Digging Your Freedom – Erin Weed (Founder Evoso Inc, Author, Speaker)

Erin Weed - Paper Napkin Wisdom

Erin Weed – Paper Napkin Wisdom

Erin Weed is the founder and CEO of evoso, a consultancy firm that helps people to develop speeches. She has been an entrepreneur since college, when the murder of one of her sorority sisters motivated her to scrap plans to work in television production so she could teach young women about self-defense and personal safety in a way that was empowering rather than terrifying. She created a self-defense seminar program that she eventually sold before founding evoso.

Erin believes strongly that authenticity is the force that will move the world forward and that conviction is reflected in her Paper Napkin Wisdom: “Speak your truth, change the world.” Through personal and professional experience, she has recognized that attempting to maintain the façade of perfection builds walls between relationships while showing vulnerability fosters connections.

Some leaders may fear showing vulnerability to their team. We’ve learned, however, that there’s a strong impact of vulnerability. When leaders let go of that expectation energy and lead by example, the ripple effect will lead to others speaking their truths. It is then that a group is most prepared to adapt to changing dynamics.

Erin’s company uses a “Dig, Plant, Grow” approach to developing speeches for clients. The “Dig” portion often startles those accustomed to the impersonal business standard but it is here that much of the most important work is done. By taking an honest look at themselves, a person can begin to identify what it means for them to honor their life and live their truth.

This became apparent, perhaps more than ever, when evoso was helping a client named Ashley develop a speech about coming out of the closet. Through this process, they began to realize that we all have a “closet,” meaning a truth about who we really are that we do not want to share with the world for fear that others will freak out. What usually stands between us and this authenticity is a difficult conversation – a conversation that, in some cases, might hurt others. And yet, when people have these conversations, they quickly begin to see the benefits. Erin says, “If there’s so much fear before, there’s so much freedom on the other side.”

For Ashley, this conclusion resulted in a speech so successful the video of it went viral with five million views on YouTube. For Erin, this conclusion only reinforced the importance of speaking one’s truth. “A closet is no place to live,” she says. As to identifying one’s truth, Erin encourages others to identify their one-word mantra – their “Dig word,” as she calls it. By doing this, a person can turn to their “Dig word” when things around them shift and reevaluate their goals.

Erin’s “Dig-word?” Authenticity.

Listen to the conversation with Erin here:

Predictable Leadership, Predictable Success

Order Or Chaos Directions On A SignpostI remember having my mind rocked a few years ago while attending an elite entrepreneurs-only education program at MIT and Verne Harnish introduced the notion that Leadership, when done right, means that we are beating a drum like the heartbeat of the company. Part of that is consistency in our message, he said. Verne suggested that we’re doing it right when our teams can finish our sentences.

Sometimes this is also the case when the leader in question is disliked by their team. But if the leader is consistent, predictable in their message, it’s amazing how far they can go with their team. The team may dislike the leader, but the predictability and consistency is actually respected. Put simply, if the heartbeat is irregular, the organization has got big problems.

Think about the number of times you’ve heard something like: “so-and-so is a jerk, but at least I know where I stand all the time.”

Predictable Leadership is to the first ingredient in Predictive Success.

Here’s the harsh truth – the bottleneck is always at the TOP.

Leaders, that’s you … by being predictable you remove yourself as an obstacle (the bottleneck) to your team getting things done. Your team will get far more done as a result since their leader is not meddling, criticizing, or sabotaging your team’s confidence in themselves.

I know this flies in the face of what we imagine a great leader does; the traits that come to mind are almost those of a superhero. Dynamic, persuasive, compelling, and able to exert enough force on every situation to save the day. The reality is, however, that sometimes our need to be the hero is the very thing that holds our company back.

It’s time to shed the cape – let your team be the hero, give them the rope to save the day. Let’s face it, they’re great at what they do, which is why you had them join your team. Many of them have skills you simply don’t have. Others do stuff that you just don’t like or want to do, but they love it. So why do you get in their way? Get out of the way and let go of the superhero complex by becoming predictable from their perspective.

