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This past Friday night, I was honored with a Stevie’s Award for Women in Business. The Stevie’s Award ceremony is fashioned somewhat after the Oscars, in that there are about 50 categories, which range anywhere from Best Blog to Best Website to Best Entrepreneur.
I was encouraged to attend the ceremony. By the time 49 awards had been given out, I hadn’t won anything. I was ready to pack it in and go home. It had been a nice evening, and I was content that my family had accompanied me for the evening. But then, the announcer said, “And we’ve saved the best for last. The most coveted award for Best Mentor goes to…”
…Yes, it went to Yours Truly.
I gave a speech and accepted my award. I was really thrilled.
When the initial excitement died down over the weekend, I got to thinking it over. I was so honored to have won the award for Best Mentor, but I have to admit that the people whom I mentor—the team members at my company—are really the winners. They are the greatest “mentorees,” if you will, because they absorb everything like sponges, they become smarter and savvier as much on their own as they do under my mentorship. In many ways, they have taught me just as much as or MORE than I have taught them.
So I concluded that if I am really going to accept this Stevie’s Award for Best Mentor, and if I am to learn to be proud of it, I need to rise to the occasion. I need to be worthy of my award. I have to take it to the next level.
I have recently been in contact with a wonderful organization called Student Sponsor Partners (SSP), which offers assistance to “at-risk” children. These are children whose families are living below the poverty line, whose grades are below average, who often come from single-parent homes.
SSP accepts 400 children per year into their program, and, through donor support, places children they consider “at risk” in private schools in and around New York City, to encourage them in a fresh new environment, to inspire them to reach for the stars. I n addition, SSP also assigns each child a mentor, with whom they meet on a periodic basis throughout the year.
I decided that in order for me to be a good mentor, I need to encourage my mentorees to become mentors as well! I approached my team at every single Kids Club location, and I told them: “We are willing to pay the tuition for one child per every New York Kids Club location to go to private school for four years – IF your location team agrees to fill the role of mentoring a child. There is no obligation.”
We would become actively involved in these children’s lives, I told them. We would meet them on a monthly basis and we would talk to them and listen to them. We would take them out for social time, to a ballgame or to the park. We would be dedicated to having a positive impact on their lives.
“So,” I asked. “What do you say?”
The response was tremendous. All six locations were emphatically, hands-down, IN! We snapped into action and mapped out spreadsheets and schedules, and special events we will take the children to. On days off from school, the children will spend time with us at the New York Kids Club and might even become our special summer interns!
NOW, I can be a proud owner of my Stevie’s Award. The fact that I took my award for Best Mentor seriously, that I have found success in inspiring my team to become mentors to others, gives me a sense of pride I can hardly even describe.
Yes, I have been tooting my own horn relentlessly in this post, I don’t deny it. I wholeheartedly admit it! But I am not without a cause. I’m not just tooting for the sake of tooting. I’m tooting in hopes that others will join the band!
– Dianne Stacey
In some ways, being a good company leader is analogous to being a good parent. You must be strong and encouraging, attentive and yet authoritative. And both roles share another commonality: the need to learn when to let go.
I used to think that being a good leader meant being a one-woman show. In the early days of the New York Kids Club, I was determined to fill the roles of director, producer, cast and crew – all on my own!
So there I found myself every day, hauling heavy boxes, setting up for birthday parties, handling payroll, shoveling snow. Whatever the task, I was right there in the thick of it. (Funnily enough, I even had a full staff at the Kids Club by this time, so my self-inflicted angst was not due to any shortage of manpower!)
Unbeknownst to me, I was going through a strange form of denial. Why was I so resistant to delegating?
What I have come to realize over the years is that delegating responsibilities successfully is one of the trickiest lessons to learn as a business owner. Many employers find themselves stuck in the mindset of:
- There is no one else to delegate these tasks to.
- I don’t know whether I can trust someone else to do this.
- I know I can do this better myself.
- I am the only person who knows how to do this.
- I don’t want to give up this project because I like doing it.
- I don’t have time to show anyone else how to do this.
These excuses, though they make total sense to the mind using them, can often yield negative results — feelings of being constantly overwhelmed, decreased productivity, miscommunications with staff members — all which can lead to the suffering of work quality or general dissatisfaction with one’s job.
Overcoming the “one-woman-show” attitude doesn’t happen overnight. It is a work-in-constant-progress.
1. There is no one else to delegate these tasks to.
2. I don’t know whether I can trust someone else to do this.
These are the most crucial demons to exorcise when starting out on the Road to Delegation. I caution that in either finding new or trusting current team members with added responsibilities, you do need to be mindful with what you are entrusting – and to whom. For instance, it may not be wise to delegate a responsibility concerning the business bank account numbers to an employee whom you sense might be leaving the company. Be mindful, but not paranoid. If you have reason to be that concerned about compromising your sensitive information, then you may not be working with the right people to begin with.
3. I know I can do this better myself.
Chalk this one up to ego. If you trust people enough to work for your company, you must accept that their styles will invariably differ from your own. And so they should! You should want a diverse team of intelligent, creative people! Your success at a task doesn’t necessarily mean that your way is the only right way, or vice versa. Be prepared to accept these differences and celebrate them!
4. I am the only person who knows how to do this.
If that’s really true, it can’t possible be good, in any context. What if you are sick and can’t come in to accomplish this special task that only you know how to accomplish? What if you are finally able to take that vacation you deserve? If you or one of your staff members is that set on being the only one possessed of certain knowledge or skills, then the problem likely runs deeper than the task at hand.
