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Want to Know How to Move Things Forward in Your Business with Less Stress? Read This.

Did you know that over 30% of Canadians and 55% of Americans reported feeling significant stress in 2018? Everyone knows that stress is a massive problem in our modern society and the cause of many health issues people are experiencing.

While it’s probably impossible to eliminate stress from our lives, it’s definitely possible to reduce it to healthy levels. And when you do that, lots of other great things can happen 😊.

That’s why the one skill I want to talk about today is so critical for us to develop. Not only can it reduce your overall stress levels, but also allow you to move your business (and life!) forward in the direction you envisioned.

What is this, you ask?

Being Proactive.

If you are proactive, you make things happen, instead of waiting for them to happen to you. Active means “doing something.” The prefix “pro” means “before.” So, when you’re proactive, you’re ready to take action and matters in your hands, move forward, and prevent things you don’t want from happening. You’re in control of your journey.

On the opposite spectrum, being reactive is responding to things that already happened to you, i.e., “fire fighting.” In such a case, others and their priorities decide on the course of your business and very often life. No wonder this is stressful!

Our greatest danger is life is permitting the urgent things, to crowd out the important. – Charles E. Hummel

What Can You Do to Become More Proactive?

Firstly, have clarity on what’s important to you and your business. If you’re not sure how to start especially with your biz, this article can help you get going.

Secondly, learn how to distinguish important matters from the ones that may seem as such but really aren’t.

The most common distinction that can help is derived from so-called Eisenhower’s Matrix that Stephen Covey popularized through his writings.

The matrix divides things we do into four categories:

  • Important & Urgent
  • Important & Non-Urgent
  • Non-Important & Urgent
  • Non-Important & Non-Urgent
What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.
Dwight Eisenhower

Lastly, proactive people prioritize the important non-urgent things and spend most of their time on them. The examples include business strategy planning, rest & relaxation time, building meaningful relationships in business and life, etc. Of course, they also spend time tending to urgent and important matters

What about the non-important issues then? Pro-active people manage these by delegation, outsourcing, if really necessary spending the minimum possible time doing them or simply not doing them at all.

Reactive people, on the other hand, spend most of their time in both urgent categories, getting exhausted by constant fire fighting. No wonder then that when they get a break from that, they end up spending on non-important very often mindless activities just to relax from all the stress.

Benefits of Being Proactive

There are many benefits to proactivity, and I’m sure that if you read thus far, you’ve already figured out most of them. Nevertheless, here is a quick point summary:

  • Proactive people are less stressed;
  • They have fewer fires to extinguish overall as the more time they spend on planning and making things happen, the less urgent  and unexpected things happen for them;
  • Proactive people achieve better long-term results in business and life. It’s because they focus on what’s important consistently this way making more with the time we all have in the same amount 24/7/365;
  • They feel happier and more fulfilled as they spend time on what’s most important to them.
Being proactive means focusing most of our time on what’s important. And the Important is what brings balance & long-term success. Find time to be proactive. Stairway to Leadership

Start Now, Take On My Challenge

I’d like to challenge you today to start now and consciously take steps to become more proactive. Figure out what’s most important to you in your business and life and start spending more and more time on those things. At the same time slowly eliminate non-important stuff along the way.

All in all, you’re or can be in control of your time. How you spend it, determines how you balanced your life is overall.

And before you leave, I wanted to thank you for reading my article by preparing a downloadable tool to help you become more proactive. It contains a decision worksheet based on Eisenhower’s Matrix to help you prioritize plus 10 amazing tips to reduce daily stress and be more focused on the important!  Click here to download the “Ultimate Guide to Reduce Your Stress & Increase Results.”

The urgent finds you; you have to find the important. Important is not fast. It is slow. It is not superficial. It is deep. And as a result, it’s extremely powerful. When important matters go wrong, they undermine everything. When they go right, they sustain everything. – Stewart Brand

GRIT: Do You Really Need It in Business? Three Tips to Help You Decide.

What is your opinion on the below?

 Is a success in business or anything else based on a bit of luck and IQ of the person? Or does it come from hard work and consistent effort?

The most recent research has shown that we overestimate the effect of more luck-based characteristics such as IQ and underestimate the importance of dedication and perseverance. Grit is the better indicator of a person’s overall success than their IQ, social environment they come from, their education or connections they have.

 So what exactly is grit, you’ll ask?

Angela Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, who conducted the research, defines

grit as passion and perseverance to achieve long-term and meaningful goals.

In other words, it is the ability to persist in something you feel passionate about and not give up when you face obstacles or experience utter failure. This kind of passion about having direction and staying committed to tasks that may be difficult or boring. 

If you’d like to read more details on the research itself, I highly recommend Angela Duckworth’s book “Grit. The Power of Passion and Perseverance”

However, here to illustrate how grit can propel you in life, I’m going to tell you a story that is not in there. It’s the story I discovered through reading “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls” to my 7-year-old daughter.

Story of Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland  discovered her passion for ballet at the age of 13, which is quite late for anyone to become a professional athlete.  Her family was homeless at the time living in a motel. Her newly discovered passion for this dance and perseverance in grueling ballet practice brought her to win multiple awards, scholarships and perform significant ballet roles.

Then, at the age of 29, she suffered a severe tibia injury that nearly brought her career to an end. The most inspiring and fascinating part about it is how it became so severe.

Misty suffered the injury right before her first-ever performance as a soloist in the Metropolitan Opera House. She was to perform the female main character in the “Firebird” ballet. It was a historical night, not only was the performance first for Misty but also she was the first African American ballerina ever to do that.

Despite the injury, she decided to perform and hide it. She didn’t want to let down her community who came out that night to support her.

