Have you ever had the sinking feeling when closing a deal that something isn’t right? That the hard fought battle to win the business has left you with no energy to actually deliver? Maybe the timeline is too short, the budget too small, the client not engaged or the company not a fit for your services. Despite this, you wanted to/ needed to land the sale so you pushed on. Many of us are hardwired to go against resistance. We are also under constant pressure to bring in revenue. In combination, these inner and outer forces can see us going after business we are better served to walk away from. My younger clients have the most trouble with this; they haven’t yet had enough projects gone wrong to know that overriding their gut check is a mistake in business development. Tony Schwartz’s post on the art of letting go paints a clear picture of when to walk away. Tony asks himself four questions:
1. Do I have a feeling in my gut that this dog just won’t hunt?
2. How important will this seem to me in six months?
3. How important will this seem to me in two years?
4. Is there a more enjoyable and productive way I could be investing my time and energy right now?
I have said no to a number of opportunities lately that didn’t fit with my current focus. It felt great to be able to keep my energy for the clients I have now. I am fortunate to have enough work right now and enough in the pipeline that saying no was relatively easy. The question is how easy would it be to say no if I didn’t have enough? The answer: not easy and more important than ever. When the client roster is lean, we all need to stay fresh and focussed on finding the clients to whom we can deliver our best.
Here’s a fifth question for Tony’s list:
5. How will saying no now, help me say yes to something better?
Accounting partners know how to multiply and divide. Unfortunately, they don’t always know what choice to make when it comes to growing their book of business. Seth Godin’s simple example shows the clear choice. I will borrow his language and his logic and tailor my example to the professional services firm.
Let’s say you have a list of 30 prospects (made up of current clients and other potentials with whom you haven’t worked yet but would like to). You have a choice to make.
1) You can create stories and options and benefits that naturally spread from this group to people they know, and your core group can multiply with 30 growing to 60 and then 600 (Some partners succeed in building a name for themselves by becoming a subject matter expert and becoming known through speaking engagements, writing etc. It takes some great stories, options and benefits to make this work).
2) You can put the original group through a sales funnel, weed out the ones that don’t fit your “ideal client” type and monetize the rest. A 30% conversion rate means you just turned 30 prospects into 9 new engagements.
Multiplying scales. Dividing helps you make this quarter’s numbers (and keep your equity partner status!). We know you are great at math but let us know if you need some coaching help on this equation.
Seth Godin (known for his knack at getting to the heart of the matter) just sent out a two line post called Your Dent. He asks “Are you making a dent in the universe?” and then hints: “lots of random pokes in many different spots are unlikely to leave much of an impact”. And for a final kick, he adds “hiding out is surely not going to work at all”.
In business development coaching, a few of the partners I coach initially prefer to hide out and magically think enough business will keep coming. It might. Or it might not. A few fall into the random poking category. They can at least say they have activity. They will likely generate some modest results. Finally there are a few partners who strategize, focus and approach business development with discipline and an attitude of generosity and authenticity. They are the ones that make the dent. And because they approach their entire life this way, you can bet their dent is much bigger than the business bottom-line.
Get rid of your vacation policy. Stop tying compensation to performance. Pay more to your people than the market demands. Drop the self affirmations and doubt yourself instead. Forget about annual performance reviews. And for goodness sake, pay more attention to your “To Don’t” list than your “To Do” list. Daniel Pink’s recently released Flip Manifesto (available gratis here) offers 16 pieces of advice that run counter to what you might have heard elsewhere and will certainly contradict how your own firm/ company is set up. This is precisely why it is worth the 30-45 minutes it will take you to read it. I liked it so much I have printed it out and highlighted it for a VP (R&D) I am coaching right now. I have chosen to use the paper and ink (85 whole pages worth) because I know he will never get to it if I send him the electronic version and I believe it is something he needs to read right now.
How about you? Is it time to flip some of your long held beliefs?
The key is communication. Many leaders don’t realize how much they have to communicate so I have 3 key skills which I teach. The art of asking powerful questions, the skill of curiosity and the skill of listening. You can talk to any co-active coach and learn about those more deeply but it’s learning how to listen a lot more than speaking and asking questions that really get to the heart of the matter so you can understand what is being said and what isn’t – often more important.
Leader Share Their Vision
Of course a leader needs to be able to share the vision and direction for the team. It floors me how often I coach a leader who makes the assumption their team knows what the direction is without ever having involved them or communicated the vision to them. Do this at your peril – you have to have the whole team going in the same direction and everyone needs to know what that direction is.
Leaders Pick the Right Team
Once you have a shared vision and your team knows what it is it is important to make sure you have the right people on the bus. That phrasing comes from Jim Collin’s book Good to Great. There’s an old adage that says hire slowly and fire fast and it’s really applicable in this leadership situation. Make sure you have the right people on the bus and take swift action to make that happen.
Leaders are Human
The best leaders I’ve seen have been incredibly human. They’ve built trust by being trustworthy, they’ve built respect by being respectful of their team, they have motivated by living their values and convictions, they’ve been heard because they listen so well. They think what’s in it for their team members rather than what’s in it for me. These points are key to being an amazing leader in the workplace.
When you are promoted into a management position there are some important considerations to set yourself up for success. The first is to promote yourself to manager. It may seem simple but it’s important to figure out what you were good at before and let that go.
The winning strategies that had you succeed before are not going to be the same to help you succeed as a manager. For example perhaps you were a great programmer and now you’re going to manage a team of programmers. You need a new skill set and you need to step into that role, so it require promoting yourself and mentally shifting gears.
Next get up to speed as fast as possible. Get your hands on reports, interview some key stakeholders and colleagues, go on some training for management, learn everything you can as fast as you can and at the same time asses the business situation.Are you walking into a start-up, a turn-around situation or is it business as usual – get in there and keep things flowing well. The sooner you know what you’re walking into the sooner you can match your approach to the business situation and start having an impact.
Discuss Expectations as Manager
Now paint a picture. What I mean here is sit down with your boss and get really clear about what success looks like. Come up with the expectations and how you are going to measure yourself against those expectations and how your boss will measure you. It would be a shame to find out 6 months later that your boss is not happy that you are not hitting the mark when you could have sat down at the very beginning and got really clear about what you are needing to create in a management role.
Once you’ve painted a picture of success it’s really important to get some early wins. Maybe you’re stepping into a role where you will deliver a project two years down the road. It’s really important to get your team to have a few wins in the first month or two with you as the manager. It will build trust, the trust the team has for you and it will build your confidence as a manager.
Managers Need Support
Finally the people I’ve coached that have most successfully transitioned into a management role have set themselves up with a community of support. They’ve hired a business coach, got a mentor, sometimes both. They have reached out to their colleagues to build a circle of support. They’ve asked family an friends to be kind during the transition and they’ve leaned on some routines like good sleeping habits, exercise, eating well and having a good time when they are not working to keep life integrated and balanced.
To many professional service providers, the concept of finding new clients and winning work is intimidating. Even the very term “business development (BD)” strikes terror in the hearts of some professionals. Among my coaching clients, the fear often comes from a mistaken assumption that to succeed in BD one has to be an aggressive salesperson. This couldn’t be less true. So put away your fake smile and your clammy handshake. These tips will have you feeling comfortable and improving your BD results in no time:
It’s a marathon, not a sprint: It may take multiple meetings and interactions via phone/email before you’re ready to propose your services or ask for work. Simply focus on advancing your relationship a little each time you interact. This takes the pressure off feeling like you have to land a big contract over lunch.
Meaningful conversations: Sharing meals with prospective clients can help bring in good work. But the most effective business developers always make lunch more than a chit chat over chicken Caesar. Know what you want to achieve and plan some questions that will help you bring the conversation in that direction when the time is right. For example:
What are you working on?
What does success look like for you/your business?
What gets in the way of achieving this success?
What kind of help do you need?
Talk less, listen more: In 2012, it’s no longer about the aggressive pitch. Instead, build a relationship and find common interests so you both win. Have your prepared questions and also let curiosity be your guide. When in front of the prospect, ask yourself what you’re most curious about and pose your questions from there. Your lunch date will find it refreshing.
Let your prospect guide you when to ask for the work: It’s great to have lunches, drinks and conversations. It is also great to actually win work! Each time you interact with a prospect, check in with them. “What is the logical next step? Have I earned the right to propose on this work? Can we start on this small project so we can solve this problem with you?”
For more on effective BD, check out Get Clients Now by C.J. Hayden. Hayden provides an excellent 28 day plan that will get you into action and bring results. And remember: It doesn’t have to be hard. It could even be fun!
If you are like many of the professional services firm partners I coach, you are under ever increasing pressure to bring new clients to the firm, to deepen relations with existing clients and to increase firm revenue. You likely excel in your professional domain and struggle with business development (BD). And even if you are good at it, you often feel torn between logging billable hours and investing in BD.
A few years ago, I wrote a post on how I was defining my target market and my niche. To help me, I used
a concept from Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid. Port recommends having a “red velvet rope policy” to help keep out unwanted clients and bring in only ideal clients. Defining your ideal client and your red velvet rope policy is a necessary step in laying a solid marketing foundation for your BD success. And it’s really quite easy (and arguably fun!):
Describe your ideal client (be as detailed as possible)
Who have you loved serving in the past? What kind of company? What kind of file? What kind of people were you dealing with? What did you like about the work?
If you were bringing in only ideal clients (for your practice area or the firm in general), what characteristics would they need to possess in order for you to do your best work for them? Be selfish! Assume you will only work with the best of the best.
Describe your dud clients (again be as detailed as possible):
What kind of past clients have turned you off/ shut you down/ had behaviours or issues you couldn’t tolerate? What kind of clients/ files should not be getting past your “red velvet rope”?
Once you have a clear picture of your duds and your ideals, look at your current roster of clients and categorize them as ideals, duds or neutrals. Port challenges you to fire the duds to open you up to working with only ideal clients. In theory, I really like the notion. In practice, I believe most of my coaching clients would rather phase out the duds and target their BD efforts on bringing in ideal
Well…your ideal clients are waiting. How about getting clear about who they are so you can find them?!
Simon Sinek has codified how the world’s most inspiring leaders think, act and communicate. And he concludes that they do exactly the opposite of everyone else. In his 2010 TED Talk, Sinek draws his Golden Circle to emphasize how inspiring leaders/ companies communicate from the inside out. First why, then how, then what. Says Sinek,
People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.
As we collectively mourn the loss of Steve Jobs, Sinek illustrates his code with Apple. Apple believes in challenging the status quo (why they do it); they do it thru beautiful design and easy to use technology (how they do it); they happen to make great computers (what they do).
Just this morning I was informally coaching a small business owner friend. She was rushing to write a proposal for a very large Canadian company. Winning this business would be by far, their biggest account to date. As I listened to her talk about how she and her partner rushed to create a demo product and crunched the numbers so they could offer a great price …(what they do), I was struck by how, in rushing to explain what we do and how we do it better than everyone else, we really miss the heart of the matter.
The alternative Sinek offers is to get really grounded in why we do what we do. I would add that gaining a deep understanding of why our prospective client does what he does can be profound. What beliefs do we have in common? This is the sweet spot where magic can happen. I believe that we all need strong champions and challengers in order to live our best life. This is why I coach leaders.
Why do you do what you do? Things will get a whole lot more compelling for you and everyone else once you take the time to figure this out.
It’s happened before. It has been happening again lately. It goes a little like this:
I don’t post anything in my blog for a while (this time is was a long while as I had a baby in March);
I get inspired by all kinds of things that I could write about, but I don’t;
And time passes;
And more time passes. More inspiring ideas swirl around in my head and don’t get written up;
And then my INTIMIDATION GROWS: What do I have to say that someone else hasn’t already said?