5. I don’t want to give up this project because I like doing it.
If you enjoy doing a task so much, then why be selfish? Give the gift of fun to a team member so s/he will be able to join in and share in such a positive experience. Being part of a team means sharing the tears and the laughs. Why would anyone want to withhold a great joke? To keep it from getting passed on?
6. I don’t have time to show anyone else how to do this.
The reason you don’t have time to show someone else how to do it is because you never took the time to show someone else how to do it! The more time you spend training team members, the more freedom you will have to delegate responsibilities. The more time invested showing someone else how you accomplish a set task, the more time you will eventually earn for yourself! And the more energy you will have to conquer each new day.
Be specific when communicating to your team the results you desire, but try not to micromanage the process itself. I think George Smith Patton Jr. summed it up quite nitely when he said: “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their ingenuity.”
I think that New Year’s resolutions are a total buzz kill.
Yes, a buzz kill. On New Year’s Eve, you might find yourself at a party, toasting with friends, making merry, and then all of a sudden, New Year’s resolutions come up in the conversation. Seriously? There you are, having a blast, and then you’re supposed to name all the things in your life which aren’t going well, to the point where you have to make a resolution for improvement? What an anticlimactic way to end one year and begin another!
It’s not that I have a moral objection to making resolutions, but I don’t feel January is the best time to make year-long promises to oneself. December/January is usually a time when people eat or drink too much; people are overtired and having a hard time getting back into the swing of things. To then paint with the broadest stroke by setting huge goals such as “I will lose ten pounds this year,” or “I’ll start going to the gym” or “I’ll get that raise I’ve been wanting to go for” — are all tough to follow through with, in January, when it’s cold and miserable outside (in New York, at least). By setting large, unattainable goals, you might well be setting yourself up for A) failure or B) repeating the same New Year’s resolution, year after year…after year!
Year-long resolutions can be very deceiving. Come April, you might think to yourself, “I still have seven whole months to lose those twenty pounds” or “I still have seven months to speak to my boss.” By putting it off until the very last minute, it’s almost inevitable that last year’s resolution will suddenly roll on over and become next year’s!
I am a big fan of the 90-day resolution, with my family and in my business. On January 1st each year, I sit down with my executive team and we go around the table, listing our personal and professional goals. Then, we list goals as a team — specifically, what we can conceivably accomplish by April 1st. We are very exacting in choosing April goals. We make sure they are realistic and then we map out a precise route to accomplish them.
We announce these goals out in the open because we want to live up to what we promise ourselves. When dealing with 90-day increments and choosing realistic goals, the probability of success doubles, triples–no, quadruples!
(Try it out: The phrase “I will lose two pounds by April 1st” sounds a WHOLE lot more attainable than “I will lose ten pounds by the end of the year.”)
With the 90-day resolution, when it comes to April 1, my team and I regroup and assess our progress. Have we met our goals? Why celebrate resolutions once a year when you can celebrate them quarterly?
Of course, I never ignore things which I want to accomplish over the course of an entire year. I always keep them in the back of my mind. But I never make resolutions that span the course of an entire year, because I want to live in the here-and-now, in-the-moment. After all, the distance from Point A to Point B isn’t half as important as the journey.
- Noun – A motherless calf.
- Noun – An unorthodox or independent-minded person.
In business, a maverick is someone that will make it their business to spread word about your business, like nobody‘s business. They are obsessed with telling as many people as they can about your product, store or service, and they are worth more to your business than any advertising could ever hope to be.
At the New York Kids Club, we have always kept our eyes peeled for the “resident mavericks” – the ladies with the golden voices – the ones who ensure growth and seal the deal by finding new customers for us.
Statistics have shown that if a woman likes a product, she will tell up to 14 people a day about that product. 14 people in one day. Since mavericks often travel in packs, let’s assume that half of the people your original maverick tells are also mavericks, and they, in turn, go on to tell 14 other people about you. And suppose the cycle repeats itself one more time. At the end of only one day, over 200 new people know about your business. After five days, over 1000 know. In a month, over 4000. And so on. The figures can grow to staggering proportions! So is it really any wonder why businesses LOVE their mavericks?
Positive PR from mavericks is more valuable to a growing business than print ads, web marketing or any other strategy. A maverick works hard to promote your business—as hard, if not more so, than your employees. They send out e-mails. They get on the phone. They become the neighborhood megaphone.
Therefore, it is important to take care of your mavericks. Treat them well. They are your VIPs. Give them complimentary services. A special holiday gift. Undivided attention every time they visit. Show your gratitude. Call them personally to say thank you for spreading good word.
Many mavericks are savvy and offer their advertising services as part of a trade-off. When the time comes, your maverick might ask you for 10% on a sale when you are only offering 5%.
They take their roles very seriously. They do the research about your business and industry; they know their stuff when they walk through your door. They will come to you with suggestions for what could improve your business, they will have opinions on everything from pricing to service. But remember, even if you can’t meet every single one of their suggestions to a tee, mavericks want to be heard and recognized, and really, you owe them at least that much!
As a business owner, you must search for your maverick and love your maverick. You must reward her, but above all, you must listen to her.
Be compassionate about your maverick’s requests, and try to meet them as closely as possible. Do as much as you can. Deny a maverick their request, and their outcry will end up posted on blogs across America. Plus, if you don’t cater to your mavericks, one of your competitors surely will!
All things considered, a business’s time and money is better spent keeping your mavericks happy and well fed than fixing the fence only after they have moved on to greener pastures.