Friday, January 27, 2023

Choose Courage Over Confidence

Jonathan Kirn/Getty Images

Summary: Self-doubt is a pervasive and often paralyzing concern, and research has repeatedly shown that it impacts women more than men. So what makes high-achieving women power through their self-doubt? According to the author’s research, they focus on building up their courage, not their confidence. She offers three strategies to help women take bold actions in the face of self-doubt and fear: 1) Don’t underestimate the impact of small, yet significant, acts of courage; 2) Practice courageous acts in all areas of your life; and 3) Try again tomorrow.

Have you ever shied away from taking on a role or opportunity because you didn’t feel confident enough? Perhaps your inner critic told you that you weren’t yet ready, weren’t capable enough, or didn’t have enough experience. Perhaps the voice in your head asked: “Why me?”

If you can relate, you’re among the majority of women with whom I’ve worked. I recently asked more than 120 women, from areas including the U.S., UK, Australia, Georgia, Italy, India, Jamaica, and Bermuda: If you’ve ever avoided risks, what factors and reasons contributed to this? More than 70% reported that self-doubt, or not having enough belief in themselves, their capabilities, or their skills, was a driving factor.

As one high-profile executive told me: “Every day I doubt myself. I doubt that I am good enough to be where I am.”

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. We know self-doubt is a pervasive and often paralyzing concern, particularly for women. A study by psychologists at Cornell and Washington State highlighted higher levels of self-doubt in women. Research has also shown that women will apply for a job only if they meet all of the qualifications, while men will apply when they fulfill only 60%. Another recent study identified a substantial gender gap when it comes to self-promotion, with women systematically providing less favorable assessments of their own past performance and potential future ability. Ultimately, men take more chances on themselves, and that pays dividends in the long run.

Focus on Courage, Not Confidence

While this pattern of self-doubt emerged again and again in studies, my interactions, and my client work, I also noticed another commonality: These women’s self-doubts weren’t sabotaging their success. The vast majority of successful women leaders I’ve interviewed and coached have built vibrant and fulfilling careers even while facing self-doubt.

What these women also had in common is courage in the absence of confidence — a trait that is often weaponized against women and used to explain why they fail to achieve career goals. My work has found that successful women take decisive action to move forward even while grappling with fears and doubts and questioning their own “readiness.”

“As women, we often feel like we have to be 100% ready in order to move forward. But, if you are 50% or 75% there, jump. Just do it,” said Megan Costello, former executive director of the Boston Mayor’s Office for Women’s Advancement.

An added bonus? Confidence is the byproduct of courage. The executives I’ve spoken with shared that with each challenge accepted and conquered, they gained confidence. “Gaining more responsibility has given me reason to believe in myself. Now, I’m the president of a brand,” said Julie Hauser-Blanner, former president of Brioche Dorée, a Canadian bakery chain.

By refocusing our internal narratives on courage instead of confidence, women can take bold actions in the face of self-doubt and fear. Here are three strategies to get you started.

Don’t underestimate the impact of small, yet significant, acts of courage.

Micro acts of courage — seemingly small-scale acts that have incremental impacts over time and long-term returns — are key to unlocking a courageous mindset. As Su-Mei Thompson, CEO of Media Trust, shared: “It is not just about taking a few big risks but about pushing yourself each day to get outside of your comfort zone.”

Early in her career at Unilever, Leena Nair often found herself in rooms with few other women, where it felt intimidating to speak up. She came up with a method to encourage her own micro acts of courage. “I used to have a little book in which every time I spoke up, I would draw a star,” she told me during our discussion at the Global Unilever Headquarters in London. “If I opened my mouth five times, then I would draw five stars. If I made a point that really resonated, I gave myself double stars. By doing this, I kept myself accountable.” These micro acts led to long-term rewards — Nair rose to become the first female, first Asian, and youngest-ever CHRO of Unilever, and then went on to become CEO of Chanel.

Courage begets courage. It’s a muscle that gets stronger each time you use it, no matter how small the act.

Practice courageous acts in all areas of your life.

Nervous to start in your working environment? Start with courageous acts outside work. Courage is a transferable mindset that then permeates all aspects of your life.

One woman with whom I worked made a goal of going on a dinner or date or lunch with someone new every week so that she could expand her friendships and dating prospects in a new city, while becoming more connected. Others will go out of their comfort zone and join a gym or fitness class that they previously would have shied away from. Others started saying no more often and protecting time for themselves, rather than trying to please others.

