October 22, 2010
Many of us spend our days unproductively worrying about the future and obsessing about the past, but taking the time to learn to live in the present can increase our efficiency immeasurably.
Life can be an emotional rollercoaster – it’s human nature to second-guess our past actions and fret about upcoming events. The pace of modern life can leave even normally focused women business leaders reacting to events around them rather than concentrating on the tasks at hand.
In a Harvard Business Review article, leadership consultant Peter Bregman noted that being pressed for time and unfocused on the present can seriously impede efficiency:
- Even minor events and interactions can take our focus away from important business decisions and cause us to react in unproductive ways.
- Spending too much time thinking about past events or worrying about upcoming situations keeps us from living in the present.
Bregman recommends making time to “do nothing” – practicing meditation for a few minutes each day – to refocus the mind on the present:
- Sit quietly with your eyes closed and try to focus on your breath as it enters and leaves your body.
- Don’t worry about your mind wandering – according to Bregman, the important thing is to notice the wandering and return your focus to your breathing.
It may seem counterintuitive to take time from a busy schedule to meditate – to do nothing, as Bregman calls it , but doing so is well worth the effort. That’s because meditation increases our capacity to live in the present by compelling us to focus on the simple, real-time action of breathing.
Meditation teaches us to live in the present not just while meditating but in other areas of our daily lives.
If you’re ready to live in the moment and let go of worrying about the past and future, try taking a few minutes each day for simple meditation. You can read Bregman’s full article by clicking on the link, Not Enough Time? Try Doing Nothing
October 21, 2010
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of work on your desk, use this simple strategy to gather the momentum you need.
Sometimes it’s hardest to focus just when you need your powers of concentration the most. As women business leaders, we have multiple tasks to complete and a seemingly endless supply of competing needs to balance.
The problem can be choosing where to begin.
Studies show that when faced with many choices, people tend to become paralyzed by indecision and make no choice at all.
Columbia University Business School researcher Sheena Iyengar demonstrated this principle by studying the decision-making capacity of 2 groups of people.
One group was given the opportunity to purchase one jar of jam from among 6 varieties. Another group was offered a choice of 24 jams. The study participants who chose from among 6 types of jam were 10 times more likely to make a purchase than those who chose from 24 varieties.
The more manageable choice led directly to significantly higher sales.
Harvard Business Review guest writer, Peter Bregman, offers the following strategy for breaking up long lists of tasks into more manageable categories:
- Take a few moments to write down the tasks you need to accomplish.
- Spend 15 minutes completing the easiest items – quick phone calls, short email responses, etc. Make sure you stop after 15 minutes, and cross out the completed tasks.
- When the initial 15 minutes are up, turn off your phone, close down all windows on your desktop and spend 35 minutes concentrating solely on tackling the most daunting item on your to-do list.
- After you’ve allotted 35 minutes to the hardest task, take a 10 minute break and start the cycle over again by spending 15 minutes taking care of quick-action items.
According to Bregman, you’ll gain a sense of accomplishment by getting the smaller items completed. That will provide the momentum you need to tackle the larger items on your agenda.
Next time you feel overwhelmed by a mountain of work in your in-box, try breaking the tasks down into quick-action items and work that requires more focus, and then tackle the items in a systematic way.
You can read more about Bregman’s practical, stress-busting strategy, “A Practical Plan for When You Feel Overwhelmed.”
October 20, 2010
Ivanka Trump, an underestimated, strong, talented businesswomen in her own right, shares her thoughts to help you take your business success to a new level.
Here are highlights from Ivanka’s Forbes.com interview:
1. Tips for Negotiating
Stressing the importance of preparation, Trump shares how to successfully enter into even the most critical negotiations.
- “The person who is most prepared and has the most information always has a competitive advantage. Do your homework.”
- “It is also very important to try to fully understand what the other party most values in terms of the outcomes of the negotiation. It is often things that you don’t value or give a premium to that would be an easy concession that you can still accomplish your goals by conceding.”
- “I think it’s also important to define your own goals prior to starting to negotiate. . . . You should always walk into a transaction discussion knowing what your end goal is.”
2. Using Underestimation as an Advantage
While many women business leaders might cringe to know that their male counterparts underestimate them, Trump sees it as an advantage.
- “I never mind when somebody underestimates me. It often means they are not well prepared. . . . It is always better to know more than the person you are speaking with.”
3. Utilizing Technology
Trump discusses how social media can reinforce branding, but that you have to know when to “disconnect” and take time for yourself.
- “Through my social media efforts, I try to show a personal side to my brand, because people want the authenticity. Showing who we are as a family is a credence good as a family brand.”