Perspective is the important word here. Leaders need to understand predictability from their team’s perspective, not just their own. In 2004 a couple psychologists researched employees and found that acknowledgment, encouragement, and structure around getting work done as determined by the team, not the manager/leader. In situations where all this existed the team exceeded performance standards and reported higher job satisfaction.

Predicable Leadership means consistent, clear articulation of goals and objectives, a shared set of core values that are brought to life by the actions of everyone in the organization every day. Repetition, consistency, and structure are the keys to establishing this kind of system of Predictive Leadership in the company.

In this structure, teams feel highly motivated because they have a great deal of ownership over the task, the outcome, and every point in-between. This is the most important distinction between delegation and empowerment. Here teams feel truly empowered, and they are powerful when they feel this way.

Teams that have Predictable Leadership are tight in tough times, they are responsive to challenges, they predict problems before they occur, they are nimble and able to shift toward opportunity, and most importantly they grow stronger over time.

Think about true teamwork and collaboration as a muscle, and like all muscles they need to be exercised. The only thing they need is a stable environment in which to accomplish this.

That’s the Leader’s job. Provide the consistency, structure, and Predictable Leadership your team needs and watch amazing things happen when you get out of their way.

When you’re doing it right, they’ll finish your sentences, and support the structure that you’ve created for them.

And this structure will set you free.

It did for me.

I used to come back from each new conference with a bunch of ideas to shift how the company worked. I would exercise my creativity and change processes with the motto “if it isn’t broke, I’m not trying hard enough.” I was the bottleneck in my company, no question.

Rules worked for everyone in the team, except me. I kept breaking them.

Amazingly, when I got more consistent – our results responded and became better and better. The more I resisted the need to fix every challenge that my team encountered, the more faith they KNEW I had in them – and they picked up the cape and became the superheroes.

I’m not saying that I don’t learn and grow, I spend time studying Leadership daily. That said, I can’t throw the systems and processes we have as a team out the window without the buy-in from the team. More importantly, I can’t keep shifting approach and direction relentlessly and expect my team to even know what I’m talking about. So, I don’t keep changing gears, direction, or messaging.

Setting a structure and becoming more consistent has paid off and given me a huge amount of freedom and leverage.

What do You Stand For? – Syed Sultan Ahmed (Founder, Edumedia India)

Syed Sultan Ahmed - Paper Napkin Wisdom

Syed Sultan Ahmed – Paper Napkin Wisdom

Syed Sultan Ahmed is a first generation entrepreneur and a real change maker. His organization, EDUMEDIA, is one that enriches the lives of children and works to educate and provide life skills to children all over India. He is a charismatic and passionate person who truly loves what he does.

In his Paper Napkin Wisdom, Sultan says: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” It’s his belief that the purpose and rational behind what you do are extremely important. All the small steps you take on a daily basis, he says, are adding up to a very large goal. For him, that goal has been to help children and by keeping his focus there, he keeps himself grounded and gives himself a clear vision of where he’s headed.

[Tweet “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”]

Sultan feels that he picked up on the importance of focus at a very young age. He tells the story of how, as a child, he and his family had a family Doctor who would spend about half an hour with them when they were ill and charged roughly $50. He recalls that when he was younger they had to take his grandmother to a specialist for a heart ailment and though he only saw her for 5-10 minutes, the visit was far more expensive than their family Doctor. He asked his mother why the specialist cost so much when he only saw his grandmother for a small period of time and she explained that it was because he was a specialist. It was a lesson that would become an ingrained part of him. Sultan says that as a child he’s always asked himself what it was he would be a specialist at.

