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Lindsay’s In Business: PART 83. Finding my Voice 

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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…

It’s still too hectic. I’m getting caught up in too many things and am starting to resent people who don’t seem to understand that ignoring the pressure to keep the momentum going, the relationships, the confidence, and the SALES is counterintuitive.

Of course, when people say

“You need to stick to your prices”

“Just go at your own pace”

I don’t think they get it – AND they’re damn well right.

What I learned just a couple of days ago is that if you have too many things on your active To Do list, then you will get overrun (especially if you’re the kind of person to just carry on ploughing through everything, as I am).

The secret is to have a Planning list, a Backlog list and a To Do list.  Move things aside.  Some stuff can wait until next week.  See www.trello.com – super-easy online board for this very process.

My active projects list went down from 8 to 4.  I felt relieved.

Then I’m thinking, for Christs sake, this is just prioritisation – why don’t I DO this already?!

ANYWAY

My story this time is about a presentation I did in Berlin last week.   It was to an Internal Communications audience – and with that profession as a 15-year background, I’ve been mulling over why this profession is ailing.  It’s pathetic, actually, to keep hearing:

“Why don’t we have more budgets?”

“Why don’t we have a seat at the C-Suite?”

“How can we move our profession forward?”

It is my personal opinion that the role of internal communication professionals should be to support managers and leaders as communicators, in a facilitation capacity. That by ‘owning’ communication it’s just wrong – and serves to DISENGAGE employees.

I presented on this by ‘holding up the mirror’ at traditional employee communications.  I did that confrontationally and with some humour.  I said it like I see it – dead straight.

The reactions were weird.  Some very depressed looking faces and some compliments from the more senior people in the room.

But I was authentic and I believe the content.  Later, I posted a summary of that talk on LinkedIn and got TONS of positive attention for it: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/lindsay-uittenbogaard-1a653b_icc19-redesign-hr-activity-6595191772706557952-4SHB

And afterwards I imagined more content I could share like that.  I was in my own role – the Cheeky, Challenging Corporate Rebel that I am.

And what allowed me to go there?  Since we changed our business model, I’m not expecting people to hire me direct.  I don’t need to fit in anymore – I’m running a company that sells licenses to a tool and a process for practitioners to use with their clients.

People laughed at my jokes.

I could be expressive!

I enjoyed it : )

I found my voice!

Mirror Mirror – a comprehensive team alignment diagnostic tool and process in one, helping people align to strategy, as well as with each other.

Your story, our platform: If you’ve got a story and would like to share it with other Femflectors, please let us know. Femflection is all about transferring learnings to help others, be they big or subtle. We want to connect with your feelings, your learnings, your reflections or your hopes for the future – in blog or interview format. Express yourself here. Get in touch with us via anja.uitdehaag@femflection.com

For more content visit our website http://www.femflection.com

Lindsay’s In Business: PART 82.  Frantic exciting times

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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…

Hi again – can’t write for long.  Am on a train to Berlin – will be presenting at an Internal Comms conference tomorrow and I’ve got tons of work to do en route.  Everything is getting really hectic!

I can’t remember a more frantic time – I’m really having to get back to the old self-management techniques to moderate myself.

Don’t know where to begin – except that finally, I really know that Mirror Mirror will make it.  Every time I get the opportunity to present to someone with the new messages and business model, they love it!!!

“This is awesome, I can see so many places to use this.”

“Wow this is great – I know a few more people who’d like to see this.”

“Sign me up to the training – I’d love to learn more.”

And I am so pleased to have hit on two essential concept development insights during the whole message development process that will improve the saleability of Mirror Mirror 10 fold:

  • We need to appeal to the ‘top down’ budget holder mentality so they can be assured that what we do supports them.
  • We can talk about aligning people to the strategy AND with each other (rather than just doing the latter) – because we can and do indeed do that.

They do say that going into a creative process like text and imagery upgrades, leads to more questions and answers!

It has been a scramble to rewrite the ‘final’ key message set to incorporate these developments before everything is etched in our new materials – over the coming week – after months of preparation.

