Imagine you’re an employee. OK, not hard. And imagine that you’re getting a million emails about things that don’t really seem to matter, or pings on your collaboration platform about random, useless stuff you don’t really care about. Also, not hard because that’s mostly what people think of when they think of employee communications.
Spamming colleagues is not the same thing as communicating
Shoving information that you (or your boss, or HR, or IT, and so on) down people’s throats is not employee communications. I mean, it is, technically speaking, and that sure is the way most companies go about it, but it’s not really very helpful to anyone.
It’s kind of a waste of your time, because no one’s going to read or listen to what you’re saying, and you’ll probably just annoy them, and then they’ll be less likely to listen to you ever, ever, ever.
Why is this important?
Still people need to know stuff, right? Probably, so it will be really helpful to start by asking ‘why.’ In subsequent articles, we’ll explore how asking ‘why’ will affect what, how, and when you communicate, but for now, let’s keep it high-level…
Let’s say your CEO, or another senior leader in your company, has decided that people need to know about some changes to the business model. She’s preparing a long boring email, or thinking of doing an all-hands meeting to tell everyone.
Ask yourself ‘Why’ do people need to know about this change? At first, it might seem pretty obvious, because the CEO said so. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll be able to help her get the message out in a much more powerful way. One that cuts to the chase, and helps people understand why this change is important.
You are creating a ‘line of sight’
There is one really important reason why we communicate with employees -- we want and need them to understand how what they do every day at work helps the company achieve its big picture goals.
We want employees to have a clear line of sight from me, here in my role, doing my thing, to the phenomenal growth and success of the company as a whole. When people ‘get that,’ they are better, happier, more productive, innovative employees who can actually contribute to that phenomenal growth in a meaningful way. Cool, huh?
‘Why’ applies to everything in communications
It’s actually the same principle with all those (potentially) boring emails from HR or IT -- why are they important? Because usually they include some action that employees are supposed to take to help the company run better. ‘Do this, don’t do this, do more of this, go here, just so you know…’ Good communications should always have a ‘Call to Action.’
If you get in the habit of asking yourself why something is important? How does it fit into the big picture of our company’s success, it will shape your thinking about how to approach actually communicating whatever it is.
Think first, then communicate
Weird that there’s all this thinking about communications that has to happen way before you ever communicate anything, huh? Yup. That’s the really important part.
As your company grows, and as you grow in your role, you’ll want to create strategies and plans for what and how to communicate, but for the moment, it’s helpful to just start thinking strategically. It’s an easy way to start organizing and prioritizing employee communications in your brain.
It’s good for you to ask yourself ‘Why’ it’s important to communicate something, but be careful about asking your CEO ‘Why’ a lot of times. Sometimes it can be perceived as challenging or combative, two qualities CEOs generally aren’t crazy about. Over time, you will learn how to extract this information from them in a subtle, ninja-like way. Promise.
If you missed the first article in this series, you can check it out here!
This is an ongoing series, so stay tuned for the next installment.
Hmmm… You actually already have a job that keeps you pretty busy, and now, as your company has grown, someone (who shall remain nameless) has asked you to also pick up employee communication. They may also have called it employee engagement, or internal communications, or something that sort of sounds like that.
The only problem is...you’re not quite sure where to start, and you’re not entirely sure you’ll know if you’ve been successful, and sometimes it all seems a little overwhelming, if you’re being honest…
Employee Communications is a thing
Fear not. The truth is that in larger companies, employee communications is actually a whole job unto itself. In fact, there are whole teams that do nothing but oversee employee communications. This is because how employees understand their role in a company — how what they do every day affects the bottom line — has a big impact on that bottom line itself.
Think about when you’ve been new in a job, and haven’t really been entirely clear on what’s going on, how things work, or even what it is exactly that you’re supposed to be doing. When you don’t have that bigger picture, that broader context, you can’t perform at your best — it’s a frustrating feeling!
Once you understand how all the pieces fit together, you can, to use a technical term, crush it. You do your job better, faster, smarter and with more energy and enthusiasm than you did when you were, well, kind of clueless.
Employee Communication plays a big role in helping people crush it at work
So, now you can start to see that employee communication is kind of a big deal. And that means that you have a big opportunity to be a total rock star at work.