Her performance was magnificent and acclaimed by the critics, but her injury became so severe that shortly after it she needed to undergo serious surgery on her tibia.

What’s most inspiring is that she didn’t give up dance afterward. On the contrary, she treated her recovery time as the opportunity to become even a better dancer. And she proved that in the end when in 2015 she became the first African American prima ballerina ever for the American Ballet Theatre.

Why is grit important?

I’m sure the story I shared above answers this question quite well. However, to summarize, grit is vital because it’s a driver of achievement and success. Being naturally smart and talented are great, but to truly thrive, we need the ability to persevere. No-one’s path to success is strewn with rose petals. We all encounter some setbacks or failures. It’s the way we handle them that determines how successful we are in any given area of our lives. That’s why without grit, talent may be nothing more than unmet potential.

So now you’re probably thinking, can grit be learned?

Or if I already have some, can I boost it?

Even though the research on this subject is young and there is still much to be discovered, the answer is yes!

Here are the 3 things you can do to boost your grit.

1. Develop a Growth Mindset

The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.

C. JoyBell C.

Developing a love of learning and continuous improvement will challenge you to always look for new ways of doing things. As humans, we are wired to grow, and our brains have limitless potential. Nurturing that potential and using it for self-development will also lead to us influencing our outside world to grow with us.

2. Treat Setbacks as Opportunities to Improve

You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.

Michelle Obama

Just like Misty Copeland treated her injury to become a better dancer, we can also learn to treat setbacks, not as failures but opportunities to get better. And I get it, it’s tough. That’s why we sometimes need support from others: our friends, family, community, or professionals. And there’s no shame in this. No can do it all alone.  The important part is to recognize the need and ask for it.

The need for support is the reason why I have started an on-line community Businesswomen with Passion 4 Life. My vision for it is to create a community for women where we can share our passions, collaborate, and grow together. Where we can support each other when we experience setbacks and have fun together at the same time!

I’d love for you to be part of this community :).  Join now by clicking here!

3. Create Habits that Will Help You Stick with Your Long-Term Goals

Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.

Jim Rohn

Since the definition of grit above talks about long term goals and achieving them, building other habits that will help you do that makes the perseverance part easier. Here, I’m talking about anything that will allow you to be healthier, more creative, knowledgeable or disciplined, etc.

And if you need help with defining long-term goals for your business or career; or identifying and building new habits to help you achieve them, I’m always happy to help. Are you open-minded for a leadership accelerator session? Yes? Then click here to schedule it.

As shown above, having grit is a potent indicator of achieving success in life, in whatever way you define it. Grit is not only passion, but also perseverance to pursue and achieve your long-term goals. We also know that grit can be thought to children and definitely boosted in adults. And the best thing is that like with any habit, the more we practice grit, the more ingrained it becomes.  I challenge you then to start today by identifying the ways you can do it in your life or business.

Before we conclude, if you are a Businesswoman With Passion 4 Life as a whole and would enjoy the support of other amazing ladies in doing it, join my online community today, by clicking here!

The Best Advice You Could Ever Get About Time Management

Time. Time it’s the only resource that is distributed equally amongst everyone. We all have 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Time is the most precious resource we all have, as well.

And yet, despite all this, according to research time management is # 3 challenge for most business owners.

The same struggles plague the corporate world. For many leaders, there aren’t enough hours in a day or days in a week to complete the pile of tasks from the to-do lists.

And yet some people seem to have the whole “time management” thing figured out. They accomplish a LOT and are not only highly successful but also happy with their lives. Those people achieved what most of the others are after financial success and balanced, happy life.

How do they do it? Here are the 5 Best Pieces of Advice you will ever get.

1. Focus Only on Priorities

Productivity is less about time management and more about attention management. Adam Grant

The first truth is that no one can do it all in one day, one week, one month or even one year. Trying to attack a to-do list that is just a compilation of things that come up during the day without a plan, it a straight path to being busy but not overly productive.  It, in turn, leads to feeling overwhelmed and discouragement.

That’s why having calrity on and defining your priorities, in your business and personal life is the first step to leading a balanced and fulfilling life. Once you know what’s most important, it’s time to shift your focus and efforts only to those things and slowly eliminate all the rest.  

And to help you keep the focus, I’ve prepared a list of 10 Powerful Tips to Help You Stay Focused like High-Achievers. You can start using them today if you click here to download the list.

2.     Ask for Help

Ask for help not because you’re weak, but because you want to remain strong. Les Brown

Secondly, you don’t have to do it all alone. That’s why getting out of the mindset that I’m the only one who can do it right is critical. You need to let go of the need to control everything. On the one hand, this will free the time you need to grow your business, yourself, or just rest and enjoy life. And on the other, it will give growth opportunities to the people that help you.

How? Here are three examples:

–       If you’re a solo entrepreneur, start outsourcing some non-revenue generating tasks to specialists as soon as you’re able to. These fellow entrepreneurs core competencies lie in the functions you need help with. Thanks to your business, they will grow and thanks to their support, you’ll have time to focus on expanding as well.

–       The same principle applies in the corporate world. When you’re in a leadership position, there are tasks that you can delegate to your team members. Tasks that can keep them challenged and grow their skills. If done right, they’ll flourish, and you’ll be able to take on this new project you were hoping to get involved in.

–       And at home. It’s OK for your kids to do some cleaning, help to prep the meals, or do other tasks. It teaches them responsibility and builds character. Taking care of the household is the responsibility of everyone living under that roof, not just yours. And you can make it fun for everyone too!

3.     Say “NO”

You’ve gotta keep control of your time, and you can’t unless you say no. You can’t let people set your agenda in life. Warren Buffet

Thirdly, once you are clear on your overall priorities, to keep your laser focus, you need to start saying “No” to everything else.  Here are some examples:

–       Staying active is your priority, but the only time you can do that coincides with your TV time. What do you say “No” to?

