When Leaders Have to Speak Up

3 Ways to Work up the Courage to Say It

As the vice president of the consultancy Gap International, it is Ilene Muething’s job to challenge and confront some of the world’s most abrasive and powerful CEOs.

Ilene is a friend and has done some consulting for my company. I once asked her how she worked up the courage to speak truth to the powerful. She said it was difficult at first, but over time it got easier.

3 Truths to Work up Your Courage

What helped Muething was that she reminded herself of three simple truths to work up the courage to speak up.

1. What I have to say is important.

If you are struggling with whether or not to say something weighty, this is generally a clue that you need to speak up. You are seeing or sensing something important that needs to be said about what is not working and needs to be fixed.

2. They need this criticism to get to the next level.

If they could see it on their own, they would already have made the change. That they aren’t changing it indicates a blind spot. So they need my eyes and my voice to get to the next level.

3. They can handle it.

Too often, we see others as fragile. We are afraid that if we speak up they will shatter into 1,000 little pieces. Or that they will fly off the handle.

But this is usually not true. We need to think of people as giants. They can handle it, especially if we take care with our words and speak the truth in love (cf. Ephesians 4:15).

Confrontation in Your Dreams

I asked her this question because there aren’t too many normal people who find it easy to confront others at work.

According to a survey of British workers by the Chartered Management Institute, two-thirds of workers are seriously stressed when they know a difficult conversation is coming up.

In fact, 11 percent get persistent nightmares and awful sleep leading up to any office confrontation.

And I am part of that 11 percent. I am conflictaphobic, to make a word. When conflict is what’s called for, there’s always an internal debate in my head.

Surely, this isn’t that big of a deal. Maybe I should just let it slide, vs. Someone needs to tell her. I would want to know if I were in that situation, right? And on it goes.

Keeping Your Head Down

As a result, especially early in my career, I would keep my real opinions to myself. I didn’t want to get in trouble. I thought that if I just did what was expected of me and kept my mouth shut, I would get ahead.

This was a pretty good strategy for a while. But it didn’t really work once people were counting on me to lead. I had my reasons for avoiding conflict:

  • I didn’t want to be embarrassed.
  • I didn’t want to lose face.
  • I didn’t want to be wrong.
  • I didn’t want others to think less of me.

These are a few of the reasons and rationales I used to justify avoiding conflict. The bottom line was that I was afraid.

But as a leader I kept finding myself in situations where I had to either step up and speak up, or watch my team suffer.

Say It With Flowers

Many moons ago, soon after I became head of one of Thomas Nelson’s publishing divisions, I had to confront one of my authors who was exhibiting what people in Washington, DC know well as classic kiss up, kick down behavior.

The author was pleasant and cooperative when I spoke with him. That’s the kiss up part but then came the kick down. He was demanding, uncooperative, and downright nasty to my staff.

Finally, one of them came to me in tears and said, I’m sorry, but I just can’t take it any more.

Now I had to make a choice. I could let it go, hoping he would improve without intervention, or I could speak up.

And cue the debate. I wrestled with it all night. I tossed and turned. I got sick to my stomach. I played out every scenario.

Finally, things came into focus: I could either be brave and call the author on it, or I could be a coward and stop growing as a leader.

The next morning I called his cell phone. I was shaking so much, I could barely hold the phone. I went over the facts. I told him that his behavior was unacceptable.

I told him how to make this right: He would call each of my staff and apologize. He would then send flowers to the person he had offended the most. If he didn’t, I would stop publication of his book and send him packing.

I was dead serious, and he heard it in my voice. To my surprise, he did exactly what I had asked.

The Thing About Courage

I learned an important lesson that day. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to act in spite of my fear.

My people also learned an important lesson that day. They learned that I was willing to stand up for them, even at the expense of my own comfort. It drew us closer together as a team.

Frankly, I still find it difficult to be brave. I don’t consider myself to be a courageous person. But now having several of these experiences under my belt, it is a little easier.

If I can do it, you can, too.

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to act in spite of my fear.


