face?

Think About It

Think about the times a senior executive presented a new plan or a new vision but had a stern, perhaps sour face; a NO face. How hard was it to believe in the plan?

Look at the picture below. Which people could you relate to the best?

Photo courtesy Unsplash.com

Executive leaders need to think about their face when they make announcements, hold discussions, and conduct meetings. The look you have says much more than the words you speak.

Tell Your Face

I had a coaching client who was sharing with me the great excitement of the new job he just got promoted into. He was gushing about the team and the opportunity. He was assuring me he had great admiration for the people and the purpose. Yet he shared this whole story with a stoic face; no grin, no emotion, just power words about the positive aspects of the opportunity.

When he was finished talking, I asked if he really believed all the things he just told me. He assured me YES!

I said, “Then tell your face.” He was stunned. He wasn’t sure what I meant. I explained.

His content was positive, but his context was wrong. The look on his face lied about the message.

Think about this the next time you need to talk with your team or your crew. Get your face in line with the message.

Box for scheduling coaching call

If this makes sense, leave a comment. Tell us about a time when you had to get your “Yes face” on.

Life’s Three Secrets

Clients often ask me about ways to increase their confidence. Apparently plenty of qualified executives suffer from a bit of inferiority. They are fearful of being “found out” as not being fully capable of handling the job they have.

coaching call

As we explore ways to build confidence, we often come across limiting beliefs that stem from old fears or future fears. It’s these fears that erode confidence and cause self-doubt.

Limiting beliefs make you think you are “less than” the expected standard. The phrases include statements like “you’re not smart enough, fast enough, or pretty enough.”

Usually, we have these messages implanted in us at childhood and school years. Sadly, they can come from your family or friends. Or they come from well-meaning authority figures like teachers.

To overcome these beliefs, we need to explore three secrets.

I am going to share three secrets

We’ve all heard various ideas about managing our lives. When you break it all down, there’s really not much surprise to life. Three simple secrets hold the keys to just about eveything you can experience.

Signs about yesterday, today and tomorrow

Yesterday

Yesterday is long gone. There are only three things we can do about yesterday.

First, learn from the lessons whether good or bad. Take an HONEST assessment of what happened and try to understand why. But do not let this become a new vocation.

Don’t beat yourself up over something that is past.

Next, let it go. There is nothing you can do about yesterday’s outcome. Good choices, bad choices, mean people, bad people, whatever. IT’S OVER!

Build a marker for the ways you saw divine intervention guiding and carrying you. These markers can be physical or mental, but keep track of what was significant. Over time, you will see a story start to take shape that can define who and what you might become in the next few years.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow will come. Let it come on its own. There is nothing you can do to change the actual events of the day tomorrow. Oh, you might plan and strive, but ultimately, things will turn out all on their own tomorrow.

“Tomorrow has enough worries of its own.” Don’t add to the worry of tomorrow.

If you spend too much time thinking and reacting about tomorrow, you may miss great opportunity today.

Mark Twain said “My life has been a series of horrible miseries; most of which never happened.”

Don’t burden yourself with fears about tomorrow. They can consume you and waste valuable time. Then, once tomorrow becomes today, you may never come close to the disaster you convinced yourself was about to happen.

TODAY!!!

Today is the only time you can do something about. Live today as if it were your last. I don’t mean live frivolously. I mean make a difference.

Do the things that enrich your family, friends, and neighbors. Today is not about YOU. Today is a gift (that’s why we call it the “present“.). Accept this precious gift and live to the full!

I know about an executive who comes to work every day with one purpose. His mantra is “How can I make this place better than I found it?” In his world, he means his own business, his people and his customers.

And the great news is he really lives and operates just that way. You can too.

Back to confidence

confidence at work

If you are concerned about your confidence level, ask yourself if you’re guilty of violating one of these three little secrets. Get them in proper balance and I assure you your confidence will rise.

You’ll never see a “good” tight rope walker who isn’t confident of his ability to balance. Likewise the best executives have a confidence in their own ability to act properly and assertively when they need to.

You can’t do either one of those acts without confidence.

Making the Most from Working at Home

Work at Home

The gig economy has produced a large population of people working from home. The lure and excitement of being able to shorten the commute from hours and miles down to feet and inches (as in the length of the walk from your kitchen to your home office) often fade fast.