And so does my SECOND GUESSING: Is blogging a good use of my time now that I have a baby and a business? Who is my target for these posts anyway?
So I find a nice COMFORT ZONE called “Sons of Anarchy” (I watched two seasons over the past few weeks after Lali was in bed, telling myself I deserved a rest)
And that feels great for a while but under the surface, I know I want to PLAY A BIGGER GAME.
The process it took to become a mother was my bigger game for a few years. Being the kind of mom I want to be will continue to be a “very big game” for me. I have never felt the kind of joy, love, responsibility, potential and vulnerability that I feel now as a mother.
And yet, I find myself looking for my next compelling pursuit, something that will compliment my role as a mom, a business owner and a coach. I want it to be something that inspires me, and will inspire my daughter and others. And I know that staying in my comfort zones too long is not the answer.
I have one idea that is only half baked. It is such a big GULP that it has me running for cover. It involves falling in love with a [smart and sexy] farmer/rancher (like Pioneer Woman) and together building an executive retreat centre where the world’s top executives come (with their families) for the best leadership training in the world, delicious meals and good old fashioned farm work (Yes, coaches, I know I am collapsing two big ideas together…the farmer AND the dell…it is just how I want to see it).
Penelope inspired me. Sadly, it would seem that life on her farm is not going well just now. A few years ago I volunteered on a wonderful organic farm for the better part of a month. I saw first-hand how much work is involved. So I know I am romanticizing life on a farm. Nonetheless, the vision keeps popping up.
The PIG at Les Jardins des Sophie (he became ham that fall).
The only piglet around me these days. She is much less suspicious than the farm pig was...with good reason.
My friend is going to bring Season 3 of Sons of Anarchy soon. It feels good to have taken this little step outside my comfort zone while I ponder whether I will succomb to another season of Sons.
Maybe you know the farmer I need to meet? Maybe you know the setting I need to visit? Or maybe I will marry an architect or contractor and flip houses instead? Or become Canada’s most sought after executive coach? Those are other ideas I have. It’s my bigger game after all.
P.S. And as for breaking through the blog block, I have done it. It took me all day between client meetings and baking pumpkin loaf but I am about to press publish and it feels great. Whether it is a worthy investment of my increasingly scarce time is a topic for another post, or not.
Some of you will remember the recent contest I hosted in February Boy or Girl: Care to Wager? leading up to the birth of my baby girl. I committed to baking my famous chocolate chip cookies for the winner and shipping them if the winner was outside Montreal. Thankfully, the contestant from Jordan didn’t win! Instead, the winner of the cookies was Heather Rossiter of Charlottetown. She and I went to UPEI together.
I took advantage of being local to her the week before last and baked up a batch of cookies while visiting my parents in PEI. I actually added a dark chocolate easter bunny to the cookie batter for a little seasonal je ne sais quoi.
The baking effort made my new boss a little tired so she insisted on resting up before the delivery.
Resting up before the big delivery.
And here’s the happy contest winner. She shared her winnings with her colleagues at the P.E.I Liquor Control Commission and wrote afterword to say they were a big hit.
It seems my new boss was a little sleepy during the actual delivery too.
And so…it’s a fait accompli. Heather tried to convince me that, as the mother of a newborn, I didn’t need to come good on my promise of actually baking the cookies. I would have none of that. A promise is a promise. Keeping my word is something I value highly (in me and in others). And she did come so very close with her guess, after all.
Recently, there have been some pretty significant changes at Chandler Coaches. Namely, there is a new CEO on board and she has a reputation for being pretty demanding. Lali Chandler took her position on March 5, 2011 Since coming on board, staff report large scale changes at the company.
For one, there has been no client service provided since she made her debut! This was a planned stoppage and will continue for the coming months while the new leader and her staff adjust.
Since joining, Chandler has replaced the entire senior management team with her own recruits. Most hail from Canada though one relocated from the US to join Chandler Coaches.
See below for introductions to the new team.
(I am writing this post with Lali in a kangaroo wrap on my chest. This post is really just a trial to see if I can continue to blog as the mother of an infant. It is my third attempt to complete the post over a two day period. And while it looks promising that I will be able to press “publish” soon, I am learing that things can change at any moment. My new little CEO is demanding in a way that only infants can be. Happily, she is adorable and charming which makes “working” for her a labour of love. And I am going to press publish in the next minute or so even if this post is not well edited..it is that or nothing for now.)
For some related posts that are not tongue in cheek ( am having trouble finding good articles..there must be better ones out there?):
…Heather Rossiter of Charlottetown, PEI, whose entry for Boy or Girl: Care to Wager? was within an hour and a pound! Heather submittted March 5th at 10:00 a.m. weighing 5 lbs 8 oz. Lalia MacLeod Chandler (Lali) arrived at 11:13 a.m. on the 5th and weighed 6 lbs 8 oz. Congratulations Heather! There hasn’t been even a moment post your victory until now so I expect your cookies will take a bit of time to get to you but I promise I will come good on the contest.
Here’s a photo of Lali taken during the past few days. She was beautiful to start with and becomes even more so with each passing day.
Sound asleep on her Nana
Thanks everyone for your participation. It was certainly fun leading up to her birth and a good distraction for me too.
My coaching business has been in hibernation for one week. This is intentional as I am due to have a baby around March 4th (that’s in 5-6 days). I have been planning my “leave of absence” for a very long time. At times I have worried that creating a baby and a business at the same time were completely incompatible. At other times, I have felt strongly that they are complimentary projects.
It only occurred to me as I write this post to search for guidance on the net how to put a business on hold. Surprizingly, my search turned up only a few articles (a rarity these days!):
Given the paucity of information, I will share some questions I feel need to be answered in formulating a plan to put your business on hold:
How long will your business be “on hold”??Are you going on vacation? Extended travel? Are you sick? Are you having a baby? If the timeframe can be clearly defined and articulated, it is important to do so. If the timeframe is indefinite, you will need to decide what you are willing to communicate, to whom, and what the consequences might be.
What does “on hold” mean for your business? Will all operations cease for a period of time? Will you still be able to meet some orders or provide some services? What can your customers/ clients / prospects / employees expect while you are away from the business?
What boundaries do you need to set for yourself?What lines in the sand do you need to draw in order to execute the plan you intend? How will you walk away from your business if that is what is needed for whatever your reasons?
What do you need to communicate to others (to set boundaries and expectations for them)? What is your official line? Who needs to know about your plan ( i.e. your clients, colleagues, associates, employees, suppliers etc.)? When will you tell them? Where else will you share the news (i.e. on your website, in your blog, on your company voice mail, in an autoresponder in your email etc.)
Who will support you? Who will support you to stick to your plan? Who do the work if your business is still going to provide some products or services?
How will you manage your finances? What other sources of income will you have (i.e., private or government insurance, savings, line of credit, loans)? Will the business have ongoing expenses even while on hold? Are there new ways to generate income during the on hold period (i.e. referral fees)? Are there any tax filing requirements during the time you will be away from the business? Who will handle this?
What will your current clients and prospects tolerate? Do you have a loyal client base who will accept your leave and come back when your business is back in full tilt? Can they go without your product or service for the period your business will be on hiatus? Would it make more sense to refer them to another business you trust will provide them what they need? Will new prospects who want to work with you/ your business be patient enough to wait or will you lose them to the competition?
What can you maintain?Is there a middle ground that keeps you in the business just to the degree that you can handle (i.e. Can you still post to your business blog? Can you still respond to queries? Can you still attend some industry or networking events?). It is important to know what you still can do while still taking care of your other needs (i.e. looking after a baby or family member, getting treatment. convalescing, travelling etc.)
What is your “come back” plan? While you cannot necessarily expect to turn on the revenue tap the minute you come back to your business, you can plan how you will get things rolling again. Will you come back gradually or all at once? Whom will you contact to let them know you are back? What type of promotional offer could generate the right kind of business faster? Are you able to pre-book any business for when you are back before you leave the business? Might you consider partnering with another business for referrals? Will you need to do other work to generate income during the ramp up period?
How will you course correct? In case you need to do this again in future or want to help a fellow entrepreneur go through this process, how can you keep track of what you’ve done well and your mistakes (your key learnings)? How can you make course adjustments even while you are on leave?
In my case, I am taking a six month leave from my business. I may coach on a very part-time basis after 3-4 months depending on how I feel and whether or not I have a baby that is easy to care for. For the first 3-4 months, I will not do any coaching and I have clearly communicated this to all my clients as well as IMPACT Consulting , a Toronto coaching company for whom I do corporate leadership and business development coaching. While it took me a long time to commit to walking away from my business to take a maternity leave, I am now fully on board and I don’t expect to have any difficulties focussing on motherhood. I started telling clients very early (i.e. last fall) that I was pregnant and would be going on leave. An interesting thing seemed to happen with many of them…they accelerated their own processes in order to be in a good place re: their coaching objectives by the end of February when I planned to wrap up.
For a while, I considered bringing in associates to work under the Chandler Coaches banner. In the end, I decided I would prefer to simply refer work to other coaches whom I trust so that clients would get great coaching and I would not be managing others/ doing invoicing etc while on leave. As my pregnancy has been planned for a long time, I have put in place a plan to manage my finances while on leave.
Some of my clients plan to come back to my coaching practice when I am back. Others have finished their work for now. I will need to continue business development efforts to generate new leads and follow up with existing prospects and former clients.
I am sharing my plan here on my blog and may adjust my work voice mail. In my case though, I am not going to be travelling or in hospital while on leave so I will be able to correspond in a timely way with anyone who contacts me for business.
Time will tell what I am able to maintain. For now, I would like to continue blogging and I may make it to a few coaching breakfasts etc. I am not setting high expectations for myself and at the same time, I want to leave the door open for some part-time coaching before the end of six months if I feel like I am up for it.
So that’s my plan. In truth, I would love to be so inspired by my new little baby that I follow in Pam Slim’s footsteps and have an extremely creative business period post baby.
For now, while I wait for labour to start, I have time to ask you: Have I forgotten anything for my own business hibernation? Does my 10 point list need anything else? Have you got any real life “business on hold” stories to share?I would love to hear from you. ———
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I just finished making cookies (see the packages below). Is this nesting behaviour or simply a craving? No matter. Tomorrow I am 39 weeks pregnant and I just had the idea that it would be fun to have a blog contest. My brother Tim and his wife Natasha called me last night from Singapore (they are travelling around the world for 7 months) and urged me to get my father going on taking bets in the family. He’s agreed to be our bookie for the family but let’s make this little competition a little more interesting.
Penelope Trunk sent out books. I have been promising to send out cookies so here’s the deal: Guess the baby’s sex and then come closest in terms of birth date, time of birth and birth weight, ; if you are the winner, I will send you a big batch of cookies in the mail (or deliver them to you if you are in Montreal) as soon as I adjust to being a new mother.
Here are a few facts to help you (and to even the playing field a bit):
My due date is March 4th (one week from tomorrow);
My doctor doesn’t want to let me go over my due date by much if at all (given my age);
The estimated weight of the baby at the last ultrasound (at 34 weeks) was 5 lbs 3 oz which was precisely average.
Ok…so….is my bundle a girl?
Or a boy?
When will he/ she be born (date and time)?
How much will he/ she weigh?
A big batch of cookies hangs in the balance so let’s hear from you below in the comments section by midnight tomorrow (Friday the 25th, 2011).
To qualify, you need to get the sex right; next you need to be closet to the date and time without going over (like The Price is Right); finally, I will look at birth weight.
