Coaching Challenge: Supporting Others

This week’s coaching challenge is less about you and more about those in your life who have and need your support.  Too often the support we give is haphazard and random.  Today, let’s give some thought to how we can be purposeful and deliberate in how we support others.

Here we go….

As you read through the posts this week, who came to mind?  Is there someone that you’ve been supporting in word only?  Following are a few ideas of what you can do to take your support to the next level.

  • Send a hand-written note wishing him or her success, outlining how proud you are of the efforts you see, or simply praising what you have seen him or her do.  Positive support and accolades go further than what we speak.  A note can also be returned to later if the receiver needs an extra boost of support.
  • Make an appointment with this person to learn more about how you can tangibly support their business.  If you don’t need the services offered, you likely know someone else who will.
  • Next time you are invited to join an event from someone in your network, go.
  • Extra credit: Set aside time in your calendar next week to go through your contact list.  Identify who you want to support, deliberately, and then make a plan outlining how you will do so.

We can support people in spirit and in our word.  But when we support others with our actions, it goes much further.

Being There

Our physical presence often shows support in ways that words simply cannot.  If you think back to times of stress or times when you were under pressure, you know that the person who was there meant the world to you.

I can think of times when I had big presentations to do and my manager would show up in the back of the room.  As a manager, I did the same for my team as well.  Having that presence there was more important than a simple “break a leg” would have been before I began.  Actually, any coworker or friend being there had a similar impact as well.

Parties.  Funerals.  Work occasions.  Charity events.  We’ve all had those moments when one of our supporters walked in and a sense of relief, confidence and even peace swept over us and we knew in an instant that we were no longer alone in the circumstance.

Never doubt that showing up is important.  It may seem like a small thing to you; however, it rarely is.  Schedules are crazy and time is precious so when we show up in person it speaks to how much we value and support someone.

Without ever saying a word.

Referrals And Recommendations

As a small business owner, there are few things that feel more supportive than getting a referral from someone in my network.  When a referral is given, not only is that person putting a significant level of faith and trust into my work, they are also putting their relationship with that other person on the line.  Placing it in my hands.

Referring people is part of how we support one another in business.   It’s how we develop and maintain our network.  It’s part of what keeps our economy going.  It’s so important that today I found this in my inbox from Bing:

There are many business models where referrals and recommendations are key pieces to what is offered.  There are recommendations on LinkedIn.  The ads served up on Facebook come from what your friends like, too.  Tripadvisor counts on recommendations to bring value to what you find on their site.

Who have you referred lately?  Here are a few of my own.

  • If you want an amazing cup of coffee, head over to Dunn Brothers, owned by my friend Meghann and where my kid roasts the beans.
  • For a special evening, nobody serves up ambiance and fine dining better than Sara and Eric over at Mezzaluna.
  • If you’re looking for a unique gift or piece of furniture stop by Eco Chic Boutique where Maria will take care of you and you can buy a cool piece made by Paula or Laura or one of many other local craftspeople.
  • My friend Sherry at Hair Success South is the only stylist on the planet who has been able to cover my gray.  (Shhhh…. It’s natural.  Reallly.)

I can’t create a complete list because I’ll leave someone out.  But if you need a dentist, chiropractor, massage therapist, doctor, realtor, life coach, printer, charity to support, insurance agent, organizer, speaker for your next event, interior designer, custom designed furniture, or a myriad of other services… I can help you find a connection.

And you can do the same for those close to you.

Support your friends, family and network by giving them your business and, as often as you can, get others to do the same.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

What have you done for someone else lately?  In what way have you supported someone’s business or career?  While our individual effort propels our success, we have all had times when the added support of our friends, family and network have moved us along a little faster than had we gone it alone.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure that many of us truly understand the impact that our individual support can have.

An owner of a small business in a small town once told me how people in her town would come into her store, tell her how much they loved it and how happy they were to have her there, and then walk out empty handed.  Her store is no longer in business.

It’s this story that drives me to shop locally as much as I can.  Sure, I might pay a dollar more for something at the grocery store in the small town near my lake cabin, but I would rather spend that extra dollar than have the store disappear altogether.

