It may seem like a no-brainer, but if we want to grow our businesses, we need to continue to expand our knowledge and skills. We need skill development.
There are many ways to increase our aptitudes. We can read and research on our own, sign up for webinars, participate in online chats, and watch YouTube videos. We can attend conferences, read blogs, Google, and try the classic trial and error. Maybe you haven’t done all of these. Maybe you should! Maybe you’ve been so busy dealing with the work fires you haven’t had time. Forcing yourself to block out an hour or two a few times a week to develop your talents sounds like a monster task. Where are those hours coming from? But, let’s be honest, it’s needed if you want to develop your skills and talents. To stretch yourself. To grow.
Have you added to your to-do list to read a particular development book? Do it!
Have you been meaning to search YouTube videos to learn or develop a particular skill for your business? Do it!
Have you found others in your industry that are willing to collaborate or share information? Make time!
Do you think your industry is so tight-lipped that you feel isolated or need a security clearance to be in the know? Think again because we are becoming a society of supporters and helpers. Keep looking and you’ll find friends in your industry.
If you’re like me and can’t afford a $900 (or more) weekend conference (not including hotel and travel), then look for other alternatives. Free and low-cost alternatives. Maybe you haven’t thought of these opportunities or maybe you don’t know where to start looking.
So, check out my ever-growing list of ways to continue becoming even more of an expert as you grow and develop your skills, talents, business, health, life, and badassery without having to go into debt.
If you go to YouTube and do a search, you find several suggestions to advance and learn just about everything you need to know. I did a search to learn if I had wild onions growing in my yard and if they were editable. (As long as they are not in a pet potty area, they are edible and what I had growing wasn’t wild onions). I’ve used videos to declutter, learn more about YouTube itself (yep, searching YouTube to learn more about YouTube), connecting my computer wirelessly to a printer, how to fix a photo issue via editing and more. YouTube is more than dogs being clumsy.
MY TOP CHANNELS
• Channel Notes – Where I go to learn about YouTube. (Yeah, yeah, learning YouTube on YouTube.)
• Social Media Examiner – My favorite spot for all things social media.
• Sunny Lenarduzzi – Great for branding and business building.
• Marie Forleo – Fantastic business development videos.
• MailChimp – Is platform specific, but useful for me in my business.
• Google – A great way to stay up-to-date on what’s happening with the platform.
• LinkedIn – Great tips and tricks for getting the most out of LinkedIn.
Facebook & LinkedIn
Facebook is always popular and is continuing to grow. Have you joined any business-related groups? Do a search on Facebook and check out group categories or events. Joining groups or even creating a group can be a very powerful tool. Just remember to keep up with it. You’ll get the most out of a group if you’re an active participant. Not the group for you? Leave it and join a different one – or three! The same thing goes for LinkedIn.
I found a Facebook group of female bosses where we network online and in public. We ask questions, explore options, help each other find answers, give and receive referrals, hold each other accountable and simply cheer each other on. I am also part of a book study club that is reading a self-improvement business book. The group is a mix of online and meetings.
MY FAVE GROUPS
• Boss Babes RVA – Awesome group for women in business. (You must be with a Richmond company to join, but there are other similar groups on Facebook if you do a little looking.)
• Girlboss – Because who doesn’t need some all-in motivation?
• Alpha Female Sisterhood – A positive active group of women business owners managed by business coaches.
By simply scrolling through Instagram, I’ve found free webinars of all kinds. From these ads, I have participated in 2 different webinars about business development and improving marketing techniques, both of which I learned from. I took notes and implemented their suggestions and have seen positive results. They push you to sign up for services and it’s up to you if you want to pursue more or be content with the freebie.
Even though some may say that Twitter has lost its way, it is still a great place to grow your knowledge and skills. Finding chats related to your business, hobbies or interests is one of the best ways to network and learn. By using a particular hashtag, you can find different conversations to be a part of. Want to learn more about LinkedIn? Participate in #LinkedInChat (Tuesdays at 7 p.m. ET). Need help with branding? Join #brandchat (Wednesdays at 11 a.m. ET). Girl boss? #BizGalz (Mondays at 1 p.m. ET) and #PFWChat (Thursdays at 11 a.m. ET) are great suggestions. The possibilities are staggering! And don’t just lurk. Participate. Share. Ask questions. There are chats for bloggers, trainers, church, foodies, and hippies, just to name a few. Find the ones that speak to you!
