The Truth About Time Management: It’s Not About Time

time management
time management

Contributed by Aytekin Tank, founder of JotForm,

We’ve all heard the expression, “There aren’t enough hours in the day.” In truth, we’ve likely all said it at some point. Time management is a struggle for everybody, but especially entrepreneurs, CEOs and founders.

Interestingly, some people seem to get more out of our 24 hours each day than others. As author Idowu Koyenikan said, the key to making the most of our hours isn’t time management—it’s life management. People who do it successfully balance the things they love with tasks they need to complete to maintain a well-rounded, satisfying life.

To-do lists or any one of the countless books on time management can help you achieve this balance, but things will eventually fall apart unless you make a habit of productivity—and stick to it. This might mean writing down your top priorities for the day or week, using a productivity app, or creating a plan that works best for you.

The Truth About Time Management for CEOs

When it comes to time management skills and techniques, business leaders are among the worst offenders. This typically happens because of the nature of leadership positions. These individuals are driven by the feeling that they have to do everything or have all the answers. They’re also responsible for a lot: On average, CEOs work 9.7 hours per weekday and spend 79 percent of weekend days and 70 percent of their vacation days working.

Success doesn’t come from adding countless tasks to your calendar and putting in the longest possible hours, though. It comes from purposeful, intentional work, which means managing your time more effectively so you can focus on what really matters. To get there, business leaders have to reset their time-management expectations.

Simply using productivity tools doesn’t lead to better time management—developing concrete time-management skills does.

How Are You Managing Your Time?

While CEOs and business leaders have countless resources at their disposal, they frequently lack time. Here are four steps to improve your time-management skills and techniques so that you can maximize the time you do have:

  1. Take a time inventory. If you get eight hours of sleep each night, you have 112 hours left each week to tackle your personal and professional tasks. Conduct a “time inventory” to figure out how you’re spending that time. Project management involves setting goals, scheduling, delegating, and making decisions. Attention management refers to your ability to focus on the task at hand; you have to know why you’re procrastinating before you can improve your productivity.
  2. Compare how you thought you spent your time to how you actually spent it. We often think we’re using our time effectively, but that’s not always the case. You might be surprised to see how much time you’re spending on auxiliary tasksthat aren’t contributing to your success. Evaluate how you spend your time, making changes where you see the opportunity.
  3. Identify problem tasks. Figure out the tasks that drain your time the most, taking a moment to explore why they eat up so much time. Do you dread certain projects? Are you distracted? Thinking through the answers to these questions will give you quality insight into what might be keeping you from maximizing those hours.
  4. Pick a strategy and stick to it. Once you know whether a problem stems from project management or attention management (or a little of both), you can approach it with a suitable strategy. Outline long-term ways to move forward that propel you toward productivity and help you improve weaknesses.

To some degree, business leaders are always clocked in; the task list never ends when you’re building a successful business. Strong time management reduces the time spent on tasks that aren’t helping you succeed, allowing you to prioritize activities that benefit you and your business. Reset your expectations for time management and involvement, approach the problem in the right way, and reap the rewards of productivity.

Aytekin Tank is the founder of JotForm, a popular online form builder. Established in 2006, JotForm enables customizable data collection for enhanced lead generation, survey distribution, payment collection, and more.

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How to Manage a Startup Through Troubling Times


Contributed by Rizwan Virk, author of Startup Myths and Models: What You Won’t Learn in Business School.

The pandemic of 2020 has tested most sectors of the economy. Like the downturns in 2008 and 2001, this has been a very trying time for entrepreneurs running startups.

Many entrepreneurs are reliant on outside funding, whether angel investors, venture capitalists or strategic investors, to keep the venture going. At the same time, many investors are being more cautious with making new investments, preferring to focus on their existing portfolio before investing in new companies.

While not all entrepreneurs are in the middle of raising funding, the need to get the company to some level of profitability, or at least to increase the runway, creates a lot of stress. It turns out that this is even true for a number of entrepreneurs I know who had profitable enterprises before the pandemic. Suddenly, the pipeline of customers that were expected to close was becoming smaller and smaller.

While some level of stress is inevitable if you are running a startup, times like this can ramp up the stress factor considerably. At stake is not just your own livelihood, but the livelihood of everyone who works for you.

I interviewed a number of prominent VC’s and entrepreneurs for my recent book. Here is advice I collected for dealing with the stress of running a startup:

1. Remember that you are not alone.

Brad Feld, a partner at Foundry Group and investor in many successful startups, gave me this piece of advice. I can personally attest that it’s very easy for a startup CEO to feel alone and isolated. This only makes the stress build up inside you.

Brad says: “Talk to people you trust, whether they’re investors, board members, co-founders, mentors, whatever; make sure you’re open about the stress and the struggle you’re going through both financially in the business and personally.” A startup is not a lone adventure. It’s important to enlist the ideas of others that are invested in your venture.

