Friday, May 5, 2023

5 Unexpected Life Changes You Might Experience When Starting a Business


BY IVAN POPOV • APR 17, 2023

Running a business sometimes has an unpredictable effect on our lives — but the more we are aware of all the possible takeaways, the easier it would be to overcome each obstacle along the way.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Starting a business is a goal many people pursue at some point in their lives. Once we see the potential in us and grow to believe in our expertise, we begin considering what would it be for us to start fresh and become our own boss. As intriguing and exciting as it may sound, sometimes business ownership arrives with unexpected life changes we haven't seen coming.

Oftentimes I've spoken about what we need to be prepared for business-wise — things like saving up for initial investments, finding the perfect business niche and learning how to spot great employees are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fully submerging ourselves in the world of entrepreneurship. With time, we usually learn how to adapt and overcome obstacles along the way that are strictly work-related, but what about the certain amount of change we'd be witnessing during our outside-of-office hours?

Truth be told, it would be rather naรฏve on our part to believe that such a huge event like starting a business won't affect our personal and social life in any way. That's why I've decided to shed some light on five unexpected life changes you might witness once becoming a business owner. It's better to be prepared and informed instead of being taken off guard.

1. Your professional and personal lives will inevitably mix

Right at the beginning of my CEO journey, I assumed the biggest hardships I'm about to witness would revolve around the establishment of my company. Details like building a portfolio, finding the best employees and getting our work out there took a considerable amount of my time, and yet I knew quite well this is what the road ahead is supposed to look like. As busy as it got, I was somewhat prepared — after all, the majority of aspiring entrepreneurs have a good understanding of how their professional life is about to change once they step into the world of business ownership.

But here's the thing — our professional and personal lives are so intertwined that is almost impossible for one not to affect the other.

Feeling constantly overwhelmed, the long working hours, the overall work-related pressure and stress and monitoring how's your business going on weekends are simply a small part of all business-related consequences that might affect our outside-of-office hours. Naturally, we'd feel pressured by time and deadlines and this could cause disruptions in the way we choose/can to spend our free time. What's more, all those predispositions may lead to somewhat unexpected changes in our lives that we couldn't see coming and may bring discomfort and struggle in the area.

2. You may notice your social circle shrinking

As disturbing as it may sound, many entrepreneurs (especially right at the beginning of their career journey) share that their friends appear to be drifting away from them once they launched their gigs.

There could be numerous reasons for this: For instance, people from your social circle might feel neglected or as if you've chosen work over spending quality time with them. Another possible, yet bitter option, is that they might start witnessing their lack of development as now you're skyrocketing your own business.

Whatever the reason is, your social circle shrinking is a plausible outcome of your entrepreneurial goals — and it's better for you to be prepared, just in case. Honest and open conversations about how each person feels usually help get rid of the issues and misunderstandings and you can all salvage the relationship.

3. New people may come into your life and stay for good

Usually, when people opt for business establishments, they need to communicate with fellow entrepreneurs, clients, prospective investors, etc. The more you put yourself out there and attend networking events, the higher the chance is for you to widen your social circle and let newcomers appear. More often than not, relationships built on mutual business interests tend to last for long as people share experience and expertise, while also providing support and guidance.

4. You might find it extra hard to keep a balance between work and personal life

When we are employed, we usually treasure our time off from work and look forward to it, but things change when we lead our own business. You might find it hard to juggle between opening your laptop and checking that minor detail on a Sunday afternoon even though it could wait until Monday, especially at the beginning.

In the long-term, this lack of balance and fruitful relaxation time could have a tremendous effect on your mental health as you'd find yourself always being at work subconsciously. So it's important to set certain standards for yourself when it comes to taking some time off and enjoying life outside of the office.

5. You might experience a change of heart when it comes to your career

Some people find out business ownership is not as enjoyable as they thought it was and prefer getting back to being employed. Others might enjoy running an enterprise in general, but realize their desired niche is not the one they primarily chose. All those instances, even though troublesome at first, are a good thing — it's the ultimate path toward self-discovery and paving one's way to a successful career that aligns with who they are.

Of course, all those are assumptions — as often as they may appear, some entrepreneurs never face obstacles and difficulties of this sort. It doesn't hurt to be prepared though — owning a business isn't merely about running some numbers and never expecting anything to be different. At the end of the day, change helps us grow.

