Why Business Things Can Feel Uncomfortable (or, Worse, Sleazy)

You grab a name tag, a glass of white wine (thank goodness for wine), and scan the room for someone you know. It’s filled with women in smart dresses and men in layered sweater-shirt combos. The light is manageable but low.

Really, the fact that you turned up at this shindig without a fallback buddy is kind of crazy. All you can see in the room is small huddles of people vacillating between laughing politely and furrowing their brows, well, politely.

Finally, you spot another lone wolf. You slowly start walking toward her and nervously ask her a question. You make polite smalltalk until one of the initiated invades your little duo of sanctuary.

You try to move on to another group, another conversation, another opportunity. Each time you make your approach the butterflies in your tummy turn into bees. They buzz up to your head. Your brain is overcome by the swarm. Sooner than later, you bail.

You just put yourself through something akin to hell and don’t even have a business card to show for it, let alone a real connection with someone knew who can help you book a new client or land a new account.

Maybe this isn’t your worst-case business-building scenario (it is mine). Maybe yours is sales calls or speaking gigs or email marketing. Maybe you love being funny but hate the expectation to perform. Maybe you love diving deep but hate holding someone’s hand.

Business tends to create opportunities to take action that make you feel uncomfortable, disquieted.

Worse, business can put you in a position where you think you need to do things that are painful, unprincipled, or sleazy.

Even when you reject the worst of those things (really, don’t do anything that makes you feel sleazy), you succumb to good advice, solid plans, and tried-and-true formulas that just don’t sit right with you.

Case in point: “If high-powered entrepreneurs go to networking events, surely I should to. That’s just a good plan.”

I’m going to let the cat out of the bag early: you don’t need to do anything in your business that isn’t aligned with your personal values or guiding principles.

But you knew that.

You’re not one to compromise your beliefs, your values, or your principles. It’s part of what got you into business in the first place.

What you probably don’t know is that there is a strategic way to develop a plan of action that is aligned with your personal values and guiding principles. There’s a strategic way to allow what makes you most effective and compelling turn into tactics and then results.

In other words, when you’re clear on the strategy, you can reverse engineer the tactics that are going to work best for you. Better, you can innovate new ones that put you light years ahead of the rest of the market. It’s not a matter of finding the right guru, formula, or expert; it’s a matter of becoming your own expert.

Let’s go back to the example of the networking event. This is a nightmare scenario for me. It’s not as bad as it used to be but it’s still really bad.

I want to connect with people. I love finding kindred spirits and people who want to help me fulfill my vision. But walking up to people at a networking event is not a condition for success for me.

I’ve had to ask myself whether I needed to push myself to accomplish this “should” of business or whether I could find a different way to connect with people.

This is a core question on Quiet Power Strategy™: How do you want to connect with others?

Too often, we focus on how we should connect with others. Or we fixate on what will work best to connect with others based on what’s working for other people.

All the shoulds and best practices in the world aren’t helpful if they’re not helpful, effective, efficient, and fulfilling to you and your business.

When I coach clients through developing their business strategy, I ask them:

  • How have you best connected with others in the past?
  • What conditions do you need to really create a connection with someone?
  • What kinds of conversations lead to lasting relationships?
  • What kinds of people are you looking to meet?
  • When do you feel most persuasive or compelling?

Then, we create a plan that creates those conditions, sets them up to meet those kind of people, and helps the feel more persuasive and compelling.

For me, that means space to think about how to approach someone, time to consider my responses, the ability to research people first, and clear expectations for behavior. I’m an introvert, can you tell? That means that I’ve relied heavily on Twitter to connect with others. That’s lead to speaking engagements at Etsy headquarters, CreativeLive, and Pioneer Nation, among others. It’s also lead to relationships with bestselling authors like Chris Guillebeau, Sally Hogshead, and Nilofer Merchant. I can say with confidence that trying to networking-event my way to those connections would have failed miserably. I’m just not suited for it. And that’s okay.

