Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Get In The Arena

Upon doing something really extraordinary such as playing a championship game and coming up short, people often say, "I am just glad to compete," or "I'm so glad to be here." Until this week, I never understood that. Being the uber competitive and ambitious person I am, I could not understand how "just being there" was satisfying or fulfilling. 

Until now.

This week, my tiny company went to meet with a global multi-billion dollar corporation about partnering on a project. The meeting was the culmination of a few years of networking and building our reputation and was by no means a coincidence or luck. It was the result of a series of intentional actions and it felt amazing to be there. 

In the arena. Playing with the big dogs. And it was during my quick,  less than 24 hour trip to the headquarters of one of the most powerful companies on the planet that I finally understood the old, "I'm just glad to compete" saying.

There is a feeling of satisfaction being at the table sharing ideas with the best. There is a sense of accomplishment "just being there." Now, make no mistake. I want the business and intend to do everything in my power to secure it. But taking a moment to stop and reflect on being in the arena is important. 

The tiny "win" of being at the table for this enormous opportunity can challenge me in my thinking about this and other opportunities. Positive momentum of any kind can be converted into fuel. Parallel to that is the relationship building aspect of the meeting that is priceless.

For the first time in a very long time, I went into the arena without regard for the outcome but more open to what the arena experience was going to bring me. To have a company my size entertaining a partnership with one of the world's largest entities is beyond exciting. It is downright humbling and breath-taking. I want to soak it all up and not miss any lesson from the experience. And I need to do that before I shift my energy into moving this beast from a prospect to a partner.

Stop and give yourself credit for being in the arena. Absorb all the good you can from small wins in the journey. Marry yourself to the experience more than the result.

It makes the arena experience all the more rich when you give yourself space to learn from and enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Why Early Adopters Matter For Entrepreneurs

It's hard to believe that it was 6 years ago now that I was first looking at joining the Apple iPhone craze, a full 4 months later than the debut of the original in June 2007. I never considered myself an early adopter by definition but in reality I was when you consider how many more people joined the iPhone bandwagon since that time.

BusinessDictionary.com defines early adopter as follows:

Early adopter is the minority group (comprising about 14 percent) of population which, after innovators, is first to try new ideas, processes, goods and services. Early adopters generally rely on their on intuition and vision, choose carefully, and have above-average education levels.

Over the past few weeks, I have been blessed to speak to some of the very early adopters of my work with Relationships Matter Now, LLC. These are the people who in the very beginnings believed I was on to something with my mission to revolutionize relationships on planet Earth. Clearly, family and close friends count as early adopters but they are biased. So in my accounting of early adopters of Relationships Matter Now, I exclude those who were close to me before the time of launch. My early adopters are the tribe members that knew me but were not so personally invested and gave me the push I needed in ways they may never have even imagined. I'm gonna quickly highlight how each of them helped me when it mattered most and how my brushes with them lately seem to be of no coincidence.

Corporate C-Suite Executive

Early on, really before I started walking toward building Relationships Matter Now, I had a C-level HR executive in my network whom I connected with periodically regarding my corporate marketing career. This woman knew the ins and outs of how to maneuver in Corporate America and really was sharing with me lots of great insights on how to best manage my trajectory. When I decided that I may pursue something different, HR leader and professionals seems a likely target so I mustered up the courage to introduce some of my early ideas and concepts to this executive. Not only did she validate them as innovative and thought provoking, she assured me people would hire me - the marketing gal - for this type of work. She so quickly help me make the transition from marketing specialist to people specialist. During a recent lunch date, I was reminded of her push and validation of my early ideas as we are looking to collaborate on a project I'm pitching to big global company soon.

Non-profit Agency Leader

Stopped in the produce section of my local grocery store in front of me last Sunday was one of the early people who took meetings from me for potential work with Relationships Matter Now, a leader of a mid-sized non-profit from a neighboring community. Before I approached her to say hi, I was flashed back to the moment I first reached out to her and how she readily met with me as a fresh entrepreneur. I remember her willingness to meet with me several times and how she introduced me to who would become my business attorney. Then we spoke for what ended up being 30 full minutes right there over the granny smith apple cart. She said no less than 5 times how proud she was of me. She devoured my update stories of the clients I've secured as well as the ones on the hook that I'm pitching now. She once again, as she did so long ago, encouraged me with potential opportunities and thoughts of introductions. Funny, when we first met, I'd always hoped to have her agency as a client but in fact she has been so much more to me over the years as a early believer  and promoter of my work.

Tech Guru

Finally, I come to the tech powerhouse who was in my network as a loose connection only to convert into a close one when I asked for his support of the Pepsi Refresh Everything digital social good project.  He'd been a peripheral part of my tribe and supported me with votes over the many ups and downs of my participation in the program. When it all fell apart and I did not win the funding, this tech genius volunteered to do the work I was trying to win the money for... build my web presence. He came to the table in the early days matching his best talents to help me use mine. Today, he is one of my closest advisers and we talk and collaborate frequently. But it was his own putting his time and talent on the line to help me and mission that started it all.