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Question: Is there a potentially difficult conversation you need to have? What would have to be true for you to lean into it and speak up? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

What You Learn on the Way to Success

A 3-Point Check-Up to Get the Most out of the Middle

Success stories have a beginning, a middle, and a payoff. We often focus on the difference between the start and the success but I’ll let you in on a secret: The struggle between the two is what’s important.

Writing Your Own Story

As you work to win at any endeavor that truly matters to you, there is going to come a point when you are tempted to quit, give it up, throw in the towel.

My friend Donald Miller, author of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, would say this is part of your great story arc, the dramatic outline that nearly every compelling tale-including yours and mine-follows.

You might start off strong with the destination in sight, and you make some progress. Everything seems easy. You are a little surprised but soon become confident and even cocky. This isn’t so hard. I’ve got it nailed, you think.

Then you come to the middle of your story, the obstacles. Things get frustrating. You’re working hard, but treading water at best. You feel trapped by circumstances.

Discouragement, anger, sadness are all emotions that you might experience when faced with an obstacle. These emotions could dissuade you from attempting to overcome the obstacle, psychiatrist Karyn Hall warns in a recent Psychology Today article.

The dilemma is that you’ve come too far to go back, but you aren’t sure you have enough resources to finish what you started. Do you quit or push forward?

Try, Try Again?

People think it becomes a compelling story when you push through to reach your destination, and from the outside it probably is. But many who have done this realize the destination wasn’t all that important.

Instead, what stands out to us is what happened on the journey-which determines how we have changed and what we’ve become.

In the 90s, I owned my own business with a partner. We loved steering our own destiny. We had some initial success. I thought We must be pretty good at this and This is a piece of cake.

Then we hit a rough patch.

A few big transactions fell through and a few clients fired us. We could still pay our employees, but we had to forego paying ourselves for a long time.

One day I came home from work and told my wife Gail I needed to lay down for a few minutes before dinner. I plopped down on the bed and wanted to cry but couldn’t even get that out. I was too numb for tears.

I had a wife, five kids, a mortgage, and a bunch of bills. I wanted to throw in the towel. I felt stuck.

Well, I didn’t quit and my partner and I eventually got things unstuck and turned things around. It was hard and took far longer than I hoped, but we had some measure of success.

3-Point Check-up for Success

On the other side of that and several other hard-won success stories, I can say that success wasn’t the most important part. What really mattered was what happened on the way to making it.

From all of these struggles, I have devised a regular simple self-checkup to get perspective, which you can use as well:

1. Am I taking care of myself?

Without sufficient rest, nutrition, and exercise, my attitude will sour and I will have fewer resources for managing the challenges. In fact, sometimes a good night’s rest can move mountains.

2. Am I asking the right questions?

Questions are very powerful tools for improvement. Beware, however, that persistent doubts often masquerade as questions, which can leave one disempowered and depleted.

I make it a point to regularly ask constructive questions like these:

  • What does this situation make possible?
  • What do I like about this relationship/project/or job?
  • How does this challenge provide a way for my leadership or character to grow?
  • What is really at stake here-and why do I need to finish again?

3. Who can give me perspective on this?

Usually, my wife Gail helps to nudge me in the right direction. But sometimes I also need the counsel of my pastor, a trusted friend, a life coach, or even a therapist.

The bottom line is that I need people who aren’t as neck deep in the project as I am to help me step back and see the whole forest.

The older I get, the more I see the need to stay in the story. It’s always tempting to throw in the towel when things get tough. But when you do that, you miss the most valuable part of your story-the middle.

Don’t quitwhen the going gets tough. The middle isthe most valuable part of your story.


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Question: What have you lostby quitting,or gained by not quitting? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Out of Ideas on What to Write About? Try This QWIKI Hack!

Out of Ideas on What to Write About? Try This ''QWIKI'' Hack!

Are you knowledgeable and passionate about a niche? Others would like to know what’s in your brain!

Therein lies the rationale behind a classic way to build a profitable online business, one of the most consistently reliable ways for solopreneurs to succeed

The Theme-Based Content Site (TBCS)

Most solopreneurs think about blogging when considering an online business. For TBCS owners, that means less competition and a superior chance of success!