But wait, there’s more.
Want to know specifically how employee communications affects your company’s bottom line? It has to do with the connection between employee communication and, what is often called employee engagement. Employee engagement is a much larger topic that we’ll address is future articles, but basically, it’s a way of measuring how much better and harder someone is willing to work.
That may sound kind of transactional at first, but here’s the thing -- employee engagement is linked to some big ways that companies either make or lose money when it comes to their people, including:
So you can see why companies take employee communication (and engagement) seriously as they grow. However, for smaller businesses, it’s not usually feasible to have a dedicated person doing this role, which is where you come in. See? Total rock star opportunity.
There’s something else though — it’s not just about the productivity and the profit. We spend a lot of our lives at work, and employee communication and engagement just makes that time better. Helping people thrive at work, and contributing to a great company culture is a very important role, and one that hopefully, by now seems more like fun, and less like just. More. work.
In this series of articles, we’ll demystify the basics of employee communication, and share some ‘tricks of the trade’ so that you can feel confident and enthusiastic in helping your company to be a better, stronger, happier place to work.
Have questions? Concerns? A persistent, prickly feeling of panic that keeps you up at night? Fear not; this is a safe space. You can either ask them in the comments, or just email us directly. We’re here to help.
There’s no manual for how to build a business. Well, to be fair, there are lots of them. Like, a bajillion books on entrepreneurship, management, leadership, and business. Many of them are great, but none of them are the manual for how to build YOUR business. This means you’ve got to figure most of it out on your own.
When I was trying to figure out ‘my manual,’ one of the of the first places I looked was podcasts. I found information, insight and perspective, and also something else I didn’t even know I was looking for -- community.
This blog series has explored the dangers of isolation in solopreneurship, as well as potential antidotes, like co-working, coaching and also group coaching. There’s a common thread in all of these; the imperative of building, and maintaining, community in solopreneurship.
Community can live in weird places!
It may seem counterintuitive that one of the secrets to creating community can begin with a relatively solitary activity -- driving around, doing chores around the house, or going for a run while listening to a podcast. But that’s exactly what I did, and it’s been one of the greatest sources of support in my solopreneurial life.
One of the best podcasts I discovered in my search is called BizChix, and it focuses on female entrepreneurs, as the title may imply. At first, I loved the smart content, the on-air coaching calls, the interviews, the practical tips, and the warm, encouraging tone of its host, Natalie Eckdahl.
Like many podcasts, BizChix has a free facebook group, where listeners can connect, ask questions, engage with the host, share tips, etc. It didn’t take long before I joined the facebook group, and found a really great community there. There were women in there with all different kinds of businesses, from all over the world, and at different stages in their success, but one thing everyone had in common was that same warmth and generosity of spirit that's such a hallmark of the podcast.
When you find your people, put yourself out there
After listening to the podcast consistently for about six months, I surprised myself, and bought a ticket to the show’s inaugural conference, Bizchix Live. It felt totally weird to buy a plane ticket to go to a conference across the country, where I would know absolutely no one, just because I liked a podcast! But off I went, and it was a total game changer for me, and my business.
BizChix Live was amazing! The group of women I met were exactly what I had kind of imagined they would be -- warm, smart, diverse, passionate, vulnerable, ambitious. I immediately felt at home.
However, the conference was just the beginning. The facebook group became an easy, natural way to keep up with the female entrepreneurs I’d met. Several of them became dear friends, and since then, one woman and I have business ‘ biz buddy’ calls about every eight weeks to support each other. The podcast has also taken on a new dimension in my life — once I really felt like I was part of the BizChix community, it became ‘My’ podcast.
Isn’t that all so weird? Can you imagine that happening even five years ago? Some random woman on the internet, I buy tickets to a conference I know very little about, and make lifelong friends, colleagues and business connections? It does seem bizarre, but the story goes on.
About six months ago, Natalie, the host, posted in the facebook group that one of her mastermind groups was planning a retreat in Boston, and did anyone know of space that might be suitable to hold their sessions. I live in Boston, and happen to have an amazing office space, and so, without hesitating, I replied, c’mon down!
Several months later, a small flock of BizChix turned up at my office, and it was so cool, again, to see this virtual connection manifest IRL. Being able to give something back deepened my connection to the community.