I bring this up as a tangible example of what we can do to support each other.  Most of us know someone who has a small business or sells something that we need.  Coffee shop owners need you to buy from them instead of a big chain.  Artists need you to buy their art, not simply admire it.  Your friend who sells cars can get you any previously owned car you seek and probably will give you a good deal, too.  That young adult who just started a new sales career needs you to listen to what they can offer and to recommend their services to your network.  And you can just as easily find a gift in a small local boutique as you can at one of the big box stores.

True, we can support one another with our words and that can be very pleasing to hear.  However, when it comes to true support we all need to remember to put our money where our mouth is by supporting friends, family and our network with our hard-earned cash.  This is tangible, measurable support that makes a real difference to those who receive it.

Support The 3/50 Project.  Pick three local businesses and spend $50 at those locations each month.  Can’t afford that?  Pick one.  Or spend $20.  Support your network and your community.

Be A Mentor

We all have knowledge that we can share with others.

It’s pretty common for managers to suggest finding a mentor.  Many books and leaders extol the benefits of having a mentor as well.  It should seem pretty obvious, but for all of us to have mentors, we all have to be mentors as well.

You’ve been out there a while now.  What do you know that you can share?  What advice can you give?  How can you help someone else avoid some of the mistakes that you made?

I like to encourage people to take the initiative to become a mentor to someone else.  You might be surprised, but there are people out there who look up to you.  There are individuals who would be thrilled to spend time with you to learn about your business, your experience, and the path you took to get to where you are today.

Being in the Midwest, I understand that simply acknowledging that we have particular expertise or talent can be difficult.  It takes courage and a little bit of ego to put oneself out there like that.

That said, I can tell you from experience that each mentor learns from his or her mentee.  The relationship and benefit goes both ways.

If you are always the mentee and have yet to be the mentor now’s the time to think about what you have to offer to others and how to pass that information on to them.

If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else. ~Booker T. Washington

Being Open To Being Lucky

The articles, theories and studies that center on cultivating luck or taking advantage of happenstance all have “flexibility” and “openness” as necessary behaviors needed to take advantage of chance.  And while there are other traits listed, in my experience being open and flexible is more important than others.

How so?

When we’re not open to change or inflexible when it comes an outcome, we’re unable to recognize when something has happened that could be to our advantage.  When that happens, we are (obviously) unable to take advantage of it and luck floats on by without our knowledge that there was something that could have been grabbed onto to change the outcome.

Being open to new experiences, events, and people is exactly what brings “luck” to us.

Isn’t it lucky that you knew the person who hooked you up with the hiring manager for your last job?

Isn’t it lucky that you were able to arrange your schedule to go to an important meeting on behalf of your boss?

Isn’t it lucky that you were able to take advantage of those free tickets when everyone else was busy?

Adjusting schedules, being open to meeting new people, and figuring out how we can be flexible to make things happen can make our lives seem pretty lucky.

Turns out, luck is what we make of what happens to us.  We simply need to be open and flexible when it comes our way.

Visit the Breakthrough Strategies website!

Coaching Challenge: Connecting

The question this week really is not about how large your network is; the question is this – how strong are your connections within your network?  It’s not just about quantity.  As with so many things, quality counts, too.

With this in mind, here are a few networking challenges for you to think about over the course of the next week.  Think about what you can do to strengthen your network ties and make a commitment to those actions – soon!

Here we go….

  • Invite someone in your network to coffee.  Bonus points if you invite someone who you think could benefit from your help at this time in his or her career.
  • Next time you are talking with someone in your network, actively listen.  Work to make the conversation about them, not you.
  • Identify a relationship in your network that you’ve neglected.  Make a point to connect.
  • Help someone in your network.  Mentor.  Introduce.  Offer.  Give.
  • Follow up with someone you met in the last couple of weeks.  Let them know you enjoyed meeting them and look forward to having them as part of your network.
  • Log on to LinkedIn and congratulate those who have recently changed jobs or roles.  It’s the perfect time to send a note to let them know that you’re thinking about them.
  • Not on LinkedIn?  Get on there.  Now.  No, really.  Go do it!