This kind of strategic workaround works for any area of your business that’s feeling especially uncomfortable (or, worse, sleazy). Step back and look for way around. It doesn’t mean you’re copping out if you don’t take the hard road, it means you’re smart.

That said, you can’t just ignore the hard road; you need a strategic plan to get the results you want without having to do the things you don’t want to do.

That’s what my new book is all about. It’s coming out on February 10 but in the meantime, you can pick up a special sneak preview by clicking here.

5 Things I “Shouldn’t” Have Done That Helped to Grow My Business in 2014

2014 was a year of extraordinary growth for my business. I made investment a priority and still came out with considerably more personal income than ever before. The business more than doubled in revenue from 2013 to 2014 and we blasted through 2 mental thresholds that even two years ago would have seemed quite audacious to me.

Of course, while money is an excellent metric, it’s not the money that really matters. What really matters is that my business grew because I was willing to make some changes that allowed me—and later my team—to be more effective. Those changes were a result of getting even clearer on our Quiet Power Strategy and me embracing my own self-leadership and the leadership of my business.

Those changes also reflect some things that others might see as “shouldn’ts.” Shouldn’ts are the things that you’ve either been explicitly told you shouldn’t do or the opposite of the things you assume you should do. The thing is, I don’t believe in shoulds.

I believe everything in business is a choice.

When you cede your choices to shoulds, you give up part of your Quiet Power as a business owner.

Making unique choices that are true to your personal effectiveness makes you more powerful.

Let me tell you some of the things I “shouldn’t” have done in my business that actually lead to this extraordinary growth:

1) I stopped offering one-on-one coaching.

One-on-one coaching served me well. I was able to hone my methodology, develop relationships with amazing business owners, and make good money doing it. Yet, it wasn’t a  sustainable direction for me.

I didn’t just make the switch because it’s “easier” to make money coaching groups than coaching individuals. If you’ve ever tried it, you probably realize that’s a bit of a fallacy. There’s nothing easy about selling 15 spots at once instead of 1.

I made the switch because it didn’t serve my long-term vision. My vision has always been and continues to be one where my business generates revenue based on my ideas, not on my service. I need time to think, connect, and develop. One-on-one coaching doesn’t serve that plan.

I could easily sell time with me for top dollar but it won’t serve me in the long-term and it wouldn’t lead to the kind of growth that we saw this last year.

2) I said no to major list-building activities.

Well, 2014 was the year we hit peak telesummit. The idea of the telesummit is that you gather a whole bunch of great people together and put on a virtual conference of sorts. In theory, I love this idea. In practice, I hate it.

Here’s why: somewhere along the line, people realized that just because you have “celebrities” in your telesummit doesn’t mean you’ll create a huge draw. So marketers started insisting that if they include you, you have to email your list about the summit. Required promotion just isn’t my bag.

My subscriber community (you!) is way too important to me to drop “solo blasts” every time I get interviewed. I still did many great telesummits this year (like the Thriving Artist Summit and the Conquer Summit) but said “no” to any summit that required my promotion to participate.

That way, you know that if I share something with you, it’s because I believe wholeheartedly in it, not because I’m required to share it with you.

3) I gave away some of my best content for free.

Plenty of content marketers will tell you that they’re giving away their best stuff for free. Some of that is true. Some of it isn’t. Here’s what I can tell you about what I did:

I went on CreativeLive 3 times over 10 months and gave away large chunks of my best programs.

You know what happened? My subscriber community grew by leaps and bounds, my membership community grew by 80% (and $1000s per month), and more people bought my highest investment program at that time.

It’s not enough to tell people you can help them. Sometimes, you have to show them that what you’ve got for them is truly different.

4) I launched a new program with no fanfare or marketing.