Meetup is a free app and website that lets like-minded people meet for pretty much anything. I dug my heels in when it came to meetups because I’m shy and an introvert. I finally put on my big girl pants and joined. I found meetings near me that cover all sorts of topics, many of which are business related! I found meetups for women business owners, photographers, media marketers, hikers, networkers, and on and on. I went to one. I clung to the wall like the floor was going to collapse and ended up leaving a little early because I was so out of my element. I left with really good notes and it gave me a lot to think about. It was uncomfortable. I’m glad I went and, I’m proud to say, I’ve signed up for more meetups near me.
Goodreads is a free app that a friend recommended. I love it!! It allows the users to create lists of books you have read, what you’re currently reading, and book you want to read. Once you start putting books in those three categories, it will give you more book suggestions. Want to read #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso or completed it? Goodreads will give you other suggestions similar to how Amazon does (because it’s connected to Amazon) like You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero and The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins.
Don’t forget to connect with your friends via the platform. If your friend enjoyed a book, Goodreads will suggest it to you. If you finished a great book, then you can send a recommendation to a friend. Goodreads makes reading on your own interactive. I use this app all the time when I’m at the library to help me remember titles and have also found it a great place to store recommended books your friends and colleagues mention during a conversation.
If you haven’t invested in Audible, I recommend it. While the app is free, be aware that the books are not. It’s another way to listen to books, get suggestions, and grow your knowledge. You can listen from your computer or phone, while you drive, workout, cook, clean, get ready, or while having your morning coffee. The app also can adjust the narration speed so you can listen a little faster or slower. (I will say it’s pretty embarrassing when you’re at the gym and realize your headphones aren’t fully plugged in so your neighbors can hear your book in chipmunk mode.) What a great way to make great use of your time! I think Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast would be proud. If Audible isn’t right for you, there’s always the audiobooks section at your local library (obsessed!).
If you aren’t ready to invest in Audible, then podcasts may be more your speed. iTunes and Stitcher have loads of free options as well as various web resources. My personal favorite business podcast is The Social Media Examiner Show.
Take these as a few of my humble suggestions for keeping your skill development on track without stressing over the money you need to invest.
What other ways have you gained knowledge and developed your skills?
Late last year I was about to present my company a sample curriculum at a national training session geared towards trainers. An acquaintance came up to me and said, “Oh, you look taller!” I laughed, knowing it wasn’t a height thing. In truthfulness, it was a confidence and owning my business thing. I told him as much – I went through a lot and was finally taking charge in my life, and it was showing all over the place.
And then his partner, a woman, laughed and said, “Oh, it’s her hair – and she’s an actress so she probably is wearing lifts in her shoes.” For some reason, that infuriated me – I was confident and that’s why I looked taller – I was carrying myself differently! I said this, and she scoffed again, and said, “Sure, Jen. Maybe it’s your outfit.”
I didn’t let this bug me during my presentation (if anything, it pissed me off and made me work harder). After a few hours, I was still upset. It wasn’t specifically what she’d said, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. In the car on the way home, venting about this, I realized what irked me it was the girl-on-girl crime. She was bitter (I’ve known this since meeting her) and she couldn’t fathom confidence making someone look taller. Being a person who chooses to get active instead of getting mad, I decided to put some good juju out into the world and declare to my husband/venting receptacle: “I’m going to coach 100 women for 100 hours and uplift ladies so they uplift one another!” I think he thought I was crazy – I had just finished writing a book and was raving about having time again. I think I probably was a little crazy in that moment. Still, I still threw it out on the Internets and waited.
And then my email blew up. To date, I’ve gotten 289 requests and have coached 59 women since January 1st.