–       What if a good colleague asks you to help out with a project that has not much to do with your goals and responsibilities at this time?

–       Or maybe your best friend asked you to get your business involved in a collaboration that doesn’t align with your mission and vision?

There are a lot of choices we make every day (small and big). Each of them impacts how we use our. And sometimes it’s hard and tiring to say “No” this many times. But to paraphrase Warren Buffet: this is the difference between successful people and extremely successful people – the latter say “No” to almost everything.

4.     Lead a Healthy Lifestyle

To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise, we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. Buddha

Fourth, live healthily. I know I’m not discovering a new theory of special relativity here and just joining the mantra of doctors, and most health industry professionals. But we all agree that health is a foundation to leading a good life, don’t we? Yes, there’ll be things happening to us we cannot control, but we need to own what we can. To be creative, innovative, feel happy, and fulfilled, we need to take care of our bodies. The food we eat can damage or heal them, prevent diseases, and positively impact our daily emotions and energy.

The amount of rest we take (sleep, breaks during the workdays, time off on weekends, vacation, etc.) determines how well we regenerate, process new information, and how energetic we are. Rest also calms the stress and overwhelm off the daily buzz.

Additionally, how active we are, affects how fit our body is, how well it absorbs the food we feed it, and how well mentally we feel.

All in all, there are many ways to stay healthy.

5.     Look at Yourself as a Whole Person

Balanced & happy life comes when we spend time nourishing our body, mind, heart & soul. You are a whole person. Treat yourself like one. Stairway to Leadership

Lastly, I strongly believe in us treating ourselves and each other as wholesome equal human beings.

When I’m working, I’m not just a businesswoman; I’m also a mother partner, a friend; I’m me a whole person. I’m a leader of my entire life, have the same beliefs, and stand up for the same values everywhere. To lead a balanced and fulfilled life,  we must spend our time and energy on all aspects of our lives, each part of our wholesome person, as opposed to just some of them. And that’s why we need clarity on our priorities first.

To conclude, the five pieces of advice I shared with you above are the foundation of healthy time management that will lead you to balanced life you seek.

If you resonate with them, I’d like to ask you some questions:

–       Do feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you need to do to keep your business running and successful?

–       Do you find yourself procrastinating sometimes or starting at the screen paralyzed instead of moving the needle and doing what you hoped you would do?

–       Do you find yourself easily distracted by other “urgent” things that take over and put the real important ones on the back burner?

If you answered yes to one of those questions, think about how often it happens? If once in a while, don’t worry and move on, it happens to all of us. But if more than you’d like to, then maybe it’s time to take action and make some changes.

Or maybe you’re doing great in all of them. If that’s the case, congratulations! For you, I prepared 10 Powerful Tips to Help You Stay Focused Like High-Achievers. You can download them now by clicking here.

Top Three Reasons Why Women Start Their Entrepreneurial Journey

Did you know that since 1977, the number of women-owned business increased over 3,000% in the US? Or that Canadian women rank 1st in terms of involvement with newer businesses, which means we are ahead of the US and all the other countries? We’ve entered and are living in the era of women. More and more of us are taking charge not only of our personal life but especially a professional one.

So, the natural question that comes up is why so many women are turning to entrepreneurship?

There are many reasons, but a lot of them fall into three main groups.

1.     Time Flexibility

Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can’t afford to lose.

Thomas A. Edison

For most of us, flexibility with our time is more important than making a certain amount of money. Personally, I’m definitely in this majority. We want to spend more time with our loved ones, have the ability to lead a healthy lifestyle, and also carve out some time for us. Having a flexible schedule that we can set helps to achieve such goals.  Time is the most valuable resource all of us have in an equal amount: 365 days a year, 24 hrs each day. No wonder we want to be able to use it on our terms.

Additionally, such flexibility gives us a feeling of independence. Being our own boss puts us in charge of the schedule, which most jobs in the corporate world have a hard time providing.

And yet, despite the above, time management is one of the top three challenges facing all entrepreneurs (women and men). It’s falling right after financing and ability to find a steady stream of clients. Because it’s such an essential aspect of a balanced life, I’ll be writing more about this subject in the coming weeks.

However, if you feel like you could use some help now, click here and let’s schedule a chat. I promise, not only it will be fun but also you’ll come out of it with some great strategies to help you overcome this challenge. 😊

2.     Pursuit of Passion

Your purpose explains what you are doing with your life. Your vision explains how you are living your purpose. Your goals enable you to realize your vision.

Bob Proctor

Secondly, women start their entrepreneurial journey to do what they love. I think it’s mainly  because doing what we’re passionate about gives us a purpose. Or even the other way, our purpose drives what we love and what we want to do in our lives. And this is nothing new. As a matter of fact, the need for purpose is one of the defining characteristics of human beings. We all crave it and can suffer severe psychological consequences if we don’t have it. Purpose is one of the fundamental components of a fulfilling and happy life.

In other words, passions and drive to do things in life are tightly joined to our purpose or the search of thereof.

And that’s a fantastic thing! Because as a result, our businesses have a heart. They are mission-driven, and this way can become truly successful. I wrote more on this subject a few weeks ago. Click here to access the article if you’re interested in reading more.

3.     Financial Independence

If you want to be financially free, you need to become a different person than you are today and let go of whatever has held you back in the past.

Robert Kiyosaki

The third group of reasons why women turn to become business owners falls under finances. In here we can find main sub-reasons such as:

–       Being able to charge what we are worth. Unfortunately, the gender pay gap in the corporate world is still real, even in the most developed countries like ours. Rather than spending time and energy trying to fight that inside a corporation, why not change in by starting your own business?

