by Karen Skidmore | 06,22 | Leadership, Stories, inspirations & thoughts for the day
Having people around you who support what you do is important; it can be a very lonely job running your own business. Being able to pick up the phone, meet up for a walk or coffee and talk about what’s been going on in your week with someone you trust and feel comfortable around is important.
But how many of these people are too safe?
Over the many years of running my own coaching and training businesses, I have hung out with all kinds of people. I started networking as soon as I began my first coaching business in 2004. It was before the days of LinkedIn and Facebook so the only way to meet people was to be in the room with them.
But so many of the events were stiff and formal affairs, either full of grey suited men or ladies who lunched. It didn’t take me long to start up my own women’s networking group, which over the years grew to encompass four locations, attracting 25+ ladies at each event.
However, over the years I began to see how much I was playing it safe.
It was good to be the leader of my own events, but there was a pattern of sticking to networks that I felt safe and comfortable. And this, of course, led to me having lots of safe and comfortable business buddies.
I started to fall out of love with networking because every event I went to seemed to attract the same people who talked a good game, and looked the part, but appeared to be so busy networking that they were morphing into each other, saying the same things, and often moaning about the same things!
At the same time, I had taken up playing tennis. Not competitively, but taking part in weekly classes with other mums at school. I loved it and soon realised that I always played better when I played against stronger players. Yes, I still made plenty of mistakes and smashed the ball up and over the fences (erratic was probably how I described my game!) … but the good shots I did play were brilliant. I may never have won any tournaments, but my game play improved significantly each time I was against a better player.
And I see the same with the people we choose to play with in business.
Networking now, of course, is very much a hybrid affair. The choices we have are endless but this has opened up huge opportunities to find yourself in safer, virtual events; sitting in a zoom room where it may be full of lovely people, but if you take a step back and get really honest about yourself, you are playing down and probably the “smartest person in the room”.
Choosing safe, comfortable places to meet safe, comfortable people in the early stages of your business can be the right thing to do to help build your confidence. Like my tennis, if I went straight to the school mum’s tournament without any lessons, I would have been smashed all over the place and not even have had the chance to return a ball.
Frustrating for the others on the court … downright embarrassing for me! I am not sure I would have gone back for more and probably told myself there was no point taking lessons because tennis was obviously not my game. So safe, comfortable at the start is critically important to allow you to build your confidence.
But over time, it’s very easy to stay in those safe, comfortable places with those safe, comfortable people, particularly as we begin to get more confident in getting ‘back in the room’ and start to want to attend workshops, conferences and retreats.
And when you see it, which I hope reading this has given you that lens, you realise the people who were instrumental to helping you through the last few years, aren’t the ones to take forward and beyond.
This isn’t being egotistical … this is thinking strategically and having a CEO Mindset.
One of my favourite quotes that I used to have up on my wall in my first few years of business, is from Jim Rohn …
You become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
If that average is of the safe, comfortable people you are still hanging out with and discussing your business with, can you see that it may be time to go find some different people … some ‘unsafe’ people who can raise your game because they are stronger players.
And this also applies the same to your trusted friends or family members. Talking through your next big idea for your business with your spouse can often be the worst thing you can do; they love you, they want you to succeed but they also want to protect you and keep you safe.
Again, with friends who you’ve been through ‘thick and thin’; they love you, they want you to succeed but they also want to protect you and keep you safe.
Of course, I am not suggesting you keep important changes to your business a secret from your loved ones … but choose when and how you tell them, remembering you have a choice of what response or advice you want from them. If you aren’t confident with the idea that you’ve got or have a roadmap in which to execute it, talking it through with someone who wants to keep you safe can extinguish your flame very quickly, pulling you back down to safer, more comfortable levels.
I work with so many midlifers who either can’t or don’t want to pull back on their aspirations, and seeing this safety net can hugely open them up to taking the right risks and being able play a bigger, stronger game.
Where are your ‘unsafe’ people who are going to stretch you onto the next phase of your business?
What networking groups or business buddy circles do you may need to move on from?
