One thing I often hear from new clients is that their work and their life feels like Groundhog Day. Sometimes the language is slightly different, it feels like rinse and repeat or it's blah, but the message is the same. Every day feels the same. They’re bored, stuck and feeling a bit trapped.Read More
The bad news: Anyone who tells you they know how you can harmonize your work and your family life is full of sh*t. You, your life, and your work are all unique. No one else can give you the perfect answers to create your ideal life.
So where do you start?Read More
Long ago, I remember hearing that I should identify the “core values” of my company and somehow use them for success. I didn’t see how it was relevant, at the time. Now, 25 years later, I can’t imagine living my life without them, for my companies, myself and my marriage. Why?Read More
It’s the week after Memorial Day so all of my coaching sessions included asking about the three-day weekend. Everyone seemed refreshed and energized, which didn’t really come as a surprise. We all know that taking breaks (short or long) are great for our health, outlook and creativity. And business is better when we don’t work all the time. So with that in mind and for the sake of your business, here’s a strategy to ensure that this summer is extra fun.Read More
We’re thrilled to introduce you to the newest addition to our coaching team - Winn Clark. Winn comes to us from the city of brotherly love to share her coaching wisdom and amazing hair. After a successful corporate career that carried her all over the world, Winn now lives in the wine country of Paso Robles to cultivate joy, prosperity, and contribute positively to her local community. Ask her about her favorite local wines! Winn coaches clients on how to be more Awesome at work and at home - as a leader and a teammate.
Welcome to the team, Winn! Tell us a bit about your coaching style and what you bring to Awesome...
I’m so excited to be part of the Awesome Institute team! One-on-one coaching with busy professionals is work I love and it’s fantastic to be able to collaborate with other passionate, experienced coaches. The type of coaching I do is called Integral Coaching. In a nutshell, Integral Coaches focus on the whole person and all that is happening in their life, not just their work. This methodology allows clients to build skills in areas that will support them both personally and professionally. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to do this work with bright, ambitious clients supporting and challenging them to be their best selves both in and out of work.
My philosophy is “life is short, why not love yours?”. Spring is an especially great time to help clients clean out what’s not working for them so they can build new skills and practices that allow them to thrive. Clients say we’re doing some serious truth-telling in our sessions which has allowed them to gain insights into big and small changes they need to make in order to move forward in their lives.
If you’re thinking about making some positive changes your life, let’s talk and see how coaching can help you be more awesome!
Jana Kleitsch is the CEO and Founder of Wanderlust.co a tech startup focused on designing the next big tool for trip planning and discovery headquartered in Seattle, Washington. Jana is also one of our 2016 Awesome Coaching Scholarship recipients.
She recently sat down with us to share a bit about her Awesome experience...
Jana, what has been the biggest value of working with a coach for your business?
The Awesome Institue helped me really dive deep into my strengths and understanding where my weaknesses could prevent potential problems. I feel better equipped to lead my company and present the vision for our success.
What has been the biggest value of working with a coach for you as a human and as a leader?
Better self awareness of how to get myself humming as a healthy individual. I don’t believe I would have had the capacity to evaluate myself without Andrea’s help in figuring out what it was I needed to improve upon myself to be a better leader -- and ultimately a better human! She taught me to stay curious and have a growth mindset, and most of all, to have fun! Learning about the Enneagram helped me figure out how to interact with other people in my life too, including my kids and husband.
What does the future of your business look like now compared to before coaching?
I’m much better prepared to handle any challenging situation than I was before the coaching. Before I started coaching we were trying to get our product launched. Now we are getting closer to launching to a private beta.
What do you like in particular about working with Awesome?
I loved having a professional to talk over what I’m going through and having Andrea’s insightful feedback and advice.
What should people know before working with a coach?
If you are looking for a deep dive on your strengths and weaknesses and want to do the work to improve your life, you will not be disappointed. Coaching helped me shore up some insecurities I had about myself being a leader.
What has been the hardest part of working with a coach?
Sometimes I felt silly doing some of the assignments or didn’t want to expend the mental or physical energy to do the work (but I did it!)
Were you surprised by any part of the process? What was unexpected about working with a coach?
Not understanding the greater vision for some of the assignments that seemed silly. Turns out those silly ones were the important ones! The end results were “awesome.”
Thank you, Jana. Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
Investing in the coaching was one of the best things I’ve done for myself. I wish I could turn back the clock and have had a coach 20 years ago! Thanks for everything. I hope to employ the Awesome Institute again in the future.
Are you ready to be Awesome, too?
Let us know and we'll contact you when scholarship applications open.
Last week, a colleague called and left me a weird formal message on my voicemail to call him back as soon as possible. This was pretty out of character for him, so I started to worry. Was he upset about something? Was our recent conversation not sitting well with him? My imagination took off. (I’m not a big worrier, but my imagination can get out of hand. #VisionaryProblems) I decided to call him the next day, and I told myself that it was because it was getting late.