Building stronger connections doesn’t necessarily mean a big time commitment.  Sending a follow-up email takes only minutes and it reminds both you and the receiver that you have a connection that is there and available should a need ever arise.

Most importantly, enjoy the process!  Strengthening your connections should be fun, not work.  Enjoy the ride.

Supporting One Another

Perhaps you’re already pretty good at networking.  If so, you might have spent the week thinking, “I’ve got this.  My network is big enough.  I’m not sure I need to strengthen these connections I have….” Maybe.

Over the last few months people in my network, those that I have worked to maintain strong connections with, have done the following for me:

  • Given me incredibly honest feedback about my business, my marketing, and even the photos associated with my website and blog;
  • Let me know when a blog went out with a typo;
  • Sent me leads for corporate and individual clients;
  • Made arrangements for me to speak in their organization or to their clients;
  • Listened and offered advice as I made business decisions;
  • Suggested blog topics;
  • Connected me with the right people to become an adjunct professor;
  • And the list goes on….

The most important thing to note is that I didn’t ask for them to do any of this!  These amazing individuals supported me because I have supported them.  They were able to be honest and direct because there’s a spirit of trust that serves as a foundation of our connection.

Taking time to strengthen connections is incredibly important to my business, as it is for yours.  Because of this, there should always be time to invest in your network and to strengthen those ties.  Support them and they will support you.

Connecting With Your Network

In the words of author John C. Maxwell, connecting always requires energy.  It takes some work and commands something of us.  We need to consciously connect or we likely won’t.  We’ll be in the room, in the conversation, but not really there.  We must be present to connect.

How to do that?  Active listening plays a big part.  Pulling from Maxwell’s book Everyone Communicates Few Connect, here are a few more reminders:

  • Connecting begins when the other person feels valued.
  • Connect visually by giving the other person your complete attention.
  • Have interest in the other person.
  • Express gratitude to and for that person.
  • Put his or her interests ahead of your own.
  • Show your values by words and action – this helps people to want to connect with you.  So does a caring spirit.

Maxwell also notes that more than 90 percent of all connecting occurs one-on-one.  He continues:

That’s usually how you communicate with the people who know you best: family, friends, and work associates.  You are also least likely to be on your guard with these people and most likely to make commitments to them.  As a result, they are the people who know your character best.

These are the people with whom you are most comfortably and easily connected to.  Let your guard down with more people and that circle will grow.

You can find all books mentioned in this blog online at the Coach Carolyn Store.

Nurture Your Network

Today I have two scheduled appointments to nurture connections and though two are scheduled, I know by the end of the day more opportunities than that will surface.  I’ll be looking for them because I know how important it is to be connected.

And I do mean nurture.  The people I’m going to see today already have my contact information.  We are already following each other on Twitter, liked each other’s businesses on Facebook, and added each other as connections on LinkedIn.  We’ve done all that is required to build our networks.  Today we will nourish them.

We’ll connect.

If all I ever do is add people to my network and never figure out how to connect with them at a level deeper than a business card exchange, we’ll never really be there for each other when needed.  We’ll never learn how we share a common love for a particular food or activity.  I won’t know when their company is hiring or when they think they’re about to be laid off.  They’ll simply be someone else in a list of others.  And if neglected too long the weak connection made in our first interaction will dry up; we’ll be connected in name only, electronically but not at a human level.

Certainly you can’t connect with everyone every day.  But every time you are with someone, you can connect.

We’ll take a look at how to do that tomorrow.

Connect with me on Facebook: Coach Carolyn

Who Do You Know?

We’ve all heard the saying, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.”  Interesting how some people see it as a relatively positive expression while others find it to be negative.  What’s the difference?  It’s probably who they know.

Know is a word that should imply more connection than how we typically use it.  After all, who of us hasn’t met someone at a party and, when asked about our new acquaintance later replied, “Yes, I know him!” when in fact, we can barely remember the person’s name.  Knowing someone at this level will likely not be of much assistance when who we know becomes important.

It’s got to be a little deeper than that.