You don’t have to say goodbye and never speak to these people again … but actively choosing those five people you want to become the average of is critical if you want to scale and grow your business.
If you want to discuss how you can release yourself from your safety net, then let’s talk. Book a Next Level Business Strategy Session with me. There’s never any charge for our first call together.
Looking for your next step to take?
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Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
by Karen Skidmore | 02,22 | Business Planning, Stories, inspirations & thoughts for the day
I want to write to you today about patience.
I’ve been staying with my mum since Thursday last week. She’s 81, incredibly independent and wants to stay this way for a long while yet. But she’s had another operation on her hip; to correct the one she had in 2019 which left her with one leg an inch shorter than the other, which also led to her having to have a knee replacement last year.
You could say we are getting pro at this after surgery care, but unfortunately she’s now having to deal with the fact that, this time around, she can’t put any weight on her hip for the next six weeks.
Her desire to be independent is being tested. And her need to be patient is forcing her to slow down and ask for help in almost everything, from cooking meals to washing her feet. (And yes, I know she’s providing me a wonderful mirror opportunity for my own life lessons LOL)
On one hand six weeks is a long time for her to be resting. And it’s a long time for my brothers and I to juggle the after care needed. But I also know that six weeks in the grand scheme of things is nothing, if being patient now will mean she will be walking without pain by the summer, and be set to carry on her independent living for many, many more years to come.
All this has got me thinking today about how often do we choose to play the patient game in our businesses, in particular the patience at winning over our ‘pregnancy clients’.
There are two types of clients that I talk to my clients about:
– the ‘bread-and-butter work’ that pays the bills, is easier to turn around and get results quickly, but are often short-term, lower paying clients who can use a lot of your time and energy without the right systems and processes in place.
– and the ‘pregnancy clients’ that – yup, you guessed it – can take up to nine months (or more) to sign the contract or buy your programme, but they are often buying at a higher price point, can be more profitable and potentially have a longer and more meaningful relationship with you, which in turn reduces your need to rely on ‘bread-and-butter work’.
Our 24-7 society, that means we can get groceries and books delivered the same day, expect responses to our emails within hours and answers on chat within minutes, has meant that our expectations have massively increased over the past decade.
And not only do we expect results and success quickly, we, as consumers, demand far more trust and confidence in the brands and businesses that we buy from than ever before; we check out online reviews, speak to friends or family members, scroll through social media feeds to see what they are publicly sharing and may even google the CEO to see what they stand for or what causes they support with the profits of their business.
All of which has had an impact on our own businesses and marketing. These shifts have meant that we all have to work that little bit harder to win more ‘pregnancy clients’ in order to avoid getting exhausted chasing too many bread-and-butter clients.
We have to choose to spend more time on projects such as:
- nurturing relationships
- creating content that builds trust and confidence (rather than trying to beat the algorithms)
- hiring the right team to support you and your business
- having a sales process that gives them what they need to make a decision in their own time (and not because it suits you and your need to make money right now)
Projects that may not give us the immediate results we are programmed to expect. But, with patience, will allow more ‘pregnancy clients’ to come to you; clients that give you more meaningful work, and potentially better profitability.
Wherever you are at in your business journey, there is a time to hustle … but as you become more established and want to grow, there are more times needed for patience.
Not sitting back, twiddling your thumbs and waiting kind of patience.
But the patience needed to doing the work that gives the clients you want to attract, the trust and confidence that you have the skills and expertise to help them give what they want. Just like my mum right now, ensuring that she take her slow recovery seriously for the next six weeks in order to be back walking at a pace by the summer!
Until next time, be more, play bigger.
by Karen Skidmore | 12,21 | Business Planning, Stories, inspirations & thoughts for the day
It is said that the lessons we *really* need to learn in life, show up time and time again. We don’t learn it once and be done. Life has a way of circling back and giving us another experience or challenge to navigate to make sure we *really* get the lessons.
Many repeated lessons come to us on a superficial level to begin with. We may logically get what we’ve experienced for the first time but it’s through repeating the lessons that we truly see the importance of why certain behaviours and beliefs have to change in order to fulfil our potential.