Then I realized I was going to have to sit with that uncomfortable feeling for a whole day and it was going to affect my focus. So I called. Turns out he had a referral for me, a thank-you, and a personal request that he was nervous to ask for. He was relieved to connect quickly, and I was grateful I hadn’t wasted a day distracted and with a bit of extra stress on my plate.
Kicking the Stress Out of Tough Conversations
As entrepreneurs, we are often responsible for having many tough conversations, with customers, vendors, employees, and even our partners and families. Sometimes it feels so overwhelming that it seems easier to just close our eyes and hope they disappear. Unfortunately, tough situations rarely go away on their own. Usually the stress from avoiding the conversation just makes us feel worse for a longer period of time! Ugh.
As I often discuss with my coaching clients, stress of any kind (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual) usually results in us making worse decisions, and to top it off, we make them slower. Even though we’ve all told ourselves we can handle the stress, research shows that stress affects the way your brain and body function, whether we notice it or not. So, if you’re committed to making the best decisions in your business and personal life, shift your stress. Easy enough, right?
Not so much. Stress is a complicated problem—but it has solutions! By noticing how we’re responding, outwardly and inwardly, to the everyday tough conversations that we face, we can use small changes to help us minimize the negative effects of stress. Here are three things you can do to manage the stress of tough conversations in advance by planning, preparing, and bringing your best self to the meeting.
Schedule the Conversation
When we carry unfinished problems with us, they clutter our minds. Clear your mind by preemptively scheduling conversations to address concerns as they arise. As a leader, I have check-ins with my direct reports that are intentionally structured so they can share concerns before they become stressful problems. And because check-ins are pre-scheduled meetings, no one has to work up the courage to confront me (or vice versa) to have a tough conversation. If something comes up along the way, the first step is to set a time with the person to discuss it. You’ll find that stress diminishes when you have set a time, and you are much less likely to procrastinate.
One of the best ways to tackle a tough conversation is to focus on your own needs first. Are you tired, hungry, scattered, or stiff? These may seem like small issues, but resolving them can make you more resilient, more focused, and more ready to handle challenges. Take a break and go for a walk, play a guided meditation, or eat a healthy snack. Awesome leaders know that their stress levels affect others immensely.
Make a Plan
Another strategy is the 24-hour rule: as soon as you realize there’s a tough conversation that needs to happen, you’ve got 24 hours to make it happen. If you’re particularly nervous about the call or meeting, write down what you want to say in advance. You don’t need to follow a script, but writing your words out will help you clear your mind so you can lead with clarity. You can also practice saying the words aloud to your coach, a friend, or just yourself until you feel more comfortable with the message.
Pro-tip! Don’t be afraid to take a break from the conversation and come back. Creating time to process, get some perspective, and get in touch with intuition are smart strategies.
The First Step
What tough conversation have you been avoiding? Perhaps a performance chat with a difficult team member, a discussion with a vendor who could be doing better, or a conversation with your spouse? Try reaching out to them right now to talk or set up a time to speak with them soon. You’ll feel your stress level drop and you’ll be able to increase your focus on what your business and life need to thrive.
Till next time—Be Awesome,
Next Steps Want help creating habits that will help lower stress or help you get better at engaging with tough conversations? Try our New Habit worksheet. Want to know how good you are at tough conversations?
About the Author Andrea is the CEO and co-founder of Awesome Institute. With a lifelong career as an entrepreneur and over a decade of experience, she helps her clients build healthier, happier, more successful lives and companies. To find out if you have what it takes to coach with Andrea, chat with her sidekick about our fall selection process.
With the heat of summer settling in, most people are busy contemplating vacation plans and time with families and friends. They’re having fun and recharging. Meanwhile, many entrepreneurs struggle to enjoy time off, even when they manage to squeeze it in. Wanting a fresh perspective, I asked Greg, an entrepreneur who owns an IT company, about his former struggle with vacations. When Greg started his company, he was working so hard that he couldn’t even IMAGINE the idea of taking time off.
"It took a helluva pace and effort to keep the business going and the bills paid. In fact, it took pretty much all of my energy, effort, brains, and brawn. I was proud of it, even as I was on a slow but steady physical and emotional downhill slide.
I was in the office from the early morning until I was late for dinner. I was in meetings, on the phone, and driving to meetings while on the phone. When our first son was born, I left the hospital a few hours later to go to a meeting — I can’t remember with whom.
I stuffed a little free time in here and there. I took a day or two of vacation if my family was going somewhere. I'd be on and off the phone and computer. I didn't understand why my wife thought I was 'not really present.' Someone had to run the business and pay the bills or we wouldn't enjoy these vacations at all!
