While attending Hamline Law School's Dispute Resolution Institute, I studied many different ways to resolve conflict with professors from around the world.
In America, we have a legal system that has become over-crowded, very costly and may take years to navigate. As a result, most judges require two parties to attempt mediation before appearing before a judge and jury.
Frequently we use a form of mediation where we give permission to an attorney or retired judge to nudge the parties into a resolution they believe is fair and would be upheld in a court of law. The parties are not always happy with the resolution, but agree to it because the resolution is less painless than following through a lengthy and often costly legal proceeding, and often has less risk than asking a jury to decide an outcome.
There's also another form practiced in our country where a neutral third party who understands the dynamics of communication and conflict is chosen. That person works with the two parties to find their own mutually acceptable solution once some of the underlying emotions which led to the conflict in the first place are resolved. While this process can take longer, the results are usually better accepted by the two parties since they were the ones who ultimately created the solution.
Other cultures use different models, based on different beliefs about why conflict occurs and who holds responsibility for the outcomes. In one particular model, a community may come together to openly discuss the actions of an individual, determine why this person did what they did, and then decide who is going to support that individual to make change and take responsibility for their actions. For instance, if a man kills another man who has children, the community may decide that the community as a whole failed him by not teaching him the ramifications of his actions. The outcome may very well be that he is now responsible to raise and support that man's children as if they are his own. The community will then hold him accountable and support him to assure follow-through. That may include offering the man a job so he can financially support the children of the man he killed, or helping him to build a bigger home to house his new family.
I talk about these because I believe we often limit ourselves in how we believe we can resolve conflicts in our lives, both personally as well as professionally. I challenge you to think outside of those limitations, and to trust in the belief we all wish to live in peace, in a life that's easier and less complicated. When we approach conflict in that way and agree with the other party that all wish to resolve differences, the first level of trust is formed and sets the stage for many more levels to be reached. From there the path to resolution is as creative as the parties involved if given time and tools to achieve it.
I love having very engaged conversations about current topics. As a single mom raising two sons, we had them late at night around the kitchen table, and I believe it taught them to think critically and be able to substantiate their points of view. Now I have them with my husband.
A recent conversation of ours was about how people relate to each other, the lines we draw in the sand, and the reasons why. We focused on the innate need for all creatures to develop a sense of identity through community, both identifying how we fit in certain circles, and differentiate ourselves from others where we do not feel a kindred spirit.
We talked about how this occurs in nature, as well as in humanity. For those of you who know my husband, this makes perfect sense. For those who don't, he's an avid outdoorsman and conservationist. Wolves, for instance, will separate into packs and ultimately fight for territory or control with brothers, sisters and parents of the pack. Birds will puff up their chests, strut around and declare superiority as a way of demonstrating they are a better choice for mating.
This post is more introspective than anything else. Consider the circles in which you feel most at home. What draws you to them? Why do you feel separated from other circles or communities? Why are the lines so rigid?
Then ask yourself if you really need to draw those lines. Is it possible that we, as individuals, as a society, as a human race, could find it within ourselves to spend less time drawing circles with thick borders and perhaps draw circles with dotted lines instead? What if we spent more time inviting others in to see life from our point of view for a while? What would that look like? We used to call this healthy discourse, and should again.
In truth we all have different experiences and feelings, which are not open to debate. Those experiences and the emotions connected are very real to each of us, even if our experience of them is different from someone else's. The sharing of those experiences and feelings can enrich our own understandings if we truly listen, perhaps changing or reinforcing our opinions and may strengthen our acceptance of each other when we see how human we all are.
In the professional world, we talk about diversity in terms of ethnicity, but diversity comes in many forms. The diversity of life experience is what can strengthen our businesses, work relationships and personal relationships if we give each other a chance to share openly and learn from each other.
Self discipline is not everyone's super power, and even those who have it, don't always have it consistently. Sometimes there's a blockage when it comes to just one specific goal you may have. We know this is true just by witnessing the parking lots of health clubs during the months of January, February and March. There are many cars there shortly after January 1st when all the New Year resolutions have been made, and a rapid decline over the following weeks as will power and self discipline declines.
So how do you get through those barriers that are preventing you from following through? Know yourself first. Are you strong enough to talk back to the little voices inside that keep you from succeeding? If so, great! Do that. But if that's true for you, then this post probably isn't telling you anything new.
