Quit Networking

networkingbyRedHead5147onFlickrI don’t belong to BNI – or any other official networking groups.

Someday, I might decide to join. I’ve been attending a local BNI group and considering whether it’s a good fit for me. The jury is still out on that. Not because they aren’t awesome people (they really seem to be) – just because I want to be sure it’s the right investment of time and resources for me and my business.

In case you aren’t in the BNI loop, BNI is a networking and leads sharing group. Essentially, each member becomes a “salesperson” on behalf of the other members in the group. So, when I’m at a party and someone mentions they are building a new house, I tell them about my amazing window coverings consultant friend (who is in my BNI group). At some point, my window coverings consultant friend will be at a home show and someone will be looking for a speaking coach. She will then hand the card over of her amazing speaking coach friend (that’s me!) It’s a cool concept and I know quite a few people who have built a large chunk of their business through the BNI connections.

BNI isn’t the only group like this, of course. But the gist is the same: gather with others who are looking to grow their businesses and support one another in that effort.

Pretty cool, right?

And yet, so many of these “networking” events just feel… strange. Off.

For much of my early business life, I avoided them because of this. Until, at one of the women’s networking groups I attended, I somehow got talked into being on the programs committee. At first I spent most of my time dreaming of ways I could get out of this new commitment I didn’t really mean to make.

Then something unexpected happened.

As I invested time and energy in my role on the leadership team, I started to really care about the programs and speakers we put on the agenda. I began to use my great strengths in research and planning to put together what would later be called by the board and members, “our best program lineup ever!” I began to get to know the leadership in the organization on a much deeper and more real level. In a way I never had before, I began really looking forward to the monthly meetings.

I also began signing on clients at a pace that surprised me.

At one point, I stopped to check in with myself about what had changed so much in my experience of networking at this group. Why was I enjoying it so much more – and why were clients coming to me without my really trying very hard?

It was then that I realized, I had stopped “networking” and I had simply begun doing what came completely naturally to me:

connecting with lovely, brilliant people and contributing from my greatest strengths. No wonder I was having such a great time.

I wasn’t “networking” at all – at least not in that contrived way I avoided for so long.

As my role in the organization shined a light on my strengths – and added greater visibility into me and my work overall – conversations and connections across the membership became more natural. Since we do business with people we know, like and trust, this lead to more clients coming my way.

I’m wondering – is there anywhere that you have been showing up (or not) where you can quit “networking” and start making real connections and contributing from your most awesome strengths?

I triple dog dare you to make this switch in your approach. Send me a note and tell me what happens for you, will you?

Meantime, I’m continuing my own search for the right place to get really connected and make a meaningful difference with other business people here in my new town across the country. Because I’m just not into “networking” anymore.

 

Thanks to RedHead5147 on Flickr for this slice of life networking image.

 

Your Expression Élan Could Mean Love at First Sight (Part 3)

lookingwithinIn the last article in this series, we explored the three parts to Expression Élan. And, I told you I’d share some tips on how to reveal your three words. After all, this is an archaeological process designed to help you get lazer-focused on your core expression style – the one that will most naturally and powerfully attract clients you love.

This process is going to require that you listen and give yourself recognition for your most awesome qualities, so give yourself time and space for it.

The facilitated Expression Élan process that we would do together (if you were coaching with me) is a deeper, collaborative dive, so this initial self-study question process is quite different from that. But, the process outlined below will help you reveal some pretty powerful words that I know will serve you and your business building desires powerfully. So, take the time to do this.

Process for approaching your Expression Élan
(the modified, DIY version)

Step 1

Close your eyes and think back to the last time you were in a conversation with a group of people that you enjoyed a great deal. This could be at work or in your personal life. You felt awesome about your contributions and the conversation was flowing easily.

Notice, as you remember this conversation, how you were being (what you were feeling, what you were saying, the ways you imagine you were being received by others in the group). What words would you use to describe the way you were communicating in this conversation? Remember, this conversation is feeling fabulous to you, so these descriptors are going to be complimentary to you. They are going to represent the ways in which you were contributing to the goodness of this exchange. Give yourself a little time for this part.

Step 2

Write those words down on a piece of paper. They might be words like; funny, thoughtful, insightful, smart, open – whatever words come to you. Don’t limit yourself and don’t close yourself off with judgment. When you are doing this part, don’t think too much…just put your pen to paper and write. This is a brainstorming exercise.

Step 3

Now, go to the thesaurus and look each of those words up (I love to use www.visualthesaurus.com). Dig around in there.  Go layers deep with words until you land on a set of words that feels true to you. The words should also make you want to be more of the qualities that word represents.

Don’t be afraid to get creative during this part of the process. Use big paper with paints or crayons. Lean into the essence of words. Say them out loud and see how it feels. It’s okay to make up new words too. Look for colors and images of things you think represent who you are as well.  I’m not talking about just any images…I mean the kind that make your heart chakra light up (or simply make you want to do a spontaneous jig.)  The important thing is that you make it beautiful and make it your own.

