leadership incorporated blog

November 8, 2010

7 Questions That Accelerate Business and Career Growth

Meet Jennifer,* leader of a small and rapidly growing business. Her current team does excellent work, provides great customer service and through some smart marketing they have more than tripled her business in the last 6 months. Now, she is seeing the limits of her business approaching fast. She is maxed out. To get bigger, in her mind, means a move, a much scarier commitment to more expensive space, finding people she doesn’t know exist, building a bigger operation than she feels ready to take on. And pursuing all this, in her mind, would make it impossible to deliver on the work she is currently doing.

So, although Jennifer would like to grow more, she is putting on the brakes — or has certainly taken her foot off the accelerator. She is bumping up against her infrastructure. But more than that, she is bumping up against her limiting thoughts about her business and what it can and can’t handle.

This concept also applies to personal career growth. I’ve talked to at least 3 profoundly talented and experienced people this week who are looking for work, but whose vision for themselves is limited by their perceived value of their resumes. Their capabilities go far beyond what’s on the page, but their search is being driven by their negative perception. And this limiting vision is causing them to look for work that is significantly below what they are capable of.

How about you? Where are your beliefs about what you or your business can’t do getting in the way of your potential growth?

Jennifer (and the job seekers I mentioned) are all in the wrong conversation with themselves. By focusing on what is not possible, they become the main thing limiting their own growth.

Let me say that again, the thing limiting your growth is not the economy, not your clients financial situations, not the job market. Not the cost of real estate. Not your resume. Not the increased responsibility.

It’s almost always your own thinking that limits your growth.

There are no rules or limits. Except in your own mind. (Of course, there are laws — so please don’t violate any of those! 😉 If you can create the vision, it is not against the rules to leverage absolutely anything to make it happen.

When I asked Jennifer the following 7 questions, she expanded her story of what was possible for her business and a whole new vision was born. Suddenly she can imagine how she can go beyond her limiting visions and restructure her business quickly so it can continue to grow without overwhelming her.

If you’ve been thinking growth isn’t possible, brainstorm as many answers as possible to these 7 questions, in writing. No limiting beliefs allowed. Just for the purposes of this exercise, expect that all things are possible:

1. How would I choose to grow over the next 6 months to 2 years if nothing could get in my way?

2. What would I need to make this possible?

3. What would I need to make that possible?

4. How could I grow in spite of any limitations I see?

5. How would I need to see myself and/or my business differently?

6. What would I need to become my biggest vision — without depleting myself or my resources?

7. Who or what could accelerate or ease this process for me?

I urge you to expand your story. Be creative. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what could become possible.

Get growing.

*not her real name

October 25, 2010

Making the Leap: 7 steps to create rapid nonlinear growth

Had enough recession? Ready to leap into growth mode? You don’t have to wait for the economy to bestow growth upon you. You can proactively bring it on.

As I’ve worked with people and organizations going through major change for over 5 years, I’ve noticed that  people are seeing the greatest results in the area of non-linear rapid growth.

What do I mean by that? Well, linear growth is the simple, steady continuation of what you’ve already been doing. And you may be able to create growth by simply dialing up your activity in your same areas and with your same clients. But sometimes this isn’t enough. Particularly in a world that is rapidly shifting in many ways, in order to grow we need to innovate, to shift, to become something new, or become a resource to someone new.

I’ve identified some steps that can help you create rapid nonlinear growth whether you are leading a middle-market organization, a smaller entrepreneurial business or simply leading yourself into a new career:

1. Perform a strengths inventory. Put aside what you think you know and do a clean reassessment. Ask  current clients and associates to tell you what you do better than anyone. What problems do you solve best?  What new skills have you developed? What old untapped skills, tools and perspectives might become useful with a fresh coat of paint? Don’t edit at this point. Surface everything you and your team can think of.

2. Identify important need trends in the marketplace. Once you have looked inside, turn your attention outwards. What’s going on out there? Look at your current client base first. Brainstorm. What needs do they have beyond the ones you’re already aware of and serving? Then look to new audiences. Who has needs that might fit your areas of strength? No editing or judging at this point. Get it all down on paper where you can work with it. I  like to scribble it all up on a large piece of butcher block paper affixed to a wall.

3. Find intersections between 1 & 2. Look for themes and new applications. Mix and match. Put on your detached perspective hat, as if you and your organization weren’t the topic. Again, no judging or editing, think up every possible way you might use your identified skills, tools, & perspectives to meet the needs of various audiences.

4. Now, create a specific vision for your growth. Specific is the operative word here. Now is the time for editing & discernment. Don’t worry yet about the how. Focus on the vision itself. What excites you? Where is your biggest possible vision? Who would you be working for/with? What will you be doing for them? What value will you create? What results will you produce? How will you be compensated? Paint a detailed picture of success.

5. Imagine that you have already achieved this picture of success. What will you and your business become once you have realized this vision? Will you be a bigger entity? Who will now be a part of your team? Will you need a bigger space? Will your brand have evolved? Will you have developed new skill sets? What new activities will you be engaged in? What new resources will you have access to? Define your future state as clearly as you possibly can.

6. Prioritize and Plan. Now that you’ve defined the objective, identify the shifts that will make the biggest difference. Also note those that may make no difference at all.  Zoom in on the former. Be creative. Don’t do this alone. Get people you trust to play devil’s advocate, to poke holes in your plans. Keep planning until you have visualized the clearest, shortest and most effective path to your picture of success.

7. Step into the change. Stop thinking that your business will change once growth comes. The secret of creating rapid growth is that if you create the change, the growth will follow. Shift now. Start thinking, acting, talking, being, and making the choices and decisions of that future state right now. And get your team doing the same.

This is not for the faint of heart. To be successful, you have to fully commit to staying on this path even if you get some “nos” early in the game. Remember that successful ventures rarely look exactly as they were envisioned. You’ll need to pay close attention to what’s working and what’s not and be able to balance staying the course with allowing your vision to evolve as you go.

As we approach the beginning of a new year, it may be time to recognize if your efforts at linear growth are actually leading you nowhere. If so, perhaps a little reinvention is exactly what you need to leap into growth.

Blog at WordPress.com.