12
Feb

5 Decisions Every Entrepreneur Must Face

5 Decisions Every Entrepreneur Must Face

Jayson DeMers Guest Writer Founder & CEO, EmailAnalytics September 15, 2014 6 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

One of the burdens of being an entrepreneur is having to make tough decisions. But since opportunities often come disguised as decisions, it’s something business owners have to get used to if they want to experience growth.

Over the life of your business, you’ll be faced with many decisions. Many of these will have a relatively small impact on the success of your business. But some can have an enormous impact.

Here are five big decisions every entrepreneur should be prepared to face head on if they want to keep moving forward.

It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. — Scott Belsky, Behance co-founder

1. Whether to turn your idea into a reality. Of course, the decision upon which the rest of your decisions will rest is whether to start your business in the first place. This may involve sacrificing a dependable, full-time income, or it may mean scaling back at work to pursue your dream. Or, if you’re like many entrepreneurs, the toughest decision may be which idea to turn into a business.

There is far more opportunity than there is ability. — Thomas Edison

2. Whether to expand or keep the status quo. Keeping your business small may feel more manageable and less risky, as you can personally oversee most components of the day-to-day operations. However, the temptation to expand can be strong. Sometimes it’s the allure of new revenue, or sometimes it’s simply the potential for something new and exciting.

Whatever the situation, the strategic decision to expand your operations or maintain the status quo is one of the biggest decisions most business owners will face.

It’s not a decision to be taken lightly: If you decide to expand — whether that means hiring new employees, increasing product selection or partnering with another business — making sure you grow wisely will be paramount.

Do you have the proper systems and processes in place to successfully manage the growth? Do you have strategies in place that will ensure you maintain your current quality of service? What market or economic conditions may influence the success or failure of your expansion?

Don’t worry about failure. You only have to be right once. — Drew Houston, Dropbox founder and CEO

3. Whether to give up. Starting a business is hard work (that’s putting it mildly), and much of the hard work you do now won’t pay off until far into the future. It may be that financial struggles make you want to give up, or simply a lack of motivation due to disappointing business results.

Whatever the reason, thoughts of giving up cross every entrepreneur’s mind, usually more than once.

Legendary Swedish tennis player Bjorn Borg said, “My greatest point is my persistence. I never give up in a match. However down I am, I fight until the last ball. My list of matches shows that I have turned a great many so-called irretrievable defeats into victories.” 

It’s true that there are times when giving up is the best, or only, choice to be made. But if you can summon up the gumption and courage to keep going, you may just find your big success is right around the corner.

A truly global company is one that uses intellect and resources of every corner of the world. — Jack Welch, former CEO of GE

4. Outsourcing or hiring in-house. There will come a time for every business, almost without exception, when the need for additional personnel or an influx of new skills becomes non-negotiable. And one of the biggest decisions a business owner must face at this juncture is whether to hire new staff or to outsource.

Unfortunately, no one can tell you what’s right for your business in this regard. Some of the factors you’ll need to consider include:

  • Payroll and benefit costs versus contractor costs
  • Type of job or role. For instance, functions such as online marketing, accounting and IT are often successfully outsourced, however, core areas such as PR and sales are often better kept in-house.
  • Your company culture: If you have a strong culture that must be evident in all tasks and roles, in-house may be preferable.
  • Your industry and the competitive environment: If you’re in a highly competitive industry, hiring in-house may reduce the risk of trade secrets being divulged.

If you need an important task completed, and could source it locally for $600,000, or outsource it overseas for $37,000, which would you choose?

This was the decision faced by the owner of investment-tool company Born to Sell CEO Mike Scanlin a few years back. Any guesses what he chose? In a CNN Money article about the decision, Scanlin reported that he opted for overseas outsourcing, and was extremely happy with his decision.

Scanlin isn’t alone: In a recent survey of US-based businesses, 36 percent of CFOs reported that their firm was currently involved in offshore outsourcing, with companies favoring India, Indonesia and China.

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get. –Warren Buffett

5. Product or service pricing. Determining your “sweet spot” in terms of pricing is an enormous decision that all entrepreneurs will be faced with throughout the life of their business. How you price your products or services will communicate the perceived value of your offering, and will position you against certain competitors in the marketplace.

Some of the factors you are likely to consider when determining the price of a product or service include:

  • Having a solid understanding of what your target market is willing to pay
  • Understanding what you can afford to charge, taking into consideration all of the hard and soft costs associated with producing the product
  • Knowing how your product compares to other, similar products, and whether you can legitimately charge a premium for additional features, higher quality, etc.
  • How you want to situation yourself in the marketplace: Do you want to be known as the company that provides the highest-quality product? The cheapest? The dependable, middle-of-the line product or service?

Being an entrepreneur will always mean having to make hard decisions, and these are just a handful of the ones you’ll inevitably face as your business grows. Each of these decisions comes with a certain amount of risk, but fortunately, risk-aversion is a trait many entrepreneurs lack (or at least they don’t allow it to impede their growth).

What decisions would you add to this list? What’s the biggest business decision you currently face? Share below!

12
Feb

6 Ways to Make Hard Decisions Easier as a Leader

6 Ways to Make Hard Decisions Easier as a Leader

6 Ways to Make Hard Decisions Easier as a Leader

Jayson DeMers Guest Writer Founder & CEO, EmailAnalytics May 22, 2017 5 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Leadership is mentally and emotionally demanding. Not only will you need to temper your emotions to keep your team inspired, you’ll also be the point person for almost every hard decision your business makes.

You’re the one who has to make the call, and the one who has to deal with the consequences. It’s no wonder that depression affects entrepreneurs more than the average population.

Sooner or later, you’ll be forced to make a tough call; it might mean firing an employee you’re personally close with, or making a risky strategic change for the business or ending a long-term partnership.

Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to make these decisions easier, both in terms of finding a better option and resisting the stress and burdens that come along with it.

Try using these tactics the next time you’re forced to make a hard decision.

1. Reduce decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue is a documented phenomenon that sets in when you make too many successive decisions. Even small decisions, like picking what to wear or ordering a meal, can accumulate the stress of decision-making and make approaching bigger decisions more stressful.

You can reduce decision fatigue by spending less time on small-scale decisions. Build habits that are repeatable, and let other people (like your assistants or coworkers) decide things that don’t have much impact on you or your business.

2. Take yourself out of the equation.

According to the New York Times, one of the best ways to make decisions is to remove yourself from the picture altogether. Imagine that this isn’t your company: Instead, pretend that it belongs to a friend, and you’re advising him or her on what to do.

Describe the situation, out loud, as if the people and organizations involved were total strangers. If your friend came to you with this story, what would you advise? Oftentimes, it’s easier to see the answer when we’re removed from the situation, because the stakes are lower — but the answer is just as good.

3. Create a firm deadline.

A big problem many entrepreneurs have with decision-making is being decisive in a timely manner; in other words, they procrastinate. This calls to mind Parkinson’s Law: Essentially, the amount of time it takes to do a task swells to fill the amount of time allotted for it.

If you give yourself a month to make a decision, you’re going to take a month. If you give yourself a day, you’re going to take a day. Obviously, you don’t want to rush decisions with major consequences, but you’ll also want to set a strict timetable so you don’t procrastinate too long, wasting time and mental resources in the process.

4. Limit the factors you use to make your decision.

The paradox of choice is a perplexing case of human psychology. The more options you have to consider, the harder it is to make a choice- — and the less satisfied you are with that choice once you make it.

You can compensate for this by limiting the number of options you have to choose from, and the number of variables you consider when choosing between them. For example, you could narrow your choice down to two vendors, and decide to make your decision based on cost only, or only on the quality of the working relationship.

5. Quantify your options.

As a business owner, quantifiable decisions are easy to make. For example, if your marketing strategy makes more money than it costs, it’s worth keeping. So, if you want to make your net hard decision a little easier, try reducing everything to quantifiable variables.