Ivan Popov


CEO and Tech Lead of Vipe Studio
Ivan Popov serves as the CEO of Vipe Studio, which establishes and maintains WordPress-based websites for enterprises and SMEs. He is always curious about technology, web and software development, WordPress, sports, journalism, leadership, entrepreneurship and all things mental health.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Self-Employment Rises Among Women, Surpassing Pre-Covid High

Written by: Ryan Derousseau
Senior ContributorDT

Self-employment among women has jumped to pre-Covid highs, after a period of significant decline.GETTY

Self-employed women, broadly speaking, felt the full brunt of the Covid downturn at greater numbers than nearly any other group. The rate of self-employed mothers working at least 30 hours a week, for instance, dropped by more than 40% in one month from March to April 2020, according to Federal Reserve data. The rates of self-employed fathers working at least 30 hours a week dropped by 18% in comparison.

That number has reversed, according to new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. In the years that followed the initial Covid surge, the number of women and mothers that have chosen the self-employment route has steadily increased, rising faster than rates of men and fathers.

Women now represent nearly 40% of all self-employed individuals, up from 34% in 2016. By August 2022, the number of self-employed women with children surpassed pre-Covid numbers as it sat 8% higher than rates seen in January 2020. These rates jumped even higher among women of color.

“As the rate of self-employment grows for all women, and especially for those of color, their businesses will have an increasingly large impact on the economy,” wrote Emily Ryder Perlmeter, a senior advisor in community development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Rates Fell During Hard Times

A reason that self-employment rates dropped further for women during the Covid recession also highlights holes within the parental safety-net. Childcare proved to be a significant cause of the decline amongst women who had children and were self-employed.

“Child care burdens in the United States fall disproportionately on women, which means that self-employed mothers were more likely than fathers to take time off to focus on at-home schooling,” wrote Perlmeter. “For another, women-owned firms were more likely than those owned by men to be in a financially precarious position prior to the pandemic.”

Women-owned firms without employees had an almost identical chance of operating at a loss as they did operating with a profit – 37% to 39% – in the months leading up to the pandemic. With little room to maneuver and familial demands that fell more on women than men, women-led, self-employed businesses suffered.

When dealing with issues that have large, societal reasons for existing – like the oft expectation that when stuff goes awry, it’s the mother not the father that will stay home with the kids – you cannot fix it through personal finance solutions. But you can fix your own susceptibility to the burden through personal financial tactics. It’s where honing that focus during times of relative strength (or less concern) can have significant benefits if something unexpected occurs again.

One important strategy is to try and build an emergency fund that covers expenses in case your work slows or you have to take time away for a short period. While let’s hope there’s not another Covid-like experience in our lifetime, you will likely experience shocks to your self-employment, in good economic conditions and bad. These shocks can come in the form of slower business, health concerns or parental duties. But having 3-6 months of monthly pay that you store in an easily accessible business savings account – separate from your personal account – will ensure you do not have to derail your self-employment company at the slightest sign of adversity.

The other tactic: make sure to diversify your clients.

Often, when someone in self-employment struggles, they have only one way to charge or attract clients. They serve one specific sector or only produce one type of product or service. But having multiple types of clients, across different sectors, needing different services or tools will ease this stress.

Outside of a Covid-esque derailment, while one part of the business lags, other parts of the business can be used to make up the shortfall.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Entrepreneurship Over the Last 35 Years — and How We Can Change the Future for Women Business Owners

Written by: Sharon Miller
President of Small Business and Head of Specialty Banking & Lending
Sharon Miller is the president of Small Business and head of Specialty Banking and Lending, which includes overseeing Consumer Vehicle Lending, at Bank of America. In addition, she is a member of the company’s management operating committee.

Celebrating 35 years of women's entrepreneurship and taking a look at what more needs to be done to pave the way for a successful generation of future women leaders and entrepreneurs.

With Women's History Month upon us, it's important that we honor, celebrate and recognize the impacts women entrepreneurs make across the business world. Women business leaders play an essential role in their local communities, our economy and the world at large. They serve as a vital part of the world's economic engine and empower the next generation of women to reach their goals as entrepreneurs.