So it is no surprise to me that the four biggest lessons that have helped me shift forward this year have all been learnt before. I just got to experience them a deeper level, and yes that did mean slightly messier at times, too LOL
Slowing down speeds up success
No matter how much I know this, I keep on having to learn it because it seems I am still not going slow enough. But the slower I make decisions and the more I feel into them, sleep on them and trust my gut, the stronger and more powerful the results I get.
Once upon a time, a mentor told me ‘money loves speed’. I took this to heart and prided myself on my fast decision making and product launches. But what I have come to realise is that the longer the time I take to plan and sit with new ideas, success becomes simpler and easier.
And the deeper level of learning of this slowing down has helped me know when it’s not procrastination or me playing small.
Underestimate what you can achieve in a day, and overestimate what you think is possible to achieve in a year
This is one of our Momentum ‘bumper stickers’. Even though this gets repeated and repeated on our calls and I give out this advice like candy, it’s still so easy to believe that I can take superhuman powers on certain days and crazily multi-task when faced with a to-do list the length of my arm.
And yet, when I sit with my bigger vision work and feel into what it is I want to create in a year’s time, I have to consciously stretch myself beyond my current resources and thinking.
Plans may not work but it’s the thinking that goes into your planning that matters
Every time I make a plan, I’ve continued to learn that I need to keep it bold, but loose enough to flex and adapt with what each month brings. Just because almost all our holiday plans are now rescheduled (yet again!) for 2022 (our Ibiza trip has been rescheduled three times now), this doesn’t mean I can’t set targets or milestones in my business.
I’ve had to remember to stay unattached to the outcomes that I set, and to always add the phrase “or better” to each one. Because it’s not the plan or the targets that are important; it’s the thinking that’s needed during the planning process.
This is what expands my mind to see the possibilities and to let my doubts keep me grounded whilst still shooting for the moon and be able to land somewhere in the stars.
And finally, health is everything.
I took several weeks out during the summer, cancelled things and invested in my health. Even though I thought I was doing OK, to have some test results come back with ‘early signs of autoimmune’ was a reality check that I needed to get on the right supplements, change up my diet and work in more exercise.
I am finishing this year feeling stronger than ever, and even taken up a twice weekly kick-boxing fitness class which I am absolutely loving.
So what lessons have you learned this year? And how many have you learned not just once before, but maybe many times over?
Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
by Karen Skidmore | 09,21 | Leadership, Stories, inspirations & thoughts for the day
Back in 2017 … those pre-covid days of being able to attend conferences with hundreds of other people! … I had spent an incredible weekend at the One Woman Conference.
There were 400+ women at this event and I had the honour of being invited up on the stage as one of the finalists of the Lead The Change awards 2017, voted by the community as someone who most embodied the One of many SoftPower Leadership principles.
Having spoken on many stages, it has to have been one of my most nerve wracking performances. Somehow sharing my personal story and the vulnerabilities I’d faced (and was still facing!) was nerve racking. ,
In the run up to the conference, I reflected on what it took to step in to our potential to make a difference, and what it was about me that represented being a leader.
When you spend time by yourself and unconnected with people outside of your immediate family (and let’s be honest, we’ve all plenty of this opportunity for this over the past 18 months!), it’s easy to feel that whatever journey you are on, that what’s ahead of you is too steep or too rocky or that your goal isn’t clear and is shrouded in mountain cloud.
And this was the big lesson I shared on stage that day.
That there are times, particularly when you are alone, that fear and doubt and worry creep up, sometimes from nowhere, and take hold of us.
My fear and doubt appears as a gentle tight grip on the inside of my throat; almost like a child’s hand trying to silence me.
Your fears and doubts will appear in different places. Perhaps a knot in your stomach or a pain on your left side or a buzzing sensation at the back of your skull.
For the years running up to working with One of many, I had used this feeling in my throat to pull me back, like a bungee cord. I’d come up with an idea, reach for it and then the bungee cord would snap me back so that I’d either give up on the idea or just do a smaller version of it. And this happened a lot in the years I was recovering from my burn out, often very afraid of getting sick again.
