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It’s Amazing What You Can Achieve With One Small Step and One Big Aspiration

I recently attended The Global Leadership Summit. Wow! Was I blown away by the leading-edge concepts shared by exceptional speakers? Yes!

Liz Bohannon was one of those presenters. She challenged my thinking with one of her 14 principles, “Think Big” from her soon to be released book, Beginner’s Pluck, Build Your Life Purpose and Impact Now. Anyone who knows me is scratching their head wondering, challenged? After all, you know me as a strong advocate for generating a bold Activating Vision.

I was tracking her talk, nodding my head in agreement until she drew an enormous X through “big” replacing it with “small!”

Whaaaat!! Was she trying to burst my career philosophy bubble? Then, I settled down curious to listen, and learn.

Liz began her presentation, sharing her youthful desire to empower, disadvantaged, underprivileged women globally. It was an exciting, breathtakingly, daring vision. So audacious she was stuck figuring out how to begin. One day years later still frozen in her “Big Picture” inadequacies, she realized she wasn’t even acquainted with a woman in need. This “Aha” led to the concrete action of Liz bravely setting off for Uganda to become a friend to one impoverished woman. It was the beginning. Her vision soon gained substance.

The dialog her talk provoked among my fellow conference attendees was across the board. Many felt comforted when they realized they too could do something small that leads to such a dramatic, impactful, global leadership presence. Others, like me, felt her earlier longing to aid women led to the idea of being known by “one person.” Ultimately, this one heart-felt, committed action exploded into realizing her calling.

To give you the full picture, let me tell you the rest of her story. Liz is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Sseko an international purpose-driven, socially-conscious fashion brand. In 2009, she launched the company as a way to generate income for talented young women in Uganda to attend a university. Sseko is now the largest exporter of non-agricultural goods from Uganda to the United States. The bi-product is many high-potential, deprived women attending and graduating universities who never imagined such a future for themselves.

Now, let’s get back to the “Big Vision” conversation. Everybody knows I encourage generating a 20 year out Activating Vision, which is so enormous and bold, your knees knock, and lips tremble as you claim it out loud. This 20-year timeline eliminates the possibility that who you are today will interfere or limit in any way the potential of who you can become. Yet, it is critical to understand that it isn’t all about you.

A humongous Activating Vision transforms not only your slice of the pie but those around you—and in Liz’s case, the world. Such audacity of imagination doesn’t emerge by tapping solely into your powers alone. Instead, along the way of your scary, unbelievable journey, a cadre of people will join in supporting your envisioned outcome. But it starts with you having the courage to speak your hoped-for “larger than today” dream.

You’re right. It isn’t an uncomplicated mental process, as Liz demonstrated in her talk. Yes, it does take patience and time. However, without doubt, envisioning and living inside the inspiration of your future draws you unconsciously toward it, transforming you into something greater than you would ever have been without it.

What do you have to lose? If I’m wrong, you’ll be missing a couple of hours. But what if I’m right? You’ll move into the future you most desire as doors open, and ideas spring to life turning your nebulous dreams into reality.

If you’re unaccustomed or uncomfortable with thinking big, never fear it is nothing more than developing a muscle. It can be built-up just as you do any other muscle in your body.

Toning your “tomorrow” muscle starts with thinking forward and back to visualize possibilities. Consider what you did as a child—yes, child!—that captivated your attention endlessly. Is there a clue hiding here to your future waiting to be unearthed and brought to the light of day? Reflect on irritations you’ve experienced. Is there a crazy, fun improvement idea popping into your head? Ponder the times in your life when it’s felt as though three minutes had passed and yet, it was, in reality, three hours. Does a concept emerge regarding your future? Open yourself to possibility!

You can’t stop there. As Liz did, you must identify one small, even insignificant step you can take today that aligns with your hoped-for destiny. Unfortunately, too many are weighed down by their aspiration and end curling up in defeat before they have an opportunity to start. Don’t let that be you!

Taking action moves you from today into tomorrow. The truth is anytime you can attach even a tiny piece of your time, attention, and energy to your envisioned purpose, you’ve firmly embarked on the way to your dream.

By the way, Liz started with a crazy idea: “I want to wear flip-flops that don’t flop.” Her rough college design became the shoe which launched Sseko. Check out her website. It’s incredible—almost beyond belief—that what grew out of one action led to her enormous world-altering future.

Liz Bohannon has a poignant and entertaining way of sharing her career journey as well as lessons acquired along the way. I can’t imagine her book being any less worthy of reading than her talk was as she mesmerized the audience—including me!