Just recently, I was at another conference that a bunch of BizChix were also attending, and we had a breakfast meetup. I made some cool, new contacts and re-connected with some familiar faces as well.
Community is the silver bullet
I’m sharing this with you because I am a better, stronger, happier, and more resilient business woman because I sought out, found, and then invested in community. I showed up, put myself out there, and said hi, this is me, this is who I am, who are you?
We have more opportunities than ever before to make our relationships in the online world real, and to nurture them into genuine connection. Community is, 100%, the silver bullet in battling isolation as a solopreneur, and in the 21st century, be prepared for it to show up in unexpected places!
In our last post in this series, we talked about the impact that working with a coach can have in fighting isolation, and leveling-up your business. However, another powerful way to access community, inspiration and direction is group business coaching.
In group coaching, your coach facilitates a small group, usually 6-8 clients, on a video conference call. The group usually meets several times a month, and clients can be supported with monthly private coaching check-ins as well.
What’s in it for me?
When I first heard about group coaching, I thought ‘no way.’ Why would I pay money to hear other people get coached? I want my coach to be solely focused on me, my business, my challenges, my needs. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and for reasons I never could have anticipated…
A coaching group gives you a cohort, a community, a built-in network of people like you, who are in the trenches alongside you, hustling, sweating, building their businesses. They get you. And when you watch them work through an issue they are having, it is very often similar to something you are wrestling with yourself. You get all the benefit of being coached to a solution, but with an objectivity that is, quite frankly, nearly impossible to obtain when you’re the one on the hotseat!
Plenty of time for you
Your coach’s job is to make sure that everyone on the call gets what they need that day -- the inspiration, the insight, or the resolution to a thorny practical issue. However, being part of a group is like a force multiplier for your business. I often find that I get more from group calls than even my private sessions with my coach.
There’s efficiency in working as a group; you gain perspective on everyone’s challenges, as well as your own. Even if the issues aren’t relevant to you that day, they almost always will be at some point soon, and then, voila -- you know exactly what to do! This is key -- I often hear solopreneurs struggle when sticky questions crop up in their business, and it’s partly because they’re not immersed in a community feeding them the answers every day.
There’s also an amazing bond that comes from being with your group on these calls. Offering suggestions and encouragement in the chat box, and feeling like you are part of their journey and they are part of yours. People in my coaching groups have become some of my dearest friends -- I am invested in their lives, and in the success of their business. Isn’t that what fighting isolation in solopreneurship is all about?
You are amazing!
One of the best kept secrets about group coaching is what it does for your own confidence. As you get to know everyone, you come to admire and respect them as people, as friends, as entrepreneurs, and vice versa.
You will almost certainly come to believe that these people are impressive, smart, capable human beings. So when you see them wrestle with mindset issues, accurately valuing their offering, or managing a sales funnel, it will surprise you. You’ll think, ‘But they’re amazing — how can they possibly doubt themselves?’
Then you realize that they are thinking the same about you.
And then you realize that you are also a smart, capable, impressive human being, and you suddenly feel ready to conquer the world!
Have you ever been part of a group coaching experience? What has been the most valuable part of coaching with others for your business?
I have a confession to make
This is the third article in a series on isolation in solopreneurship, and the truth is, I rarely feel lonely or isolated in my business.
Co-working has been huge for me, and I’ve had another secret weapon as well -- even before I actually started my business, I’ve always had a coach.
I’m lucky; I started working with my current business coach in my twenties. Years later, when I was getting ready to leave the corporate world behind, I hired her again to help me make the transition to owning my own business. Having a champion by my side, someone I already knew, liked and trusted was a big advantage in having the courage and confidence to make the leap.
Your coach shines a light for you in the dark
However, if you’ve never had a coach, their role can seem kind of mysterious. What do they actually ‘do’? How is it different from a therapist? Can’t my friends cheer me on from the sidelines?
Now that I’m a certified coach myself, I often find myself trying to answer these questions. Sometimes when I talk to potential clients, they think my role is to give them all the answers — like a sports coach, as if I have a secret playbook that will help them win the game.
That’s not how personal or business coaching works, and actually, you wouldn’t want it to. The real magic of coaching is having someone by your side to shine a light in the dark for you when you feel lost. It is far more valuable for an entrepreneur (or anyone, really) to feel empowered to solve their own problems than to feel reliant on an ‘expert’ or a coach.