Meantime my graphic designer went off brief and missed my deadline so I fired him and I’m starting again. The reporting tool UAT process is being done rigorously but is taking a long time so I set a deadline of 1st November to have it ready to use (secondary issues can be sorted out later).

Am having lots of sleepless nights with a lot going around in my brain.  Need to crunch down and move past this.

At the same time and with absolute confidence in MM going forward, here’s what’s going on:

  • A pitch to an NGO in Nigeria via a delivery partner– they want a proposal to evidence the need for change – sent.
  • A previous client phoning back for another team run in January, then calling again a week later for a different team run under ‘emergency circumstances’ next month – in hand.
  • Twelve experts signing up for the training dates I’ve set up within 3 days of the courses going online because of referrals – confirmed.

A hugely exciting potential extension of our offer is a local university who have an organization-wide strategic alignment measurement tool for research purposes.  This would evidence which teams need Mirror Mirror. I’m talking to them about using it for our clients – just WOW.

I am looking at the year ahead and thinking about how to manage growth in a way that is healthy.

I did a P&L forecast for the next 5 years with best guesses of income and expenditure assumptions. It shows that BOY, if all goes well then we are sailing!

I am looking to recruit an Operations Manager on a profit share basis because when we start delivering we need to be READY but I can’t pay a salary now.

I reflect that possibilities to develop only come up when the opportunities to do so present themselves:

  • I wouldn’t have looked at moving to the business model where we sell MM as a licence to practitioners if it wasn’t for our new reporting tool being so robust and difficult to copy (previously I felt the process was too easy for someone to walk away with)
  • I wouldn’t have considered training up practitioners in every country if it wasn’t for the insight that virtual training and delivery were possible
  • I wouldn’t have thought global rollouts were possible if we hadn’t developed the capability to train and deliver virtually
  • I wouldn’t have thought we could cover a scope to align people to strategy as well as to eachother if this university tool hadn’t come up to raise the right questions….

Sorry – bit disjointed this time!

Mirror Mirror aligns people to the vision and strategy, and with each other.

Your story, our platform: If you’ve got a story and would like to share it with other Femflectors, please let us know. Femflection is all about transferring learnings to help others, be they big or subtle. We want to connect with your feelings, your learnings, your reflections or your hopes for the future – in blog or interview format. Express yourself here. Get in touch with us via anja.uitdehaag@femflection.com

For more content visit our website http://www.femflection.com

Lindsay’s In Business: PART 81. What a view! 

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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…