You’ll know you have a great set of words when they light you up… when they push the edges of your own brilliance.

Step 4

If it feels good to you, see if you can choose which of those words fits into each category – soul, personality and verb. But that part isn’t required to start applying your three words immediately. When I do the facilitated process with my clients, I guide them into those three categories through the deeper-dig discussion. But for the purposes of this self-study exercise, just put these new words of yours to use! You are going to love the clarity they bring to your expression.

Your Expression Élan really will become a powerful guiding light in your business and your life. Use these words to stop more fully into your authentic expression. Commit to being more of them – infusing these qualities in your writing, speaking and networking.

This modified do-it-yourself version will give you a really good idea of how powerful just three words can be in feeling confident and clear as you express your work in the world. Spend real time on this and have fun! If you find that you want a partner in the process and really want to do the deeper, collaborative work to reveal your full Expression Élan, I’m here to help. Feel free to contact me at or learn more about it here http://www.michellebarryfranco.com/your-expression-elan/.

Your Expression Élan Could Mean Love at First Sight (Part 2)

Expression ElanLast week I told you Expression Élan is the three words that you choose as reflections of your most authentic, powerful expression. It is your best resource for your distinctive, memorable self-expression and business communication.  Your business name, tagline, website look and feel, and product and service titles—as well as your Hello Intro (more on that coming soon)—will all be way more interesting when you apply your Expression Élan deliberately throughout them. These three words act as guiding lights for decisions about word choice, brand colors and even what you will wear at your next speaking event. You will be amazed how clear and easy everything is once you reveal your three words.  Your Right Client will be drawn directly to you. But why three words? What am I talking about?

Your Expression Élan is a combination of:

  • your Soul Word
  • your Personality Word
  • your Verb/Action Word

Your Soul Word makes up the substance of your style and often resonates most with your internal experience of yourself.

Your Personality Word is experienced often by those around you and people may describe it as part of your personality.

Your Verb represents your primary mode of action in the world, your way of being.

Together, they work like this:

Soul Descriptor = Internal Experience

+

Personality Descriptor = Noticed by Others/Outward Expression

+

Verb = What you do, your consistent action play

______________________________________________________

Expression Élan

Now that you know what you’re trying to excavate, you may be wondering how in the world to do it. I know from getting to work with many individual business owners on core messaging and brand style that landing on how we want to express ourselves in business is really tricky and frustrating for so many.  Good news – in next week’s article, I’ll share my sure-fire process with you.

Until next week, you can read testimonials and learn more here http://www.michellebarryfranco.com/your-expression-elan/.

 

 

Your Expression Élan Could Mean Love at First Sight (Part 1)

ExpressionElan-button-150x150At some point, you’ve probably seen an ad or website for Coca-Cola. Have you ever noticed how you feel when you see the logo/colors?  In an instant you get a sense of what the company is about…classic, iconic, family-oriented. They use a traditional font and color scheme that tells you they’ve been around for a while, they keep their website and products simple, and they post information like recipes and contests that are meant for families to share. Their message is strong and clear. Can you say the same?

If each of us could explore and understand ourselves and our message as well as Coca-Cola, success is eminent. Your Right Client will be able to identify exactly what you do and who you are in an instant…and they will decide if they have fallen in love with you or not. That’s right! Love (or lack there of) at first site does exist.  It’s human nature to determine whether or not we like someone or something within 7 seconds of experiencing it/them using our 5 senses. Identifying your natural style of expression and allowing it to shine through is what I call your Expression Élan.   It is three words that you choose as reflections of your most authentic, powerful expression. It is your best resource for your self-expression and business communication.

From the language you choose in your marketing materials and business planning to the colors and images you associate with your brand, your Expression Élan will provide the zing that makes your business exciting and intriguing to your potential clients. I’ll talk more about what each word should represent and how to reveal it in next week’s blog.

In the meantime, If you want to read the excited stories of those who’ve revealed their Expression Elans, you can do that here http://www.michellebarryfranco.com/your-expression-elan/.

What to Do on Your Working Retreat (part 4 in series)

In this working retreat series, I’ve covered:

  1. What is a working retreat and why you really should take one
  2. Where to go on working retreat
  3. How to afford a working retreat on any budget

And in this final video on what to do on your working retreat, I’ll share the way I structure my own working retreat days to get the most out of the experience. I’ll talk about the flow of the day(s) – digging in, expansion, contemplation. I also talk about the ways I weave in fun and non-working breaks.

In this video, I also share with you some essential supplies for a fun and productive working retreat. In case you need this supply list in writing, here it is:

  • large whiteboard (two, ideally)
  • many colors of dry erase pens
  • large flip chart size post-it paper
  • many colors of sharpies or watercolor based flip chart pens.
  • Also useful: a blank calendar, healthy food & drinks and walking shoes.