Someday I'd get the business to a point where it would be making a ton of money — or we'd sell it — and then I'd have all the time off I could stand. Someday I'd get all the surfing, reading, climbing, snowboarding, and family time I wanted."
These two ideas — “Right now I just can’t take time off” and “Someday I’ll be able to” — are so common among Awesome’s clients that it’s almost universal. This struggle can go on for years, sometimes indefinitely. And if it goes on long enough, it can lead to burnout, depression, anxiety, health crises, or divorce. Fortunately for Greg, something changed for him before things got that far:
"Somewhere along the line, someone suggested that it might be possible to get a little free time to relax and think and play. None of that sounded very good at the time. I was engaged with all the challenges of the business and slowing down wasn’t compelling. But over time I began to think that maybe I should look for ways to enjoy life more. Alone. With friends. Especially with my family. Maybe. But only if it wouldn't hurt the business"
How often do all of us have those little voices whispering in our ears? When was the last time you told yourself something like that? What did you choose to do about it? Most entrepreneurs are really worried about how dependent the business is on them. In essence, they’re worried that their baby will die if they look away for even a moment. Is that really true, or just a fear? Fast forwarding a bit, Greg decided to try acting on those voices and take a little time for himself.
Learning to Unplug
"It was odd at first: going to a nice restaurant — the kind where I'd take a client — and sitting alone and reading a book while they brought me an espresso. It was odd, but I returned to the office recharged.
I started squeezing recreational activities into the day. I made plans to pick up a friend at 6:15am to go surfing four days a week — picking him up got me off my pillow and on track with my new habit. If the waves were good, I'd be so focused on surfing I wouldn't be thinking about the business. If the waves were terrible, we'd have a coffee and then go home.
Then there was weekend camping with no access to devices. When I returned, everything in the business was fine. Rejuvenated, I was a better boss and I made better decisions. I added rock climbing to a couple of afternoons. Then my wife joined in and date nights were reborn. Only this time, I wasn't on the phone or thinking about the business.
Little by little, I was creating more free time in my life. And I was surprised to see it wasn't detracting from the business. In fact, the business did fine with me 'disconnected' for all these hours and days. 'Maybe I could take time off' turned into 'Maybe I should take more time off.'”
Greg did something really wonderful here. He listened to his inner voice, and then acted on it, starting with small steps and building new habits. Greg’s description may make it sound easier than it is — but trust me, it isn’t. Rebuilding healthier habits is something most of my clients are working on. As a coach, it’s so rewarding when my entrepreneurs take time for themselves and begin to blossom again — and their families and companies benefit too.
So now that you’ve heard Greg’s story, what’s yours? What is your inner voice telling you that you could do for yourself today?
This is the second article in our Saying No series. Click here to read the first article.
When it comes to saying ‘No’ or ‘Not Now’ the best place to start is to get clear on your priorities. Once you understand those, you’ll know why saying no or not now is the best choice for you or your business.
The next step is to write down how you plan to say no. If you’re responding via email, this might be a given, but it is important to practice - not only to feel more comfortable, but to do it in a way that strengthens the relationship, rather than pissing someone off. (We’ve all shot off the quick response that ended up not going over like we hoped.) So if you’re planning on saying no or not now in person or over the phone, write down what you plan to say in advance! And keep it short. You might choose to include a reason for saying no or not now, but don’t bog others down in your guilt—let them save their time for pursuing people who are interested in the opportunity!
Finally, practice, practice, practice. We’ve all done this in email: write, delete, repeat. We get the wording right, reading the message aloud to check tone, before we hit send. Do the same for conversations you plan to have in person or over the phone. And remember, the person on the other side says no to opportunities too!
How to Say ‘No’
Sometimes the opportunity sounds interesting or we simply don’t want to disappoint others, but if the opportunity doesn’t fit with our priorities and schedule, then ‘No’ is the right choice. You don’t have to offer an explanation, but it can be a great way to say no while building relationships. You can choose who you want to share personal reasons with, but we find that people often respond surprisingly well to real, authentic reasons. We all have families and personal needs, so why pretend like we don’t? People can relate.
Here are some examples to help you say ‘No’:
- This sounds interesting but I’m really focused on ____ and ____ right now. Good luck and keep me posted on how it goes.
- Thanks for thinking of me. Unfortunately, I’m not able to take on new opportunities and don’t know when my schedule will open up. I hope it goes well for you.
- What an exciting project! I’m going to have to pass as I’ve cut back on my work hours to spend more time with the family this year, but wish you the best.
- It’s great to hear that your company is growing and wish you the best of luck with this. However, our business has decided to pivot and focus on ____. If any opportunities come up in that area, let me know.
- This sounds like an amazing opportunity. It doesn’t fit the priorities we’ve set for our business this year, but I’d love to help. Would you like me to introduce you to someone I know in your industry? They may be able to assist you.