It turns out not everyone is equipped to work at home. I frequently get asked for tips and tricks on how to make the stay-at-home gig work well.

Work at Home

I’ve been working from a home office for almost 20 years. Yes, I frequently get called to client offices or travel on-site to assist with business deals. Yet the bulk of my time is spent right outside my kitchen door, a few feet down the hallway.

Here are my tips for getting the most out of your work-at-home experience.

Make Space

First, make a dedicated space. The more walls and doors the better. You need seclusion from the rest of the activity in the house.

My life now includes 7 grandkids. They are here a lot and not just on weekends.

My wife and I love that part of life, but I still work full time so need the separation when I have work to be done.

The built-in desk just off the breakfast nook won’t work. You need an office area that can give you separation and handle your work tools; likely a computer, telephone, and even video hookups.

Don’t Skimp on Equipment

If your company or client doesn’t provide the right equipment for you to do your work, invest in some of your own. The right desktop or laptop is essential. This includes printers, phones, and whatever video set-up may make sense.

Pay for the bandwidth too. Get a service that provides the best possible data connectivity you can afford in your area. Reliability is also critical here.

If you will be doing work with video conferencing, webinar production or other camera work, check your lighting. Invest in a few moderately priced light sets to help brighten the area where the camera work is happening.

At the end of this article I’ll provide my own list of office equipment I like and the services I use.

Test your career satisfaction - take this personal survey
Test your career satisfaction – take this personal survey

Consider Your Emotions

The psycho-emotional aspects of working at home are not a good fit for everyone. Face it, you’ll be alone. If you live off the chatter at the water-cooler, you won’t get that here.

If you think you need to feed off others at work, then working at home won’t be a happy time for you.

You’ll need to find other ways to get that energy. I set at least three breakfast, lunch or coffee meetings per week if I am not directly handling clients. I use those encounters to fuel my inner beast’s hunger for human interaction.

For me, I keep my trusty rescue pooch, Teddy by my side. He loves it with me at home.

Get on a Schedule

Nothing is harder to do when you work at home than to keep on a schedule. Look at your workload and set a calendar. Stick to it.

Block out appointments for yourself to handle critical pieces of your work, setting your own deadlines if others haven’t already set them for you.

I like what a friend does. Now mind you he’s in his 80’s but he still works full time. He sets 10 boxes on his calendar. Morning and afternoon each day get a separate box. Two boxes per day and five days a week, you get 10 boxes. His primary goal is to fill every box. He intentionally blocks out time to get things done.

If it’s not on your calendar, it will either get neglected or forgotten. Make time and plan time.

This includes being able to make time for your spouse and family needs.

Set Boundaries

I just talked about making a calendar that includes time for spouse and family. However, you need to set some honest expectations with them too. They need to help make you successful by respecting times that you deem as work hours. Unplanned interruptions can throw your calendar off schedule.

Handle Big Rocks First

There’s a fabulous teaching experience that demonstrates the value of handling big rocks first. Here’s a video of the principle.

My Resource List

Here’s a list of some of the tools I have that I love.

  1. My Desktop – I’m still a PC guy. I run an Intel-based desktop, small form factor Lenovo. It’s served me very well. I made one upgrade to install a solid state drive versus the old school hard drives. The SSD cost about $129 for 500GB of storage. That’s not huge by today’s standards, but keep in mind I store my archives in the cloud.
  2. Cloud Storage – With Google Drive. For me, it was tricky to sync it up properly, but now that it is running, it works flawlessly.
  3. Video – Camera is a simple Logitech HD 1080p Webcam 920. It has built-in sound/mic configuration. The quality is great. Set-up was straight forward.
  4. Video Conferencing – I switched to Zoom.us a few years ago. I like their service so much more than all the others. The recording features are super and fit well into my video interviews. Webinar production is easy too with Zoom.
  5. Web HostingSiteground has served me very well for several years now. The service is very cost effective. I find their support 24×7 is superior to all the others I’ve tried.
  6. Blogging Platform – WordPress is my go-to source. I’ll need another dedicated article to tell you about this if you don’t already know something about WP.

I hope this helps you get a better grip on working from home. Call or write with any questions.

Disclaimer: Some of the tools and services mentioned above do involve affiliate relationships with me and my company HeadwayExec, LLC. But I assure you, I don’t promote anything I haven’t used myself.