Women made strides toward equality and advanced their mark on business in 1988 when The Women's Business Ownership Act was passed. This act, which was supported by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), was created to address the needs of women by eliminating lending practices by banks that made business ownership more difficult for women than men.

This year, as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of The Women's Business Ownership Act as well as Women's History Month, it's important to pay respect and acknowledge our history and recognize its impact on the present. There is still work to be done as we can pave the way for a successful generation of future women leaders and entrepreneurs.

A look back at women's entrepreneurship over the last 35 years

More than three decades ago, the process to start a business changed for the better for women. The Women's Business Ownership Act was passed and empowered women entrepreneurs across the country to pursue their business goals. Prior to its passage, women business owners were required to have a man related to them as a co-signer on their business loans. The act helped reduce discrimination based on gender and allowed women to access capital to start a new business or fund their existing business.

There has been a significant increase in women-owned businesses since that milestone event. A few years after its passage, the number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. reached 6.4 million in 1992 — this represented one-third of all domestic firms and 40% of all retail and service firms, according to the United States Census. As of 2019, the number of women-owned businesses has doubled to nearly 13 million (representing 42% of all U.S. businesses), and a 2022 study showed that over the past three years, the number of women entrepreneurs grew by 48% year-over-year, which outpaced their male counterparts by 22%.

How we change the future for women business owners

Though we've made great strides over the last 35 years, women continue to face greater challenges than their male counterparts — for example, access to capital remains a critical issue for women and minority business owners. According to Bank of America's 2022 Women and Minority Business Owner Spotlight, nearly one-third of women business owners do not believe that women will ever have equal access to capital, and for those who do, they believe on average it will take nine years to achieve equal access. Clearly, we still have much progress to achieve.

To help overcome the disparity in access to capital, women need support and resources to navigate the capital landscape and identify potential sources of funding, such as equity, debt and grant capital. Banks have a responsibility to provide accessible capital solutions. There are a number of resources available right now that many women business owners don't know about. For example, in 2021 Bank of America launched the Access to Capital Directory for Women Entrepreneurs to help connect women to organizations that provide funding for women-owned businesses. Additionally, the Bank of America Institute for Women's Entrepreneurship at Cornell provides the opportunity for women to earn a certificate in business from the Ivy League university. The bank has also recently launched a public marketplace to support and showcase women-owned businesses that participate in programs to drive women's entrepreneurship.

Mentorship can also make a considerable difference in your professional growth. Over the years, I've learned the importance and value of this, both as a mentor and a mentee, and how much more can be achieved when you pay it forward and help lift other women up. This can be done through providing programs and materials, serving as a confidant to a peer or encouraging women to look into new, educational resources.

Education will continue to be key as women work to achieve full equality in business. Whether it's learning about business tactics or how to apply for grants, women must use every available resource to enhance their knowledge and reach as they begin their business endeavors. Through collaboration with fellow women and business partners, they can enhance efficiency, strengthen financial knowledge and deploy their creativity that takes their businesses to unseen levels of new success.

Many women business owners face challenges daily, but they continue to overcome adversity and remain dedicated — as we've observed over the last 35 years. I have especially seen this in my personal and professional life. We have a lot to celebrate, but I am even more excited and exhilarated to see what we accomplish in the next 35 years.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Interview by American leadership forum to Soledad Tanner (Women History Month)


๐–๐จ๐ฆ๐ž๐ง'๐ฌ ๐‡๐ข๐ฌ๐ญ๐จ๐ซ๐ฒ ๐Œ๐จ๐ง๐ญ๐ก! All month long we will be spotlighting ALF Senior Fellows in our region making history in their fields.

Meet ๐’๐ž๐ง๐ข๐จ๐ซ ๐…๐ž๐ฅ๐ฅ๐จ๐ฐ, ๐’๐จ๐ฅ๐ž๐๐š๐ ๐“๐š๐ง๐ง๐ž๐ซ, ๐‚๐ฅ๐š๐ฌ๐ฌ ๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ” Founder and CEO of STC Consulting.