Midway through the project (and still taking more requests! Sessions are only counted when they are complete – we all know people drop out of things!) I’ve learned a lot about myself, about women and how we are all dealing with the same stuff on different days. From CEOs to tech ladies to coaches to game designers to scientists – same shit, different life. After every 20 ladies, I’ve been reflecting and looking for the connections we all have – and my first three were doozies.
Don’t borrow sorrow from tomorrow.
My grandma always said something very, very important to my mom, and my mom always said it consistently to me growing up: Don’t borrow sorrow from tomorrow.
Let’s put it into perspective: How often have you worried two or three (or four…or five) steps down the line instead of worrying (OR BEING PRESENT!) about what was happening right in front of you? And your worry was about something that hasn’t even happened, something that won’t even happen unless you take action in other areas first?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
One woman worried about waiting too long to start med school – it might be too late to start a family!
She wasn’t dating anyone.
Another woman worried if her grad degree didn’t work out, she wouldn’t know what next!
She was in her second year of undergrad.
A third woman worried that she would never find a job in the field she wanted, and end up never moving into a leadership position.
She hadn’t even finished a draft of her resume.
We ALL do this – and it’s OK – you shouldn’t be feeling any shame if you’re realizing that you worry steps down the time. I was clearly told to not borrow sorrow from tomorrow on a regular monthly daily basis from my mom (and she might still tell me this). Here’s the secret: Worry about what’s in front of you while you keep your eye on the prize. Otherwise you may find yourself worrying about things that haven’t even happened yet and won’t unless you get out of your hamster wheel. Check in. What are you worried about? Too often we stack the chips in the negative pile by brainstorming about the fire and brimstone that MIGHT happen.
Think about what you are worried about. Is it happening now? Is it about to happen? If no, stop worrying about it until it happens. Need more? What does your worry do aside from cause you an ulcer? Take that worry time and put it towards making something great happen.
Failure is never as bad as regret.
In our public improv classes, we talk about being crippled by choice. Sure, we can all remember that stifling moment when we were told “no” and “you can’t” and “you shouldn’t.”
What about those moments when choices are endless?
They can be just as crippling.
This is where worry sinks in. What if I don’t make it as an entrepreneur? (That was my worry when I started.) What if I fail? (I don’t know anything about business. I have no business being in business!) And I wasn’t alone with this – out of the over 50 sessions I’ve held while writing this, I can safely say 70% of the women I’ve spoken to worry about failing at something they haven’t even tried yet.
A few were miserable with their current jobs.
What if they didn’t get a new one?
A few were nervous about starting their own business.
What if they didn’t have any customers?
And a few were afraid of following through on larger goals to determine what they want.
Why name it if they won’t get it?
While this sounds SO MUCH like “don’t borrow sorrow from tomorrow” – and while it’s VERY related – it’s a bit more serious. Imagine this: You worry about something that hasn’t happened yet. You keep worrying, so you choose not to do anything. And you stagnate. And then, years down the line, you look back at that worry, that thing that never happened, that stagnation – and you regret never trying because now you can’t or the chance has passed.
And if you tried – if you failed – you’d at least know versus constantly wondering what if.
Failure is never ever as bad as regret.
What are you not doing because you’re afraid to fail? Define it and write it out. What’s the worst-case scenario if you do it?
Then think about it being 10 years later and wondering for 10 years, what if.
Yep. Go start doing that thing.
F*&# them; you are awesome.
It’s REALLY easy for me, outside of your life to say that it doesn’t matter what they think. Super easy actually. Because you’re awesome. I don’t even know you, person that’s reading this, and I know you are awesome.
Pretty spectacular actually.
You’re taking time out of your life and day to not scroll through Facebook or feel FOMO on Instagram or stalk that ex/current interest – you are bettering yourself on BizGalz and READING an ARTICLE. You might have also already done your homework, or reflected on the earlier points of this – which makes you a game-changer who doesn’t want to be stuck in some kind of holding pattern.
The key to this? You have to believe you are awesome.
I don’t need to get into every instance of people letting people treat them poorly, putting up with borderline and crossing the border abusive behavior from coworkers, leaders, friends, family or significant others. Rampant racism, crippling imposter syndrome and inability to hold yourself accountable simply because you are worth it – I’ve seen that too much. You know it happens. You might experience one or more of those things on a daily basis.