Note: I don’t know how I didn’t mention it in the video but I get tons of writing and video production done on working retreats as well. After all of that planning, checking in with my vision and contemplation, I often get to the gritty work of pen to paper (letters on screen) and set up a video studio to shoot a bunch of videos in the beautiful space of my retreat. So consider putting big writing and video, painting or other art-centered projects on the “To Do” list for your working retreat. They are perfect for the retreat energy!

(Originially posted on michellebarryfranco.com (with a few minor modifications here) in Jan. 2011 – but just as useful here today!)

How to Afford a Working Retreat on Any Budget (Part 3 in series)

For some of us the vision of a retreat includes massage tables nestled under giant banana trees. I’m in for that for sure!

However – though that’s an awesome plan for getting away from it all – that’s not the only way to have a retreat. By definition, a retreat simply means to pull away from regular life (or the situation at hand.) A working retreat means, then, to pull away from regular life to do some work. While the inclusion of a massage table (and accompanying brilliant massage therapist) under tropical foliage would be an excellent addition to your working retreat, relaxation and massage are not the focus of a working retreat.

And therefore, you don’t need to hop a plane to a tropical island in order to experience the fabulous productivity and rejuvenation that can come from a working retreat.

Remember – the reason to take a working retreat is to give yourself time, space and a creatively generative environment to get unusual amounts of work done. My working retreats involve long hours of beautiful and crazy-productive work. My best, most creative work gets done on retreats.

Listen to this video for some tips on how you can afford a working retreat, no matter how small your budget. I share the wide variety of places and ways I have taken working retreats (from completely free retreats to indulgent inn and spa retreats). And please, if you have your own ideas for affordable and awesome working retreat spots – share them with us in the comments.

(Originially posted on michellebarryfranco.com (with a few minor modifications here) in Jan. 2011 – but just as useful here today!)

Where Do I Go For My Working Retreat (part 2 in series)

As I talked about in the starter Working Retreat Vlog Series post, I get amazing amounts of work done during working retreats. I am able to concentrate, find flow, get into the meat of things and actually complete projects that I’ve had brewing for a long time. I usually also weave in some lovely personal/business reflection time, which makes the whole thing feel very rich and purposeful all around. I highly recommend the working retreat.

Here’s my answer to the first question I am often asked by those intrigued by the idea about my working retreats: Where do I go on a working retreat? (get a pen and big piece of paper ready – you’ll want to do some brainstorming when you’re done watching.)

(Originially posted on michellebarryfranco.com (with a few minor modifications here) in Jan. 2011 – but just as useful here today!)

How to Plan a Working Retreat

You want to get some great work done in the world, right? I know you do. And getting this kind of beautiful work you are doing born and shared broadly in the world is no small feat. There is so much to do – so much creativity and energy required.

So, you really must go on a working retreat.
I was on a working retreat today – will be again next Friday. Working retreats are when I get my best work done. I’ve written two books, largely on retreats, planned at least two major business overhauls and brought countless ideas to life, all on working retreats. I do them often. And I love them. Love them. I know you will, too.

I’m going to do a series of posts on how to pull a working retreat together for yourself, based on the three most common questions I get from clients and friends about working retreats:

  1. Where do I go on retreat?
  2. How do I afford a great working retreat?
  3. What do I do on a working retreat?

Watch this video where I talk more about why working retreats are so awesome – and get you started thinking about your own retreat:

 

(Originially posted on michellebarryfranco.com (with a few minor modifications here) in Jan. 2011 – but just as useful here today!)

How to Feel Deep Confidence – Session One

IMG_07741I spent a good part of last week in a room full of brilliant, heart-full business owners. These women (and a few soulful men) would do their beautiful work for free and still end the day beaming with happiness. They don’t, of course, because we all know that working for free is no way to make a sustainable difference in the world. But the point is, their hearts are in it that much.

Here’s what struck me over and over again at this meeting, which is what I see so much of in my work everywhere. In spite of incredible, undeniable:

  • brilliance
  • passion
  • experience
  • skills
  • talent
  • courage…

The confidence required to step fully and powerfully into our great work often eludes us.

In quiet moments – or in moments of deep connection with our clients – we know so powerfully in our souls that the work we are doing changes lives and is wildly important.

But out there in the big, wide world, we forget this meaningful difference we make. We get caught in comparing our insides to other people’s outsides (a concept I’ve heard multiple places and absolutely love), thinking that our internal questions and our completely human uncertainties translate into some kind of important lacking and as a result, we question our powerful work.

This is dangerous for our great work in the world.

Our steady and grounded confidence is essential to calling forth those who need us – and making our biggest impact in their lives.