2. Join a CEO peer group.

If you are in a peer group with other CEOs, it’s much easier to get perspective on what’s happening to you. When I ran my very first startup, Brainstorm Technologies, I would go to our CEO group and there was always at least one other entrepreneur who was going through similar (or even tougher) challenges. Not only did I realize I wasn’t alone, but the best advice usually came from other CEOs—just by listening to their challenges and the actions they were taking was enough to help.

Sometimes, you don’t feel comfortable describing your fears and frustrations to your cofounders or investors on your board, but a peer group allows you to do this in a safe way. During this pandemic, many groups are continuing online via zoom.

3. Deal with the reality of the situation.

Brad Feld noted that it’s important not to deny what is happening and to deal with the reality of the situation every day. I’ve seen many entrepreneurs say “Don’t worry, it’s not that bad, things will pick up” and delay taking action, whether it’s cutting a product or customer or laying off employees. This is almost always a mistake.

Don’t delay making important decisions because you expect things to “get better.” I’ve almost never come across an entrepreneur who said “I wished I’d waited before cutting expenses,” but I have heard many entrepreneurs say, “ I wish I had acted sooner.”

4. Communicate with the team.

Alex Haro, co-founder of Life360, one of the most downloaded apps of all time, went through many challenging times building up his startup into a public company. Alex says that one of the things that helped him during these times was being transparent and communicating the real state of things with his team. 

As a result, he wasn’t delivering rosey news when he knew things weren’t going so well. I believe being transparent can enroll your team in finding solutions, and make more people in the organization buy into the difficult decisions that you will need to make.

5. Manage your own expectations.

When a startup isn’t doing well, entrepreneurs can be particularly hard on themselves. It’s these “inflated expectations” that can often make you feel like you are failing, even when you are not entirely to blame for a situation.

Alex Haro says: “I think the more stressful part is that I think any great entrepreneur sets up expectations for themselves that are very hard to meet.”

I remember another entrepreneur telling me when it looked like his business wasn’t going to make it, he was dreading telling his investors. It turned out his investors had been through this before and weren’t too upset, but he felt like a failure and just wanted to curl up in a ball in bed for the next six months.

Stress builds up over time. One of the best ways to get stressed out is by holding yourself to standards that aren’t being met. Manage your own expectations, and then manage the expectations of those around you.

6. Explore all options.

While most people tell entrepreneurs that they need to “focus,” sometimes a downturn is the right time to explore and try all avenues.

Alex Haro says that when they only had a few weeks of runway left and weren’t sure if their next round of financing was going to close, they tried every crazy idea they could think of. This can mean reaching out to business partner, possible strategic partners/investors, acquirers, angels, to look for ways to keep the company going through these tough times. This might mean taking services projects to keep the company going.

Famously, Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit, once had to pay his employees with stock because he couldn’t make payroll.

7. Manage your stress level.

Perhaps most important, is to manage the stress in yourself. The human nervous system was designed to deal with momentary stress, which induces the “fight or flight” response and floods the body with adrenaline. But chronic stress is something that can become debilitating.

A startup is like a constant “fight or flight” situation, and when the economy turns, or you can’t raise the next round of financing, or customers that you had counted on simply put off decisions and projects, it can build up.

In addition to getting plenty of sleep, the lack of which, says Brad Feld, “can lead to bad decisions,” be sure there are things you can do and places you can go to destress. My personal mantra was “Watch Star Trek, Do Yoga, and Walk on the Bay.”

These activities are guaranteed de-stressors for me. In fact, yoga is an excellent way to let go of the tensions that are accumulating in your body. Ancient yogis seemed to understand that stress gets built by increasing tension in certain parts of the body. In my case, I live near Google, close to Shoreline Park right on the bay. A walk there has the effect of reducing whatever stress I’m holding in my body, making me feel like I’m a thousand miles away as I gaze over the bay to the mountains that surround Silicon Valley. Find your own stress mantra that you can not only repeat, but actually implement every day during troubled times.

Every entrepreneur’s journey is different but most entrepreneurs are finding the current situation to be a major cause of stress. This can be because customers are taking longer than expected to close, because investors aren’t jumping into new ventures, because payroll and expenses have far outpaced expected revenue, or for a variety of other reasons.

Whatever the cause of your stress, these seven tips can help you to keep things in perspective, reduce your stress level and hopefully, make you or your startup more successful in the long term.

Rizwan Virk is the author of Startup Myths and Models: What You Won’t Learn in Business School. He is a successful entrepreneur, video game pioneer and venture capitalist and founder of the startup accelerator Play Labs @ MIT. A graduate of MIT and Stanford, he is also the author of Zen Entrepreneurship: Walking the Path of the Career Warrior; Treasure Hunt: Follow Your Inner Clues to Find True Success); and The Simulation Hypothesis: An MIT Computer Scientist Shows Why AI, Quantum Physics, and Eastern Mystics All Agree We Are in a Video Game. For more information, please visit and follow the author on Twitter.

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The Problem With “Yes”

Contributed by Steve Herz, a talent agent for broadcast journalists. His new book is Don’t Take Yes For an Answer: Using Authority, Warmth, and Energy to Get Exceptional Results was released in June 2020 (Harper Business).