Previously, I described the experience of setting out in business like climbing a mountain. Just when you get to the top, you see another peak, then another – and it goes on. While mountain climbing is exhilarating, daring and risky, it’s also cold, difficult and hostile. But I just accept that’s the nature of the journey when you are creating a new market for a new idea: discovery, adaption, reorientation, and learning.
But lately, I’ve been stressed, disturbed, finding it difficult to sleep. I recognise this feeling. It’s what happens when several ‘fundamentals’ about the business are being re-thought. A lot has been subject to a much-needed challenge, it’s been thrown up into the air and hasn’t yet landed.
What set this off was a repositioning. Rather than offer Mirror Mirror as an alignment process to clients, we decided to commoditise it. To sell it as a tool that identifies and measures alignment gaps for HR, Learning and Development, Communication and Performance Management practitioners. We would build a network of practitioners who can use this tool to add value for their clients. Although that business model is quite a common one and how Mirror Mirror was envisaged to run from the start, we couldn’t go ahead with it right away because we needed experience, case studies, and credibility. We also needed an advanced – and expensive reporting tool that puts the research concepts and our designs into action to the highest level of professionalism. But above all, we didn’t know for sure, exactly how to articulate Mirror Mirror, how to describe alignment, misalignment, Mirror Mirror – why and for what?
We needed all of those things to attract the confidence of intermediaries, expressed in top class marketing collateral and it’s taken the past three years to put all of that together – experimenting with market reactions on the way.
This new direction sounds straightforward but over the past two weeks, but while creating copy and design briefs to update our customer facing materials, I began seeing more and more subtle implications of this new direction and more clarity about the whole field of alignment itself. I wrote about that here. Even got it a short version of it published in the Drucker Forum blog with a co-writer here. Fascinating stuff!
But behind the scenes, more parts of the business are affected. Terms and conditions, pricing, processes, training materials, the marketing strategy …. and how to relay all these changes to my existing network. Also, the process of finalising our new reporting tool has been going on for MUCH longer than anticipated. Such a cliché. It’s taking a lot of time to test and double test every aspect of its functioning and output. I should have expected that.
In parallel, the money I had to invest in growth is running out and time is getting short. I’m holding off on people I planned to get back to with our new brochure after the summer. Pretty soon, I’ll miss the window of attention before Christmas. I’m getting back to contacting people and while my pipeline isn’t getting signed contracts, it’s starting to fizz with a much stronger level of interest than before.
The detail and time to do this felt overwhelming, and THERE’S STILL JUST ME WORKING ON THIS ALL THE TIME. Sure I have a business partner in Berlin, but that’s just a few hours a week, At times like this, I yearn for someone to support me full-time and take the weight off. I think of ways to enlist more help on other terms…
Luckily, I had a call scheduled with Steve from ReesMcCann – my fantastic new business partners to develop Mirror Mirror for virtual teams. Fabulous guy – solid think partner. He talked me down and advised me simply to list my deadlines (a promised presentation pack, a conference pitch, my target training dates, and update materials and website) and everything that needs to be done to make those happen.
Gradually, the pieces began to fall in place. Pricing – on the ‘back of an envelope’ – the basic idea in an hour. A design company in Argentina, briefed and organized with their own sub-deadlines and details – done in 2 hours. The timetabling of my other actions to meet my deadlines – another hour. More user acceptance testing – this is very detailed stuff that sits well outside of my comfort zone – but I got the issues organised as to which ones relate to which test case and how we will manage this – 4 hours. Feels good to make this kind of progress in a day.
And that’s the antidote. I’m better again. It’s all organised. This can work.
The next morning I’m meditating, and a clear visual emerges in my mind. I’m standing on the top of a snowy mountain looking down on to a circular lake that is surrounded by green. Nobody else is there. I hadn’t seen it before, and I want to be there.
Then I realise.
The goal was never to get to the top of the mountain. The mountain was a vantage point, a way of finding a place to grow and flourish. It’s a great view, but finding somewhere warmer, safer, more productive and sustainable is the purpose of the trip.
Some people start their businesses already where they need to be. Ready market, right network, luck. I didn’t have that. I had to find my way.
I used to feel bewildered just looking at LinkedIn. Should I be building relationships with influencers – which ones? Which webcasts should I sign up to with so many relevant topics? Where do I start with reading up on stuff in my field? Which forum should I best spend time in?
Now I know where to focus.
BANG. Just this afternoon, the Energy company now 11 months into that lush promised multi-team job just today admitted – after 3 emails prior confirming go ahead – that there’s been a change of personnel. The job is off. If the new guy is interested, the work could happen in Q1 … although the door is slightly open, it’s starting from scratch. All those hours of making proposals, all that income, not happening.
I had sensed this was coming. Over the subsequent hours my gut took on its own low pitched, monotone cry. Thanks to it being a Friday and the neighbours hosting an immensely lovely drinks evening, my gut got distracted by salami, cheese and prosecco.
In the back of my mind is the unnerving thought that my gut is wrong, and that Mirror Mirror is just a shiny perspective that doesn’t stick as a product. I’m constantly evaluating that thought against feedback from others – trying to see ‘reality’, because the longer this goes on, the more I have riding on it. Do I really have the right challenge? Have I got a confirmation bias? Trust in my common sense and experience wins. I continue, fuelled as ever, by over-optimism and the love of bringing this concept to life.
Reflecting, I see the false promise of that big Energy company contract had at least given me the faith to scale this last mountain and get to the prepared state we are in now. As I start my way downhill to the lake, I’m ready to do what needs to be done. Maybe I can even win that Energy company back.

Mirror Mirror is a tool that identifies and measures alignment gaps in teams.