Sultan says that his biggest satisfaction comes from working with children, so it’s only natural that would be what he became a specialist at. The world values specialists, he says. In hindsight, Sultan thinks that he sounds like he was very strategic, but he says that he just followed his heart and that having his focus and following it in this way is what has gotten him to where he is. He loves working with children; it doesn’t feel like work to him. He loves what he does and feels blessed. He says that one of the best parts about working with kids is that when you look at their face, you immediately have feedback. You don’t need surveys or interviews, the look on a child’s face tells you what they’re feeling immediately.

Sultan says he’s a very hands-on person and likes to think that he leads by example. When he wants his team to be involved in a particular way, he leads by example and makes a conscious effort to show them the result of what they’re doing. He talks about an event he brought a colleague to a few days ago where children where painting pictures and he told her “For all you know, we have just created a painter,” He asked one of the kids if they enjoyed doing their painting and they lit up. He told his colleague that light in the child’s face was what they were working for. “The gratifications are there to be seen,” he says “If your eyes and ears are open to see it.”

[Tweet “The gratifications are there to be seen, if your eyes and ears are open to see it.”]

Past Paper Napkin guests like Brian Price have talked about the importance of focus, especially when it’s regarding something you love. It is through diligent focus and through making himself a specialist that allows Sultan to accomplish as much as he does. Add his extreme passion to that focus and you have a truly winning combination.

Listen to the conversation with Sultan here:

Three Pillars to Lead By – Chris Eldridge (Director – 4Impact Group)

Chris Eldridge - Paper Napkin Wisdom

Chris Eldridge – Paper Napkin Wisdom

Chris Eldridge is a man with almost twenty years of experience in a wide range of industries. He is the kind of person who constantly does his best to go above and beyond. As he joins us on Paper Napkin Wisdom, Chris shares the personal mantra he uses to push himself forward and explains why these elements are important to him.

The pictures Chris has drawn on his Paper Napkin all represent a different aspect of his mantra, the three pillars of how he works: Lofty Goals, Positive Impact on Others, Fun Along the Way. Each pillar is an essential part of how and why Chris works the way he does.

The first part of Chris’s napkin is represented by the snow-cap mountains he’s drawn. He says that by striving for the snow-cap mountains and looking over the horizons, you see what’s possible. Keep your eye on the snow cap mountains, he says, because that’s where the great view comes from. The idea behind this is that when you keep your eyes open and looking for opportunity, when you operate on a swivel perspective, you can see the possibilities around you.

The next aspect important to him is being a positive impact on others. Chris describes himself as a very people oriented person. He’s an extrovert, people feed into his creative process. Though he, of course, wants to be successful in business, he says that he also wants to be able to look back in future and see that his journey wasn’t just about him. He wants to “Do it with people, not just to people,” he says. If he makes sure that his journey is one that’s good for not just him, but the people around him, he feels he can be truly proud of how and what he did. It sounds like a simple idea, but it’s something you have to be deliberate about. Chris has regular reminders for himself to keep these things in mind and he says that you may find you have to reinforce and reinvent your business to keep it on track.

The last element of Chris’s mantra may seem a bit ‘whoo whoo’ but it’s an important one. Fun Along the Way: having fun through the working journey. Chris believes that in the modern world, we can take things way too seriously. You need to enjoy yourself along the way, he says. He’s spent 15 years in the corporate world and he feels it’s a pretty sterile environment. As we’ve talked about before on Paper Napkin Wisdom, we spend a large portion of our life at work, so it’s important that we try our best to enjoy it as much as possible. Chris believes it’s important we have a bit of fun in the office, not just on weekends.

The images Chris has drawn around the different pillars of his mantra are important because they’re a visualization of the aspects they represent. Chris is a very visual person and for that reason, he’s chosen to represent the things that are important to him in a way he can understand and take meaning from. There’s such a value to that. In taking the time to find out what his core values are and synthesize them in a way that makes sense to him, Chris has made his values into a solid mantra to live by.

If we each took the time to do that- to sit down and really discover what our core values are and turn them into a way of living, what might that do for us? How would it change the things you do? If you were to create that mantra today, a compass directing you to your true destination, where on the map might you find yourself?