This may take some extra effort up-front, but the best answer will be obvious when you’re done. For example, if you’re stuck between hiring two candidates, start rating them on different factors, like experience, value and culture fit. Ultimately, the candidate who racks up the most points is your winner.

6. Focus on long-term thinking.

It’s tempting to think about the short-term repercussions of your decisions as a worst-case scenario, but try thinking about the long term instead. If the current decision you’re making is the wrong one, how will this affect your life in three years? What about five years? Most bad decisions can be recovered from in the span of a year or two — even the big ones — so don’t beat yourself up over the worst-case possibilities. This is also a way to distance yourself from the equation.

Procrastinating isn’t a good idea. Delegating is possible in some situations, but generally not advisable. If you want to be a successful leader, you need to learn how to handle tough decisions rather than avoid them.

In short, learning to make effective decisions may take some practice, but decisiveness is like any other skill: the more time you invest in it, the better you’ll become.

12
Feb

The 3 Questions Entrepreneurs Should Ask Before Making Tough Decisions

The 3 Questions Entrepreneurs Should Ask Before Making Tough Decisions

The 3 Questions Entrepreneurs Should Ask Before Making Tough Decisions

AmyK Hutchens Guest Writer Leadership & Communications expert, author of The Secrets Leaders Keep February 5, 2020 6 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Business owners make myriad decisions every day. However, when it comes to the toughest choices, like whether to hire more talent, invest in technology or seek another round of funding,it’s imperative to get clarity. When you increase your certainty before you go down a specific road, you’ll avoid second guessing your decision and unintentionally sabotaging your commitment and results.

When faced with a big decision, it’s normal to feel paralyzed, question your own gut and stress about the wisdom of your choice. But give yourself some slack. Even the most successful entrepreneurs have experienced moments of panic, shouting to the skies above, “What do I do?!” ADVERTISING

Second, there are three questions you can ask yourself before making a difficult decision to discern what’s driving you in a specific direction, and to see if you’ll end up where you really want to go.

1.  Where am I running to?

We can set a lot of goals, we can think a lot of thoughts, we can behave in all sorts of ways, but ultimately, to what end? Where will this decision lead you? Too often, entrepreneurs set goals or outcomes and never ask themselves why. Unpacking your decision and taking a hard look at how it will fuel or complete you is important to your long-term peace. Discerning how this choice might make you feel along the way will influence whether your journey is more pleasurable or painful. So ask yourself: Where am I going? Why am I going? Who or what is driving me in this direction? How do I want to travel down this path?

Running from is different than running to. The first is backward-focused, negative and avoidant. The latter is forward-focused, positive and upward-facing. Knowing what you are building and creating helps you step forward with confidence, even when you are feeling your most vulnerable. Knowing where you truly wish to be (your to) can also help you create more of it in the present moment. If you’re running toward hitting the seven-figure product launch because you think it will prove your success and show your family members you aren’t crazy, then ask yourself: How can I feel more worthy right here, right now? How can I respect and honor my prior decisions before I make this next big decision?

2. Am I making this decision from a place of fear or faith?

Most entrepreneurs spend some time scared out of their wits. It comes with the title and the inevitable roller coaster ride of going out on your own. But when you make decisions from a place of fear, it can constrict opportunities, limit possibility and truncate your results.  When you operate from fear, you’ll try to over control and force outcomes. Ironically, forcing solutions creates more tension and resistance, whereas going with the flow creates space for even more possibilities. In order to put your fears aside, ask yourself: If I replaced my fear with faith and my worry with calm and certainty, what might I say and do now? What might shift before I make a commitment to a path? If I replaced my fear with faith and my worry with calm and certainty, what decision would I lean toward?

Faith requires surrendering, letting go and loosening your grasp on your belief that you must control everything. Paradoxically, faith in yourself means that if you do make a decision that leads to unintended consequences, you can give yourself the grace to know that you made the best decision at the time you made it and you still believe in yourself to course-correct.

Entrepreneurs often get stuck making tough decisions because they are scared of what will happen if they make a choice. Some entrepreneurs are afraid of losing security and comfort, while others are scared of what the next level of success might require of them. Ask yourself whether fear or faith in yourself is going to motivate this next decision.

3. Who must I become to lead into this decision?

Focusing on who you need to evolve into in order to reach and exceed your goals is one of the very best questions you will ever ask yourself. For more than 20 years, I’ve used this question to change the conversation and to change the mindset of leaders around the globe. “Who must I become to make this decision and create the life I desire?” is at the heart of it all. Looking at yourself — your strengths and core values, your drivers and motivators, your skill gaps, personality quirks and your shortcomings (come on, you know you’re perfectly imperfect) — is the best thing you can do to make a well-informed and confident decision.

Asking yourself how you might need to evolve, should you choose a certain path, before you make the actual choice is brilliant — full stop. It sets you up for decision-making success. Before you commit, ask yourself: Who might I need to become in order to make this decision manifest into the most profitable outcomes possible? Your answer will help you craft a plan for your own evolution as you support the manifestation of your choices.

Big entrepreneurial decisions are less about options A and B and more about figuring out who you are and the life you want to create for yourself. Life is messy. You’ll make mistakes. You might even make a decision that has you eyeing somebody else’s lane or feeling like your road took a detour, but the more time you take to ask and answer these three questions, the more time you’ll confidently spend behind the wheel, confidently steering in the direction of your desires.

Big entrepreneurial decisions are less about options A and B and more about figuring out who you are and the life you want to create for yourself. Life is messy. You’ll make mistakes. You might even make a decision that has you eyeing somebody else’s lane or feeling like your road took a detour, but the more time you take to ask and answer these three questions, the more time you’ll confidently spend behind the wheel, confidently steering in the direction of your desires.

12
Feb

Ready to Quit Your Current Venture? Consider These 3 Questions First

Ready to Quit Your Current Venture? Consider These 3 Questions First

Ready to Quit Your Current Venture? Consider These 3 Questions First

Aytekin Tank VIP Contributor Entrepreneur; Founder and CEO, JotForm February 4, 2020 5 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You did it. You finally launched a business, or started writing that book, or took that job with the company you were thrilled to work for. But once the initial thrill wears off, you realize it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Or maybe things just haven’t gone as expected. Part of you wants to throw in the towel, but another voice urges you to stay the course. After all, quitters never win and winners never quit. Or do they?

According to best-selling author and entrepreneur Seth Godin, they do. In The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), Godin argues that winners quit fast, quit often and quit without guilt. Rather than continuing to invest in a sunk cost, winners cut their losses and reinvest their time and energy in another activity that will (hopefully) propel them forward. Just think: Every moment you dedicate to your current venture is a moment you’re not dedicating to another one that might be more profitable, fulfilling or both.ADVERTISING

Our rational brain (and Economics 101) tells us to ignore sunk costs, but in reality, that’s easier said than done. Here, a few things to consider when you’re deciding whether it’s time to deploy your parachute. 

1. Is it profitable?

The act of quitting is emotionally charged, particularly when you worked so hard to attain a project or position in the first place. Our first instinct is often to blame ourselves — if only we hustled harder or longer, things would be better. This can quickly lead to spirals of self-doubt and shame. These subjective experiences can influence our decision-making, leading us to forge on, against our better judgment, in a fruitless endeavor.

A better approach is to remove the emotions from the equation and crunch the numbers. Put simply, determine whether your current business is profitable.

2. What’s the cost of staying?

Once you figure out whether your current occupation is profitable, also consider what it’s stopping you from doing and the earnings that you’re foregoing there. Let’s say you’re a freelance designer and thinking about starting your own agency. Those gigs might earn you money now, but they also take time away from a potentially more rewarding opportunity.

According to Godin, the choices we make to pursue one activity rather than another can be expensive, like watching Netflix instead of doing something more enriching: “These hours you could have spent reading a book, coaching the local handball team, or giving back to the community, you chose to be watching television,” he writes.

