Working through the Stages of Change Can Lead to Business and Professional Growth

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“If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.”

Old Chinese Proverb

Is change or growth always necessary? Sometimes we get comfortable staying where we are. Whether it’s a relationship, a house, a car, a job or a business. In my consulting role, I enjoy talking to entrepreneurs who are in transition and contemplating the next phases for their business ventures. I frequently ask them a series of questions to help me better understand their vision for themselves, their career, or business.

Are you comfortable where you are? Do you want to grow or expand?

What is your vision? What goals have you set? Where do see yourself in 2, 5, and 10 years down the road?

What action steps have you taken to accomplish your goals? What do you think is holding you back from taking action?

Sometimes the answers to these questions reflect a general satisfaction with a current state (I’m pretty good; I’m fine where I am; I’ve worked hard to get to this place). Other times, the answers suggest a possible interest in change, with some ambivalence concerning what it might mean to grow (I’ve thought about it and need to, but I just don’t know if I can make any changes at this point; I don’t know if I can afford to expand).

We have all faced important questions that can have huge implications for our professional future, such as, “Is it possible to be satisfied with and grateful for our current circumstances while still desiring a change?” For some, this can be an area of uncertainty because it brings up questions concerning time, resources, and motivation and readiness for change.  There is also the related challenge of being comfortable where we are while realizing that this comfort may be holding us back from something greater.

The Transtheoretical Model (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983; Prochaska, DiClemente & Norcross, 1992) is an integrative, psychological model used to conceptualize the process of intentional behavior change and is based on principles developed from over 35 years of scientific research and intervention development.  The Stages of Change (Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance) are at the heart of the model. Contemplation (aka Getting Ready) is the stage in which people intend to make a change in the next six months. They are more aware of the pros of changing, but are also acutely aware of the cons. If the decisional balance is tipped however, such that the pros outweigh the cons, many individuals move to the Preparation or Action stage. In the Preparation stage, people intend to take action in the immediate future, usually measured as the next month. These individuals have a plan of action.

Traditionally, the model is used to explain the process of behavior changes such as quitting smoking, drinking or over-eating; however, it can be applied to the process of making change’s in one’s career or business. For example, I recently applied this model during a discussion with a business owner who had operated a thriving business for many years.  He had created a brand that was very popular in his local community; however, he realized that in order to move his business to the next level, he would need to expand by securing a new and much bigger location for his growing business.  I could identify with the range of emotions that he was experiencing (from contentment to excitement to apprehension and fear) while he was contemplating whether it was the right time to make this transition.  For him, growing would require taking some risks, including financial ones; however, he knew that he could not remain in his current location if he wanted to grow his sales and customer base. Through our conversation, it became clear to be me that he valued the role that his family members had played in his business, as he had trained and employed many of them throughout the years. He had a desire to build a better future for the youngest members of his family, which was a key motivating factor for growth for him. He was beginning to realize that while growth could definitely lead to more challenges, it could also lead to more resources to be used to make investments in his community, the creation of more jobs for those in need, and security for a stable financial future so that the next generation did not have to start from scratch. 

The weighing between the cost and benefits of changing or growing can produce ambivalence that can cause people to remain in the contemplation stage for long periods of time. Because behavior change is a process that unfolds over time through a sequence of stages, I believe that is it important to help people set realistic goals that will help them progress to the next stage and facilitate the change process.

Stay tuned for our next blog on basic tips for setting goals that can ease the progression from the Contemplation to Preparation and Action Stages of Change.

 

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REAL Women Wine Down: An Evening of Story-Telling

Photo from Powell Consulting's R.E.A.L. Women Wine Down

Photo from Powell Consulting's R.E.A.L. Women Wine Down

“We can either wait to be invited to the table or we can find our own chairs and tables and make a place for ourselves. We need to put ourselves first, share and celebrate our accomplishments with others, take risks, refuse to be silenced, and mentor and support other women, which is key to helping working women thrive. “

Background: Our team at Powell Consulting created Real Women Wine Down because we believe that we are stronger together, as women who are relatable, empowered, accomplished, and life-giving.  We wanted to create a supportive atmosphere for professional women to relax, be celebrated, receive encouragement, and re-energize so that they are ready to go back into the real world that we all know can be difficult at times.

The theme of our first Wine Down was “Story-Telling.” We provided a safe space for a group of professional women to get to know each other through engaging conversation and to be celebrated for their personal and professional accomplishments.

During the event, the women were asked to pair up and get to know at least one other woman and her story by asking the following questions:

1.       Who are you and what is your business or profession?

2.       What are you most proud concerning a business or professional accomplishment

3.       What inspired you to pursue your business or career?

4.       What goals have you set for yourself this year?

Afterwards, we all regrouped and shared each other’s stories. The ladies enthusiastically shared stories of overcoming challenges to start and grow their businesses, completing their education and training, and embarking upon new career paths.