Of course coaches offer ideas and perspectives that help you solve challenges, but for a solopreneur, having someone beside you, who has only your highest good in mind (and will hold you accountable for it!) is a game changer in fighting isolation.
I have friends for that...
At first, people sometimes think that this is something a friend or partner could or should do for you -- for free! But in fact, that’s not their job. The people who are closest to you can’t help but have opinions, views or agendas about what’s best for you. It’s their job to support you, but a coach’s job is to be objective, completely free of judgement, and have only your best and highest good in mind at all times.
My coaching sessions with entrepreneurs often focus on helping them to ask the right questions, examine the resources at their disposal, and make decisions about how to clear the road blocks between where they are and where they want to be. Friendship and partnership are two-way streets, but when you hire a coach, you are investing in a relationship that is all about you, your business, your dreams.
A funny kind of alchemy
Coaching is, actually, a bit mysterious... on the one hand there is a structured way of working together, and on the other hand there’s a funny kind of alchemy that happens during sessions. Sometimes it’s the ‘a-ha’ moments, sometimes it’s flashes of inspiration for how to solve nagging problems, sometimes it’s just being seen, heard, and feeling much, much less alone.
I know for certain (like, about a million percent certainty) that I a better, happier, wiser person, businesswoman, leader, and coach because I've consistently invested in having a coach. My business is stronger, and I've avoided countless pitfalls I doubtless would have stumbled into if I'd insisted on going it alone.
Private coaching -- working one-on-one together, is amazing, but it’s not the only way to get coaching support for you and your business. Group coaching is another really powerful way to beat isolation -- check out our upcoming post on the topic!
What’s been your experience working with a coach? How has it helped you and your business? How would you describe the power of coaching?
I’ve been overwhelmed by the response to the first article in this series -- ‘One is the Loneliest Number: The Dangers of Isolation in Solopreneurship.’ Clearly, the topic has resonated deeply with so many entrepreneurs working to build businesses, and struggling with all the mindset challenges that working alone can bring.
This series explores solutions to the loneliness that often plagues solopreneurs, so I’d like to share one of the factors that has made a huge impact for me in building my business -- co-working.
When I first ventured out on my own, I had a perfectly good dining room table at home, fast internet, and a laptop, and it would never have occurred to me to pay for a co-working space.
Many people who work from home report feeling the lure of laundry and dishes. I’ve always had the opposite problem; I open my eyes and my laptop in the same breath, and then don’t look up again until it’s 4pm, only to find that I’m still in my pyjamas, unshowered and hungry. I used to wonder where the day had gone, and then feel a little depressed that I hadn’t gone to the gym or brushed my teeth.
Still, I couldn’t see the value in paying money to go sit somewhere else, at a desk that wasn’t even mine, surrounded by strangers. It seemed sort of desperate, sad, and like a waste of money.
Then one day, an entrepreneurial acquaintance who was working out of the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC,) invited me to visit for lunch. I had never heard of CIC, but quickly learned that it is iconic in the Boston startup world. Next door to MIT, it claims to be home to ‘more startups than anywhere else on earth,’ and is one of the first innovation centers in the country.
When I visited CIC’s dedicated co-working space for the first time, my whole world changed. I suddenly realized that you aren’t really paying for a desk and use of the odd conference room -- you are paying to be part of a community. Perhaps it’s the nature of being an ‘innovation center,’ but CIC is exceptionally focused on creating an ecosystem of entrepreneurs that take their responsibility as members of the community seriously.
Not all co-working spaces are created equal; I know I’m lucky to be part of such an awesome community. However, the shift in my mindset from ‘working at home’ to ‘having an office’ is, I believe, relevant to many solopreneurs.
When I joined CIC, I voluntarily started to commute an hour each way -- I take the bus and then transfer to the subway, at least three days a week. I use the time to listen to podcasts or audiobooks, brainstorm business ideas, mentally plan my day, and sometimes just stare out the window and day dream. My commute has become one of my favorite rituals as an entrepreneur. More than once, I have caught myself, walking from the subway station to my office, smiling for no reason, just happy to be part of the rhythm of the city.