Don’t get me wrong: Not all Netflix sessions are bad. I’d be hardpressed to give up my habit of watching documentaries before bed. But when it begins encroaching on time that might be better spent on something more purposeful, it’s time to get our habits in check. The point is, even if you can’t crunch the numbers precisely, try to have a forward-looking perspective, focusing not just what you’re giving up, but on what you stand to gain.

3. Am I still passionate?

This might be the hardest question. It means going beyond the surface — past how something looks on paper or what people will think — and deciding whether the day-to-day experience still makes you happy. Of course, there will be moments of stress and even pain, like if we’re on a tight deadline or receive a bad review. But at the end of the day, you should feel your heart is still in it.

Tech founder Mark Asquith shared how he quit his first real business just a year after launching. Writing for Entrepreneur, Asquith explained: “The problem was that I’d become disenchanted,after such a short amount of time with what I had been sold on by the books and the success stories of the people I knew who had started their own businesses.”

He had to “really dig deep” to discover what the issue was, but ultimately, it led him to quit and enabled him to launch another, more successful business that very same year.

Research from Northwestern University shows that quitting unattainable goals and refocusing our energy on alternate goals can make us happier, physically healthier and less stressed. It also suggests that an ability to effectively quit an unrealistic goal was beneficial to participants’s physical health because it relieved psychological stress. In other words, both your physical and mental health stand will benefit from being able to identify and detach from unrealistic goals (e.g. rescuing a floundering business or being happy in an unfulfilling job).

Hopefully, you’ll find these tips helpful for making the decision of whether to quit if and when that time comes.

12
Feb

How to Fall in Love With Strategic Planning

How to Fall in Love With Strategic Planning

How to Fall in Love With Strategic Planning

Clay Mathile and Joni Fedders Guest Writer Founder/Chairman of the Board and President of Aileron February 6, 2020 4 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Strategic planning is a polarizing term. For some people, it’s cringeworthy, conjuring up images of long meetings that are driven more by outdated process than by purpose. I’ve been there myself; I remember one particularly painful strategic-planning session that consisted of two days of irrelevant data analysis and concluded in a few documents that were never referenced again.

With experiences like this, it’s easy to see why strategic planning gets a bad name — and why business leaders avoid it like a tax audit. But now is the worst time it to dodge it. How people travel, work, live, shop and communicate changes more frequently and significantly now than at any other point in modern history, and that means you don’t have five years to respond and adapt. You might not even have one year.ADVERTISING

The constant evolution of today’s consumer and marketplace means it’s critical you pay attention to what’s going on outside of your organization, industry and geography. If you want to build a business that lasts forever, strategic planning — specifically, external analysis — must become an ongoing, agile process.

Here’s the good news: Analyzing your external environment doesn’t have to be miserable. Let’s reframe the process. At its core, reviewing your external environment is a practice in relevancy testing during times of change. It gives you an opportunity to assess if you’ll be consumable by, connected with and valuable to cultures and consumers in the future. Rather than using the outdated strategic planning models that aren’t serving you, and put your leadership team to sleep, practice relevancy testing instead. Here’s how you do it in four steps.

1. Look at competitive business models

And not just the ones in your industry. DoorDash and Shipt applied Uber’s model to transform how people eat, even though the transportation, grocery and restaurant industries are all very different. Other major market shifts — virtualizing healthcare, digitizing financial transactions, emphasizing sustainability and the environment — may soon impact your business. While it’s impossible to know what the world will look like five years from now, it’s important to recognize and analyze trends to prepare for what’s coming your way.

2. Select the ones that are relevant to you

After you’ve gathered a collection of trends, determine which ones are relevant to you and your customers, and which aren’t worthy of further analysis. Organize that list by speed of change; although driverless cars may make a big impact in the future, they’re not coming as fast as other shifts. Place emphasis on that’s happening now or soon.

3. Visualize adopting a new model

With this new perspective, ask yourself and your team: “If we were opening our doors for the first time tomorrow, what would we look like?” This question allows you to eliminate creative restrictions and think outside of what currently exists. One day at Iams, Clay Mathile gathered us into a conference room and told us our biggest competitor had expanded into grocery. Our task was to determine how to respond. We didn’t know at the time that it wasn’t true; the exercise was designed to implore us to look at our business with a new lens — and it worked.

4. Review competitive materials

When’s the last time you looked at your competitors’s websites to analyze their positioning? Create a habit of understanding how your competitors are changing and what they’re bringing to the table so you can continue to add value and differentiate your business.

Last year at Summit, Aileron’s annual two-day community gathering, Entrepreneur Editor-in-Chief Jason Feifer spoke to us about bicycles, specifically how many people in the media alleged the invention was doomed for failure and would never be adopted by society at large. Society, as we know, had other plans. This anecdote sheds light on an eternal truth: Change is inevitable, no matter how hard we push against it or how little we plan for it.

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to recognize the inevitability of change and embrace it rather than remaining ignorant. Regardless of the path we choose, change will happen, and we can choose to either be its champion or its prey.

12
Feb

My Employees Helped Me Build a Billion-Dollar Tech Company

My Employees Helped Me Build a Billion-Dollar Tech Company

My Employees Helped Me Build a Billion-Dollar Tech Company

Stu Sjouwerman Guest Writer Founder and CEO, KnowBe4 February 6, 2020 6 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As far as backstory, the title really says it all. I’m extremely proud of the success I’ve had as an entrepreneur and CEO of KnowBe4, but I certainly never could have achieved that success on my own; it’s been a team effort from day one. 

So how do you get the right people to stick around in the challenging environment of a startup and see the process through? The first thing to understand is that it’s not necessarily about money. A competitive salary and benefits package is useful in attracting good candidates, but less so in terms of retaining them. Who employees work with — and who they work for — rank much higher on the list of contributors to job satisfaction. ADVERTISING

The interactions these people have, their mutual expectations of one another and the level of accountability between them across all levels of an organization are some major factors in that somewhat ambiguous “thing” that we refer to as corporate culture. 

While there’s no single best example of what a healthy corporate culture looks like, I think it’s worth sharing what has worked for our company, and why I think it can probably work for yours, too. 

Treat Employees as Grownups

This might seem obvious or, depending on how many HR meetings you’ve sat in on, even tired. But our practice is to view and treat every employee as an intrinsically valuable individual, not just a contributor. When you start from this premise, there are so many opportunities for team members to help one another grow and find fulfillment in work, which greatly benefits the company in terms of employee engagement and productivity. 

No job is “just a job,” after all; where you work and what you do is a significant aspect of your life at any given point in time, whether it’s a culmination of effort expended over decades, or a small stepping stone to where you want to be later. 

That’s why it’s so important to take it beyond motivational posters or occasional pep talks. To that end, we clearly outline paths to promotion and employ a dedicated career coach to work with employees internally. We also have Life Coach and an Employee Assistance Program available for all our employees who’ve been with us for 90 days. 

More fundamentally, we’ve built our culture, and business, on the foundation of respect. Our policy is that everyone gives it and everyone gets it, which has helped immensely in keeping the workplace a fun, positive place to spend time in. 

Keep Communication Direct and Relevant

Live communication, not email, is how we resolve our issues. Through trial and error, I’ve learned that there’s just too much opportunity for a thread of text-only messages to foster misunderstanding and devolve into anger and pettiness. Especially when the original problem could have been easily solved with a quick face-to-face conversation. 

In support of this, we also use a “no-door” policy, as well as open floor plans, keeping everyone as accessible to everyone else as much as possible. 

Along with how we talk about things, what we talk about also has a big impact on productivity and team spirit. Cohesion is the goal, so we ask employees to leave any conversation about religion or politics (including “office politics”) outside of work. 

Prioritize Transparency

The “no-door” policy plays a part here, but we also try to maximize transparency in less tangible ways. Information that we actively inform every member of our organization about includes: 

  • All aspects of corporate policy.
  • Any and all plans for future expansion.
  • Expectations for each job role, including specifically tracked statistics, and whether those are being met.