1. What do you mean when you say we shouldn’t take “yes” for an answer?

In the book, I lay out my argument that three factors over the past 30 years have created an artificial sense of excellence and created an echo chamber of “yes” for many of us—the participation trophy, grade inflation and the lack of firings by businesses, in lieu of euphemisms like downsizings and reorgs.

So the person on the wrong end doesn’t even know they could have done something better. And without that signaling, we get stuck in what I call the vortex of mediocrity.

There is no way to improve because we don’t even know there is something to improve upon.

2. Why did you write this book?

Four years ago, I decided to take what I had learned as a talent agent, coaching on-air talent, and apply it to businesspeople and organizations that had nothing to do with media (bankers, doctors, lawyers, etc). 

At a speech on 8 March 2017, someone in the audience on International Women’s Day at Bank Leumi, asked me if she could buy two copies of my book. I sadly told her that I didn’t have a book and she said, matter of factly, “you should write one.”

Ultimately, I wrote it because when she asked me that question I decided I had something to say that was unique and helpful—and hopefully people will agree.

3. You argue that the key to success is to develop your authority, warmth and energy. What are these elements and how did you come to identify them?

Over my career, I observed that the people who were succeeding at the highest levels had influence over the room. They were able to make others like them, trust them, believe in them and were motivated by them.

AWE is a shorthand way to achieve that—authority, warmth and energy. It’s intended for people who already have the substantive qualities, technical expertise, and experience.

If you have all that substance, as well as stylistic authority, you’ll come across as someone others believe and believe in. That’s in your voice, demeanor, body language, and many other things discussed in the book. And if you have stylistic warmth, you’ll connect with others and engender their trust—which is absolutely essential for any relationship. And if you have the ability to energize others, you’ll be able to have influence. Without it, I’ve seen many people work extremely hard and never come close to achieving their potential. Which is very sad because this is a learnable skill.

4. How does this framework for success apply to entrepreneurs running businesses?

It applies to entrepreneurs especially since it’s so vital to attract a good staff and to retain and develop them—while also attracting customers. In almost every business, your product is similar to something else in the market, and most people and businesses are somewhat commoditized.

But the quality of a connected relationship built on the principles of AWE will never be commoditized. It will build a cohesive loyal organization with loyal customers.

5. What are the signs that an entrepreneur might be stuck in the “vortex of mediocrity,” as you say?

That should be fairly obvious to the person based on where the business is in its life cycle. An entrepreneur is generally not someone who will be satisfied with the status quo so I think this vortex is less likely for he or she personally. But the business may not be asking the right questions about where its product sits in the marketplace and what can be done to improve it.

The ultimate question is: What questions am I asking myself daily and is this leading to improvement? Or am I just settling for the status quo day/week/month/year in and year out?

6. What is the most important thing you hope entrepreneurs will take away from your book?

To understand that constructive feedback is not something to be feared. The absence of feedback is what you should fear. What you don’t know can hurt you and will ultimately hurt your business.

And your leadership style is what can hold you and your business back from greater heights…so change your mindset and you’ll change your life.

Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a global community of informed, engaged and curious business owners and founders. 

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Attitude Is Everything

positive or negative perspective

Contributed by Shawn Johal, business growth coach, leadership speaker and co-founder of DALS Lighting, Inc. He is also an active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Montreal chapter. 

“What is the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity? Our attitude toward it. Every opportunity has a difficulty, and every difficulty has an opportunity.” – J. Sidlow Baxter

There is a Chinese proverb that has guided my thought process for many years. The story goes as follows:

An old man raised horses for a living. One day, one of his prized horses ran away. Hearing of his misfortune, a neighbor came to comfort him. The old man replied “May be good, may be bad, who knows.” A week later, his horse returned—with another beautiful horse. This time, the neighbor returned to congratulate the old man on his great fortune. Again, the old man replied “May be good, may be bad, who knows.” The next day, his son went out for a ride on the new horse. The wild horse threw the boy, breaking his leg in the process. The neighbor came by once again, this time to give his sympathy. And yet again, the old man replied “May be good, may be bad, who knows.” Weeks later, the Emperor’s army arrived at the village to recruit all of the young men to fight in the war. The old man’s son could not go off to war, and was spared from a certain death.

It’s a great story, with so many lessons. Like the old man, we are all on a path with many different twists and turns. It’s how we handle each situation that will determine our levels of joy and satisfaction in life.

Negative things will happen: It is part of the human experience. Are we able to accept, learn and grow? If we follow the old man’s lead, the choice is entirely our own to make.

What We Control

Stephen R. Covey, in his famous book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, explains the concept of the “Circle of Concern” vs. the “Circle of Influence.”

Concern is an inevitable part of the human experience: Throughout our lives, we are constantly facing new things that may cause concern. What it comes down to is the ability to sift through the noise and understand which of those elements that concern us we can also influence. Spending time focusing on those elements which we can directly affect—those which are entirely in our control—will make the difference between a successful outcome and a frustrating situation.