What would your three pillars be?

Listen to the conversation with Chris here:

 

My Personal Dashboard

2007-porsche-911-turbo-cockpit-dashboard-588x441I had a great conversation, if only by text, with the incredible Alex Charfen this weekend and he made a comment about metrics to measure in my personal life, which got me wondering about creating for myself a personal dashboard.

The concept of a dashboard in my business is not a new thing to me. In fact, I’m a huge proponent of and speak to entrepreneur audiences often about having a set of leading indicators that can be measured on a daily basis to track your company’s performance in key areas. As entrepreneurs, we often get caught in the trap of tracking our success based on the performance of our financial statements annually, quarterly, or perhaps even monthly. Some entrepreneurs get stuck in the trap of tracking success based on the balance of their bank accounts.

Both methods of measurement are downright dangerous. First, the financial statements are lagging indicators. Meaning they are indicators of what HAPPENED in the business, and the damage has already been done. So if something went wrong, you’d see profits shrink, expenses grow, or assets dwindle. In any of those circumstances, you’d then have to “figure out” what went wrong – while it’s entirely possible that it would still be happening at the time of the discovery and would keep on happening until it was discovered. This becomes an awfully expensive way to solve problems.

In the case of using the bank account balance to measure progress – well that’s just flawed. Without understanding the basis for how the money got there, where it’s set to go, and what’s outstanding the bank account balance is almost the same as driving completely blindly.

Better than both examples, is to look at leading indicators of future performance. Things like new leads generated this week or other pipeline metrics, progress in production cycles, inventory on hand, quality control measures, AR and AP measures, Labor Efficiency Ratio, and others form the basis of weekly measurements that any leadership team can use to modify behaviors and determine issues before they hit the Income Statement or Balance Sheet.

To be clear – I’m not saying that analyzing the Income Statement and Balance Sheet are unimportant or irrelevant, but leading your business solely on this basis would be like driving a car by only looking at the rearview mirror. You have to be looking forwards through the windshield that you get when you have strong leading indicators.

So back to the texts from Alex.

Alex suggested that there were metrics in my personal life like time, energy, effort, and focus that could be controlled. He added that there were others like experience, intelligence, wisdom, skills, and motivation that were mine forever and could never “reduce” in value.

With this incredible revelation I started to wonder out loud whether or not cash, success, health, and happiness were lagging indicators and I had been focused on some of the wrong things in my life as a whole. What an incredible thought. What if instead of just measuring those – I cleaned my windshield and started to measure the leading indicators of my life, just like I do in the businesses.

So, starting today, I’m putting time into creating a weekly dashboard where I measure how I performed along the following leading indicators. To build them, I’ve started with my Core Values, which act as filters for everything in my life. My Core Purpose (my personal Why?) also plays a role in these filters. Finally, to take a page from what Alex and I were discussing, I’m going to measure how I’m adding to the “bank” that truly cannot be taken from me or diminish in value over time.

Understandably, some of these are binary “yes-no” type measures. Others will develop over time.

Here’s what I’ve got on my Personal Dashboard so far:

  1. Drive – did I do more with less never quit until I delivered?
  2. Impact – was I a difference maker?
  3. Approach – was I balanced in my approach? Was family first? Did I have fun with what I did?
  4. Leadership – did I take responsibility for everything?
  5. Passion – did I fully engage with everyone I encountered this week?
  6. Purpose – did I help make small changes that can make a big difference?
  7. Time – how did I spend my time this week, did I waste time on frivolous activities?
  8. How much time did I invest in Leadership, My Health, My Family, My Wife?
  9. Did I invest in My Education/Ongoing Learning? My Experiences? My Wisdom/My Network? My Skills? My Motivation?
  10. Energy – how well did I manage my energy this week?
  11. Effort – where did I put my effort?
  12. Focus – where was my attention? On Business? Personal? Family? Community? Other? Wasted?