We also conduct a daily stand-up meeting to provide all staff members with a quick update about the company. On the more lighthearted side, I also encourage employees to participate in a regular AMA (Ask Me Anything) with me, the CEO. 

This hyper-transparent environment doesn’t just make people feel more accountable. It also gives them confidence about their performance, their role and their value to the overall organization. 

Remember to Have Fun

By its nature, the work we do is challenging. The last thing I’d want my employees to feel is that it’s also boring or oppressive. Most of us spend a good deal of time at work, and that shouldn’t be time that we look back on with disdain. I firmly believe that good, old-fashioned fun is the right ingredient in preventing that. 

To that end, we run a constant flow of games and contests in the workplace and even have an Internal Games Commissioner to manage. Far from getting in the way of work, this actually makes us more efficient, as we’ve gotten good at finding ways to gamify production metrics and implement fun, performance-based rewards. 

Also, a perpetual employee favorite among our company policies is the Florida dress code: If you will not get arrested on your way to work, you’re good!

There are many things, small and large, that go into creating a sustainable corporate culture — certainly more than just these four. But in my experience, employees who feel valued (as people, not placeholders), listened to (not just heard) and appreciated (not just compensated) are the ones who will consistently rise to the challenges that their role presents. Ultimately, everyone wants to succeed, and success in the workplace is part of that. If, as an employer, you’re there to help them succeed on a continual basis, and not just profit off their efforts, then you’ll quickly find yourself surrounded by the kind of people who will want to help you, and your business, succeed as well.

12
Feb

How to Uncover Hidden Sales

How to Uncover Hidden Sales

How to Uncover Hidden Sales

Kim Walsh Phillips VIP Contributor Founder of Powerful Professionals February 7, 2020 3 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As your number-one ROI chaser, I’m here with another tale of a business getting it wrong. You see, I am trying to sign up my daughter for dance classes. Four of them. She loves dance, has been on company teams before and is ready to go “all in” (i.e. they’re about to get a payday from me over and over again). The problem is, I can’t get the dance studio to take my money.

I’ve tried emailing, calling, showing up in person only to find it closed, showing up in person when they are open. None of it has worked so far. The latest exchange involved the owner telling me to use a different email address because the one that I used requires him to log in, and he always has trouble doing it. This was in response to my last message that asked for us to sign her up. Seriously.ADVERTISING

If the school wasn’t so close to our house and I hadn’t heard such great things about their program, I would have given up a long time ago. As I am sure many have. Can you imagine how much they have lost in sales?

So the question is: Is this happening inside of your business, too? Before you’re quick to say no, ask yourself: Was there ever a question that came into our website that took me a minute to respond to? Did I ever miss someone contacting us on social media? Was there a voicemail that got lost somewhere? Does my team always capture every lead?

I know that at Powerful Professionals Business Coaching, we occasionally mess this up for sure. And when we do, it hits that pit in my stomach normally reserved for roller coasters and grownups wearing clogs.

To elminate the need for such a moment of angst, I browse the inquiries that come into our customer service team a few times a week, and we’ve built time into our planning to comb through all channels to make sure everyone is answered. We even hired a VA whose only job is to monitor and reply to my social media messages and comments so we don’t miss anything any longer. These systems collectively plugged the hole of missed sales opportunities and increased revenue without inreasing ad spend. 

Are there sales opportunities you are missing that can be captured right now? Look for a chance to make a sale that exists in front of you now and … Take. Their. Money. Schedule time this week to get it done.

And now I’m off to camp out in front of the dance studio with a wad of cash to see what happens next.

12
Feb

Increase Employee Retention by Upping Your Leadership EQ

Richard Trevino II Guest Writer International Consultant, Speaker, and Writer February 7, 2020 5 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In recent years, emotional intelligence, or EQ, has become a common and popular topic among managers and leaders. As a consultant who trains companies of all sizes on leadership and soft skills, I can tell you that it is by far one of the most needed areas of development in today’s workplace, and especially among leadership. But what is EQ really, and why is it so important? 

According to TalentSmart founder and Emotional Intelligence 2.0 author Travis Bradberry, “Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively” and it “is also an important indicator when it comes to performance prediction.” Current studies indicate that it affects “performance and success in areas including customer retention, increased sales, leadership, management and so many other facets.” With such noted impacts, managers and leaders must understand and improve their EQ in order to beneift from its effects in the workplace.ADVERTISING

Fortunately, your EQ can be broken down into two key components: personal awareness and social awareness.

Be Self-Aware

Personal awareness, or self-awareness, entails being mindful of your emotions and how you express them as situations arise. People who are self-aware “are committed to their own growth and development,” as DevelopmenWORKS President John R. Stoker blogged for SmartBrief. In order to be self-aware, you must be willing to conduct honest self-assessments, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test.

However, being self-aware is not just about knowing how you react to certain situations and what triggers your emotional responses. It is also about using that knowledge to control your reactions. Controlling your emotions doesn’t mean you stop feeling them. It means being able to recognize that you are angry or frustrated, understanding that it’s inappropriate to show your anger and frustration in certain situations and remaining calm despite your inner feelings. It also means accepting criticisms, both negative and positive, and using them as a basis for improving and developing yourself. Such feedback can also help you in assessing yourself and your emotional responses. Taking another MBTI won’t show you whether you’ve improved or not, but feedback from your peers can help you assess how much you’ve developed your EQ.

Being self-aware allows you to communicate better. Because you can control how you react to certain situations and people, you can avoid unnecessary conflicts in the workplace or even in your personal life. For instance, instead of shouting and making a scene, when you feel that you are getting angry or frustrated, you start to take deep, relaxing breaths so that you can stay level-headed and calmly address the issue. This allows you to avoid escalating the situation.

Be Socially Aware 

Social awareness refers to our ability to empathize with others. In other words, it’s our sensitivity to others’s feelings and emotions, as well as our willingness to respect other people’s perspectives. Social awareness also means being honest and respectful. With your knowledge of how the people around you might react, you will be able to prepare for their reactions. For instance, as managers and leaders, you’ll have to implement changes in your company at some point, and you can anticipate that a number of your employees will react negatively to those changes. Consequently, you can also make plans to ensure that their concerns are addressed, which helps prevent most of the conflicts that arise when implementing changes.

Like self-awareness, your social awareness can also improve your ability to communicate — not just at work, but in everyday conversations as well. In order to increase your social awareness, practice observing the people around you. Take note of what triggers their emotional responses. People betray certain cues when they are about to get an emotional high. For instance, most people start breathing heavily when they get angry. Some can turn red, while others begin to frown or form a crease in their foreheads. These are all indicators of people who might have a negative response to your words or actions or the situation that you find yourselves in. Knowing these cues allows you to take action to ensure that before they reach their emotional high, you diffuse some, if not all, of the possible causes of their emotional response.

As a manager or leader in any capacity in the workplace, sharpening your EQ is going to improve the day-to-day interactions amongst those in your operation. One benefit of having a high EQ is developing the ability to gather a group of people and make them work together to reach a common goal. Because you understand their emotional responses, you know what to say or do to motivate them to work harder and as a team towards the same goal. And rememebr to take note that being self-aware and socially aware can also help you manage your personal relationships, enahcing your quality of life in and out of the office.

12
Feb

Doubt Will Always Creep In. Here’s How to Shut It Out.

Doubt Will Always Creep In. Here’s How to Shut It Out.

Doubt Will Always Creep In. Here's How to Shut It Out.

Thomas Edwards, Jr. Guest Writer Performance and Transformational Coach February 10, 2020 5 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Doubt is a very, very powerful entity. It can consume your life and sabotage your success. Even during your highest of highs, you will have moments of questioning yourself. Imposter’s Syndrome is commonplace for many entrepreneurs.