Sometimes we need to play games with ourselves, talking back and treating those inner voices like little children. Getting up early in the morning to work out when your inner child is screaming to stay in bed, hidden under the covers is very much like trying to get a child to wake up to go to school. Psychologically we can have a miniature adult on one shoulder who throws the covers back on the little child on the other shoulder, encouraging them that there's something wonderful waiting for them today, but they need to rise in order to get it. Rewards often work better than chiding in this case. Know what type of rewards you can offer yourself that will motivate you, without causing further harm. For instance, if your goal is to get to the gym to work out so you can lose weight, don't promise yourself a huge cinnamon roll for breakfast after you work out. Instead, promise yourself time in the hot tub or sauna afterward if that motivates you. You'll feel marvelous and it doesn't undo the work you've just done toward accomplishing your dream.
But what if you aren't able to stay on track with self-talk? Consider a buddy system. Find someone who has goals as well and would be interested in partnering up with you. Your goals don't have to be the same, but your dedication to checking in with each other does need to be strong. Each of you states your goals, what measurable and time-sensitive steps you're going to take to achieve it, and then you are responsible for reporting to each other how you're progressing. Each encourages the other, and when there are obstacles, the other can act as a sounding board to help you work through them. This usually works as long as each of you holds the other accountable and doesn't allow for continued meetings where one hasn't been working effectively toward their goals.
For some, there needs to be an additional incentive, and perhaps a different level of accountability. Establishing a professional accountability relationship with someone may be the answer for you. This is someone who's vested interest is in seeing you succeed, because that's what drives additional clients to them. Yes, you compensate them for their time, which can be an additional motivator for you. The tough part is in sticking to this relationship when the push-back comes if you're not progressing, or start to regress. Trust is necessary that this accountability coach is doing their part to break you through the barriers that have kept you from succeeding before.
Whether you choose to be accountable to yourself, a friend, mentor or professional is up to you, and only you can determine which will work for you. In the end, your dreams are yours to own, to strive to achieve, and when you do, the success and reward of achieving them is yours alone as well.
For many business owners, social media is a scary thing. So much information is disseminated in way too many platforms that continually change in popularity. It seems that just about the time a business owner learns one platform, their demographic moves on to another. Perhaps one of the scariest aspects of social media is the lightning speed with which opinions are shared and reputations are either made or destroyed, not necessarily by expert postings but in the comments made on those postings. Social media cannot be ignored any longer. It now needs to be considered as one of the most important marketing and customer service tools of any business.
A simple visit to a company’s website speaks volumes to a consumer, especially if a blog isn’t current. The consumer may wonder if the company is still in business. How quickly a company responds to Facebook questions is perceived as how dedicated the company is to customer service, including if it replies after normal business hours.
The simple perception of whether a company is media-savvy can affect a consumer’s perception about whether the company is “on top of your game” or just getting by. But understanding each social media platform, its strengths and weaknesses, demographics, limitations and continuously monitoring that information along with running a business can be a handful. Add to that mix the managing of all the posts that need to be written, posted and responses to those posts monitored, and the return on investment may seem questionable.
The benefits of a strong social media presence and campaign are proven. That same lightning speed with which opinions are shared can be used to engage customers in offering feedback which can lead to client and brand loyalty. Social media can be used to counter negative public perception, build goodwill in the community, and generate thousands of sales leads in hours if done correctly.
So how do you manage all this and use it to your advantage? If you’re not social media savvy, consider consulting with someone who is. Even if you are social media savvy, consider consulting with someone who is. What is the value of your time in front of your customer versus sitting in your office writing posts and answering questions online? What is the value of having someone who can tell you which platform your demographic is using currently and when that trends starts to change? And finally, what is the value to you to sleep at night knowing someone else is worrying about all this for you? The return on your investment is priceless.
It's been said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. How often do you hear a solopreneur say “Oh, if I only had a little more time!” For me it’s almost daily. It’s so easy to let daily tasks such as customer requests, the telephone, emails, and a million other distractions/duties/details pull you off course from taking time to plan for your success.
Many books are written as well as thousands of classes, masterminds and workshops taunting the importance of scheduling time to work ON your business rather than always working IN your business. But who has time to read all of them when you're working so hard dealing with the minutia of everyday tasks?
Listen carefully. Many of those little tasks that pile up can go away with planning. Planning gives you the opportunity to assess those tasks to determine which can be automated or delegated and to prioritize those that must be handled by you personally. But here's the bottom line.
