Staying calm

My team always think that I’m very calm. Even when one of them has made a big mistake (which was rare).

I used to be much more excitable and respond to things without thinking but having kids has taught me that I am the grown up and the one who sets the tone for dealing with any problems.

And just being around for long enough to gather some experience helps. I’ve often seen this problem or something similar before. I may not have lived through a pandemic but I have traded through a recession and run a business with remote working.

Here’s how I handle crises these days:
1. Gather information and check facts
2. Reassure but don’t bluff. If you don’t know the answer admit that you don’t know but that you will find out
3. Limit any further damage before looking at the full solution
4. Do what needs to be done
5. Afterwards analyse and put systems in place to prevent it happening again. This is not about assigning blame!
6. Understand that we all make mistakes but if anybody is still making the same mistakes after adequate (re)training or deliberately ignoring the system then disciplinary action may be needed.

Bring forward the joy

I heard this in a PSA (professional Speaking Association) talk and it really resonated.

Are we putting off the joy that we intended when we set up our businesses?

Are we reinvesting our profits for faster growth when we should be taking some of it for ourselves?

Are we spending silly hours working to grow the business faster when we could be spending that time with friends and family (now that we’re allowed out again).

If you knew you only had, say, five or ten years to live how would you spend your time?

To sell or not to sell

Whilst most of my coaching clients want to grow their business or to get a better work life balance we have two who are preparing their businesses for sale and preparing themselves for the move into retirement (realistically semi-retirement because entrepreneurs never quite stop).

I did have four such clients but two of them liked the reorganised business so much that they decided that they didn’t want to leave after all.

If your business works independently of you it is not just easier to sell but it will also allow you to reduce your hours without impacting your profitability. Most of this is done by replacing the business owner with systems. Or with documented procedures that can be delegated, outsourced or even automated.

Whatever your plans for your business please don’t suffer in silence as we have a selection of group coaching programmes and individual coaching too.

“I don’t need a microphone”

With the return of face to face events this is one thing that I haven’t missed.

During Q&As the event organiser will offer a microphone to the audience member asking the question and a fair number will reject it announcing “I don’t need a microphone”

Well, I’m going to burst your bubble and tell you that you do. And here’s why:

  • I’m a professional speaker and quite capable of projecting my voice to a significantly sized theatre and I still use one to save the quality of my voice.
  • People fade as they speak. Especially if it’s one of those long questions that involves sharing your life history (don’t do this either; nobody is really interested)
  • Your voice mainly travels forwards to it will be fainter for those behind you
  • The event organiser will often be recording the event. If you don’t share your question via the microphone that is hooked up to the AV deck the speaker will have to remember to repeat the question “for the tape”
  • Those wearing hearing aids will set them to a particular position for the best sound reception from the microphone. Use it in order to be accessible.

Also remember that the slot for Q&As is often limited so:

  • Keep it brief
  • Ask a question; don’t make a statement
  • Ask yourself if it will really help the rest of the audience.

Are you getting enough rest?

It’s been hard through lockdown when there aren’t many fun things to do when you do manage to take time off but it’s a good discipline to build rest time into your week and essential to help you produce better quality work. While you might feel “heroic” right now, in a short time you’ll be burnt out from working 80 hour weeks.

Look for displacement activities so that your brain switches away from work. It’s why I take Spanish lessons.

Look for restful activities. I love to read in a bubbly bath. Either mind improving business books or mind numbing chick lit.

What sort of activities do you usually do to relax and how has that changed during lockdown?

Be careful what you wish for

We’ve all seen shows where the hero is granted three wishes and they don’t quite get what they had in mind. And the same goes for setting targets.

I used to work in supermarkets to fund my way through uni. One of these was in central London and with so many customers living close to the store they often took trolleys all the way home and didn’t bother to return them.

About once a month the trolley boys would be asked to come in on a Sunday and go further afield to collect them in return for £5 per trolley. Not surprisingly, on the Saturday afternoon they would pay local kids to ‘hide’ some trolleys in a pre-agreed location for £1 each. So the store ended up paying for trolleys that were never ‘lost’ and the trolley boys made £4-5 per trolley that they ‘found’.

We must always be careful when setting targets that they prompt the desired behaviour.

What do you want to look like?

I have a deadline! I have until 21 June to get back in shape and get my life together. Yes, I’ve coped pretty well for the last year (and I’m aware that many have struggled) but I want to get back to thriving and actively enjoying life rather than making the best of things.

I know what I want to look like (20 years younger and a stone slimmer 😉) but I also need to think about what I want my business to look like. I don’t know about you but my 2020 plans were put on hold and 2021 was also curtailed. Although I managed to double the size of my business it was much more Plan Z than Plan A.

How did you do through the various lockdowns and restrictions? Was it business as usual or did you have to pivot? Will you continue with your new style business or will you go back to Plan A or do you have a new plan?

Will you work from home or office or a local hub or home office like me? I know a few people who have moved to bigger houses because they will be working from home more in future and want a proper office rather than a corner of the kitchen table. What will happen to your office premises? With the technology to work from anywhere in the WORLD where will you work from?