But over a decade of life coaching, I’ve observed three main ways that entrepreneurs allow doubt to hold them back from taking the necessary leaps in their businesses and personal lives. Here are three ways I’ve experienced doubt creeping in, and the solutions I’ve found for shutting it out, and moving forward. 

The more you know, the less you know

Sometimes you just feel clueless. You don’t know what the strategies or steps are that you need to accomplish to overcome the challenge in front of you, and you’re not even sure where to look for the answers. That can feel truly paralyzing.

About a year ago, I was in a deep funk. I was feeling really down on myself, and I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to pull out of it. I knew I was depressed but didn’t fully understand what was happening emotionally. Meanwhile, I was trying to balance all of my usual responsibilities, and it took a huge toll on me and my business.

The trouble was, I had no idea what I was supposed to do to get out of my head. “How does one break out of a depression?” I was asking myself. “What’s the process? What’s the strategy? How do I figure that out?” I began looking for answers, and then… I kept looking for answers. I told myself I was making progress by learning about all the possible answers, sequences, processes and outcomes. But in looking for the perfect solution or piece of advice–as opposed to just doing something, anything to actually move forward–I found another way of being stuck. 

There is truth to the old saying, “the more you know, the less you know.” It’s always good to seek out knowledge and the wisdom of others, but if you’re already in a state of paralysis, sometimes looking for the perfect answer can become an excuse not to take any real action.

The truth is, you probably already know more than enough to take that first step. And whatever action you take will result in experience that will help you grow and build momentum.

Courage keeps doubt on its heels

Like all of us, entrepreneurs deal with a lot of fear. They’re afraid of faulture and rejection. And sometimes they’re afraid of how long it could take to get real results they can show others, to prove their success. In a world of instant gratification, we don’t want to do things that will take a lot of time –– or go through the “pain” of growth.

In my personal experience, when things looked OK on the surface, underneath things were chaotic and I was scared to ask for support. When I did begin to share publicly what was happening with me, there was still a lot of fear about not only admitting my faults, but also admitting I needed support. 

But once I stepped into the experience of sharing, it got easier very quickly, and gave me an understanding –– with insights from people with knowledge and willingness to help — about what I needed to do to up level my personal life and business.

Destroy doubt by eliminating laziness

Most people are lazy. But laziness is a very deceiving experience. You’re probably reading this and saying to yourself, “I’m not lazy. I work hard, you jerk.” But laziness is not a measure of how hard you work. I’m sure many of you  work hard, but feel you’re in a place where you want to do something new, and you just can’t seem to move toward getting it done.

You realize you need to lose weight, and you know the gym is right around the corner, but you’re comfortable. The  thing you’re most avoiding doing is the one thing that will really help you. So what do you do instead? You’d do other things, like answering emails, or continuing tinkering with your slide deck. You can convince yourself that’s productive, but it’s actually a form of laziness. 

Decisiveness forces doubt out

The first and most important step is simply taking ANY productive action. By making changes and standing firm in those decisions, you become an activist for your own life. Decisiveness forces out doubt.

Leadership is about taking a stand on how you want to show up in your business and life. When you take the lead by choosing action over doubt, massive change follows.

The quickest way to break the bonds of doubt is by taking immediate decisive action. Oftentimes that’s all it takes: drafting that first email, asking for help on a new project, or stepping inside that gym. Building a business, like life, is a journey. As you continue to live, you come across new experiences, new challenges, new obstacles. You don’t learn by having all the answers. 

12
Feb

10 Successful Leaders Share Their Struggles with Imposter Syndrome and How to Overcome It

10 Successful Leaders Share Their Struggles with Imposter Syndrome and How to Overcome It

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

10 Successful Leaders Share Their Struggles with Imposter Syndrome and How to Overcome It

Candice Georgiadis February 11, 2020 15+ min read This story originally appeared on Authority Magazine

The legendary poet and activist Maya Angelou, who won the Presidential Medal of Freedom and received nominations for a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award, once said about herself, “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now! I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.'”

This feeling, often prevalent in high-achieving people, is commonly known as “imposter syndrome.”

Imposter syndrome is a thought pattern where a person has a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud,” and which makes that person doubt himself and/or minimize their accomplishments. 

Recently Authority Magazine interviewed dozens of high-achieving C-suite executives and leaders who all shared their own experiences overcoming imposter syndrome, as well as the advice they recommend for getting past it.

Enjoy 10 highlights of their interviews below.

These interviews have been edited for length and clarity. 

Mikaela Kiner (CEO of Reverb)

Mikaela Kiner (CEO of Reverb)

Image credit: via Authority Magazine

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome.

In the summer of 2018 while I was working on my book, a journalist from The Wall Street Journal asked to interview me for her “Work and Family” column. When I looked at who else she had featured, I saw people with big titles and important roles, and I wondered, “Why would she want to hear my story?”

I saw myself as less accomplished and less relevant. I had to remind myself that in the past, I’ve held senior roles in global organizations, and I realize my experiences at these places counted. Not only did I enjoy our conversation, we spoke again many months later on a different topic. In the end I was quoted twice and met a wonderful woman who I now consider an ally.

What I did to shake the feeling off.

Early in my career before I ever heard of impostor syndrome, I lived with it all the time. I would walk into a meeting at work and wonder “Do they like me? Am I smart enough to be here?” It took me several years before I walked into a room and asked myself “Do I like them? Are these people I respect and admire?”

I don’t know that it’s possible to be entirely rid of impostor syndrome but I do manage it better today. What has helped me is learning to recognize it so I can deal with my feelings rationally and talk myself down.

Last year my colleague Elizabeth Bastoni shared some advice that really helped. She said “Don’t say no to yourself, let other people do that for you.” When I start talking myself out of an opportunity or favor because I don’t think I’m worth it, her words are a good reminder to put myself out there and let others decide. More often than not, their answer is yes.

5 Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter.”

  1. Name it. You can’t prevent thoughts and feelings of impostor syndrome but when you name them, you can overcome them. Label impostor syndrome for what it is.
  2. Choose a mantra. Counter those feelings with a mantra like Michelle Obama’s “I am good enough.”
  3. Gather data. List the facts and data about your qualifications and achievements to remind yourself that you are indeed accomplished and deserving.
  4. Create an impostor box. When you experience self-doubt, write your feelings down, tuck them away, and get on with your day. Revisit them when you’re ready, on your terms.
  5. Find a friend. There’s nothing like confiding in someone you trust who can talk you off a ledge and help you see yourself for the talented, capable person you are.

Stevon Lewis (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist)

Stevon Lewis (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist)

Image credit: via Authority Magazine

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome.

As a black male therapist, I haven’t always had an example to follow or model myself after. In my graduate program I was the only black male in my program the entire time I was there. I think this experience led to my questioning whether or not I knew what I was doing. I don’t have an example to follow to effectively evaluate my trajectory and therefore, enter into effective questioning if I will be successful.

What I did to shake the feeling off.

I continually overcome any feelings of being an impostor. I use the same techniques and skills I teach my clients. I tell myself, when exploring a new opportunity, I successsfully explore other new opportunities in the past and will continue to so with new ventures. Moreover, I try to tell myself I am doing a good job, and look at the evidence that supports this. 

5 steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter.”

