What happens when you realise your path is entrepreneurship rather than employment? Lindsay takes up the challenge and shares an account of her journey as it unfolds…
Even thought my feet are killing me and I’d love to sleep for a whole day, my mind is whirring. It’s full of excitement, new inputs, ideas and directions. I’m at Heathrow airport waiting for my flight back to Amsterdam after yesterday’s business breakfast in London and several meetings subsequently.
I am SOOO pleased to be able to say that the breakfast event was a success. It was held the Perrier-Jouet room on the 38th floor of the Gherkin and the doors opened at 08.30am. It was a brisk and misty morning but the view was still amazing. After coffees and hellos to the 11 HR Directors attending (after 4 last minute drop outs), we sat down to begin.
I opened the event with a 15-minute talk to describe Mirror Mirror – what it was and where the idea came from. Preparation time spent on that talk must have been about 20 hours (seriously): preparing, rewriting, rehearsing and rewriting as if I’d never given a presentation! Yes, I was nervous. Kept trying to tell myself it wasn’t a big deal but that didn’t stop me feeling it was. I’d even watched TED talks about how to be a great presenter. That was a little humbling. Surely, I knew all this, but I must have been out of practice, or the content was too close to my heart – I was nervous and apprehensive.
Even the night before, I had tried desperately to convert my 3 pages of thick, small font text (with scribbles and highlights all over), into a simple bullet point mind map, knowing that the less you rely on your notes, the more eye contact and expression you can give to your audience. Both the mind map and the 3-page version went into my bag. I would decide if I felt ok to use the mind map in the morning…
What TOTALLY helped was coincidentally doing the Brandheart challenge the week before. It’s a fantastic, free 10 day programme to build and activate your personal brand (highly recommended – whether you’ve done this before or not). One of the first exercises is to create your elevator pitch, based on
- My name is…
- I specialise in..
- So that (target audience) …
- Can (benefits to them)…
As I tried this out, it came straight away. “My name is Lindsay Uittenbogaard. I specialise in delivering communication projects for leaders and teams so that they can interact with their stakeholders more purposefully and effectively.”
I almost cried actually, from the realisation that no matter how hard I’d tried to move away from internal communications, I was still in it – but this time doing it my way, on my terms.
At the same time, I knew that by opening my presentation a clear introduction like this, I’d start on really solid ground, and I’d feel confident.
So I did. And when I got up to speak, I did use the 3 pages of notes instead of the one page mind map, but by that point, I knew the points so well, I was able to just refer to them now and again.
My talk centred around why open communication, to build a shared reality, was important; and how the extent to which we have to balance diplomacy with honesty is a measure of how much engagement and alignment exists (or not) in the relationships at play. This metaphor helped:
Business is like trying to put the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together where the final image is the vision. Some of us have clearer ideas about what that image looks like, if at all. Some of us can see more pieces than others. But the pieces are changing shape all the time and we sometimes find it difficult to describe what the pieces that we see, look like.
Of course, in business it’s not that bad. We do get through it – and make a lot of progress – but the question posed was – “how much more powerful and competitive would we be if we had a better shared reality?”
People listened, nodded and learned about Mirror Mirror. Afterwards, there was a lot of positive feedback. Someone suggested that alignment isn’t actually the holy grail. He said that you can have a group of individuals masquerading as a team, and who each have their own agendas. What’s in it for them?
We discussed that in this situation, the value for the leader of that team is knowing at what points there are synergies between the team members and having those identified, then making sure they are leveraged.
We talked about marketing, about the best route to market potentially being via the Senior Leader onboarding scenario: there being a lot of benefit in compressing and improving the onboarding experience for them with Mirror Mirror.
Apparently, one of the guests at a different table from me was interested in going ahead with Mirror Mirror with his new team….
I was glowing. The breakfast was also important to retain the interest of my partners at the 3 Minute Mile. If my talk and the reactions to it had dive-bombed, the whole thing would have been in a very different place.
But it wasn’t. Warmth in my gut. Ideas whirring in my brain. Now back home to plan what the feedback would mean for me and my work over the coming month.
Mission accomplished J … for now.
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