You’re Fired! When An Entrepreneur SHOULD Fire A Client

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I fired a client this week.

I cannot remember the last time I had to do this, but it was for MY own good.

Usually, when I have new clients, I can’t wait to begin our work together and I look forward to each of our conversations and the work that I can do to move them forward. Occasionally, however, I override my good sense and instincts and select an individual to work with that I think has big opportunities ahead but may not resonate with me individually. In this case, I should have listened to my gut.

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3 Tips To Get You Started on Your Path to Thought Leadership

I was on the phone today with a new client — a woman who runs a large trade association. During the 2 years since she was hired, she has had her head down focusing internally. Now, with the organization on a sound financial footing, she’s ready to be a part of the larger conversation in her field – to “be the voice for this sector.” She has a chance to build the organization’s credibility in their community and get “a seat at the table where decisions are being made.”

Like most leaders of organizations she admitted she has some challenges to overcome: she is not a great public speaker, she has little time and few resources and her board is not yet aligned with her external focus. However, as a visionary leader, she is quite clear that she needs to play a much bigger game for herself and her organization. So, she asked, “How should I get started?”

Join the Ecosystem

Dews...

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The Magic of the Mastermind

Every entrepreneur and executive needs a safe place to test their ideas and expand their thinking. Is it time to join a mastermind?

brain

This weekend, I participated in a magical retreat on the shores of Morro Bay in Southern California. The combination of a squadron of pelicans, pods of porpoises and a plethora of fascinating people definitely made this a weekend to remember.

The retreat was hosted by my friend and mentor, Sam Horn, CEO of the Intrigue Agency and one of those people who definitely attracts intriguing people around her. There were speakers, coaches, branding experts, authors, consultants and brilliant strategists – and many who fit more than one of those categories.

This retreat was a place you go to have your brain stretched.

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What is Thought Leadership?

What is thought leadership anyway? Let’s start with what it’s not…

ripples of impact

I was on the phone with an acquaintance yesterday talking excitedly about my favorite topic — thought leadership — when she stopped me in my tracks with a simple question. What is thought leadership?

READ THE REST OF THIS POST on Kevin Kruse’s blog.

5 Tips to a Better Talk

What’s the secret to creating a great talk? Follow the grandma rule, remember to ‘stick and click’ and don’t hesitate to repeat your top messages.

I made a mistake last month, (ok, probably more than one), but one that I want to talk about here. I gave a talk at a local company about my new book that kinda bombed. Ouch.

Now that a few weeks have passed, I can look back with a little perspective and I know what I did wrong and sadly, it’s a mistake I’ve made before. I tried to give my audience the equivalent of a PhD on my topic. In an hour.

You can see why it didn’t work out so well. I should know better.

Why did it happen that way? Perhaps I got a little nervous because I knew that there were going to be several scientists in the room who already had a PhD. Perhaps I got wrapped up in the experts’ dilemma — knowing so much about a topic you can’t teach others what you know. Perhaps it was the fear that someone might question whether I’m even an expert in my topic at all — even though, of course, I am.

It was probably a combination of all of those. But what counts now is if I can step back and start over. If I can go back and revamp my talk completely so it doesn’t happen again. If I can focus on finding the core essence of my message so I can share that.

Just that.

Not every story and every slide and every nuance and every detail.

Having an audience is a gift and I never want to take that gift for granted. When I can remember that I am there in service to that audience and not in service to selling books or showing how much of an expert I am or sharing every single thing I know, then I will gain their ear…as well as their hearts and minds.

I am on a mission to create more thought leaders in the world – more people who are willing to step out and claim their expertise and join the broader conversation. More people who see themselves as change makers and are empowered to make that change happen. I can’t do that if no one is listening.

