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3 Leaders Reveal Their Hardest Conversations

Not all decisions are easy to make. How do you give a difficult talk to your teammate, boss, or even yourself? Andrea Williams covers this in her article for Michael Hyatt, on Nov. 27, 2018.

Building a successful organization requires interpersonal skills as much as knowledge of finance or marketing strategies. Perhaps the most important tool in the relational toolbox is the tenacity to have tough talks that lead to the sort of necessary change that makes growth possible.

Here, three individuals relate their most difficult conversations, revealing insights and advice applicable on a fairly wide scale. Their problems are likely to be yours at some point, if you are leading people.

Calling out a trusted team member

Addressing an individual’s poor decision making is never easy, especially if that person is a valuable part of the team and someone you want to continue working with long-term. The solution, says Shyam Krishna, founder of SKI Charities, is to empower that individual with more ownership over their role and the future of the organization as a whole.

SKI Charities supports local entrepreneurs in developing countries by providing microloans to women, giving them the necessary resources to lift their families out of poverty. In order the execute this mission, Krishna depends on project managers who are based in each country and are directly responsible for recruiting and developing entrepreneurs for SKI’s microfinance program.

During the organization’s growth in eastern Zimbabwe, Krishna discovered that one project manager was “overly-aggressive” in decision-making and enrolling beneficiaries who were not ideal for the program.

“She had been a stalwart member of our team and played a vital role in our early growth,” Krishna says, “so when I noticed this movement away from our core mission, I knew I had to speak with her about changing her mindset while balancing her continued engagement.”

Ultimately, Krishna reminded the project manager of SKI’s core mission, while also encouraging her to take an active role in creating and enhancing the company’s future vision. “With her involvement and ownership, she began to make decisions less as an employee and more as a leader herself,” Krishna says.

Giving the boss an ultimatum

While the onus for effectively tackling difficult conversation typically falls on leaders who need to address their subordinates, there are times when the need to initiate an important discussion starts at the bottom.

Before becoming the founder and CEO of business consulting firm Trebuchet Group, Chris Hutchinson was working under a leader who stifled his growth, taking over a number of his responsibilities once he had achieved success in those areas.

Hutchinson’s frustration was mounting.“I needed to help my boss do the role the business needed of him and let me do mine, or help transfer my responsibilities to him and leave the business,” he says.

Hutchinson presented his boss with two solutions: Either his boss would need to step back and focus on being the president of the organization, while Hutchinson exercised full autonomy as general manager, or Hutchinson would depart, transferring his responsibilities back to his boss.

“He chose the latter,” Hutchinson says. “Over the next few weeks, I coached him on how we would announce my transition…It was very difficult to leave my colleagues when I believed they would not be successful, yet I also felt I was in a no-win situation. The harder I tried to help, the less authority I had to be able to help.”

Hutchinson’s experience shows that not all difficult conversations will achieve an ideal result for both parties, but it’s important to have them nonetheless. His advice? Prepare in advance to ensure that your message is delivered with clarity and focus.

“A good friend gave me The Four Agreements book as I worked up the courage to present my boss with a clear choice and then follow through on that choice,” he says. “The book helped me make commitments to myself to do my best to be impeccable with my word, not make assumptions, and not take things personally. These lessons made a tremendous difference in that situation and have served me in other, difficult conversations with people at work.”

Owning up to your own mistakes

It’s estimated that one-in-five American jobs are held by contractors, and that, within ten years, half of the workforce will be comprised of contractors and freelancers.

For contract workers, the beauty of free-agent employment is the ability to assume full control over their schedule and work-life balance. But, in the face of poor time management and everyday life challenges, your schedule can quickly become an unwieldy monster.

As a self-employed attorney and mediator, Nance Schick has found that her most difficult conversations were the result of having to disclose her professional errors. This was certainly the case after a recent health crisis.

“I kept trying to work and thought I could get more done each day than I did, and this only made the work backlog pile up more,” Schick says. “This client’s project went further down my priority list each day, in part because I overestimated myself and made promises I couldn’t keep. Worse yet, I stopped communicating with her about my delays, thinking the project would be done before she even realized I was late completing it. I told myself this was okay because a lot of businesses operate this way, even if that is not how I run mine. But it was not okay.”

After recovering from laryngitis, pink eye, and a sinus infection, Schick was able to complete the project and submit it to her client for review. She also included and explanation, an apology, and a discount on her fees.

Since then, Schick has realized that it’s her responsibility to fully regain the trust of her client, but she’s also realistic in understanding that unforeseen circumstances may once again delay her productivity. Going forward, she plans to handle those situations with a different approach.