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Photo from Cafe Johnsonia blog site at cafejohnsonia.blogspot.com
My friend James and I were talking about happiness yesterday over tea and delicious lemon cookies (I add the cookie detail because it’s hard not to be happy, at least for a short while, when one is consuming delectable cookies). James is not the kind of guy to laugh and smile all the time yet he is consistently a very peaceful and contented guy. I tend to agree with the happiness set point theory which essentially says that we all have a genetically determined mood level that the vagaries of life may nudge upward or downward, but only for a while until we return to our set point.
I have been appreciating how happy I feel lately as I expect my baby, am learning all kinds of new things, have just wrapped up some very meaningful coaching work with a number of clients and am surrounded by support. Perhaps I am enjoying how my life circumstances have nudged me upward for now. In honour of this, I want to share a few resources:
My close friend and fellow coach Tanya Geisler just launched The Joy Pages. She wrote The Joy Pages in honour of her mom who died several years ago. Her mom lived by the mantra “don’t postpone joy!” and Tanya has wanted to create these pages for a long time. You can download her interactive workbook for free by subscribing at her site; just look to the right hand side for the beautiful trees that are sprawling off the margins on purpose!
I am getting really sick of Oprah. I caught as bit of one of her shows while she was in Australia and thought to myself “Good God, this woman is really over the top with all her favourite things…”. Martha Beck, life coach, on the other hand, often writes worthwhile articles in O Magazine. Last month she wrote The 20 Questions That Could Change Your Life. In coaching, we are all about powerful questions and I believe Martha has hit on some that really measure up for those looking for meaningful/ happy lives.
Our March book club selection is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Keener that I am, I bought it and read it this week in the hopes that even though my baby will surely be born by our book club meeting, I might be able to attend with my babe. I really didn’t like this book and I cannot tell you exactly why. I think it is because Gretchen’s year long happiness project had too many foci, too many rules, too many projects and was too damn cerebral. I did, however, like her notion of creating her own splendid truths and some personal commandments. Read this book if you really want to make happiness a serious project.
Be an experiential epicure. A steady diet of simple pleasures will keep you above your set point. Find the small things that you know give you a little high — a good meal, working in the garden, time with friends — and sprinkle your life with them. In the long run, that will leave you happier than some grand achievement that gives you a big lift for a while.
Andy Warhol Shower Cupcakes ..."the idea of waiting for something makes it more enticing". The cupcakes at the other shower were "to die for" too!
This past Saturday I attended Bientôt Bébe, the hospital’s prenatal course, at the Royal Victoria where I will be delivering my baby sometime very soon. I was THE only single woman there among a sea of a dozen couples. The nurse who was leading the course didn’t seem used to having single women in the class and her language the entire day was focussed on the couple. When it came time to practice massage during labour, I was the “lucky” contestant called to the stage to be her guinea pig.
Fortunately, I have thick skin about this stuff. Even still, as we watched the video in which the husband was incredibly supportive during labour (many friends who are mothers would say this is the exception), I found myself feeling sad and very on my own. Certainly, I would love to to sharing the birthing process and my newborn with a loving partner and father. Ultimately though, I chose to have a baby myself because it didn’t feel right to create a family with any of the men I have been in relationships with. As I have told many friends, I have a lot of confidence that I will someday be sharing my child with a loving partner. I am just doing it backwards out of biological necessity. Perhaps my love life will unfold in keeping with this kookie horoscope a friend sent me earlier this week:
“CANCER (June 21-July 22): Your love story has elements of a farce mixed
with a soap opera, fairy tale, and ghost story. For a normal human being,
it might be too intense and convoluted to deal with; it requires so much
willing suspension of disbelief and involves so much letting go of certainty
that no one in their right mind would agree to its demands. Luckily, you’re
not a normal human being these days, and you’re not particularly in your
right mind. That’s why I say unto you: Ride this snaky tale for all it’s
worth. Enjoy every plot twist and riddle as if you’ve been given an epic
myth you can ponder and learn from for the next ten years. Happy
Valentine Daze, Cancerian!”
The flip side to this “woe is me” perspective above is that I have been showered with support through my fertility journey and particularly though my pregnancy. I cannot tell you if I have had more support as a single woman than a woman in a couple would have had but I suspect the answer is YES.
The newly painted baby room and some adorable gifts hanging out together.
If you read my last post, you know I like to make lists. I would love to make comprehensive list of all the support I have had just to see it for myself but I will surely forget to acknowledge someone. Instead I will talk in slightly more general terms: Two close friends hosted baby showers for me in Toronto and Montreal respectively. My Toastmasters group also held a “baby shower” themed evening; another close friend attended many medical procedures with me and will be with me in labour too; my dad flew up to Montreal last week from Charlottetown to do house projects and my aunt had flown up earlier and help me get organized; friends have done everything from sort baby clothes hand me downs to moving furniture and have even painted the baby room from top to bottom; other friends and my sister gave me maternity clothes (and baby clothes); my landlord has been shovelling all the snow; some of my clients have sent gifts; my mom is flying up on my due date to help me for 3 weeks! And I even received a baby book in the mail from my favourite blogger Penelope Trunk, who said I didn’t really qualify for her book give away offer because my baby wasn’t even born yet and then proceeded to send me a lovely book with a yellow bow anyway!
Duck at the Door from Penelope Trunk
And so, what I am learning these days is that perhaps I can have everything I want in life, just not all at the same time. And that having a supportive family and an incredible group of friends, colleagues and clients helps me feel strong. I am certainly not alone in any of this. And I am GRATEFUL.
I have given myself full permission to blog on whatever topic inspires me these days. Generally, I like to tie my posts to some type of business theme. As I wrap up my work to take a few months off for a maternity leave, I am naturally more in tune with my naval and all things baby. Nonetheless, I think there are parallels one can draw to business too. Being an entrepreneur can be a very lonely endeavour unless one is surrounded by a village of support.
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I am a list maker. At any given time these days I have lists on the go for:
My work “to do’s” (will you think me quite anal when I tell you this particular list has a dozen sub-sections?)
Tasks in preparation for the arrival of my baby (due March 4th)
Shopping in preparation for the baby and my trip to the hospital for labour and delivery
Business development prospects
Thank you notes to write
Making lists and accomplishing the items is satisfying to me. It also helps me to focus. Did you know that the brain of a pregnant woman is 3-8% smaller? I cannot blaim pregnancy though. I have been a list maker for as long as I can remember. You will see below what motivates me to make lists but before I expose myself, I want to share one particular list with you.
This is a list of all the books I have read since the beginning of December. I knew I had been reading a lot but was astounded when I listed them all.
Insert good fiction book here…anyone have any suggestions? I would like to read something that doesn’t talk about the five steps on how to soothe your baby with the Cuddle Cure!
I said I have a point and I do. I could talk about how making lists increases productivity but you likely know that already. What is way more interesting to me is what motivates me to make all these lists (and what motivated me to read like crazy during the past two months). I believe it is fear. Fear of forgetting something and looking bad. Fear of not delivering and dissappointing someone. Fear of not being prepared. And in the case of the reading…fear of having no time to ever read again once I have a child!
Yes, of course I am also motivated by productivity, great client service, and especially all the learning I gain from books. But isn’t it interesting that fear is right up there?
I wouldn’t change how I have behaved the past couple of months. I will soon wind down from my work and I will feel good knowing I have served my clients well and that I am as prepared as one can be to have my baby. Similarly, I wouldn’t unread any of the books I choose to read.
But isn’t it interesting to notice all the places fear shows up? Where does it show up for you?
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My Nanny MacLeod in her new residence being visited by my brother's dog Gracie.
Two weeks ago, my family (well, really my parents and my aunt) moved my 90 year old grandmother from her own home near my parents place to a community care home.
The Not So Funny Part
A number of years ago, Nanny was diagnosed as having early stage Alzheimer’s Disease. At the time, she was simply forgetful. Since her diagnosis, she has managed to live in her own home albeit with ever increasing support from my parents, my aunt and several neighbours. For as long as I can remember, her response to “how are you?” has been “physically, I am fine…but there is not much between my ears”. Nonetheless, in her mind, she has still been taking out her own garbage, cooking her own meals, baking, and cutting her own grass. In reality, she has no short-term memory and hasn’t been doing any of this for a long while. Ironically, she still does the daily word jumble and cryptoquote from The Guardian. That baffles the mind.
Reaching an agreement to move Nanny took a very long time and was very hard on my mom and my aunt for different reasons. It was particularly difficult because my grandmother threatened to go kicking and screaming and a few times even suggested she would take poison if they attempted to move her.
I spent one night with my grandmother in a hotel room in Halifax this past September during my brother’s wedding. Several times during the night, I witnessed her efforts to claw her way out of the room in total confusion. Admittedly, I wasn’t convinced she would settle into a new setting very easily. What I was convinced about, though, was the need for my mother and my aunt to take some type of action, at least on a trial basis.
The Make You Smile Part
Two weeks ago, the long discussed move went down. I think we all held our breath to see what would happen. My family did everything they could to make it easy on Nanny (i.e. my dad moved her TV and stereo in before she arrived, my mother stayed overnight with her the first night, my aunt played cribbage with her as a distraction, her neighbours arrived with flowers and chocolates etc.). And while she was pretty confused by nightfall, she didn’t bolt for the door. And she didn’t take poison!
The Make You Laugh Out Loud Part
About a week ago, we all got this email from my mom:
Thought you would all be interested in knowing what Nanny has been up to during the past week. I had a chat with the activity director at Andrew’s today and she tells me that Mom has attended all of the scheduled events and always appears to be fully participating and enjoying herself. I know she does not remember where she has been [after the fact] but when in the moment she is happy.
Here’s what she has been doing:
Several afternoon concerts
Fun and Fitness (4 mornings a week)
Church (twice already)
Resident birthday party (held once a month for all those who celebrate in the month)
And you will love this one-yeesterday she went to ukelele lessons!!!!
Tomorrow is Bingo and Monday is games day.
… That’s a lot of progress in one week don’t you think? I walked her down to supper and she went in smiling and took her seat. Yesterday, I took her out for a hair cut and she just walked right back in without question. Perhaps there are good things about not having any short term memory.
I know that there will be set backs but it has convinced me that she is in the right place.
My parents took Nanny to their home for dinner on Saturday night and upon returning her back to her new home, she asked the front desk clerk, “Have any men been calling for me?” Often, her lack of inhibitions can be irksome and inappropriate. Sometimes it is just downright playful and funny!
This Whole StoryRe-affirms a Few Things For Me:
When in doubt, choose forward motion and make a decision (and then do everything in your power to make sure it was a good decision or be willing to make a new decision if things don’t pan out);
At 35 weeks pregnant, I look cuter than this groundhog but our dimensions could be similar.
This morning, I saw my obstetrician for a regular visit. I have been noticing lately that each visit unfolds in exactly the same way:
Nurse/ receptionist: “Go pee and then I will weigh you” (She actually says, “Did you go pee pees yet?” but I find it hard to write this and I find it so bizarre that these playful baby talk words come from HER mouth).
Me: I say nothing and simply move fast. I have learned that she doesn’t actually want me to reply. She just wants me to produce the peed upon little litmus stick with as little fuss as humanly possible.
Nurse/ receptionist: She weighs me in lbs and kgs and then indicates for me to sit so she can take my blood pressure. No conversation takes place and somehow I know I am not to speak. When all the accounting is done, she says, “Come on. Follow me.” I know by the swiftness of her pace I am supposed to hurry.
My OB/GYN: “Bonjour! Ça va bien?”
Him: “Any contractions, discharge, bleeding?”