Last summer, I followed through on a plan I’d had in the works for almost 3 years: I created a business coach training program. Then, I filled it with no fanfare or marketing. I simply said (in 1 Facebook post, no less), “I made this. Are you interested?”

Over 60 people responded that they wanted information. I interviewed over 15 candidates for 6 spots. I took on 4 more people than I originally wanted to. In September, there were 8 brand new business coaches who were armed to the teeth with effective tools and coaching strategies.

And that leads me to point number 5.

5) I trained people to do exactly what I do.

One of the biggest shoulds you’ll hear is that you should make money doing what you’re uniquely able to do. It’s “you” that’s valuable.

That’s crap.

Do you really believe you can create a business that sets you free if you are chained to what’s valuable about your business? No. You don’t believe that. Not really.

Training people to do exactly what I do is key to creating exponentially value in the world. And when I create exponentially more value, I can reap exponentially more rewards.

Besides, I truly want you to believe that you can do what I do. I don’t want to be your crutch, I want to be the person who empowers you to find your own path. That’s what Quiet Power Strategy is all about. You might need a hand to find your business’s Quiet Power Strategy but you should be able to lead yourself over time.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or discouraged about what’s on the docket for your business this year, I encourage you to consider which of those things you’ve proactively made the choice to pursue and which are on your plan because they’re shoulds. Examine your course of action on a daily basis to remove the shoulds and embrace the shouldn’ts that work for you.

Feeling Overwhelmed? Why Self-Leadership Matters in the New Economy

There are fewer gatekeepers, permission-givers, and clear paths to success than at any other time in history. You can’t rely on anyone else to tap you on the should and say, “Step forward. This is your time.”

If you won’t do it for yourself, no one is going to do it for you.

Yet, the options can be overwhelming. While there are fewer gatekeepers and permission-givers, there are many more ways to create your own livelihood. There are almost an infinite number of ways to take your idea to market, communicate with the people who need it most, and partner with others to reach your goals.

Self-leadership is your path out of the overwhelm. It’s your personalized approach to realizing your ideas in a business that brings you the wealth, peace, and ease you really want.

Self-leadership isn’t just about what you want to do—it’s about how you want to do it. You get to decide where you’re headed and how you’re going to get there. Self-leadership is the key to creating a framework that has you relying more on yourself than on gurus or can’t lose formulas.

Self-leadership also isn’t about being more productive—it’s about being more effective. You don’t have to do or produce more. Instead, you need to make what you’re doing or producing really count. The best way to do that is to work what’s true for you and how you really want to connect with people into everything you do. Position your work in a way that’s aligned with the way you show up naturally and you’ll find traction and efficacy less fleeting.

  • Prefer not to connect with large groups of people? Focus on careful, intentional, one-to-one relationship-building.
  • Don’t like the hassle of big launches and look-at-me marketing? Choose to nurture a high-touch business based on a strong referral engine.
  • Love connecting with an audience from the stage? Figure out ways to get in front of event organizers and build your platform.

The choice–and the power–is yours.

Effective self-leaders are able to avoid self-defeating beliefs, leverage their points of power, and collaborate with others—resulting in goal achievement, independence, and the ability to lead others more effectively.
— Ken Blanchard

To become a better self-leader and decision-maker for your business, you need to hone 3 key skills: perception, discernment, and focus. In the old economy, most of us outsourced these skills. We relied on others to tell us what was going on in our world, we sought plans and formulas from people who knew better than us, and we waited for management to tell us what to put our attention on.

Now, there are both fewer ways to outsource these skills and many more opportunities to take control for yourself. But now that you have control, what are you going to do with it? You can control yourself into a hole in the ground or you can lead yourself where you want to go. You can get bogged down in busywork or you can devise creative plans and watch them work. You can force yourself to struggle through the conventional way or decide to blaze your own path.