That’s where the magic happens.

Focusing on what you can influence is a mental model based on removing yourself from the emotion of the situation. When an obstacle comes your way, ask yourself: What do I have control over? What attitude can I choose to take that will bring a positive solution my way?

If you cannot influence a part of the problem, it’s time to move on: Acceptance may very well be your only choice.

Accepting a problem, though on the surface may seem like defeat, is quite the opposite: Acceptance is another choice which is entirely in our hands.

Again, we’re in power. When we identify where our power lies, it is a liberating experience. It is similar to focusing on your strengths instead of dwelling on your weaknesses. Knowing and understanding where your power lies is a huge part in overcoming any struggle.

End of an Era

This week my son graduated 6th grade. In Canada, that is the end of his grade-school years. The virus forced schools around the country to cancel the end of the school year. Along with the elimination of classes came cancellations of graduation parties and ceremonies everywhere.

My wife and I felt sad. My son would not be seeing most of his friends again. He will be attending a new high school. He is the only student from his entire grade attending this school.

Rather than sulk in consequences well out of his hands, my son helped his teacher gather pictures from his schoolmates and put together an album as a souvenir. His incredible teacher also visited every single student at home to bring them a graduation gift and express her appreciation for them as her students. And a group of parents organized a party in a park—with appropriate social distancing measures, of course—giving all students and friends a chance to celebrate one last time.

They took a tough situation and made the best of it. I am sure my son will remember this year for the right reasons now: He turned an obstacle into an opportunity. He made a choice to lean into acceptance and in that choice, lay a realization of how great his power truly is.

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

There is nothing easier than making assumptions. We tell ourselves stories and play out scenarios that aren’t always factual. It’s a dangerous game that can often lead to missed opportunities for learning. Yet we all fall into making assumptions.

I recently had a very interesting experience that shattered many of mine.

I made a new connection on LinkedIn, which is something that happens regularly.  It felt standard. This person reached out to me after looking at my background and, as we had many things in common, suggested we meet in a park to share ideas.

In the past, I would brush this off really quickly. Meeting a stranger in a park was not on my list of priorities. With the crisis, I had more time on my hands, and decided to take a chance. That meeting developed into an incredibly impactful relationship that has given me a ton of new perspectives. I am very lucky I was able to see past my assumptions and develop a cool, new relationship. We just really never know, even when we assume we do.

Give It time

In the end, it all comes down to time. Can we be patient enough to see, over the longer term, if an obstacle will in fact become an opportunity? Are we able to change our perspective and learn from a seemingly challenging moment?

It takes some faith and some experience. I have come to realize I need to get out of my own way and trust the process: Things happen and they “may be good, may be bad, who knows.” But it often pays off in a big way.

Shawn JohalShawn Johal is a Scaling Up Certified Coach currently working with several entrepreneurs and their businesses to help accelerate their growth, while finding personal balance and happiness.

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Be First, Stay Agile and Leverage the Power of MyEO Deal Exchange

pivot, entrepreneur, gateway
Richard Marchbanks is the president of Gateway Exhibits, a turnkey trade show solutions provider. He is also a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) in St. Louis, Missouri. We recently talked to Marchbanks about adapting to the challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic and making the most of his EO membership. 
When COVID-19 struck and it became clear that major changes were coming to the trade show industry, what steps did you take?

We sat down as a leadership team to discuss what we had in unused or dead assets, and what opportunities we could seize with fewer employees.

How did you identify a new business model?

We realized that our sister company’s solvent supplier could formulate sanitizer. So, we reached out, got terms and within four days we had nine pallets delivered. We used our marketing expertise to get the word out and we sold out in a month! 

We also have a custom fabrication shop with a computer numerical control (CNC) machine so our first idea was to do environments and, in fact, we did get three builds and installations done. But that proved labor intensive; it was using up much of our bandwidth. Around the same time that we were finishing our third install, we called to order more sanitizer and were shocked to find out the costs had risen 48 percent! We then realized that there would likely be a similar supply-demand issue coming with plexiglass as more businesses started installing protective shields. 

Did you have experience in that industry?

We were never in the personal protective equipment industry, but we did use plexiglass in manufacturing exhibit components like signage, counters and design elements. So we decided that we could probably design and build plexishields for cashiers, tellers, etc. 

We created a prototype and then reached out to a fellow EO member, Tamara Keefe, at Clementine’s Creamery to see if she would be interested in using our product in her stores. She was thrilled!

What challenges did you face in starting this new business? 

We only had one employee who was trained in CAD software and we had recently had to lay him off. We were able to bring him back, thankfully. Also, the plexiglass was scarce and the price was going up—and we were short on cash.

We created dealer agreements and terms with three vendors, and bought all they had! We then had 30 days to move enough of it to pay at least one of the vendors. We also utilized a no-limit credit card to buy US$200,000 more plexiglass from another vendor. 

How did your years in EO and the knowledge and connections you made through EO help?