Me: “No. Just Braxton Hicks.”
Him: “The kid is moving?”
Him: “Do you talk to the kid?”
Me: “Sometimes. Not enough.”
Him: “Ok. I’m going to step out. You take your clothes off from the waist down. I”ll be right back and we’ll check your cervix.” He returns moments later, measures my uterus with a tape measure and then says: “Ok. It’s going to be cold…” (He does the cervical examine…it takes him about 5 seconds) ”Good. Cervix is long, closed. The way we like it.” He says the exact same phrase everytime.
Him: “Ok. I will step out again and be back in a minute.” I get dressed and brush up on my questions before he reappears. ”Questions?”
Me: ”Is it ok to eat and drink during labour? I usually have about 3-4 questions so this is just a sample.
Him: “I have no objections. Next question?”
And so it continues until I have all my questions answered. Sometimes there is something else like a requisition for standard blood tests or an ultrasound that throws off the routine a little. But mostly we stick to the script. He’s kind and nice and efficient. It encourages the same in me.
I usually get a little bonus parting comment at the end: “You don’t have diabetes so eat what you want!” or my recent personal favourite,”You have an excellent recipe for success!” Comments like these come with a little sly smile.
Unlike my pregnancy itself, which seems to bring something new each day– nausea, heartburn, aching hips, a tender lower back, growing breasts, puffy legs, no symptoms at all (rare but it has occurred) or manic levels of energy–each of my doctor’s appointments have been practically identical. It’s like I am living in the movie Ground Hog Day.
And what I am learning, after repeat attempts at getting pregnant, is that this little doctor patient routine is incredibly reassuring and the perfect treatment for this patient!
In this unpredictable life, what routines reassure you?
A special homemade cake for Rowan's 4th birthday, January 2011.
I haven’t posted in more than a month and I cannot tell you how many times I have planned to post and how many ideas I have had about things I wanted to write about. I was fully intending on writing about what I am most proud of in 2010 like I did last year. And now it’s January 23rd and I haven’t done it. It’s truly ironic because there are so many things I feel so good about in 2010 (like finally succeeding to get pregnant, growing my coaching business substantially, spending some fantastic times with my family and friends, and making this kick ass cake for Rowan).
My close friend (and fellow coach) Tanya Geisler helped me break my writer’s block this past week through a simple reframe (she’s a very good coach):
What if your blog was just for you? What if you stopped writing what you think your readers want to hear and simply wrote about what you are learning?
Shear and simple brilliance! Shifting my focus to making my blog a journal of what I am learning (on any subject from leadership development to making complicated cakes) gives me a lot of freedom to simply write. I was telling Tanya that I enjoy recaping sections of business books I am reading as it helps me to solidfy my own understanding of the topic. Tanya again:
Great! Write to lock in your own learning. There are sure to be others who will appreciate that. But let their enjoyment be a by- product and drop the pressure to write for them.
Last Monday I attended a presentation by C.C. Chapman, author of Content Rules at 3rd Tuesday in Montreal (and yes 3rd Tues was on a Monday as Toronto got him on the Tues.). I didn’t get much from his talk other than “write about what you like and be yourself”. I have heard this message before. Combined with Tanya’s reframe though, it started to sink in.
And so it shall be. I will be writing about what I am learning and taking the pressure off writing specifically for small business owners or corporate leaders or woman going through transition. Maybe I wil change my mind in a while. Maybe my blog will start being all about mompreneurs as offered by my friend Deb Hinton (my baby is due in less than 6 weeks). From where I sit at the moment though, with a decent sized belly, some heartburn and no baby in my arms yet, I actually hope not… but I won’t make any promises. Life as I know it is about to change!
n this TED Talk , Chip Conley, owner of Joie de Vive hotels on the US west coast talks about gross national happiness (G.N.H), a concept started in Bhutan and now used by 40 countries. He encourages businesses (and countries) to place much more emphasis on measuring the intangibles.
Measuring the Tangibles in a Coaching Business
With a little discipline, it is rather easy to measure:
$ per coaching client or lifetime value of a coaching client;
length of time in months that a coaching client stays;
average hourly rate earned per client;
Revenue per month/ year etc.
Measuring the Intangibles in a Coaching Business
It is more challenging to think of intangible measures and more challenging still to figure out a way to count them (and as one person commented about the TED talk below…if you can measure does that make it tangible?):
how often my clients say the coaching is helping them (either during the session or after);
how many people are referred by satisifed clients;
how often I learn something really useful from a coaching client (I can tell you it’s often!);
how often I feel good after a coaching session.
Do these metrics make sense through the eyes of “gross business happiness”? Have a look at Chip Conley in his talk on TED and let me know your thoughts on how I can change my business metrics to focus also on happiness and other intangibles. I would love your ideas.
Picture this: you are a barista at a Second Cup attending to your customers on a typical Monday morning. One of your regular customers walks in and asks for her regular coffee and then you notice she`s accompanied by a photographer, a camera man and a few other people..and they are all looking at you.
Anita Nowak and Raquel Lanziner. Photo by Dario Ayala, Montreal Gazette photographer.
The regular customer, my friend Anita Nowak launches into a little story about how she and a group of friends get together each year at Christmas to raise money for charity and how this year, $1675 was raised for the David Suzuki Foundation. Raquel, the barista, listens attentively and gradually realizes that the cameras are there to photograph her as Anita tells her that our group has decided to redirect $600 of the funds to her so she can have an MRI to diagnose the back pain that has stopped her from being able to ballet dance.
Raquel, overwhelmed with the news yet still full of grace, comes around the counter to hug Anita (I got one too!); she cannot believe this is happening to her. She thought she would have to wait 6 months to a year for the MRI; she really didn`t know what she was going to do because just last week she was among 3 people invited to a special workshop in Banff for summer 2011 but her spot would be given to someone else if she couldn`t dance.
Susan Schwartz, Gazetter reporter, was there to capture the story. And because of Susan`s story (and Anita`s media savy), the story continued to gain momentum. There is a follow up story in this morning`s Gazette.
Since the story ran in yesterday`s paper there have been the following highlights:
1) Susan Schwartz received this email (which shall remain anonymous):
Drinking my morning coffee, reading the paper, and you hit the spot. Please allow me to share in the glow of goodwill and kindness of Anita and friends. I would like to make up the $600 to the wonderful Suzuki association, AND important to me, pay Anita’s ticket (we stayed longer than we thought and Anita got a parking ticket). Good Karma needed and deserved here…while I am no scientist, there apparently is research that shows that the true act of giving creates real positive hormonal responses…I’m finishing writing this letter to you feeling pretty good, with a smile on my face, and it’s a wonderful way to start the day…please pass my warmest regards to Anita and friends…maybe next year, she will allow me to send a small token of my respect to her group’s organization of choice.
2) Montreal physician Sheldon Elman, CEO of the Medisys Health Group, called to offer an MRI for Lanziner at no charge;
3) Physician Jeffrey Brock, CEO of a company called MedExtra, emailed to offer to review Lanziner’s MRI and propose a treatment plan, also at no charge.
4) Sgt. David Sedgwick of Westmount Public Security emailed Anita: “In the spirit of the season, and to keep the ‘good karma’ intact, I’d like to offer to take back the parking ticket that you received” .
5) At 1 p.m. yesterday Raquel had her MRI at Medvue. Dr. Elman phoned her later with the results: a herniated disc, which she is confident can be managed with rest and other conservative treatment.
Today, Raquel is flying home to Vancouver for the holidays, armed with the knowledge that her back problem is curable and she will dance again!
I have been cleaning out my filing cabinet for what seems like days. It’s 95% done now and boy oh boy does it feel good. It’s like cleaning out one’s files, cleans out one’s head! Anyway, I came across a single sheet that someone sent to me last year (I wish I could remember who the sender was). It’s called She Let Go and it was written by Ernest Holmes, in Science of the Mind which was first published in 1926. I am filing in under “Inspiration” as of now.
This time last year, I was in a very different place. I had just had a miscarriage and this short reading really hit the spot. This year, I am in a very different place…29 weeks weeks pregnant tomorrow! Maybe it’s because I let go?
She Let Go
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear. She let go of the judgments. She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head. She let go of the committee of indecision within her. She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons. Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice. She didn’t read a book on how to let go. She didn’t search the scriptures. She just let go. She let go of all of the memories that held her back. She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward. She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go. She didn’t journal about it. She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer. She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper. She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope. She just let go.
She didn’t analyze whether she should let go. She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter. She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment. She didn’t call the prayer line. She didn’t utter one word. She just let go.
No one was around when it happened. There was no applause or congratulations. No one thanked her or praised her. No one noticed a thing. Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort. There was no struggle. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be. A small smile came over her face. A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.
What do you quietly need to let go of without effort or struggle to bring a small smile to your face?
Back in June my friend Deborah Hinton sent me a link to a post entitled Life After Worry. At the time, I was busy so I filed it for future reading….like on a Friday night when I had planned to attend a Christmas party but feel too tired to go out in the cold again. Given some events of this week, I cannot get over the timeliness of reading this post.
Life Before Worry Ends
The whole notion of worry strikes a chord with me this week based on a couple of interactions I had with people I like very much. In the first case I was the recipient of the other person’s worry. When I told this person about my plans for a maternity leave (3 months completely off and maybe 6) , she emailed this:
I have to be honest. I am concerned about you. I have run my own business since 20xx. You cannot turn work on and off to fit your plans. You have no second income to fall back on. I am concerned that work will not be there exactly when you need it and you may be faced with very limited choices. I don’t want to see you in a difficult situation.
Hmm…sadly I didn’t sleep well that night.
I was the worrier in the other instance. I told a friend, in a heart to heart we had this week, that when she runs really low on money or isn’t sure of her job situation, I really worry about her.
What has been dawning on me since, is that my “concern” is no different than the concern expressed in the email above. Rather than showing my love, care and support, worrying about my friend undermines her ability to take care of herself and land on her feet.
Intention vs Impact
In both cases above, the intention is support. The impact, however, doesn’t feel like support at all. It feels instead like being thrown up upon with a projectile vomit of the fear! Ick!
Single Motherhood and Entrepreneurship
Certainly I have some fears about how single motherhood and entrepreneurship go together. Mostly I manage them well (except in the middle of the night after an email full of worry). I know I am resilient, resourceful, and hardworking. I know I have been financially independent for many years. I know I have always saved well and that having earned well as a sales director in my most recent career is what has given me the freedom to retrain and build my coaching business from the ground up.
Walking Away From Momentum
If most of the opportunities in my current pipeline land, January will be my highest revenue month to date since starting my business in June 2008. In some ways, it feels ironic to be wanting to/ needing to wind down my work by mid February when there is so much momentum, but as my friend Claire points out:
Your baby project and your business have always been parallel pursuits so it’s not ironic that they are both coming to fruition at the same time.
Life After Worry
As a book end to my worrying colleague and my worrying about another friend, this unsolicited comment came from a good friend when I wrote to her that I was proud this week of reaching my revenue targets for Q4.
Congratulations on hitting your targets!!! I certainly show you are able to do itt!!! Isn’t that comforting before you go off on maternity leave? You’ll make this all happen Lisa! I have no doubt in your ability and desire to live the life you want and this is only one milestone!
Even my mom, normally a consumate worrier, said this:
Congratulations on meeting your financial goals. That is awesome given your situation and the fact that you have been feeling so miserable. It is certainly not a matter of luck as you have put so much hard work into this…I know you will find a way.
Now those comments are refreshing. There is no sign of worry or doubt. Only confidence and genuine championing.
The Choice is Yours
So what will it be for you?
