How to Set Boundaries…and Break Them.

We’re always talking about boundaries.

How to set them.

How to think outside of them.

How to break them.

So which is it? Set them or smash them?

It’s both.

Setting boundaries is key to getting more done. When you know who you are, and what needs doing, you can focus. And that means saying no to the wrong opportunities, clients, relationships that don’t serve your purpose.

Setting boundaries enables you to go after the life you want.

But….we also can’t let boundaries box us in!

Setting a boundary that cars can’t cross the double yellow lines in traffic saves lives.

But, setting a boundary that you can’t go talk to that VP you really admire because that’s just not the way we do things around here helps no one.

To make change, invent, or ignite, we have to question certain boundaries. We have to cross them and see what’s on the other side. It could be better. If boundaries exist around people, or your work, or heck, your dreams – you owe it to yourself to step through. 

How do we reconcile setting boundaries with smashing them?

We must ask: Is it a healthy boundary? If I set my schedule to get offline at 4 pm so I can pick up my son from school and spend time with him, that serves me. That is something that energizes me, gives me quality family time, and enables me to come back stronger and recharhed for my clients the next day.

But if I put up a boundary around becoming friends with my clients, who does that serve? I want to work with people I enjoy, and people I enjoy often become friends. You can dance the line between work and personal if you’re just open and honest. This also is true for corporate types. Some say, “Keep your personal life out of your work.” Which is true, to some extent, but it doesn’t  mean we have to keep your humanity out of your work! You don’t park it at the door.

Get to know your work colleagues. Understand their lives. Check in. Then, when it comes time to collaborate, innovate, or invent, there is trust there. There is mutual understanding of each other’s lives outside of work. You can understand where someone is coming from, and build from there. It doesn’t serve you to set this boundary because it stops you from collaborating and  effectively with and trusting each other. 

When I was in corporate, I did my best work with a team of people I was close to. People I would work with all day and then go out for drinks with at night. We trusted each other. We could brainstorm crazy ideas without fear and create amazing marketing campaigns. We could adapt quickly when things went wrong during a global roadshow and trust each other to get someone to the airport on a moment’s notice. We had each other’s backs. We got each other through and delivered amazing work.

When you are pulled into creating a boundary, be sure it’s one that serves you. (Tweet This!)

That makes you and your work better, not worse.

Photo Credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Say No…But Try it This Way

No Trespassing Signs

As a business owner, or even just a busy executive or changemaker, the best skill you can master is prioritization. Since you can’t clone yourself and you do need to sleep (and perhaps see your spouse every once in a while), the art of saying no is a powerful tool in your arsenal.

Work and life are all about choices. You can say yes to more of the right things–the right projects, clients, people–ONLY IF you say no to others.

As an organization, your brand strategy can be a great compass to keep you on the right path and not get distracted by inefficient investments, bad advertising opportunities, new social media platforms, or other shiny objects.

Further, your organization’s (or personal) mission, vision and values can keep you focused and moving forward.

Learning to say no is just as important as saying yes. But be sure you’re saying NO in a positive way. (TWEET THIS!)

I’ve seen many entrepreneurs in recent years swing so far the other way down the “learn to say no” track, that they make it impossible (and frankly, unpleasant) to do business with them.

You can say no with respect. Offer them a path forward if possible. “Wow, that sounds like an amazing project and opportunity. Unfortunately, I’m unable to help with it right now. Here are some other folks who might be able to work and I’m happy to make an introduction.”

You can say no with empathy: Some rules can be broken because…life. It’s not “making exceptions” – it’s being understanding. “My usual policy is that meetings cancelled with less than 24 hours notice require payment in full. But that is terrible about your daughter being ill. I hope she’s doing okay. You’ve definitely got a lot on your plate. Why don’t we go ahead and reschedule this for free this time- but I won’t be able to squeeze this in for another month. Does that work for you?”