“First, I will be more realistic and honest about my schedule, even if it means I have to refer a project out to a trusted colleague,” she explains. “Second, I will notify the client immediately if I suspect a deadline won’t be met, and I will give the client a true opportunity to adapt, including by reassigning the project. Third, I will apologize by phone and allow the client to express her anger, disappointment, or whatever she feels.”

That may be a tough conversation to have but if she wants to grow, Schick believes it is a necessary one. “I must be the change I wish to see in others,” she says.

This article is written by Andrea Williams, digital content strategist, author, and journalist. You can find this post here.

The opinions expressed here by Andrea Williams are their own, not those of MichaelHyatt.com.

If you need help getting started in a new business venture, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

ABOUT GREG LEE


Stop Relying on Your Company for Career Development

As one holiday ends, another begins. The path to career advancement doesn’t slow down for Mike Guggemos though, as this week we will be looking over his article written for Fortune in March 12, 2017.

Stop Relying on Your Company for Career Development

You probably aren’t doing these three simple and easy-to-adopt professional habits to raise your visibility at work—but you should be. Despite being simple, these are generation-agnostic, can be tested by any person at any point in their career, and, for the most part, are universally applicable across companies and industries.

Take control of your own advancement

As part of my job, I look at employee surveys, and one thing that habitually comes up is people wanting more career development and advancement opportunities. This fascinates me, because a lot of people aren’t doing very simple tasks—which can’t be replaced with organized committees or training programs provided by the company—to advance themselves.

In fact, I make a point to have one-on-one conversations with people to better understand their point of view around this idea, and invariably it becomes obvious that they haven’t put the onus on themselves to go out and look for—or even create—opportunities to get noticed. To put it bluntly, that is backward, and it won’t get you where you want to go.

Taking control and creating opportunity does not have to be part of a grand scheme or something that will eat away at your productivity. In fact, it comes down to basics. Introduce yourself, shake people’s hands, and get comfortable with putting yourself out there. If you are interested in a particular area, even if it isn’t related to your education, background, or current job focus, find out who the manager is—and introduce yourself in person.

“Hi, my name is…” can go a very long way.

Learn the art of strategic exposure

If you really want to get noticed, you have to put yourself out there in strategic ways. Volunteer for work and new responsibilities—even if it means stretching outside your comfort zone or having to put in a few more hours of effort at night or on the weekends.

If you want to have your boss’s job or boss’s boss’s job, you need to show what you are made of to large groups of people. There are three ways to do this: Speak up in meetings; find opportunities to give presentations; and write emails that will be seen by either large audiences or key decision makers.

Here is the hard part: Make sure you are clear, concise, and emotive when presenting and corresponding. These types of interactions are how you build your personal brand and credibility within the organization.

Make sure to show up

It’s old news that many companies have embraced a heavy telecommuting culture. For example, here at Insight, about 80% of my team telecommutes. However, this means that showing up once in a while is that much more important to getting noticed. Even though it may not be mandatory, make the trip in once or twice a week. If that isn’t possible, find a schedule that works for you. Even great work can’t supplant a handshake or a face-to-face interaction with teammates and managers. Conversely, if you are in the office but work with teammates or managers who are remote, make sure to introduce yourself to them when they are in town or ask them to grab a coffee.

While there are easy things to do to get noticed, there are also a few easy mistakes that can be made along the way. In short order, don’t take too much of people’s time, don’t over-communicate—less is more when you are striking up that initial conversation—and do your homework so that you have the right information to be brief, but effective.

In the few times I’ve seen people put these best practices to work, I have not only been impressed by their behavior, but often have noticed their realization of career dividends as a result.

This article is written by Mike Guggemos, chief information officer at Insight Enterprises. You can find this post here.

The opinions expressed here by Mike Guggemos are their own, not those of Fortune.com.

If you need help getting started in a new business venture, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

ABOUT GREG LEE


6 Things Leaders Should Be Thankful For Everyday

With Thanksgiving arriving soon, I thought I would share this article published on November 22, 2017 on jmalonde.com, written by Joseph Lalonde. Taking a moment to remember the little things can make a big difference, no matter how busy the holidays become:

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Because of this, I wanted to reflect on 6 things leaders should be thankful for on Thanksgiving and every other day.

There’s a lot of pain that comes with leadership. Struggles no one else ever sees. Betrayals by coworkers and friends. Business failures. And so much more.

Yet there are also things leaders should be thankful for. Let’s take a look at these today.

6 Things Leaders Should Be Thankful For Everyday

1. Success:

Yes, be thankful for your successes. Your successes mean you’re having an impact on the world around you.

Don’t hide your successes. Celebrate your successes and be thankful for them.

