Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Do you need to loosen your grip

We are in the process of selling our home.

It has been our home for 10 years; where Lewis and I began our lives together. It is where we brought our little Leila home after our tedious and long journey to Russia. It is where she learned to walk as she scampered from window to window watching Lewis come home. It is also where we had innumerable get-togethers with aging parents and dear friends. And finally, it is where I poured my love of beauty as I shaped and massaged its walls and floors to showcase art, furniture and worldly treasures.

And so, even as we move just 5 short blocks down the street, dealing with impending change can either root you to the same spot, keeping you stuck, or send you into an emotional tailspin of fear and anxiety.

I have been on both sides of that coin. Sometimes even on the same day.

This journey to take that final step of severing ties with this wonderful home has reminded me of how it felt after 15 years of service when I left my former employer to venture out on my own. It is clear that all too often our grips are tight. Sometimes too tight. Whether it be on a job we have, the place we live, the position we hold, or the project we lead.

We hold on with white-knuckled strength, often to the detriment of ourselves and to longer term opportunities. When our grip is tight our focus is on the past and on maintaining the status quo, making it difficult to see and create a better future.

Jim Collins has written a new book titled "Great by Choice." In this book, he has studied leaders who have led and succeeded during these chaotic, ever-changing and difficult times. He compares them to leaders who were subject to the same external conditions and yet, didn't succeed. This comparison allows him to determine the critical factors that really differentiate those successful leaders.

You may think that his findings concluded that the successful leaders were more bold, risk-takers who were more likely to take leaps into the unknown than those who were not successful.

But he discovered the opposite was true.

Those leaders who succeeded, despite changing circumstances, were able to observe what worked, figured out why things worked as they did and built upon proven ways going forward. In essence, they were more pragmatic and disciplined in their approach. They minimized reacting emotionally to the impending changes around them; not blindly following others or just reacting mindlessly.

You could say they distanced themselves from the emotional hold of the past or the emotional fear of the unknown. They only looked back to get the lessons learned in order to help craft the future on a similar foundation.

So as I take this journey, and you take similar journeys filled with change remember these key points:
You are the constant in a sea of change. All of the elements that make a house a home are all coming along with me. Just like when one leaves one company to start a new venture somewhere else, you take with you all of the elements that can make this new role a career.
Recognize that a tight grip is usually based on fear. Fear of not being able to create in the future what you have already created in the past. Take the time to understand what worked in the past and why it worked. Build a similar foundation in the future to apply this approach adjusting accordingly to changing needs and conditions.
Be pliable and flexible. Grips are not flexible, they are rigid. When you feel the tightening of your attitude, and the gripping of your outlook, remember that part of the journey is to see that more can be gained with openness than with a closed mindset.
I have never been one to be able to just leap...hoping that a net would miraculously appear. So I have been thrilled to learn that those who do succeed in the face of extreme change do in fact leap into the unknown, but they succeed not because they leap but because they have also taken the time to carefully craft their net.

Thank you, Jim Collins. I am loosening my grip and am busy crafting my net.

What about you?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Do you know your value?

Garage sales are generally not a good business idea, unless you're that person getting things on the cheap and putting them up on ebay for ten times the price.

And yet, we held a garage sale a couple of weekends ago.

They're a lot of work for little return. Making $200 for two 10 hour days of work is just a bit above minimum wage...but not when there were two of us working!

But somehow working this hard has a psychological benefit of getting rid of things that you have held on to past the point you should have. Things that no longer hold any value to you.

Then there is another non-financial value of seeing people light up when they find something they want or need at a great price! It adds value to where there may not have been any.

The whole experience certainly made me think about value and pricing, especially when I was exhausted, cold and just wondering why we were doing this.

You see, whether you are looking for a job, seeking a promotion or pricing your services to a customer as an entrepreneur, how you price yourself for the value you provide is always a tricky and complicated matter. Especially if all you are thinking about is the price instead of value.

My daughter reminded me of this when after the garage sale was finished I asked her how she enjoyed it. She said that she didn't.

When I asked her why, she went on to say that she didn't feel like she had done any important work since no shopper had given her any attention by asking for a price or for any help. She felt passed over and unimportant. Then she went on to say, "and I would have had to ask you anyway, so what would be the point?"

My response surprised her.

I said, "First, if you had told people that you were there to help, they probably would have asked you some questions. Secondly, if you did go and find me to find the answer they were looking for, then they would have had more time to shop. You would be doing something for them that they now didn't have to do themselves. That would have been very helpful"

What I described to her was how to create value.

Finding the value that you offer allows you to price yourself effectively.

Unfortunately, people often first think about price, without fully understanding their value proposition. Pricing yourself without fully understanding the value you create can lead you to give away too much or to overprice yourself out of an opportunity.

When marketing your services to an employer or a customer, you can't disregard price as part of your overall brand, since a brand is based on an economic exchange, but you always need to put it into the context of the value you are creating for your target market.

For my daughter, understanding that people who are shopping at a garage sale prefer looking and digging vs. constantly asking for prices can create an opportunity for her to deliver against. Finding a place in which to add value.

This could have provided her with the important work she was looking for... even if she wasn't yet naming her price!

So, will I do another garage sale? Probably.


Because value is more than just a price paid or in this case the money earned for the time spent. For me, there was enough non-monetary value created to offset working for less than minimum wage.

Especially since it provided a meaningful teaching moment for my daughter!

So, what about you? Do you know your value?

Find the ways that you create value both financially and non-monetarily to get a better understanding of your true value and it won't be such a tricky and complicated manner determining your price.