× Get Started 630.518.6702 shawn@shawnpreuss.com






Shhh…I Have a Secret to Business Achievement

“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”  – John Dewey

Sky Reflected in Corporate Building 450x299I am an entrepreneur and I coach a lot of entrepreneurs.   In coaching, I have discovered that an area that seems to be a consistent ‘weak link’ in an entrepreneur’s skill set is that of assessing their business, which requires a skill of reflection.  I have always been a strong observer and reflector, two gifts of introversion!  Even though these skills came naturally to me, I still needed to learn to be intentional about using them to assess my business.

Reflection, simply put is thinking about or ‘reflecting’ on what you did, how you were being or what happened. Whether you are self reflecting or reflecting on your business, the way to glean value from your life/business experience is to reflect on it!

In Business

I have learned it takes equal parts of knowing, being and doing to make my business happen. Once I was up and running, I wanted to progress and learn from my experience.  I tried my hand at a number of ‘new business models’, which helped to guide me.  However, even though I had wonderful models to follow, no one else is me or has my unique set of strengths and weaknesses.  I learned it is important to learn from our own experience and not base all our learning on someone else’s experience.

As John Dewey says in the above quote, in order to use experience as a true teacher in life, it is important to know how to practice reflective exercises.  Reflection takes the experience beyond face value where we may get caught in our reactive default settings. There is reflection that keeps us stuck and reflection that moves us forward.  Reflection that keeps us stuck is when we are telling the story over and over and making someone wrong in it.  We are focused on judgment!  If we want to move forward, it is important to start the reflection and remove the judgment.

I started looking at my business objectively by using the “What, So What, Now What” method.  When I look at the “What”, I am sticking to the black and white, the facts.  I get clear on who or what is involved.  For instance, if you were doing a quarterly assessment on your business, you may look at your tracking for sales, looking at the numbers for new clients/customers, your tracking for marketing and how many clients/customers came from what marketing, your tracking of finances.  What did you spend money on, was there a return on investment, where did you overspend, are you meeting your financial goals?  Numbers tell a story so during the “What” stage you are beginning with the objective reflection on the numbers.  If you are reflecting on a specific situation, such as conflict with a customer, stick to the facts and create an outline in order of what has happened.  Again, the “What” stage is all about objectivity.

During the “So What” stage, I can subjectively attach meaning to the objective data.  What does it mean to me?  What is the story the numbers are trying to tell me?  Where are there missing pieces?  I found that this was the stage to also get perspective by asking others what the numbers or facts of the situation meant to them.  When you allow for others’ perspectives, it expands your capacity to find possibilities, opportunities or solutions.

And finally I arrive at the “Now What” stage.  This is when I put my objective and subjective assessment into learning.  Keeping the learning in context to the bigger picture of my business as a whole, there are two questions I like to ask myself, as well as my coaching clients, when assessing their business:

  • What learning will you take forward?  Perhaps a new habit, a new routine, a new way of being or an uncovered value.
  • What will you let go of? Perhaps an old thought pattern, a marketing or financial mistake or a belief system that is not supporting your business?

I have found the “What, So What and Now What” structure is a great way to assess my business on a quarterly basis.  It not only allows me to keep on the pulse of my business, it also allows me a structure to track my decision making process.

When I do my year-end assessment, using my quarterly What/So What/Now What trackers, I like to look at the year’s business positives and affirm the decisions that got me there.  Then I look at the year’s negatives and ask two questions:

  • What Can I Change?
  • What Am I Willing to Change?

Once I get clear on changes I want to make, I list the learnings that brought me to this point in order to ground them.  I always like to end the year, in business and life, on a foot of gratitude and learning.

I would venture to say that I believe assessment is one of the most valuable business practices that you can incorporate into your business systems.  Make it a habit and you will keep yourself on the path of business development and growth.

What Are You Becoming Aware Of?

leaf on a water. blurred.  ** Note: Slight blurriness, best at smaller sizesCoaches, this is a great question for ALL coaching sessions!  I know all too often we want to go right to the action item — it is tangible, measurable and gives us a sense of accomplishment in the coaching session.  However, the first indicator for the ICF Core Competency D:8 Facilitating Learning and Results is Creating Awareness.  Boy, that just is not as exciting and concrete as getting into action…or so I thought!

This core competency is the Kingpin!  It is what coaching is all about because when awareness is created, consciousness is raised to another level.  From awareness, a client can choose consciously what they want to do with that awareness.  When we are ‘unaware’ or ‘blind’ to an area within us, we will tend to spin our wheels trying different ways of making something happen.  What needs to happen is an awareness of what WITHIN us is keeping us from what we want!

How can you, as a coach, best support your client in creating awareness?  The first and most important indicator is staying focused on your client’s ‘being’ and not on the issue.  As coaches, we are not ‘fixers’.  If we truly believe in our client’s resourcefulness, we are called to get curious about their being so as they respond, they discover their resourcefulness.