You can say no with kindness and collaboration, rather than assuming ill intent or that someone is trying to take advantage of you. Not everyone is your mortal enemy so take it down a notch. Instead of:

(Huffing) “Well, it’s my policy and you did sign the contract so you knew this was an issue!”

Don’t confuse being unreasonable and aggressive with being professional. 

How about: “What can we do together to remedy the situation while still staying true to the contract terms in Section 1B?” (and then go make sure that section of the contract is bolded and requires initials in the future!)

And if you decide to say no with this phrase “Nothing personal.” there are kind tones and aggressive tones. Remember, only 7% of your communication comes from the words you say. Non-verbal communication is everything, and that includes your tone of voice. As my mother used to scold, “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.” Usually before sending me to my room.

It’s super important to have boundaries, clarity, and conviction. You definitely don’t want to say yes if something is not the right fit, you don’t have time to do your best work, or you run yourself ragged. That’s not fair to the other person who needs you to be all-in. But…show some grace when you say no and you’ll not only still be able to prioritize or stick to your values, but you will also create a positive personal brand for yourself. 

Try not to take “setting boundaries” so dangerously far that you build a wall around yourself that no one can–or wants to– scale. (TWEET THIS!)

Photo Credit: Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash.

Collaborating to Survive…and Thrive

3 Ways to Collaborate in Hard Times

Whoa, these are some crazy times. 

With the global spread of Coronavirus and most business (and personal lives) at a standstill, what’s an entrepreneur to do to keep her business going to weather to storm? 

This blog post was originally going to be about when to collaborate from an “outsourcing” point of view. Collaborating to ensure you don’t try to do all the things yourself, but value your time and talent in a more strategic way. When does it make sense to pay a designer, virtual assistant, or CRM consultant versus spending all that valuable time trying to do it all yourself? 

Of course, we need to value our time from a revenue perspective. What is your hourly labor cost for your time (not your mark up) and would the time be better spent on revenue-generating activities versus formatting PowerPoint slides? 

But the world has changed. 

As of this post, we don’t know when quarantines will end. We don’t know which businesses will survive the economic paralysis we’re experiencing right now. And we don’t know if our business will live or die. 

But collaboration is still the key to success. Even in current times. 

If business has dried up for you, if you’re worried about projects evaporating or revenue looking bleak, it’s time to reach out and collaborate. While collaboration is good for you right now, it’s also a wonderful way to support other business owners in similar circumstances. 

Let me say this first: Right now, you must pivot. No getting around it. So if you’re used to certain revenue streams or always going it alone, you need to rethink things. My corporate projects rely on companies spending money and doing a live brand workshop. Ain’t happening right now! That’s not what my ideal clients are worried about right now Now is the time to address where you customers are mentally and financially, get creative, and pivot how you can help them. That includes your messaging, but also HOW you deliver your offerings – and which offerings you have. 

Here are 3 ways to collaborate so your business thrives: 

  1. Create a new offer with a partner: If your current offerings are at a standstill, now is the time to create a new course or offering that immediately addresses what your customers need and want. Inject more “oomph” into that offering by collaborating with a complementary partner to not only make the deal even more irresistible, but tap into the collective marketing power of both of your audiences. 
  2. Continue to value your time by hiring others: It’s not time to try to handle your website, design needs, etc. all on your own. While tempting, that is just more time that takes you from revenue-generating activity. If you’re able to, it’s still a good idea to hire contractors to help you with all the little things so you can focus extra hard on opportunity creation and demand generation. And you can help keep those businesses afloat, too. If you need to cut budget, do it in fluffy areas of the business, like cutting any extra subscriptions you don’t need. 
  3. Keep your network active: How you show up right now says a lot about your brand and your business. Now is not the time to go into hiding! Continue to create valuable content and network on social media. While you may not be able to meet in person, schedule those coffee dates virtually. Check in with clients and prospects. Remind people you are still there and ready to serve. 

Collaboration will not only help you survive, it will help you thrive. (TWEET THIS!)