Evergreen contentAs opposed to the fundamentally different format of blogging, a TBCS is based upon evergreen content.

Each topical page is updated as needed (blogs would normally post separate updates). TBCS’s are more attractive for search engines because they deliver the type of information that searchers generally want (i.e., detailed, up to date and all in one place).

Bloggers have a wider range of topics to write about. They can cover the latest news, editorialize on the same subject with new spins, etc. If they are great, they build a following.

When a SiteBuilder writes about a topic, there’s no need for a second page on it. They don’t editorialize on news, merely integrate what’s new.

The problem? Running out of topics to cover!

Solutions to I Don’t Know What Else to Write About

1) Go longer tail. A topic can always be broken down into sub-topics, and then sub-sub-topics. They aren’t searched as much, but there’s less competition.

Also, arranging pages into a logically-structured hierarchy, where each topic links to its sub-topics (and sub-topics to sub-sub-topics), flows internal authority up the chain for optimal search results.

2) Monitor RSS feeds, browse Amazon, cover related topics (listed at Google for every search result).

3) Our special tip of the day

Hack Into the minds of Wikipedia Editors

They’ve already done the thinking for you! Here’s what to do

Search for your primary keyword at Wikipedia. For example, dog training (click on the link and follow along).

  • The Contents delivers new sections on how dogs learn and training methods. These can become whole new areas to cover.
  • The See Also is full of wild cards. Most won’t fit (ex., dog sports), but a few may add interesting new directions (ex., Reward system).

Dig Deeper

Need more? Click on relevant links and repeat the process. Each link takes you to a fresh page, complete with new Contents and See Also boxes.

Read each page and take notes as you go. You should find enough topics to keep you going for months!

Bottom Line Takeaway?

Had a hard time building a profitable blogging business? Consider a Theme-Based Content Site. Evergreen content delivers higher volumes of search traffic, while still building a following and fitting in with social media, creating many ways to monetize. In short

Blogging is an inherently more difficult approach to master.

The advantage will remain for as long as solopreneurs consider TBCS’s to be old-fashioned!

If you skipped over the article referenced above, check it out now to go deeper into the differences between TBCS’s and blogging.

Author information

Margit Streifeneder

Margit Streifeneder is the Communications Manager at SiteSell. She handles the Editorial Calendar, coordinates marketing initiatives and is renowned for her organisational skills. She’s passionate about helping solopreneurs achieve success, and enjoys interviewing SBI! members about their achievements. Her personal goal is “never being cold again,” so she chose to settle in Nicaragua, for now.

The post Out of Ideas on What to Write About? Try This QWIKI Hack! appeared first on Solo Build It! Blog – Proven Real-World Advice for Solopreneurs.

7 Steps to Faster Audience Growth [Free New Webinar]

Learn How to Build an Engaged Online Following in 30 Minutes a Day

When I talk with people about the frustrations they feel in building an engaged online following, slow growth and insufficient time come up more frequently than anything else.

I get it. When I first started blogging, I would spend hours on an important post, expecting it would take off. But no matter how much time I invested, I had fewer than a thousand readers regardless of what I did. Not even my mom was interested!

If you’re building an online platform, you don’t want to miss my new webinar, 7 Steps to Faster Audience Growth: How to Build an Engaged Online Following in 30 Minutes a Day. Register now. There are multiple time slots to accommodate your schedule.

Yes, Sign Me Up!

And it’s not like I had endless hours to dedicate to breaking through the barriers in the first place. I had a family and full time job as the CEO of a major corporation. I had to fit my platform-building into the margins of my workdays and weekends.

After four years, I hit an inflection point. My site traffic took a major jump, and it’s been growing by leaps and bounds ever since. But I wouldn’t trade those slow years for anything. Why?

During the slow years I learned the strategies that eventually kickstarted my audience growth and magnified the impact of my message.

These lessons have enabled me to reach more people in less time. And after coaching thousands of people in building their platforms, I’m confident these strategies can work for you too.