–       Being in charge of the future. The corporate world is not as stable as it used to be many years ago. Many women have experienced the loss of their jobs and working for yourself means you’re in the driver seat deciding on the direction for your journey.

All in all, there are many reasons why women turn to entrepreneurship. Most of them align with those of men. However, what’s different is the weight of importance for each. 

Given the above points, I’m curious to know what your reasons to start your business were? Or if you have not started one yet and maybe just thinking about it, I’d still like to know why? Mine, in essence, fell into all three main groups.

Please share yours in the comments below or even send me a note with your story. I’d love to read it. Or better yet! Maybe you’d like to share it through a guest blog here? I love great collaborations! If you are up for it, give me a shout and let’s do it!

5 Tips to Boost Your Creativity and Capture the Next Big Business Idea

Creativity is an indispensable ingredient not only for art but also for any successful business. It’s the mother of innovation, the cornerstone of your R&D. That’s why, whether you’re a solopreneur or a business leader with employees, nurturing creativity in yourself and your team is an excellent strategy for staying competitive on the market.

In reality, finding new ways to market your business, interact with customers, or improve your products & services will not happen without someone coming up with a new idea, capturing it and taking action.

And the good news is that despite the common belief, creativity is not a gene that some of us have and some don’t. We all have it expressing is in many different ways. Just as we talked about it in last week’s post.
Better yet, according to Robert Epstein, American psychologist, professor, author, creativity is something that can be nurtured and cultivated by anyone.

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. Maya Angelou 

For this reason this week, I’d like to share with you 5 Tips to Boost Your Creativity and Capture the Next Big Idea.

1.    Take Time to Think

We covered the 4 Ts mantra last week. However, I’d like to add a bit to this point.

When our days are packed with meetings, e-mails, and other tasks heavy with mental demands, they overload prefrontal cortex part of the brain. All these drain and distract us cognitively. On the contrary, most of our “A-HA’s” moments come during a quiet break. Why? Because when we go for a walk, take a shower or even stare at a piece of art, the prefrontal cortex quiets down, and our default imagination mode gets turned on.

Additionally, by “Time To Think,” I also mean taking time to rest during vacation, weekends, as well as getting enough sleep. No million-dollar idea will come to us if we are overworked, stressed and on the verge of burn out. 

Moreover, spending some this rest time in nature awakens our sense of awe and fascination with its beauty.  And when our brain is in such a beautiful state, our creativity flourishes even more. If you’re interested to learn more about this research, click here.

2.    Spend Time with Diverse Interesting People

Meeting regularly with a diverse and exciting network of people can open your horizons and help you come up with new inspiring ideas. Couple that with going together to exciting places such as art gallery, museum, or opera, and such experiences will stimulate your creative thinking in ways you couldn’t have imagined.

Furthermore, being around people and feeling connected gets rid of the number one killer of creativity, i.e., stress.  It’s also fun and makes us feel happy. And as much as sadness can be a fuel in artistic creativity, in business, it’s an inhibitor to novel ideas as well.

So, don’t wait, go out there and spend some time with your friends and the broader network. And if you don’t have one yet and not sure how to go about it, click here for some tips.

Creativity involves breaking out of expected patterns in order to look at things in a different way. – Edward de Bono

3.    Take On Challenging Projects

Challenging projects that don’t have an easy solution get our brains thinking and looking at things from different perspectives. For this reason, don’t dismiss any of the ideas you had as not possible to put into practice. Try to work on them instead. Better yet, brainstorm such projects with other people.  Tapping into their experience, a different outlook on things can consequently generate more fantastic ideas. And since you are going to take my advice from point 2 above, finding great partners for brainstorming shouldn’t pose any problems to you anymore 😊.

4.    Broaden Your Knowledge

Expanding horizons past your area of expertise will also stimulate your brain for creative thinking. Taking a course to learn a new skill, reading books or magazines from unrelated domains will broaden your knowledge and allow for the brain to “interconnect” all this new knowledge.  Such interconnections are the basis of all creative thought i.e., new ideas emerging from bits and pieces of each discipline you dive into. 

5.    Always Be Ready to Capture Your Ideas

Once you get your creative juices going, you need to be ready to capture everything you come up with so that it doesn’t escape your memory. My favorite method is writing my thoughts down. Hence, carrying a journal with you is one but not the only way to do it. Note app on your phone, typing ideas on your laptop, or even a proverbial napkin will work as well. 

The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.
Plutarch

To summarize, boosting our creativity is not only good for business. It’s also good for us.

If you look at all the above tips and think about it, implementing them will also help you improve the overall quality of life and happiness. And isn’t it how it should be in the first place? Our professional and personal life are our life as a whole? Isn’t it when one overshadows the other then somehow we don’t feel fully satisfied?

At least this is what I believe.  Our “personal and professional selves,” with everything that goes into us, make us full wholehearted people who can be creative and make a positive difference in the world. For this reason, my mission is to inspire and enable you as a business leader to build mission-driven, people-oriented, and healthy organization that brings value to your customers and helps you lead a holistic fulfilled life.

So, if you need anyone to brainstorm your next innovative idea, I’m here to help. Click here to schedule a free Brainstorming Session with Maggie 😊.

Thinking Time: Your Key to Creativity and Business Success

Creativity is something we usually associate with artists as they are the ones in whom our human need of expressing ourselves is powerful. However, the truth is that we’re all naturally creative, regardless of the profession.

Even the Oxford dictionary doesn’t limit the creativity to certain types of work. It says that creativity is “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.”

To put it differently and use Mary Lou Cook’s words:

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.”

I love this definition as it captures the essence of creativity and shows that it’s all around us propelling innovation.