No one is going to respect you unless you respect yourself. We get the energy we put out.
If you walk into your space and you don’t care about yourself, and you think you aren’t worth respect – you’re going to get that energy right back at you.
Give what you want to get.
Start realizing and owning your awesomeness by taking the following steps.
1. Make a list of the things that make you YOU. This can be anything.
For me, I love to read, I am a good listener, I bake like a badass, and I’m stubborn as all hell.
2. Now take that list of things and, next to each one, write how it helps others or how it helps you.
I am a good listener – I like being in the moment
I bake like a badass – My husband gets to eat great cookies
3. Next, check in with what motivates you – that “how it helps” prompt above? Look closer at your responses. Are they all affirmation from other people? Is it self-motivation? Make sure your motivations aren’t all rooted in other people – and if they are, ask WHY. Figure out why you care about what they think – AND how that helps you. Does it matter what they think? Can they be a game changer in your life? (I bet not.)
4. Carry this list with you and keep adding awesome things to it. Check in when you need it. Edit it, alter it, save it, rewrite it. Pocket awesomeness – because those things that make you YOU? THAT is what makes you awesome. Not one part of it – the whole.
Remember, you aren’t pizza. Not everyone is going to like you (and there’s always that person out there who doesn’t like pizza anyway). If they still take issue with you and what you are doing? F*&# them, you don’t need it. Stop letting them cram your energy into a box, supernova.
I’m here for all the lessons.
There are easily hundreds more lessons that I’ve gotten – and will continue to get – with the rest of this project. One thing is for sure – when you are feeling like you’re too worried about things that haven’t even happened yet, worried about failing and thinking about what other people think, you aren’t alone. I’ve felt ALL of this. WE are ALL feeling like this, have felt like this, and will feel like this at some point or another.
Take comfort in never being alone, awesome one.
I am consistently amused by those who try to take a definitive position on the appropriate placement of women in leadership roles. In fact, I am amused, if not sometimes concerned, when anyone takes hardline positions on most anything. There are simply too many variables to say “always” and “never.” Yet, you hear such pontificators every day.
I’ve studied a bit about leadership and the only conclusion I can draw is that each and every person comes to the leadership role with their own set of unique assets, experiences, and attributes. While, certainly, science has drawn some broad conclusions about “typical” people and “usual” outcomes, people are simply not that predictable. Most men act like “men” (whatever that means) and most women act like “women” (again, whatever that means), but these generalities are not very helpful in predicting leadership success or failure. As the saying goes – Yes, you are unique. Just like everyone else.
What do you bring to the leadership table?
Whatever your formal education, your work experiences, your innate skills, or your missing elements, you are as entitled to seek a leadership mantle as anyone else. Not everyone seeks major leadership roles, and that is fine. All organizations need leaders at all levels of the organization. With the wise move to integrated performance teams, shared leadership is common in most organizations today. Everyone is expected to lead to the best of their ability even if their leadership extends no further than their personal self-discipline. Which highlights a very critical point – you are already a leader. You might lead your family or a charity or a work project or any number of other things but as a bare minimum – you lead yourself. And like all leadership roles, you may do that well or very poorly.
So rather than lament that fact that you were born male or female or black or white or Asian or liking sushi or being lactose intolerant or anything else (yes ANYTHING else) about you, you have a leadership role that you can grow as large as you choose to grow it. And that is the key. Once you select a comfortable span of leadership, can you sustain it and, hopefully, grow it?
Many people are placed in leadership roles. That does not make you a leader. As Goffee and Jones have noted:
If you are lucky enough to be put into such a role, do you ask yourself, “Why did they choose me? What if I can’t perform in this role?” Or do you ask, “What must I do to properly grow into this leadership role and become a sustained leader?” Clearly the first question you ask yourself will influence what happens next.
How do I grow as a leader?
In my research, I have identified 229 different elements of leadership. No one is perfect in all of them and everyone has a unique set of elements where they have already shown different levels of success. To sustain that leadership, to grow into your new leadership role, there are several things you can do immediately. First, consider your natural and already developed traits. Know yourself.