Here’s a free resource for you to better collaborate and network virtually right now: It’s a lesson from my MOMENTUM coaching program, the Playbook titled Socially Connect and Thrive. Enjoy, with my compliments! 

And if you like it and want more Playbooks to master your marketing, articulate your value or build your audience, you might want to check out MOMENTUM Pro at a special $100 off. 

How to Become a Better Connector

How to Become a Better Connector

It’s time to go beyond networking and start connecting. Being a good connector reaps endless benefits for your business and life. Knowing the right people gets you jobs faster, scores you more clients, boosts your visibility, increases your acumen and skills, and shapes your ideas. It is also great for your health and enjoyment in your career.

But how do you become a good connector if you think you’re terrible at it? And if you already feel pretty good about your connecting ability, how can you uplevel for even more influence and impact?

Today’s I’m interviewing leadership speaker, connection creator, and author Michelle Tillis Lederman on this very topic. She just wrote The Connectors Advantage: 7 Mindsets to Grow Your Influence and Impact

Whether you are horrible at making connections, or you want to further build your skills and uplevel your connection-making status so you can get to success faster, enjoy this video, power-packed with useful tips.

YouTube video

Highlights include:

* How to be a good connector even if you think you suck at it (5:50)
* What level connector are you and how you can level up (7:50)
* Difference between a connector and a thought leader (10:50)
* Take Michelle’s Connector Challenge! (12:59)
* Two mindsets necessary to be a good connector and keep your boundaries (17:30)
* How to use underutilized time to nurture connections (23:03)
* Action tip to become a better connector: Eat that frog! (28:00)
* How to be a more inclusive connector and get out of your bubble (29:34)

“Connecting is not nature over nurture. Anyone can become a good connector and find success.” – Michelle Tillis Lederman (TWEET THIS!)

Learn more about Michelle on her website, follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

Download your free connection gift pack.
Learn more about The Connectors Advantage and enjoy great book bonuses.

How to Be a Classy Competitor

Competition Can Be Classy

When the world is too much for me and politics, current events, work or just plain mean people are getting me down, I seek peace and joy in baking.

Well, not literally. I mean The Great British Baking Show.

It was once called The Great British Bake Off but a trademark issue with Pillsbury forced it to change names when it came over from the UK to the States. Perhaps you’ve caught a bit of it with initial judges Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry (best names ever), and then later with Paul and new sidekick Pru Leith – all well-respected, famous fixtures on the British baking and cooking scene. And the hilarious hosts (for comic relief) who narrate the happenings and in equal parts tease/encourage the contestants.

Why do I love this show? Not just the ridiculously amazing creations these amateur cooks make, from patisserie to scrumptious fruit pies, to ornate wedding cakes, to savory pasties and mouth-watering crunchy breads.

The show is a competition. And it’s beautiful and glorious.

And apparently, I’m not alone. No backstabbing. No diva drama. No ruthless camera asides when their fellow competitors are not watching.

Just a group of ambitious people doing what they love, and making sure they show their very, very best.

Some will help each other when things go wrong. Others will provide a little advice to someone who is not quite sure of the end result (this often happens with the technical challenge, where contestants have no idea what they’ll be asked to make.) One episode even found an ICU physician bandaging up a fellow contestant who had sliced his finger with a sharp knife.

This is how classy competition can be.

You can be classy and still want to win. (TWEET THIS!)

No one needs to tear anyone else down to build themselves down. They let the creations speak for themselves. And they celebrate each others successes, often giving a little wink or silent cheer when another person’s work is judged well by the experienced hosts.

And, more importantly, all this compassion and support does not mean each contestant does not want to win. Some of them are very competitive.

Forget ugly American reality TV shows (except The Voice, which I think does a similar nice job with this). People can be supportive and ambitious. Kind and competitive.  They can learn from each other and celebrate their successes.

We just need to change the script that defines competitive success.

More articles you may like on how to change the way we look at “competition”:

How to Understand Your Competitors Without Falling into a Jealousy TrapWhat Are Your Competitors Secrets? Here’s How to Find Out

Traffic or Referrals?

Heavy city traffic - Do you invest in traffic or referrals?

When it comes to the primary method for attracting new clients or customers, small businesses and entrepreneurs fall into two camps:

  1. They rely on website traffic.
  2. They rely on referrals.

Neither strategy is right or wrong. You just need to be clear on what is your strategy so you can invest your time and money into the right activities.

Online shops, of course, rely on website traffic. They need as many of the right people knowing about and coming to their site as possible to make their sales. But this strategy also benefits coaches or consultants with online courses or speakers and authors needing to build a platform. These are the folks you also see investing heavily in social media ads. (Sidenote: while I was never someone who bought from online or social media ads, I have to admit that Instagram ads finally got me. I regularly buy from brands I’ve never heard of before after seeing just one compelling video ad!)

Certain consultants and B2B marketers, however, rely more upon referrals. I’m one of those people. People may not buy such high-touch, high-priced offerings from their site, so they double-down on referral efforts. This includes actively reaching out to their networks or existing fan base, consistently asking for client testimonials and spending their time providing compelling content for those audiences to constantly stay top of mine.

You must understand your primary sales lead channel in order to invest in the right marketing. (TWEET THIS!)

Some resources for you:

If you’re focused on driving online traffic, I highly recommend you check out Devani Freeman for Facebook and Instagram presence-building and campaigns. Amy Landino for video marketing strategy to build a YouTube presence and drive traffic, or Diamond and Branch Digital Marketing for all things SEO, digital content strategy and more traffic driving.

Articles you may love:
How to make Facebook and Instagram ads work for your business
5un-ignorable reasons why your business needs a blog
How to do SEO in 5 minutes (really)

The 5 best ways to drive traffic to your website If you’re focused on referrals, I highly recommend you check out relationship and networking and connection expert Michelle Tillis Lederman (she has a new book coming out soon called THE CONNECTOR’S ADVANTAGE – so good!) and LinkedIn guru Sandy Jones-Kaminski of Bella Domain. I also highly recommend Leah Neaderthal’s course SIGNED to help you create a lead generation process and really work your referral base (If you’re interested in an intro to Leah AND a special discount code for this course, contact me!)

Articles you may love:
6 ways to spread the word about your business
Top 5 networking tips from a pro
How to attract quality clients and customers
25 ways to ask for a referral without looking desperate

3 Ways to Leverage Your Contacts for Leads

3 Ways to Leverage Your Contacts - photo of person drawing social media circles on chalkboard

You may think you don’t have enough reach, a big enough email list or enough leads.

But you are actually sitting on a goldmine. And you might be ignoring it.

Recently, I learned the importance of clearly reaching out and communicating your work to people you know. Yes, just took me more than 11 years in business to learn how to be proactive on this! #latebloomer

All of us have networks of former colleagues or clients. All of us have some quantity of people on our email lists, be that 100 or 10,000. All of us are connected to people through social media, especially LinkedIn. You might think some of them can’t help you get more clients and customers, but they can.

This is your lead and referral base. Time to start nurturing it!

Here are 3 ways to leverage your existing network, client base or email list for more leads and revenue opportunities.

  1. Reach Out: This year, I’ve committed to reaching out to 5 contacts. Just a short, sweet note of connection. These could be folks from my corporate life, colleagues I’ve met at business networking events, former clients. People who may or may not need my services right now – but may know someone who does. I’m letting them know what is going on with me and inviting them to coffee or a Zoom call so we can connect and help each other. This is not just about you being selfish: Reconnecting with your network is a great way for you practice generosity and see how you might be of service to them. Remind them that you exist and you may just unlock new business or yourself…or for them.
  2. Tag Emails and Posts with a CTA: This is a technique that works so well for sales coach Leah Neaderthal of Smart Gets Paid. You may have noticed in recent emails or social media posts, I’ll occasionally mention “3 ways I can help” and remind fans about my 90-minute Brand Booster sessions, free private Facebook community they can join for entrepreneurial advice (MOMENTUM for Savvy Entrepreneurs) or DIY digital course for marketing success, MOMENTUM Pro. This has helped kick start folks into action. We are all busy. No one remembers everything you do, so it’s on you to continually remind them! As my good friend and colleague conversion copywriter Betsy Talbot always says, “You have to tell your clients how to buy from you!”
  3. Love Your List: I don’t care how big your email list is. You need to love on them! Quality beats quantity any day.  These are your biggest fans, so make them feel special. Offer exclusive content, provide free trainings, heck, send them an inspiring playlist! Not sure how to love on them? Grab some templates and ideas from CLIENT LOVE, so you can love the fans you’ve got and attract even more. When you love your existing tribe rather than always striving to “collect” new subscribers to clients, you turn them into brand evangelists!

People are busy. They forget about you or what you do. They don’t keep up with every new launch, rebrand or product you have to offer.

Don’t waste your existing network, fans or client base: Remind them you are there and how you can help.

Proactive generosity and connection will always bring you success. (TWEET THIS!)

Elevate Your Brand through Personal Style with Kaarin Huffman

elevate your brand through personal style with Kaarin Huffman

Can what you wear influence whether you land a client, get hired, negotiate a favorable contract or if an audience believes you are credible and trustworthy?

You bet.

Brand extends beyond just your logo or colors to what YOU project when you walk into a room, lead a meeting or take the stage.

Now, some of you may get a little huffy about “judging a book by its cover,” but please watch this amazing interview! You will learn that if you want to project a certain image, but more importantly, CONVEY YOUR UNIQUE TALENTS AND VIBE to the world, you must understand the “psychology of style.”

It helps to understand how our brains are hard-wired to make snap decisions  – even before we say a word.

Today I’m interviewing image consultant Kaarin Huffman. Kaarin has worked with many professionals and thought leaders to help them convey a consistent personal brand through how they dress. And she has studied the psychology of style and how it can impact everything from getting a good deal on a car to closing a sale.

You’ll want to take notes on the fascinating research Kaarin has to share. I learned so much!

“Image consulting is about intentionally expressing your personal values, strengths and brand through what you wear. It’s not about being something you’re not.” (TWEET THIS!)

If you want to elevate your brand from the moment you walk into the room, and land that client, get a good deal or make yourself memorable, please click below to watch the video interview!


YouTube video


Highlights include:

* Why “dressing to your brand” is not about being judged on your looks alone (2:25)

* How to link your brand to your personal style (6:28)

* Why you need to forget what you think it means to “dress professionally” (10:14)

* The two things you’re being assessed on when you walk into a room (14:57)

* The psychology of style: What “enclothed cognition” means to your performance and results. (15:50)

*What to wear to establish credibility…or get a great deal on a car! (16:56)

*Practical tips on how to dress to boost your brand (21:56)

*The Red Sneaker effect and when you have to be careful with style! (30:20)

“The psychology of style is not just for execs or those with money. These little subtle cues are available to everyone who seeks success” (Tweet This!)

Any gems you picked up that you will put into practice? What was the biggest surprise to you? Would love to know!

Learn more about Kaarin at her website and connect with her on LinkedIn. She’s also written some great articles there on using personal style and color to communicate your brand.

6 Links Small Business Owners Should Click

6 Links Small Business Owners Should Click

Facebook ads. #Winning hashtags for your small business. How to still be productive when WiFi goes down. Just a few of the latest and greatest things I’ve found on the Internet the last few weeks, curated just for you. You’re welcome!

8 (relatively) easy Facebook tips that will help your business by Sarah Von Bargen @yesandyesblog PS, I tried the one about the Facebook cover photo and it seems to be increasing email signups!

You can make excuses or you can make progress. By Alexandra Franzen. Damn. If this little boy doesn’t inspire you to get off your butt and stop whining about why you can’t succeed, nothing will.