How to Say ‘Not Now’
Sometimes the opportunity is right, but the timing is wrong. If this happens offer a fair estimate of when you will be able to take on something new. Do keep an eye on how often you say not now: don’t risk relationships by creating a never ending cycle of ‘Not Now.’
Another option is to leverage your team. You might not have time to commit to a new opportunity, but what about your team? Is the offer actually something that falls under an someone else’s responsibilities? Or, is it a good chance to give an employee that chance to shine that they’ve been asking for? Sometimes ‘Not Now’ can be a great chance to let go and transition responsibility to your employees. After all, didn’t you hire them so you wouldn’t have to do everything yourself? (Be careful not to say ‘Yes’ for others when you aren’t sure of their time commitments, so in most cases, you’ll want to pass the request along.)
Here are some examples to help you get started on saying ‘Not Now’:
- This sounds like a really interesting opportunity and I’d like to be involved but now is not the right time for me. Check back with me in 3 months.
- I appreciate the offer, but I’m not able to take on new commitments right now. Let’s schedule a time to talk in June.
- Thank your for the opportunity—it’s well-aligned with my priorities. I’d love to pick the conversation back up in 5 weeks.
- This sounds like a great opportunity, but my team is slammed right now. We’d be interested in talking in 6 months, but if you aren’t able to wait, I’d recommend reaching out to Amy at Coaching Stars, Inc. Would you like an introduction?
- I’d hate to miss this opportunity for the business, but I can’t personally take on anything else right now. Let me speak with Alexis and see if she can take the lead on this one.
Sometimes good intentions go wrong, too. If you agree to revisit the opportunity in 3 months but find yourself unable to commit then, have the courage to say ‘No.’ We all appreciate a clear ‘Yes!’ or polite ‘No’ far more than an endless ‘Maybe…’
Avital Ungar is the CEO and Founder of Avital Tours, a culinary exploration company in San Francisco and Los Angeles that offers progressive dining experiences. She's also our 2015 Awesome Coaching Scholarship recipient.
What has been the biggest value of working with a coach for your business?
I think the biggest value is having someone who is always in your corner, invested in your business and your success. As a CEO, you don’t have the opportunity day-to-day to turn to someone for help with your business because you are the leader. It’s great to have somebody who’s honest and points out the areas where you can improve and then actually gives you the tools to help you improve.
What has been the biggest value of working with a coach for you as a human and as a leader?
I always joke that this is “business therapy.” You have somebody to listen to you, be on your team, and help shape you into being a better person. I’m able to be more effective and efficient, to prioritize my personal life and create balance.
I’m now able to understand both my strengths and weaknesses while developing my self-awareness. I stay motivated and know that other people go through this, and I’m not alone.
What does the future of your business look like now compared to before coaching?
Oh, goodness. It’s completely changed. My business is more effective, more efficient, better run. It has a clearer vision. I have a clearer direction of where I want to take the company and how I’m going to get there.
What do you like in particular about working with Awesome?
It’s so easy to work with Awesome. They are incredibly professional and organized. I find that Andrea brings a lot of curiosity to the sessions, which is one of my core values.
She constantly reminds me of my core values. She gets me. She gets my business on a level that I haven’t worked on with anybody else. She’s incredibly intuitive. She understands when to be straightforward and when to help me find the right answer for myself.
What should people know before working with a coach?
Learn when to talk and when to listen. This is something I don’t do so great on because I think “I have all these problems. I get to dump them on Andrea once every two weeks!”
It’s a great outlet, but it helps to plan ahead. My best sessions are when I’ve actually thought through the top three issues that I want to discuss. The more you can do that, the more you’ll get out of the session.
You also have to have an open mind. Be ready to learn about what you might not be doing perfectly. There just has to be a mindset that there’s always room for improvement and that you don’t have all of the answers.
What has been the hardest part of working with a coach?
It’s not always easy to hear about what you’re doing wrong. It’s not always easy when you’re an entrepreneur and you’re working day and night with this great vision. It’s not easy to be thinking “I’m no closer today than I was three days ago.”
It can be frustrating because it’s not immediate change. I’m trying to change a behavior and a behavior doesn’t change overnight. It’s a struggle. But with coaching, I always have support, and each session I’m taking something new from the conversation, a new perspective.
Who do you think would most benefit from the scholarship program?
You have to want balance in your life. You have to be self-motivated towards change. CEOs who are involved, driven, and really care about their company values, sense of community, and the culture that they’re creating will get a lot from coaching.
As an example, having coaching meant that as the company grew, I was able to attract better employees because I had a clear vision on who I wanted to hire. It saved me a lot of money on hiring the right people. Without it, I would not have been as effective.
Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
Just that it’s great to have a coach in the beginning, to put that dynamic into place from the start instead of having to change and rebuild your culture later.
“Should I say yes or no?!” my entrepreneur client asked me.