Unless you are an artist, do you consider your day to day life as creative? No? Then look at this list:

–    maybe you put together an outfit in a combination you haven’t tried before;

–    or cooked up a delicious meal without using a recipe but inspired by the leftovers in the fridge;

–    or came up with a faster and better way to do things at work;

–    or better yet thought of a brand-new service/ product for your clients.

As I think about it, without creating that ultimately leads to innovation, no business can live, grow, and prosper long term. Wouldn’t you agree?

Therefore, for us, leaders of our businesses, nurturing creativity should be one of the top priorities.

And in case you think that you don’t have the talent to do it, the research shows that creativity, as we defined it here, has nothing to do with genes.  As Dr. Robert Epstein, an American psychologist, professor, author, says: “There’s not really any evidence that one person is inherently more creative than another.”

What’s known though is that stress and fast pace of our daily lives kill our creative thinking abilities. In other words, days filled with stuff to do from dusk to dawn leave no room for our mind to wander, be free and have time to come up with new ideas.

Nevertheless, there’s good news here.
The simplest solution to this problem is to allow ourselves some free time to do nothing in particular and daydream.

4 T’s: Take Time To Think

I’m sure that if you’re a parent or have been around kids you know already that it’s great for the kids to be bored from time to time. When my kids have such time, they can up with the most fascinating ideas. Some of which are great to watch, and some not so great (for me 😊) to clean after.

The thing is, as adults, we need to allow ourselves to do the same!

Did you know that Bill Gates, the founder and former CEO of Microsoft, would go off-grid twice a year for what he called a “Think Week”? He would spend that time entirely alone, disconnected, reading, writing, and thinking. Such week was his planned time to think creatively.

So, I am challenging you to do start this practice too! It doesn’t have to be a full week at a time. Maybe just a couple of hours on Friday afternoons, or the weekend, or any other day that works for you.

And better yet! If you can spend some of that time in nature, you’ll benefit even more.

Time in Nature Boosts Creative Thinking

David Strayer, a neuroscientist from Utah,  has found through his research on the psychological and cognitive effects of the outdoors, that time spent in nature enhances higher-order thinking, restores attention, and boosts creativity. In his 2012 study, for example, Strayer found that backpackers performed two times better at creative problem solving after they had spent four days out on the trail.

I can personally, attest to the findings of Strayer’s research.  I love spending time in nature and have seen all those positive effects in me every time I do that.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” Friedrich Nietzsche

And in case you are still not convinced to my Take Time to Think mantra, there is more! Here are additional positive effects to spending time alone and daydreaming:

–    It deepens the spiritual part of us, our soul, that we often overlook during the “busy-ness” of our everyday lives ;

–    It frees us from needless worry and allows us to focus on more constructive pursuits; and

–    It’s fun! There’s nothing else like the “a-ha!” moment of creative illumination. Albert Einstein knew that and that’s how he defined it: “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

All in all, we’re all creative human beings.

What differs is how we express it. Some of us are great artists, some brilliant entrepreneurs, and some inspiring athletes or organizational leaders. What we all have in common is that we need time to think. We need it as kids to grow and develop, and we need it as adults.

So tell me, do you already practice this? Do you take time to do nothing and daydream? If you do, that’s amazing! Please share your thoughts and experience with your practice in the comments!

If you don’t then my call to action for you this week is to try it. Starting this week, block couple of hours in your calendar to just do it.  It’s easy to remember 4 T’s mantra: “Take Time To Think.”

Schedule it, do it; take a journal and pen with you to write down any great ideas you come up with during this time. And finally, after you do it, I’d love to connect with you and learn how it went!

P.S. All the pictures in this post are from my private collection from times spent in nature.

In the event you enjoyed reading it and would like to receive more exclusive content from me that I don’t share anywhere else, sign up for my monthly newsletter below. By joining Stairway to Leadership community, you’ll instantly receive a FREE CLARITY & FOCUS training that will prompt you for some thinking creative time to establish or review your business foundations.

The Introvert’s 5-Step Guide to Building Connections

Being an introvert and starting a conversation or networking with strangers is never on the introvert’s favourite activity list. And yet no real connection can be started, no relationship can be built without doing it first.

Networking is one of the most critical activities business leaders need to do to be successful. It comes naturally to extroverted personalities because they thrive on such activities. However, if you are an introvert or even an ambivert like me, this can feel quite a draining chore.

Why?

Because as Dr. Laurie Helgoe points out in Introvert Power:
“Introverts do not hate small talk because we dislike people. We hate small talk because we hate the barrier it creates between people.”

Introverts love building more intimate connections with people as opposed to just going through several surface encounters that never go more in-depth. When two people get stuck in small talk mode, they don’t learn anything new about each other, and that is draining.

However, here is the thing, to be successful in business or career, we need to connect with people on a deeper level anyways. Small talk isn’t enough. So, our need to create strong connections, and with that meaningful relationships will help us be successful.

And it definitely can be done. Just take a look at my list of the successful introverted leaders that is by no means exclusive: JK Rowling, Eleanor Roosevelt, Marissa Meyer, Warren Buffet, Barack Obama, or Bill Gates.

Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success. 
Paul J. Mayer

So now I hear you say: Maggie, it’s easier said than done. I get it. On the one hand, it’s not that difficult to go deeper once you got to know the other person a bit and are comfortable with them.  But on the other hand, the problem question is: how do I carry the first conversation even to get the possibility of creating a connection?

Here are 5 winning tactics that will help you do just that. 

1.    Ask Open-Ended Questions

The truth is that you don’t need to do small talk at all. There is a myriad of questions you can use not only to start the conversation without being too intrusive but also find out something meaningful about the person you are talking to.

For example: “What was the best part of your weekend”? as opposed to “How was your weekend”?