- “Technology is a tremendous asset but can also be very destructive. While you have to be available all the time today, it is so important to prioritize bigger-picture initiatives. Mornings are also a great time to reflect before the phones start ringing.”
4. Dressing for Success
When asked about her professional style, Trump emphasized being aware of your surroundings and always dressing appropriately for the context of the event.
- “My top three style tips for women at work are context, modesty and femininity. . . . Understand what is appropriate for your industry and in terms of how much skin is being shown.”
- “[When I was younger], I was almost afraid to be feminine on the job, which in retrospect was probably a mistake.”
- “The instinct is to suppress our femininity, which is rooted in a concept that we should blend. But how you get there is not through shoulder-pads or pinstripes,” Trump shared. “You gain the respect of your colleagues. If you have their respect, they will not criticize you for dressing like a woman.”
Although an unlikely role model, Ivanka Trump serves as a reminder to all of us that you can never judge a book by its cover–and that we should never allow the views of others to negatively interfere with our plans, business strategies and goals.
To read Ivanka’s full interview, click here.
October 19, 2010
Women business leaders can relieve a lot of their stress by learning to harness their controlling tendencies for their advantage.
First off, the qualities that make you controlling are often the traits that help you excel in business. You are an achiever. Your skill is only surpassed by your work ethic.
But a controlling personality is also a detriment. Staff and peers grow resentful from being told what to do and that can greatly hamper their productivity.
Here is a summary of Forbes Woman writer, Lori Murray, Four Ways to Tame Your Inner Control Freak:
- Make a choice to focus on what you can control. Constant finger-pointing at other people creates additional angst and stress. Instead, focus on what you can do and how you can shift so you have peace.
- Admit that you may have control issues. By recognizing you have control issues, you free yourself to specifically work on delegating. In order to delegate successfully, you need to find people you can trust to get the job done. It’s only then that you can begin to relax.
- Practice empathy. Try to view the world from other people’s perspective. You will start to gain respect for others when you gain empathy and insight into how they operate.
- Ask for forgiveness and make the transition to having less control. Learn to trust by having weekly meetings and communicating with your team. And remember, although other people may not take the same route, if the outcome is the same, you should learn to accept it.
So each morning, take time to remember that the more you can let go and give others responsibility, the more you can utilize your talents in the areas where they are most needed. This will help you avoid being a bottleneck in your company—allowing your business to grow farther, faster and more successfully as a team.
Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere as long as the overall policy that you’ve decided upon is being carried out. – Ronald Reagan on Effective Leadership
Read Lori’s article in its entirety: Tame Your Inner Control Freak, How to relinquish control without losing power or negatively impacting performance
October 18, 2010
Despite a long held myth to the contrary, Women business leaders are as successful as men in starting new high tech companies.
The stereotypical entrepreneur – particularly the Silicon Valley version – is a 20-something, single white male who dropped out of college to work 24/7 and take enormous risks for a shot at becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg.
Women entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are thought to be overrepresented in “lifestyle” industries and more focused on raising families than founding the next Facebook.
A study of more than 600 start-up founders and 500+ fast-growth companies published in TechCrunch deflates these myths. Entrepreneur-turned-academic Vivek Wadhwa and his team studied both men and women business leaders and their companies and found the following:
- Men and women start-up founders are motivated by the same goals: Both men and women business leaders are driven by a desire to build wealth, chart their own destinies and capitalize on their business ideas.
- Men and women business leaders largely share life circumstances: Wadhwa found that most entrepreneurs are closer to 40 than 20 when founding their companies and that most are married with children. Men were slightly more likely than women to be married.
However, Wadhwa’s team did discover some interesting differences about the business climate in which male and female entrepreneurs operate:
- Women business leaders receive more encouragement from co-founders: According to the research, women entrepreneurs were significantly more likely than men to report that their co-founders urged them to enter into a partnership to launch a new business.
- Women start-up founders are more likely to cite a role model: Women entrepreneurs more often reported being inspired by an entrepreneurial friend or family member than their male counterparts.
Much of Wadhwa’s research focused on high-tech fields, and he found that the academic representation of women in the computer sciences is low and falling:
It decreased from 37% in 1985 to 19% today, largely because girls do not receive the same levels of encouragement in math and science, and this carries over into higher education and career choices. Wadhwa believes this imbalance should be remedied.
However, a key takeaway from the study is that men and women business leaders have much more in common than is generally believed – both sexes are motivated by the same factors and largely share life circumstances.
Women business leaders and those who aspire to launch an enterprise can therefore take encouragement from the fact that men don’t have an inherent advantage.