Until you commit to the self-discipline it takes to do the planning, none of it will matter anyway.
Self-discipline is learned, and a choice we make everyday. One of the easiest tricks to develop self-discipline becoming a servant to your schedule. Block out one hour on Sunday nights each week for the next year for planning. During that time, write in tasks you need to accomplish daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly.
Here's the hardest part. Keep your appointment! At first you may need to force yourself to keep the appointment, but with repetition, a new habit will develop. Use your self-talk to assure you talk yourself into it, rather than out of it. Your family, your business and your future all depend on you keeping this appointment. Don't let everyone down! I often joke with myself that my boss will fire me if I don't do it. The truth is, if I don't plan, there eventually won't be a company for 'my boss' to fire me from, and that's a reality I can't have. I love my freedom too much! So I pick myself up and get to my calendar. Pronto.
Have a file handy (or a pile if you're not organized. Yet!) where you can put all your notes throughout the week regarding things that need to be included in your planning. That will speed up your sessions and assure you stay on track with tasks that need attention. If you have paper notes, lay them out on the floor and prioritize them before you start scheduling. Make notes on them about how much time you think it will take to accomplish them. That way the ones that are bigger priorities will have the time to get them accomplished first. Then write each one of them into your calendar, blocking out enough time for each to be completed.
If someone asks you to do something during one of your planning blocks, you can easily say "I'm sorry, but I see I have something scheduled then. How does (another day/time) look for you?" Serve your clients, family, business and yourself well by serving your schedule first.
Many have heard me ask who is steering the ship of your company, and this is one way to assure the answer is “I am!”
Are you a very different person in business than you are in your personal life? How do you communicate personally when you feel threatened, or in a situation you don't control? As a business owner, entrepreneur or manager, do you truly respond differently at work than you do with your significant other, child or friend?
We each have learned how to communicate as children from the examples demonstrated around us. Some of them were positive role models, but some were very negative. We may have chosen to take some of those styles on subconsciously, or chose to definitely avoid them and seek out a different way. Either way, those communication styles stay with us and become ingrained in us, for better or worse.
Oftentimes we find our communication style "tweaked" along the way by interacting with others. Our teachers or others in power roles over us may have taught us that speaking our mind was frowned upon, and so we shut down rather than expressing our feelings at all. In the alternative, perhaps we felt forced to talk all the time, only to have our feelings negated or threatened. Our response may have been the same, albeit learned in a different way.
How much education do we receive in quality communication styles or conflict resolution, yet we expect our employees to possess it? We are expected by our customers to resolve their conflicts effortlessly, and to know exactly how to communicate in a style they're most willing to receive while expecting them to communicate in a style that doesn't offend us as well.
What communication style and channels do you offer those around you in your workplace? In your personal life? As an entrepreneur, have you analyzed how you resolve conflict in your organization and how to create a truly inviting environment that sees conflict as a means for growth and deepening loyalty? Perhaps it's time to "Evaluate How You Communicate", and offer your employees opportunities to explore different, more productive ways to resolve challenges when they arise. Be the leader in creating healthy environments for self-expression and growth, and you'll see the dividends both in the short-term and long-term.
I often talk with newer entrepreneurs who feel like they've lost control of their company, for many reasons. Sometimes growth is better than expected, and the owner feels like they spend all their time trying to put out the fires connected with exponential growth. Sometimes they've become so busy working IN their business they just don't seem to have the time to actually work ON their business.
When you created your business, you had a vision. Hopefully you also had a plan on how you were going to make that happen. Then you took the helm of the ship and began to steer the ship toward your destination. What took you off course, and how can you get back on track? Without a captain, every ship will veer off course and runs a high risk of crashing into the shoreline and sinking.
It may seem like a lot to ask you to take a morning or afternoon each week to work on the overall vision of your company, but if you don't do it, who will? How much time are you currently devoting to business strategy, marketing planning, research & development of new products, etc.? If you're too busy to do it all, seek out others who can support you to accomplish areas that may not be your strength or can be delegated.
If you don't correct your ship's course now, will your ship be headed toward your destination or the shoreline?
There are many ways we all self-sabbotage, from avoiding tasks we hate to do, making cold calls at 4:30pm on Friday afternoon, to not working closely with a list of tasks to accomplish. What are your own personal ways that you keep yourself from succeeding? What are you doing to get in your own way, or to NOT get out of your own way?
