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Creative Business Planning for Entrepreneurs

I used to be an obsessive/compulsive, anal retentive, over the edge planner right down to 15 minute increments! No joke-I was so in my linear, logical left-brain that I almost got to the point of scheduling when I would breath-seems practical doesn’t it? Thanks to the intervention of friends and loved ones, (also known as the people I was driving crazy!) I have found life without excessive planning can actually be just as productive. In fact, it opens space for movement and flow, which is required to function in this highly dynamic, ever changing world.

All that being said, I am not throwing the baby out with the bath water! Planning is still a vital skill that supports growth both in life and business. But, as much as I try, it is hard to step back into that linear planning –it feels so heavy.

So, I have explored other ways to plan and have fun with it. I have abandoned my left brain for a bit and have engaged with my right brain thinking! I am moving from the science to the art of planning.

Mindmaps have been around for a while and I never considered them to be a high-level planning tool, however, I was wrong! When you get all your disconnected and random thoughts captured, you then have the flexibility to move them around and actually create a work of organized art!  I downloaded a free application called SIMPLEMIND free. Here is a screen shot of what a Mindmap looks like:

simplemind-1

Even if you don’t download this and use it on your computer, you can use a whiteboard or piece of paper with different color markers to get started. First do a mindmap assessing your current business. You could ask yourself these questions and build the mindmap from there:

  • What is the reality of my business right now? First get clear on ‘what is’!
  • Where did my business come from this year?
  • What are my numbers?
  • What story are my numbers telling me?
  • What marketing showed a return on investment?
  • What did I do differently that supported the growth of my business?
  • What challenges got in the way of the growth of my business?
  • If I had to do the first 3 quarters over again what would I change?
  • What did I do this year to develop myself, within my profession and/or as a business owner?

Once you have seen the reality of what is, then start envisioning what you want to create for your 2015 business. You could ask yourself:

  • What do I want to earn next year?
  • If it is more than last year, what will I do differently to make that happen?
  • What new markets do I want to explore?
  • Who do I know that I could connect with in these markets?
  • How do I want to grow myself professionally next year?

So many questions, so little time! A great solution is to follow this mindmap below and give me a call to create and plan what you want for yourself in 2015!

 

MindMap Business Blog

Coaches-What would a Coaching Agreement look like in Profession, Business and Life?

Welcome Coaches!

As mentioned in my first blog, ‘Setting the Foundation in your Life, Profession and Business’, we will look at the ICF Core Competencies through these three lenses.  A unique way to experience what sometimes feels like dry material but can be a great way to be ‘coach-like’ in the ‘whole’ of your life.

In the first core competency, Setting the Foundation, the second guideline is “Establishing the Coaching Agreement”.  In the coaching world, establishing the agreement happens in context of the coaching relationship as well as at the beginning of the coaching session.

Profession

Getting an agreement in the context of the coaching relationship helps you to gain a clear sense of how the relationship will work and what is the purpose for the relationship.  Coaches may explore in an intake or discovery session (initial session):

  • Logistics, fee’s, scheduling
  • Who will be in the relationship (Is there a sponsor?)
  • What are the clients coaching goals and desired outcomes.
  • What are the client’s values and current satisfaction in life area’s?
  • Creating a designed alliance.  (This is my favorite part of agreement and includes 4 questions)
    1. What is the culture/atmosphere you want to create?
    2. What will help you succeed/flourish?
    3. How do you want to be together when it gets difficult?
    4. What do you hope for and expect of me?

It is important to come to an understanding of how you work, how they work, and if the relationship is a match.  This is the process of getting agreement within the coaching relationship.

In context of the coaching session, establishing agreement helps gain clarity about the topic for coaching. While this seems like a no-brainer, sometimes our clients come to coaching struggling with a specific topic. This is an area I struggled with myself in coaching, listening more to my clients literal words and assuming I knew what they meant. This left both of us circling around the real topic for the first half of the coaching session!

To get myself trained in this aspect, I actually limit the time for ‘getting clear on topic’ to 10 minutes.  This allowed me to relax into getting clear on the topic knowing that I could invest a whole 10 minutes in the process.  As I have refined my skills, it becomes easier and easier to get clear agreement within the first 5 minutes.

 

Business

Business practices that support ‘Establishing the Coaching Agreement’ could include a process-oriented system of how you communicate with potential clients.  I offer Sample Sessions so my process includes:

  • Sample Session Follow-up Email
  • Pre-Discovery Session Email- (Initial Intake) which includes:
    • Welcome Letter with how coaching works, logistics and client/coach expectations
    • Link to MBTI (Assessment Tool I use)
    • ICF Code of Ethics Pledge

I have found that clients really appreciate the communication in written form. The documents help them to formulate questions for our Discovery session.  When beginning a coaching business, it is a good idea to put as much structure around your processes to allow yourself to ‘relax’ into the art of coaching.

 

Life

Recently, one of my adult sons came back home to ‘regroup’ and re-establish his path.  As a parent, I hope for successful launching AND I also understand that part of our journey in life includes support from others. As my son re-entered my living space, I decided it might be a good idea to establish our living agreement. In reality, this is not any different from establishing the coaching agreement at the beginning of the relationship.  It is all about how intentional we are that sets the relationship up for success.  We took the time upfront to cover the same topics described above under profession.  It was an amazing experience to go through this on a ‘life situation’ level.  What was really impactful was the designed alliance.  When a tension shows up, we re-visit the agreement and designed alliance, work through it and have the focus on the agreement and not on us personally.  This is both powerful and healthy!

The ICF defines coaching as; “Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”  Can you imagine what it would be like if all our relationships were based on this definition?