There’s More To Interruptions Than You Imagine

Time wasters in business are bumping into you all day long disrupting not only your productivity but your peace of mind. One of the most pervasive is interruptions.

I bet you aren’t surprised that Dovico Management, a timesheet company, found an executive is interrupted every 8 minutes. With the average interruption taking 5 minutes, totaling about 4 hours or 50 percent of the average workday! According to Gloria Mark, at the University of California, Irvine, it takes a little under 25 minutes recovery time to bring your attention back on track after an interruption.

Most suck your time, produce little benefit or results despite all your efforts. With 80 percent of your interruptions rated as low value, they’re a big deal. Here are some overcoming tactics to mitigate the unproductive work obstructions and stress you experience. Read More→

Women Powering Up To Hold Their Own

Stand StrongSerenely: A George Washington University study reveals men interrupt 33 percent more often when talking to women than they do with other men. Moreover, it isn’t just men doing the interrupting—women disrupt other women more often than they do men. So, as a woman, you’ll be experiencing a lot of interruptions in the process of voicing your position. Don’t let anyone roll over you. Firmly, serenely, with no negative energy in your tone and a smile on your face, say: “I’m looking forward to hearing your point… just give me a minute to complete what I was saying” or “I’m interested in listening to your idea. Just let me finish.” As long as you continue allowing men (and women) to override your ideas, being an influential decision-maker anytime soon is unlikely.

Succinct, Short Sentences—Please: We all have a far shorter attention span than in years past as a Microsoft Attention Spans Research Report reveals. It seems we’re golden listeners for about 8 seconds—less than a goldfish which is 9 seconds! Added to this, men are more receptive to bullet points, and to a briefer is a better approach. Prepare ahead of time to present your ideas in concise sentences that are crafted to hold your audience’s interest. By tapping into this style, you, also, eliminate pausing mid-concept, thus removing the possibility of interruptions. A two-fold result! 

Don’t Repeat Yourself: During discussions with male executives, one of their primary complaints regarding women is they keep repeating their ideas in meetings over and over even after receiving a “no.” This strong-arm style irritates women as well, so if you’re one of those women who reasons saying the same thing a different way will achieve a different response…. STOP. I’m not saying give it up…. I am saying give it up, so you can strategically fight another day. You’ll gain more traction with this line of attack.

 Who You Be: If you’re making a significant point, look the decision-makers in the eyes. It’s difficult for someone not to take note of what you’re saying, when you’re holding their attention with all your being—confident, direct eye contact, lowering the tone of your voice, modulating the pace of your speaking a bit, as you hold your body with self-assurance. A University of Wolverhampton and the University of Stirling study discovered: When you spend a mere 30 percent of your time making eye contact, it added to a significant increase in what is remembered. That’s less than 20-seconds out of every minute! Additionally, you might even deliberately lean your body toward the receivers for a moment to gain their consideration, not with anxiety instead with calm, certainty. Who you be is just—if not more—critical to being heard as your message.

You’re the Source: Women complain men steal their ideas. That when they present a concept, it’s rejected out-of-hand only to have a man offer up the same proposal, seemingly as a newly, fashioned notion to instant rave reviews. Such grievances are uttered so often; truth appears to be dripping all over it.  If after the fact you attempt to claim the accepted concept as yours, you sound like a cry-baby or snarky or small-minded. You’re a source—be confident in your identity. Wherever you go, you source ideas. It doesn’t take long before everyone realizes this and invites you to their meetings. Loudly trumpeting your greatness doesn’t serve women well. Knowing the value, you bring to the table does.

Step up. If your brain has ever said it isn’t worth all the effort and you listen—you’re not giving your best to either your career or your company.

80/20 Is A Career Invigorator

Would you be surprised to hear your performance improves and your stress decreases as you focus on what and what not to pay attention to at work?

Have you ever taken a break from your busy day to rate yourself on how effective you’ve been at preventing the daily stressors you face? If you did, and you scored yourself dismally low, you might want to consider incorporating the Pareto 80/20 approach for reducing stress.

In a nutshell, the principle holds 80 percent of your time spent on decisions, projects, products, and customers typically only produces 20 percent of your results. While the remaining 20 percent of your attention produces a whopping 80 percent of your achievements—meaning there’s massive leverage for you in identifying those significant 20 percent results producers.

Let’s use this theory to delve into one workload stressor—decision-making—which is no small workday matter. In case you don’t know, research by Cornell University highlights: adults make approximately 35,000 remote decisions each day! The decision-making aspects of your job, whether conscious or unconscious, have an enormous impact on the stress you experience. Check out this Four-Step Stress Reducer Analysis to improve productivity.