Being an Authentic Leader Does Not Always Come Naturally

Authentic leadership

One of the highest valued attributes of great leaders is their authenticity. Being authentic does not always come naturally. The good news is, you can develop a more authentic leadership style.

On one hand, being authentic requires having a sense of “true north.”

True North

Ask a room full of people to close their eyes and point North. When everyone opens their eyes, fingers are pointing all over the place. (Try this some time; it’s a great ice breaker).

The message is that “north”, can conjure various meanings depending on one’s perception. Yet, true north is available for specific identification and location using the right equipment. It doesn’t change.

Your leadership should have this same kind certainty about it. You have to decide on your definition of true north, then stick to it.

When issues swirl around you and your team, you should have a reputation for responding to certain things in certain ways. If your people know this about you, then there will be a confidence in the face of uncertainty.

Accepting Feedback

Being truly open to feedback helps build the sense of leadership authenticity. By accepting input from others, you demonstrate a desire to learn and grow.

We all have tendencies to fall into a kind of rut. We find a rhythm to our life and we put things on cruise control. However, if that path takes you away from the authenticity you seek, you need a nudge to get back on the better path.

Here’s what to do. Say to those around you “Here’s my vision and my plan for how I intend to operate. If you see me doing something to the contrary, I invite you to say so.”

The other benefit of soliciting feedback is that you come across as genuinely engaged with the people you count on. Rather than constantly demanding something from them in terms of performance and accomplishment, you give them a chance to “shoot back”.

A healthy exchange of ideas can add great value to your relationships at work and everywhere else. You’ll become a more authentic leader.

One Caution

One word of caution though. Don’t “over-share”. Your people don’t need your burdens, but they will appreciate knowing you too have life outside the office.

As an example, you can casually say something about your daughter’s birthday party coming up, but you don’t need to share all the details and drama that might be going with the event.

Take Inventory

If you aren’t sure how authentic you might be, ask. Get some feedback.

Huddle with a circle of trusted advisors and ask them to provide you with a description of how they grade your authenticity. You might also ask them about ways they could see you improving.

If all of this is still a puzzle to you, I’d be happy to book a short call to help you learn more. Click the link below to schedule a call.

Click box to schedule a call with Doug Thorpe

Establishing a Personal Reflection

Taking time for personal reflection

“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand.” ~ Socrates (470-399 BC)

Socrates had it right. The more we are involved in and with something, the more we understand the topic.

While most of us can easily agree with diving into our work using all the technical knowledge and subject matter expertise, seldom do we pause to reflect on the most powerful source in our reach. Oursleves.

Do you have a regular habit of being reflective?

A colleague of mine, John N. Younker, Ph.D. writes on this subject:

“Reflective Practice is the ability to reflect on one’s actions so as to engage in a process of continuous learning.  

It involves paying critical attention to your values and principles as you apply them in your everyday actions (decisions and choices). 

By practicing reflection, as a part of your ongoing learning, it can result in developmental insights. A key rationale for reflective practice is that experience alone does not necessarily lead to learning; deliberate reflection on experience is key and essential for learning from your life experiences.

Further, it has been written, that reflection … or having a reflective practice … can be an important tool in practice-based professional learning settings where people learn from their own professional experiences, rather than from formal learning or knowledge transfer. It may be the most important source of personal professional development and improvement. 

A person who reflects throughout his or her practice is not just looking back on past actions and events but is taking a conscious look at emotions, experiences, actions, and responses, and using that information to add to his or her existing knowledge base and reach a higher level of understanding.”

For these reasons I have learned to enhance my own New Year’s resolution and goal setting habits to include a deep dive into reflective learning; learning from the past year’s experiences.

Besides merely defining some BHAGs for the new year (Big Hairy &#^#% Goals), you should be deciding on life changes that keep you in sync with who and what you truly want to be about.