Your story, our platform: If you’ve got a story and would like to share it with other Femflectors, please let us know. Femflection is all about transferring learnings to help others, be they big or subtle. We want to connect with your feelings, your learnings, your reflections or your hopes for the future – in blog or interview format. Express yourself here. Get in touch with us via anja.uitdehaag@femflection.com

For more content visit our website http://www.femflection.com

Lindsay’s In Business: PART 80. Shiny new avenues

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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…

It’s 6.45am. I’m trying to meditate but my upset head keeps butting in. Normally I tune in to my senses after a yoga stretch and focus for 10 slow breaths. No thoughts. Just observing senses. Today I can’t get beyond 3. My anxious mind keeps trying to solve the discomfort that’s been creeping in over the past few days. Small things that people have said have brought doubts to the surface:

• In discussion about what kind of company will want to buy Mirror Mirror: “But how many companies are prepared to truly empower their people? Not that many.”

• As I look at the new reports coming out of our new software system I recall: “It’s only the very brave line managers who will want to look under the carpet to see what’s actually going on.”

• As I look at the website of someone competing in the same space and see their global footprint, the output of their well-funded marketing machines, a voice in my own head says: “What happens if Mirror Mirror starts getting a lot of business? What makes you think YOU’VE got the abilities to take it forward?”

It’s now 8.30am and the girls have just left for school. I’m feeling insecure and at my desk making a call to a friend who is happy to be a sounding board now and again. He used to work for McKinsey and now works for an investment firm. Very high- quality sounding board… “You need to get data,” he says. “Focus on what the buyers like – they’re your early adopter market. Just like how the lean feedback loops work, you need to ask your customers and facilitators key questions. How did Mirror Mirror help you? What would make it more helpful.” I take the advice. Gratefully of course, it’s fantastic input. I capture and diarise doing that – while knowing the numbers of people we’re talking about is small, that so much has changed about Mirror Mirror that the reference point keeps changing. But it’s still a great, objective reality check – ironically. But I’m still upset NOW, more conscious that the massive elephant on my desk has a big sign on it that reads ‘WHERE ARE ALL THE CLIENTS?’ God, after all this time – where is my faith I the potential of Mirror Mirror coming from. My biggest fear – being deluded – sits red hot by my side.

9.30 am and I call Anja. You know – Femflections founder Anja. She offers balanced, supportive and constructive coaching from a place of real experience. I’m having a coffee while talking with her, hearing the reassuring viewpoint that Mirror Mirror is just going to be a long journey because it’s such a new product. That what I’m experiencing is the journey of an entrepreneur and no, I’m not mad. As usual, she makes a link to more of her contacts. With these two helplines, I’m ok to take my next call.

It’s 10.00 and the call is scheduled with Mr Doe, let’s call him. He’s a long-time communications expert in the public sector, very well connected, exactly my target market. Maybe I should reschedule that call to when I’m on top form, but no. Having had a couple of very good conversations in the past, let’s hear what he has to say. Summarised, this was his response: “I’ve been thinking about Mirror Mirror. It’s exactly the kind of tool we need to plug a gap in the offerings to clients. Let’s pitch this to the executive board and run some trials with our clients. Give me a draft pitch pack and we’ll work on it together beforehand.” We spoke for an hour. What a fan.

And now … what do you think? YES! I’m up again!!! The upset has disappeared. Those doubts are a silly memory and I’m all fired up. Not because I think this guy is a silver bullet – and it may not happen with his agency of course – but his kind of reaction and the other reactions I get like that make sense. Get the offer right and Mirror Mirror has huge potential.