๐€๐ฌ ๐š ๐Ÿ๐ž๐ฆ๐š๐ฅ๐ž ๐ฅ๐ž๐š๐๐ž๐ซ, ๐ฐ๐ก๐š๐ญ ๐ข๐ฌ ๐š๐๐ฏ๐ข๐œ๐ž ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ฐ๐จ๐ฎ๐ฅ๐ ๐ ๐ข๐ฏ๐ž ๐ญ๐จ ๐จ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ซ ๐ฐ๐จ๐ฆ๐ž๐ง ๐š๐ฌ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ฒ ๐ง๐š๐ฏ๐ข๐ ๐š๐ญ๐ž ๐ข๐ง ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐œ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ซ๐ž๐ง๐ญ ๐ฐ๐จ๐ซ๐ฅ๐?
Be your authentic self, be kind, be prepared, smile, and always remember: "No matter who you are, where you are, or where you come from, you can achieve the life of your dreams."

๐‡๐จ๐ฐ ๐ก๐š๐ฌ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐€๐‹๐… ๐ž๐ฑ๐ฉ๐ž๐ซ๐ข๐ž๐ง๐œ๐ž ๐ฌ๐ก๐š๐ฉ๐ž๐ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐š๐ฌ ๐š ๐ฅ๐ž๐š๐๐ž๐ซ? ๐€๐ง๐ ๐ฉ๐ฅ๐ž๐š๐ฌ๐ž ๐ฌ๐ก๐š๐ซ๐ž ๐จ๐ง๐ž ๐ž๐ฑ๐š๐ฆ๐ฉ๐ฅ๐ž ๐ญ๐ก๐š๐ญ ๐๐ž๐ฆ๐จ๐ง๐ฌ๐ญ๐ซ๐š๐ญ๐ž๐ฌ ๐ก๐จ๐ฐ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐€๐‹๐… ๐ฅ๐ž๐š๐ซ๐ง๐ข๐ง๐ ๐ฌ ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ž๐ฑ๐ฉ๐ž๐ซ๐ข๐ž๐ง๐œ๐ž ๐ก๐š๐ฌ ๐ก๐ž๐ฅ๐ฉ๐ž๐ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐š๐ฌ ๐š ๐ฅ๐ž๐š๐๐ž๐ซ.
I have a deeper awareness on how my "coding" has influenced my emotions, decisions, actions and how I show up in the community.

I love the concept of being in "productive disequilibrium" and "raising the heat" to the level where the discomfort of not dealing with the issue could be higher than the consequences of not addressing.

๐€๐ฌ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ซ๐ž๐Ÿ๐ฅ๐ž๐œ๐ญ ๐ญ๐ก๐ข๐ฌ ๐ฆ๐จ๐ง๐ญ๐ก ๐จ๐ง ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ ๐ฅ๐ž๐š๐๐ž๐ซ๐ฌ๐ก๐ข๐ฉ ๐ž๐ฑ๐ฉ๐ž๐ซ๐ข๐ž๐ง๐œ๐ž, ๐ฐ๐ก๐š๐ญ ๐ญ๐ก๐จ๐ฎ๐ ๐ก๐ญ๐ฌ ๐ฐ๐จ๐ฎ๐ฅ๐ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ฅ๐ข๐ค๐ž ๐ญ๐จ ๐ฌ๐ก๐š๐ซ๐ž ๐š๐›๐จ๐ฎ๐ญ "๐ซ๐š๐๐ข๐œ๐š๐ฅ ๐œ๐จ๐ง๐ง๐ž๐œ๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง๐ฌ" ๐ฐ๐ข๐ญ๐ก ๐จ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ซ ๐ฐ๐จ๐ฆ๐ž๐ง ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ญ๐ก๐จ๐ฌ๐ž ๐ซ๐ž๐ฅ๐š๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง๐ฌ๐ก๐ข๐ฉ๐ฌ ๐ก๐š๐ฏ๐ž ๐ข๐ฆ๐ฉ๐š๐œ๐ญ๐ž๐ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐š๐ง๐ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐œ๐จ๐ฆ๐ฆ๐ฎ๐ง๐ข๐ญ๐ฒ ๐ฒ๐จ๐ฎ ๐ฌ๐ž๐ซ๐ฏ๐ž?
The power of connections is crucial because it opens the door to vulnerability and transformation. I have developed deep friendships and a sense of belonging, which is key to long lasting impact and evolution. ALF has been an amazing experience for me!