To give you some ideas and help you start meaningful conversations, I have prepared a list of 50 questions. Click here to receive it.

2.    Go With the Flow

You don’t need to prepare a list of questions trying to ask them all to one person. As you start the conversation, go with the flow. Use your instinct to connect and go deeper into the conversation naturally.

3.    Be Present When Listening

Listening comes easy to introverts. However, ensure you are being present and genuinely listen without drifting off in other thoughts. Because we can listen to approximately 500 words per minute and speak only 225, it’s easy to get distracted when listening to others. Make a conscious then effort to be present during any conversation and listen to understand not to reply.

4.    Make It All About the Speaker

Another easy thing to do if you aren’t an extrovert. We don’t like to be the centre of attention anyways. Making it all about the speaker will make them feel valued, which will build trust between you much faster. 

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Dale Carnegie

5.    Share Details About Yourself

As much as you should make it all about the other person, it still takes two people to be part of a conversation. As tricky as this step may be, sharing some meaningful details about yourself will show you trust the other person and send a signal that you like them as well. And don’t worry about speaking too much. There is no need to go into the weeds. Being brief is perfect!

In summary, meeting new people and building meaningful connections with them is not only necessary for business success but also truly enriches our experience as human beings. We can learn so much from others, be amazed and inspired by their stories. As Alfred Tennyson, British 19th century poet, wrote: “I am a part of all that I have met.”

Having read this short guide, do you think you’re more willing now to go out there and network? Or do you need more encouragement? If the latter, click here to read my last week’s post on taking action. I know I will help you!

Lastly, before you go I wanted to share that in my July newsletter I’m including not only the list of 50 Questions to Start Meaningful Conversations but also a few other great resources!

Sign up below. Don’t miss out on them!

Taking Action Mindset. A Simple Yet Powerful Concept.

Have you ever found yourself paralyzed and unable to take any action?

I sure did.

A few years back in my corporate career, my department and I in it was going through one of those nightmare periods where you are understaffed, and the new work keeps coming. It got to the point that no matter how many hours I worked in a day, and how many days in a week I worked, I still couldn’t keep up. I felt like I was set up to fail, I felt boxed in. And this on certain days completely paralyzed me. I could then stare at my laptop screen for a long time thinking of what to do next but unable to do anything.

As I’m helping women entrepreneurs to become kick-ass leaders of their businesses, I am seeing some of them going through a similar inability to act, which cripples their confidence and instills paralyzing fear of failure.

Why does it happen to us? Why sometimes do we find ourselves unable to act?

I can think of three main reasons:

1. Fear

Sometimes the fear of failure is bread by perfectionism that many of us women fall into. I want to send that e-mail to the client, but it needs to be perfect as I don’t want to sound unprofessional. I want to prep that presentation so I can do a workshop, but it does not look like the one I have seen from a successful market leader so it’s not good enough.

Sometimes fear is brought by our primitive brain at work trying to “keep us safe” protect us from the unknown a.k.a. threat. That’s why we’re so good in coming up with multiple reasons why we shouldn’t be taking action on this fantastic idea our creative brain came up with earlier. 

2. Lack of confidence

This sometimes can manifest itself through analysis paralysis. Before taking action, to make an informed decision we gather data and information to analyze it first. And yes, with big decisions such thoroughness is often needed. However, when this is coupled with doubt, we can entangle ourselves in too much analysis, delaying the decision making, to finally not taking any actions at all. 

As a result, we get ourselves in a self-fulfilling prophecy situation: the less we act, the less confidence we have, which leads us to taking even less action.

As Norman Vincent Peale, author of “The Power of Positive Thinking” puts it:

“Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result but the cause, of fear.”

Norman Vincent Peale

3. Too much going on & lack of clear direction

Just like it happened to me when we take on too much (or are given too much) without a clear direction in our minds, we get overwhelmed. It’s hard to prioritize things when we don’t know what’s important and what’s not. Such overwhelm leads to paralysis and procrastination or on the other hand doing a lot to feel busy but not really doing anything productive.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie’s words are such a wisdom! It’s action, putting our ideas to work is what gives us confidence and lead to even more action.

Let me illustrate this with another story. 

I remember the first time as a preteen, I wanted to dive from a high platform into a pool. I was mortified. When I stood on the platform and looked down, my legs shook form fear. But because I was there with a bunch of friends who were having so much fun jumping, my competitive spirit took over. I pushed myself through that fear and jumped the first time. After the first two seconds of terror, I had fun! It’s because I realized that the jump wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. That gave me then courage to go back up and try again. The more I jumped, the easier it got, the less scared I was, and the more fun I had.

So, what’s the moral here? 

This story shows you that action is a muscle. The more we work it, the stronger it gets.  

So now you’ll probably thinking: but how?

What can I do to take the very first action that will lead me to doing more and growing the muscle?

Here are 5 simple steps that can help you:

1. Understand what can motivate you at that moment.

Think of what can allow you just be vulnerable and leap into action. For example:

  • Internal motivation – our competitive spirit (me & diving), need for achievement, proving oneself or even negative emotions like anger.

Going back to my first story, it was anger that motivated me to do something different. It was anger that pushed me to take action and stop feeling helpless. Maybe the anger came because I’m a Sagittarius, a free horse that hates to feel boxed in. Regardless of the reason, I got to the point where through clenched teeth, I said, “no more” and did something about my situation.

  • External motivators – we can take action for our kids, loved ones, and other people or causes we care about and have passion for.

2. Be clear on your vision, values, and mission.

Such clarity will show you direction and allow to create SMART goals and then identify the tasks you need to do to achieve them. If you’re not sure where you start, click here for more tips.