Having a success coach or accountability coach can help you identify those ways you self-sabbotage, and keep you accountable to both yourself and someone else. Knowing you'll be reporting to someone on a regular basis about your progress can keep your feet to the fire.
That process begins however, with a self-assessment. What are your real goals? Are they truly attainable? What do you need to do to accomplish your goals? What are potential road blocks along the way, and how can you mitigate them? Then make a list of everything you need to do to accomplish them, breaking your list down into small, measurable increments with realistic deadlines.
The next step is having someone you trust who has a vested interest in your success meet with you on a regular interval to go over that list, review your progress, discuss creative ways to overcome obstacles and motivate you to stay on task. Make sure you set goals that are attainable between meetings so you feel good about your progress and receive the kudos of success at each meeting.
So what's stopping you from finding your accountability coach today?
“You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” ― Dr. Seuss
How well do you sleep at night because you love what you do? If you're self-employed and stay up at night because you love what you do and can't wait to do more of it, congratulations! And yet, you still need your sleep. So how do you accomplish both? How do you sate that desire and racing heart AND get your sleep?
Planning is a wonderful thing. Create your things to do list before you go to bed or at the end of your work day. When you have a great plan and you work it, the details fall in line and your brain knows you're going to work on it tomorrow. For the most part.
There are still times when you're lying in bed and the mind races. It doesn't want to wait until tomorrow! So how do you handle all that comes to you at that moment? Do you struggle to push it out? Struggle to remember it until morning? Get up and run to your office to start working before you forget it?
A simple notepad and pen by the bed can save you! No need to turn the light on and wake the rest of the house. If you scribble in the dark, you'll more than likely still be able to read enough of it in the morning. Avoid turning your cell phone on to light up your notepad, as the blue light might do more harm than good. The important thing is to "download" your idea onto the pad, freeing your brain to focus on returning back to sleep.
Here's wishing you a few more winks.
I remember my father sitting me down one night after he came home from work. The company had approached everyone who was 50 years of age or older, telling them to take early retirement or face being terminated in the next six months. He was crushed, having given them many years of service, traveling 3-5 days every week and sacrificing time with his family so Mom and he would have a nice retirement and his family would not have to worry. I will never forget him telling me to take care of myself first, and not to have that level of loyalty for a company any longer because it would not be rewarded. Dad was 49 years old, and because his birthday was close, they had asked him to leave too.
Looking back, I realize that his experience was a signal of very different changes happening in the American workplace. That sense of loyalty between employers and employees was being destroyed by a drive for profits over people. It's been several years since that conversation, and I've carefully watched the shifts take place.
Today, most workers change jobs many times during their careers. Many believe the best way to get a raise is to polish up their resume about every 2-3 years. Because there is little security in the workforce, many now establish small businesses or profitable hobbies on the side, just in case. We've even created a name for it - a "side hustle."
Diversifying one's income stream means a better chance of being able to survive market changes, being 'downsized' out of a job, and political upheavals that affect one's employment. There is a skill set required to start and run a side hustle though, that many do not possess. Unfortunately, it can take years to learn the process, which also continues to change.
Partnering with someone who has that knowledge and experience will shorten your learning curve and increase your chances of success. That's where I come in.
How can you work with a strategic business consultant? The right one can take you from your initial concept through defining and refining it into something that's sexy, smart and will be successful, all the way to your grand opening and beyond. Many specialize in a particular size of business, known as stages. Stage One consultants work with brand new entrepreneurs up to about $1 million in revenue per year. Stage Two consultants work with those who have reached that plateau and are usually looking to expand into different markets, countries, etc.
You can hire a consultant to help you write your business plan, secure financing, set policies and procedures in place, market your business, get free publicity, and so much more. You can hire one on an hourly or per project basis as well. It's up to you and what you feel you need.
I'm that Stage One consultant. I love the excitement, anticipation and hard work of setting a strong foundation. I play with business models and concepts like holograms in my head, every day of the week. I love the challenge of creating something from a small kernel, and giving birth to new fledglings and then watching them fly. That's what feeds my desire to do what I do.
Where do your passions lie? If you could provide an additional income stream by doing what you love, would you do it? What would that look like? Hmmm....
Ronnie Roll has started several businesses from the "I Have An Idea" stage to grand openings and beyond. Her passion is helping others achieve their dreams, and her art mediums are business modeling and food.