In this training and development series, we’ve gone over corporate universities and alternative methods of training and development. Both, however, require corporate participation. So the question now is: what do you do if you have no outside training and development resources? This dilemma is particularly powerful for the average business owner who doesn’t necessarily have the advantage of outside help.
Sure, there are free SCORE business seminars and Chamber of Commerce events, but these are one-off events that perhaps teach you a one-off skill. As an entrepreneur, or even as a motivated employee, you need a more aggressive model of mentorship. But when there isn’t anyone to mentor you, you need to become your own mentor … and this is how you do it:
1. Stop Lying to Yourself
Step one, and the most important step for being your own mentor is the stop lying to yourself. Your self-indulgent lies come from one place: the ego. Your own ego is the greatest little trickster there is and it’ll tell you anything you want to hear. Moreover, you’ll believe it because “it” sounds an awful lot like your own voice.
It’s easy to tell yourself a little lie to justify why you’re not getting more business, why you didn’t win over the client, why you were late on a deadline, or why you’re not as successful as you want to be … because, you’ll believe anything you tell yourself.
You’ll come up with excuses for business failures by saying that the economy is in a slump, or that the client was difficult, or that they client didn’t give you enough time on your project, or that the competition is just too stiff.
What you need to do is step outside yourself and be cut-throat in how you deal with yourself. You need to tell yourself that the reason you’re not getting more business is because you’re not trying hard enough or you’re not aggressive and consistent with your efforts. Or perhaps you’re approach is off, in which case you need to brutally diagnose what’s not working.
Maybe you didn’t win over the client because of your own behavior or because you didn’t work to understand the client. Maybe you were late on a deadline because you were not efficient enough, in which case you need to figure out why that is and fix it.
The reasons we fail are usually the result of our own behavior. An outside mentor would tell you that. And if you’re to be your own mentor, you need to be just as truthful.
2. Embrace Your Competition
Nothing keeps you quite as sharp as knowing someone else is better than you. You may not have an intrinsically competitive nature, but when you are charged with a greater-than-you project, it's only human nature to see how your project or company stacks ups against that of others. Embrace that approach if you’re a small business owner who isn’t naturally competitive. Tell yourself it’s not about you but about your company. Set your company up as a competitor (rather than yourself as the entrepreneur competing against another entrepreneur) and it’ll be much easier to (a) evaluate success vs. failure, and (b) work harder to win because you now have a new benchmark.
Competition is healthy. It allows us create new benchmarks and goals that we can measure ourselves again. Those individuals who shy away from competition usually have a fear of measuring themselves against others. However, if you distance yourself and measure company against company, it’s much easier to compete – and it takes the emotion out of the competition.
3. Chose an Icon
Women usually do this all the time when it comes to beauty and fashion. They'll pick out their favorite style icon and try and emulate them - and usually it works. The mental picture is a powerful draw, a mantra if you will, and there's no reason that you can have a favorite business icon.
Here’s how you pick your business icon…
You could pick the cream of the crop in the industry, even your competition, but I feel its borderline unhealthy and slightly defeatist to admit your competitor is better than you or that someone in your industry is always just that much better. My advice would be to choose a company in another industry. For me, it's style and fashion. I already know I'm good at what I do, and I know I can whip out content all day everyday...just like everyone else. So I ask myself, "What does my industry lack and what do I love about other industries." The answer is the same for both: Fun. My industry lacks an ability to play, and it lacks the ability to understand its audience. Today's audience doesn’t want to be bored. It wants bite-size content but it wants to be entertained at the same time. So while true, I can't candy coat the content too much, I can candy coat the delivery through creative fun branding that doesn’t take itself too seriously.