I love the feeling of walking into my ‘office’ and seeing familiar faces. I usually sit at the same desk, and near the same group of people. I consider them my co-workers, and if I’m out of town for several days, I will often get a text from one of them asking where I am.
Some days I go in, work all day and leave without ever actually talking to another person, and still feel happier and more alive than if I had done the same thing sitting in my house. Other days I relish walking around the co-working space saying hi to people, and stopping for coffee chats in the kitchen.
Of course, there are definitely other business benefits to being part of a co-working community; the relationships I’ve developed, clients I’ve met, and the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of my customers’ needs have all been vital. There are never-ending events and workshops, so I’m constantly learning. I also draw inspiration from other entrepreneurs facing the same challenges as me.
Certainly the routine of brushing my teeth and leaving the house every day to go to a co-working space has been helpful in beating isolation, but I believe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s the bus ride, maybe it’s the coffee chats, maybe it’s just being surrounded by other entrepreneurs. I suspect it’s a combination of all of those factors that has made me better at dreaming up creative solutions to business problems, and helped me maintain a healthy perspective on the highs and lows of building a business.
It turns out, I'm not alone in this discovery; recently the Harvard Business Review published its findings on the value of co-working in combatting isolation, and with some pretty compelling statistics -- 84% of respondents reported that working in a co-working space improved their work engagement and motivation. Most also reported being able to concentrate better due to fewer distractions compared to working from home or in coffee shops.
There are more shared workspace options available than ever before, and clearly, the demand is growing. Co-working spaces are generally month-to-month memberships, so it’s easy to try one out and see if it works for you. They also often offer different pricing tiers depending on how often you use the space, so you can still control your costs, and your schedule.
For me, the investment has been a game changer, and I don’t know where I’d be in my business if I had stubbornly refused to leave my dining room table.
What’s your experience of co-working? Have you found a balance of ‘home’ and ‘office’ time that has worked for you? Do you love working from home and don’t really get why anyone would want to go to an office? What works for you?
This is the second in a series of posts about the dangers of isolation in solopreneurship, and how to combat them. Read the first article here. If you have tips and tricks that have helped to keep you a happy, thriving solopreneur, please share them, and we may include in a future post.
Don’t go it alone -- join our group!
Due to popular demand, we are about to launch a new group membership program called Solopreneur Connection -- we'd love to have you join us! Click here to learn more about the program, and to submit an expression of interest.
We’ve been so pleased to see our clients getting such value from working with Dewpoint Communications -- and in some cases, even just working with us to articulate their Mission, Vision and Values statements has helped their business to leapfrog ahead.
Recently, we sat down with Tish Hicks, (pictured below) CEO of the V.O Dojo, to talk about how working with Dewpoint Communications has changed the way she talks about her voice over training offering, and the impact it’s had on her business.
The V.O Dojo, based in Burbank, CA, has been training actors pursuing a career in the voice over industry to since 2011. Tish’s own extensive career as a voice over artist has made her a highly sought-after instructor, and the Dojo has been steadily growing.
Last year, it was time for Tish to think about where she wanted to take the company next. She was building her team, exploring partnerships with other artists, and looking for clarity around what the V.O Dojo stands for to help guide these relationships.
As with each Dewpoint Communications Mission, Vision and Values development engagement, Tish and Victoria began by exploring the company’s purpose in the world -- why does it exist in the first place? Tish’s vision for the Dojo turned out to be the answer to the questions she was asking about the future of her business -- and even some she hadn’t thought of yet.
“Remembering that the true heart of the Dojo is ‘aligning people with the power of their own voice’ helped me realize that the value of our programs is much deeper than learning the nuts and bolts of doing voiceover,” recalls Tish.
“I think the most eye opening part of this work was taking full responsibility for articulating the vision clearly. I had a stumbly year of hiring, and wanted go back to the basics so I could learn how to support my team.”
“When we first started unpacking the Mission, Vision and Values, honestly, part of me was like, oh yeah, I’ve got this -- while it was happening, I didn’t quite understand how impactful it would be. And as we went deeper, the vision got stronger and clearer.”
And as Tish got clearer on her vision, and more confident articulating it in her marketing efforts, an interesting thing began to happen.