 

The KSA’s of High Performing Teams through Communication

KNOWING -TEAM DEVELOPMENT

I recently hired an Administrative Assistant and even though it is just the two of us, we are a team!  According to Bruce Tuckman’s group development model, we are in the FORMING stage.  Here are a few key points to know about ‘forming’ and what dynamic is going on:

 

  1. When forming, team members feel positive about the team experience.
  2. We feel excited about being part of the team and the work ahead.
  3. We look to connect through ‘sameness’.  We are looking to belong.
  4. We  are polite and participation is often high.  We are on their ‘best behavior’

Numbers 1-4 can be summed up as the ‘Honeymoon Stage’. All relationships tend to go through this, whether it is a romantic relationship or a team dynamic. I would have to say Pavia and I are in the ‘honeymoon stage’ of forming our team. Some of the challenges that I, as the leader, have to watch out for are:

 

5.  When forming, new team members will also feel anxiety about measuring up.
6.  They may be unclear of roles, goals, and expectations and will not have ownership of the vision.  This may cause confusion and frustration.
7.  They may question a lot.  They are more dependent on their leader.
8.  They may not be committed to the team at this stage.

Numbers 5-8 can be summed up as the ‘Uncertainty Stage’.  So while we are experiencing a honeymoon stage while forming, there is also the potential for Pavia to experience uncertainty that may leave her questioning her commitment toward our new team.

I have learned through building and developing many teams that the number one focus at the FORMING stage of team development that will minimize the ‘Uncertainty Stage’  is COMMUNICATION.

SKILLS FOR LEADERS

As the leader, it is important for me to communicate at a high level. Communication is often taken for granted-and sometimes we treat it haphazardly and unintentionally.  The forming stage is not the time to ‘go with the flow.’ Because new members are more dependent on their leader, this is the time for intentional communication that is accountable to a structure.

Once the team addresses these needs, there will be more freedom to challenge, grow and develop within the team. The important leadership practice at the forming stage of team development is to create and inspire the team with a shared vision. This can be communicated through:

  1. The leader establishing a structure for regular communication.
  2. The leader being direct and setting expectations.
  3. The leader articulating/creating with the team a vision and a purpose for the team being together.
  4. The leader establishing or guiding the team to establish goals and objectives with specific quantifiable outcomes.
  5. The leader identifying clear roles for team members-at least as a jumping off place from which to grow and develop.

ATTITUDE-BE COACH-LIKE

After we established expectations, role descriptions, our vision and purpose, we created a DESIGNED ALLIANCE. This is a tool used in the coaching industry when coaches establish a new relationship with a client.  It is questioned based and taps into co-creating an intentional relationship.  We both participated in answering the following questions:

  1. What is the culture/atmosphere you want to create?
  2. What will help you succeed/flourish?
  3. How do you want to be together when it gets difficult?
  4. What do you hope for and expect of me?

We took notes and established a designed alliance that we can re-visit when we enter the next stage of team development: Storming! When you commit to this level of communication, it will allow for trust to get a foothold in the relationship.

How do you increase your communication with your team?  What creative communication systems do you have in play?  I would love to hear as we will explore these more deeply in next month’s blog.

 

Balance…In Life/Business- Recovery Tactics to Bring You Back to Your ‘Center’ for Balance

Recovery Tactic #1 – Claim your Power!

It took me a long time to understand that most of the chaos in my life-I was creating!  I had built an elaborate system of ‘stories’ around why my life could not be different.  I believed in my stories and surrounded myself with people who were also telling the same stories……I can’t do this-because of that, etc.  What I became aware of (thank goodness!) was that I was in my own circle of chaos.  Here’s what I experienced-perhaps you can see yourself in this-it is part of our human condition:

  • We have a frustration-something does not happen the way we expect it to.image
  • We have a reaction and create a fantasy in our head about the way it should go.  It is a fantasy at this point because it is not the reality of what is.
  • We share our fantasy by telling our story to as many people who will listen in order to get agreement in our judgment of how it should be.
  • We make the situation or person wrong and us right- thus creating conflict.
  • We stay stuck in the judgment creating a powerlessness to the situation-’Oh well, they/it will never change anyway!

We may experience this chaos on one level or another-at home, at work, in our
relationships. The circle of chaos is created by putting 100% of our focus on what is happening outside of us-our external world-and expecting it to be exactly the same as us. We love our sameness!!!! The circle of chaos keeps us in reactive mode to whatever is happening outside of us.

imageA number of years ago, I read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  In his book, he introduces a tool called the Circle of Concern.  The overview of this tool is to get clear on what your concerns are (this will include your frustrations!), then get clear on what you feel/think you can influence within your concerns.  The Circle of Concern is the largest because we have many concerns-some of which we can influence, others of which we cannot.  The Circle of Influence sits inside of the Circle of Concern and helps you to get more clear on where we could be focusing our energies.

The smallest circle in this tool is the Circle of Control -I will give you a hint here – the only thing you have complete control over is you! Hard to believe-I know.  I keep trying to fit other things in there and it just doesn’t work.  We want to believe we have control over things outside of us but the reality is we have influence on the outside and control from within.

So what’s within? Your thoughts, feelings, and perspectives, which is your power.  Power is what you have authority over.  Control is the ability to direct something. Your thoughts, feelings and perspectives direct your behavior.  So the power lives in your head and heart-control is demonstrated through your behavior.

Often times when you are feeling an imbalance and see yourself in the Circle of Chaos, the first question you could ask yourself is who or what are you handing your power over to?  Then ask where do you want to take control? You are your own Control Center and when you get clear on what is going on internally, you will be more empowered to create and own balance in your life.

Tune in next month for Recovery Tactic #2 –Tips on How to Get Clear on Your Internal Drivers-Values and beliefs and how to establish external boundaries to support your ‘center’.