My journey with the incredible mentors who make up One Of Many, Joanna Martin, Annie Stoker and Susie Heath, had allowed me to now feel into my uncomfortableness … the feeling of vulnerability … the feeling of shame, guilt and whatever my inner shit threw up at me at the time I want to do bigger things and become a bigger version of myself.
That gentle tight grip on my throat became my sign that it’s the right thing for me to do.
And as I stood up on that stage, I felt it appear … so I knew what I had to share was the right thing for me to have shared that day!
Feeling in to this experience of identifying where in our body we feel emotions is incredible powerful. It slows down our over thinking, and often over catastrophising, of the situation we are faced with; whether that’s a difficult conversation, a challenge at work or a relationship with a friend or family member.
Do you feel into your uncomfortableness of fear, doubt, shame or guilt … whenever it appears … and see it as a power? As a sign that you may need to hear a message of stepping up, to challenge?
I’d love to know if you do this already, perhaps even on a subconscious basis, not realising that you are doing it.
Because I’ve come to now feel these uncomfortable moments not as a bungee cord as I had done the years previously. I’ve learnt to slow down, take a moment and feel into knot or the pain or the grip or the buzz because I know now it’s probably trying to tell me something.
That bungee cord pulling me back to safety is all very well. Because, after all, safe is lovely place to be, particularly on a warm, cosy Sunday afternoon when you want to snuggle up on the sofa with a good book or film.
But if you want to make a bigger impact on this world around us, then safe will only keep you safe. It doesn’t allow us to take risks and stretch us into our potential.
As Brene Brown so eloquently puts it,
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
So let us get vulnerable and, more importantly, feel vulnerable because I know this has the potential to let out the leader that’s within you, too.
Thank you for reading. Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
by Karen Skidmore | 03,21 | Business Planning, Stories, inspirations & thoughts for the day
This time last year, life, as we knew it, changed.
As I sit here and reflect over the past year, and of course acknowledge the trauma that happened to so many, I am also in awe by how many people have shifted and grown their businesses.
Comfort and growth can’t co-exist.
It often takes extreme discomfort for us to make big changes to how we are living and working. And for all the grief and loss that many have encountered, there are many others who have risen up, like a phoenix from the ashes.
I think of all the new experiences that I have bought that I would have never considered before March last year.
Joining fitness classes over zoom is probably something we’ve all done for the first time this past year. But now some fitness professionals are going further and making decisions to staying online; they’ve realised they are now open for a global market (time zones dependant) and have upped their tech skills to have a full TV production suite in their home studios.
This month I booked a magician for my son’s 19th birthday (never too old for a magician, yes!) through an Airbnb experience. An hour’s private show beamed straight to my laptop from a chap over in Japan; it was 4am for him! He told us that his day job was a project manager and in June last year he decided it was time to turn his hobby into his career. He now runs between 3 and 5 shows every few days, to an audience across the world, and is regularly booked for corporate events, as well as families like us.
And last week, I had a virtual photo shoot. Yes … a professional photo shoot through an app that I downloaded on my phone. I was a little sceptical about this but if you are on Instagram, you can see the results on my profile @karenskidmore. I was blown away by the quality of photos and how good Aga was at directing me by only using her voice.
What about me? What new skills and ways of doing business have I adopted?
I’ve always worked predominately online, so working on zoom wasn’t new to me. But I have had to learn how to run my all day workshops virtually, as well as our Mastermind Days for our Momentum Impact members. I’ve decided these work better online – more powerful – and I won’t be travelling into London to run these again, something I would have never considered before last year.
I’m also now working in my Plotting Shed, a new garden office that we built at the end of last year. With my husband now working from home, it became apparent we needed two separate offices. Of course, I volunteered to go outside. And I love it. (Again, you can go see what it looks like on my Insta pics.) It is the most gorgeous space and it makes me smile every time I walk down the garden path to unlock the door each morning.
Would any of these examples that I’ve shared here have happened without the discomfort of the last year?