  1. Be relentless in challenging your “inner bully.” The inner bully is that inner voice we all have that makes us question our abilities and self-worth. Listening to it often leads us to feel more negatively about ourselves, our futures and our present circumstances. For example, in a relationship,an inner bully might prey on our thoughts or feeling as though we don’t deserve our significant other. Often times this will cause us to act in ways that prevent intimacy and connection. We become increasingly angry, clingy, jealous, defensive or easily offended. If our partners are less talkative on a particular day, our inner bullies get us to believe they are mad at us for something we did. We will blindly believe our inner bully instead of checking in to see if our significant other may not feel good, or if there is some other rational explanation for their silence.
  2. Create an evidence sheet. A physical paper or a digital notebook where you list all of the evidence that counteracts support your negative view of yourself as a fraud. This is not based on whether you agree with the information, as we know people that struggle with impostor syndrome will often explain away the evidence they receive that suggests they aren’t a fraud. The goal is to continually add to the document to show oneself that their feelings of being a fraud aren’t based in reality.
  3. Stop dismissing or minimizing your accomplishments. Individuals that struggle with impostor syndrome often dismiss or minimize their accomplishments as routine. I teach my clients to celebrate themselves by acknowledging their accomplishments. The idea is that even if their accomplishment has become routine, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be acknowledged. In addition, if we disproportionately highlight our shortfalls — while ignoring our successes — we all inevitably end up feeling like a failure.
  4. Temper your expectations of yourself. People that struggle with impostor syndrome frequently hold themselves to a standard of perfection that isn’t sustainable or achievable. If you are like this, you may convince yourself you are failing. It would be better for you to temper expectations by using scaling techniques to evaluate their performance. For example, if you have a list of 10 things to accomplish and you accomplish 9 out of 10, it would be more effective to say you’ve accomplish 90 percent of your plans, as well as reminding yourself that 90 percent is still an “A.” 
  5. Stop comparing yourself to others. In working with individuals that struggle with impostor syndrome, the most toxic behavior you can exhibit is using the lives and accomplishments of others to negatively evaluate yourself. I often hear, from my clients, how others are superior in their abilities and, as a result, are more deserving of success. Individuals with impostor syndrome need to stop measuring their abilities and journey based on someone else’s model. It’s okay to take a different route to get to the same location; some people like to fly, while others prefer to drive. 

Liz Forkin Bohannon (Founder of Sseko Designs)

Liz Forkin Bohannon (Founder of Sseko Designs)

Image credit: via Authority Magazine

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome.

Although I’ve been quite familiar with the feeling from early on in my life, imposter syndrome really started to rear its ugly head up when I was about five-six years into my career of building Sseko Designs. We had to build a traditional wholesale/retail company and were considering pivoting to a direct sales model. I believe the opportunity to od business and make an impact was immense, but so was the risk. At this point, I had a multi-million dollar company with employees and partners across multiple countries. I started feeling like if I tried to lead us through this pivot and failed, that would be the moment when I got “found out” for being an imposter. Everyone would say, “See. She is not a real leader or business person. It was all just ‘beginner’s luck.’” As a result, I had an incredible amount of insecurity and anxiety.

What I did to shake the feeling off:

I may not have gotten rid of it completely, but enough that I was able to move forward — and I am glad that I did! In our first full year of selling through individual women in their communities, we did more in revenue and impact than we had ever done through our wholesale channel! In order to overcome it, I revisited the earliest days of my career and started studying the mentalities and mindsets I had they helped me resist imposter syndrome without even knowing it. My study of those mentalities and mindsets was such an “a-ha” moment to me that I ended up writing an entire book about it so that others can access their “Inner Beginner” as a way of overcoming imposter syndrome so that you can build a life of purpose, passion and impact.

5 Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter.”

  1. Own your average. Despite all the common self-help talk that wants you to focus on your specialness, I propose you start warding off imposter syndrome by owning the fact that you are likely indeed quite average. When you “own your average,” you will stop only saying yes to the things you think you’ll immediately excel in. When you own your average, you start to realize that no one is thinking about you quite as much as you think they are. You are not Beyoncé. (Or maybe you are — hi, Beyoncé!). When you decide to own your average, you will start to believe that success will require lots and lots of work, and is not just an inevitable result of being born awesome. You also realize that your insecurities and failures aren’t the tell-tale sign that you’re below average. You know that mistakes and wrong turns are simply a requisite on the road to building an above-average life of purpose and passion, which means you’ll be less afraid to fail and flail a bit. And more importantly, you’ll become less afraid and more likely to succeed, perhaps wildly, because you truly believe you’re just as worthy and likely to build an extraordinary life of purpose and passion as anyone else.
  2. Choose curiosity over criticism. There is scientific evidence that suggests curiosity is just as important as IQ in achieving long-term success. Also, it is the ultimate defense against imposter syndrome. The more curious you are, the more able you are to tolerate ambiguity, navigate complexity and acquire knowledge over time. Studies have shown that increased curiosity is associated with less defensive reactions to stress and less aggressive reactions to provocation. It’s incredibly difficult to increase your IQ but you can increase your CQ, or “curiosity quotient.”
  3. Think like a journalist. Here is the thing about great journalists: They don’t go into the story assuming they have it all figured out. In fact, they know that the less you think you have it all figured out, the more you can learn. The less you have riding on what you think you need to “discover,” the freer you will be to get closer to the actual truth, whatever it may be. The more open you are to be surprised by what you uncover, the more likely you will be to find something really interesting. By pretending to be a journalist on assignment in your own life, you’re going to be more likely to find the truest story which will enable you to be more successful. It’s also going to de-shame not knowing everything and will reframe it as an asset which will kick imposter syndrome to the curb.
  4. Focus on the problem instead of the solution. Feeling like we have to come up with the best solution off the bat will keep us living under the sea of imposter syndrome. Instead, strive to connect with people who can find and understand really interesting problems, and therefore help us detach our egos from the solution. It gives us more freedom to try and fail, all the while keeping the problem we set out to solve in the starring role it deserves.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way. If you’re the first to admit you’re in a “learning mode” and might need some help, it takes the power of the fear that someone else might say it first away. And here is the really cool thing: Contrary to popular belief, studies show that when we’re able to help someone out, we, the helper, end up having increased affection and perceived closeness towards the person we helped.

Kim Perell (Author, Angel Investor and CEO)

Kim Perell (Author, Angel Investor and CEO)

Image credit: via Authority Magazine

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome:

Absolutely. When I first started my own company, I was terrified and young. I had just gotten fired and broke. Everyone doubted me. And even though I chose to press forward, block their voices out and believe in myself. Predictably, I was still terrified. But I felt the fear and did it anyway. Ultimately, your confidence must be greater than your doubt. As an entrepreneur and executive, a huge part of success is that you keep going despite doubt and uncertainty.

What I did to shake the feeling off:

I believe I did. Rather than focus on feelings of self-doubt or worry, I focused on my vision and my passion. I zeroed in on the things I wanted to achieve and the things that made me feel grateful to be alive. These were the things that were the most authentic and true to me.

I also learned to master my emotions. Sometimes, we act as though fear and self-doubt are real and true facts. Really, they’re just emotions that are only as powerful as we make them. I stopped allowing those feelings to overwhelm me or distort my reality.

I’ve also made an effort to surround myself with successful people who support me and challenge me.

5 Steps one experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter”:

  1. Talk about it. A few years ago, a CEO of a company I invested in called me and said, “Do you ever feel like you don’t know what you’re doing and you have all these people looking at you for leadership but you doubt yourself?”
    His question surprised me for a few reasons. For one, I was shocked to hear that he felt that way. He had always struck me as someone who was so self-assured and capable. I had nothing but confidence in his abilities. I was also surprised because his worries were so familiar to me. I knew exactly how he felt. I’d felt that way countless times early on. Talking out how you feel with successful people you trust can help you realize how common and normal your feelings are. It can also help you see the way you look through their eyes.
  2. Invest in relationships. Surround yourself with successful people who want your success to continue. Find a mentor and peers who see your potential and believe you deserve to be where you are. I believe, at any given time, that you should have a mentor, engage in mentoring somebody else, and possess a group of peers who are at your level with whom to share resources, cross-references and gut checks.
  3. Master your emotions. Too often, we act as though fear and self-doubt are facts, when really they’re just emotions that are only as powerful as we make them. Don’t let those feelings overwhelm you or distort your reality. Choose to listen to positive emotions like self-belief, trust and hope; give less weight to negative feelings or self-talk. The belief in yourself must be greater than anyone else’s doubt — including your own. 
  4. Stop comparing yourself to others. Focus on being the best version of yourself and embrace what makes you different and unique. Everyone has their own special talents; the key is to find yours and execute on what you are good at. What other people have or haven’t accomplished has nothing to do with you. Focus on your own journey. It’s the best way to make sure you’re staying true to yourself and not trying to become someone else. 
  5. Focus on your vision and passion. Zero in on the things you want to achieve. Set a clear, specific, meaningful vision of something you want to accomplish. Then, make that your North Star. Let it guide everything you do. I always write down my vision and put it on my bathroom mirror so I’m reminded of it every single day. 
    And make sure you’re devoting plenty of time to your passions, the things you’re willing to sacrifice for, things that make me feel grateful to be alive. Because those are the things that are the most authentic and true to you. They’re the things you were truly meant to do, regardless of abilities or talents.