To worry about yourself and those around you and project concern all over the place? or,
To stop your worry hamster on his wheel and choose to trust in your own resilience and the strength of others around you?
This afternoon I was at prenatal yoga. During the relaxation at the end (which I truly wish was a daycare style nap time as it usually ends just as I am falling asleep), my mind was flipping from topic to topic: what labour will be like, my first sexual encounter, what I would eat for lunch, the snow outside etc.
It’s normal for the mind to flip flop all over the place. Call it monkey brain or whatever you want. In yoga (and apparently in child birth), the key is to observe the mind as it does this rather than be run by the mind. Of course, today I was much too hooked into my thinking, and much too sleepy, to be the observer. And none of this is the point of my post anyway (she says, halfway into the post).
I would add “Current Reality“. You don’t always need to be thinking about it, but I believe you do need to have an honest grounding in your current reality so that you know where you are now. No hiding from the truth. No down playing. No upselling. No spin. Your GPS and Google Maps both do a better job when they know where you are starting from.
What would you like to be telling me one year from now (on November 29, 2011) in the major areas of your life, career and business? Here”s what I would like to be telling you:
I am the mother of a healthy 9 month old baby and I love being a mother; I am working with amazing coaching clients and my business didn’t suffer because I took 6 months of maternity leave; I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight and have never felt better/ healthier; I have met a great guy and we really enjoy spending time together.
This past Friday, several business owners and professionals came together to “Finish Strong in 2010…and Play a Bigger Game in 2011″. Denise Desmeules and I facilitated the workshop and coached participants to create their own vision.
Since the process works so well, I want to share it here as my holiday offering to you. It’s a 6 step process to Finish Strong in 2010…and Play a Bigger Game in 2011. Granted, it’s easier to do with a coach in a concentrated focus session or workshop AND you can definitely do it on your own:
Acknowledge what you are proud of in 2010- I am proud of my tenacity in becoming pregnant and my courage in business. What are you proud of?
Take a snap shot of your current reality- there’s a great tool called the Wheel of Life (I have also made one called the Wheel of Business) to help you quickly rate your satisfaction with all the important areas. This simple exercise can be very telling. What’s calling your attention?
Transport yourself into your bigger future- I recommend actually moving to a new physical location (leave that current reality behind) and envision yourself one year (or two, or three..you decide) into the future. This phase has no limitations and a dreamy quality. Let yourself go! In each of the areas of your wheel, what do you want to be saying at x date in the future ? Write one sentence about each area in the wheel. Remember…present tense only! By now, one or two areas are likely really standing out as the areas you need to focus on. Pick one area for now and work through the rest of the steps. You can always come back and worth through steps 3-6 for other areas. Bonus step: You might want to draw your bigger future. This can be an image, a symbol, a metaphor or a bunch of powerful words on a piece of paper. The point is to let your creativity run and capture your dream in picture format rather than just words.
Get clear on the benefits and costs- this step is muy importante! List out what acheiving your bigger future will bring you. On the flip side, get good and clear what it will cost you not to realize your bigger future.
Reduce the tension through action planning- the first step here is to state a S.M.A.R.T. goal and then brainstorm possible actions before you narrow the field. From your brainstormed list, pick a few actions that resonate with you and will truly help move toward your bigger future. And for goodness sake, pick a timeline and tell someone who will help you stay accountable to yourself (again, coaching is great for this AND you can do it with a colleague, a friend, a partner…as long as it’s someone you trust).
Enter the land of commitment!- the final step is as important as every step before it. Simply stated: who do you need to BE in order to achieve your bigger future? Receptive? Tenacious? Open-minded? Free? Passionate? You get to decide what quality will serve you best. Again, I recommend actually drawing a metaphorical line in the floor and stepping over it. Once in the land of commitment, you have a much greater probability of creating your bigger future.
What are you proud of? What’s your current reality? What do you want? What will you have when you get it? What will it cost you if you don’t get it? What steps do you need to take to get where you want to go? And finally, who do you need to BE? Your future is waiting. How can I help?
P.S. By doing steps 2 and 3, you create a gap between where you are now (your current reality) and where you want to be (your bigger future). This is good because nature seeks to resolve this tension according to Robert Fritz. Think of an elastic band stretched between your two hands. The tension reduces when your two hands come together. Same deal for your current reality and your bigger future. The closer they come together, the less tension there will be.
P.S.S. It bears mentioning that when I use “bigger future’ it doesn’t mean bigger = more. Your bigger future might mean less responsibility, fewer material goods etc.
More than 40 years ago, McLuhan said, “the medium is the message”. This couldn’t be truer for Couture Media. This budding Montreal-based company offers tailor-made radio for business. What does that mean? Essentially, Couture Media creates custom music compilations with or without verbal messaging that play in retail stores, hotels and other businesses that pride themselves on creating a total brand experience which goes far beyond designed visuals.
Couture Media was born in 2008, the brainchild of Kara Yamich, a former music director at Q92.5 and her colleague Leo Da Estrela, who still works as Assistant Program Director at the same station. These two partners have a depth of experience in terrestrial radio (I learned a bunch of cool radio jargon while interviewing them!) and challenged themselves to create a business from what they originally thought was a “silly” idea.
Their biggest competitor in North America, DMX, has been around for 20 years using satellite radio to offer channels. DMX offers a less custom brand experience but are a very strong and established competitor who is becoming increasingly customized. From the start, Kara and Leo eliminated the limitations of satellite by delivering their content directly via the internet with their data stored “in the cloud” (cloud computing means storing information in the web space instead of on expensive servers); by using the internet as a platform and cloud computing, they can change things very quickly and have the changes reflected at their client sites (i.e. retails stores around the world) about 8 seconds later. It also means they need next to no infrastructure to run their business.
What’s been easiest so far is achieving an international scope. Since the internet is their platform, they can create custom programming for clients anywhere in the world. One of their earliest contracts came from the Golden Tulip Farah in Casablanca, Morocco.
Kara’s already made the leap to full-time entrepreneurialism and Leo is making plans to join her full-time at Couture Media. What has been challenging so far is creating enough cash flow to pay salaries for both of them (who have families to help support).
That they have passion, dedication and a big vision, there is no doubt. They envision Couture Media will be:
The world leader in building brand loyalty through music and being the leader in brand marketing when it comes to music and online channels (eventually branching out into music licensing for commercial, TV and film, consultants in music marketing on multi-platforms and being able to operate the business from anywhere in the world).
What they don’t have is enough sales. While they could likely get some financing to support them for a while, I feel strongly that they need a solid business development strategy and a consultative sales system/ sales process to bring rigour to their pursuits. And they identified themselves that they need more contacts for marketing directors at major chain retailers.
When people who are technically very strong decide to go into business for themselves in search of freedom and making their own way, Michael Gerber in The e-Myth, calls it an “entrepreneurial seizure”. Those who succeed in business recognize that they need to work “on the business” as owners and managers at least as much as they work “in the business” delivering the technical work.
Kara and Leo have learned a ton since starting Couture Media and are working to set themselves up for success on all fronts. A hard focus on business development and cash flow (i.e. making sales) will ensure the future “sounds” great for Couture Media!
If a nutshell, if you are selling an idea, a product, or a service, you had better focus on what will take away pain.
The Heath brothers give some great examples in the article: a book for men explaining pregnancy and the changes their females partners experience= vitamin; What to Expect When You’re Expecting (for women) = Aspirin.
I made up these examples:
A coach selling “values clarification and vision”= vitamin; a coaching selling “be in your dream job by x” = Aspirin
A consultant selling ” team collaboration”= vitamin; a consultant selling “a 50 percent increase in sales”= Aspirin
Sometimes when you get to close to your product or service, you can fall into the trap of promoting vitamins. It might be time to ask some of your best clients* (or the prospects you would love to work closely with) some powerful questions to find out what they need most. Vitamins are nice but if they have pain and you aren’t taking care of it, someone else surely will.
*If you work in a company and don’t see yourself as a salesperson, remember that we are all salespeople…we all have to “sell” ideas everyday in our jobs. The vitamin/ Aspirin comparison applies to you too! Ask your boss, your colleagues and other stakeholders powerful questions to ensure you know their felt needs…then come up with Aspirin to ease their pain.
Riddle:What has 7 words or less, usually starts with what (and less often with how, who, where or why), and has a great impact?
Wait, wait, wait! Before you answer, I will give you a bunch of examples:
What’s your dream?
What are you proud of?
What’s true for you?
What do you want?
What stops you?
What are you making more important?
What are you tolerating?
What do you want more of?
How could things be different?
Okay. What’s your answer? ( If I could figure out how to do it, I would type the answer upside down and put it at the bottom of the page like they used to do in the Highlights magazines of my childhood).
The answer is POWERFUL QUESTIONS! Asking powerful questions is a fundamental coaching skill. I am convinced the world would be a better place if everyone learned the Art of Powerful Questions. This well written article includes a story about how some large German companies like Bayer place such a high value on powerful questions that they actually employe a Direktor Grundsatzfragen (a.k.a. the Director of Fundamental Questions). If I spoke German and wanted to work in Germany, I think this would be a such a great role. Plus, it is almost as much fun to say as Fahrvergnügen.
What’s possible if you awaken your inner Direktor Grundsatzfragen? (I know. That’s 9 words, or 10 without the contraction). Sometimes you have to break the mold to be really powerful!
If you’d like me to send you a PDF that is chalk full of powerful questions, comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bonus question: What skill goes hand in hand with powerful questions? Coaches are not eligible to answer
This month’s book club selection was a double whammy for me: good reading and good for business. The title–Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation–intrigued me when my friend proposed it and the timeline she issued us was a challenge. The book was only released around Oct 5th so we had to order it and read it within 3 weeks. We all said yes and off we were.
Johnson does for innovation what Gladwell did for success: shows us all the evidence of what needs to stack up to create good ideas. His concepts like “the adjacent possible”, “liquid networks”, and “the slow hunch” made for great book club discussion (7 present liked the book and one hated it). Read it yourself if you are intrigued by the topic. And if you just want tips on how to be innovative, I share with you the book’s conclusion (without all the technical rationale):
P.S. Widely read blogger, Penelope Trunk, recently wrote ”people sometimes complain to me that I have too many links to random stuff, and mostly I think, ‘Just don’t click on the links if you don’t like it’.” Well said Penelope! If you you happen to be in D.C. on November 11th, you can meet her in person at the Brazen Careerist party.
One principle of design: designing for emergence, struck a cord with me. Quoting designer Van Alstyne:
Each person’s individual life is emergent in the sense that it unfolds in ways that can be surprizing and sometimes quite wonderful. The nature of emergence is such that it cannot be fully controlled or designed. But you can encourage it; hence, you can design for emergence by providing the right conditions for growth, blossoming, enrichment, and evolution.
To design your life for emergence, you need to plan for possibilities and also allow for surprizes. Companies like Google, Facebook and Apple are excellent examples cited in Glimmer of companies who design for emergence. They create a platform that creates the conditions for growth and then marvel at the applications and uses that emerge.
Imagine if you designed your life and business in this way…to keep learning and adapting, focussing on conditions for growth and marvelling at the surprizes that come.
Design offers four principles:
Design your immediate surroundings (your ecosystem) in a manner that is self-sustaining and conducive to growth;
Some of my clients struggle with creating the life and business they want. They place too much pressure on themselves for a perfect design and get stalled when they cannot come up with it. There would be so much more available to them if they simply started anywhere, created a platform for emergence and and started living their design poised to notice and adapt to the marvels that emerge!