Did you introduce new tech for remote working and other efficiencies or have you spent the last year being cautious and cutting all costs possible? Do you need to invest in your business again?

Did you enjoy spending more time with your family and will you keep up baking banana bread or the foreign language you’ve been learning? Or were you too busy to do any baking? Are there any good things that you want to retain in your life and your business?

With a provisional date on the horizon we need to start preparing for the post-Covid, post-Brexit world.

What will you do from pre-Covid, what will you do from Covid and what are you looking forward to starting post-Covid?

What is a coach?

I’m both a business coach and an athletics coach. In the past I’ve also held coaching qualifications for swimming and football (technically I still do as they are old enough to predate the requirement for expiry dates). That means that I work with fabulous people to improve what they are already doing. There are a number of coaching techniques that I use for both.

Observational analysis – I watch the athlete or business and report back on what I have seen and how this affects their performance. This might be a strange running technique or it may be that they are working too many hours. Some of this may be known to the athlete/businessperson but some of it may be new.

Notational analysis – this brings out the numbers geek in me. I like to compare progress over time and, whilst no two businesses are the same, it is sometimes helpful to benchmark against industry norms. As a runner myself I know that you can’t beat the feeling of a PB (Personal Best).

Performance profiling – I check the various parts of their performance to see what they are doing well and what needs work. When coaching runners this may be breaking down their arm action and, when coaching business owners, this might be

Technique – sometimes it’s enough to know what to do but sometimes you need somebody to explain how to do it step by step. This information can come from a mixture of qualification and experience. In athletics we have certain drills to improve different aspects of technique and the same in business.

Demonstration – In athletics this can be delivered by the coach, another athlete or a video. For some reason the business world classes this as mentoring rather than coaching but I am fortunate to be able to cover this too thanks to my experience founding and growing two businesses of my own as well as managing a number of other SMEs up to board level.

Goal setting – Agreeing on the overall objectives and for the current season. These should be enough to stretch you but not so much that they overwhelm you.

Accountability – There are always exercises to be done between coaching sessions. As a coach I make sure that everything is completed as agreed unless there is a good reason not to have done it.

Motivation – Whether preparing for a race or growing your business it is important to have somebody in your corner who believes in you and who will be cheering you on. Throughout the pandemic I have had to do far more of this than usual to help business owners produce their best performance.

If you’d like to find out more about our individual or group coaching then book a call. (Sadly, non-elite athletics clubs are closed for a little longer)

How to work within your limits

I’m a terrible gardener. Gardening is too active for my lazy days and too sedentary for my active days. Whilst I love eating fruit and veg that I’ve grown myself that goal alone isn’t enough to inspire me to put in the regular labour required even for the few things that I do try to grow.

As you might expect, for me this demonstrates a few things in the business world.

1. You need a Big Hairy Audacious Goal that will really inspire you on your lazy days. Just something ‘nice’ isn’t enough. Have a picture by your work station of your kids, your next holiday, your new car or whatever your reason for your business. In my case I have a seashell on my desk because I want to run my business remotely from somewhere near the sea.

2. You need tasks to do on your lazy days that will still move you closer to your goal. I’m quite happy to fiddle around with an online garden planner and order some seeds and compost. In the office it’s a good time to file or tidy up or clear some old emails. At the moment I’m writing this to avoid some other work but it will save me time later in the week.

3. You can find ways of making laborious tasks more enjoyable. If we’re all in the garden it’s much more fun and the work is shared. Even Grumpy Cat loves to join us outside. Pre-Covid our village ‘Working from Home’ group would spend Friday mornings working in one of the two local pubs.

4. Work at your best times. Whilst it might not suit most people I sometimes enjoy digging in the rain when the soil is softer. It’s another reason I believe in flexible working.

5. Know your limits and outsource where possible. About the only thing that I manage to grow in the garden is courgettes. (And none of the family really like courgettes!) So I order a weekly box of veg from the local farm shop effectively sourcing my fresh food production to somebody who is far better than me. I outsource work to those who are better than me, faster than me or just enjoy it more than me.

Anyway, I’m off to water my new apple tree and blueberry bushes in the hope of keeping them alive just a little longer.

How can I save the world?

Nobody can deny that times are tough at the moment with the double whammy of Covid and Brexit to cope with but we should still spare a thought for our environment and the world that we will leave for our kids.

The good news is that Covid has already prompted some good moves. Here are some ways that we can try to minimise our environmental impact.

  • Working from home or even at a serviced office close to home will eliminate the need to commute. If you need a commute as a mental break then try a walk around the block at the start and end of the day instead
  • Running a paperless office will reduce the amount of paper, ink and printers that are used as well as the file and furniture that we store them in. If you need some ideas then this is one of the free webinars that we run at least once a year
  • Online meetings where possible. Bingo! One of the benefits of Covid is that more people are doing this already. Once they’re interspersed with some real world meetings (business or personal) they should create a better balance
  • Walking, cycling and using public transport where possible will make a difference. Use a carbon offset scheme when car or even plane is the only option.