Michael O’Brien (Executive Coach at Peloton Executive Coaching)

Michael O’Brien (Executive Coach at Peloton Executive Coaching)

Image credit: via Authority Magazine

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome:

My first experience with imposter syndrome came after I was promoted to National Sales Director. I started to believe that the only reason I got the job was that I was the only candidate willing to move to New Jersey. I also thought I had to lead like all the National Sales Directors in my industry, but that wasn’t my style. As a result, I lost my identity for a few months. It was an extremely stressful period and I wondered if I was the right person for the job. These feelings stayed with me until I shifted my thinking and regained my confidence.

What I did to shake the feeling off:

Yes, I was able to shake off my imposter syndrome by shifting the conversation I was having with myself by developing a list fo accomplishments and a few mantras to remind myself why I was promoted. I also started looking for small wins, which I knew would lead to bigger ones down the road, which they did.

5 Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter”:

1. Breathe. When imposter syndrome is present, it’s common for your head to be spinning and be filled with emotion. It makes it hard to know what to do next. Focusing on your breath slows you down, shifts your perspective, and sparks a healthier self-narrative.
2. Create an accomplishments list. Develop a list of life and career accomplishments and mantras that will help you counter-balance your self-narrative when it gets negative or anxious. You can develop your list in private and then ask others what strengths they see in you.
3. Develop your network. Since life and career are not solo projects, it’s essential to have a strong network. They can help you see attributes you might not realize — especially when you can’t.
4. Celebrate small wins. Look for small victories to gain the type of momentum that will lead to big wins down the road and reframe your situation.
5. Express gratitude. Develop a gratitude practice to help you see what’s working in your life. You can even be grateful for your moments of self-doubt or feeling like a fraud because they are a natural part of being alive and an opportunity to show yourself and the world that you are gritty.

Ricky Joshi (CEO of The Saatva Company)

Ricky Joshi (CEO of The Saatva Company)

Image credit: via Authority Magazine

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome:

Absolutely! Coming from the agency world meant I was well-versed in business. My interest in lifestyle was strong, but as I worked on the business model, attended events, and met other professionals, there were definitely times where I felt like I did not know what I was doing. While I knew intrinsically that I was competent, I found difficulty in navigating this new space with my new company. That’s what’s so tricky about imposter syndrome: you know you’re good, but it doesn’t always show.

What I did to shake the feeling off:

Yes, through consistency, I was able to work my way out of it. Every time I accomplished something, I would remind myself that it was because of my talents and perseverance, and how I deserved to be there.

5 Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter”:

  1. Believe in your talents. Always look at your talent as the base rather than focusing on the task. If you know you can achieve something because of past experiences, then keep that at the forefront of your mind.
  2. Ask for help. I was fortunate enough to have Ron through this journey, but friends and colleagues are a great support system when you need a reminder.
  3. Start small. If something seems too daunting, make sure that you scale back and start with something small and manageable. Once you conquer that, it’ll be easier for you to conquer future, larger tasks.
  4. Visualize your success. Keep your eye on the prize and look forward to what you want to achieve rather than playing into your doubts.
  5. Prepare for disappointment. This is key. It does not mean anticipate failure; it means come up with a plan in case of failure. How will you move forward after the fact? Putting these in place early can help you navigate tricky personal feelings.

Elena Doukas (Design Director at Garrett Leight California Optical)

Elena Doukas (Design Director at Garrett Leight California Optical)

Image credit: via Authority Magazine

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome.

My education was in fashion design, and although there are many parallels from apparel design to product design, I’ve always regretted having not taken product design courses. When I started building out the design team at Garrett Leight, I was nervous that candidates with way more product design skills would not respect me as a boss, or that I wouldn’t know what were the magic ingredients were needed to build a strong team. Designing frames was something I was grasping quickly, but managing a team was something I had never done.

On the flip side, when we were first starting out as a company, there were only a few of us, and I had horrible work life balance. I would stay at the office late, and lost touch with a few friends and had trouble giving my friend base the time they deserved. I also had no time to network or interact with any type of peer group, which made me feel like an imposter when I started interacting in fashion circles. It was like an imposter pendulum; on one side I felt not technical enough, and on the other side not connected enough. I was in my late-20s introducing myself as a design director of an eyewear company with no previous eyewear experience, and bracing myself for questions about how I got the job. I knew I got this opportunity from a combination of hard work and luck, but would constantly question if I was truly the most qualified person for the job.

What I did to shake the feeling off.

As the company grew, I wasn’t always able to have a clear vision of how I wanted to personally grow. I realized I needed to make some changes and give more balance to my life. I think the most confusing part for me was how I evolved through my job. When I was hired, the company needed me to do a lot of roles (i.e. design, development, production and sales), but as we grew, I was expected to be an expert in a specific field. It was difficult for me to adapt, and there was no magic ball telling me exactly how I had to change. There was no how-to guide on building and managing a team, and giving direction.

However, I got some good advice from one of my mentors to really understand what my best strengths were, and had a real constructive conversation on the things I wasn’t good at. The irony is the I was advice I was told was the following: No one is ever blessed with knowing exactly how to do everything. It’s the journey of figuring it out that helps you learn how to do things and continuing to perfect your process.

5 Steps one experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter.”

  1. Get organized. I think common result of imposter syndrome is either procrastination or anxiety. If I find myself freezing up or on the opposite end approaching a project sporadically, I try to get myself organized. I think a huge stereotype is that creative people are unorganized, where I think a lot creatives actually thrive in an organized environment, and they just need to find the best structure for them. Try to schedule out time for yourself when you’re at your best to tackle your most overwhelming issues. For me it’s early mornings, before I’ve checked my phone or email so I have zero distractions. Bullet journaling, which is a daily free form journal, is something I actively do to keep myself organized, and really has helped me not push things to the side. If you google Bullet Journal, don’t compare your journal to the thousands of journal images showing perfect penmanship, art doodles and different colored pens. As much as I envy some of these peoples art skills, it’s absolutely insane to think you should spend that much time working on making your bullet journal perfect. The whole point is to free mind up so you can focus on more important things.
  2. Rinse and repeat (but with intent). Growing up I played competitive soccer and I had a coach who started every practice saying, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” It wasn’t until after I graduated college that I realized the intent of this saying wasn’t to become a perfectionist, but it was to be present in every moment you are working on your goal. Now in my job, I’ve also learned to embrace doing multiple iterations of a design and work on them in the full extent. Even when I think it’s finished, I’ll try doing several more. It’s in the process of exploring all the possibilities that you find something new and original, even if the first version ends up being the one you go with.
  3. Mentor. I’m very grateful to have several mentors in my life, and can’t stress enough how important I think it is to have a soundboard. My brother in law is in a line of work where he’s frequently meeting with investors, and he shared with me that in almost every investor meeting a commonly asked question is, “Who are you talking to?” which equates to who in your circle is giving you advice and are they smarter than you? Quite frankly, you’re probably not the smartest person on any one subject, and there’s a bit of relief in admitting it and finding guidance from someone who is. I learned from Garrett not to design in a bubble, and he actively pushes me to get feedback from others outside of the office on designs.
  4. Peer relationships. Having close friends that can call you on your bullshit is equally as important as having a peer group within your industry. I now have several friends who are in fashion and eyewear, and a lot of our relationships are built around a support system we give to each other.
  5. Wellness program. Work life balance is a must for me. Find an activity or routine that allows you to turn your brain off and give back to yourself. Yoga has been my way of turning off, and is a practice in itself of learning to shut down a wandering mind. I’ve learned that the reaction of letting your mind wander to negative thoughts is actually possible to shut down, but it takes practice.