Popular Twitter hashtags to promote your small business every day of the week. For when you’re like, “Why don’t more people notice my Twitter awesomeness?” from @smallbiztrends

When you need clarity around your mission and why you’re doing all this work in the first place: Why I turned down a $100,000 deal on Shark Tank by Lisa Binderow, founder and CEO of Nicepipes Apparel @nicepipestweets

No Internet? No Problem. 12 tips for staying productive offline by Lindsay Kolowich  @lkolow.

62% of small business owners says that Facebook ads don’t work. Here’s why experts disagree by Marla Tabaka @MarlaTabaka

Now, you know I can’t be everywhere so help me curate! Got a link you’re dying to share with the tribe?  Post it to the Facebook page right now and share your sensational find! Cute animal videos count, too.

5 Ways Your Business Can Make the World a Better Place

Flashback: I’m seventeen and my mom and I are driving somewhere, talking about my future career goals. College application season was in full swing so the topic weighed heavy on me. What did I want to study?

My mom would have loved for me to pursue acting or journalism, but I wanted to study business and go into advertising or marketing. Rebel.

Some people know exactly what they want to do and go for it. But I was never the person who had an early calling on any one thing. Maybe you can relate? My attention span is too short, my interests too varied.

From age ten, one of my older brothers wanted to be a lawyer. And at fifty, he’s now…a successful lawyer. How I envied such clarity.

Some of my friends wanted to be doctors, teachers, scientists. Wanting to make a difference myself, I was torn up by my non-philanthropic career goals. I longed to create, communicate and impact in my own way, like running marketing for a city arts or theatre company.

“Maria, it’s okay to do something you love,” Mom said. “Not everyone can pursue a ‘noble’ profession. Things still need to get done. But you can still do good in the world, no matter what you do for a living.”

This conversation is a hazy memory, I’m not sure if it was real or imagined. Regardless, it has shaped my world view.

My deeper purpose has always been to engage, inform and delight with my work in order to make the world a better place. And it informs one of my primary values: With great success comes great responsibility.

With great success comes great responsibility: 5 ways your biz can make the world better @redslice Click To Tweet

We don’t all have the drive to join the PeaceCorps. We can’t all run into burning buildings to save puppies. Our work may not involve curing cancer or advancing world peace, but we can do many philanthropic things with our businesses.

Here are five ways your business can make the world a better place:

  1. Donate a percentage of profits: You can use your good fortune to help worthy causes. This type of social entrepreneurship is getting more and more popular. Why not make yourself successful so you can in turn support honorable causes? You can do this consistently or with special promotions. You could become a one-for-one company and donate an item to people in need for every item you sell like Tom’s or Embrace Baby Warmers. If you can’t be in the trenches, find a way to use your profits to support those who are.
  2. Give the gift of giving back: I do this every year at the holidays. Instead of useless mugs or pens that will just get lost or thrown away, I thank my clients and partners by allowing them to choose from a selection of my favorite charities and I give a gift in their name. They remember my brand with respect, feel good about not cluttering their desk, and the organization gets the resources to continue its good work. #winning
  3. Take on a pro bono project: My friend used to run a design agency and every quarter they would take on one pro bono project to help a community organization. They had deep values in promoting social good and did a lot of paid work for socially responsible companies. Those paid gigs enabled them to generously donate their time and talent to help local worthy causes with tiny budgets. And side bonus: the PR was priceless.
  4. Choose your clients wisely: No one says you have to serve organizations who pollute the environment or product marketers who scam old people. It’s your business! You absolutely have the right and responsibility to define your values and work only with people or brands who do no harm. This includes partners. The more you support those kinds of people or businesses, the more we all win.
  5. Be a good, authentic person: You can choose to add to the scandalous marketing trash out there polluting our hearts and minds or you can rise above. Stay truthful in your advertising. You are called to create something that matters, so offer value and substance. Be good to your customers and clients. Show empathy. Keep your word. You can only control yourself, so be the example.

Image Credit via Flickr