My coach colleague Denise Desmeules and I have designed a workshop called Finish Strong…and Play a Bigger Game in 2011. It’s for busy business owners and professionals who want to design their life and business for 2011. If you are in Montreal, we’d love to have you join us on November 26th from 1-4 (price includes a 1:1 coaching session too:).
Fibonaci Spiral- image from Wikipedia
Why the sunflower image above? Van Alstyne talks about how sunflowers are designed for emergence (based on how their growth pattern follows the Fibonacci sequence…I am including this for the benefit of mathmaticians who might be reading…would a mathmatician really read this blog?). Essentially, sunflowers replicate the same growth over and over again and grow to insane sizes. He sees our human lives as having the same potential.
An overwhelming majority of people who have experienced professional coaching are satisfied with their experience and would recommend coaching to others, according to a new study by theInternational Coach Federation (ICF).
the article goes on to say
Satisfaction levels can most likely be attributed to high returns on investment as well. In previous research the ICF found that coaching is generating a very good return on investment — a median return of seven times the initial investment for businesses, and nearly 3.44 times for individuals who use coaching (Results representative of survey respondent sample).
The survey was conducted for the ICF by the independent consultancy Price Waterhouse Coopers.
How fortunate am I? My friend Claire reads horoscopes written by Rob Brezney and only sends me the ones she believes I will like. This is a very kind and loving gesture, don’t you think? Horoscopes á la Brezney are rich in imagery and his command of the English language is impressive. I am not into astrology but love his creative knack.
According to my latest horoscope, you can call me Ms. Velvet!
Don’t try harder, Cancerian; try easier. Don’t turn your focus into a white-hot beam of piercing intensity; relax your focus into a soft-eyed enjoyment of playing around with the possibilities. Don’t tense your sphincter, marshal your warrior ferocity, and stir up your righteous anger at how life refuses to conform to your specifications; rather, send waves of tenderness through your body, open your heart to the experiment of blending your energy with life’s unpredictable flow, and marvel at the surprising revelations and invitations that are constantly flowing your way. Halloween costume suggestions: Mr. Smooth, Ms. Velvet, Dr. Groovalicious, DJ Silky.
My last post was about me wanting to me more of a court jester in my daily life and in my coaching (in service of my clients, of course) so it’s fun to play around with a combo of court jester and Ms. Velvet!
Illustration Copyright @ University of Cinncinati Archives
This past weekend I assisted in Fundamentals. It’s the first coaching course I took a few years ago. The course is set up like an appetizer buffet, giving students a taste of all the juicy coaching tools and techniques they will learn as they take the entire curriculum.
One of the exercises in Fundamentals involves hearing what everyone sees in you…”you are courageous; you are sweet; you are not afraid to speak up…” In coaching lingo these are know as acknowledgements. We aren’t used to hearing acknowledgements in our day to day lives. It more common to hear “you did a great job” (if you get feedback at all). As one of the leaders pointed out on the weekend, we are “human beings’ and not “human doings”. This is the reason that acknowledging who someone is being can be so much more powerful.
Part two of the exercise has everyone calling out what they would like to see more of in you/ what you need to stretch into to expand your range. Having been through the exercise before, the course leaders helped the assistants come up with name tags before the course day started. Mine: Court Jester. I got this moniker because I shared with them that I needed to stretch into being more foolish and having more fun. I have let being 5 months pregnant (and a little sick and tired sometimes) as well as pressure to maximize revenues in 2010 zap me of my fun.
Coaching a participant from this name tag “Court Jester” was both really challenging and brilliant fun. It’s so freeing to be foolish! We danced some tango and at one point I found some gum in her ear (inspiration from my friend Claire who likes to find candies in kids’ ears). the point wasn’t to coach well. It was to stretch into what a court jester would do. Of course, I realize we cannot play the fool all the time AND this weekend reminded me how great it is to laugh and let go.
And so my dear productive, kind, compassionate, strategic, _______ (fill in the blank) reader, what archetype would stretch you?
Warrior goddess? Bag Lady? Chip N Dale? Beach Bum?
By stretch, I mean, what persona would make your really uncomfortable? What would take you from middle C and have you play in the high notes and the low notes of your life? What would make you almost throw up? Good. That’s your stretch!!
P.S. The entire co-active coaching curriculum is being offered for the first time ever in Montreal thanks to the work of some dedicated CTI grads who are passionate about the program and about co-active coaching.
Ian Sherwood plays a house concert at my place in Montreal, Oct 2010
Last night I hosted an intimate and communal experience at my house. Almost 20 people partook and everyone seemed to have a fantastic time. Before you go too far in imagining what I am describing, let me stop you in your tracks. The event last night was a house concert and the artist was Nova Scotia singer/ songwriter Ian Sherwood.
House concerts have been around for centuries (think of chamber music from the middle ages) though the concept of hearing modern music in the home seems somewhat novel. There are some online hubs which create a network of hosts much like the couch suring concept for travellers.
Ian is a good friend of my sister Jill. He and she performed in dinner theatre together more than a decade ago and Ian spent about a month living at my house in Toronto about 5 years ago when he needed a short term rental. When I heard he was passing thru Montreal en route home to Nova Scotia from his latest CD launch in Ontario, we connected and decided he would do a house concert at my place. I had gotten the idea from my cousin Sarah whose boyfriend John Connolly did a recent house concert tour in the west. Ian has done dozens of house concerts and loves them so the idea wasn’t new to him.
Since I am not a music critique (and loved every minute of Ian’s concert last night), I am going to focus instead on the process of hosting a house concert and look at it from a business perspective (as in: the artist as a business person).
With only two weeks lead time and both of us being fully booked with our respective work, we decided we would put the word out via social media (a Facebook event) and that I would send an email invite to my Montreal friends, colleagues and neighbours. We would take whatever response we could get and Ian confirmed it would be worth it for him even if our audience was tiny.
In the end, we were almost 20. Ian played two spectacular sets. He’s an extremely accomplished singer/ songwriter and an incredible storyteller/ entertainer. I looked around the room often and sensed that Ian had really captured his audience.
While my motivation in hosting the concert was twofold: 1) help Ian establish a small following in Montreal and make a little extra money on his short tour 2) host a novel event for friends and neighbours, it’s interesting to look what it took to pull it off and what came out of it.
1-2 hours online creating the FB event invite and inviting people via FB and email;
3-4 hours picking up some groceries, cleaning the house and preparing some food for the concert
Approx $75 on food and wine (with lots leftover because some people brought booze and no one consumed much anyway)
2-3 hours travel and set up/ take down time for Ian from where he was staying in Montreal (and a lot more hours than that to drive back to the Maritimes today)
30 min clean up post concert
3 hours of fantastic music in an intimate living room enviroment for 20 people
Socializing and mingling over a drink before concert and at intermission; perhaps some new connections were formed
Maybe half a dozen CDs sold and an additional $150+ in voluntary donations for Ian
Almost 20 news names/ email addresses for Ian’s database (so he can promote future work/ tours etc.); these same 20 people will remember Ian far better than if they had seen him playing in the background in a bar or coffeehouse
My friend Christina Sciascia attended the concert. She is owner of Shaika Cafe in NDG, a popular coffeehouse that features live music nightly. Ian is welcome to contact her to book a gig.
Smiles on everyone’s faces when they left and lots of praise for Ian’s talent and thanks for my hosting of the event
Was it worth it for me? Definitely. I thoroughly enjoyed hosting it and hearing the concert. Was it worth it for Ian? He shared my sentiments. He seemed to have a lot of fun and left with a little extra cash and a little bigger following.
Would I do it again? Without question, Ian is welcome to play here if he needs a venue next time he’s in Montreal. I might even host other artists because I have the space and it was fun. I am not plugged into the music scene though so I am not sure where the next artist will come from.
What would I do differently? I would plan the concert a little earlier, sell tickets in advance for a fixed price (as I believe this would generate more revenue for the artist and encourage people to buy a CD the night of the preformance as well), and aim to have 30 or so people in my space (again to make it worth it for the artist).
If this post has sparked your interest in hosting a house concert, I say go for it. You will be building community, encouraging creativity, helping an artist/ solopreneur and you will make yourself happy in the process. What’s to lose?
Here”s a little bonus…Ian performing a portion of Dixieland Dirt Bovine last night from his first album (the video is shot sideways and is very dark. I am a coach not a producer!).
Conversation can be the most sublime of human experiences.
This comes from the German poet Goethe. Many would agree. To have a real conversation is a great joy.
So how do you do it in your day to day interactions? And more particularly how do you do it at work? It being a “have a real conversation” (not the “it”, which is typically frowned upon at work!).
Step one, according to Hargrove, is to give up being in agreement all the time. He says to bring in the paradoxes, real conflicts and dilemnas. Say what is really on your mind. It might just have the effect of holding up a mirror to yourself and others. You might just cause a shift from posturing and defensiveness to authenticity, creativity and learning.
Most people are more concerned with “looking good” than “being good” (this Hargrove has some excellent viewpoints and I am not just agreeing). Looking good at all costs leads to turf protecting, colluding, covering up mistakes and growing resentment inside as anger and frustration build up. I would say it even leads some to perfectionism which serves no one and in particular truly punishes the perfectionist himself.
So what undisscussble thing have you been harbouring?
In what areas of your life are you “looking good” instead of “being good”?
Sounds like answering these questions could be the start of a great conversation! I am all ears.
You and I do not just have a story, we are our stories. Our stories shape, limit, and define our way of being, the way we think, and the way we interact with others (Masterful Coaching by Hargrove).
Often times our stories keep us from reaching for our “impossible future”. Enter coaching! In coaching (well, when done masterfully), we help people surface, question and redefine their stories when their current story is called into question by others or breaks down in some way.
At the moment, I am reading Robert Hargrove’s book Masterful Coaching and I have to say I am really digging it. Now I don’t expect you non coaches to rush out and get a copy but I am going to share a little part of it here to see if there is anything you can relate to.
Image by Raiiya, Photobucket
Hargrove divides people’s stories into “rut stories” and “river stories”. River stories are stories of personal growth and transformation. Rut stories are the opposite.
They fit into five+ categories:
The “I Need Other People’s Approval” Story-people may not broadcast this story aloud but they often construct a whole series of pretenses and defences in order to look good or gain approval. The consequence: the intention to look good often displaces the intention to be good.
The “Artful Victim” Story-likely the most common…it involves people skillfully using defensive reasoning to create an open-and-shut case as to how other people or circumstances are doing them in. The consequence: they often get stuck in this story, forfeiting all their power to other people or the situation, and then being unable to create what they want.
The “I’m Affraid to Lose What I Have” Story- this one is told by people who put off their visions, dreams and aspirations in order to seek or keep their security. They complain about their lives not being satisfying but create lots of reasons for standing still. These people are generally non players in the workplace though they may look like they are playing along. The consequence: spending a whole lifetime getting reading for everything to fall into place until to realize that, like sour milk, they are past their expiration date.
The “Tranquilizing” Story- sometimes when people do not achieve a result, are incompetent at a task, or do something that gets them into trouble, they come up with reasons and excuses. The purpose is to tranquilize them and make them feel better about themselves. The consequence: people do not highlight their own incompetence (which limits their learning), errors are covered up (which can lead to more errors) and reality is distorted (which leads to individual and collective illusions).
The “Why Bother?” Story- People who tell this story say they cannot create what they want because their possibilities and choices are limited: “I don’t have time”, “I don’t have authority”, “It’s not in the budget”. Often times the story is a cover up for them wanting to stay in their comfort zone or for not wanting to take responsibility. There is often an underlying attitude of resignation. The consequence: people get stuck in this story and lose the ability to see the possibilities and options that they actually have.