“The next time we ran one of our intro workshops, I was approached by several young women who were feeling extremely disempowered in their own lives --and especially, politically. The idea of learning how to access the power of their own voice, and bring that into the world, was magnetic to them.”
Once Tish started to align the way she described her offering to the market, she naturally began to attract clients who were not specifically pursuing a voice over career, but definitely did want to learn how to ‘align with the power of their own voice.’ This opened up a market segment for the Dojo that Tish had never previously considered.
“One of these women came to the workshop, having hated the sound of her voice for her entire life, and left with a whole new understanding of what was possible for her. She signed up for the full year of training!"
This clarity of purpose and vision has, in turn, given Tish renewed focus and ease around how to manage her own team, and other partnerships.
“It has really allowed me to remember that the Dojo’s vision is my vision, and that I can trust in what I am creating. Now when I bring people on, in whatever capacity, I know that I am inviting them to participate in Dojo vision for a very specific purpose. This has created a sense of ease and transparency that been really helpful.”
Working with Dewpoint Communications has also helped Tish step into her role as leader in a new way.
“I now better understand that I am responsible for creating and maintaining the gravitational force that will keep someone in orbit, and in full connection with the Dojo, and this has been a game changer. Every interaction I have in developing and maintaining someone as part of the team means that I need to strive to embody what I am asking them to be.”
So what’s next for Tish Hicks and the V.O. Dojo?
“There have definitely been a number of new opportunities that have opened up that I never could have foreseen -- in part because defining our Mission, Vision and Values statements has allowed me to better focus our marketing efforts. I’m more confident now in what differentiates us, and I know that how I want people to feel when they interact with the V.O Dojo.”
“The Mission, Vision and Values work I did with Victoria has reminded me that this is the core of what people are responding to, and it has given the V.O. Dojo a whole new universe of possibilities to explore!”
If you'd like to learn more about how working with us to articulate your company's Mission, Vision and Values statement can benefit your business, feel free to get in touch.
I've become convinced that isolation is a silent dream killer for solopreneurs. Working alone is like the opposite of ‘groupthink’ -- but no less destructive to a small business.
You know the story, a small, service-based solopreneur works out of their second bedroom, or maybe the occasional Starbucks. They plug away, always on the hunt for clients, ‘doing all the doing,’ reading the right business books, constantly working ‘in’ the business, not ‘on’ the business and just hoping they’re getting it right. They worry about revenue, that they’re working too hard, and ultimately wondering if it’s all worthwhile -- whether they might not be better off working for someone else...
Whenever I hear solopreneurs report this kind of grind, I’m almost certain that the root of their frustration and anxiety is prolonged isolation. Why? Because the number one challenge that all entrepreneurs share is mindset. The laundry list of common issues includes imposter syndrome, burnout, inertia, creative blocks, anxiety and depression.
And it’s no wonder. Building a business brings up everyone’s deepest fears and insecurities -- am I good enough? Will anyone pay me what I think I’m worth? Is there a sustainable market for what I’m offering? Will I have consistent revenue? None of these are helped by sitting at home alone, toiling away in isolation.
Entrepreneurship is a team sport, which doesn’t mean that you have to hire a staff, but it does mean that you need community. Here’s why:
That laundry list of mindset issues? They’re a lot easier to manage when you know you’re not alone. When you have a community of peers, you realize that anyone building a business who doesn’t have imposter syndrome is playing it too safe, and at the expense of their bottom line. When you’re growing, you’re always going to be doing new things that you’ve never done before, so it’s a good idea to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable. This is a lot easier to do when you have other entrepreneurs -- people in the same boat -- to talk to.
There are a million ways to build a business, but you only know what you know. Fortunately, there are lots of other entrepreneurs out there trying to solve the same problems, and sharing information and ideas is a great way to break free of creative and productivity blocks. For example, you may be struggling with keeping on top of emails and calendaring, but someone else in your community may have already successfully used an automation platform that could do all this for you. No one can keep on top of everything, so knowledge sharing is vital to success.
When you work alone, you’re also stuck just thinking your own thoughts every day, which creates huge blind spots. It’s hard to solve business problems creatively when you’re stuck in your own head, with not enough external input.
Referrals and Partnerships
You may know your own market, but have no idea how to access adjacent markets, or even that they exist. When you have a community of entrepreneurial peers, you’ve instantly increased your pool of potential customers. Similarly, you’ll also be able to start tapping into vibrant referral networks -- hard to do sitting at home alone at your laptop.