3. Develop positive habits and daily routines.

They will make it easy for you to do the things you need to achieve your goals

4. Ask for help when stuck.

Recognizing you need help is the first step to success. Whether it’s your friend, family member, or a hired coach, they can help you get unstuck. They can also hold you accountable and push you to action in the moments of doubt.

Wondering how? Click here and let’s chat about it.

5. #JustDoIt.

Take the advice from Nike, make it simple and just do it.

“God provides the wind, but man must raise the sails.” ―St. Augustine

To close this piece, I’m going to give you one more visual.

Imagine a baby wanting to be perfect in walking the first time it tries and getting discouraged after the first fall. See what I’m getting at? If babies behaved like adults, none of us would be walking now.

There is something to be re-learned from our baby-selves. Action leads to mastery. It’s OK to fail. Failing is part of learning. No one can get good at anything without just doing, failing, getting up, and trying again. And as we master our walking, then we can start running.

Through action, we become masters.  Mastery gives us more confidence & motivation, which leads to more action, more growth, and progress. In such a way that we can create this positive self-perpetuating circle of goodness. The circle that will allow us to achieve the dreams and goals we set for ourselves, and to become authentic leaders and lead by example.

“The path to success is to take massive, determined actions.”

Tony Robbins

How to Project Confidence Without Alienating Your Audience

My inspiration for today’s topic came last week. I was part of an audience subjected to a quite interesting public speaking style of a person trying to pitch a business collaboration idea.

Before I tell you this story, first let me share a definition of confidence by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“Confidence… thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them, it cannot live.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Story

I volunteer on the Board for Directors of a local charity supporting women in need. Last week we had our monthly board meeting, and our Executive Director announced that there would be two people coming to present and pitch a collaboration idea between their business and our organization.

From the very beginning, the CEO of the company who’d potentially be our partner talked to the board members in a very condescending and rude tone of voice, boasting about their accomplishments. They also made it sound like we needed their help more than they required ours, implying that we’d be fools not partnering with them.

The way conversation was going; it would have finished within the first 10 mins if it wasn’t for the CEO’s partner who read the room well and started seeing that the audience was closing off fast.

As the pitch continued, and we listened to the idea, which was quite viable and potentially beneficial to both parties, the tension in the room eased off a little bit. In the end, as we started discussing next steps, the CEO gave us a short timeline for final decision and in a non-direct manner, tried to scare us. They said they’d report back to a local politician on the outcome of the conversation implying we’d lose the politician’s support we currently have if we declined.   

The Moral

I am going to ask you a question – if you were to bet on the gender of both the CEO and their partner – would you say they were both men? Both women? Or one of each?

In a way it doesn’t really matter but why am I asking? Because in general, the studies found that we women are less confident than men. We are as skilled and as competent (if not more) as men, but it takes us a longer time to grow our confidence to the same levels as men. Because of this, sometimes we lose on great opportunities in our business endeavors.

There is an excellent book on this subject titled The Confidence Code by Kathy Kay and Claire Shipman that I highly recommend reading. I loved it.
In the meantime,  if you’d like a taste of it, please click here to read an article that both authors wrote in the Atlantic magazine  “The Confidence Gap.”

So now let me reveal the genders of both presenters: the CEO was a woman, and her partner was a man. Shocking right? It was to me.
In my corporate career I got used to dealing with strong and confident A-type personalities that can be harsh. And yet, I’ve never seen such an unprofessional behavior since I came to Canada.

The CEO was confident, but because she took that to an extreme, she lost her audience and the whole pitch in the first 10 mins of the presentation.

“A fit body gives you confidence. And there’s nothing more impressive than a great attitude, which you can wear on your sleeve. But you’ll have to remember the difference between being rude and being confident.”

Virat Kohli

The thing is that there is a happy medium between a lack of confidence on the one hand and cockiness on the other.

Here are five tips on how to do it and keep your audience engaged.

1.    Be self-aware

If you aren’t sure how your communication style affects your audiences, especially when you are passionate about the subject, ask others.

Does your passion come through enough? Maybe it doesn’t, and you need to work on adding more emotions into your speaking. Or perhaps too much comes through, which can be received as intimidating or rude and you should tone it down.

2.    Think before you speak

Before you present, pitch anything or talk to your employees, think first. Know your audience, prepare adequately to the meeting and rehearse as required.

Think of any questions or anticipate objections they might have.

Have respect for your audience, never assume what they know or don’t know. 

3.    Body language

Maintain the open posture by being conscious of the gestures you are making with your hands. Crossed hands or hands in your pockets mean being closed off. Have your hands in an open position, more or less at your between your wait and chest with your palms up.

If you are standing, maintain balance by keeping your legs aligned with your shoulders with feet approx. 4-6 inches apart

If you are sitting, one way to show confidence is to clasp both hands together in a relaxed pyramid.

And don’t forget to smile :).

4.    Maintain eye contact

Being present and maintaining good eye contact serves two primary purposes:

–    It creates a connection between you and your audience making them feel important and valued;

–    It also allows you to read the room; I get that the bigger the audience, the harder it is to keep all participants equally engaged. However, if you are seeing that you are losing all participants either getting bored and drifting away in their thoughts or phones; or worse getting closed off an upset; it’s a signal to adjust your speaking approach radically.

5.    Tone of voice

With your voice, you have a few tools that will help keep the speech interesting; the audience engaged and convey the mastery of your subject.  For example, voice register (deep vs. high), timbre (rich, smooth, warm), tempo, pitch, and volume.

Julian Treasure shares some great advice on this subject in this TED talk on How to speak so that people want to listen. Below I am sharing with you the link to his great talk in case you’d like to know more.

Conclusion

To conclude, there is no doubt that confidence is a crucial factor of our business success. And it’s also definitely better to have more of it than none. However, as our confidence grows, we need to watch ourselves not to swing the pendulum to the other side of the extreme.