It’s 1.30pm and I’m on the phone to a good friend / business contact in Germany. It’s an advice call I set up in my state of unease the day before – not knowing who would be available to talk and when. Now I’m a bit worried I might be taking up her time unnecessarily. She’s in the US but insists we go ahead. We speak for 30 minutes. She helps me see things in context – ironically. Here’s the context: For the past 4 months I have focused on getting the business ready: software, positioning and strategy. I consciously let go of business development and now that we’re nearly ready to go, I am returning to the pipeline and staring in dismay at the lack of activity. So, of course, there’s no activity! We’re just starting on a revised strategy. I know why the last strategy didn’t get us the sales we were looking for. I’ve adapted the business model and here we are. She also said, “Sit with it. Sit with the doubts. Don’t fear them, they’re telling you something – and in this case it’s that you need to focus back on business development.” Wow – how profound – don’t push away a feeling because you are scared of it. It’s just a feeling. I am so privileged to be able to call up experienced, top class advisors for free at short notice. I spend the afternoon regrouping and getting on with it, ticking stuff off my list. This business model is so much clearer and more focused. The motivation and flow returns.

It’s 3.40 and the girls are back from school. It’s time to take a break see what’s for dinner. While doing that, I can’t help but reflect on all the other avenues I’ve been down that started out looking shiny but only led to brick walls:

• The agency in London right at the beginning that were going to partner up but didn’t want to sell – I don’t blame them now!

• Approaching the BIG Four and other such players, thinking they’d lap up an idea like this – but getting no response

• Targeting agile – only to find Mirror Mirror is a great complimentary offering but isn’t yet something that agile coaches see as being in scope for them and their work

• Seeing Mirror Mirror could be offered as a training programme, and getting on the portfolio of a huge training provider, but not getting much interest (yet) – perhaps because they’ve priced it out of the market?

• Targeting merger and acquisitions – only to learn that the decision makers in these deals don’t care about alignment – they don’t spend on this stuff

• And the countless other clients / consultancies who have promised shiny door openings – I can think of 5 immediately – and you get part way down the path and then they just don’t return calls or mails.

I don’t regret going after those avenues because of all the learnings they provided. Yet I hope this current track isn’t another false start. Again, I check the logic. Yes, this direction makes sense. I’m still in the game. Then a friend of mine sends me a newsletter from James Clear. He writes weekly with 3 ideas, 2 messages and one question. The first idea is this: To improve, compare little things. -marketing strategies -exercise technique -writing tactics To be miserable, compare big things. -career path -marriage -net worth Comparison is the thief of joy when applied broadly, but the teacher of skills when applied narrowly. Hail all generous advisors! Thank you!

Mirror Mirror is a tool that identifies, measures and addresses the alignment gaps that drag down performance.

Your story, our platform: If you’ve got a story and would like to share it with other Femflectors, please let us know. Femflection is all about transferring learnings to help others, be they big or subtle. We want to connect with your feelings, your learnings, your reflections or your hopes for the future – in blog or interview format. Express yourself here. Get in touch with us via anja.uitdehaag@femflection.com

For more content visit our website http://www.femflection.com

Do you know what you don’t like about yourself in a conflict situation?

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“In business, when two people always agree, one of them is irrelevant” – William Wrigley.

Conflict is a normal part of any healthy relationship. Nobody can be expected to agree on everything all the time.  Make conflict resolution the priority rather than winning or being right. Maintaining and strengthening the relationship should always be the first priority. Say what must be said in a way that is not damaging the relationship. Pride does not belong at work!

Suggestions for managing and resolving conflict:

  • If you have a problem explain your thinking and ask the other party to explain his/her thinking. Focus only on the issue, not on the person. Separate facts from opinions and assumptions;
  • Take the time to really define the problem: describe the problem and its impact, avoid direct blaming remarks, make the problem concrete and specific;
  • Listen for what is felt as well as said. Let the other person finish, don’t interrupt, ask clarifying questions, acknowledge the other person’s feelings and show respect;
  • Use contrasting technique if applicable: “I don’t want to appear that I haven’t heard what you said, because I have. I do want to express a different way to look at the situation”;
  • Let the person know when what you are about to say is difficult: “this is a bit difficult for me to say, but I do want to let you know how I see the situation”;
    If you get emotional, pause and pull yourself together;
  • Focus on the common goals, priorities and problems on both sides. Find wins on both sides, give in on little points, show respect;
  • Keep the open conflict points as concrete and specific as possible (the more abstract it gets, the more unmanageable it is);
  • If you cannot agree on a solution on all conflict points, agree on a procedure to move forward;
  • Know when to let go of something: agree to disagree, disengage and move on;
    If needed, take the situation to the upper level for further calibration or decision taking.
    Other learning suggestions:

We often don’t like in others what we don’t want to see in ourselves. Are you up for a challenge? Write down five traits that really bug you when you see them in others. Be aware that these traits are your “hot buttons”.