Monday, February 13, 2023

Burn You Out

Written by: by Rob Cross,
Jean Singer, and
Karen Dillon


Summary. Stress comes to us all in tiny little assaults throughout our day — what we call “micro-stresses” — for example, the frustration of a colleague missing the mark on a joint project, or the emotional toll of a trusted work colleague moving on. These...more

We all have days when we go home exhausted, fall into bed, turn off the light, and drift into a fitful sleep. For some of us, that happens almost every day. You might chalk it up to a difficult project, client, or boss stressing you out. But what you might not realize is that there is much more contributing to that exhaustion. Stress comes to us all in tiny little assaults throughout our day — what we call “micro-stresses.” And it’s coming from sources you might never have considered. The volume, diversity, and velocity of relational touch points (the way we routinely communicate and collaborate with others) we all experience in a typical day is beyond anything we have seen in history, and cumulatively they are taking an enormous toll on our health and our productivity at work.

You probably don’t need us to tell you that stress makes you more susceptible to chronic illness and mental health conditions, such as depression. By some estimates, 60-80% of all doctor visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Stress is so harmful to employees that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declared stress a hazard of the workplace. Stress takes a big bite out of productivity, as stressed-out people tend to make lower-quality decisions and are often less motivated, innovative, and productive in their work. Ultimately, unrelieved stress can lead to burnout, which is characterized by exhaustion, detachment, and poorer performance at work.

The problem is that most of us have come to accept micro-stresses as just a normal part of a day. We hardly acknowledge them, but cumulatively they are wearing us down. And what’s worse is that the sources of these micro-stresses are often the people — in and out of work — with whom we are closest. We have identified 12 common “relational” drivers of stress (see chart below) that are likely taking a significant toll on your well-being, without you necessarily being aware of their impact. Until you recognize these sources of stress, you can’t begin to address them.

Our conclusions about micro-stresses are based on research we’ve done over the past decade involving dozens of top-tier companies, where we engaged with hundreds of people across industries such as technology, biopharmaceuticals, finance, and manufacturing and asked them to share their experiences of relationship-driven stress with us, using both quantitative studies and in-depth interviews. Our goal was to identify the sources of micro-stresses that are the direct result of the way we typically interact with each other at work and home. We have categorized these stresses into three buckets: 1) micro-stresses that drain your personal capacity (the time and energy you have available to handle life’s demands); 2) micro-stresses that deplete your emotional reserves; and 3) micro-stresses that challenge your identity and values. Do any of these feel familiar?

What’s Driving Your Stress

Micro-stresses infiltrate our lives in ways we often do not realize. The chart below shows 12 common micro-stresses and the relationships from which they emanate. Select the two or three that systematically drive the greatest stress for you.

Micro-stressesBossOther leadersPeersClientsTeamLoved ones
Draining your personal capacity
Unspoken tensions in the ways we routinely work with our colleagues create stress when they generate additional work or reduce our ability to do what we already have on our plate.
Misalignment of roles or priorities
When others don’t deliver reliably
Unpredictable behavior from a person in a position of authority
Poor communication norms
Surge in responsibilities at work or home
Depleting your emotional reserves
Some micro stresses cause us harm through negative feelings that drain our emotional reserves: worry for people we care about, uncertainty over the impact of our actions, fear of repercussions, or simply feeling de-energized by certain types of interactions.
Managing others and feeling responsibility for their success and well-being
Confrontational conversations
Mistrust in your network
People who spread a contagion of stress
Challenging your identity or values
Most of us like to think that we have a clear set of values and identity that guide our actions, at work and at home. Interactions that routinely create friction with those values or challenge your sense of self can be emotionally exhausting.
Pressure to pursue goals out of synch with your personal values
When someone undermines your sense of self-confidence, worth, or control
Disruptions to your network
Source: Rob Cross, Jean Singer, and Karen Dillon©

The point is that these micro-stresses are all routinely part of our day and we hardly stop to consider how they are affecting us, but they add up. They may arise as momentary challenges, but the impact of dealing with them can linger for hours or days. In our research, we have seen a plethora of high performers who seem to inexplicably burn out. But when you look more closely, the trigger becomes clear: a battery of micro-stresses building up over time.