Yes, a network is something that must be nurtured.  Wait.  Let me rephrase that.  Our relationships with the people in our network must be nurtured.  We must think about our network not as some abstract, nebulous thing but as a true system of our connections that we must pay attention to if it is to live and grow.

And why would you do that?  Well, because you may need these people.  More importantly, they may need you.  If the connection between you hasn’t been maintained, you or they might hesitate to call at the very time when you could help each other most.

After all, it’s not what you know; it’s who you know.

Coaching Challenge: Generosity

Mixing it up again this week!  Instead of the usual bombardment of questioning, I’m going to set out a few challenges for you instead.

Here we go…

  • Each day in the next week, do something generous for someone.  Remember, by definition there will be no strings attached; no expectation of return.
  • The next time someone makes a generous offer to you, graciously accept it.  Fight the instinct to offer something in return.  Thank the person for their generosity.
  • Find a place to generously give your time each week.  It could be volunteering at a local charity, mentoring a college student, or teaching skills to a new coworker.  Simply give your time.
  • Twice a week over the next month, nurture your network.  Take someone to coffee.  Return a favor.  Connect two people who would benefit from knowing each other.  Send an email when someone comes to mind for only that reason.  Look for ways to make generous offers of your time, your knowledge, or your connections.

Remember, being generous doesn’t necessarily mean a big time commitment.  Sending an introductory email takes only minutes yet it could make a huge impact on someone else’s life or career.  No big thing for you, but a big deal for the recipient.

Most importantly, enjoy the process!  There’s a reason generous people are described as “big hearted.”  Being generous makes your heart grow.

Let me know how it goes!

Generosity and Networking

Today I return again to Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Never Eat Alone.  In it he tells the story of an acquaintance who he had been connected with via his network.  After talking and making a personal connection with the man, Ferrazzi asked for an introduction this person could make for him.

“I can’t.”

Excuse me?

See, this new acquaintance thought that generosity was finite.  That if he asked for a favor from this person on Ferrazzi’s behalf, he wouldn’t be able to ask for another for himself in the future.

Thankfully, that isn’t how it works.  OK, there are a few out there who really are keeping score.  The good thing is that you likely won’t need them in the future because they won’t be around for the long term.  When we are generous with our network, our network tends to be generous back.

As I told you back in February, for me networking is about collecting interesting, fun, fascinating people in my life. And the more people I connect with and learn from, the richer my life is.  What I missed in that original post is the need to give generously.  Make that connection when asked.  Reach out to people who would benefit from a relationship you have.  Take the time to invest in the success of others.  THAT builds an effective and thriving network.

I hear from many people who feel they aren’t as good as they’d like to be at networking.  Feel the same?  How much of your focus is on the moment when you shake hands with someone new?  Too much, I suspect.  Meeting new people is really a small part of networking; having a successful network is about generosity.

To nurture your network, be generous with those connections you already have.  Help them succeed and they will do the same for you.  If not directly, help will come from within your network as your generosity enables it to grow.

You can find all books mentioned in this blog online at the Coach Carolyn Store.

Accepting Generosity

For you...

How well do you accept generosity when it’s offered to you?

In his book Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi outlines rejections of offers he’s given: “Sorry, but I can’t accept the favor because I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to repay you,” and “I’d rather not be obligated to anyone, so I’ll have to pass.”  Really?  From this vantage point, the idea of people rejecting an offer from a networking guru seems like a bad career move.  Obviously, it can be difficult for some people to accept the generosity of others.

In networking, when helping others, when being offered assistance, we all need to quit keeping score.

I remember a time when I was young and felt I was doing a lot of giving in my relationships and not getting much in return.  Being young and rash, my reaction was to pull back and quit giving so much. (Or what I perceived to be as “so much!”)  What resulted was that relationships began to fizzle and so I returned to giving… whether the offer was accepted or the favor returned.  I learned that being generous in my relationships felt better to me than being stingy.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, being generous has the power to make us happy.  I’d add that this power diminishes when we begin to keep score.  After all, generosity is “giving freely without expecting anything in return.”  Keeping score makes it something other than generosity, by definition.