Now, in case you think I am on my high horse here, I assure you that I have stories I tell myself (and others) in most, if not all, of the categories above. Those who know me well could say better but if I had to pick I would say my primary rut story is likely in the “I need other people’s approval ” story. Damn.
What’s your primary rut story? What are the consequences in your life? What would be possible if you turned it into a river story? How can a coach help you?
I used to mimic the people who ran the games tables at the fair grounds. My favourite was the colours game. You simply put your quarters on a colour and watched as the wheel spun, praying all the while that you would get a big payout of….$1. Most times I would lose but I won enough to keep playing. From early on, the message was clear. You cannot win if you don’t play. I guess the reverse is also true. You cannot lose if you don’t play either but I am not interested in safe.
I had a minor failure this a.m. while rolling out pastry for a pumpkin pie. I will spare you the dull details. Pie is made now and looks lovely. Well, it looked lovely. Now it is mostly eaten. (This is simply the Thanksgiving mention as I feel funny writing a post about losing and failure on Thanksgiving weekend when I could be writing about all that I am thankful for).
Anyway, back to the point. Someone I love dearly had a more significant failure earlier this week. It was 50x bigger than screwing up pastry. He/ she got thrown an unexpected curve ball. In the moments after learning the news, he/ she had no idea what to do with it.
Failure is like that. It can level you…for a time.
A recent speech at Toastmasters has stuck with me. The speech was entitled “Be the Babe”; it was delivered with passion by Peitro Di Benedetto (who doesn’t do anthing without gusto by the way!). Here’s a key exerpt:
We’ve all experienced unexpected challenges from time to time in our lives. The more curve balls we’re thrown, the more practice we will have at hitting them.
In 1923, Babe Ruth broke 2 important records:
#1- The record for most home runs in a season;
#2 (and one that most people don’t know about)- The record for the most strikes outs; he struck out more than any other player in Major League Baseball.
Babe Ruth was not afraid to strike out and it was this fearlessness that contributed to his remarkable career. When “The Babe” retired, he had 1,330 career strike outs – a record he held for 29 years until it was broken by none other than another Yankee legend, the great Mickey Mantle.
Around the same time, my favourite blogger, Penelope Trunk, wrote about taking intelligent risks. It’s all tied into willingness to play and lose/ to try and fail. Here are Penelope’s top five on how to take intelligent risks (read her full post and check out the great new wallpaper she hastily applied with Elmer’s glue) :
Long term regrets are usually about not taking more risks;
Being wrong costs very little;
People bounce back faster than they expect;
Don’t make the risk bigger than it needs to be;
Most risks turn out fine.
So what does this seemingly meandering, hastily written post boil down to?
It seems the logical conclusion is to take lots of intelligent risks (i.e. play often). Swing at the curve balls and strike out often in order to hit more home runs. And know that even when you lose/ fail, like my friend did this week and I did for two years in trying to have a baby, that you will be feeling better in no time. The costs are small in the long run and you will forget how much they stung when you eventually win. And by the way, the people who love you will love you just as much if not more for playing in the first place.
“Looks like it’s gonna be, and it is….GREEN…luck of the Irish!”
This image is a human embryo five days after a single egg was fertilized with a single sperm cell.
Ultrasound Scan of Fetus at 10 weeks Gestation
This is an ultrasound image of the same embyro at 10 weeks gestation. It already has a beating heart (and had one since 6 weeks gestation).
A view from the outside!
This image, much less clinical, shows the same fetus from the outside. In this image the fetus is 19 weeks old and is the size of a large mango!
And if you hadn't guessed already...
Yep, if you hadn’t already guessed…this baby is growing in me. As of today, I am 19 weeks pregnant!
I gave a speech called “Creating a Meaningful Life” last night at my Toastmasters’ Club. I got quite emotional at one point while delivering it. You see, it’s a pretty big milestone for me to be almost halfway through my pregnancy. The road has been long and winding. One surgery, six cycles of increasingly invasive treatments, and 3 previous pregnancies all ending in very early stage miscarriages….this has been the road.
If you had asked me when I was 30 years old what I envisioned for my future family, my answer would have been far more traditional. Now I am embarking on single motherhood (for now). I feel confident the right guy will come along at some point AND I made the decision to proceed anyway because my biological clock was tick tocking really loudly (and yes, it really does become a lot more difficult for many women to conceive after their mid thirties).
Fear, anger, sadness, confusion, uncertainty and even jealousy–these were some of the emotions I cycled in and out of over the past few years. And the doubt. Oh my goodness the doubt! When things weren’t going well I would ask myself,
Is this a sign that I am not meant to be a mother?
Is it time to pursue adoption?
And the most difficult question of all (and one I came to hate because I really struggled with it)
Do I even want to be a mother anyway???
Fortunately for me, I had many cheerleaders along my winding road, most of them mothers themselves. They, in my darkest moments of doubt, affirmed that having a child would be my greatest joy and that I needed to continue on the road to create this in my life. I am so grateful to these women. They know who they are.
We recently read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years for our bookclub. The premise is essentially this: that we create meaning in our lives by the stories we live. Our lives, just like great movies, are more meaningful when the main character wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.
Well this story, my current story, still in progress, is creating great meaning in my life. And I needed to share it simply because I am looking at my life, my business, and my future though a different lens these days. I am still the same me. I still want to be a masterful coach helping high-aspiration business owners and professionals create their great story. I still want to be a loving daughter and sister and a true blue friend. And I still want to tango.
So don’t count me out. In fact, count me in more than ever. The plot is about to thicken. And so is my waistline!
On Easter weekend, my fit brother and his fit fiancé (now wife) came to visit. Before their visit I had been pondering (ok lamenting) what I could do to increase my overall fitness. Their visit gave me the idea of boot camp as they were regular attendees at one in Halifax.
My fittest times in life have been when I was part of a soccer team or some type of group training program like The Running Room. I no longer had the courage for soccer and who really likes running anyway? So the idea of an outdoor group training program appealed. Well, actually it terrified me but I knew it was what I needed to push myself beyond what I was doing at the gym.
A quick search on the internet turned up two options for Montreal. I contacted both and got a very prompt and friendly email back from Sherry Shaban, Owner of Be Training. And so began my relationship with this small but growing fitness and wellness training company in Montreal. I am certain there were snow flurries during our first workout at Jeanne Mance Park but it served to make us all feel proud and courageous to be there. Every work out took some courage but it got easier and easier and I always felt a huge sense of satisfaction finishing a session.
Of course, Be Training is more than just boot camp. It is a unique in-home, in-office and in-park training company offering personal training for adults and children, nutritional planning and comprehensive wellness programs. You won’t find this gang in a gym or studio. That is because Sherry, a certified athletic therapist herself, believes in using very minimal equipment and the body’s own weight for resistance training instead of expensive machines that only work one muscle group. While Be Training may have a central location within the next year, Sherry insists that it won’t look like a traditional gym. At boot camp, park stairs, benches and the ground where all that we needed to get a heck of a workout.
A Be Training client getting personalized and safe prenatal training
Sherry’s attributes her success so far with surrounding herself with a highly educated and motivated team. Her staff are all certified athletic therapists enabling them to customize programs and train people who have injuries, mobility restrictions, are pregnant etc.
Sherry sees the world as possibilities. She says,
The sky is the limit when it comes to achieving your goals. People find a way to do what they really want to accomplish.
Don’t bother telling her why you didn’t lose the 10 pounds you “wanted” to lose. She’ll counter that you couldn’t have really wanted it or you would have done it.
She’s a living example of what is possible. She launched her company while she was pregnant with her first daughter who is now 20 months and she has since had a second daughter (now 4 months). When I started boot camp in April, Sherry ran some of the sessions. At 7 months pregnant, she could do more push ups than most of us in the camp.
Sherry is not easily discouraged in business. When I asked her what has been harder than she ever imagined she wouldn’t even respond as she said she finds way to surmount whatever obstacles fall in her path. She was willing to share what has come easily:
People’s trust in us has come easily. They find us on the internet and they try us out or they are referred by a current client. We haven’t lost a single client since we started.
This is because clients who commit to Be Training get fit fast, look great and feel fantastic. In my case, I also made some nice friends.
Nonetheless, this personable, ambitious and dynamic woman has goals for Be Training and I would put my money on her attaining them. Over the next few years, Be Training will offer a month long “vacation-like” boot camp replete with meals and wellness education and within the next year she will have a studio location. Sherry says,
We aren’t in the personal training business. We are in the life transformation business and we will do what it takes to have people create their best lives.
Photo by Valerie Baron, Montreal Life in Photos Examiner
Take one professional or celebrity chef in a professional kitchen; mix with abundant fresh food ingredients, free flowing cocktails and wine; add equal parts men and women and let them marinate for the evening. This is Cristina Mucciardi’s recipe for CookandDate. And several times a month since 2008, she’s been turning out great results in Montreal. By next month (October 2010), she’ll be doing the same in Toronto and New York.
CookandDate has been covered frequently in the Montreal media since its inception so you can read about it in the traditional media for concept details. Or better still, if you are single, sign up for an event and become a member.
Cristina says, “Press is the one thing that has come really easily”. That’s because Cristina is an entrepreneur who’s found a sweet spot in the market. She created a concept that lines up precisely with her own sweet spot as a people connector and foodie. Growing up in a Montreal Italian family, she is passionate about gathering people around great food. And when it comes to CookandDate, her mission is to help men and women find their soul mates. That she takes it seriously is an understatement.
Cristina is radiant hosting a CookandDate event. Photo by John Kenney, The Montreal Gazette.
CookandDate defies classification as solely a cooking school, a dating service or a social club. That’s because it is all of these things combined in one. It’s way more than this too. As a by product of opening CookandDate, many opportunities arose for private parties (i.e. showers, birthday parties) and corporate events. In response, Cristina is splitting the company into two banners: CookandDate and CookandEtc. The later leaves her plenty of room to expand her offerings in response to the market.
Like many entrepreneurs I have interviewed, Cristina’s biggest failure/ biggest learning experience was getting burned with exorbitant web development costs early on. She says it was due to her lack of clarity on what she needed initially and her naiveté about IT. She’s fixed that now and while she’ll never be a techie, she knows who to work with and how to manage a project to keep a lid on costs.
Her new website will launch this week in sync with a special celebrity CookandDate hosted by Chuck Hughes of Chuck’s Day Off and Garde Manger fame. The new site’s database (3000+ and growing) allows those registered to view all CookandDate members and to see upcoming events. Those who attend an event get chatting privileges with all other members.
The upcoming openings in Toronto and New York keep Cristina awake a night simply because unlike Montreal, she doesn’t know the cities as well. While she will be present at all events, she won’t be living full-time in those cities to get a deep understanding of the culture. Cristina says,
I don’t know whether I need to run events at 9 p.m. in New York because they all work late but I will learn quickly!
This woman is smart and while she doesn’t like to fail, she will be nimble and adjust her concept to meet the needs of the promising markets in Toronto and New York.
When asked what she needs most right now, she says, “Access to large databases”. This could come from partnerships with companies that have a similar clientele.
It occurs to me as I write that I could talk to her about a CookandCoach! A couple of years ago I gave away a “coaching and chocolate chip cooking baking lesson” at a Christmas service exchange party I co-hosted. The recipient seemed to relish the combo so why not? It would be a like CookandDate meets Coach Buffet. It could fit under her CookandEtc banner, couldn’t it?
Well, I might be grasping here but Cristina is not. She’s got a formula that works and a niche that is all her own. It’s a nice place to be.