First Step—Ask Yourself: What are the decisions you have on your plate right now? Write them all down. As you put pen to paper, they become real instead of worrisome, on-steroid, bees buzzing around in your head. The mere act of recording relieves stress because inside your brain they always seem “biglier” (bigger and uglier) than when captured and recorded.

Second Step—Break It Down: Identify the two Pareto categories by determining what impact each decision will have on your company’s future. This question often causes you to recognize where your efforts will produce 80 percent of your decision results. Focusing your attention on these few will generate a positive impact for both your company and your career.

Third Step—Recognize The Rest: Which stressors will produce only 20 percent of your expected decision workload results, yet require you to spend 80 percent of your attention? Acknowledge, and then, commit to not touching decision black holes until and unless you’ve knocked off the weighty decisions or one becomes a priority. Keep in mind, when you spend time, and mental efforts on low leverage decisions, they will diffuse your time and energy. This focus leaves you little power to pay attention to areas where you can and have the capacity to produce powerful results.

Fourth Step—Think R.E.D.: With your two lists in place, you’ve already reduced your stress. It’s time to up the ante by expanding the results produced through thinking R.E.D. (Reduce, Eliminate, or Delegate)! Many executives discover a number of the decisions on their list could and should be the charge of someone lower in the organizational chart. So, stop thinking only me. Begin playing a better game—consider who will gain from taking it on!

You’ve now employed this four-step equation for decision-making. Since you’re the most influential advocate for change in your work and life, give yourself the gift of deliberately removing one stressor after another to become the leader in your world. When you’re following this Four-Step Stress Reducer Analysis, you’ll transform your life one stress elimination at a time. Only you can recognize what is the right 80/20 ratio for you because you’re the one who knows what your stressors are.

Negotiate With a Feminine Twist

  • With over 50 years under our belt since the United States passed the Equal Pay Act, women are still only making 80 cents on a dollar as compared to men. On an aside:
    • women with children earn 3% less than women with no children;
    • men with children make way more than women;
    • 15 percent higher than men with no children!
  • While women hold over 52 percent of all professional positions, according to Catalyst, we represent
    • only 36 percent of first- or mid-level managers;
    • only 25 percent of executive- and senior-level managers;
    • only 20 percent of board seats;
    • only 6 percent of CEO roles.
  • McKinsey and LeanIn report women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted for the first step-up to a manager.

Is our business culture answerable for the statistic disparity between men and women? Yes. And women also hold responsible because we aren’t standing up and asking for what we want.

Bring a feminine twist by:

Thinking Bold: Research shows that unlike men, women start negotiating smaller. So, don’t play it safe. And don’t get blown over by aggression as studies reveal when men are negotiating against women, they tend to play hardball—it’s merely part of the process.

Instigating More Often: Research by Dr. Hilla Dotant establishes men initiate negotiations four times as often as women; women who negotiate achieve 30 percent less than men with 20 percent of women never negotiating at all even though they know they should.

Persisting: Even if it backfires return to the table strong. You won’t be any worse off then you are right now. At a minimum, you’ll know how your company values you.

Strategizing: At its root, negotiation requires preparation for the best results. Women have to be smarter by:

  • Think Timing: If your boss or your company is facing significant issues, it isn’t the right time and will have you appearing selfish. But, don’t use this as a reason to never negotiate.
  • Remember Who You Are: If you enter into negotiations determined to imitate your male peers—you lose. Be yourself. Women are powerful, successful negotiators more often for others than themselves. Begin reframing your discussion by:
    • Acting as though you’re negotiating for someone important to you as you devise negotiation points that will have the outcome swinging your way.
    • Standing for issues larger than you, such as advocating for other women.
    • Focusing on how your proposed outcome adds-value to your organization.
  • Be Big: Women need to establish themselves in the room. Instead of sitting small—spread your arms out. Instead of leaning forward in what could be perceived as anxiety, lean back in the chair, revealing your comfort over being in the room.
  • Plan Ahead: If the negotiation is taking place in a conference room, sit at the head of the table or right beside the head or directly across the table from the head negotiator.

Powering Up: There is no way you can recognize leverage points if you don’t identify what makes the other side tick. So, before ever meeting contemplate how your opposition will respond and pre-plan possible answers, moves, and/or solutions.

When women choose not to negotiate, they give their power away every day in every way. Become the negotiator you need to be!