In the last US economic downturn in 2008-2009, my Forum and EO taught me that the keys to surviving are being the first to respond, taking quick decisive action and being agile. I also used my EO network to broadcast the fact that we were now in the plexiglass business. They were extremely supportive.

MyEO DealExchange is an online platform that allows EO members to seek funding and make business deals with one another. What role did MyEO DealExchange play?

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the membership fee for MyEO DealExchange was waived. With no fee to join, many EO members are leveraging this significant benefit. 

If you’re not familiar with MyEO DealExchange, it’s easy to use: You simply create a custom post on the Opportunity Network platform, detailing the type of deal you’re seeking.

Your post will be shared among potentially thousands of EO and vetted non-EO entrepreneurs. Investors connect with you via email to express their interest.

MyEO DealExchange provides instant credibility and a willingness to do business without a ton of formality because of the level of trust implied.

Another benefit of MyEO DealExchange: If you have questions or wish to seek the expertise of experienced members within the platform, there’s an area within the platform where you can share and seek input from others about creating your deal or making a decision.  

Our largest and two of our top five jobs to date came from MyEO DealExchange!

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned throughout this process? 

Core values are “core” for a reason: We preach and live them vigorously, and they saved the day. I also was reminded how awesome the EO network of entrepreneurs are as a support system.

What would you share with other entrepreneurs who are considering a similar pivot?

I would shared these top lessons:

  1. Commit and act. Over-analysis will lead to disaster in times of crisis. 
  2. Agility is your main weapon. Should you determine that you chose the wrong pivot, the agility to quickly disengage and go down another path is critical—as we did when we determined sanitizer was the wrong way forward and moved to plexiglass.
  3. Keep your eyes down the road. You must be looking three to four steps ahead. We know that plexiglass will have a shelf-life of a handful of months, so we are trying to maximize that footprint while it exists. We have already looked down the road, formulating a private-label plexiglass cleaner to sell once the plex sales have stalled. 
Richard Marchbanks is the president of Gateway Exhibits, a turnkey trade show solutions provider that recently transitioned to producing standard and custom-sized counter, desktop and rolling plexiglass shields, called PowerPlex defense barriers. Learn more. 

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Leadership In the Future: Practical Tips for Leading From Home

virtual work leadership

The following article is an abridged version of “Digital Leadership: Leading Virtual Teams From Your Home,” an e-book written by Erik Kruger. Kruger is the founder of an international learning and development firm called Modern Breed.
On 30 June 2020 at 9 am (EST), Kruger will join panelists Nadim Habib and John Sanei and moderator Winnie Hart in a candid discussion about the future of leadership. This event is open to the public and requires registration

Can you lead a virtual team, an organization, a revolution or people from your home?

Yes, you can.

But it won’t be easy.

COVID-19 forced many leaders and their teams to work remotely.

Thankfully, there are some easy steps to setting up your team while working from home. For example, installing a video conference application or collaboration platform such as Microsoft Teams can help you start communicating more effectively immediately.

But—and this is important—remote work does not a remote team make.

Virtual leadership requires some nuanced touches. To really help our teams to rise to the top and bring the best out in each other we need to adopt new ways of thinking and being.

If you are hoping that all this change due to the coronavirus will blow over and things will get back to normal soon, you might want to rethink your perspective.

I want to encourage you to assume a longer duration of the current situation. As my friend, John Sanei, says, “Act like we are never going back to normal.”

I know that’s not what you want to hear.

But embracing the idea that this might be a lot longer play is a necessary first step if you are going to help your team in committing to this way of working.

I want you to know that I have had the same resistance.

For the past few years, I have had the privilege of working with many teams as I facilitated coaching sessions and off-sites for them. There is nothing that beats the energy that is created in a room when a team of talented and intelligent individuals are feverishly working on bringing new ideas to life.

Although I have often facilitated conversations for teams online, I found myself thinking time and time again that “it’s just not the same.”

And that’s exactly the point. It’s not. But, also, it’s not supposed to be.

We cannot build new ways of working on old ways of thinking.

It took me some time, but I am now fully accepting of working with teams online. I enjoy it. I measure it differently. I approach it differently.

Here are three high-value tips you should consider as you continue your adventure in remote work, or what some people term Lockdown Leadership. For more recommendations on leading virtually, check out the original version of this article on my blog.

1. The Bearable Deadline and the Three Directives

What makes the experience of working virtually so unsettling is that there is no end in sight. If there were, things would be easier.

Seeing the clock countdown makes the unbearable bearable. It gives us something to aim at.

In fact, whether it’s counting down reps as you exercise, counting down time or seeing the finish line, I have always found that in those last moments I can push harder.

Goals do this for us. They give us something to work toward.

However, it’s impossible to have the exact same goals as you did before the global pandemic.

Therefore, my suggestion to teams has been to set three high-level directives, or goals, for the next 21 days.

The 21-day timeframe provides certainty. The directives provide direction.