I know there’s a lot there and it will get more refined in time. As it is with all things, this is just the start.

Peter Drucker once said that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. I’d go further to say you can’t improve what you won’t measure. From now on, I’m making sure that I know how I measure up so I can start to lead myself.

What would go on your Personal Dashboard? Where will you lead yourself?

Better yet, how will you help lead your team, your network, your community, and your family to become similarly empowered?

Structure and Balance – Jack McDonald (Partner, Leeza Distribution Inc.)

Jack McDonald - Paper Napkin Wisdom

Jack McDonald – Paper Napkin Wisdom

Jack McDonald is a partner at Leeza Distribution Inc., a leading supplier of premium surfaces for counter-tops, sinks, vanity tops, and wall cladding in showers. In addition to his professional work, he also volunteers as a Scouts Leader and serves of Director of Dix Milles Villages, a non-profit organization that strives to better the lives of thousands of artisans and small business people in developing countries. This mix of business in community involvement is a perfect example of the kind of balance we talk about in entrepreneurial circles and it is balance that Jack talks about with us today.

In his Paper Napkin Wisdom, Jack shares a piece of advice his grandfather gave him years ago. He says: “Never get too busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” Like Jack, his grandfather was a successful entrepreneur. He was involved in a great deal of social activities in Montreal in the 1940’s and 50s and was able, as a result of his success, to provide his children with anything they wanted…except his time.

Jack believes that his grandfather gave him this advice when he saw his grandson start on his own entrepreneurial journey. Jack started his first business at 17 and he thinks that might be what prompted the conversation. Though he has always remembered his grandfather’s advice, Jack hasn’t always followed it. He freely admits that in his 20s, he had an unbalanced life that put a lot of emphasis on working on his businesses. He thinks it was really on 6 or 7 years ago that he realized the wisdom in his grandfather’s words and realized how easy it is to become a one dimensional person.

Previous Paper Napkin guests like Damon Gersh, Kevin Dee, and Jim Sheils have talked about the importance of balance. If you don’t strive to have that balance, to empower your team and your business enough that they can function without you, you won’t be able to have a successful exit strategy. As Jack points out, many businesses grow to the capacity of the entrepreneur and then die because they haven’t put the right structures in place.

There will be times in your life where things are going to be unbalanced, but when it comes to the business side of things, it’s really a function of choice. Those choices revolve around your willingness to delegate, schedule, and keep yourself disciplined. Jack says that it’s easy to get drawn into the conversation at home of “I need to do this for the business, the business is how we maintain the way we live” but he warns that that conversation is a damaging one if it’s invoked too often because at the end of the day, it implies that you value your business over your family.

It’s easy to say you value your family but unless you show that you do through your actions, it won’t matter. What we do is more important than what we say. What we do leaves a legacy behind us. To those who say balance is something that can’t be done for their situation, Jack has one reply: “Well, you probably haven’t really tried,” He says that you have to sort out what’s busy work from what’s important and that if you find yourself swamped after the first 2-3 years of business, there’s probably something wrong with how you’ve structured it.

Take the time to schedule, to evaluate, and to ask yourself what’s really important. If you don’t have balance, the only thing that’s holding you back from achieving it, is you.

Listen to the conversation with Jack here:

Better Listen – Patrick Thean (Entrepreneur, Author, Coach)

Patrick Thean - Paper Napkin Wisdom

Patrick Thean – Paper Napkin Wisdom

Patrick Thean is a truly inspiring guy. He is a successful serial entrepreneur who has started and exited multiple companies but he is best known for helping companies accelerate their growth. Patrick is exceptional at getting executive teams and their department focused, aligned, accountable, and working smoothly as a team to achieve their objectives.

In his Paper Napkin Wisdom, Patrick shares a piece of advice he offers his clients. He says: “To listen better, be truly curious. You might just learn something.” Patrick has found that most leadership books will tell you that listening is the key to being a better leader, but few will actually tell you how to listen better.

