Break A Rule
Nobody knows what it’s like for you to own and run your own business except another entrepreneur. You’re a special and unique breed of individual. You are a member of a secret club that is full of other crazy people like you who once thought they’d like to be the CEO, CFO, CTO, COO, human resources director, payroll director, janitor, publicist, marketing director, and customer service manager of their own organization all at the same time. (What were we thinking?)
But we love it! Right? Ok…sometimes we love it. Here’s a reminder that alongside all of the duties listed above you have another job — growth and learning!
In the last several issues of The Buzz I’ve shared my professional development model and some ideas from my book, 7 Rules You Were Born to Break. Consistent with the need to break hidden cultural rules as a business owner, there are 7 essential activities that every entrepreneur should consider investing in. It’s unlikely you’ll find the bandwidth (or courage) to do all of them, but even picking one of these and committing to developing the identified skillset will grow you as the leader of the living system that is your business.
Activity 1 – Mindfulness Training
Take some time each day to practice doing nothing! Silent, reflective moments are invaluable to allow the present moment to fully register, to empty out what has passed, and to allow your free awareness to give you guidance and direction about what most needs your attention. It’s part of your job to take the time to let yourself relax into a view of the bigger picture. Stop and pay attention to what is, right now, without the need for nonstop action. Without such check-ins it’s easy to ignore things that need your attention and, conversely, to get reactive to things that don’t even exist! You’ll be breaking the rule Pretend You Don’t Matter by engaging this practice.
Look up “mindfulness training (your city)” to find a local class or to get some help with learning how to do this.
Activity 2 – Writing
Writing is an essential skill and practice for any business owner. Write about your business and why you love what you do. What’s different about you, your business, or your approach? What are your challenges, strengths, opportunities, and weaknesses? What do you want your customers to know? Who is an ideal customer for you? Where do you want your business to be in 5 years? It’s essential that the leader of your business (you!) spends a little time every day (or as often as possible) articulating the essential character and future of your enterprise. Practicing this will mean that the right words and language will be on the tip of your tongue in the moments that count, when you have the spontaneous opportunity to meet with a decision maker or to inspire your team about your vision for doing exceptional work. You’ll be breaking the rule Be Normal as you express and uncover the passion and emotion that originally inspired your leap into starting a business.
Check out Ann Handley’s new book for step-by-step inspiration on how to write for your business. http://annhandley.com/everybodywrites/
Activity 3 – Toastmasters Club
Now that you’re writing and putting in the time to develop your thoughts and define yourself in words, the next step is declaring your vision eloquently and powerfully. The problem is that speaking openly about our passion and what we love exposes us to the potential for being judged; yet, without the willingness to risk critical feedback, we miss the opportunity to generate loyal followers and receive positive responses. Toastmasters, of course, has been around forever, and they’ve turned learning the art of speaking and presenting into a science. It’s a proven forum for honing your presentation skills and preparing yourself to shine in front of a group when the opportunity arises. You won’t ever have to shy away from a speaking opportunity again! You’ll be breaking the rule Be Popular in your willingness to practice expressing your views, opinions, and visions for the future openly.
Look up “toastmasters club (your city)” to find a local chapter or meetings.
Activity 4 – Comedy Class
Entrepreneurs and comedians share the need for a core competency—improvisation! The percentage of time both vocations require making things up on the spot is perhaps unparalleled by other industries. One notable rule in improvisational comedy is that you always say “Yes” to whatever circumstance or scenario is offered to you to play out. It’s the same for a business owner. How we adeptly turn the changing reality of our business and the needs of customers into a useful, creative, or engaging response is fundamental to our success, and takes practice. An improvisational comedy class, as crazy as it sounds, will put you miles ahead of your competition in employee management and customer service. In fact, take your whole team. (Just an idea.) You’ll be breaking the rule Avoid Mistakes.
Search online for a local comedy class. They’re offered pretty much everywhere these days.
Activity 5 – Commitment Management Training
GTD stands for Getting Things Done and it’s a proven method of task management that David Allen has been perfecting for decades. There are now many online platforms for project management and for tracking commitments that, when used in tandem with the GTD system, can transform the way you work. Prioritize effectively and prevent the numerous diseases that are associated with runaway anxiety and stress! Mr. Allen’s approach is well worth a little investment of your time. (I have no personal or professional association with him. I just love his stuff.) You’ll be breaking the rule Stay Comfortable.
Check him out online at http://gettingthingsdone.com/
Activity 6 – Volunteer Work
How good are you at connecting with others? If you want to find out, take yourself outside of your business where you’re the ultimate authority figure, and contribute to a team where you’re not in charge. Our relational skills are tested when we have to create cooperation, collaboration, and teamwork without the leverage of being the “boss”. The fact is, people respond to praise, positive motivation, empowerment, guidance, coaching, encouragement, and acknowledgment much more favorably than they do the threat of losing their job. If the prospect of job loss has unconsciously become the motivational orientation of your workforce, then your success engine is about to run out of gas. Train yourself to work with others as an equal.
There are countless organizations everywhere looking for volunteers all the time. Schools, churches, community groups, community colleges, shelters, small business programs, and nonprofits are a place to start.
Activity 7 – Parenting
Ok, first, let’s be clear that getting the training you need as an entrepreneur is not a justifiable reason to have kids, but since you might already be one (a parent, that is) or have friends or a family that do have kids, consider spending more time with the children in your life. Not only because it feels great for you and for the kids, but because spending time in domains where things are not 100 percent controllable or understandable and learning to relax and go with the flow is an essential life skill. You’ll be breaking the rule Stay in Control, or at least we can hope so. You and the kids will have a lot more fun.
If you don’t have a kid or access to one, you might want to consider the organizations www.bigbrothers.com / www.bigsisters.com
Rick Lewis is a corporate meeting presenter, trainer, author, and self-proclaimed “professional misbehaver.” He travels extensively throughout North America presenting to Fortune 500 organizations on the topic of leadership, employee and customer engagement, and the development of corporate culture. Rick and his staff offer live workshops and online training to teach Intelligent Misbehavior to business owners, executives, and their staffs. Rick can be reached through his website at www.breakarule.com.