That all sounds helpful, but how do you make the leap from thinking your own thoughts all day every day to breaking into the wellspring of ideas, innovation, empathy and encouragement that you need?
More to come!
Welcome to the first in a series of posts in which we’ll explore some of the ways that I, and other entrepreneurs, have found effective in beating isolation, and building our businesses. We’ll look at the benefits of co-working, coaching, and community-building. We’ll also examine the role that mindset and resilience play in the success of solopreneurs.
In the meantime, what are your top tips for combating isolation as a solopreneur? What tricks have you discovered to master your mindset? Share them here and we may contact you to be part of a future post.
Due to popular demand, we are getting ready to launch a new group membership program called 'Solopreneur Connection' -- we'd love to have you join us! Click here to learn more about the program, and to submit an expression of interest.
Whenever I talk about ‘hiring for culture fit,’ I get strange looks. I know people are wondering if hiring for culture is really a euphemism for ‘hiring people you’d like to have a beer with,’ or people you might have gone to school with – basically code for hiring people just like you. After all, isn’t this the behavior that perpetuates ‘bro culture’ in Silicon Valley?
On the contrary, this is actually a plea for companies to actively define their ‘culture’ through clearly communicated mission, vision, and values. Too often the term ‘company culture’ is misinterpreted as ping pong tables, kegs, and wearing jeans to work, when in fact, it’s a much deeper, and more powerful concept.
When you have a strong, clear, purpose-driven culture you’re better placed to recruit (well, just in general, but also) for diversity because you’ve already defined an objective ‘shared’ culture that everyone who works for you has understood and agreed to. This can help bridge individual cultures of origin in the workplace. This practice helps to normalize gender quality and diversity and inclusion for companies – the very opposite of perpetuating a ‘bro culture.’
Smaller companies, under intense pressure to make successful hires, may not feel like they can take a chance on someone that they’re not sure will be a team fit. This opens the door to an onslaught of unconscious biases. And yet, we know that workplace diversity encourages different perspectives that yield greater innovation and employee engagement, which in turn help grow stronger businesses.
Please allow a brief digression to make this point more clearly – bear with me, I promise I’m going somewhere with this:
There are some people who are merely fans of the 1990s Aaron Sorkin political drama ‘The West Wing,’ and then there are people who love the show so much that they, even now, in 2017, listen to a podcast called ‘The West Wing Weekly’ in which each and every episode of the seven seasons is dissected in painstaking detail. I, myself, fall into this latter camp.
Very often on the podcast, there are guest interviews themed to the show’s story lines. Recently, on a Canadian-focused episode, the hosts interviewed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. For a variety of reasons that will be obvious to any West Wing fan, this was an exciting turn of events. But what was even more exciting to me was something Justin Trudeau said about Canadian culture that makes my point about how to start creating a diverse and inclusive company culture.
West Wing Weekly host, Hrishikesh Hirway, asked the Prime Minister about Canada’s stance on refugees, and whether assimilation was a big part of their policies in this area. The Prime Minister articulated what it means to welcome immigrants to their country.
“Canada was always stuck…and that sort of helped us live in a place that is too cold, too big, too empty for too many months of the year. We learned that surface identity doesn’t define you, and through the waves of immigration… people are proud to keep their heritage, and we celebrate them. Being of every different background makes it difficult to point out what a typical Canadian is.
I mean, just the French versus English meant that we had to accept that someone totally different from us was just as much Canadian. So we went through long stretches of angst of being unable to define what the ‘Canadian Identity’ was, until we sort of figured out that the Canadian Identity is just not shaped around surface attributes like religion or ethnicity or language, it’s shaped around the shared values – shared core values of openness, respect, compassion, a willingness to work hard, a desire to be there for each other, a search for justice, for opportunity.
These kinds of things that most Western countries sort of aspire to, Canadians tend to take as definitional... And what that does is that that means that wherever you’re from, whatever your background, if you come and accept those values, which are positive, inclusive, open values, you get to be Canadian.”
Without dwelling on the nuances of Canadian politics, I do think that Justin Trudeau’s sentiment effectively articulates my point; shared values essentially form a social contract that bind people together, certainly well enough to create a strong, thriving company of diverse talents and perspectives.