When a client pressed Patrick to know what his secret to being such a good listener was, he couldn’t give an answer right away. When he really thought about it, he realized that it was because he pushed himself to be truly curious when he was talking to a client. When he’s approaching a situation, Patrick goes in wondering what he’s going to hear or learn that he’s never heard before, he’s truly curious.

He used to tell his clients to ask more questions, but Patrick noticed that when he told them to be more curious, the questions would come naturally. If you’re actually curious, you’ll have no trouble formulating questions. Curiosity is different than just interest. Curiosity comes from a place of humility, of admitting that there is more for you to learn.

Curiosity is an approach that works, not just in your professional life, but in your personal life as well. Patrick says that when you know someone really well, you tend to assume you know how you’re going to react. When you assume you know how someone’s going to react, it limits your opportunities to learn something new and can cause big misunderstandings.

Patrick gives and example from his own family life. He shares how he and his wife thought their daughter didn’t want to go to a meeting with her mother because she was shy, but through being curious, he learned that it was not because she was shy but because she didn’t like the disruption to her schedule. Simply by being curious, he learned that this daughter was a process and plan oriented person who appreciated prior notice and didn’t really enjoy spontaneous additions to her day. He hadn’t known that before and one moment of curiosity rewarded him with a new level of understanding his daughter.

The more you know a person, says Patrick, the more likely you are to assume you know what the other person is thinking. It’s his belief that these miscommunications that arise from such assumptions might be the reason you often see business partnerships break up at around 7 or 8 years in. Do you no longer get along with your partner because they’re suddenly a jerk to work with or because you each assume you know the other’s reasoning and motivations without asking?

To be curious, says Patrick, you have to start with a belief that you’re going to learn something. That’s where it begins. Curiosity begins from a position of humility and wanting to understand, wanting to learn. For Patrick, it also starts from a place of caring. His caring leads to curiosity.

Before his client approached him and asked about how he listened, Patrick hadn’t been consciously curious, it was something he did naturally. Now, being curious is something Patrick does actively. “Get curious,” he says. When he notices a miscommunication with someone, he asks himself if it was because he wasn’t curious. Was he distracted by something else? Was he in a rush? He makes a conscious effort, if he finds he’s not curious, to slow down. If you do that often enough, it becomes an automatic response and you can keep yourself present with the people you’re talking to.

When you work with people you need to be effective, not efficient, says Patrick. In choosing effective over efficient, you will ultimately achieve more. Sometimes you have to slow down to go faster. As previous Paper Napkin Guests have said, people and being able to really connect with people are vital factors in the success of any company. The next time you find yourself talking to someone, try to approach them from a place of curiosity. It works well for Patrick, his clients, and he believes it will work well for you too.

Listen to the entire conversation with Patrick here:

 

Get Patrick’s Book Here:
Rhythm: How to Achieve Breakthrough Execution and Accelerate Growth

Take a Step

There is no substitute.

While you can use all the attraction techniques in the world, there is no better way to create life-changing and earth-shattering momentum than by striding off in the direction of your goals.

Most people don’t realize that when we start things we set the inertia of life into motion that usually allows us to keep moving toward our goals. The best way to get to the gym, for example, is to start moving toward the gym. Chances are you’ll get there.

While this is mostly true for small tasks, some argue that the same doesn’t hold true in bigger projects that require months or years to complete.

Let me make it simple: those people are wrong. It’s just a matter of stringing a few of those steps together and ensuring that each day you take a step in the direction of your goals. This is what it means to find success in the journey, not the destination. It’s about ensuring that each day you spend deliberate time moving towards your goals.

Here’s the thing about that too: you can collaborate, delegate, empower, and entrust all you want. But if you want to take it up to the next level (whatever that means to you), you have to execute too. Every day.

I remember running my first long distance running race, amazed at just how much support there was for every step I took, or every challenge I would face. There were people giving us water, sponges soaked with water, energy gels, and food. There were even people with drums and horns and all kinds of amazing noise makers to help support us on our way as well. It was incredible.