If that’s something you’re interested in, I’d like to invite you to a free new webinar I’m hosting: 7 Steps to Faster Audience Growth: How to Build an Engaged Online Following in Just 30 Minutes a Day.

This webinar is designed to help you speed up the slow years without gobbling up your valuable margin. Tune in and you’ll discover:

  • How to gain exposure beyond your current audience-and what works better than personal promotion
  • How to streamline your content creation for total efficiency (without sacrificing quality!)
  • What you should do (or NOT do) with social media to make it valuable for you and your followers
  • How doing LESS can increase your chances of success
  • My recommended tools for collecting emails and managing your social media accounts
  • How narrowing your focus can help you expand your reach (and how to know what that narrow focus should be!)
  • My recommended order of operations for smart audience growth (this will keep you from going in a hundred directions at once)
  • My go-to options for when you’re ready to make your platform profitable and self-sustaining

This webinar istotally free. But spots are limited, so if you want to participate I recommend registering soon, before the seats fill up or the clock runs out.

You don’t have live with the disappointment of low reader engagement. And you don’t have to let your platform eat up all your free time to the detriment of your relationships, rejuvenation, and rest.

7 Steps to Faster Audience Growth reveals simple, proven strategies to build your online following, boost engagement, and do it all in less time than you ever imagined. I’d love to see you there.

If you’re building an online platform, you don’t want to miss my new webinar, 7 Steps to Faster Audience Growth: How to Build an Engaged Online Following in 30 Minutes a Day. Register now. There are multiple time slots to accommodate your schedule.

Yes, Sign Me Up!

If you have the courage to begin, you have the courage to succeed. -David Viscott [Photo]

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Click here for my complete collection of quote card images.

How Is Hiring Like Chemistry? 4 Ingredients for Success

Also: We’re Hiring! See if You’re a Fit for Our Team

Most leaders I’ve met recognize you need the right people to build a high-power team. But few of them have defined the ideal candidate for their organization. They’re playing with fire.

A few of my grandkids are reading the Roald Dahl classic George’s Marvelous Medicine right now. In the story, the boy George mixes up a concoction to cure his grandmother of her sour mood. He adds everything he can find to the mixing pot: pharmaceuticals, paint, shampoo, and more.

The results are explosive-and the antics only get zanier from there. Unfortunately, I’ve seen hiring situations like that over the years.

Explosive Combinations

We sometimes forget that building a team is like advanced chemistry. Why? Because we’re adding and mixing people into our organizations in new (and sometimes volatile) combinations.

Get the combination right, and you’ve got a high-power mixture that can fuel your business and help you reach your goals. Get it wrong, and you might blow things up or just fizzle and sputter on the launch pad.

This is top of mind for me and my team right now because we’re hiring five new positions (details below).

Good leaders usually start with a written job description that covers required educational experience, technical skills, and so forth. But great leaders go further. They take a step back and identify the essential qualities of the ideal candidate.

I’ve made my share of bad hires over the years. They’ve cost me plenty in terms of dollars, headspace, emotional energy, and time. But failure is one of life’s better teachers.

What have I learned?

The H3S Formula

I can simplify the chemistry and get results I want by focusing on four ingredients in any job candidate: humility, honesty, hunger, and smarts. I call it H3S for short.

Think of H3S as a formula for hiring success. I first wrote about it in 2011, and other leadership writers have presented similar ideas since then. I’ll summarize it here:

  1. Humility. A humble person has a good sense of self, including a realistic grip on his strengths and weaknesses. He makes other people feel smart and confident and is teachable. He doesn’t gloat over his wins, or downplay his mistakes. He sees what needs to be done, pitches in, and is excited playing his part on the team.

  2. Honesty. An honest person does not lie, exaggerate, or misrepresent the facts. She gives you the good, the bad, and the ugly and owns her part. You can bank on her keeping her commitments, even when it’s difficult, expensive, or inconvenient to her.

  3. Hungry. A hungry person is driven to exceed whatever expectations are set for him. Emboldened by a growth mindset, he’s always reaching for more-setting higher goals. He relentlessly pursues the best solution and embraces change if it can take him-or the company-to a new level.