When you recruit for a values-driven culture fit, you are saying, ‘this is who we are, this is what we stand for. This is what we celebrate, this is the behavior we expect, and this is what we won’t tolerate. This is what we’re offering you, this is what we need from you. This is how we treat each other, and this is how we engage with our customers. This is why we come to work every day, this is why we keep at it, even when the going gets tough.’
Naturally, there will still be issues around how we effectively manage diversity in our businesses, but I have seen, throughout my career, that creating a strong shared culture yields significant benefits, and expanded access to top talent is just one of them.
If you’re a people leader who’s seen the movie Wonder Woman, you may be wondering how you can get your own small business’ employees to leap tall buildings in a single bound, remain relentlessly committed to their mission, and innovate their way out of every challenging situation.
You may, or may not, want your team to turn up to work in full costume (every day,) but you absolutely can turn them into a band of superheroes –greater than the sum of their parts.
We know that companies with highly engaged employees are more profitable, productive, have lower turnover and better work quality than their competitors – all of which directly affects your bottom line. And, (spoiler alert!) as you know from the movie, not having Wonder Woman-like employees on your team can lead to some pretty grim consequences.
So what’s holding them – and your business – back?
Assuming that your business is generally well run, that you’ve given your people the tools they need to do their jobs, and that you’ve got a solid organizational structure and decent talent, you may be scratching your head thinking, “what else can I do?”
1. Clearly communicate your company’s Mission, Vision and Values
In the movie, Wonder Woman is very clear why she’s leaving Themyscira – she wants to kill Aries, and save the world/humanity. When the going gets tough, she’s able to recall her mission, and why it’s so important to her.
She also uses her mission, vision and values as decision-making criteria – when faced with choices and compromises, she’s able to act decisively (understatement!) and in alignment.
However, for mere mortals in business, this can be more challenging. Many companies, especially smaller ones, haven’t fully articulated their mission, vision and values, or they're languishing as conference room posters instead of activating greatness.
The truth is, the smaller your company, the easier it is for your values to bring out your employees’ inner superhero. See below.
Back on Themyscira, Wonder Woman was content to trust the values of the Amazons on faith – after all, her mother was their queen. Eventually, she uses those core values and beliefs to forge her own path – that’s innovation.
However, your employees may need a little more involvement in determining why and how they do what they do every day at work. Small business leaders often say that they don’t have a mission, vision and values, but that’s usually not actually true. Collectively, you and your employees probably have a pretty good intuitive understanding of your company’s purpose and how you can best achieve your goals.
If you’re very small – like a startup – you should develop values before you start hiring – they’ll have a big impact on who joins your company, how they behave once they’re there, and how long they stay with you. However, if you’ve already got a merry band, then get together, brainstorm and co-create your mission, vision and values as a team. When you develop them as a group they will be more resonant, and less likely to serve as the aforementioned, oft-ignored conference room art.
As a reminder, your:
Mission statement articulates the reason your company exists
Vision statement describes the successful future state of your business
Values are like a social contract; they describe how and why you work together.
3.Walk the talk
As a leader, you yourself may not feel fully confident (yet) deflecting machine gun fire with your shield and/or wrist bands, but that shouldn’t stop you from leading the charge when it comes to exemplifying the values you (and your team) have identified.
Remember, part of the value of values is that they serve as decision-making criteria, and that starts at the top.
For example, if you’ve selected ‘Celebrating our Successes’ as a value, then be sure that you actively recognize your team member’s amazing work. When you do, be sure to reference your ‘Celebrating our Successes’ value so that your people know that living them every day is an important part of who you are as a company, and a team.
Your people are your secret weapon
To be sure, those scenes of Wonder Women felling bad guys with her golden lasso and amazon warrior skills are pretty cool. But remember, it’s her empathy for the starving woman she meets in the trench that compels her to act. And maybe this is the most important lesson that Wonder Woman can teach us about how to run a company; human-centric businesses outperform others. When you prioritize employee experience and engagement, you too can reap the rewards – your very own band of superheroes.
For more information on building a values and purpose-driven company, check out the Resources page on our website.
Victoria Dew is the Founder and CEO of Dewpoint Communications.