David Metzler (CEO of CBD Capital Group)

David Metzler (CEO of CBD Capital Group)

Image credit: via Authority Magazine

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome:

When I first began my career, I was involved in large-scale investment companies. Having graduated from Columbia as a veteran, I climbed the ranks quickly as the company positioned me strategically with important clients that value veterans. As I looked around at the high-level executives around me, I felt like I didn’t deserve to be at the top with them. As a result, I felt like I couldn’t ask the questions necessary to understand a subject because I worried that people will see me as not smart. Knowing that tendency, I created a rule for me that I would only create teams of experts, where I didn’t need to be the “smartest guy in the room.” That allowed me to always be surrounded by the best professionals, and ask all the questions I needed to truly master and solve any situation or problem that arises.

What I did to shake the feeling off:

Yes, but not without practice. I spent years accruing experience doing what I love and surrounding myself with other successful entrepreneurs. As success came in each endeavor, I realized that I do have the ability to lead and create the life I want.

5 Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter”:

  1. Look to your strengths. Take a look inside yourself and list out your five largest strengths that have contributed to your success.
  2. Think about your career goals. Consider your goals one, five and ten years from now.
  3. Analyze your weaknesses. Ask yourself, what are your biggest weaknesses that you’re afraid people will discover. And how can you develop those strengths to achieve your goals?
  4. Surround yourself with other successful people. You are who you surround yourself with.
  5. Believe in yourself. Take that step. Make those decisions based on what you think the best choice is and adapt to what happens and learns.

Mary Rinaldi (Co-Founder of Simone)

Mary Rinaldi (Co-Founder of Simone)

Image credit: via Authority Magazine

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome:

After building hedge fund products at an investment firm, one of our partners who I worked with closely on a successful project wanted to hire me into their firm. This firm was one of the best — highly ethical and extremely well-respected. Even better, the team I was to join was run by one of the smartest, kindest women I met during my short career in finance. Despite these positives, I was certain I would fail if I took the offer. I was fundamentally afraid that without the pedigree (since every single person there had attended The Wharton School of Business), the degree in Economics (my degree was in literature and history), and a coveted CFA II certificate, I would last for a few months and then be fired. Looking back, I would have flourished. It was a perfect role for me: It combined my love of explicating structure and process, integral to how a portfolio is built, and communicating outcomes, integral to the explanation of how a portfolio performed. Sadly in the end, I didn’t take the role. 

What I did to shake the feeling off:

I don’t think people with imposter syndrome permanently eliminate the feeling, since it’s about alignment between your internal self and how you are perceived by the world. But I’ve found some tools to change the internal dialogue about that process. How we work — listening, teaching, and making — can be the best tool for that.

For example, I’ve accepted that I don’t pop-up out of bed at 5:30 AM, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make a habit of it and make it last for years. I’ve learned that general productivity — clocking good hours at my job, meeting professional goals, expanding my network — isn’t what I really want. The grueling schedule required a level of anxiety that kept me from the work I really wanted to do. So now, I wake up around 8:00 AM, and I read or write for an hour with a cup of coffee. This way, I arrive at work with clarity and intention. From this routine, I now have multiple essays in progress, a few new roles I’m going after and more warmth and generosity to offer others.

5 Steps someone experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter”:

  1. Own the problem. The first step is stating that there is a problem, defining what it is without blaming anyone and then getting feedback. For me, this took the form of telling a close friend about my crippling anxiety and how I was to overcome it. She recommended a book (“The Artist’s Way”) for me to begin my work with it, and it was life-changing.
  2. Get into the world around you.Take walks, ride your bike, notice people, count oddities of nature and notice the cracks in the sidewalk. While I was on a mission to overcome creative paralysis brought on by imposter syndrome, I enrolled in a course called “Drawing for Writers.” I learned how to observe, learned how to be present and find honesty and courage in my writing.
  3. Take your time. Luxuriate in the time it takes to change with no particular outcome other than feeling less anxiety about whether or not you’re worthy of your life, job or what you want. Time is elastic, so just go with it. Move quickly when you need to and move slowly when you need to. It will change your perception of the world.
  4. Be honest.Self-criticism is the hallmark of imposter syndrome, especially sweeping declarative insults that are patently untrue. For example, saying to yourself, “You really suck at pitching ideas. Your ideas are boring and really bad. You don’t deserve your job at all” is a dead end. If you choose to be honest and say, “I’m nervous about today, because I don’t feel connected to this idea and afraid my pitch is going to go poorly,” you’ve just found the way forward and clarified the options. You might have a teammate help you out with the pitch, or interrogate what you feel is missing from the idea. Or you may accept that this one may not go your way and take time for rest and refreshment.
  5. Be disciplined. Practice, practice, practice! As you find time throughout your week to do all these things, ritualize them. Changing the conversation is an ongoing practice. You will experience setbacks and anxious moments, and how you respond to them will have a big impact on the steadiness of your outlook. Healthy emotional and mental grooves help us persist through difficulty.

Mike Hondorp (CMO of Whalar)

Mike Hondorp (CMO of Whalar)

Image credit: via Authority Magazine

My experience struggling with imposter syndrome:

I really started to feel like an imposter as my job grew at Facebook. Facebook was a place for crazy-smart, high-achieving, really young people. To go from more traditional corporate jobs to a role at job fast-growing and boundary-breaking tech company turned the idea hierarchy on its head for me. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure if I could measure up. Though it was humbling to feel like I wasn’t qualified enough to even be in the room with some of these people.

In my role, I was meeting with the heads of marketing for big global companies, and even though I had less experience than they did, they would listen so attentively my counsel about Instagram because the platform was so new, and they trusted you to guide them through it. Despite this authority, I did not know what I had done to earn their trust. And I often felt like I was just there. 

What I did to shake the feeling off:

For me, it never goes away, and it never feels like I’m achieving enough. I minimize this by continuing to prove my value and focusing on the work itself. I also try to redefine what a C-level executive does and how they behave, to make it more authentic and approachable than people can sometimes think of senior leadership being. For example, I really like relating to people on a human level — it’s fun to understand what motivates people, what their home life is like, what music they’re into, and just be fun and silly sometimes. It’s through these moments is when we build connections with each other.

5 Steps one experiencing imposter syndrome can take to move forward, despite feeling like an “imposter”:

  1. Know your material — then over-prepare. For example, last month we launched our 2020 influencer marketing trends report with a big event for clients in New York, which I hosted. I had been living in the research for three months, so I was also confident that I knew my stuff. The event was a huge success.
  2. Lean into what makes you uncomfortable. If I hadn’t said yes to meeting up with a colleague after a chance encounter on an elevator, I may not have had the career I’ve had.
  3. Be vulnerable and transparent. It builds trust immediately and builds psychological safety. For example, I was speaking at a conference last year and mistakenly misgendered a creator I featured in a presentation to hundreds. I was mortified, and while I apologized profusely, I felt terrible for my error and any discomfort it caused them. Rather than ignore it or try to forget it, after the event I shared what had happened with my team, so that it was a learning moment not just for me, but for all of us.
  4. Understand that you’ll never truly get over it — and that’s OK. It’s part of who you are. I think about my imposter syndrome constantly, but I also know I can’t let it hold me back.
  5. Put your anxiety to good use and let it motivate you. For me, I use these feelings to both fuel my ambition for great work that makes a difference, as well as remind me that everyone needs to feel comfortable to do their best work.