This past year has pushed many of us to our extreme boundaries. We’ve been forced to step outside of our comfort zones and face, head on, parts (or even everything) about our business that stop working suddenly twelve months ago. You’ve made decisions about where and how to move your business through these last twelve months and, whatever has happened, there’s every chance your business is very different from where it was a year ago.
Acknowledge what you’ve achieved in your business through these uncomfortable months. And know that the potential of what is possible happens because you don’t stay comfortable.
Which leads me to wonder how we can all make sure we take full advantage of a little (or a lot of!) discomfort from time to time so that we can keep moving forward and ensure we are thriving in business.
If you want to discuss what I’ve shared here today and you’re interested in being challenged in what you could achieve, get in touch.
Until next time, do less, be more, play bigger.
by Karen Skidmore | 02,21 | Business Planning, Stories, inspirations & thoughts for the day
You know far more than you give yourself credit for.
However, trusting yourself to know this and using your intuition to help you grow a business is not a natural way for many of us.
If you are like a lot of people who I work with, you have spent much of your professional career thinking your way through challenges and problems. Your default setting has been to seek answers externally (AKA ask other people what they think) and engage your frontal lobe, the part of your brain behind your forehead where you access to process information, analyse, think and plan.
You probably already use phrases such as ‘I knew in my gut that it was the right thing to do’ or ‘I felt the tug on my heart strings’. But using these insights in a business context often get swept away and ignored.
In doing some digging around for some quotes on intuition, I came across this article from Harvard Business Review from way back in 2003.
“The trust in intuition is understandable. People have always sought to put their faith in mystical forces when confronted with earthly confusion. But it’s also dangerous. Intuition has its place in decision making – you should not ignore your instincts any more than you should ignore your conscience – but anyone who thinks that intuition is a substitute for reason is indulging in a risky delusion.”
I’d like to think that using our intuition in business has come a long way since this article was first published, but if you are a Gen X like me, it’s hard to get away from the cultural programming we’ve had.
We have grown up in a culture that favours logic; at school we were programmed into learning, sitting in rows and changing lessons each time the school bell rang, followed by working our up a hierarchical career path that celebrated success measured by numbers and time.
Today, we have access to an endless supply of productivity apps, automation systems and bluetooth devices all designed to send us constant notifications and help us do more in less time. Our smartphones can tell us how well we are eating, sleeping and exercising, which means we don’t have to think for ourselves.
And when it comes to our business and marketing, we look to the algorithms to make decisions on when to launch a new programme or what content to create.
But first, why is your intuition so important to access?
If you allow yourself the space to connect and access your inner wisdom, you often find far simpler and easier answers to your challenges and problems. There’s no need to spend days analysing spreadsheets or writing up lengthy reports.
The answer often comes through as a clear path forward; it just feels right.
The official definition of intuition is:
“the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning.”
And if we go back in time to see the origins of the word in mid-15c:
intuicioun, “insight, direct or immediate cognition, spiritual perception,”
“Hang on … instinct? spiritual? Are you going down the woo-woo route and telling me that all we need is to simply burn incense sticks and spend our time meditating on problems?”
No. Spend too much of your time going within, and there’s no doubt you can find yourself ‘away with the fairies’. Very little action happens and if you then find it hard articulate or communicate your business direction with your team or customers, it all becomes very ethereal.
Logic still has a place and can helpfully sanity check ideas, bring concepts to form and create the structure, process and systems to allow you to run your business with ease. But without giving yourself the opportunity to open yourself up to feeling, listening and sensing what your instinct can tell you, you are missing out on some of the simplest and easiest options available to you and your business.
Your intuition will always have your back. It’s giving you feedback and insight into what is right for you, the person you are and what it is you truly want out of life.
So how to go about learning how to access your intuition?
For me, I have had a crazy relationship with my logic head.
I am naturally wired to be ruled by my head, which serves me well when working with clients and working through business infrastructure and systems quickly, and seeing the commercial opportunities linked with a bigger vision. However, when left unchecked, I can power on through and forget to take breaks to conserve my energy.