As the event came to a close, Dr. Kristin Powell shared a few words of encouragement.

We are very excited for this circle of women who gathered here today.  We believe that no one should have to do this journey alone. The good news is that we, as women, can be successful in anything that we put our minds to. Women-owned businesses are just as successful as male-owned businesses. Women are being promoted and getting high powered jobs. However, there are barriers that can limit us and keep us from going even higher. There are external and internal barriers, including our own mindsets and confidence level.

This is what I know. We can either wait to be invited to the table or we can find our own chairs and tables and make a place for ourselves. We need to put ourselves first, share and celebrate our accomplishments with others, take risks, refuse to be silenced, and mentor and support other women, which is key to helping working women thrive.

Think about the key people in your lives who have inspired, mentored, and encouraged you along the way. Where would any of us be without those people who have believed in us and perhaps even sacrificed so we could be here today? And can we be that for each other.

Let’s find a way to work together, especially if you have a stumbling block and want to figure out ways to grow or build. Also, you may have a business that is of interest to someone in the room today. Make sure you don’t leave without making those important connections. You never know who can help you or who you can help. For our next gathering, I would like to see all of you back with more adventurous stories to tell. But more importantly spread the word and bring someone with you. Let’s grow our circle. 

Investing in Training and Development in the Workplace

Why is training and development in the workplace so important? Training offers an opportunity to expand the knowledge base and necessary skills of employees, leaders, and teams. Training is essential for overall success in meeting the mission and vision of the organization. When done well, training can help individuals, teams, and organizations develop/enhance leadership, boost performance, and maximize effectiveness. It can also help organizations anticipate and prepare for challenges ahead.

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In addition, investing in training shows employees that they are valued and creates a supportive workplace. It allows employees to gain access to training they would not have known about or sought out for themselves. Employees who are appreciated and challenged through training opportunities tend to have more job satisfaction.

If this is true, why does training often appear to be underutilized in organizations? Why do some organizations appear to have great training models, whereas others seem to be lacking in this area?

There are many reasons for the underutilization of training within businesses and organizations. First, training is often undervalued. Even though employers find training and development opportunities to be important, many have concerns about training costs and having employees miss out on work time while attending training sessions.  In most cases, the benefits to the organization will likely outweigh the risks. For example, most employees have some relative strengths and weaknesses or skills deficits related to previous training or experience. Incorporating a training program can bring all employees to a more comparable level so they are demonstrating similar knowledge, skills, and abilities, which can reduce weaknesses within the organization that can be very costly, in terms of time and money. A company that has competent, well-trained employees can better hold their position as a leader and strong competitor within their chosen industry.

Lastly, it is important to note that even the best training can fail without a clear implementation plan. It is essential to build in post-training implementation into any training plan. A clear implementation plan should detail how, when, and where the knowledge and skills will be applied after the training is over and how training success will be evaluated or measured. A plan for determining the need for future or follow-up training should be incorporated as well.

So how do you get there? A good place to start is with questions that will help develop a focus and direction for incorporating training, such as:

1.       In what areas related to training are we currently excelling?

2.       In what areas could we make improvements?

3.       What are the gaps in skills and knowledge of my employees?

4.       Who should be included in a training program?

5.       What does the organization want to achieve, as a result of a new training program and                       how will success be evaluated?

6.       What internal constraints, such as budgets or timing could limit the plan?

7.       What additional factors need to be considered?

The above is an example of the type of questions that are often addressed during a training needs assessment process. It can be helpful to do this with a team and a facilitator or coach with strategic planning experience, especially since this is often a multi-faceted process. Once the needs assessment is done and verified, the action and implementation planning process can begin! After all the work is done, your employees will thank you for investing in them and your organization will benefit as a result!

Are Business Owners Good Leaders?

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This week is national small business week. This is a time that we celebrate small businesses and their contributions to the local community and the national economy. As I reflect on what it means to be a successful business owner, I realize that these are many of the same qualities that we hold up as good leadership qualities.  Successful business owners are leaders. So what does it mean to be a good leader?

Good leaders are lenders. They lend their time and resources. I recently had a talk with a very successful man who had been an entrepreneur for over a decade.  I had attended one of his presentations for national small business week and had written down several questions for him, hoping that he would have a few minutes to talk with me after his presentation. Although he had revealed a lot about his business during his presentation, I found myself wanting to know more about his story and the secrets that had led to his success. I had written down my questions expecting to only have the opportunity to engage him in a short conversation. Not only did he take the time to answer my questions, he graciously spent the next hour with me and my colleague providing feedback about some of our business ideas. In fact, I realized his “secret to success” before he even told me. He makes a point to build relationships and lends his time everywhere he goes, which had resulted in making connections that led to business opportunities.