You can use perception, discernment, and focus to find your own way. When you hone your perception, you see, hear, feel, and sense more of what is going on around you. You have more information to work with. You’ll feel better prepared and more out-in-front of the market. When you refine your skill of discernment, you use the information at your disposal to get closer to your own goals. You see opportunities for creativity instead of simple choices. When you sharpen your focus, you only spend time doing work that counts. You know what’s going to push the needle and you concentrate on those things.

Using those skills, you can rely less on outside direction and more on your own self-leadership. You can take advantage of all the opportunities the New Economy affords you without getting stuck in the weeds. Tapping into your own self-leadership makes you more powerful, quietly. When you’re more effective, more focused, more perceptive and aligned with the market, you exude authority. And that’s intoxicating.

If you’re in the position of needing to convince others to trust you, to cultivate a sense of community and belonging, and to present yourself as powerful—and we all are, invest yourself in becoming a keen self-leader.

Our Successes All Look Different: How to Recognize Yours

The other day, I was scrolling through a friend’s wall on Facebook looking for a post. I noticed that, in fact, most of the posts weren’t from her but were other people posting on her wall celebrating this or sharing that. I thought, “Wow, all those wall posts are signs of just how influential she is. Maybe I need to work harder so that I be that influential too.”

See what happened there? I allowed a positive metric of one person’s success tell me I’m not as successful as I’d like to be (or as successful as she is).

I had a similar conversation with a couple clients recently, too. They were concerned that their communities didn’t act the same way a competitor’s community acted and worried that was affecting the performance of their businesses.

When we see disparities like this, our natural inclination is to find fault with ourselves. Self-judgement is the reflex.

What if, instead, you saw this as a result of your personal strategic decisions? What if you decided to express your own results as Key Performance Indicators of your core strategy and then seek additional ways to manifest those results?

For my business, effusive posts on my Facebook wall might be fun but they don’t really reflect the way the awesome people who read my blog or work with me would naturally respond to my work because of conscious choices I’ve made in my strategy. Instead, they write emails, Tweet me, or invest 3 days time to watch me on CreativeLive. For the clients I mentioned above, their own awesome people respond to their work by making taking serious action toward their goals and sharing much more privately.

We all have different ways to “move the needle” on our businesses and each of those methods has different corresponding effects. One person’s strategic decisions create different outward effects than another person’s. What’s more, those strategic decisions (her Quiet Power) are unique to that individual and her business. What works for me won’t work for you. What works for Marie Forleo won’t work for me. What works for Facebook won’t work for Marie Forleo. And as a result, our successes all look different.

Plenty of people will try to sell you one-size-fits-all tactics and give you can’t-lose metrics to follow, but the truth is that there is no correct solution save the one that is most effective for you and your business.

Your business strategy should be dictated by What You Want to Create and How You Want to Connect. The decisions you make in those two areas dictate Who Your Business Attracts and How They Respond. Understanding the interplay between these areas helps you stay out of the weeds and out in front of your business. Instead of making reactive decisions or action plans, you make proactive ones because you’re guided by metrics and indicators that are actually relevant to your own personal strategy.

You should choose who you’re going to pursue and how you’re going to measure their response based on what’s actually going to create results for you.

Look at the unique people your business attracts and how they respond to your business:

  • What strategic decisions have you made that attract those people to your business and influence how they respond to it?
  • What indicators of success can you extract from how your people respond?
  • What reactions would show you that you’re on the right path?
  • What responses or methods of response could you use to track your effectiveness?

You might find that Facebook shares fit both your strategic decisions and the direction you want to take next year. Or you might decide that email subscriptions are where it’s at and you want to do everything you can to have your people respond by subscribing. You might choose purchases as an indicator of effectiveness and work to understand how your strategy influences the way your awesome people choose to buy.

As you look to the coming year, choose one indicator to monitor closely. Experiment with your marketing and sales efforts to see how you can affect that indicator. Then pay special attention to how you can use that indicator to reach your business goals.