DEI executive Karen Brown shared that she pushes herself outside of her comfort zone in her personal life by “constantly stretching myself to learn, especially that which is unfamiliar to me. This could range from traveling to countries with cultures that are completely opposite of what I’m accustomed to, attending an event, listening to and/or reading content outside my area of expertise.”

Try again tomorrow.

A strategy used by Dr. Elizabeth O’Day, who founded Olaris, Inc., a precision diagnostics company working to change how diseases are treated, is to continue to make a daily commitment to going beyond her comfort zone, even when met with resistance. Now in her 30s, O’Day serves as the company’s CEO, co-chairs the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Biotechnology, and is a member of Scientific American’s steering committee for the publication’s “Top 10 Emerging Technologies.” However, her impressive résumé doesn’t tell the full story of the challenges she has overcome.

“Every day as a young female scientist CEO in biotech, there are challenges, and it takes a lot of courage to face these challenges,” she said. When her company was in the startup phase, O’Day often faced investors who would ask “ridiculous or sometimes insulting” questions, and even challenge her expertise and achievements. “Every time that I was asked to derive mathematical equations or list a dozen metabolic pathways and their links to disease, I would do it without error. Yet, rarely did it translate into the investment that I was seeing male counterparts with far less data or degrees receive.” O’Day’s experience tracks with the numerous studies showing that women receive more scrutiny, including doubt-generating statements, than their male counterparts.

Does O’Day always feel confident? No. As she shares, “I often remember the quote by Mary Anne Radmacher, ‘Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow.’”
. . .

As Anaïs Nin, a twentieth-century French-Cuban-American diarist and writer, said: “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Your career is no different. It’s time to refocus your efforts from seeking an elusive feeling of confidence to taking decisive action with courage.

About the author: 

Christie Hunter Arscott is an award-winning advisor, speaker, and author of the book Begin Boldly: How Women Can Reimagine Risk, Embrace Uncertainty, and Launch A Brilliant Career. A Rhodes Scholar, Christie has been named by Thinkers50 as one of the top management thinkers likely to shape the future of business.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Don’t leave money on the table: Start the year with a financial review


Written by:  Nicole Watson

Conducting a financial review as you start a new year is an intentional, comprehensive effort that will help you understand your current financial state. During the review, you can see the progress you’ve made over the course of last year and it also ensures you make the most out of your financial accounts.

Review health benefits

The beginning of the year is always a busy time, but in many cases, it’s also your best opportunity to make financial decisions that still count toward the last year, and set yourself up for financial success in the new year. You don’t want to unknowingly leave any money on the table.

Make sure to review your benefit elections. Some company health insurance plans refresh on Jan. 1 and others might start over in July. Either way, taking a few minutes to understand what benefits will be available to you in the new year is a great way to set up your financial success. If you have a health savings account (HSA), you can contribute up to $3,850 for self-only overage or up to $7,750 for family coverage in 2023. Unlike flexible spending accounts (FSA), unused money in an HSA rolls over into the next year.

Confirm tax withholding elections

It’s also important to check your tax withholding elections and visit the IRS website‡ to figure out how much you should be withholding from each paycheck. This will help you determine if you will owe the government in April or if you will get money back as a refund.

Max out tax-deferred retirement accounts

There are a few important deposit deadlines to keep in mind as we enter the new year to maximize your savings and retirement investments.

In 2023, the 401(k) contribution limit increases from to $22,500. It’s always a good idea to check your investment choices, allocations and scheduled contributions to make sure you are making the most out of your 401(k)-retirement account. If you have an individual retirement account (IRA) and have extra cash, try to reach the 2023 maximum contribution of $6,500. Remember, you have until April 15, 2023, to contribute to an IRA that can be realized on your 2022 tax return; however, contributions to your 401(k) start over January 1.

Also, the beginning of the year is a good time to update your beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and insurance policies and be aware of upcoming milestones. If you are older than 50, you are eligible for “catch-up contributions” to your IRAs and some qualified 401(k)s. If you are older than 59 ½,you are eligible to take IRA distributions without a penalty.

If the new year will bring a new addition to your family, you can create or contribute to a 529 account, which is used to cover qualified education costs.

Set new goals

Completing a financial review can be overwhelming as you get started, but it can reveal small actions you can take to better prepare for the future. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a banker if you have questions about how you can adjust your accounts and make contributions to benefit your family and financial picture.

About the Author: Nicole Watson

Nicole is senior vice president and territory director for consumer services in the personal banking division. She leads the eastern region's banking centers, including small business banking and benefits banking. She also serves on UMB Financial Corporation's senior leadership team. Nicole joined UMB in 2006 and has 29 years of experience in the financial services industry.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

8 Business Goals To Focus On For Q1 Of 2023


Writen by: Evelyn Hiew

As 2022 is nearing its end, business leaders are beginning to prepare for the start of 2023 by focusing on business goals that will lead to the company's success. From expanding online to enhancing company culture, employers must leverage their past experiences to set goals and expectations to keep the organization thriving in Quarter 1 and beyond.