For years, Stephan Frigon wracked his brain to come up with an idea about how he could make money on the net. One morning three years ago, he woke up with his idea: an online platform to help gay men find relationships.
Stephan is a straight entrepreneur who worked for years in manufacturing businesses. Ironically, I met him via e-harmony a couple of years ago. While we didn’t hit it off for a relationship, we have helped each other in business here and there since. When met him 2 years back, I couldn’t have predicted that he’d become “the saviour” for the gay community!
Stephan first step in business building was market research to test his business idea. He discovered that Manhunt and Gay411 already existed and are very effective for those who want to find a sex partner …and fast. To his delight, what they lack is what he is now providing: GayCompatible, an online place for gays to meet a compatible partner for a long-term relationship. Where the other sites target younger males who focus on appearance and porn-like sex, Stephan is targeting the 30+, well educated, high income earning gay male who is looking for a life partner.
GayCompatible launched in April of this year. The membership is over 1000 already with the majority being Canadians, though some come from as far away as France, Australia and Poland. The potential market in North America is 33 million (3 million in Canada alone). And that doesn’t touch the rest of the gay world. A yearly membership is $200. You do the math. Stephan is 99.8% sure he has created a winner.
It has taken 3 years of research and development and $200K+ to date to launch the business (plus all his own unpaid time) . Somewhat analogous to e-harmony, gay compatible has a matching questionnaire that 3 Quebec psychologists custom developed and tested for Stephan’s site.
Stephan’s biggest mistakes came from his naiveté about how much effort it would take to program the web platform; it took far more time and money than he anticipated. He followed the advice of a family advisor who convinced him to buy a similar web platform and modify it. This solution didn’t work and it cost him months of time and a lot of money.
Stephan will run and advertising campaign this fall on Out TV in Canada and Logo TV in the US where he has the potential to reach 48 million gay and lesbian viewers in the US alone.
A year from now, Stephan says he would like to be telling me he has a few thousand subscribers. This would be growth of 300% in one year. Somehow it wouldn’t surprise me a bit!
For the gay men in your network who are tired of the current online dating scene, send them to GayCompatible. From what Stephan says, they will thank you.
And if you are looking for an investment opportunity, email Stephan directly: email@example.com
Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa broadcast their show on the waterfront in Charlottetown. Photo from The Guardian.
Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa have been on PEI since the weekend. There visit has been much anticipated. I can see why. Today I finally had time to tune in and see Live with Regis and Kelly: Prince Edward Island, shot on location at Confederation Landing in my hometown.
I cried when I saw such hometown pride among the huge local audience (and to see my parents’ house across the Ch’town Harbour in the background of their stage). Okay, the piping music helped bring on my tears. I always cry when I hear pipers.
Over and over they show our red cliffs, pristine beaches, and succulent seafood. And this has been going on for weeks. Viewers could win a trip to PEI before Regis and Kelly were ever on location. A few weeks ago, neither Regis or Kelly had ever heard of PEI. Now millions of their viewers are getting to know the island rather intimately. Regis “hunts” for lobster; Kelly goes horseback riding in what looks like Crowbush. They rave about the food, the people, the scenery and island hospitality.
My parents and my Facebook friends have talked of little else all week. My sister, who lives in Nova Scotia, wrote on FB that she’d rather “get ripped” than see Kelly Ripa but she was joking (and with two little boys she no longer remembers what the word ”ripped” even means). As a PR and advertising/ sales professional she knows brilliant messaging when she sees it.
And it’s not just a win for PEI. Live with Regis and Kelly have enjoyed the largest ever Canadian following for their 3 shows to date in PEI. According to Executive Producer Michael Gelman (as quoted by the CBC), the shows from P.E.I. have generated more response than any other remote broadcast. Earlier on Monday, P.E.I. ranked number two in the top Google searches in the United States!
Today I booked the entire day to make business development calls. It would be perfect,I thought. I had no coaching calls booked and no trips to the city to make.
Instead of perfect it was a perfect storm of getting nothing done. I could have predicted I wouldn’t spend the whole day on business development (BD). I know better. Whenever I clear the slate like this to make BD calls, it rarely happens. The truth is: I work better when I am busy and need to jam calls in around other meetings. How about you?
5 a.m. – get woken by the woodpecker (try to sleep again with some success until about 6:30);
6:30- 8:30 a.m. – some combination of breakfast and watching an episode of The Wire. At this cottage, I have turned into one of those “strange” people who watches dramatic TV before the real day begins. I both blame and thank my friend Jen for encouraging me to get hooked on The Wire;
8:30 a.m. – at my desk (a.k.a. the dining room table at the cottage) fussing around deciding on whom to call first; on my first attempted call I find out my long distance plan is disabled; it was working last night…hmmm?
9:30-11:30 a.m – sending and receiving emails from my car at my “internet cafe” (a.k.a. a parking lot 2 km from my cottage where the rocket stick gets a signal); troubleshooting with Digitel via cell phone re: long distance issue (not solved);
Noon until 5ish- a combination of 2 more episodes of The Wire, watching Spain beat out Germany en route to the World Cup finals and helping the cottage owners assemble a new BBQ. Now the TV, bed and BBQ are all nicer than mine at home! Fortunately, the cottage owners were able to solve the long distance issue. At 7:30 p.m. my service is supposed to be restored. Then I can make all the BD calls I want;
5 p.m.- A much anticipated swim around the lake (even up here it’s super hot outside);
5:53 p.m. – blasting out this blog post in Word (as I am not connected to the net from here);
6:15 p.m. – leaving for the IGA to pick up groceries and use their internet cafe (i.e. their parking lot) to put this post online.
So once again my day didn’t unfold as planned. Certainly I”ll be better able to talk football with my weekend guests and I dare say I’ve gained insight into coaching a West Baltimore drug dealer or detective but I certainly didn’t add any $ to the bottom-line today. Well there is always tomorrow. And I already have a lot going for me: my long distance plan will be back in action and the next game isn’t until Saturday!
The comparisons below are taken from Good to Great and apply to business.
Good to Great companies (GTGC) follow a pattern of build up to breakthrough (an accumulation of steps, one after the other, turn by turn of the fly wheel; it is an organic and evolutionary process).
Good to Dead companies (GTDC) [my wording] skip the build up and jump right to breakthrough, implementing big programs, radical change efforts, and chronic restructuring always looking for a miracle moment or new saviour.
GTGC confront brutal facts; GTDC embrace fads and management hoopla.
GTGC have a hedgehog concept and consistently stay within the three circles; GTDC are inconsistent, lurch back and forth and stray outside the three circles.
GTGC have the right people who follow disciplined thought and action; GTDC jump to action without disciplined thought and without getting the right people on the bus.
GTCG harness appropriate technology to their Hedgehog concept; GTDC run around like Chicken Little, fearful of being left behind the latest technology.
GTCG have internal alignment because their momentum is infectious; GTDC expend energy to align and motivate people to their changing visions.
GTGC let results do the talking; GTDC sell the future to compensate for their lack of results.
It’s been proven that companies that apply the concepts of GTGC eventually reach breakthough. What path will you choose?
Good to great transformations don’t happen in one fell swoop says Jim Collins. Collins uses the concept of a fly wheel (a massive metal disk mounted horizonally on its axle, 30 feet in diameter and 5000 lbs). The first pushes to turn the wheel take a lot of energy and the wheel inches forward. Add lots more energy and many more turns and at some point—breakthrough! Momentum kicks into gear and the heavy weight turns the wheel on its own.
Think of it. World Cup players don’t put on their soccer boots for a few hours a week and go out to score history making goals. Instead they practice, compete and are coached for years (these are all turns of the wheel). Sadly, even the momentum of the flywheel didn’t assure victory for the Brazilians, Italians or Argentinians this time ’round.
The flywheel is pertinent to you and your company. Perhaps you dream of being an “overnight successes” on the net. You think that a brilliant marketing campaign, a great peice of press coverage, a lucky break or innovation will catapult you and your company to riches. This is foolhardy thinking at best. Overnight success is rarely, if ever, overnight success. We just don’t pay attention to the steps that were taken to get there, preferring instead to focus on the tipping point. This kind of thinking will usually put you in Collin’s doom loop rather than the fly wheel. Though with this kind of thinking, you might not even get to be good, let alone great.
I am spending the summer in a cottage in the Laurentians. It is a working vacation, as in, I am living in a beautiful setting and working. At it turns out, I am surrounded by some other industrious creatures to inspire my productivity. The most noteworthy–a woodpecker!
Since I arrived (it’s been almost 2 weeks already), this crafty little fellow has woken me up every day around 5:20 a.m. by pecking several times on the metal eaves troughs of my roof.
I have only just learned that ritual pecking has a very important purpose beyond getting bugs: to attract a mate. (I would love to say he cuts a mean profile but in truth this photo is from the net and not of him). He chooses my metal roof right outside my bedroom window because it makes a much louder sound than any tree ever could. It seems that when it comes to dating, he believes in casting the net as wide as possible is the best strategy for attracting a nice Laurentian bird.
He is perfectly equipped with the right tools for the job: a chisel-like bill, an extra long tongue to get bugs under tree bark, strong claws and stiff tail feathers to help him prop up on trees (and roofs). He even has feathers around his nostrils to filter wood dust and a special sac in his forehead to cushion his brain from the impact of his pecking. If you are going to succeed in life, you do need the right tools.
Just yesterday I met with Christina Mucciardi, owner of Cook and Date. She has both the tools and the formula for success. She hosts events to help singles meet. Her events have a welcome twist: Montreal chefs, a beautiful Viking kitchen, divine food, an equal number of men and woman of a similar age and flowing wine. I suspect she’s likely had some woodpecker types attend her Cook and Date over the past couple of years.
I continue to wake up way too early every day, probably in anticipation of that loud hammering sound. And I think it might be for not. You see it has been two days since I have heard my man Peck. Perhaps he found his Laurentian bird!
Sometimes the work day doesn’t unfold as planned either.
So far today, I have written 2 blog posts from Cafe Sportivo in the heart of Montreal’s Little Italy. The owner (I think she’s actually the owner’s daughter) is a spirited woman with a great sense of humour. I enjoyed an excellent expresso and biscotti for $3. When I said “It’s only $3?”, she said, “What, you wanna pay more???”. I have also kept my eye on World Cup action (Uraquay is up one vs. Mexico).
I did not intend to spend my time this way today.
Au contraire. Today I intended to meet 2 prospective clients and also a business owner to discuss how our businesses are complimentary. It was to be a productive day in the city, a stark contrast to my new country setting.
My first meeting was booked for 8:00 a.m. To make it on time, I came into the city yesterday, slept at a friend’s house, got up at 6:30 and drove 30 min in traffic to get from NDG to Little Italy on time. Before, I continue, I want to make it clear that I do not feel sorry for myself. I am simply detailing what it took to make it to the meeting. 8:05 came and went, then 8:10, and 8:20 with no sign of the duo I was to meet. It’s 11:00 a.m. and I haven’t heard from them. Meeting #1 remains a mystery(12:30 p.m. – Mystery solved…the person simply put it in the calendar for tomorrow rather than today. We will rebook. No hard feelings).
On to meeting #2. I was to meet a prospective client at 11 in another part of town. He had a family urgency come up so we are rebooking for later this week or early next. It happens.
Meeting #3. It is scheduled for 2 p.m. with another prospective client. As of now, the meeting is on. And with any luck, at the end of today,I will be saying 1 out of 3 ain’t bad. I would be lying if I said that I won’t be dissappointed if none of my scheduled meetings come off.
But for today, I am listening to Roger Ward Babson who said,
If things go wrong, don’t go with them.
What about you? How do you react when things don’t go according to plan?