I already know that you are tremendously important in the lives of your current and future clients. They need you to show up in your grandest strength.

You need the confidence to do that, no matter what.

So, I’m starting this confidence series. In it, I will cover the many different tools and strategies (mindset and active workshop exercises) that I use myself and with clients to build unwavering and powerful confidence.

Today is Session One of the How to Feel Deep Confidence Series, and here is your exercise (it’s one of my favorites):

  • Get a big sheet of paper, some bold markers, colorful post-it notes and tape. (I’m going to be saying this to you often – get a good supply of these)
  • Slap that paper on the wall and write out this heading, all fancy-like (or just big, if you prefer) – Super Happy Clients (or pick your own fun heading).
  • Spend a moment thinking of the clients you have most loved working with, who were absolutely thrilled with your work together.
  • One per sticky note, write each clients name and underneath their name, write a couple of words that represent what delighted them about your work together. Just jot anything that will help jog your own memory. Use black sharpie so you can see this easily from across the room.
  • Place those sticky notes on that large sheet of paper on the wall, lined up so you can see each one clearly.

HappyClientsPoster

Now hang that paper with all of those super happy clients somewhere you can see it while you work.

Next time you start to lose sight of the importance of your beautiful work, glance up at that Super Happy Clients sheet.

Those are real lives right there, happy and more peaceful (or inspired or healthy or whatever they feel) because of YOU.

Then get to work doing more of that for more people! They are waiting for you.

(Let’s recognize that lasting confidence comes not just from what others say about your work but also from your own internal connection with your soul’s calling and your great work. Don’t worry – we’ll talk plenty about those, too, in future sessions here.)

Really – go do this, okay? I’m glancing joyfully at my own Happy Clients poster right now – and feeling gigantic confidence in my ability to make a huge difference in real lives, so I can testify in this moment that this exercise works! Will you let me know how it goes? If you have questions or ideas to make this even better, post them in the comments. Let’s make this confidence-building work a gorgeous collaborative project!

Would you write if no one cared?

airplane-landing-byangeloangeloI’ll write and do things as long as anyone cares. I honestly probably wouldn’t write if nobody cared. I don’t have enough humility for that, I’m ashamed to admit.
~James Altucher on his blog jamesaltucher.com

I’ve been doing extra writing lately. Actually, I’m not even sure if that’s exactly true. But for some reason, actually sitting down to write has gotten even more difficult these days. Maybe it’s because now that I know that I officially have ADHD, I’ve surrendered to the antsiness. Or possibly it’s just because I’ve got too many projects going at once (refer back to ADHD diagnosis issue.)

Since the things I’m writing lately are commitments I’ve made to others – articles for their publications and other joint venture projects – I’ve had to figure out a way to actually complete them. In that process, I’ve noticed something incredibly useful. It’s something I think you should know about because it might help you, too, in case you have trouble getting yourself to sit your fanny down and write.

I write way better when my writing has a meaningful landing place.

I’ve always wanted to journal. There’s something very romantic for me about sitting down with a cup of tea (I way more often drink coffee, but tea sounds a lot like journaling accompaniment, doesn’t it?) But truth be told, I have way more half-written journal entries than completed ones. Here’s how it goes: I sit down, comfy in my reading chair. I open my beautiful journal to a random page and begin reading. Just getting myself into the mood, I tell myself. I read that page of half-written entry, and then another. Fifteen minutes go by as I read over my thoughts and feelings from years past (I can fit a lot of years in one journal, as you might imagine). Then I realize that I am almost out of journaling time so I force myself to put the pen to the page and begin… I write some things, top of mind and heart thoughts. I lay that layer onto the page, and then I get stuck. Every once in a while, I break through that stuck moment and I write some deeper feelings. Most often, I give up and go check email.

The problem with journaling is that it doesn’t have a landing place. It’s not going anywhere.

I already know you’re thinking, “Of course it does. You journal for yourself. That is a highly meaningful landing place.” But apparently for me, just imagining writing for myself isn’t enough. I need a not-me-someone on the other end.

My writing flows more freely when I have a really clear picture and feeling of who it will serve or who it will “land” with.

Like today, I’m thinking of Tamara, Nancy and Sarah as I write. When I see their faces, and I write to them in a way, the words come to me so much more readily. I know for absolute certain that they care what I have to say (whether they read this exact blog post or not) – they truly want to hear it. And I think this topic would engage them and inspire responses and conversations with them. I’m not only thinking of them, of course – you are in there, too (assuming you aren’t one of them). I begin with them and I reach out from there. On another day, with another topic, there’s a good chance that you are first in mind for me. Much like James Altucher in that quote above that I took from his About page, I need to know that someone who cares is on the other end of my writing. That’s how I get stuff written.

I wonder if you have strategies of your own for helping the words flow? If not, how do you think this would work for you? Or do you even need strategies to get the words flowing?