Confidently accepting the generosity of others and anticipating that they expect nothing in return frees us to return to them the gift they are most likely looking to receive: appreciation.

Accept generosity.  With gratitude.

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Opportunity Missed

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at a learning event.  It should have been a networking event as well and, though I learned a ton from the speaker, I’m kicking myself for not making a connection with one of the people who was at my table.  In my defense, I strengthened my network by connecting with a few people I hadn’t seen in a while.  But I didn’t expand my network – a missed opportunity for me.

Networking.  Does the word make you cringe?  I know it does for a lot of people.  I personally am not fond of the word because I don’t see my network as a “thing” to discuss abstractly.  I see my network as relationships, connections – you know, people.

I have a pretty strong network and so I’m asked from time to time about how I go about networking.  Truth is, in my mind I’m never networking.  I’m meeting new people and finding out about what they do.  What’s interesting about them?  I want to know.

The important next step: I follow-up with them after we meet.  If you handed me a business card or we had more than a casual conversation at a gathering, you will likely hear from me.  You’ll get a LinkedIn invite or an email.  I may even invite you to join me for coffee so I can learn more about you and your business.

In Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi asks, “Why go to all the trouble of meeting new people if you’re not going to work on making them a part of your life?”

Exactly.

So it isn’t about “networking.”  It’s about making people a part of my life.  And I’m sorry I missed the chance to bring a new and undoubtedly interesting person into my life.

Lesson learned.  Won’t happen again.

Scheduling Friends

Back before my career was in full swing, before we had two kids and three dogs, when we rented and only had one car, finding time with our friends came easily.

But then those things did come in; they were welcomed in, really. Unfortunately the first things that get squeezed out as more and more “adult” stuff enters in, are friends. Can you relate?

As mentioned earlier in My Balanced Life when I pretty strongly stated “I will not forgo girlfriend time, ever,” prioritizing time with friends is a priority. Several years ago I began meeting with a group of friends on a standing day each month. I think over the course of the almost 15 years we’ve met, we’ve only canceled once. Of course, I haven’t been there every time – but the show goes on because the time together is scheduled.

Friendship nourishes our souls, enriches our beings and brings in much needed laughter. If it’s been a long time since you’ve just hung out with a few buddies, it’s time to get them in the calendar! Here are a few tips of how I personally make it happen:

    Join a group that has a regularly scheduled time to meet – important, this group should be to meet up with friends… not just where you show up in the back of the room and sneak out when it’s over. C’mon, sign up for that dance class!
    If you don’t have some time set up to meet someone for coffee, lunch or a round of golf showing up on your calendar in the next two weeks, fire off some emails to a few of your favorite people. I have never had someone turn me down. In some instances it has taken months to sync our schedules, but we eventually figure it out.
    If you are part of a couple, set up a double-date with friends. You used to do this all the time! Get a sitter and get out there.

However you do it, prioritize some friend time. I promise you, it will be worth it.

Find me on Facebook: Coach Carolyn

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Inspirational Friends

I am inspired!

I simply cannot remember a time in my life when I have been surrounded by more inspirational people. Friends are writing books, starting businesses, getting graduate degrees, receiving promotions, losing weight, making money, building dream houses, finding their true loves, starting charities and other fabulous things.

On top of all this, just about every one of them is pushing to do even more.

Everyone from Oprah to Donny Osmond to Ronald Reagan has said that we should surround ourselves with people who will lift us. Having friends with beautiful, bold, courageous dreams motivates me to follow their lead to go out there and achieve more.

It’s been said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. (Attributed to Jim Rohn, I believe.) Are your five people encouraging you? Do they move you to do your best work? Are they who you would like to be like? Did you pick them? Would you pick them again?

I’m in no way suggesting that you ditch your best friends and your family! However, if they don’t meet the criteria of whom you want to be… what about increasing the time you spend with those who are more of who you want to be?

I guess I lucked out a little bit as many of my friends seem to have upped their game over the last year. Somewhere, someone in my network decided to dream a little bigger – and that must have impacted someone else to dream a little bigger – and now this amazing circle of inspiration is whirling around us.