Next time you are preparing to be in front of an audience, here are a few things to think about:

5 Tips to a Better Talk

Less and Less is So Much More: What are the core elements and core takeaways from this talk? Can you write them on an index card? If not, perhaps it’s time to rethink, distill, hone, reframe and refocus to give people the key elements that will inspire.
Stick and Click: Are there one or two easy-to-remember phrases or concepts in your talk that will help your ideas stick and click?
Tell Your Truth: I call this the Brene Brown rule – the value of vulnerability. It’s not about publicly hanging out all your dirty laundry but are you showing up as your authentic self?
Repetition is Not a Bad Word: You may think you’ve already said it before, but just because you’ve repeated it doesn’t mean others heard or remembered it. That takes repetition.
* Follow The Grandma Rule: Would someone (like your grandmother) who knows nothing about your topic be able to follow what you’re saying? If not, how can you ‘uncomplexify‘ what you’re talking about?

Want a really difficult challenge that may help you break through?

Prepare an Ignite version of your talk: 5 minutes, 20 slides and the slides advance automatically every 15 seconds. The discipline of that format will give you great practice for creating a top notch talk.

Write to Change the World

Is it time to claim your expertise, step into the spotlight and join the conversation?

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend an excellent one-day training, “Write to Change the World” from the folks at the OpEd Project. Katie Orenstein and her team are on a mission to get more women’s voices onto the OpEd pages and sites like the Huffington Post and Wikipedia.

This training teaches how to:

  •  make a clear and well-reasoned argument;
  •  gracefully overcome other’s objections to your point of view;
  •  get placement in the major media outlets (most outlets have their criteria right on their web pages).

But perhaps more important than the skills training, they also help you answer the questions:

  1. Am I ready to ‘claim’ my expertise – even in the face of naysayers?
  2. Am I willing to step into the spotlight – NOW?

What we know is that some people hold themselves back from the spotlight because they believe they are too young, or too old, too new in their field of expertise or too unsure that they have a unique point of view. Others believe it will require another degree for them to achieve ‘expert’ status.

The OpEd training is all about helping participants let go of these fears and uncertainties and understand that they are ‘enough’ right now. This often requires a major mindset shift.

Make a Mindset Shift

Carol Dweck of Stanford University is the author of the 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, has done a lot of research on why many have so much trouble believing that they are ready.

“People generally hold one of two beliefs about their abilities. People with a “fixed” mind-set – “I am smart” or “I am athletic” – believe their intelligence or abilities are innate, unalterable traits. A fixed mind-set can … make challenging situations threatening to self-image. Conversely, people with a “growth” mind-set – “I can get better with practice” – believe that they can cultivate needed skills …  through focused effort. They are more equipped to handle setbacks and know that goals are attainable through hard work.”* 

Fortunately, Dweck assures us that a fixed mindset can be changed – often just by teaching people about the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset.

Orenstein and her team are teaching just that – through experiential exercises that include ‘claiming’ your expertise and defending your argument to others. A great way to reset your own mindset!

Just because you’re not ready to write an OpEd doesn’t mean that you have a fixed mindset. That is not what I’m suggesting.

There are many different reasons that you might not step into the spotlight or claim your expertise.

  • Some hold themselves back because they are concerned they will be seen as bragging or ‘too big for their britches’. But, as author, speaker and investor Guy Kawasaki said in a recent online conversation with Rafe Needleman, “If you are adding value, is that bragging? No.”
  • Others fear they will not find support from their boss or their organization. Yet, done well, thought leadership can bring a huge win-win for organizations. Avinash Kaushik began his blog about digital analytics, Occam’s Razor, when he was an individual contributor at Intuit. (He’s now the Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google.) Over time, as he grew his following and his team, the Intuit HR group let him know that his online fame made their job easier as everyone wanted to come and work for him. Intuit also became more widely respected because of Kaushik’s thought leadership.
  • Still others worry that what they know, they learned from others – they shouldn’t claim a unique set of expertise. Yet, often it’s how you applied what you learned that is what others want to know. Margarita Baggett, MSN, RN, Chief Nursing Officer at UC San Diego Medical Center is one of the rare nurse leaders who has been a part of successfully implementing the Magnet Recognition Program® Framework at two hospitals. (The Magnet Recognition Program Framework is designed to improve the quality of nursing in a hospital and implementation is usually a multi-year effort.) As a result, she has developed a unique set of best practices that others are eager to learn as they make their own journey to Magnet recognition. She is a regular speaker at industry conferences to share her lessons learned.

Cultivate a Growth Mindset

As you look forward to the year ahead — and move forward on your own journey from leader to thought leader – what can you do to: – cultivate a growth mindset:

  • Create more value for your industry or your organization by sharing what you know;
  • Share your best practices and lessons learned?

In the meantime, the OpEd Project is hosting many more trainings (find the dates here) across the country and at at least 6 different universities. Sign up today.

Learn more about Carol Dweck here and here*.

Where Are All the Women Entrepreneurs?

Sure women start lots of companies. But where are the big, world-changing businesses run by women?

I get this question all the time: Where are all the women entrepreneurs? I guess the people who ask figure that I should know: I’m the co-founder of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and co-founder of the Springboard Venture Forums, and I’ve helped women raise over $5 billion for their businesses.

Where are all the women entrepreneurs

My response is simple: Statistics show that women in the U.S. start companies at a very brisk pace compared to their male counterparts. The question that remains interesting–and is less-frequently asked–is why are so few women starting big companies? Even women who have started businesses that get outside funding do not tend to end up with businesses as large as those run by men.

After more than 20 years meeting with, advising, and learning from women entrepreneurs, I believe that women either do not like or not feel comfortable spinning a big vision.

An Incremental Business Will Not Change the World

If you are seeking outside funding, you are asking potential investors to put money into your idea above all others. To do that, you need a big vision. Most people are inspired to invest in big ideas that can change the world instead of small, incremental ideas that will likely happen without their help. If you have dollars to put to work, wouldn’t you be more excited to be able to say you are funding the next SpaceX or iRobot or Zipcar (the latter two were co-founded by women, incidentally) rather than another small services firm? I would.

But something happens when women put together their investor pitch or think critically about their businesses. They actually want to understand exactly how they are going to get from Point A to Point Z and they want to explain to an investor the steps (B, C, D) they will take and exactly how they will spend the money they raise.

This sounds like a good thing, but it pushes the entrepreneur to think small, and to designate their Point Z as only a few steps into the future and on a path that is clearly visible to all. In most cases, this is neither exciting nor inspiring. It is just an incremental business that will not change the world.

Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar, tells the story of her meeting with the dean of MIT’s Sloan School of Management (of which she is an alumna) to get his input on her business idea. After he saw her pitch, he got very excited, but he immediately pushed her to think much bigger. She recalls sitting down with her co-founder in a coffee shop at the meeting. The two just looked at each other …shocked and a bit scared. Could they do it? Should they do it? After a lot of soul searching, they did, and Zipcar was born.

Work Backwards From the Future

If we’re going to see a change in the number of big businesses founded by women, they will have to get comfortable spinning a much bigger story. They’ll have to ask themselves questions like:

•    What if I had 10 times the amount of money I am asking for, what would I do with it?’
•    If we could really dream big about changing this industry/niche, what would we do?
•    What’s the “What If?” future we’d like to bring about?

Then, work backwards from those possibilities to clarify the broad strokes and milestones that need to be met to get there. It isn’t about smoke and mirrors. It is about admitting that you don’t know every step that lies ahead of you, and trusting that you’ll figure it out.

Get Help From Those Who Have Come Before You

There is a funny dance in this start-up process that often feels very uncomfortable. We have to push ourselves to think big and then not become so overwhelmed by the big idea that we get stopped in our tracks. It is important to ask for help, to surround yourself with big thinkers and others who are ahead of you on the start-up path, and to constantly test and verify your assumptions. And, as women, don’t just talk to other women. Find some men who can serve as advisors, too.

Women are the key drivers of the economy. We should also be the leaders that create the solutions to the world’s big problems and lead the companies that bring those solutions to market. If we can conquer this big vision challenge, I believe we are poised to do just that, and to change the world forever.

This post first appeared on Inc.com.

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