To set the company up for success, here are several ways you can focus on right now to kick in the new year.

#1 Focus on your employees' well-being

It goes without saying that your employees are your best assets. Hence, it is only natural that taking care of their well-being should be your top priority for the new year.

Today, employee well-being has expanded beyond physical factors to a culture of comprehensive well-being, which includes physical, emotional, social, career, financial, purpose, and community. At the heart of this is the increasing need for flexibility in how, where, and when employees work.

When leaders prioritize employees' well-being, they create an engaging and happy workforce that significantly reduces stress and contributes to the company's overall goals.

#2 Improve your workplace culture

Company culture remains a critical factor that every business should strive to improve in 2023. All HR professionals and employers know that culture is vital for improving employee engagement and attracting and retaining top performers. This is because employees who feel closely aligned with their organization's culture are more likely to enjoy work and feel happier.

For starters, you could set up activities like implementing monthly team-building hangouts or providing more employee development opportunities.

#3 Increase your online presence

Since the pandemic started, businesses have moved into the online scene as the market evolved from conventional brick-and-mortar stores. If you still need to establish your online presence, it's high time you consider it for 2023. This could include strategies like creating more engaging social media postings or developing an official website. Your online presence is crucial for attracting new customers and increasing brand awareness. This is vital if you want to experience growth in the new year.

#4 Increase efficiency in systems

The goal of any employer is for their company to be efficient and robust to maximize its full potential. Focusing on improving your operational systems and processes is also vital as the market continues to operate in times of uncertainty.

Nevertheless, giving your current systems an upgrade could also incur huge costs. It is good to determine which systems or processes produce the most results and strive to improve them to optimize your budget and resources.

#5 Allow for strategic flexibility

Another top business goal to focus on is strategic flexibility in processes, programs, and recruitment. Take the time to screen through a company design exercise to truly gauge the delta between where you are as a company now vs where you want to be in the next year and beyond. Remember to be realistic about the organization's ability to get to the ideal place, given the constraints and uncertainties in the future market.

#6 Focus on your leaders

Companies should train and develop every management level on how to lead their team members. Today's managers are expected to lead with empathy, form concise expectations and balanced workloads, have regular check-ins with employees, and at the same time, support employees' professional goals. Employees who feel they are appreciated and cared for by their supervisors are more likely to be productive and engaged at work.

#7 Review and refresh your company's strategy

As 2022 comes to an end, it's good to have a refresh of strategy, pinpointing of operational metrics, and clear KPIs and objectives at both individual and organizational levels. This means one needs to begin planning and reviewing now, as most companies need help to start how they want to operate during Q1. Be it company growth, cost reduction, or business profitability. You must set your strategy now better than later.

#8 Focus on what truly brings results

Companies should focus on cutting down on things that are not as relevant and emphasize what brings results. For instance, it could be adding features that get the most value to customers, selecting suitable social media platforms with the most reach, establishing the best sales strategies, or investing in tools that help team members collaborate better.

Beyond Q1: Leading your company to its success

If you have yet to develop a quarterly action plan, it can be challenging to know where to begin. Many companies are so used to setting big yearly goals that they often need to remember how to break them into smaller chunks - which is the key to quarterly planning.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

9 Lessons to Learn From Being in the Entrepreneurial Trenches

Our biggest tips for entrepreneurs on what's worked and what hasn't in our first five years.

By Kyle Hermans


Once upon a time, my wife Jenna and I and our three kids under ten moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles, had another baby, and bought our first house together. This, we thought, is the perfect time to quit our jobs and start a business! [eyeroll]

The idea of our company, Be Courageous, was born during the facilitation of a client session when the team was at odds with each other while exploring the future of their business. This quote from George Prince was on the wall: "Another word for creativity is courage."

I realized many of us stay trapped in old thinking and actions when we lack the conditions to be creative and courageous.

A question emerged for me, "What would a world with an abundance of courage look like? How can I help create it?"

With my experience in marketing, strategy and facilitation, and Jenna's in psychology, human resources and operations, we founded our business consultancy, Be Courageous. Every year we've grown. Every year our impact has expanded. Every year we've learned.

Here are some of our biggest learnings for those of you on your entrepreneurial journey.

9 lessons from five years of learning

As any reader here knows, starting and running a business is a piece of cake. Ha!

