Some people get all stressed out about the holidays that start this time of year. All the shopping to do. Decorations to put up. So many people to see. So much food to cook (and eat). All those extra pounds to lose after the holidays.
For me, holidays are just the opposite. They’re a time to slow down, unwind, and reflect on all the things that I have to be grateful for from throughout the year. I haven’t tracked the exact number of days or air miles logged this year, but it seems like I spent more time on the road than ever. So I plan to make an extra effort to slow down, appreciate the time off the road, and enjoy the holiday activities.
This has been a challenging year for me, like so many of you. Both of my parents had some serious health issues. Long time clients cut projects and budgets, again! Our son went all the way across the country for college. Our daughter had her third knee surgery and had to stop playing soccer. But it made me appreciate how well things are going in so many ways. Our business experienced our best year ever and I met more interesting people and engaged in more exciting work! My parents are doing OK and my son is definitely demonstrating that he is a responsible and amazing man. My daughter turned her energy and enthusiasm towards other pursuits and is even more well rounded and more resilient.
On the professional side, I did come to the realization that despite running as fast as I could, I was not achieving all the rewards (both financial and psychic) that I wanted from my business. So after constantly nagging clients about the need to slow down in order to go fast, I took another dose of my own medicine.
In midyear I convened a strategic planning session with several close advisors and business associates in order to take the time to pause, think, and focus so we could be sure I was running in the right direction towards the right things. We looked at where and how I was committing my time and the results I was getting. Then we compared those results to what I wanted and expected to get. Like many businesses, we discovered a big gap in between.
The real eye opener for me came from recognizing that in order to maximize my results I had to stop doing what so many businesses do, which is agree to take on any client or any project. When people ask for help, I have a hard time turning them down, even if the work doesn’t fit within the parameters of my strategic plan. At the urging of my advisors, I agreed to make some tough decisions about which clients I would serve going forward and with what value offerings.
In other words, I had to learn to say “no.” At least a little more often than in the past. Now I have an even more refined version of what winning looks like for my business, and I expect better results in 2011.
Another outcome from the planning session took me by surprise.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the achievement side of business — the planning, the strategy, the bottom line and all that stuff — that we forget that business is really about relationships. Not just with our clients and customers but with the people we work with to achieve our goals. As I looked around the table at the people who had taken time out from their busy schedules to support me in making my business successful, I thought to myself, “Girl, you have made some amazing relationships over the years!”
I have known and worked with these people for more than 20 years. And as we engaged in lively debate about the course I needed to chart for my business, I realized that they were not just business associates, but true friends. Not only did they freely volunteer their time, expertise and experience, but they cared enough to push me out of my comfort zone and force me to look at things I didn’t want to see.
I always talk about challenging our thought bubbles, assumptions and mental models of the world. But sometimes they are so deeply held that we need extra help in order to break through them and see the world as it really is. In this case, I had a couple of very stubborn thought bubbles getting in the way, and my friends did not hesitate to challenge them and tell me what I needed to hear.
So in addition to home, health and family, this Thanksgiving I’m taking a moment to appreciate all the wonderful friends, coaches, and mentors who push me to be the best I can be and who have given me so much throughout my career. For those of you that cajole, encourage, nag and insist I be the best, you have my sincerest gratitude!
Happy Thanksgiving to all!