So what can be done to mitigate the micro stresses in your life? Traditional advice on coping with negative or stressful interactions doesn’t work because micro-stresses are deeply (and invisibly) embedded in our lives. They are coming at us through relationships and interactions that are too numerous and high velocity to easily shake off. Consider even just one micro-stress in your day — perhaps the frustration of a colleague missing the mark on a joint project, or the emotional toll of a trusted work colleague moving on — and try explaining it to someone close to you. This kind of discussion traditionally helps people process and deal with stress. But it can take 30 minutes to describe the history, dependencies, and context so that that person can empathize and possibly make helpful suggestions over the next half hour. A precious hour later, you might feel better… or you might have wasted both of your time. In many scenarios, we’re getting hit with 20-30 micro-stressors a day. Who has time to articulate this all? And who, on the receiving end, wants to hear it?

Micro-stressors pose a different dilemma than we have seen before so we need new tools for mitigating them. Our work shows three promising approaches.

    1) Isolate and act on two to three micro-stressors. The chart above can help you to locate two to three micro-stresses that have a persistent impact on your life. These have typically become things we’ve considered to be “normal” in our lives that if altered can have a significant impact. Micro-stressors create emotional build-up that needs to be released before you can think rationally about a constructive response. So the first step is to decompress — hit the pause button, close the laptop, and undertake an activity that is self-affirming and that absorbs you so “the nonsense of all the things that bother you melts away.” When you narrow the list of micro-stressors you’re focusing on to two or three, it’s easier to find time and energy to vent, if that’s helpful to you. Our stressors often look different after we’ve had a chance to distance ourselves from the “noise” of anxiety or defensiveness. Conversations with trusted people in our network can help to unpack what’s really bothering us and why, or reframe and see our stressors in a different light. We can then act and know that we’re taking direct aim at the source of our stress, for example by having an awkward-but-crucial conversation that can transform a relationship, by pushing back on unreasonable demands or dysfunctional behaviors, or by strengthening the network of people who can help buffer us from negative interactions.
    2) Invest in relationships and activities that keep the less consequential micro-stresses in perspective. To be sure, there are truly important mindfulness practices — like meditation or gratitude journaling — that can help on this front. And, of course, maintaining physical health through exercise, proper nutrition, and good sleep habits is probably the most important lever we have for combatting stress today. But there are also important relational solutions: people who have greater dimensionality in their lives and broader connections just don’t experience micro-stressors in the same way; they are able to keep them in perspective. When we talk to people who tell a positive life story, they often have cultivated and maintained authentic connections that come from many walks of life — athletic pursuits, volunteer work, civic or religious communities, book or dinner clubs, friends from the local community, and so on. Interactions in these spheres can broaden their identity and “open the aperture” on how they look at their lives. Key to riding above the sea of micro-stressors are relationships that generate a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives — not just in the nature of our employment, but in the connections that sustain and define us beyond our work.
    3) Distance or disconnect from stress-creating people or activities. Over time, it’s not always easy to detect when a friend or colleague is routinely causing you stress, rather than lifting you up. But that’s what makes it all the more insidious. We can become intertwined, both personally and professionally, with people who routinely leave us feeling emotionally depleted. Take a step back and evaluate the relationships in your life over which you have control — and make an effort to create some distance in the ones that create more stress than joy. To be clear, stress-creating relationships are not just negative or toxic ones. They can be people that we enjoy spending time with, but that enable unproductive behaviors (“Come on, you can finish the project tomorrow, let’s check out that new restaurant tonight!) or those who routinely leave us stranded with work because they haven’t come through on what they promised (“I didn’t finish the report, let me give you my notes and you can take it from here…”).
    You don’t have to disconnect from the people you enjoy being around, but you do have to recognize their effect on your mental and physical well-being and try to put some boundaries around those relationships.We don’t have to accept micro-stresses as destiny. Stress patterns are often predictable, and if we see them for what they are, we can build the support network, mindset, and constructive responses that we need to head them off. As one leader told us, “I’m just going to lay down some new rules that may upset the cart at first, but in the long run, are going to make me a better contributor, because I won’t feel frazzled all the time.” Once you learn to recognize the patterns of micro-stressors in your own life, you, too, will be able to put the proper conditions in place to mitigate them.

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 Dorรฉe, 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 rรฉsumรฉ 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 Anaรฏs 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.