For real, here is what we learned, having grown our U.S. business of two to a worldwide organization with dozens of clients and 35+ network partners while positively impacting nearly 1 million people in 82 countries.

1. Agility

One of our most in-demand programs with Fortune 500 companies this year has been our training on agile leadership. When you own your own business — the unexpected will happen. A successful entrepreneur adapts to new challenges and situations and creates lemonade from lemons.

We have created programs we never thought we would in response to what the world has needed from us.

Have a solid plan, but be flexible.

2. Purpose

We aim to activate courage in companies worldwide and align them with a planet-beneficial future. Yours might be to improve humanity's mental health or lessen people's stress by building an easier-to-use product. Whatever your purpose is, make sure you're deeply passionate about it and that it fuels your actions.

Use the strength of your purpose to courage through challenges.

3. Superpowers (and kryptonite)

We found more success when we identified and focused on our greatest strengths. We aligned our strengths with our values and the services we wanted to provide to our clients to solve a problem they faced.

For example, my superpower is guiding businesses to realize their potential and future. My kryptonite is getting tripped up in the micro-details of spreadsheets. That's where Jenna comes in. She leads operations with her superpower of keeping our company financially stable, growing and on the ground. I'm the visionary, and she makes it possible.

Align your superpowers with your business goals and values. Find people who have superpowers you lack.

4. Curiosity

In an exponentially-changing world, having an open mind is the key to running a successful business. Be curious about skills you don't have and new ways to solve problems. Challenges will arise, but if your curiosity remains peaked, you'll always get to the solution positively. Ask, "What is the courage needed in this situation?"

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it feeds company growth. (We're a dog company, anyway, no offense to cats.)

5. Healthy company culture

Create a team that feels safe, strong, empowered and able to share and receive ideas. When you foster personal connections with your team and your clients (yes, business is personal), you will thrive beyond competitors who are only in it for the buck.

Develop a positive company culture to unlock the full potential of your team.

6. Operational foundation

While you don't want to get bogged down in systems and processes, your business won't thrive without a solid operational foundation. Get an understanding of legal, financial and team infrastructure.

Stay pragmatic and, as we like to say, "aggressively conservative." We make leaps, but only with a net.

Develop systems to streamline your business, so you can focus on serving your customers.

7. Integrity

Many people make empty promises, which erodes trust over time. It's far better to over-deliver on your word. Pay what you say you will, earlier than you say you will. We've established deep, trusting relationships with our clients. We foster community.

We get callbacks five years after doing one program with a client because we don't burn bridges; we build them.

Show up with your heart, don't be a jerk, and honor your word.

8. Optimism

Never doubt what you can achieve, yet don't be disillusioned. Approach everyone you can as a holistic human being, putting aside bias. Presume positive intent and look for positive solutions. Expect people to be their best until proven otherwise. And even then, be graceful about terminating any relationships.

Work and live from a place of abundance, not scarcity.

9. Mindful hiring

Be thoughtful about who you bring into your organization.

We hire a type of person — not only for the exact level of expertise we need. We hire people in love with our vision. A person who can be adaptive and learn with us. Who is willing to put in the work for a shared purpose.

Hire the right puzzle piece for your vision, not just how they look on paper.

Bottom line

Owning your own business isn't for the faint of heart. It's an ebb and flow of successes and learnings. But 20 years from now, if you look back, would you regret not doing something about your big and burning idea?

Fear will never go away, but when the desire to fulfill your purpose outweighs the fear of risks involved, that's when you know you're made to be an entrepreneur.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Happy Holidays 2022

Sending our warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a successful and glorious happy new year!

Soledad Tanner, MIB


Friday, December 9, 2022

Deciding What Kind of Business to Start? Here's a Simple Approach Every Entrepreneur Can Follow

Deciding what kind of business to start begins with defining success, and then considering the role of variance.


Photo: Getty Images

While there are countless ways to decide what kind of business to start, for the sake of argument let's imagine there are two basic approaches:

Low variance. Decide to do what other people have successfully done, and with hard work and perseverance you should reach the 80th percentile of success in that pursuit, if only because most people don't work nearly as hard, or as smart, as they like to think.

An example of the low variance path -- lower risk, but lower return -- is a person with solid carpentry skills who decides to go into the deck building business. Lots of customers need decks. Then again, plenty of construction small business owners build decks. Choose that route, and with time and effort you might not get rich... but the odds are good you can make a decent living.

High variance. Think of this as the outlier path. Choose to do what few people have successfully done, and you might -- just might -- become extraordinarily successful. (And rich, if that's your goal.)