Do you exhibit good character or do you have a collection of company office products at home?
Do you have the appropriate level of competence or do you need to learn more about the operations of your new team?
Do you have the appropriate level of compassion toward those you lead, or do you put people down in public?
How good is your communication? Are you comfortable expressing your vision, or does your public persona “er” and “um” every time all eyes in the room are on you?
What level of commitment do you have to the overall vision and mission? Does the vision you have developed for your team align with the overall organizational goals or is the team confused and befuddled by your vision and their role in fulfilling it?
These five elements – Character, Competence, Compassion, Communication, and Commitment – combine to form the backbone of leadership. All leaders should review these traits regularly, spending time to dig deeper into the lower level elements to assess their performance.
Staying on Track
There’s another assessment of your leadership skills, something I call the Essential Leadership Journey Checkpoints (ELJCs). These are:
Being a constant learner
Developing situational awareness
Being focused and disciplined
Developing other leaders
As you review all 229 elements, you might select others where you believe you need more development as a leader. That’s fine. In fact, that decision reflects a level of self-awareness that is a positive leadership trait.
These seven ELJCs reflect seven areas where people in leadership positions most commonly fail. You may be able to retain your position for a season, but an inability to master these seven will ultimately cause your leadership to become unsustainable. Character includes the elements of honesty, integrity, and knowing yourself. A leader who does not engage in constant learning will soon atrophy and become a dinosaur with technology, among other things. Being a regular reader and exposing yourself to new opportunities are essential parts of this element. A sustained leader develops their observational abilities to be able to assess a variety of situations as quickly as possible. Whether it is negotiation posturing, the level of talent that is available, or a specific developing opportunity, the sustained leader will gather facts quickly and choose a course of action. Being decisive allows for progress on goals without undue delay. A focus and disciplined approach to the tasks at hand prevents wasted resources and ensures that the goal is achieved – the final product is delivered as promised. A leader’s vision inspires the team toward a positive goal, and through example and formal development, on the job and in more structured environments, the sustained leader ensures that there is a strong cadre of developing leaders to assume more responsible leadership roles. Each of these is critical to sustainable leadership.
Identifying Areas of Weakness
A particular trait of yours might be another area that could derail your leadership journey. Are you a narcissist? Often such people get “seen” and are put in leadership roles, but their hubris and ego cause their followers to abandon them. Do you procrastinate and allow yourself to be paralyzed through successive rounds of analysis? A bias for action is a favorable leadership ability. Or is your paralysis most on display when you attempt to speak to larger groups? Do you hold a sense of privilege over your position, or do you try to manage by rumor and gossip? All of these are examples of where leaders have failed, sometimes spectacularly!
Look for your areas where development will enhance your leadership.
Engage in constant learning and improve your leadership abilities.
Where Do I Go From Here?
Whatever your starting point, your set of strengths and weaknesses, or your personal background, you have the potential for leadership.
When you look around at the state of leadership across the world today there is something very puzzling. We have leadership institutes and think tanks. There are courses of study and college degrees. Leadership development is one of the major training expenses in many organizations and more than 1000 books on leadership topics are published every month. Why then does there seem to be such a lack of leadership in business, government, and charities? In Jeffrey Pfeffer’s recent work Leadership BS he notes that both the development and selection of leaders across society seems to be badly broken. I agree.
The determining factor for success is your personal choice. Do you want to develop yourself as a sustained leader or not?
The solution? Changing the world, one leader at a time.
It’s your turn.
Sustained Leadership WBS
Never before in the leadership literature has such a comprehensive review of the attributes, traits, characteristics, abilities, and practices been so well developed. Using a Work Breakdown Structure approach borrowed from project management disciplines, Sustained Leadership WBS takes that metaphor a step further in defining the scope of work in building a leader. It provides the necessary “Work Breakdown Structure Dictionary” that provides a proper lexicon for discussing leadership and giving everyone a proper roadmap for the personal development. Sustained Leadership WBS can be purchased wherever books are sold online or in-store.