Good leaders are respected. “Everyone knows her” is something that we frequently hear about people who are popular or well known. What I have realized is that people can know you, but it does not mean that they respect you or the things that you do.  We also frequently hear the phrase “respect has to be earned. “ So how is respect earned? Although respect can take many forms, I believe that being considerate and consistent are key to earning the respect of others.  Being considerate requires empathy or putting yourself in other people’s shoes, which is no easy task. Neither is being consistent, which often means honoring promises but also not over-committing.

Good leaders listen to advisors. My mother is probably one of my closest advisors because I rarely make a major life decision (at least since adulthood) without “consulting” with her. I also have a few professional contacts who advise me on my career path and my growth and development as a professional and business owner.  Advisors or mentors are typically individuals with more or deeper knowledge in a specific area. At it’s best, advising is a continuous process built upon frequent interactions between advisor and advisee. This can be particularly helpful in areas that tend to be blind spots. Advisors can often help identify issues and provide meaningful guidance before problems arise.

Good leaders are persistent. One of my closest friends jokingly says that I never hear a “no” and seem to have a gift for unrelentingly asking the same question in several different ways, until I hear the answer that I want to hear. While I am not sure if this is true about me, nor if it is a quality always appreciated by others, I believe that a large degree of persistence can get you places. My six-year old daughter seems to know this well.  She and I have been reading “She Persisted” by Chelsea Clinton although I don’t think she needs a lesson on how to be persistent, as this seems to be an innate characteristic for her. “She persisted“ has now become my daughter’s mantra, especially whenever family members ask her to tell them about some historical figure’s accomplishments. What did Rosa Parks do? “She Persisted.” Martin Luther King? “He Persisted” I may be biased, but those sound like good answers to me.

 

I strive to be a better leader every day, with every decision that I make and every action that I take.  Here are some additional leadership improvement tips that I will be working on and I hope that you will join me.

1) Practice Humility

2) Know What You Believe in and Practice Living It

3) Remain Open-minded and Flexible

4) Be a Life-long Learner

5) Add Value to Every Conversation, Group, or Team that You Join

6) Believe in Yourself, Your Ideas, and Your Vision

7) Express Gratitude to People Who Support You and Make Your Work Possible

Birthing A Business

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How many celebrations have you attended during your lifetime? We readily celebrate new births, birthdays, weddings, and graduations…. Think about it. Why do we plan for and attend these events? What is their meaning to the honorees and the attendees? Celebrations have different meanings; however, one central theme across most celebrations is that they mark or honor an occasion through festivities or some deviation from routine.  

 

Why don’t we always celebrate the birth of a business in the same or even bigger way? I recently talked to an entrepreneur who had opened a new small business. She had put all of the steps together to open the business. All of her hard work, time, and dedication cultivated into a successful launch, but she had not yet told many people within her large circle of family or friends about the business. Why is that? Why do we invite hundreds of close family and friends to certain events, such as weddings but sometimes have reservations about inviting others to share in our journey as we become entrepreneurs?  Is it modesty, insecurity, or something else? Do we have concerns about what others will think? Do we have self-doubts about our business ideas or how successful it will be? I will be the first to admit that my mindset is something that I constantly have to evaluate and put into check each and every day. Who else experiences this?

 

What if we had that some approach to becoming a mother or father for the first time? What if we told ourselves something like “I want to wait and see how this whole parenthood thing turns out before I send out my birth announcements- when my child turns 18!”

 

There are a few questions that I regular ask myself and invite you to ask yourself every time that even a glimpse of self-doubt surfaces about your business.

 

What people, events and experiences from your life have already prepared me for this day?

Why am I doing this and who are I doing this for?

What help do I need to move forward with my next steps?

Who within my circle are my biggest cheerleaders? How can they help me?

Who would enjoy helping me celebrate this important milestone?

 

From this day on, let’s celebrate our business in the same way that we celebrate other momentous occasions!

 

Here are four tips to kick things off:

  1. Get Started- This is often the hardest part, but you have to start somewhere. Set a new business goal each day or week and work until you reach it. Continue to set specific and realistic goals until you are ready for the big launch day.

  2. Be Brave- Spread the word about your business, even before the official launch. You never know who may be interested in supporting you by providing words of encouragement, celebrating with you along the way, or partnering with you to help you reach your business development goals.

  3. Speak with Confidence-  Most emerging entrepreneurs appear timid when describing their business ideas. This can be overcome with regular practice. Pick one new person each week to share your business ideas with- well before your official launch. Talk about what your business does, who it serves, and how it impacts others.

  4. Celebrate- Once you reach a major milestone, make sure to celebrate. This can be a small celebration such as planning a date night or treating yourself to a movie, massage or manicure.