You see the early adopters are what fuel the innovation for entrepreneurs. Those folks willing to "try" you out and notice, not one of my early adopters ever wrote me a check. Early adopters are critical to the success of any venture and understanding their value and what you gain from them fuels the future. It is no coincidence that I've been crossing paths again with all the people who were there initially to push me to start Relationships Matter Now. We are at a big crossroads for growth and seeing and interacting with each of those early adopters has given me the added boost I need to push through this new intersection.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

3 Ways To Empower Yourself When You Receive Negative Feedback

Negative feedback is part of life. Unless you do nothing and are totally irrelevant, there will always be people who do not like you and will tell you about it if you ask. One way people avoid negative feedback is to never ask for any feedback at all. Feedback is necessary to growth and negative feedback helps keep us on our toes. While it is natural for us to be hurt by negative feedback, we should never let it derail us. I stress again, negative feedback means you are doing something. And doing something is way better than doing nothing. However, we should make the most of all the feedback we receive, even the negative.  Here are three ways to empower yourself when you receive negative feedback:

Consider The Source

Seems obvious but one of the most important things to understand is who is giving the feedback and what their motivations may be. Do not spend too much time digging but do take a few moments to pick apart why the specific source of negative feedback is negative. Reflect on the interactions you had with that person. Often times, negative feedback comes from a stark difference between the giver and receiver of the feedback. Differences in style, tone and disparate frames of reference are often behind negative feedback. Knowing some of the "back story" of the giver can help you put the feedback in perspective.

Accept Specific Constructive, Dismiss Vague or Ambiguous

When seeking feedback, always give room for explanation. That way you can get at the "color commentary" around what is driving the answers. When you get negative feedback, accept specific constructive comments. Those comments give you something to build on or work with. I recently had a survey on a project come back where I specifically asked about how we were managing time. The responder gave me a good rating (there were better choices) and then wrote that I needed to "build in more breaks." Regardless, the reason I did not build in the breaks  -now I know that is an important driver to the answer of that question. I can do something with that. On the flip side, you have to let go of vague, negative feedback. Let it sting, feel it but if the giver the feedback does not show you how you can make it better, then there is nothing you can do but shake it off.

Focus On Your Overall Feedback Versus The Outlier(s)

The tendency in this life is to focus on the one dissenter. People spend many fruitless hours trying to convince the one person who dislikes their work versus focuses on the many who do. Unless your overall feedback from a specific project is all negative, you need to spend more time on the positive feedback. Build on the good comments and responses. Look for ways to reinforce the relationship with those who like and understand your methods. On the same survey I referenced in the previous point, I had one bad overall review and it stung. I kept playing in my head the responses until I remembered that it was one out of 18 participants in the project. All the other responses were good. Some even gave constructive comments to help me get better while the one person who responded negatively did not take the time to tell me why. My time and effort is much better spent focusing on how to improve and move forward relationships with the other 17 people and let the one person go.

Feedback, both positive and negative, is a necessary function of doing life. However, feedback by its nature should always seek to improve both the receiver and the giver. The next time you receive negative feedback, take a few minutes to look for the ways it can improve you.

Monday, October 7, 2013


With less than 90 days left in 2013, I am feeling a lot of pressure, especially in my business. Every new project I do from now until the end of the year is pure profit so booking new business is a big priority. It is also a busy time for planning for 2014, so continuing to prospect, have conversations and send proposals for 2014 is also critical to end the year well and have a solid start to the new year that is quickly coming.

I don't know about you but it is often in times like this that I feel the most paralyzed. The ability to just... go, is often stifled. And while I've most spoken about this from a business standpoint so far,  by no means is this thought limited to work or career. Personal stuff needs our attention, too. The holidays are coming quickly and we all know that can be a landmine of opportunity relationally speaking.

So this post is not only an encouragement for you but a huge reminder for me. The following barrage of questions are to be answered by you (and me) as soon as humanly possible. The fate of our year depends on it.

What in your life needs some attention today?

Who needs to be followed up with immediately?

What celebrations have you been postponing?

How can you maximize the last few months of 2013 to ensure a strong finish?

Who in your life is desperately needs to hear from you?

What project is calling your name?

What can you do to get an even BIGGER jump on 2014?

How can you ignite yourself to just... GO?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Be All In or Leave

This faucet is funny, who would ever choose lukewarm? I'm sure there are some

Almost two months ago, I heard TED sensation and shame researcher, Dr. Brene Brown say something that moved me so profoundly I can't shake it, to this day. As she taught rom her bestselling book, Daring Greatly, she asked us to be courageous and engage in our lives and our relationships. She spoke eloquently about the lasting and deep damage of what I will call "the drift" in relationships.

Every person reading this knows exactly what I am talking about.

The lackadaisical hug and routine kiss from a spouse with nothing behind it.

The obligatory weekly call to your parents/sisters/you-fill-in-the-blank where there is no real interest in the information exchange

The "uh-huh, uh-huh, I know what you mean" empty words you get in return as you pour out your heart to your partner.

That pal who never gets around to calling you back yet swears he misses you and "wants to hang."

Surfacy chit-chat in hallway at the school function with a friend that ends with the promise to call or "get together soon."

While it may be easier to "hang on" and fake it, people need you to be honest. This reminds me of a painful but necessary split I had back in 2001 with a person who up until that time had been a great friend to me. While it took me years to understand and heal from the blow of the "break up," I am grateful she did it. It took courage for her to tell me her truth about where our relationship had gone from her point of view. I salute her honesty, even though it stung me for years. In the end, I was better off knowing that she was over the relationship - regardless the reason or how she severed it. She gave me the opportunity to have closure and move on with my life, without her.  She gave me a gift, when she could no longer be all in, she left.

To everything there is a season, including our relationships. It is perfectly fine for a relationship to come to an end and in many cases very healthy for all parties. We all deserve people in our lives who want to be there. We need to be connected to people who want to connect with and know us.  Our dignity, peace and growth as individuals depends on these truths.

Don't drift.

Be brave.

Ask for what you need/want/desire.

Be honest when you are no longer getting it.

Let people go.