2. Failure:

Hold up… You mean leaders should be thankful for failures? Oh yeah, leaders need to be thankful for failure.

Failure is an opportunity to learn and grow. You can examine your failures and see why they didn’t succeed.

Learn and grow from your failures. They’re a great stepping stone to your next success.

3. Influence:

If you’re a leader, you’re influencing other people. These could be team members, customers, even your vendors.

Your influence is guiding and leading people. Be thankful for the influence you have on others.

4. Team members:

Your team is a valuable part of your leadership. From leaders in training to the people working on the ground floor of your organization, these are the people who are the foundation.

Without your team, there’d be a lot more work for you, the leader, to take on.

Be thankful for your team members. They take a huge weight off of your shoulders.

5. The organization:

Sometimes it can be hard to be thankful for the organization you work for. There comes a lot of stress and frustration when you lead an organization.

There are times when you feel unappreciated. You begin to wonder why you’re there when no one values the work you do.

This shouldn’t negate the thankfulness you feel towards the organization. You have the opportunity to guide, build, and lead the organization in a new direction.

Be thankful for the organization you work in.

6. Your family:

Sadly, I’ve seen families get passed over by leaders more often than not. The leaders dedicate themselves to leading an organization yet forget to lead the most important organization they chose to join: Their family.

Your family is part of your mission. You chose them. And they’re a godsend.

Be thankful for your family every day. One day they may not be there.

Joseph Lalonde created JMLalonde.com to help inspire current and future leaders. You can find this post here.

The opinions expressed here by JMLalonce.com columnists are their own, not those of JMLalonce.com.

If you need help getting started in a new business venture, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

ABOUT GREG LEE


The 5 Skills and Behaviors That Make Entrepreneurs Successful, According to Harvard Research

In keeping with the theme of entrepreneurship, the following is an article published in Inc.com on February 27, 2017, written by Marissa Levin, Founder and CEO, Successful Culture, discussing the skills and attributes the Harvard Business School found in common in successful entrepreneurs:

Richard Branson has tremendous passion. Elon Musk sees no limitations. Steve Jobs was relentlessly focused on perfection and the customer experience. Oprah Winfrey and Tony Robbins were determined to build a life of abundance by overcoming poverty and abuse.

What is the secret to successful entrepreneurship? Is it passion? Vision? Focus? Intelligence? Grit?

Harvard Business School (HBS) set out to unpack the answer to this question, which hasn’t been easy.

HBS Professor Lynda Applegate, who has spent 20 years studying leadership approaches and behaviors of successful entrepreneurs, shared that it has always been challenging to capture the skills and behaviors of successful entrepreneurs.

“Part of the problem is that people usually focus on an entrepreneurial ‘personality’ rather than identifying the unique skills and behaviors of entrepreneurs who launch and grow their own firms,” she said.

To uncover the most common skills and attributes, the Harvard research team administered a self-assessment to 1,300 HBS alumni, and then a follow-up 360-degree assessment that collected data from the peers of the 1,300 participants.

To prepare for the assessment, the research team combined literary reviews and entrepreneur interviews. Through this analysis, they identified 11 skills and attributes that are common in entrepreneurs. These are:

  1. Identification of Opportunities. Measures skills and behaviors associated with the ability to identify and seek out high-potential business opportunities.
  2. Vision and Influence. Measures skills and behaviors associated with the ability to influence all internal and external stakeholders that must work together to execute a business vision and strategy.
  3. Comfort with Uncertainty. Measures skills and behaviors associated with being able to move a business agenda forward in the face of uncertain and ambiguous circumstances.
  4. Assembling and Motivating a Business Team. Measures skills and behaviors required to select the right members of a team and motivate that team to accomplish business goals.
  5. Efficient Decision Making. Measures skills and behaviors associated with the ability to make effective and efficient business decisions, even in the face of insufficient information.
  6. Building Networks. Measures skills and behaviors associated with the ability to assemble necessary resources and to create the professional and business networks necessary for establishing and growing a business venture.
  7. Collaboration and Team Orientation. Measures skills and behaviors associated with being a strong team player who is able to subordinate a personal agenda to ensure the success of the business.
  8. Management of Operations. Measures skills and behaviors associated with the ability to successfully manage the ongoing operations of a business.
  9. Finance and Financial Management. Measures skills and behaviors associated with the successful management of all financial aspects of a business venture.
  10. Sales. Measures skills and behaviors needed to build an effective sales organization and sales channel that can successfully acquire, retain, and serve customers, while promoting strong customer relationships and engagement.
  11. Preference for Established Structure. Measures preference for operating in more established and structured business environments rather than a preference for building new ventures where the structure must adapt to an uncertain and rapidly changing business context and strategy.