For example, one of my prime directives is to add as much value to my clients (and non-clients) as possible. This is a high-level theme. What this encompasses though are several goals such as writing substantial blog posts like this one, being consistent with my Expansive podcast and delivering private webinars to teams.

You cannot move forward like nothing has changed.

Now is the time for short, directed sprints.

Try it.

It’s guaranteed to provide your team with new-found energy and sense of purpose.

Join Erik Kruger on 30 June 2020 at 9 am (EST) as part of an EO virtual learning session called The Future of Leadership. The event is open to the public and requires registration. 
2. The Magic Question

A question is a gift that unlocks new worlds. It opens the door to a new way of understanding.

One group I worked with showed me the incredible potential that one specific question has to reshape the entire dynamics of a team.

And that question is: “What do you need from me?”

When team members turn to each other and ask this question, magic happens.

Leaders, try posing this question to your virtual team and watch what unfolds.

It’s a simple query that has the power to create impressive depth in a team in a relatively short period of time.

If there is enough trust in the team, you will hear people asking for things such as support, more understanding or greater responsibility.

In a team with little trust, you will likely hear generic, superficial requests.

3. Fix the Meeting

The playground of teams are meetings. And as a virtual team, you will be spending a lot of time in virtual meetings—which are notoriously bad and often frustrating.

Effective meetings are the signature trait of high-performing teams.
And guess what? If your team already had poor experiences when meeting, problems this will be amplified online.

So, it makes sense to get meetings right.

Virtual meetings 101: Know your platform. Test it. Practice with it.

Next, I have found that the best meetings are founded on these key agreements:

Agreement 1: To The Point

Keep in mind that what makes virtual meetings challenging is the same thing that makes working from home challenging: Association.

Our screens are associated with scrolling, browsing, opening new tabs and multitasking.

So, guess what happens once the meeting starts?

We check our phones. We see new notifications coming in. We glance at our calendar. We sneakily reply to that Whatsapp message that came in.

What we need is focus and conciseness.

Therefore, the first operating principle for meetings is exactly that: Meetings are short and everyone’s full attention is required.

Consider making a ritual of everyone putting their phones out of reach at the same time as a grand physical gesture of locking into the call.

Agreement 2: Involve Them All

Everyone speaks at every meeting.

Ever noticed how speaking cues are much harder when on a call?

Sometimes it’s because of a tech issue causing a delay but other times it’s because your turn to talk is interrupted by one of the 10 other tiny thumbnails on the screen that were also waiting to talk.

To this end, it might be a good idea to ask someone to chair and facilitate the meeting. It doesn’t always have to be a manager or member of leadership.

It’s the role of the facilitator to make sure that we get input from everyone in the meeting.

Agreement 3: The Yoda

Here’s a little tip I picked up from Keith Ferrazzi:

Appoint a person in the meeting who is willing to challenge what is being said. The Yoda needs to say what is not being said in the meetings, helps resolve disputes and ensures that candor is being exercised to the highest level.

An additional role of the Yoda is to keep the conversation on track. It’s easy to get side-lined and go down a tangent. The Yoda recognizes when we are going too deep down a rabbit hole and then pulls people back so that the meeting stays focused and on point.

Agreement 4: Check In and Out

This is a great little tool and, I cannot believe I am saying this, icebreaker.

A quick check-in before we start is about gauging where people are emotionally before engaging with the meeting. You might not see the power of this right away but I encourage you to give it a go.

I have seen first-hand how people check-in by acknowledging that they aren’t in a good place and this immediately provides a moment for the team to rally around their colleagues.

The check-out is a similar process. Everyone ends the call by sharing how they are currently feeling and what they are committing to next.

Agreement 5: We Will Get Better
Want a great way to improve meetings?

Do a post-mortem.

Ask your team how they think the meeting went and what could have been done to make the meeting more effective.

Listen to the suggestions. Evaluate them as a team. Make small tweaks. Add things that work to the agreements list and keep refining the team operating system in the manner.

For many more practical tips for building a successful team remotely, read Erik Kruger’s unabridged article, “Digital Leadership: Leading Virtual Teams From Your Home.”

The post Leadership In the Future: Practical Tips for Leading From Home appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs' Organization.

from Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization

Seven US Travel Destinations You Don’t Want to Miss

Leone Venter Viem9bdzkfo Unsplash

America is a large country and there is so much to see. If you are looking to travel to some of the best destinations in the United States, then there are certain ones that stand out as being particularly great. Take a look at the following seven US travel destinations that you don’t want to miss.

  1. New York City

New York City is going to be on just about any travel destination list when you’re talking about visiting America. This is an amazing city that features many landmarks that have become synonymous with the country. Aside from landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, you’ll also be able to enjoy entertainment such as Broadway plays. This is a city that is always bustling with activity.

  1. Chicago

Chicago is another famous American city that has a lot to offer travelers. You can enjoy fine art while spending time in Chicago and the city is also well-known for having amazing cuisine. Whether you’re looking to spend time seeing concerts or if you’re interested in visiting iconic landmarks, Chicago is going to be a city that you won’t want to miss.

