December 17th, 2013
This week I gave a workshop called “Your Emotional Business Plan” to a group of up-and-coming women entrepreneurs. We discussed how traditional business plans ignore emotions. They include elements like market strategies, competitive analysis, operations, management and finances. And yet, the emotional aspects of business can be just as essential to success as any of those factors.
In the book The Start-up of You, LinkedIn founders Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha suggest that in today’s economy “everyone is a small business” and we can all take an entrepreneurial approach to managing our careers.
So, whether you work for yourself, a major corporation or a non-profit, you need a plan to manage the emotional ups-and-downs that come with every career. An emotional business plan is a written document that will improve your emotional self-awareness and self-management by articulating the emotions that are holding you back and making plans to increase courage and resilience so that your career can flourish.
Here are five reasons why you should write an emotional business plan.
1. Fear of failure is holding you back. Fear of failure keeps us from starting a business, growing a business, and entering untested markets. In more traditional jobs, fear of failure keeps us stuck in that “dead-end” job we’ve been doing for years. With an emotional business plan, you will identify the reasons underneath your fear of failure and articulate steps you can take to be more courageous.
2. You secretly feel like a fraud. Don’t we all feel like a fraud at one time or another? Also known as “imposter syndrome,” when we feel like an imposter or fraud, we devalue our own expertise and the unique contributions. It’s often difficult for us to speak clearly and specifically about our value – and put a monetary amount on it – because we have been raised to be humble and not brag. Writing an emotional business plan will help you articulate your worth, for yourself and your clients.
3. Ignoring your emotions doesn't work. Successful entrepreneur Chip Conley’s book Emotional Equations reminds us that, “one of the simple truths about life is that the more we ignore our emotions, the more likely they are to wield a powerful influence over us.” If you are harboring emotions but ignoring them – say pretending like you are not scared to send the draft of your book to a publisher – than those emotions will take an even greater control over you. Surfacing these feelings in your emotional business plan gives them less power.
4. Bad is stronger than good. In all realms of life, negative events have a stronger sway on our overall mood than positive ones. For example, people are more upset about losing $50 than they are happy about winning $50. And the effect of the negative event tends to stick with us longer than the effect of the positive event. To counteract this, your emotional business plan should include elements about how you are going to cope with foreseeable negative events as well as strategies for enhancing the positive experiences and giving them more weight and sway over your mood.
5. Your customers/clients make their decisions based on emotions. When we pretend that emotions are not a part of business, we are overlooking a crucial element: most people make purchasing decisions based on emotions. Your emotional business plan is not just about you, it’s also about the emotional needs of your clients and how your services or products are going to meet their needs. Whether you are a solo entrepreneur or employed by a multi-billion dollar corporation, your business will be more successful when you tap into your customer’s emotional sweet spot.
Many of us who took an Intro Psych course in college probably remember learning things like diagnosing mental disorders and the controversies around anti-depressant medications. Thinking about that class, you might wonder “where is the positive in psychology?”
That’s the exact kind of question which started the positive psychology movement in the 1990s, when some leading psychologists decided to make a conscious shift in the field away from the negative aspects of our psyche and toward the positive. One of the founders of the positive psychology movement defines it as “the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.” Positive psychologists believe that we can improve well-being and goal-achievement by focusing on the good things in life rather than the bad.
As a coach, one of the things that attracted me to positive psychology is its grounding in research evidence that shows us how we can be most successful and satisfied in our life’s pursuits. Some people confuse positive psychology with the self-help movement or trends like affirmations. That’s not what my coaching practice is about. Coaching using the science of positive psychology involves understanding the research findings about how people thrive in their given endeavors, and applying those findings in meaningful ways in our lives.
For example, substantial psychological research shows that one of the most powerful predictors of long-term happiness is high-quality, supportive relationships. The relationships we have with our friends, family members, significant other and our coworkers all matter. This is one of the reasons that my own research has examined workplace relationship management as an important factor in our ability to accomplish our job. Next week I will be presenting this research at the International Positive Psychology Association’s Third World Congress on Positive Psychology taking place here in Los Angeles.
Keep an eye out for next week’s Foresight Blog, where I’ll give you a sneak peak at what I’ll be presenting and how it relates to coaching using positive psychology.
In the meantime, if you are interested in knowing more about positive psychology, below are links to some of the most influential books in the field:
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being
Stumbling on Happiness
The Myths of Happiness
Learn by Doing
Recently I had the pleasure of co-teaching a workshop at Pepperdine University for doctoral students working on their dissertations. My portion of the training involved demonstrating a software program that is used for analyzing qualitative data. (A little geeky, right?)
In thinking about how to engage the participants with the software, I took my inspiration from an author who suggested that the best way to become skilled at data analysis is to “learn by doing it.” What a great reminder! As adults, so little of what we learn happens through formal educational activities, like a lecture or a webinar. And data shows that when we adults do attend these kinds of formal education events, we tend to retain about 5-30% of the material.
So, how are we learning? Much of adult learning and workplace learning occurs through informal mechanisms. Think of all the things you know how to do that you didn’t learn in a classroom. Maybe you read about it in a book and tried it on your own. Or a mentor talked you through it and assisted you the first time. When we practice by doing, we are likely to retain more like 75% of what we learned.
That’s one of the things I love about coaching. Among other benefits, coaching is a space for learning that doesn’t involve lecture or instruction. The coach creates an environment of self-discovery and self-directed learning, where the client sets the learning goals and selects how the learning will occur. Coaching clients can learn by practicing with their coach or by co-creating a step-by-step process for how they will acquire or improve a skill. For example, many of us have jobs that require us to have difficult conversations, perhaps with a subordinate or an important client. Having difficult conversations is a skill that can be learned, and coaching is a great environment for developing these sorts of “soft” skills.
Have you recently learned something new by doing it? If so, share your experience in the comments field.
Big Ideas in Small Bites
Have you ever been at a restaurant, casually reviewing the menu and chatting with your companion, when the waitress presents you with a complimentary, bite-sized appetizer? Known as an amuse-bouche, the chef provides this tasty sample as a preview of her talents and offerings as a practitioner.
One famous New York City chef describes the amuse-bouche as the best way to express "big ideas in small bites."
I came across this description of the amuse-bouche as I was mentally preparing to launch the Foresight Blog, and I felt it was the perfect analogy for this new creative undertaking. Certainly, I am under no pretense that brief, weekly thoughts and commentary are sufficient to make substantial change in our lives. If only it was that easy! Just as the chef sends out a bite-sized sample to provide a glimpse of her big ideas, so too can this blog be a place of sampling and exploring. The Foresight Blog is a venue where we begin our conversation; where I bring to you some big ideas in small bites and you (hopefully) find yourself wanting more.
Those of you in my social network know that my field is change, and my focus is on workplace, careers and academics. I believe that change is very personal, often occurring at the interface of our relationships with others and ourselves. Many times we articulate change in terms of a goal or desired future state, such as "I want a career that's more fulfilling" or "I want more time to focus on my priorities." Sometimes change is forced upon us, perhaps an encroaching deadline or a job transfer.
But what do we really know about change and how to make it stick in our lives? What can we learn from research, from practitioners, from storytelling, and from our own lives that provides insights into making real change in the pursuit of our goals and aspirations? How do we make a vision for our future into a new reality?
I invite you to join me for a weekly small tasting of big ideas about how to change our daily lives for the better and illuminate the path of change. You can follow the Foresight Blog on the website, www.theforesightcoach.com, or by clicking “like” on the Foresight Coaching Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/foresightcoaching.
Welcome and enjoy these small bites.