Five Standout Traits

Out of these 11, Harvard found that founders scored significantly higher than non-founders for:

  • Comfort with uncertainty
  • Identification of opportunities
  • Vision and influence
  • Building networks
  • Finance and financial management

Founders had significantly lower ratings for “preference for established structure.”

Men Versus Women

HBS also examined the differences between men and women founders:

  • Women ranked higher in the dimensions of “efficiently manage operations” and “vision and influence.”
  • Men ranked higher in “comfort with uncertainty” and “finance and financial management.”

Serial Versus First-Time Entrepreneurs

Not surprisingly, serial entrepreneurs have much more confidence than first-time entrepreneurs, having more confidence especially in the areas of “building networks, securing financing and financial management, and generating creative ways to identify and meet market opportunities.”

The Future of Entrepreneurship, According to Harvard

As more and more people participate in the assessment, Harvard will be able to tap into the data to learn what entrepreneurs and organizations need in terms of leadership to help them grow.

Researchers will be able to extrapolate data around criteria such as age, gender, country, size of business, industry, type of venture, pace of growth, and many other factors that will shed light on how entrepreneurs are similar and different.

This knowledge will help all business owners tap into their own strengths, and surround themselves with others that can achieve their greatest potential.

If you need help getting started in a new business venture, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

Greg A. Lee is also available on Advicoach.

ABOUT GREG LEE


The 5 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Going From Employee to Self-Employed

Focusing on entrepreneurship, I’d like to share an article published in Inc.com on February 16, 2017, written by Beth Doane, managing partner of Main & Rose, discussing what you should know what you are getting into before making the leap:

Thinking about leaving your cubicle for the thrills of the startup world? So have 27 million other people like you. The good news is that there are more resources now than ever to help you find success when making this leap. The bad news is that just one small misstep and you can end up right back in your 9-to-5 gig.

I never worked in a corporate environment, started my first company when I was 22, and made a slew of expensive mistakes in those first few years. I attribute being able to survive to the fact that I had great mentors along the way and met fellow entrepreneurs who I could lean on for guidance and support.

I recently caught up with one of these fellow entrepreneurs, Darren Humphreys, who now spends his time tracking lions across the Serengeti or lounging on a remote beach on a hidden corner of Madagascar, but his original career was the farthest thing from this lifestyle. Darren hails from the top ranks of Wall Street and walked away from it to start a travel company. Like me, Darren learned how to scale and be his own CEO through making mistakes.

Below, we compiled the top mistakes founders make and what you really need to know to make it as a true entrepreneur.

Not Finding the Real Niche

Knowing what you want to do — and are passionate about — is not enough to make it a business. Even having a business plan, a marketing plan and a whole lot of venture capital won’t cut it these days. You must dive far enough into your concept to find the niche within it. If you can identify this niche within your “passion” industry, you will be truly distinctive and it will set you up for success.

Budgeting Incorrectly

Don’t leave your career without a plan and enough money to get you through the first six months. A new venture always costs more than you think, and that includes “opportunity cost.” When Darren first started his company, he knew if he had to budget and without a plan, he wouldn’t get very far. It’s worth hiring an expert for your budgeting (and making sure to budget for that expert!).

Underestimating Timeframes

New ventures always take longer than you anticipate. Darren advises that you should aim for validation within the first 12 months, and profitability within the first three years. I found this to be true: The companies I see succeeding wildly are able to bring a simple product to market and test it quickly, so they can make adjustments and improvements on the fly.

Not Being Selective Enough

You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. Finding a co-founder who complements you is crucial, and if you make the wrong choices, it can tank you before you even start. We always eventually become what we are surrounded by, so choose your staff and partners very carefully. Both Darren and I learned to hire slowly (and fire swiftly) in our ventures.

Having Incorrect Definitions of Success

Not all success is measured in dollars and cents: Darren knows this to be true, because he sacrificed things to be able to call the ocean his office. It’s easy to forget that success is what you make of it when you are trying to survive and build a business. Quality of life and crafting your own path hold a great deal of value, so before you start on your journey, make sure to write out what is truly most important to you — like family, your hobbies, giving back and learning new skills.

If fulfillment came from cash, America would be the happiest place on earth. Instead, pay attention to what really inspires you — and make sure you include that in your daily life.

Beth Doane is an award-winning writer, speaker and social entrepreneur. She is the managing partner of Main & Rose.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

If you need help getting started in a new business venture, and you are in Chicago, Oak Brook or surrounding areas, contact us today if you feel you need some coaching on this topic!

Greg A. Lee is also available on Advicoach.

ABOUT GREG LEE


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