“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers, you cannot be successful or happy.”

Norman Vincent Peale

Additionally, your business growth and ability to lead depends on effective communication where your confidence shines. Communication is a learned skill that everyone can improve.

Can you always get your message across in a way that inspires action and outcomes you expect?

Have you ever experienced issues with outcomes due to miscommunication?

Are you nervous about public speaking and presenting?

If yes, don’t worry! I can help you overcome those challenges so you’ll become a confident (yet humble) effective communicator :).

If you are open-minded to connecting with me, click here and let’s talk!

Free Advice On How to Build a Healthy Business That Lasts

A few months ago, I wrote about why teams require vision, mission, and values to be cohesive and high-performing. And how as a team leader, you need to live and breathe them so that the team follows you.

The same principles apply when you are a solopreneur running or just starting your business. 

As a business owner, I’m sure that just like the rest of us, you’d like your business to last and be healthy. Your dream lifestyle and family well being depend on it.

To achieve that, your business needs a core, a spine that will always be there no matter the changes that happen to the rest of the “body.”

This core should help you persevere in times of doubt, say “Yes” to the right opportunities and “No” to the wrong ones, even if they seem like “once in a lifetime” at the moment.

In my blog series on change we talked about the the anatomy of change, what is needed to embrace it, and how to lead your business through it. It’s because in today’s changing markets driven by light-speed evolution of technology, as business leaders, not only we need to adapt it but also rive it in our organizations.

However, there are things in your business that should stay fixed.
Things that shouldn’t change at all or not for a long time, even if the strategies, products, or services you deliver change and adapt to your customers’ needs.

Those main three things are:

  • Core Purpose = the ‘why’;
  • Values; and
  • Vision

Let’s talk more about the them then.

1. Core Purpose – why?

You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things so that all the small things go in the right direction.

Alvin Toffler

When we start a business, the truth is that the main reason for it is hardly ever solely money. Yes, I get it that we want to make a living while running the biz, but pause and think back why did you start it in the first place?

Was it because you wanted to be independent, have total control of your time? Or maybe to be able to lead a balanced life where you can spend time with your kids? Or you want to help people become healthier, feel more beautiful or be more successful because helping others makes you happy?

The answer to this question is your business’s core purpose. Now, it can create a mission, a statement that will embody it. The statement needs to be idealistic. If you think it’s not idealistic enough once you have your first draft, ask, “why do we do that?” and refine your answer. Repeat this exercise up to magic 7 times until you get to a statement that you are happy with and is short of “making the world a better place”.

This way, you’ll define your core purpose as something you’ll always strive for that will never achieve 100. Something close to “make the world a better place.” Why? Because it will keep your business going and help you persist. Whenever you have any doubts about why you should continue to work on your business or feel discourages, the core purpose will give you the answer.

2. Core values – how do we behave?

Stairway to Leadership

When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.

Roy E. Disney

When you take time and think of core values for your business, they will act as guiding principles that will help you navigate your entrepreneurship journey. It’s because they can assist you in making the most critical decisions when presented with opportunities. Saying “No” to opportunities that look promising but can hurt your business, in the long run, isn’t easy. It can be easier though if you know that such an opportunity doesn’t align with your core values. To put differently, having values gives your business its soul.

How do you determine your business’ core values then?

If you are a solopreneur, look at what’s important to you as a person and align them with your values.

If you already have employees, look not only at your values but also at who is your best team members.  The ones that you’d pick to recreate your business if you had to do that in another country. How do they behave when at work, what do they value?

Once you pick several them, put them through a time laps prism. Would you be living by them in 100 years? If yes, keep them. If not, scratch them off.

This way, you can get down to 3 – 5 core values. Your business doesn’t need more. Then, instead of keeping them as one-word principles, try describing them a bit more by answering a question – how do we behave? What do we stand for?

As a reference to help you, here is Disney’s example that will clearly show you how values can guide a business:

  • No cynicism
  • Nurturing and spreading of “wholesome American values”
  • Creativity, dreams, and imagination
  • Fanatical attention to consistency and detail
  • Preservation and control of Disney magic

3. A Long-Lasting Vision – where are we going?

Vision is a destination – a fixed point to which we focus all effort. Strategy is a route – an adaptable path to get us where we want to go.

Simon Sinek

As a business owner, you should create a far-reaching vision on what you’d like to achieve in 10-20 years from now. It needs to be audacious, BIG, and also needs to be achievable, even if the probability at this point is 60%.

To do that you can write it down or if you like visuals, creating a vision board will work as well.

In short, your Vision or Big Hairy Audacious Goals, as Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras called them in “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies,” need to be achievable and will change, unlike your core purpose. Because once you reach them, you’ll need replace them with the new ones for the business to have something to strive for and not become complacent.  

Now, after you have done all this great and hard work, you can start developing different strategies that will help you achieve your vision. These strategies will change and adapt to customers’ needs and market shifts.

So WHY should I do all that?

To conclude, all I covered above will allow your business to be healthy and last. WHY?

Because, it will help you see what are the important things to focus on as opposed to the urgent ones.

When you don’t have such clarity, here’s what happens:

  • you don’t have enough time to accomplish your business goals;
  • you feel overwhelmed and paralyzed;
  • you procrastinate;
  • you don’t accomplish much although you are busy all the time;
  • you don’t see the progress in your business that you were hoping for.

Looks familiar? Yes, if you see some or all those symptoms in your day to day operations, maybe it’s time to stop and regroup.
And if you need help, I’d like to offer you FREE training CLARITY & FOCUS that will walk you step-by-step on how to do it. Yout can download it by clicking here.

Need more help or have questions? Then click here and let’s connect.