Overwhelmed by saying yes to everything, and occasionally paralyzed by indecision, James had gotten to the point where he realized that something had to give. Beyond simply learning HOW to say no, he wasn’t even sure what to say no to.
Entrepreneurs are great at seizing opportunity. Maybe it’s even the thing we are best at. Many of us have built our companies by saying yes to a lot. And now that we have experienced success, we are REALLY saying yes a lot…to the point that it can hurt our businesses, our health, or our families.
Let’s go back to the beginning. Ok, before the beginning. Back to the part before you had another opportunity begging you to take it.
What is most important to you? Getting clear on your priorities is key for driving your company forward, and it also simplifies what to do when you reach fork after fork in the road.
When you are clear that your focus is on acquiring your ideal customer and hitting a $5MM revenue target for the quarter, you’ll quickly know if speaking at that conference is a yes or no. It might require some answers about attendee demographics from the organizers, but it’s relatively easy to figure out. If you are just planning to grow your customer base it’s a lot less clear.
Pro tip: If you are asked to do something and it doesn’t quite fit your priorities, you can often RENEGOTIATE it to fit them. Many entrepreneurs who I coach are surprised that they didn’t think about this option. It comes back to being clear about your priorities—if you know them, you can make them happen. If you don’t, you have no way of purposefully shifting your conversations and activities so they happen more easily.
It’s Time to Get Real
Once you’ve determined that an opportunity fits your priorities, it’s time to see if it fits your schedule. This requires you to get real. Don’t be the eternal optimist for a minute here, let’s take a cold hard look at what an opportunity is really asking for.
“It’s just a 30-minute talk plus Q&A. It should take 60 minutes and that’s it,” says the event organizer.
Let’s break it down:
- 2 hours to outline a presentation, create a slide deck, source images, and more
- 1 hour to practice
- 1 hour to coordinate with event organizers on topic, logistics, create invoices, and more via phone and email
- 1 hour to drive, park, and arrive early to event
- 1 hour for presentation and Q&A
- 1 hour for networking after presentation
- 1 hour to drive home
- 1 hour the following day to email follow ups, connect on LinkedIn, enter contacts into database, and pursue leads
By these bare minimum estimates, your 1 hour commitment is suddenly NINE HOURS. For many people, this illustration explains why they are so busy and overwhelmed by their commitments.
There Are Always Options
The next step is to look at your calendar. Where will you fit these 9 hours? If there is room, book each item on your calendar like it’s a meeting. If there isn’t time, consider saying no or renegotiating the commitment. Could you present via video call? Could you sit on a panel that would require no prep time? You have options.
If you don’t like scheduling things on your calendar, consider this: The most productive people schedule most activities on their calendars, even scheduling flexible time to handle things that just come up. Things that don’t have time allocated for them often don’t get done. (This may be why your to-do list never seems to get any shorter.) If you are resistant to scheduling things, yet find there aren’t enough hours in the day, that may be a topic for you to explore.
Habits Take Time
At the end of the day, remember that learning when to say no means developing new habits and habits take time. The more you practice using a consistent process when you have to decide what to say, the better you’ll be. Try choosing one new part of Saying No to focus on for the next week, and see how it goes. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your business partner, accountability buddy, spouse, or coach.
Transitions are hard. They are especially hard for entrepreneurs because we don’t move in and out of jobs like typical employees. Plus, structure usually isn’t our thing. We’re pretty comfortable with ambiguity and, having grown companies from the ground up, we’re used to roles evolving organically.
When we do face a change that demands a transition — adding a board position, selling our company, or hiring a C-level executive to take over some of our responsibilities — it can be unfamiliar and challenging.
So, how can you create Awesome experiences that ensure that both of the parties transitioning have clarity, purpose, and excitement around the changes? Our 5-Step Transition Plan provides clients with an easy-to-follow guide through the process.
Today, we’ll guide you through the plan with a story about Kate and Brad. Kate is the CEO of a software company. She’s recently hired her first COO, Brad, and she needs to transition some of her responsibilities to him. Kate is thrilled to have a new executive to support her business, but she’s also nervous about entrusting valuable responsibilities to someone else. After all, she’s worked hard to grow the company this far and doesn’t want to lose traction. Luckily, Kate has the Awesome 5-Step Transition Plan to guide her step by step — no learning the hard way this time.
Step 1: Clarify Roles
Before Brad arrives, Kate gets clear on who is already doing what. She identifies what her executive team is currently doing in order to identify the specific responsibilities that are shifting to Brad, as well as new responsibilities that will be created for his role.
Once Kate is clear on each person’s new responsibilities, she’s ready to meet with Brad. Kate and Brad begin the process by reviewing the current state of roles and responsibilities.
Next, Kate and Brad review the future state of roles and responsibilities, or who will be doing what after the transition. They now know where they are starting (A) and where they are ending (B). The rest of the transition plan is just to agree on how to get from A to B. Simple!