Business Not So Hot This Year? Here’s How to Plan for Next Year With Peace

How are you feeling about your business as the year starts to come to a close? Maybe you’re right where you want to be. But maybe you thought you’d be closer to a particular milestone or in better shape financially.

The time to review your business and plan for next year is now and yet, that can be extremely difficult when you’re feeling frustrated, stuck, or even feeling shame about where you’ve ended up. How can you engage the peace and gratitude you need to set your strategy and make a plan for next year so that you end up in a better position 12 months from now?

You’re not alone.

First, know that you’re not alone. Whether you’re just starting out, just hit the Microbusiness Earning Plateau, or whether you’ve been around the entrepreneurial block a hundred times, there are plenty of other people experiencing what you’re experiencing. It might help to set up some private chats with a few business owners in your network that you’re close to. You can mutually debrief with honesty and avoid the trap of sugar-coating on social media. Whether your friend is in the same position as you are or not doesn’t really matter since we’ve all experienced ups and downs on this path.

Revisit what worked.

Second, revisit what worked–no matter how small it might be. Make a list of victories: an interview, a great client, a fabulous testimonial, a met deadline. Look for patterns. What do the things that worked have in common? Maybe you used a particular personal strength or followed your gut instead of convention. Maybe it was the kind of client or a way you set up your workflow. Dig down and figure out why things worked, not simply what worked.

Revisit what didn’t work.

Third, do the same thing for what didn’t work. Yes, it will be painful but you’ll end up with more helpful information for the next round.

Run your numbers.

Next, run your numbers. I can’t stress this enough. Don’t hide from your numbers. When the end of what felt like my worst year yet rolled around, I ran my numbers and discovered that I had generated as much revenue as the year previous when I felt on top of the world. My business hadn’t grown but that was because I was reconfiguring my business model and repositioning my business, not because I was “bad.”

Ideally, you should be running your numbers at least monthly and reviewing them with someone who can help you interpret the information. But when you’ve been down on yourself or your business, it’s likely you’ve been putting off this task. Take this time to hit the reset button and commit to a better pattern for next year.

Identify a big win.

The penultimate step is identifying what would be a big win–right now. It’s never too late to grab a big win. Think about what you really want to create, how you want to connect with your customers, and what metrics are most important to you (for instance, are you more interested in adding 100 new subscribers to your list or bringing in an extra $2000?). Then decide on that big win. Create a plan to make that happen as quickly and easily as possible. Forget doing things “right” and just figure out how to make it happen. Skip the bells and whistles and go straight to what is going to make that big win tick.

Last week I was talking with my friend Brooke, an herbalist and founder of Love Warrior Gardens, and she identified that adding 10 new customers to her Community Supported Herbalism program would be a big win for her and help her end the year in a great position. We brainstormed several easy-to-implement sales tactics that could make that happen. The next step was as simple as writing an email or asking some friends to share her business with their friends.

Making that kind of concentrated push toward a goal at the end of the year can not only put more money in your bank account but can also provide really positive momentum you can carry into the next year.

Make your plan.

Finally make a plan for next year. You’re not going to get yourself out of a hole by flying by the seat of your pants. You need to know your end goal (where you want to be 12 months from now), what personal strengths you’re going to leverage to get there, and how you’ll break down the year piece by piece to get there. Sure, you may need to pivot once or several times throughout the year. But how much more confident will you feel having an initial plan for how the year will flow?

If you need help planning, I have a free Revenue Planning guide that breaks it down into 4 easy steps. You’ll review this year, chart out your sales cycles for next year, plan the revenue you want to generate for each month of the next year, and then conduct a pre-mortem for each sales cycle to mitigate the chances of things going south.

Remember, every business has ups and downs. Even if you’re not where you wanted to be at this point in the year, it doesn’t mean you’re not poised to do great things–and soon. Take time to find the peace and gratitude that will guide you through the end of this year and on to the next. Then make a plan to make it happen.