Your story, our platform: If you’ve got a story and would like to share it with other Femflectors, please let us know. Femflection is all about transferring learnings to help others, be they big or subtle. We want to connect with your feelings, your learnings, your reflections or your hopes for the future – in blog or interview format. Express yourself here. Get in touch with us via anja.uitdehaag@femflection.com

For more content visit our website http://www.femflection.com

Can you be truly successful without making some friends at work?

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Given the increasing demands of work, it is likely that you are working long hours on projects with your colleagues. The intensity of the work can result in camaraderie and the formation of strong bonds – a feeling of ‘we are all in this together’. Therefore, it is not surprising that some work colleagues may consider you to be more than just a coworker and try to extend the relationship to your personal life.

It is hard to be strict about never mixing work and personal life since you may find that there are a few people at work whom you both respect as colleagues and get with on a personal level. Therefore, it would be a shame to cut yourself off from the possibility of cultivating them as friends because you feel that would be unprofessional and/or you like to keep your work and personal life separate.   If you have adopted this philosophy ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you feel this way?
  • Why is this important to you?
  • What do you gain from this approach?
  • What do you lose out on?

If you feel uncomfortable with any invitation to socialize either physically or virtually it is best to have a face-to-face conversation with the person concerned. Do not respond to a friend request on Facebook directly on the app/platform. Ask the individual why they sent you the invitation  Remember to use a tone that is conversational rather than judgmental. ‘I saw that you sent me a friend request on Facebook, I’m curious as to why’ or ‘By the way, I saw your friend request on Facebook, that was a surprise’ are better than ‘Why did you send me a friend request on Facebook?’ Actively listen to what he/she is saying to you; your aim is to get the other person to open up to you so you understand his/her motives, then you can decide how you want to respond.

If you still feel awkward with having a personal relationship say that politely; thank him/her for the invitation and say that you normally prefer not to mix business and pleasure. However, it may be that once you have heard the reasons, for example, the person does not know many people in the area and would like to meet up occasionally or feel that you have mutual interests that you can share via social media, you will feel able to give this a try.   It is fine to tell him/her that you feel a bit awkward since this is not something that you normally do, but will give it a try to see how it goes. This signals to the other person that there is a chance that you will ‘unfriend’ him/her at some point if you continue to feel awkward.

Your story, our platform: If you’ve got a story and would like to share it with other Femflectors, please let us know. Femflection is all about transferring learnings to help others, be they big or subtle. We want to connect with your feelings, your learnings, your reflections or your hopes for the future – in blog or interview format. Express yourself here. Get in touch with us via anja.uitdehaag@femflection.com

For more content visit our website http://www.femflection.com

A SENSE OF SELF

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The more we try to be something else—what our parents told us we should be, what our jobs demand us to be, what other people seem to think we should be—the more the desire to just be ourselves grows stronger.

In other words: Our authenticity comes under pressure as soon as we are challenged to act in a way that is foreign to our nature.

As long as we are able to find our own voice, adapt our behaviors and at the same time maintain our personal values and integrity we will function well.

The key to maintaining your balance of self and to become the most authentic version of yourself is simply focusing on what makes you happy by regularly checking in with yourself.

Taking care of your self is the most powerful way to begin to take care of others. Your wellbeing is the platform from which you serve others.

Embrace your individuality and be true to yourself!

Take care!

Your story, our platform: If you’ve got a story and would like to share it with other Femflectors, please let us know. Femflection is all about transferring learnings to help others, be they big or subtle. We want to connect with your feelings, your learnings, your reflections or your hopes for the future – in blog or interview format. Express yourself here. Get in touch with us via anja.uitdehaag@femflection.com

For more content visit our website http://www.femflection.com