I crashed and burned when I was in my early 40’s, so I have learnt the hard way. When this happened, I realised I had lost all my connection with myself from the neck down. Burn out can do that to you! I remember being a class teaching pelvic floor exercise and sobbing silently into my yoga mat when I realised I could not engage any muscles in my pelvis area; there were no connections between my brain and core muscles. So was it any surprise that my intuition had very little chance of being heard?
A big part of my recovery journey, and understanding my midlife hormonal changes and menopause shifts, became looking at how to connect with my body. I stopped running and started dance classes instead. Nia Dance has become a regular part of my fitness routine now, connecting me to my hips and allowing me to literally shake away tension in my body.
I tried my hand at meditating but to be honest, it’s not a practice that I find much time for. I know that goes against the trends but I prefer a slow walk through the trees and spending my time watching the sun set, rather than sitting still, trying to calm my mind.
I’ve come to realise that, although every one of us has the ability to connect with our intuition, I have had to work at how to do this. And I know from speaking to many other business owners over the years, that I am not alone.
So here are my four simple steps that got me started.
1) Take the time to know yourself.
There are a tonne of psychometric tests and personality profiles available, often affordable and without the need to attend lengthy programmes. My favourite ones include MBTI Basics, Insights, Talent Dynamics (and also called Wealth Dynamics) and Human Design. Profiling oneself is not about trying to fit in.
Each one of us is unique and we don’t arrive on this planet with an operations manual. So the more we can understand our idiosyncratic quirks and behaviour traits, the less it becomes about what others expect of us and more about what it is that we want and value.
2) Spend more time in your body.
Many of you will exercise for the sake of fitness and health, measuring success by steps or sweat. But because so much business is often solved in our heads, these kinds of exercises can feed the logic brain. Spending time on moving your body consciously can really help you connect with the neural pathways that run around your body.
Movement such as dance – prancing around the kitchen rather than following a structured class – and slower walking focused on your posture – noticing how your feet connect with the ground with each step – can be simple ways of sensing your body and spending time ‘out of your head’.
3) Recognise that fear is different from intuition
… and sometimes it can be good to take the moment to ask the fear what it may be trying to tell you. Is there anything that you can put in place to make your next steps less risky for you? Perhaps you need more time to put your decision into action … maybe you need to hire some help.
If you choose to ignore your fears, you may find that you pull yourself back from taking action. So use your fear to shine a light on anything that you may avoid simply because it feels uncomfortable as this can be helpful in making sure you don’t avoid taking action on your decisions.
4) Create content without an agenda.
So much focus is given to the call to action and making sure whatever content we create in our business has a purpose. This can stifle creativity and stop many of us from exploring our ideas and methodology of our work. I’ve seen clients of mine flourish when I suggest that they blog without agenda; just write for the hell of it and see what comes out. I find writing incredibly cathartic and helps me form my ideas. Journaling can be incredibly powerful for this, too.
But if writing isn’t your thing then tune in to what form feels good for you; it could be that you paint or doodle your ideas. The important thing is that you give yourself permission to create for you … and you alone. This doesn’t have to be published or be made into a marketing campaign; you are simply allowing your creativity to come into a form that allows you to see patterns and recognise the power of who you are and what it is you want to express.
I believe that now, more than ever, is the time for you to place more emphasis on what’s within you and who you are.
Much of the expert space – coaches, consultants, trainers, designers, creatives- is now over-crowded, and the few market leaders rising to the top are simply being copied; their marketing and branding being bastardised.
Rather than looking outward first and choosing how you run your business based on logic success metrics, such as having to have a 6 figure business, give yourself the space to design and grow your business starting from within you and being clear on who you are and what you stand for.
I get that it may be easier to ask other people for answers to your questions about your business, but be aware that for every person you ask, you are going to get different answers.
When you start from within, and learn to trust your instinct, you can design and grow the right business that will support and enable you to show up and realise your full potential. And, in my experience, you’ll have an easier ride, reduce your mental bandwidth and feel less stressed in the process.
Until next time, do less, be more and play bigger.