What is getting curious about their ‘being’ really mean?  I believe it means being curious about their drivers: values and beliefs.  In any given situation or issue, they are either in dissonance or resonance with their values.  Values are integral to who your client is.  Helping clients to become more aware of their values helps them to consciously choose their next steps.  If they become aware that they are in dissonance with a specific value and want to move toward resonance, they can now consider specific options.

Beliefs are also a driver; however, beliefs can be inherited or learned and may or may not serve a client.  Oftentimes a client’s beliefs show up in their language patterns, such as ‘but it doesn’t matter’.  There is a belief here that whatever this client feels or thinks, it doesn’t matter.  Reflecting this pattern and using an inquiry such as, “where else this dismissiveness shows up in your life” may unlock some doors.  They may become aware of an underlying inherited/learned belief system that is not serving them.

Another way to help to support awareness is to check in with the 3 brains: head, heart and gut.  Once I had a client whose head and heart were in conflict, and going to the gut really helped them to move away from the conflict and gain clarity.  The head was attached to a belief system, the heart was attached to a value and the belief and value were conflicting!  As soon as the client went to the gut, she had a level of awareness that helped to sort through her belief and value conflict.  However, the question that really opened the space was, “where do you find the most energy?”  This helped her to clearly see that she wanted to follow her heart.

As a coach, we use many tools and techniques to help our clients gain awareness; however, the most powerful tool is self-awareness.  The more self aware we are, the more we are able to walk side by side with our clients on their journey of awareness.  Our insights and intuitiveness are derived from our own internal work and being.  “What are you becoming aware of?” is a question that can be asked not just to our clients but also as a daily practice in our own growth as coaches.

Collaboration: The Essence of Team

Business People Excited 600x385The whole reason a team is brought into existence is for collaboration. When you progress through the relational growth phases of: forming (coming together), storming (figuring out authority) and norming (who made it through the storms and is full in!), you can step into performing. This is where the relationships become synergistic and team members are fine tuning collaborative efforts. Using the skills you have learned in the stages of communication, connection and commitment, you are now ready to work on collaborative skills that will lead you to being a high performing team. Remember that the advantage of a team is that the whole is more powerful than each part alone. However, it takes skill to bring the whole together to perform functionally and powerfully. I have outlined 4 ‘Gives’ for this process, because true collaboration comes from a space of giving!

Give Voice

In my experience, if team members do not give voice to their ideas, opinions, suggestions, and knowledge, they are truly not serving the team. Sometimes, team members will adopt an attitude of dismissing their voice — especially if what they have to say is in disagreement with the majority of the team.

Disagreement is valuable in that it offers a depth of perspective. When you give voice in disagreement, share objectively and make it about the situation and/or topic, not about the person.

It is also important to keep collaborative efforts at a high level to give voice to all ideas that are being put out on the table. How you do is this is by letting the ideas come to life by building on them. Keeping the space open, acknowledging all ideas, and expanding on them are serving your collaborative nature.

Another way to give voice in collaboration is to keep communication lines open and systems of communication flowing. Making requests for help when you find yourself off course and keeping everyone in the loop on the progress you are making toward the team goals will support this.

Give Feedback

It is imperative to team growth and collaboration that team members learn how to give feedback. Giving and receiving feedback from team members can be a rich or a damaging experience.

In giving feedback, it is a good practice to remain curious about ‘what it means’ and to define problems objectively, in a non-threatening way. First stick to the facts and then add your meaning and ask for the other team members to share what it means to them.

A great tool for teams to use when learning about giving feedback is the Johari Window. This tool serves as a great framework in effective communication.

Give Compromise

Collaboration does not happen at a high level without the ability to negotiate toward win-win solutions.  Giving compromise as part of a collaborative skill set will allow everyone the opportunity to get clear on what is of value to them in any given task or situation that the group has to come to a decision on. As each team member gains clarity on what is important for them, they also have the ability to choose what they are willing to compromise on and what may be a ‘sticking issue’. This is where negotiation skills can really help the team come to a win-win solution. It is important to honor the process of identifying, clarifying, defining different perspectives and negotiating toward compromise. There are no shortcuts in giving compromise!

Give Acknowledgment

Giving Acknowledgment is a skill and a practice. It is important in a team situation where people are in the ‘performing’ stage to remember to share credit for good ideas with others. In ‘giving voice’ we talked about allowing ideas to come to life by building on them; therefore, it is a collaborative effort and all team members that were involved in the process need to be acknowledged. This keeps motivation and ownership of the team’s success high.

In giving acknowledgment, also acknowledge the feelings, concerns, opinions and ‘ways of being’ of your team members. For instance, if a team member goes out on a limb and stands up for something they believe in, even if it is contrary to the team, a team member may acknowledge their boldness and courage for taking a stand.

Another area to give acknowledgment is when a team member is in a conflict situation. In these situations it is important to allow space to ‘give voice’ and then acknowledge the conflict situation.

And finally it is important to give acknowledgment to team decisions in support, even when not in total agreement.

Giving Voice, Giving Feedback, Giving Compromise, Giving Acknowledgment — remember these four gifts of giving and you will develop a performing team!