  1. Denver

Denver is an amazing place and you should put it on your list of potential vacation spots. It’s a beautiful city that has great art, music, and food. The city is also amazing for those who love hiking because of its close proximity to many great trails and bike paths.

  1. Milwaukee

Milwaukee might be a city that you wouldn’t expect to show up on this list, but it has steadily gained in popularity over the last decade. Beer lovers will really connect with this city and it’s also a place where you can experience fine art. It’s a beautiful city that has a lot of depth and you should check it out when given the opportunity.

  1. Philadelphia

Philadelphia is one of the first cities that many people think of when the topic of America comes up. It’s an old city that has so many iconic areas. You can visit the famous steps from Rocky and the Liberty Bell while also enjoying great modern restaurants.

  1. Seattle

Seattle is among the most interesting cities in America. There are so many fun activities to get involved in and the city always seems to have something fun going on. It has one of the best music scenes in the nation and you’ll be able to enjoy things such as art, fine dining, and shopping as well.

  1. Los Angeles

Los Angeles will always be one of the most important cities in America. This is a town that is well-known for Hollywood and it’s full of style. You can find some of the best concert venues in America if you choose to visit LA and it’s also a hub for art, fashion, and culinary experiences.


from Rachel Ambats’ Travel Blog

Successfully Scaling Your Small Business

Andrej Lisakov 3a4xzuopcja Unsplash

Growing your small business is something that you have to approach the right way. If you try to scale a small business without putting thought into your strategy, then you could run into various problems. Successfully scaling a small business involves planning and making wise choices. Take a look at the advice below so that you can have a good experience.

Focus on What Makes Your Company Unique

You don’t want to lose your identity as a business while scaling. Focus on what makes your company unique and work on showcasing what you have to offer. You should be able to solidify your position in the market if you do things properly. It might take time to scale your business while maintaining a solid identity, but it’s going to be best to approach things this way.

Automation Can Help

Automation is incredibly useful when you want to scale a small business. You can make scaling easier by allowing automation to take care of various processes. Make sure that you automate computer work as much as you can to save you and your employees’ time. If you spend a bit of money upgrading your software and putting the right systems in place, then it’ll really make your life that much easier.

Generate Good Word of Mouth Advertising

Generating good word of mouth advertising will help you to spread the news of what your company has to offer. Focus on meeting the needs of your existing customers and providing them with excellent customer service. This will help you to get more business because they are going to tell their friends how impressed they are with you. Doing a great job should always be your focus when you want to scale.

Make Long-Term Growth Plans

Plan for long-term growth and don’t just concern yourself with short-term gains. It might take time to work your way into new markets and sometimes scaling will be slower than you would like it to be. Just try to make smart plans that won’t stretch your company too thin. If you keep working hard and use research to inform your decisions, then you should be able to achieve your growth goals.


from Rachel Ambats on Business

How I Overcame My Prejudice

prejudiceContributed by Shawn Johal, business growth coach, leadership speaker and co-founder of DALS Lighting, Inc. He is also an active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Montreal chapter. 

“In the social jungle of human existence, there is no feeling of being alive without a sense of identity.” – Erik Erikson

Growing up is tough. We have all lived through moments of bullying, of being afraid of certain people in our neighborhoods or schools. In some ways, it’s a necessary rite of passage: We often look back and learn from the way we handled these difficult situations. Did we stand up for ourselves? Did we run and hide? Did we do something deeper, more significant?

In Indian culture, it is very common to take on a new name. From a Western perspective, it sounds strange, but it is a core element of Indian culture. Many Indians have what we refer to as a “Western” name—one that will allow us to “fit” into Western society. It’s a social practice that has existed for decades.

As the focus on racial inequality became a key part of social conversation, it truly made me pause and reflect on this practice as playing directly into prejudice.

My Indian name is Sukhraj. In the Sikh culture, this means “The Happy King.”

Pretty cool, right? My grandmother named me that way when I was born. As soon as I started school, I hated my name. I grew up in Montreal in a mostly francophone community with very few people of color in my school. Unsurprisingly, a thin dark-skinned kid named Sukhraj was a direct target for extreme bullying. Bullying often came in the form of derogatory terms, most of which I cannot mention in this article.

Early in life, my favorite aunt had called me “Shoony” since I was little. It was a weird word that meant nothing at all. It morphed into Shawn, which stuck. I made a decision to officially take on Shawn as my new name. One syllable, easy to pronounce, and not a target for bullies. I ran with it and avoided using my Indian name whenever I could.

Fear of Rejection

I had a fear of rejection, and it ran deep. I walked around assuming that anyone seeing my real name would laugh or not understand it. When I started applying for jobs, “Shawn” was the name at the top of my CV. The only time my real name ever came to light would be during payroll: I had to use Sukhraj to get paid!

As I gained more business experience, and as I grew into a manager, I caught myself doing the unthinkable: I used the same terrible judgements used again against me when I assessed potential candidates. When their names were strange, I would actually catch myself…judging them. I remember the moment I realized what I was doing and it shook me to the core. I was transferring the same injustice I had lived through onto others.