But running the race was up to me. I had all the support in the world, but I had to take the steps – all 13 plus miles worth.

Doing that first long-distance run was an intense experience, and there were lots of reasons why I never should have been attempting it. I had just landed the night before from an international trip. I had also injured myself three weeks before the race day. The truth is the day before the race I had talked myself into quitting. I told myself that no one would mind and that there was no reason to push myself with all the cards stacked against me.

The injury, the lack of sleep and jetlag, and the dehydration was all too much to overcome.

The next morning I woke up pretty sure that I wasn’t going to run the race. A part of me wanted to, but most of me had quit. The oddest thing happened though, because soon afterwards emails, texts, and voice mails of encouragement started to come in for my race day.

Now I knew I had to go. I couldn’t disappoint all those people supporting me by quitting without trying.

I hadn’t realized it at the time, but an incredible thing happened when I set out to start the race. I was 100% guaranteed to finish it. The very moment that I set out to do it, there was no way that I wasn’t going to finish the race. The only thing that would be a question was how long it would take me.

It is the same for all our goals. If we start moving toward them, the only thing we don’t know is how long it will take us to complete them. But if we keep moving we will complete them. Success is a journey, not a destination.

I call the people who supported me before I left for the race and at the race itself my spotters. They were there to protect me, encourage me, and push me when I needed it. None of them were there to do it for me.

But a weird thing happened. When I showed up, courage showed up.

So it is with execution as a leader. Leading a team and being consistent in execution is key to success.

Take the time today to decide to take a step, each day, in the direction of your goals. Pick one, the most important one to you, and keep at it … every day. Block out 30 minutes on your calendar each day this week and make progress on your number one priority. Don’t forget to recruit some spotters – become accountable to them. Make sure they they can help you show up every day.

There’s no way to avoid it.

There is no substitute.

All you need is a step.

Make it a great day!

Are you Alpha or Beta? – Paige Zinn (Principal – Jennings & Company)

Paige Zinn - Paper Napkin Wisdom

Paige Zinn – Paper Napkin Wisdom

Paige Zinn is the Principal/Owner of Jennings, a healthcare marketing firm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. For the past year, Paige has been reading a book called Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. The book is meant to be a daily read and it provides basic reminders of ways to live your life. One of these reminders has been particularly impactful for Paige and it is that reminder that she shares with us in her Paper Napkin Wisdom.

In her Paper Napkin Wisdom, Paige says: “Make the everyday sacred.” She says that this could also be phrased as “Make the ordinary sacred.” This idea is one that really stuck Paige when she first came across it because she realized she never did that. For the past year, Paige has made it her mission to try and live up to this goal; it’s something she thinks about every morning.

Paige says that she’s a notorious Beta mode person; meaning that she’s often multitasking and taking things off her ‘To Do’ list without really being present or putting much thought behind her actions. Paige says that she was moving through both her professional and personal life this way until she realized she was missing out on life. Life, she says, is in the details. She now makes a constant and consistent effort to remember to stay in Alpha mode; Alpha mode is where the real thinking, listening, and attention to life occurs.

Paige is the first to point out that she’s not always successful in putting herself in Alpha Mode, but she’s making progress. Alpha mode, she says, is about being 100% present, no matter what you’re doing. Whether you’re talking to an employee or coworker, or simply writing a grocery list, if you’re 100% present in that moment, you’re in Alpha mode. It’s a state of mind. It isn’t about what you’re doing; it’s about how you’re doing it.

Operating in Alpha mode has caused Paige to shift from concentrating on getting her list done to ensuring that she feels good about everything she accomplishes because she’s completely present in that moment. It’s not the big moments in our life that define us, she says, it’s how we act and react to the smaller events. This is something she believes at a visceral level and she’s incorporated it into how she works with her team at Jennings.

Before shifting her perspective, Paige said she was standoffish and aloof at work, but she’s working to change that and change the way she moves through life. She’s found it really rewarding and says that it feels like what she should be doing.