Step 2: Plan Learning
Together, Kate and Brad consider what skills Brad needs in order to be successful in his new role. Following a review of his new responsibilities, they decide that he needs more experience managing financials, updated information on California HR laws, and additional leadership skills.
Now that gaps are clearly identified, it’s just a matter of planning how Brad will acquire the knowledge and skills he needs to excel at his new position. They decide that Brad will work with the CFO to get up to speed on financials, take a short online course on California HR laws, and hire an executive coach to develop his leadership skills. They get clear on timing, budget, and required resources, then add this information to Brad’s onboarding project plan.
Step 3: Create Handoff Plan
To create their Handoff Plan, Brad and Kate determine which responsibilities need to be transitioned to Brad (from Step 1) and they take a stab at ordering them by date. They remember to pad these milestone dates with allowances for the unexpected so that Brad and the team are more likely to stay on track. Their goal is to create a reasonable plan that they can actually achieve.
Step 4: Communication Rhythm
Their next step is to ensure that there are communication supports in place for the plan. They schedule regular check-in meetings. Because plans are dynamic and never work out exactly how we predict, meeting regularly in order to evaluate how things are going will enable Kate and Brad to to fix problems as they arise.
Initially, they decide to meet more often, opting for 30-minute bi-weekly meetings with a plan to transition to 60-minute monthly meeting down the road. They also agree to discuss how the meeting frequency, length, day, or time are working for them at the first couple of meetings and make changes as necessary. With a plan in place and check-ins set, Kate schedules their recurring meetings and sends Brad the calendar invitation. Brad agrees to send an updated agenda two days before each meeting and schedules a recurring task for himself.
Step 5: Accountability and Support
The final step is for Kate and Brad to make sure they have the right amount of help for working the plan. They discuss a couple of options for support: 1) adding their admin to the meeting invitation to ensure that they stick to the plan and 2) working with a coach to help them transition smoothly. After weighing the pros and cons, they agree that investing in a coach who can share experience, hold them accountable, and facilitate the open and honest conversations that are key to executing an Awesome transition.
Thanks for being Awesome!
Additional resources are available:
What is it that compels tens of thousands of people from around the world to build a city in the middle of the hot, empty desert?
Every year around this time, I hear lots of conversations and opinions about Burning Man. These range from “What is the deal with all these hippies in the middle of nowhere?!” to “It sounds amazing, I can’t wait to go!” and everything in between. Regardless, as entrepreneurs we can learn from this social experiment.
How can we build companies with cultures that are so compelling, people will go to the ends of the earth to be a part of them?
One important part of Burning Man is its focus on living authentically. Be who you are, express yourself, and live the kind of life you want most. While some only choose to live this way for the week, many people come home with a strong desire to live more authentically in the default world.
Do you engage your team to be authentic at work? Or do you or your team feel like you need to be different people professionally and personally? It can be hard to be authentic as an entrepreneur, when we often feel like we need to act like someone else - someone more confident, more successful, and more in control. Our team members often feel the same. They are afraid that if someone sees the real them, they will be ridiculed and rejected. We’ve noticed that when employees are able to be authentic, they thrive. They stay loyal, encourage like-minded people to join the team, and produce better results. And when entrepreneurs are authentic, it not only feels better, but also sets the example for our team.
Freedom to Try New Things
At Burning Man, attendees are free to try new things. New costumes, new friends, and new adventures. There are no repercussions for trying something new, just acceptance for exploration. This supportive environment results in people trying things they might have never dreamed of trying before. Some they might love, some they might hate, but they’ve tried something new.
Trying new things is essential for learning, growth, and innovation. How many new innovations could your team develop if they weren’t afraid to fail? You can find out if you’re willing to cultivate a team that supports each other, learns from its experiences, and acknowledges that the process of finding success involves failure. Most humans are capable of more than they think they are. As a leader, you can choose to create a culture that helps your team reach their potential.
Burning Man has Ten Principles that are a guide to the community’s ethos and culture. They help shape how people behave and provide a common understanding of what to expect from others. This shared language makes it much easier to indoctrinate newcomers, reinforce the culture, and develop new ways of living it. It draws in people who believe in the principles, and repels those who don’t.
Your company’s culture, starting with clearly expressed core values, does the same thing. Here at Awesome, we believe about five values is the right number. Your team can tell stories with shared values and reinforce desired behaviors. They can attract the right hires and push the wrong ones away. You can leverage a team with diverse backgrounds, experiences and skills, and they are held together with shared values. It’s so much easier to lead when the team itself is taking care of its culture.
Whether you are a longtime Burner or are just not interested, take a moment to think about how these three learnings from Burning Man - Living Authentically, Trying New Things, and Shared Values - can all help you create a more Awesome business.
If you are interested in learning more about Awesome Institute, click here to contact us. Be sure to join the Awesome Club!
Being an entrepreneur is like being a professional athlete. Entrepreneurs are high performers as well and could take a few lessons from them. The pro athlete's job is to perform at the top of his game, day after day, week after week, year after year — and he doesn’t feel guilty about taking time to care for himself physically.
How many of these questions can you honestly agree with?
- Within the past 6 months I took time off from my business to relax.
- I leave the stress of business behind at the end of the day.
- I rarely work more than 50 hours per week.
- I plan vacations months in advance.
- I have a sense of freedom in my life.
If you can’t agree with just one, OK. But if you find yourself shaking your head at most or all of them, you are probably working too much with results that don’t match your effort.
The Disconnect Between Entrepreneur Time and Human Effort
Entrepreneurs have the idea that, in order to be successful, they must work 20 hours a day, seven days a week. If they just work hard enough, everything will be great. The business will be a success.
Do you know how long humans can actually focus on a task? About 90 minutes*. Then you need a 17-minute break just to get back to the same level of focus for the next 90 minutes. Not only that, but after 4-6 hours in a single day, productivity begins to drop and you get less and less done.
Eventually, you come to the point of diminishing returns. You may be working harder, but you are unlikely to be working smarter. Less is getting done, and you are spreading yourself thin.
As if it isn’t enough that we are spinning our wheels, we feel guilty that we can’t live up to this unrealistic idea of entrepreneurial effort. Others have done it, why can’t we? Even if we are doing well, we ask ourselves why we can’t do just a bit better.
So we push ahead with the long hours, missing family events, losing touch with friends, ignoring our own physical and social needs. We attempt to fix things but it’s hard to ask for help. We often go it alone until we just can’t take it anymore.
How to Climb Out of the Hole
The key is to learn to pay attention to your body and understand that you need to take a break to do the hard work of building and leading an Awesome company. Sorry, you are a human. You need to do human things like eat, sleep, play, and enjoy your tribe. There is no getting around this. (Unless you are a robot, in which case call us, we have a whole lot of work we need help with!)
Another way out of the hole is to understand that you do not have to do this alone. Harkening back to our last blog post (link to post on Physical You): Professional athletes, another subset of hyper-performing humans, know that without the proper support (a coach, a team, or a physical therapist) they cannot reach peak performance.
If you must get something done outside of a 40-hour week, plan for it. Don’t drag it out over an entire weekend; put it on the calendar for a couple of hours Saturday morning or Sunday evening. You don’t need to sacrifice your whole weekend lurking around the office or lingering over your laptop. Take the rest to spend with your family, on a hobby, or doing whatever recharges you.
Invest in Yourself
The time that you take for yourself is an investment in your business, just as much as the money you have put into it. Another good investment is to seek advice and support from someone who can look at things from the outside.
Find a coach who helps you explore your challenges and will guide you to determine the best way forward. Like a sports coach, an entrepreneur coach has the experience and background to be the best entrepreneur you can be, so you can move your business forward without working all the extra hours and stress.
Coaching sessions can involve exploring your business and life goals along with the practical application of new skills and mindsets to reach those goals. With a coach you will have someone to hold you accountable and who can share experiences that will resonate with you.
Being an entrepreneur is not easy. Work smarter, not harder, and you will find your business growing with less pain and more joy.
*from study by the Draugiem Group. https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-rule-of-52-and-17-its-random-but-it-ups-your-productivity. Accessed 8/24/2015.
“Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we're thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don't show up. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin', no matter what.”
It’s so easy to put things off until later, especially if it’s something you really don’t want to do. This is how dishes and laundry pile up. For the entrepreneur this could mean the accounting, the marketing, or really anything that drives you to surf Facebook and avoid doing.
Why Do We Procrastinate?
For entrepreneurs, procrastination is most often driven by fear. You start thinking things like:
- “If this marketing campaign doesn’t work, my business will fall apart.”
- “If I write this book and it doesn’t sell, everyone will realize I’m a fraud.”
- “If I try to calculate taxes on the payroll, I’ll mess it up and go to prison for tax evasion.”
To make matters worse, putting off this task makes you feel guilty about not doing it.
When you stop and think about things realistically, you will realize that these thoughts sound pretty silly. You are very likely not going to fail, and even if you do, it’s not the end of the world. The best thing to do is to tackle the dreaded task with 3 easy steps and say goodbye to guilt!
3 Steps to Overcoming Procrastination
Step 1: Identify one thing you are avoiding.
What task can you just not make yourself start on? Getting clear on this is a great first step. Be sure to write it down.
Step 2: Identify why it is uncomfortable.
Why don’t you want to do this task? Are you uncertain about your math skills? Are you afraid of what this will mean for your future or your reputation? Consider what it is about this particular task that makes you uncomfortable and write it down. Usually at this point, you will breathe a huge sigh of relief. Writing down your fear will allow you to let go and move forward. Now you can get down to the business of getting things done.
Step 3: Identify an easy first step to get started.
Big complex tasks are daunting! There are many moving pieces and it’s hard to even know where to begin. Start by just writing down an easy, tiny little step to get things going. Make a call, write a short list, or set a meeting to discuss with a colleague or friend. The first step is the hardest, so make it easy and manageable. The smaller the better!
Great entrepreneur hack!
How to Keep Procrastination at Bay
Schedule time to do the task. Put it on your calendar and block out time just for that task. The key is to treat that time as sacred. Build the habit of respecting the time you have set aside; don’t let anything or anyone disrupt it. This habit takes time to perfect, so don’t worry if it doesn’t happen flawlessly right away. Be reasonable with your expectations and keep trying.
Get an accountability partner. Find someone to talk things over with or to help you with this task. When you know someone else is counting on you to perform, you will be more motivated to make it happen. It’s way too easy to talk yourself out of work, but when you know you are accountable to someone else, you feel more committed to doing it.
Destroy the blank page. This means just get started. If you think it will take you two hours to write that proposal, commit to writing a TERRIBLE first draft in 30 minutes. Set a time and get started! Get everything down as quickly as possible no matter how bad it looks. This gets the hard part over with; you can make it pretty later. You’ll be surprised at how much you get done.
Should You Be Doing This Yourself?
Just because you are responsible for getting something done doesn’t mean you have to do it yourself.
There are tons of people who are willing to do almost any sort of task – and many of them are experts. If you know the job isn’t something you should be doing (if it’s not your strength or critical that you do it) just outsource it. Use your staff or build a group of freelancers or contractors to do those things and save your energy for your highest value work.
Procrastination can make your day seem to stretch on forever until suddenly you are out of time to get things done. Not only did you not get the avoided task done, you may have also let a bunch of other things slide too.
Make it a habit to put everything you need to do on your calendar and don’t let anything keep you from that task at that time. Or better yet, find an expert to do it for you. An incomplete chore can be a barrier to getting everything else you need to get done.
Stop procrastinating and get your life back.
Multitasking is the biggest myth of modern times. We are all addicted to being busy and talking about how much we have to do. Furthermore, we fool ourselves into thinking we can do more than one thing at a time and do them all well.
We can’t. Multitasking has never been and will never be a real thing. We just think we should be able to do it because the expectation is that we, as Americans, should get the most out of every minute. We take pride in how packed our schedules are. But study after study has shown that our commitment to the idea of multitasking is hurting us rather than helping us.
It turns out what we are really doing is task switching. The human brain can’t actually think about two things simultaneously. Instead, when we force it to, the brain simulates working on multiple tasks at once by going from one task to another and another in rapid sequence.
With all that brainpower buzzing we feel like we are being really productive, but it is a fallacy brought on by the endorphins and adrenaline that multitasking brings about. We often become addicted to these brain chemicals, and continue to seek them out to get this buzz- but that’s another topic for a different day. If we were to measure what actually gets accomplished, we would be shocked that we were further behind than ever.
Why does task switching slow us down? Because it takes a period of time to readjust to the next task. No matter how quickly we think we are producing, if we stop doing one task and change to another, it can take anywhere from seconds to minutes to get back up to speed.
A study by Gloria Mark at the University of California Irvine* shows it can take as much as 25 minutes to continue a task after interruption. Think about how many times you face daily interruptions. Now think about how that adds up over the span of a week. You can see how interruption recovery time really threatens your productivity.
Focus on One Thing At a Time
Instead of trying to do it all at once, prioritize the work you need to accomplish. Select a first task and set a short time limit. Focus on only that task until it is complete, and then move onto the next. You may catch yourself breathing a sigh of both relief and accomplishment. That first thing is done. You don’t have to worry about it anymore.
Focusing on completing one task at a time means our brain is humming along a single path with no break in momentum. Instead of working on several things for an hour, try breaking it into 15 minute increments with a single task planned for each one. You’ll get more done, and feel far less stressed.
Give Yourself a Break
As entrepreneurs, we feel the need to go faster and faster to build our businesses. There is more to get done than there are hours in the day. One way that you can help yourself get in the habit of doing one thing at a time is to give yourself short breaks.
- Take some time to let go of the previous task and let your mind and body relax for a moment.
- Gaze out the window.
- Lean back and close your eyes.
- Stand up and stretch.
- Just let yourself go for a bit before diving into the next task.
You will be surprised at how much more you get accomplished without becoming exhausted.
Trying to do two things at once won’t save you time; in fact, it will create a longer day with lower quality work and more mistakes. Choose one task, do it well, take a quick break and move on. The work will get done with fewer errors and less stress. Try it for an hour today, and enjoy the benefits of single-tasking.
*Mark, G. (2008). The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress. Retrieved 8/12/2015 from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1357072.
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