If you can’t change your five people, you can change you. The math applies for the whole group – so by following your dream, you’ll up the average of those around you. And I’ll just bet your circle of friends will follow you on your way to your dreams.

Coaching: Relationships

The regular rhythm of this blog is that I provide some food-for-thought about a particular topic Monday through Thursday and then Friday you are challenged to walk through a mini-coaching session around the theme. OK, I deviated last week… but generally, this is what you can expect.

The posts this week have covered a wide spectrum regarding relationships – commitment to a significant other, bringing love to the boardroom, networking, and even letting people move out of our lives. This makes it hard to find a set of questions that will pertain to them all so instead I will offer up a series of questions for you to think about from each angle. I invite you to really think about and write down your answers.

Here we go…

Concerning your significant other:

Did you agree with the premise that love is a commitment? If so, are you truly committed to your significant other? How can (or do) you show that commitment? If you don’t feel like you are committed, how does that feel to you? Is it something you want to change? What one thing can you do today to make sure your significant other knows that you love him or her?

In bringing love to the workplace:

What did you think about that? Was it silly to you or did it ring true? If it was true for you, can you identify ways where you can bring your loving self to work more often than your jaded, cranky or ambivalent self? What one thing can you do to show some brotherly love to your coworkers?

And about networking:

Do you enjoy networking for the sake of networking or is it about relationship building for you? Should it be about relationship building? What does your network look like? Are there people in it who can help you with your career? Your hobbies? Help find you a date? How can you hold on to people once you’ve met them? Is this important to you? What makes it important to you (if it is)? What one thing can you do to build or find a new relationship to add to your network in the next week?

Least favorite, possibly needing to move someone out of your life:

Is everyone in your life there for a purpose? Are you there for them? Are there any toxic, crazy-makers that you should back away from? What about possible co-dependence? Are you being honest with yourself about the health of your relationships? And if you do need to make a change, are you coming at it from a foundation of love? (Thank you to Darcy for her insightful addition to my post, pointing out the need to do this.) Will you commit to examining your relationships?

Whew! That’s quite a bit to chew on! To end on a light note, I will share a quote from one of my favorite examples of a very special relationship – Pooh and Piglet. Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh!” he whispered. “Yes, Piglet?” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.” ~A.A. Milne

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Relationship Post #3

I thought writing about relationships would be easy because keeping relationships comes easy to me. I don’t see it as networking; I see it as collecting interesting, fun, fascinating people in my life. And the more people I connect with and learn from, the richer my life is.

That’s not to say that I necessarily enjoy events like “Business after Hours” or greeting people during that part where everyone shakes hands at church. My husband and I joke about how awful we are at mingling and how glad we are that we have each other at certain events. BUT, if I’m introduced in a real, authentic way to a real, captivating person, I’m usually hooked.

So what have I done to build my network that I can share with you? This is hard because I’m not totally sure… but I will try.

I think the first thing is what I mentioned above. I find people pretty interesting – and generally I’ve found that when people talk to someone who is legitimately interested in them, they like them in return.

Next thing is that when people are different from me, I kind of want to know more. I’m OK with people in my circle of friends who have beliefs I don’t hold. I find it interesting.

I also seek to reconnect. I invite people to coffee, lunch, drinks. When I travel I make arrangements to see people I haven’t seen in ages. I don’t wait for someone to reciprocate; I just send a message to whomever it is I feel like seeing and tell them we are overdue to chat even if I was the one to set it up the last time around.

Connecting my friends is also something that I do. I love mixing up neighborhood, work and long-time friends at parties. If someone talks to me about a favorite charity, business venture or new hobby, my mind goes into overdrive trying to come up with someone I know who can help them out with whatever they are up to.

And here are a few of my shortcomings… if I wait too long to reconnect, I assume that person has no idea who I am and get nervous about contacting him or her. I’m also more conscious of status than I’d like to be (we’re all human, right?) and think that maybe those sorts of folks won’t find me as interesting as I find them.

As you can see, I don’t have the networking thing nailed. But if you’d like to have coffee and talk about your charming, remarkable self, I’m your gal.