Like her fellow Paper Napkin Guest, Michael Caito, Paige speaks about the importance of ritual to maintaining these life changes. Before her feet hit the floor in the morning, she says a prayer for what she’s thankful for and does the same thing before she falls asleep. Through these rituals, Paige sets aside time each day to do something that’s important to her. It’s a great way to start the morning and she’s found that it sets the tone for the rest of the day.

I personally found this conversation with Paige particularly impactful. I think it ties in really well to the place where I got the inspiration for Paper Napkin Wisdom. Like Paige, I tried to take time each day to read and write good thoughts, but I found it difficult to find things to read that really inspired me.

When I found myself in conversation with fellow entrepreneurs, I often ended up jotting down things they’d said or things that had struck me on paper napkins so I could use them for that reading time in my day. It was through going through that process that I discovered the power of a paper napkin and decided to do my part, to share that power with all of you. I hope that it is, and continues to be, as impactful a journey for you as it is for me.

Listen to the conversation with Paige here:

Shifting Perspective – Paul Kennedy (CEO Biarri Networks)

Paul Kennedy - Paper Napkin Wisdom

Paul Kennedy – Paper Napkin Wisdom

Paul Kennedy is CEO at Biarri Networks; a company that provides optimization software for the design of fiber optic networks. As CEO, Paul leads the development and delivery of his company’s design solutions. He’s a leader in optimization and in his Paper Napkin Wisdom, Paul shares how we can optimize the way we communicate with people.

In his Paper Napkin Wisdom, Paul says: “They’re not trying to be difficult; they’re trying to do their job.” Paul says it’s been his observation that people get frustrated with buyers on the consumer side when they’re trying to sell and not being received well. They start to take it personally. You have to remember, he says, that the buyers aren’t trying to be difficult; they’re trying to do their job. It’s their responsibility to protect their company from spending money badly. If you stop and take a moment to try and get into the mindset of the buyer, to understand what they’re trying to achieve, it will often decrease your stress and help you approach them from a more effective angle.

If you can consciously recognize when you’re taking things personally and falling into that Us vs Them mentality, you can take a step back and make and effort to understand that risks the person you’re dealing with is trying to mitigate. What might be holding them back? Is it that they feel they’re spending money on something unproven? Is there too much uncertainty for them to be confident in the contract? Figure out what’s holding them back and then appraise what it is you’re selling to them. You might be pitching it in the wrong way or perhaps you simply haven’t addressed one of their concerns.

This philosophy is one that goes further than the buy/sell relationship. It’s a philosophy that applies to any kind of relationship. If you’re trying to communicate with someone, it’s important to try and consider things from their perspective. Taking things personally prevents you from getting personal with someone. You have to make a conscious effort to shift perspective to how you’re going to solve things and determining what’s driving the other person. If you know that, you can tailor your negotiations to something that makes sense to them.

As we’ve talked about previously on Paper Napkin Wisdom, people prefer to do business with people they know and trust. You have to build those relationships, create positive inertia, and follow up. The best companies are the ones that find a way to deliver on a personal level. Make sure to stop and ask yourself: “Where is this person coming from? What is it I’m offering that isn’t working?” Sometimes, the answer to these questions may be things you have to seek out directly from the person in question. Visit them and ask what is concerning them so you can tailor your approach.

When we take the time to consider things from a different perspective and resist falling to a position of placing blame, we remove stress and make ourselves more effective. This is true of both business and personal relationships.

Like Robert Wagnon said, “Most people are fighting a heroic battle we know nothing about.” Shifting our perspective is essential to developing human capital. Think about your experiences with people in the last few months. Do you find yourself falling to that Us vs Them dichotomy? If so, it’s time to start reminding yourself to take a step back. They’re not trying to be difficult; they’re just doing their job. It’s your job to try and see things from their perspective and move forward.

Listen the conversation with Paul here: