We all know the feeling. We have a problem; put some spin on it and call it a challenge if you like, but ultimately, it’s a problem.
There are of course, umpteen ways in which it can be solved. Some solutions rule themselves out immediately because they will take too long, cost too much money or wreak too much havoc. Other solutions buzz around our heads like tenacious mosquitoes never settling long enough for us to make a decision. The problem continues to worry us; it fills our mind and saps our energy; it nags away at us. It prevents us from moving forward and growing to reach our potential. But here is the bottom line; find yourself at a roundabout and you can only drive around it so many times until you really do have to select an exit.
So what to do, how to choose where to go?
Liz Toogood is a critical friend to advise businesses and indivduals. She has experience in the sectors of HR, general management, retail and the charity sector. She works with people who find themselves at a crossroads and in confidential one to one sessions, helps you to step outside of the business and yourself to take an objective and constructive approach to improve all areas.
So, the obvious answer is to take the conundrum to someone else, to share, seek advice and hopefully solve this pesky problem once and for all. This is, however, more easily said than done, and guess what – contrary to popular belief – a problem shared brings another problem with it!
Namely, who do we turn to, who should we ask for help? Family members or personal friends are obviously good people who we trust but they may not have the experience or skills to comment on say, business development (though that may not stop them….). They cannot be objective and will often judge (how dare they?!). Even if they do have the technical skills, they might not have the interpersonal skills needed to focus on “getting it”, to listen, evaluate, craft a solution and then review action; building confidence and motivation at the same time.
In my experience, people make the effort to seek out a sounding board because they want a secure place in which to think, in a completely uncluttered zone. They want someone to challenge their thinking and tease out a solution that will deliver their objectives; they want stretching and support; they want someone to whom they can be accountable and they don’t want to feel embarrassed or judged.
People who run businesses live in a lonely world. They come up with good ideas and often overcome tough mental and physical challenges in order to turn those ideas into reality. They build up a customer base, acquire allies and employ people. Confidence and a sense of purpose are of paramount importance, indecision and fear can be fatally counterproductive.
Once their business is established and developing according to plan, they need to examine the options for the next phase. Deciding which step will deliver the desired objectives within the available budget requires a safe space to think out loud and the courage to discuss, discard and develop.
I am a critical friend. Not just a business mentor, but a critical friend. I recognise the fears that the roundabout exit decision can create. I believe in you unconditionally and with objectivity. I know you are influenced by timescale and budget but I also know you wrestle with your internal doubts. I have a wealth of invaluable life and business experience to share. Some of us are good talkers but not so good at making things happen. Others are good listeners and good at making things happen. Working together we can make things happen for you.
A client wrote recently “I feel that the fortnightly session with you is an integral part of my month. I can talk to you about anything, and there isn’t anyone else in my life I feel that about. The fact that you are also a highly skilled professional with a whole heap of knowledge and experience is a blessing and a bonus”. This is great for my ego but much more importantly he is getting the results he wants. He is making the progress towards his targets that he was not making before we met. That is the power of a critical friend, and that is why I love my job.
If you want to take the plunge and try this type of relationship there is some advice I would give you:
- Recognise your own value; realise you are your business’s greatest asset and make the time to invest in your own self-development.
- Be clear what you want from the mentor you seek – write a list of your requirements
- Meet a range of people who appear to have the suite of business experience, knowledge, personal skills and attitude you need. Use personal recommendations to find these people.
- Have a selection of questions to ask. Reject anyone who cares more about their own ego than your progress.
- Ask yourself whether these people have been successful in life and business and what their motivation is to do this type of work.
- Still unsure? Why not talk with me about this type of relationship; what it can yield; what to think about.
- Make sure the chemistry between you works; it will become a very close relationship in which some intimate things will be said. Making a commitment to someone else who believes in you unconditionally and then going back to review progress really moves the project forward.
- Review your progress after three months and you should be surprised and pleased by how far you have moved and the results you have achieved.
Good Luck, go forth and multiply!
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