  4. Smart. A smart person usually scores high on traditional IQ tests. But not always. Some people are book-smart but street-stupid. A smart person is a quick study. She can connect the dots without a lot of help. She can think laterally and apply what she knows in one area to another. She knows how to make complex subjects simple. She asks thoughtful questions and is always eager to learn.

Like I Said, We’re Hiring!

If you find yourself reflected in those four qualities, you might be a fit for our team. As I said earlier, we’re hiring five new positions right now:

  • Executive Assistant to the Chief Operating Officer to stay five steps ahead of our COO by anticipating needs, managing calendars and tasks, and communicating on the COO’s behalf both internally and externally.
  • Social Media Manager to oversee our social media presence, manage online communities, and build successful campaigns.
  • Finance Assistant to assist our accounting manager in data management, reporting, and other duties.
  • Senior Developer to build websites, designing and implementing software, analyzing data and project management for the marketing team.
  • Customer Support Specialist to provide unparalleled customer support while serving as brand ambassador across our various digital platforms.

If you’re looking to build a positive and effective team, don’t do it like George mixed the medicine. I recommend using the H3S formula. And if you’ve got the necessary ingredients yourself and want to join a vibrant and growing team, check out our careers page and see if you’re a fit.

Question: Have you had any memorable positive (or negative) experiences with new hires? What did you learn? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Tired of Getting No Pay Raise? Become Your Own Boss Like This Young Couple Did

Tired of Getting no Pay Raise? Become Your Own Boss Like this Young Couple Did

I love working for myself, that I don’t get told what to do, that I make my own hours, that I work when I want on what I want I also like that the amount I make is up to me. In my profession, raises didn’t come often.

Luke and Hollie met at college while studying for their degree in speech and language development. They fell in love with each other, and with the idea of starting a business together.

That was back in 2010. Five years later, Luke was able to quit his full-time job and focus fully on their online business.

Today, their business supports a family of 5, with a 6th family member on the way.

Learn how this young solopreneur couple manages to juggle a busy family life, homeschooling and growing a profitable online business together – without driving each other insane.

1. How did you decide about your niche, speech and language development? How did you know it was the right topic for you and had great business potential?

Both my wife and I have a background in speech and language development and we wanted to start a business together. So the topic of speech and language development sounded like the ideal niche for us. We also thought there was a need for more resources for parents to do speech therapy with their kids at home.

We went through the niche evaluation process as outlined in the SBI! Action Guide. The Brainstorm It! numbers for both demand and supply were low. However, the Action Guide also advises not to become number-bound, and to trust your human judgment.

From our knowledge in the speech and language development area we believed that this was an up and coming niche, with not much out there, but the potential for growing bigger.

We did some additional research (Google Trends, searching at marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy for existing products in that niche, and whether people were buying them). After all this research, we were optimistic about the business potential (although we were still not 100% sure) and took the leap.

TAKEAWAY #1: With Brainstorm It!, Luke refers to one of the many integrated tools that are part of every SBI! subscription. Brainstorm It! is an advanced keyword research and analysis tool that enables you to reveal and target the keywords that your audience is actively searching on. It also helps you to determine the business potential your niche has, or even to come up with possible niches in your area of interest.

Keyword research is an important part of your preparation. It helps form the structure of your site and what you will write about. Numbers, though, are guidelines. Your own human judgment has the final say.

This is even more true for a niche that’s slightly ahead of the curve. An early stage concept requires some dedicated brain work and time to develop the just-right approach.

Begin your research with these three big picture questions

  • Does the idea/concept excite you? With an early stage concept, you can literally own that space if you do a good job.
  • Are there some encouraging signs of monetization potential with this concept?
  • Will your potential market expand as people catch up to you and start searching for that specific concept?

SBI!’s Action Guide leads you through the process of thoroughly assessing these three areas. When the answers to these questions satisfy you (as they did for Luke), you’ve found your ideal business niche.

2. Your SBI! site, www.home-speech-home.com has a beautiful design. Did you create it yourself?

Thank you.