Living a Purposeful Life

Living life with intentional direction is far more rewarding than one day arriving at some destination and wondering why or how you got there.

personal reflection

This is why having a different process for setting your new year vision should include an outlook/forecast as well a your own annual planning.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=”18″] Therefore, your Outlook & Annual Planning is the ability and the discipline required to live and experience a “Purposeful Life.” Personal strategic planning is a disciplined thought process, that actively engages and involves you. It leads you to make important decisions and take actions that shape what is truly important to you. You do it because of who you are and what you uniquely do; guiding how, when and why you do it. ~John Younker[/perfectpullquote]

The purpose of the Annual Personal Outlook process … Personal Strategic Planning process is to help you to:

  1. Decide on a direction for your life … your future.
  2. Make purposeful and meaningful contributions throughout your life.
  3. Gain clarity of your core values, beliefs and aspirations.
  4. Make decisions that will positively affect and impact your future.
  5. Focus your energies on what is most important to you.
  6. Achieve the greatest results in a defined period of time.
  7. Focus on increasing your level of performance, in all aspects of your life.
  8. Live and enjoy a more fulfilling life.
  9. Create balance and freedom to more effectively choose from your opportunities.
  10. Reduce uncertainty, anxiety, doubt and fear.
  11. Leverage your unique Knowledge, Skills and Abilities to more effectively Perform (KSAPs).
  12. Enhance your confidence and overall peace of mind.
  13. Be more by doing more that ultimately enables you to gain more from your life choices.

Finding a Plan

If you are into looking for good tools to help you map your intentions and reflections, look at STRYV.

STRYV Dashboard

The STRYV (strive) dashboard gives you a simple but powerful way to plot the areas of your life that mean the most to you. If you are lagging in your impact in one or more areas, STRYV gives you the planning tools to get on track and stay there.

Disclaimer: STRYV is an independent offering not affiliated with DougThorpe.com or HeadwayExec, LLC. There is no financial consideration for STRYV being mentioned here.

21 Ways to Improve Leadership Effectiveness

Every box on every organization chart is about who the executive or manager is going to be. At least that is where the thinking usually starts. We somehow think we need to name the managers first, then we place employees under them to build out a team.

This whole focus on “managing” the team sets wheels in motion that drive how people react and respond to the named person in the top box.

Oh sure, there is power in the position. Anyone who has ever been placed in one of those manager boxes knows this. But relying solely on that power creates a very shaky perch for the boss sitting there.

What About Leadership?

As you move around your organization, if you are one of the ones selected to occupy one of those “manager boxes”, ask yourself this question.

What can I do about my leadership ability?

Your answer should be “If I can provide real leadership, not just effective management, then maybe I can make a big difference here.”

When people ask me what leadership is, I like to have them think about people they’ve admired. I ask them to think about people they have worked for, seen or know about who have helped make a difference. They might be leaders of a cause or some famous movement. Or they might be your high school principal.

If you spend some time thinking about the people who have made a difference in your own life, likely they were exhibiting some element of leadership.

The Good News

The great opportunity here is to adopt some of the traits and habits you admire in others to expand your own leadership muscle. Add methods to your toolbox that you know were effectively demonstrated by others.

I feel blessed because I was, and still am, surrounded by great mentors in my life. Very few of them ever wrote a book or filmed a movie to tell their story, but they made huge impacts in my community. The wonderfully amazing thing about all of this was that I got to pick and choose from the best of the best.

As each person coached me through various situations, I got to see and hear how they operated. I could pick the calmness in one person, or the resolve of another, or the decision making skill of yet another. Then I could weave these attributes together to write my own version of a leadership story.

John Maxwell writes about “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.” His list of 21 attributes rounds out a very comprehensive description of what makes up powerful leadership. You can debate the terms he uses for each attribute or principle, but you cannot deny the substance each one represents.

Here’s the List.

  • The Law of the Lid – We all have caps on our natural ability. You must constantly strive to lift the lid.
  • The Law of Influence – Character, relationships, knowledge, intuition, experience, ability.
  • The Law of Process – Leadership develops daily, not in a day.
  • The Law of Navigation – Anyone can steer the ship but a Leader plots the course.
  • The Law of Addition – Add value by serving others.
  • The Law of Solid GroundTrust is the foundation; knowing how to build trust matters.
  • The Law of Respect – People naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves.
  • The Law of Intuition – Leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias.
  • The Law of Magnetism – Who you are is who you attract.
  • The Law of Connection – Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.
  • The Law of the Inner Circle – Your potential is determined by those closest to you.
  • The Law of Empowerment – Secure leaders give power to others.
  • The Law of the Picture – People do what people see.
  • The Law of Buy-In – People buy into the Leader before they buy-in to the vision.
  • The Law of Victory – Leaders find a way for the team to win.
  • The Law of Big Mo – Momentum is your best friend.
  • The Law of Priorities – Activity alone is not an accomplishment.
  • The Law of Sacrifice – Give up to Go up.
  • The Law of TimingWhen to assert your leadership is as important as what to do and where to go.
  • The Law of Explosive Growth – To add growth, lead followers. To multiply, lead Leaders.
  • The Law of Legacy – What people say tomorrow depends on what you do today.

Becoming the Better Leader

If you can find someone who lives and leads by every one of those 21 laws, you will know about being a very influential leader.

Why don’t we see more of these people working in those management slots on that org chart? It’s because very few of us get exposure to or training for all these characteristics and principles.

When I start an executive coaching assignment, I like to spend time with my client assessing where they stand. In other words, how many of the 21 laws do they know how to follow? Then we decide on where the gaps might be. We set a plan to work on two or three of the missing links; the gaps. Then as progress begins to happen, we periodically revisit the list and decode whether a few more can be explored.

The goal becomes mastery of all 21. To date, no one I’ve ever know has perfectly mastered all 21 areas of effective leadership. However, by working on a few at a time, they have added extra horsepower to their own leadership expertise so that team performance improves, and management issues decrease.

If you may be interested in hearing more about this way to grow your own leadership abilities, give us a call.

Nobody Likes to Deal With Bad Employees

Periodically, I like to survey my tribe for input on topics they’d like to read. I went through a year-end round of asking hundreds of my contacts this question:

What are some of the big rocks you’re trying to move?

The answers I received were both exciting and challenging. Interestingly enough though, I’d say the basic issues voiced by my readers (your colleagues) include things that have always troubled business owners and busy executives for decades.

The topics included things like funding and finance, logistics, regulatory climate, mergers and acquisitions, and general economic concerns.

Yet, the biggest area for discussion, by a 2 to 1 margin, is “people”; finding the right talent, placing the right talent, managing the people, and keeping the best talent.

In the next few articles, I’m going to pick a few of my favorite responses and give you some insight from my 30+ years of ownership and leadership. But I want to start with the “people” question.

Q: How many people work at your company?

A: About half of them.

That may be a funny joke, but the reality of it haunts business leaders everywhere, regardless of the size of your company.

Back to my survey. One reader wrote:

My biggest rock is getting the right people into the right positions. I have some people right now that are just inadequate and it’s not only painful having to tell them things they don’t want to hear, but even harder to fire them (since they aren’t doing anything terribly wrong, but just awful fits for where they are right now). The business is small so there aren’t other positions to put them into. Those are my current challenges.

I can empathize here. When I owned my last company, I fell victim to this too. However…..

If I performed an honest assessment of the matter, I’d have to say the adage is true; “I hired fast and fired slow.” It should be the other way around.

Hire SLOW and fire FAST!

Why do we hire fast?

We hire fast because we think we need someone sitting in the seat. Maybe you won a new account and you think the workload will overwhelm the current staff.

Or you had someone quit unexpectedly and you feel the urgency to fill the spot.

The urgency we create often clouds the decision process. Besides, hiring is painful. It’s a tough, boring process to do all those interviews. Yet the outcome drives the success of our companies.

We must get better at hiring for the right reasons. Dial in what you need the most and don’t settle until you’ve found that person.

Why do we fire slow?

There’s a lot of emotion tied up in making a firing decision. You know you’re impacting someone’s life. If you have any compassion in your soul, you feel bad about having to tell someone they aren’t cutting it.

I’ve even gone so far as to remind people that once you become heartless about firing people, you have probably stepped over the line for being an effective leader.

It does hurt, and it should hurt, but you have to do it.

If nothing else, it’s not fair to the people on your team who pull their weight. If they must suffer an ineffective co-worker, there will be consequences. It’s not if but when. The good folks will eventually turn against you.

What’s a Boss to do?

As soon as you begin to believe you have a mismatch or a true performance issue, jump on it. You absolutely must provide the coaching to the individual to explain your expectations and identify the shortcomings.

Create remediation steps. If you can redeem the person in the role, then great! However, as soon as the pattern of poor performance is repeated, take action to cut your losses.

Depending on the size of your company, you may have more difficulty than a sole proprietor might have releasing the person. But follow the procedure and do it.