I decided to be part of the solution. I radically changed my perspective. I started telling people about my real name, explaining the great story about how Sukhraj means “The Happy King” and how I had embraced it on my quest to happiness.

I was on a professional and personal mission to help others achieve happiness, and who better suited than someone with the word happiness built into their name? It was destiny! It allowed me to accept my culture and embrace my true identity. Most importantly: I stopped judging others.


Growing into adulthood, I still didn’t feel fully comfortable with my heritage and identity and, like many others, I found a way to circumvent society’s systematic judgements. I started to laugh. I spent hours watching stand-up comedy about Indian culture. I laughed endlessly at the cliches and jokes. The comedy actually distanced me from my culture further: I made jokes about Indian culture, as if it wasn’t “my” culture at all. Sure, I was Indian, but I was nothing like “those Indians” in the jokes. I started to fit in better with my friends and colleagues.

The path to embracing your cultural identity is a winding one, and I had taken the wrong route. I was trying to protect myself but I ended up opening the door for systematic racism by giving a free pass to every person who wanted to laugh at my culture with me (and many did feel empowered to laugh, poke fun, mock).

Harmful humor? I vowed to never engage in it again and so has my entire family. In a time where racial inequality is at the forefront, every one of us has a duty to respect every other human being on the planet. We cannot use harmful humor to fit in or feel better about our place in society.

Racism Is Widespread in Hiring Practices

We watch TV shows set in Silicon Valley where different cultures are harmoniously working together to build incredible technology companies. But one thing we now know: There is prejudice in companies across countries and industries. You won’t find it documented in the employee handbook or on the company website, but it’s there.

A study out of Northwestern University took data from hiring practices in nine different countries. Field studies showed there was systematic racism against candidates that were of a “non-white race.” They received fewer callbacks in almost all cases versus their “white” counterparts.

I know this practice is a real one because I’ve done the same. We have a duty as a society to stop this behaviour immediately and to realize an extremely basic truth: A name has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s abilities.

Change Is Needed

We are all responsible for making change happen. Catch yourself before making that potentially racist joke—even if it’s about your own culture. Ensure your workplace is truly living by diversity and inclusion guidelines for all current and future employees.

And, most importantly, learn to embrace your own identity. Together, we can make the difference.

Shawn Johal is a Scaling Up Certified Coach currently working with several entrepreneurs and their businesses to help accelerate their growth, while finding personal balance and happiness.

The post How I Overcame My Prejudice appeared first on Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs' Organization.

from Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization

7 Tips for Successful Dialogue

tough conversations racism sexismContributed by Libby Rutkey, freelance writer and editor.

In times of crisis or social unrest, fostering a culture of respect and inclusivity in your organization becomes even more critical. And key to that goal? Productive conversations.

Simply put, words matter. The right words create space for honest, safe dialogue. The wrong words prolong divisiveness and inequality. 

Consider these tips as you navigate tough conversations and address challenging social issues at your organization:

Don’t stay silent.

As a leader, you model how to explore tough topics and even how to respectfully disagree. To stay silent is, at best, a missed opportunity and, at worst, an unspoken consent to maintain the status quo. 

Assume the best.

Begin conversations with a positive mindset. Believe that talking will lead to good outcomes.  

Invite dialogue, not debate.

Foster open-ended conversations, where you express your perspective and learn from others’. Learning from each other is the goal, not convincing or winning.

Ensure that people feel respected and valued for the different perspectives they bring to the discussion. 

Be humble and willing to admit weakness. 

Put aside your ego and assumptions as you listen and learn from others. Accept that you might not say the right thing, but acknowledge that your goal is to understand and grow. 

Speak up against exclusionary, divisive behaviors.

Be a champion for inclusion and equality whenever possible. Even if you’re unsure whether you’re doing it “right,” there’s value in calling out discrimination.

Watch for common roadblocks in conversations. 

The nonprofit research firm Catalyst identifies three assumptions that prevent successful, productive dialogue:

  1. “There isn’t a problem.” This roadblock prevents meaningful conversation around tough topics by simply negating the existence of challenges. For example, you might hear someone say, “I don’t see skin color, only people.” Or, “We’ve hired many women and people of color, so I don’t see racism or sexism as an issue here.”   
  2. “Talking will lead to negative outcomes.” This obstacle occurs when people fear repurcussions or worry that they won’t say the right thing. It may also come up when people feel their experiences are minimized.
  3. “There’s no point to talking.” When people feel talking doesn’t make a difference or only divides people further, they naturally avoid any dialogue. 
Be intentional in your word choice.

Words can reinforce negative stereotypes and undermine an individual’s perspective.

As you engage in conversations, reflect on whether you use the same langauage with men and women. Look back on performance reviews and assess your language for differences in standards or expectations.

For example, do you hold women or people of color to higher standards? Are your goals for men on your team different than their female peers? 

For more resources and information on leading through crisis, visit the #EOTogether platform.

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from Octane Blog – The official blog of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization