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It All Adds Up: Hope Munches On

Before you take a step, before your situation changes, before you even have the answers to create change…you just need to grasp the concept of hope. You have to know there is a chance for something better and then allow the story to unfold. Trust me…it’s easier said than done, but it has to be done.

In November 2015, my business journey shifted. I was holding onto a fledgling cookie company as if it were a million dollar operation when in reality it was only generating enough revenue to be a mere side hustle. The cookie company had the potential for growth, but I didn’t have the capacity to breathe life into it. That is until my expectations shifted and I settled for the uncertainty of what if there is more?

On July 31, 2018, I celebrated the result of taking a chance on hope, through the brand unveiling and business launch of my cookie company, now known as Junita’s Jar. Surrounded by walls and books and periodicals dedicated to all things business development and standing under the portrait of the well known dreamer and entrepreneur, Mr. James J. Hill, I stood before one hundred or so friends and supporters sharing the news of the next chapter in my journey of entrepreneurship. I stood before them as I stepped into the intersection where the uncertainty of hope meets the power of a dream.

Filled with table of cookies and conversation starters, my business launch was designed to introduce our deliciously wholesome cookies while creating the opportunity to exchange hope-filled interactions. From four amazing speakers, each sharing their personal story of trauma to triumph, Junita’s Jar welcomed a movement celebrating the impact of hope. Some had tears of inspiration others had hearts overflowing with the anticipation of doing good, but everyone understood the powerful impact of hope-filled communities.

Launching a business is grueling work. Launching a movement of hope-filled possibilities makes the work a little sweeter. As I reflect upon my business journey over the past three years, and think about what I know for sure, I can tell you three important business altering lessons that have dramatically impacted my growth.

  1. You must say yes to the difficult things.
  2. Build your network to increase your net worth.
  3. Celebrate the small steps along the way.

I could share story upon story that speaks to the growth I’ve experienced from these three lessons, but I’ll save that for the book. In the meantime, I want to send a special thank to the community of supporters and friends for joining me on this journey and a special thank you to the James J. Hill Center team for creating an opportunity for me to say yes.

As always, I would love to hear from you. Send me an email or share via social media, your story of embracing hope and executing your dream. At the end of the day, remember hope is a game changer.

 


You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website junitasjar.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Accelerate & Generate

For startups, financing can be challenging, and often the biggest barrier. Each month we’re focusing on a different financing option in Minnesota for startups and featuring experts in the field. 

Time is the most valuable asset for a company. We meet a lot of founders and it doesn’t matter what vertical they are in or how well the company is doing. There is never enough time in the day or enough days in the week.

As a lean mean growing machine you and your small team wear many hats. You must go raise funds, make sales, plan for the future, hire (and fire) employees, take out the trash and countless other responsibilities. They all take time and effort. At the end of the day, some things fall behind. Often time building relationships with strategic individuals are one of them.

This is where an accelerator comes in to play. One of the biggest value propositions an accelerator can offer is access. What do we mean when we say access? We mean introductions to potential mentors, investors, corporates and other founders in a short amount of time. At gener8tor we make 100+ potential mentor introductions and set up 75+ investor pitches over the span of 12 weeks. If you stop and think about how much time and effort it would take a company to set up and execute 175+ meetings you realize the potential value.

Joining an accelerator means that companies can take chasing strategic introductions off of their to-do list for 12 weeks and beyond. This allows for companies and founders to focus on growth. Our job is to find the best companies and play matchmaker with our network.

This is not the only reason to join an accelerator and for many companies, there are a lot of variables that go into the decision. An accelerator is not for everyone, we are the first to admit it. One question for founders is if they look at this from an objective lens, do they feel the exchange of equity for cash and connections can shorten the timeline to IPO or Exit in a significant manner? If the answer is yes, the financial justification is quite clear. Time is money and we want to save you time!

Surround your company with people, investors, and organizations that help you get there faster. If you’d like to chat and learn more, feel free to connect with me via email adam@gener8tor.com.

Get out there and start something!


Adam is the director of gBETA Medtech, a program of nationally ranked gener8tor. He has previous experience in regulatory affairs, quality assurance, and early-stage product development.

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It All Adds Up: Saying Yes to the Unknown

If you’ve followed my monthly posts on the James J. Hill Center blog, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not your “typical” business blogger. Truthfully, when Lily Shaw, External Relations Director, approached me and asked if I was interested in being a contributor, I told her I wasn’t a business blogger. Yes, I absolutely love writing and yes, I am an entrepreneur. However, I had never combined the two, and just like that I was able to disqualify myself based on the unknown. Naturally, I followed up with my most polite, “thank you, but no thank you. Even though my response was a shaky “no”, I was secretly hoping that she would ignore the “no” that I verbalized and listen to the unspoken “yes” that I was silently screaming. Somehow she heard my silent “yes.”

Stepping into the unknown pretty much describes my entire business journey. From my earliest days at farmer’s markets when I was terrified to put my product on display— to many days spent at a vendor’s fair with my modestly decorated table right next to an elaborate booth represented by a nationally known company; I have continuously found myself in that difficult place of saying yes to the unknown. Spoiler alert…saying yes to the unknown has not always worked out in my favor, but I’ll save that for a separate blog post.

There are so many aspects of entrepreneurship that are rooted deeply within the unknown and I’ve just taken another leap. Later this month, I will be surrounded by friends, family, supporters and strangers to share the next chapter of my entrepreneurship journey. I am so excited, but I’m also terrified beyond belief. Daily I have to reassure myself “you’ve planned the work, now work the plan.” I have to remind myself that the dream is always bigger than the dreamer, so give yourself permission to keep growing. And when the thoughts of “what if this does not work” bombard my mind, I have to run to the nearest mirror, stare right back at myself and scream the reminder: “but what if it does work, my dear dreamer, what if it does work.”

As a mission-driven entrepreneur, the heart of my work comes from a very personal place, a very vulnerable place, filled with countless unknown details and life changing experiences. I’ve learned flexibility is a reoccurring appointment on my calendar and building a complementary team is one of the keys to success. I’ve learned that building my sales funnel is the foundation to generating revenue, and maintaining positive cash flow is the cause of my countless gray hairs.

With all of the hard facts and data filling my desktop and the unknown details that have left me “sleepless in the Twin Cities,” there is a force of hope that fuels my drive to keep dreaming, believing and doing. After all, I live by the well-known mantra: she believed she could, so she did!

So, I want to hear from you. What dream or goal have you been putting off because of the unknown details? What is one action that you can take today to get one step closer to achieving that goal? I’d love to here all about it. You can share the details with me by clicking here.

If you are up for a little celebration and the best cookies in town, I invite you to join me at my upcoming launch celebration. You can reserve your free ticket here. If you’d like to keep in touch and follow along on this hop-filled journey, you can like, follow or join me on Facebook and Instagram @junitasjar and on @JunitaLFlowers on Twitter.

 


You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website junitasjar.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Top Tips for Startup Success From Investor Ann Winblad

By Katie Moritz

(This article originally appeared on Rewire)

Nine out of 10 startups fail. That’s a hard truth of being an entrepreneur. Some of that is just plain luck, said Silicon Valley investor Ann Winblad during a workshop at e-Fest Entrepreneurship Challenge at the University of St. Thomas’ Schulze School of Entrepreneurship on April 13.

Caption/credit: Ann Winblad, right, meets students competing in e-Fest at the University of St. Thomas on April 13. Photo by Katie Moritz.

In San Francisco, where Winblad has built a successful venture capital firm that funds innovations in software, Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, an entrepreneur failing means they’re one step closer to succeeding. A lot of them bounce back and get on to the next idea.

In her role as a partner at the firm, Winblad “(auditions) the future every day,” she said.

“I see some wacky versions of it, some wishful versions of it, and some we buy into.”

(Fun fact: Back in the day, Winblad’s first business—a Minneapolis software company—was housed over Prince’s first studio, before he was Prince.)

What are the other factors—besides luck—that can make or break a startup? Winblad shared some of the insights she’s gained from decades working with some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country:

1. Build the right team early on

Assembling the wrong people to work on your dream can spell failure, Winblad said. That might mean you have to have some tough conversations early on with people who are likely your friends. But if you really want your project to succeed, you need the right people in the right jobs.

Caption/credit: Your founding team should write down as many as 10 assumptions about what your company will do. Quarterly, revisit and revise those assumptions.

Venture capitalists invest in companies, not products, Winblad said. When Winblad’s firm looks at teams to invest in, “some of this sounds kind of fairy-taleish, but we look for someone who has a big vision of how the future will unfold.

She gave the example of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whom she knew early on in his career. He was in love with his own big ideas, and that passion showed through to the people around him.

“Bill Gates believed there would be a personal computer on every desk,” Winblad said. “He was infused with the energy of this potential.”

Winblad’s firm also looks for team members who have “glass-half-full” attitudes. Positivity will buoy you through the difficulties of starting a business.

“If you’re a glass-half-empty person, you’re going to meet some real challenges that are going to make you not even want to look at the glass,” Winblad said.

2. Center the customer

Do your market research and develop a product or a service that customers need. When you’re pitching to investors, if you can show the need for what you’re hoping to deliver, you’re in a good position.

Winblad used the example of MuleSoft, a software company her firm invested in and was recently sold to Salesforce for $6.5 billion. MuleSoft gave their product away for free at first and built up a portfolio of loyal customers. When it came time to scale up and look for more money, MuleSoft leaders were able to produce a long list of people who not only saw a need for the product, they were already using it.

Another couple of founders arrived at a pitch meeting at Winblad’s firm with a long scroll that they rolled out on the board room table.

The entrepreneurs said to the investors, ” ‘Pick any name on here. There are 500 customer names—we’ll tell you what they said about our product,’” Winblad said. “We were captivated. … They told us what the customer wanted, not just what they were building.”

“We’re not the batters, we’re only pitchers in the end, and the market has to bat at this. … Both these companies captivated us with the strong need in the market and the voice of the customer first.”

3. Define and redefine your ‘assumptions’

When you’re starting out, brainstorm and write down as many as 10 assumptions about where your business will go. These assumptions define your business strategy. Once a quarter, you should revisit them as a group and determine if they are still true.

Caption/credit: Having the wrong team and getting money at the wrong time or in the wrong amount are two common missteps of startups.

“If any of them are false, huddle together and change something in your business strategy,” Winblad said.

Writing down and revisiting these assumptions will help you “keep your eye on the prize,” she said.

“It takes enormous intellectual and physical stamina to do a startup. It’s all uncertainty.”

Eventually, as your business grows, the assumptions that make up your business plan will manifest into facts, Winblad said. But don’t wait until you have a list of facts to reach out for funding.

As venture capitalists, “we like uncertainties,” she said. “We want to hear about the bigger promise, not about the smaller proof. We want to hear about your assumptions. We don’t need facts, so don’t tiny it down—come to us with the prize and your thinking about the prize. Because that’s our job—our job is to say, were willing to take risk.”

This article is part of America’s Entrepreneurs: Making it Work, a Rewire initiative made possible by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and EIX, the Entrepreneur and Innovation Exchange.

© Twin Cities Public Television – 2018. All rights reserved.

About the writer(s):

Katie Moritz is Rewire’s web editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at kmoritz@tpt.org. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz and on Instagram @yepilikeit.

 

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It All Adds Up: Assessing the Importance of Emotional Capital

Junita Flowers is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, mom and the owner of Favorable Treats. With more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, she spent her career advocating for families and leading social change initiatives. She shares her thoughts and experiences with us in her monthly blog series “It All Adds Up.”

 

Later this month, I will moderate Taking the Lead, a panel discussion for women in business, on the topic of accessing and raising financial capital, so I thought it was especially fitting to take a few moments to share my perspective on the importance of raising an additional source of capital…emotional capital.

When describing entrepreneurship, I often hear words like passionate, visionary, dreamer, inspired, optimistic, etc. Words that describe strong emotions…emotions that produce great results. Yet, there is still a strong sentiment communicated, that “emotions have zero place in business.” As a woman in business and a solo parent, I remember meeting with a small business advisor who “advised” me to postpone starting my business and focus on raising my family because the emotional demands of managing both are extremely tough. At that time, I didn’t have a term for it, but that interaction was my first introduction to the importance of emotional capital as an entrepreneur.

Emotional capital is simply the ability to build and sustain strong relationships that ultimately lead others to want to work with you, buy from you, support you and to conduct business with you. Clearly, the business advisor from my example didn’t understand the importance of emotional capital in building a trusting advisor/advisee relationship and the overall impact to the business financials. That interaction was my first and last as that advisor’s business client.

Emotions are a piece of the equation in everything we do and should be positioned as a valuable commodity in creating strong and thriving businesses. As a social entrepreneur, emotional capital is at the core of my work. Emotional capital is an asset that, over time, becomes the differentiator which aids in my ability to build meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships, allows me to strengthen my influence, is the foundation to create a trustworthy brand and is ultimately a positive impact on my business financials.

In addition to a solid business foundation, growing and maintaining a financially strong and profitable business must prioritize the importance of emotional capital. Whether purchasing cookies from my cookie company or hiring me to speak at an event, every potential customer will want to conduct business with me based on how they feel when interacting with my products and services, and for me, that is the result of successfully raising emotional capital as an entrepreneur.

I would love to hear from you. How does emotional capital fit in your business operations? You can share your perspective with me by clicking here.

 


You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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It All Adds Up: Top Three Traits of a Coachable Mentee

Junita Flowers is a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, mom and the owner of Favorable Treats. With more than 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations, she spent her career advocating for families and leading social change initiatives. She shares her thoughts and experiences with us in her monthly blog series “It All Adds Up.”

As a social entrepreneur, I’ve reached a point on my business journey, where in addition to being profitable, my benchmarks for measuring meaningful success are based on leading with integrity, being kind and choosing to serve the community in which I live and work.

While there are countless workshops, seminars, training and networking opportunities designed to create a road map to reach and measure those benchmarks, one of the best resources for supporting my growth was seeking out and building a relationship with a business mentor.

Initially, when I began the process of seeking out a mentor, my concept of this unique relationship was based on childhood experiences. A mentor/mentee relationship was designed to celebrate, encourage and gently guide the mentee. After some initial research and several conversations, I discovered that most professional mentor/mentee relationships are less about offering support and encouragement and everything about honesty and tough love.

I’ve learned a lot and grown a lot from having a mentor and I would highly recommend it as a must-have relationship for every entrepreneur. As I think back to the early days of my relationship with my mentor, I’m sharing the top three traits that made me a coachable mentee.

1. Personal desire to learn and grow — Since I was a young girl, I’ve always been identified as or put into the role of a leader. While there were times when I felt the pressure to lead, I was also driven to continuously seek out opportunities for growth. Having a growth mindset and a willingness to learn communicated to my mentor that I valued their commitment to my professional development and allowed me the opportunity to maximize their time investment.

2. Willingness to receive feedback AND take action — While a mentor ultimately wants to see you succeed, a mentor’s primary role is not to be a cheerleader and supporter. The most valuable pieces of advice I received from my mentor were often the toughest lessons to hear. My mentor challenged me to do things differently and to be open to change. I consistently welcomed and accepted the advice and committed to take the appropriate action to achieve better results.

3. The ability to embrace failure as valuable learning opportunities — As I’ve mentioned before, failure is a part of the growth and success process. It comes with the territory. If I’m not failing at least occasionally, then I’m not growing and I’m not challenging myself. My mentor served as a resource as I learned to accept failure as much as I accepted the wins. Having a safe space to work through failure, ultimately led me to accept my failures as a prerequisite for strength building.

I would love to hear from you. Have you developed a successful mentor/mentee relationship? If so, which traits have made your relationship a success?


You can read more about Junita Flowers on her website favorabletreats.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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Ballet + Boxing: How to Create (a) Movement

Check back each month for the Original Thinker Series as we explore local innovation in entrepreneurship, the arts, and our community one pioneering mind at a time.

“I think it was really curiosity that brought us together,” says Zoé Emilie Henrot, the Artistic Director at St. Paul Ballet. The “us” she refers to is a partnership between her dance company and their next door neighbors: Element boxing gym. “We decided not to be cold neighbors, we decided to be in each other’s lives and that is what started it.”

In 2014, St. Paul Ballet needed room to grow and began leasing studio space from Element Boxing & Fitness. Since then the two organizations have been making waves through a dynamic collaboration which has included interdisciplinary training, co-performances, and a Knight Foundation award. “As we continue to progress, we want to become a symbol for unity,” says Dalton Outlaw, CEO and Founder of Element. “If we are all neighbors, if we all exist together, why can’t we work together?”

Both boxing and ballet enjoy rich traditions within the history of human movement. There have been other examples of cross-training between ballet dancers and boxers but the bond that St. Paul Ballet and Element share is something rare and wonderful. “If you are open to giving and receiving a lot can happen,” says Zoé. “In moving together, in figuring out how to be on stage, how to make it work, spending time together and getting to know each other – that’s created this whole community.”

The James J. Hill Center recently hosted a public screening of The Art of Boxing, the Sport of Ballet – a live experience co-directed by Zoé and Dalton. The performance allows audiences to contemplate both boxer-as-artist and dancer-as-athlete in a celebration of movement that is almost sacred in tone. “It’s not about being judged. It’s not about looking a certain way. In those moments when we are performing together it is about feeling,” says Dalton.

Next on the horizon for these two organizations is a ‘movement space’ for the people of Saint Paul. Zoé and Dalton share a vision for a place where anyone can come to experience not only the freedom to move but the freedom that comes from movement. This facility would house their studio and gym and be available for the community to gather. “We’ve talked a lot about windows, I think a lot of stereotypes come from not seeing other people or watching them move in space,” says Zoé.

What is it that has allowed such a unique partnership to develop here? What makes Zoé and Dalton ‘original thinkers’ is something very fundamental: human curiosity. Proximity only leads to partnership when we allow ourselves to be open to the other and to find value in what they bring to the table (or, in this case, the studio/gym). “It’s not just about sport or art,” says Dalton. “It’s about people.”

Catch another performance of The Art of Boxing – The Sport of Ballet at the Ordway on Sunday, April 15th. Tickets and more information available here


Written by Christopher Christenson, Marketing & Events Coordinator, at the James J. Hill Center. Have an idea of a person or organization to feature in this series? Send your recommendations to
christopher@jjhill.org.

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Forget Balance! 3 Ways Leaders Can Navigate Imbalanced Lives

“Work-life balance” is a running theme in this hectic world, but also an elusive goal. The phrase is plastered everywhere as people aspire to achieve ideal harmony between family life and professional career.

The demands of both, however, make it difficult to pull off, especially for anyone in a leadership position – and maybe there’s a good reason for that.

Balance is bull—-. A perfect work-life balance is not possible for those in leadership positions. It’s more useful to strive for work-life integration, where you not only bring your work home, but also bring your home to work.

In debunking the balance theme, here are three tips for leaders to help them accept and maximize an imbalanced schedule:

1. Stop and breathe.

Balance is an illusion in our external lives, but it can be created internally as a mechanism that gives busy people the ability to cope better with challenges. This emotional equilibrium is a measured thought choice that gives us more control of our responses to situations.

When I catch myself reacting, I stop and ask, ‘What am I telling myself? Is it true or head trash?’ This helps me unravel what’s factual from a kneejerk emotional response based in fear. I stop and breathe until I find my internal balance again.

2. Learn to say no.

Many people have difficulty saying no, and many who do say no are consumed by guilt. Saying yes before fully analyzing the commitment can lead to being over-committed and overwhelmed, so it’s a matter of prioritizing what you say yes and no to.

Every time you say yes to something, you’re also saying yes to much more. Tell them you’ll consider, but first sit down with a pad and pencil and list all those additional things you’re taking on by saying yes. Finding balance is a matter of saying yes and no to what fulfills you and your life without overcommitting.

3. Don’t be afraid to follow.

When we’re over-committed and feeling imbalanced, we have to take a hard look at what’s ahead and stop doing things that aren’t working. A leader empowers others by giving them space to lead or take a larger role, thus lightening the leader’s load.

You can’t always make things happen, and you can’t do it all. At times you have to let go and let others take the lead.

There will never be a 50-50 balance. but you are still able to fit in all of the things that are important to you by slowing down, choosing what to say yes and no to and accepting help.

Written by Sue Hawkes, bestselling author, award-winning leader,  Certified EOS Implementer, Certified Business Coach, WPO Chapter Chair, and globally recognized  award-winning seminar leader.  She is CEO of YESS! and has designed and delivered dynamic, transformational programs   for thousands of people.

 

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Soft Skills Revolution: Befriending Chaos

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for the Soft Skills Revolution to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

Life would be so much easier if everything stayed the same, wouldn’t it? Preparing for that speech or meeting or interview would be a heck of a lot easier if you new exactly what was going to happen, right?

We would adapt to the precise moment when the projector would break. We’d jump right on the last-second agenda change. We could prepare for that last question no one would ever expect.

Awesome concept, right?  Well, not exactly. Quite the opposite, in fact.

First of all, the world isn’t like Groundhog’s Day. Something about the second law of thermodynamics and time’s arrow. Change is our only constant.  Besides, look how unhappy Bill Murray became. Like it or not, we depend on change. Luckily, that’s a skill that you can develop.

Rehearsed Spontaneity

One of the highlights of my career has been to work alongside academy award winning actor, Mark Rylance. He has a shelf of awards for his acting, but he’s also a generous director and mentor.

In a play he wrote and directed, I played a snowmobile riding, Norse, frost giant. In most plays, the director gives actors blocking and expects them to always follow it. Mark didn’t. Instead, he described the relationship between characters onstage. If a character moved one way, we would react and respond instead of moving in a rehearsed and rigid fashion that was constructed for us.

His commitment to chaos was so great that he would also change things he thought were working too well. If he thought something became routine, he would break it up and force us back to reacting to it.