Mark Zuckerberg is a good example of the high variance path. Instead of taking a low variance approach and, say, starting a web design business, he launched a new and unproven venture. The odds of success in that high variance approach were naturally extremely low, but in his case the upside turned out to be astronomically high.

Sounds great.

At least for the Zuckster.

Starting a Business With High Variance

The Facebook founder isn't just a high variance outlier. He's also a good example of survivor bias, focusing on people or things that "survived" while overlooking those that did not.

Take Ryan Gosling. He dropped out of high school when he was 17 and moved to L.A. to pursue acting. It worked spectacularly well for him, but what about the thousands of kids who drop out and move to southern California in hopes of making it? Do they all become movie stars?

Of course not.

But you never hear about them.

The same is true for Steve Jobs. Jobs dropped out of Reed College so he could "drop in" on classes that interested him. It worked for the Apple co-founder. (Maybe not so well for this forgotten Apple co-founder who arguably left $75 billion on the table.) But what about the countless people who don't finish college? Do they all become billionaires?

Of course not.

But you never hear about them.

That's why Michael Shermer, the author and publisher of Skeptic magazine, says advice on high variance success distorts perceptions by ignoring all the businesses and college dropouts who failed. And why university of Waterloo professor Larry Smith says, referring to Jobs:

And what about 'John Henry' and the 420,000 other people who tried ventures and failed? It's a classic case of survivor bias.

We make judgments about what we should do based on the people who survived, totally ignoring all the guidance from the people who failed.

The problem with survivor bias is that it doesn't really indicate whether a particular strategy, or technique, or plan will work -- and specially whether it will work for you.

Take the high variance approach by basing your plans -- or your expectations of success -- on a blueprint that worked for an outlier, and the potential outcome may be extraordinarily high. But so will your level of risk.

That's neither a bad nor good thing.

But it is definitely a factor you should consider.

Starting a Business With Low Variance

The flip side is choosing a route with low variance. As Nassim Taleb writes in Fooled by Randomness, "Wild success is attributable to variance. Mild success can be explained by skills and labor."

Keep in mind "mild success" can still be considerable. Say your interest lies in healthcare. The high variance approach would be to launch a startup based on a new wearable device: The odds are low it will capture the market, but if it does... yeah.

The low variance approach could be to go to med school. With time, study, and hard work, you could become a skilled physician. While the upside isn't unlimited, it's still pretty great, especially if you someday scratch your latent entrepreneurial itch and launch your own practice.

To evaluate the odds of success, Taleb advises considering "alternative histories." If you could relive a set of events 1,000 times, what would the range of outcomes be? In a high variance approach -- becoming Steve Jobs, Ryan Gosling, Joe Kudla, or Kirk Hammett -- the odds are (maybe) 1 in 1,000.

In a low variance approach -- say, starting a deck-building business -- the odds are likely considerably better than even. Assuming your level of effort and perseverance remain constant, you'll probably have about the same level of success, and make the same amount of money, 700 or 800 times out of 1,000.

Randomness -- or luck -- won't play much of a role.

And that's an important point, because luck always plays a role in extraordinary success. While if you out-work, out-think, out-skill, and outlast other people you are much more likely to be successful, research shows you also need to get lucky.

Right place, right time. Or right person, right time. Or right idea, right market, or right audience. As Mark Cuban says, "To make billions, you'll have to get lucky."

Bottom line? The lower the variance, the smaller the role luck is likely to play in your success.

Starting a Business Means First Defining "Success"

As you consider which business to start -- or which career path to take -- first decide what "success" means to you. If you want to make a decent living doing something you love, consider a low variance approach; choose a path where effort and skill tends to pay off directly.

If you want to get rich, you'll need to choose a path where effort and skill matter, but so does luck. While survivor bias -- and hindsight bias -- appears to explain success, no path, no plan, and no strategy is ever certain. Success in that case will only seem inevitable in hindsight. "Wild" success will always be at least somewhat random.

But keep in mind that where success is concerned, "mild" is relative. Start a deck building business with one or two employees, and your upside is largely constrained by the hours you work. Build that business by adding services, crews, and locations, and your "mild" success can become considerable.

Which leads to an even more important point. When you're deciding what kind of business to start, variance matters.

But the most important factor is whether you will get to do work you enjoy: Work that leaves you feeling fulfilled, and satisfied, and happy, and that allows you to control, as best possible, your own destiny.

The beauty of starting a business is that you are free to choose what kind business. Make sure you design and build your business not just on a potential outcome, but also on the process of achieving that outcome.

Then, no matter whether the outcome is mild or wild, you'll still be successful.

Because you will be doing what you love to do.