This experience gave me a certain comfort in chaos. Through rehearsing in what appeared like chaos I developed an appetite for unpredictability. Because of this method, I actually joined the audience by encountering aspects of the play for the first time every night, together, with them.

Befriending chaos through practice is the first step to handling unexpected moments with ease.

Cultivating Flexibility

We can “rehearse spontaneity” with the people we seek to connect with. Instead of hoping that things unfold like we plan, we can plan on unpredictability. We can hold on tightly to the points we want to make. But at the same time,  let go of particular thoughts or ideas that hold us back.

Here is an excises to try:

  1. Think of your “Big Idea” and a few supporting words.
  2. Talk through them enough times so that you’re as clear and concise as you can be.
  3. Write down what you said.
  4. Read it aloud.
  5. Now re-draft to get the words perfect.
  6. Print out your final copy. Place the paper in front of you and turn it over.
  7. Talk through your “Big Idea” and supporting thoughts without using any of the words on the paper in front of you.

You have just written your own mini-script. Now that you know your steps you can do the dance.

Results May Vary in Delight

Many of my clients do not like the exercise above. It takes work and commitment. What happens though is almost always a delight to them and me. They engage with the change.

They find new words to share the ideas and the “idea” is now fresher than ever. I hear them thinking, not talking. The words they wrote disappear, replaced by thoughts and authenticity.

Isn’t that what we all want? To be with someone who can conquer change. That’s real. That’s worth listening to?

Hear Everyone but Listen Only to Yourself

Remember the idea and forget the words. There is power and presence in that concept.  When you listen to yourself everyone will hear you.

Guest writer: Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.

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Soft Skills Revolution: The Real Thing

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor, lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros dedicated to coaching stronger connections. Chris is setting the standard for soft skills training across the region and will be sharing his tips and tricks in our monthly blog Soft Skills Revolution. Come each month and learn key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

We all want the real thing.

Nowhere is that more important than in communication. Whether you are in front of an audience or in an interview, the people you are trying to connect with want the real you. The quickest way to lose an audience is being inauthentic, fake or disingenuous.

The master communicators are able to bring much, if not all, of their real selves to their audiences. How do they do it? One way is to use feedback to draw and change the lines separating different versions of themselves. This empowers them to bring more of their unique personality to what an audience perceives. They are able to be real.

No, It’s Not About You

A speaker without an audience is like that tree falling in the forest with no one around. Pretty much nothing. Everything depends on the version of you the audience perceives and leaves with.

You can’t just stride up to the podium and say, “Alright, what would you like to talk about?” That’s not going to work too well. You have to bring something to the audience first. The connection between a speaker and audience must begin with the speaker. Audiences pay attention to get a return of interest.

Yes it is: The Real You

When you meet someone one, the most interesting thing you have to offer is yourself. Yes, I am sure you have great ideas, advice and insight. When you are face-to-face with someone those take a back seat to you as a unique human being.

Audiences want you to be real, to be yourself. They enjoy being around someone who doesn’t worry about what everyone thinks. That’s the trick, isn’t it? You care a lot about what the audience thinks. So it’s hard to act like you don’t care.

Well, let me tell you  a little secret: They don’t know you. No one does. Not the “real” you.

An audience only ever sees a sliver of the “real” you. An important sliver. There’s enormous power in this.

No it’s not You: It’s the Audience You

Putting some distance between you and what the audience perceives gives you valuable space. That allows you to use feedback to shift your perspective. That shift is from the “real” you to what you could call the Audience You.

Your reflection in a mirror is an accurate representation of what you look like, right? It’s like there’s this other person looking back at you. Meeting that other person can be hard sometimes, but it’s what most people see–for better or for worse. Meeting this other person in the mirror shifts your perspective to the people looking at you. Feedback on performance introduces you to the Audience You.

And yet, the reflection in the mirror doesn’t define you. Neither does feedback. This is the critical last step to incorporating feedback: the Audience You doesn’t define real you. If everyone says that you bomb your speech, you haven’t bombed life. That kind of feedback tells you there’s a disconnect between the real you and the Audience You. If you’re going to speak again,  work to close that gap.

Ask people what they think of the Audience You. Their feedback will shift your perspective. Encourage them to be specific and honest so you can get a good look at this reflection of you. Don’t forget to thank them and put it to work to make the audience you a more accurate reflection of the real you.

It will make a difference. Really.


Guest writer:
 Chris Carlson
Visit @NarrativePros for more information.

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