Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Back to school

Next week hundreds and thousands of children will be heading back to school. No doubt their parents will have mixed feelings - glad to have the children back into a routine, but not looking forward to all that homework and the frantic driving from one activity to another.

I had my own taste of learning this week, when I tried to master the behind-the-scenes workings of our website. I've been on a steep learning curve and I don't like being a novice when competency is all important to me. There were times when I felt totally frustrated as I attempted to post something on the site, only to click the wrong button and watch it disappear.

And then there's time when I managed to get something up on the site, only to find when you clicked on it, it sent you to the wrong information! I guess we all have our skill sets and this isn't one of mine. However, I felt a true sense of pride when I did manage to change an icon on the home page - it didn't quite line up straight but hey... I'd figured out by myself how to do it.

All this serves to remind me that the next few weeks are likely to be just as scary, testy and frustrating for our kids as they learn new programs, master new skills and manage new relationships. None of us like to feel stupid and out of our depth, so some empathy and understanding can go a long way to supporting our kids as they grapple with these new situations.

In another life I used to teach a program called Your Child's Self Esteem, based on a book by Dorothy Corkille Briggs. In it she talked about how there are two things a child needs to believe - I am lovable and I am capable. Children rarely question our expectations so if they are too high, we are setting them up to fail and likewise, if they are too low, the outcome is the same.
Check your expectations. Are they realistic for the age and stage your child is at?

As an adult we tend to have high expectations of ourselves too, particularly when we're A types with perfectionist tendencies! This week has been a humbling experience and I am trying not to be too hard on myself. One thing for sure, in another life I am not going to become a webmaster - I'll leave that to others.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Thirteen miles... 20 K... if anyone had told me that I would walk that distance, I would have laughed in their face. But we did. And in 30 degree weather.

That's our latest achievement in our training for the 60K walk. I know - we have a ways to go , but just knowing that you can do 20K without too much difficulty is reassuring. Now I have to confess, I did have a nap when I got back.

Pushing yourself physically is very empowering. It is amazing what you can achieve when you set goals, and build in milestones so that step-by-step (sorry for the pun), you get there. And we've been preparing ourselves - doing the stretches, drinking more water and trying to eat healthily so that we are ready for the ultimate challenge on September 8 and 9. We've also become quite the support group for each other, looking out for each other on when one of us has a sore back, ankle or knee.

It's a bit like starting and building a business. When you set goals and work out how to attain them, you are half way there. Having checkpoints along the way, helps you to measure what else you need to do to ensure you realize your goals. Making sure you have the right ingredients in place also makes success more attainable and surrounding yourself with people who believe in you can make all the difference.

So while we may be training for a marathon walk, we're also learning vital lessons about life and business too.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Recently one of my members asked me to explain more about the mastermind groups we are launching this fall, and I was pleased to do so. When I finished, she encouraged me to spread the word and let people know what was involved and how it had worked for me, as she suspected, correctly I think, that people don't understand what they are all about.

So... here we are. I figured this was one way to promote the program. I first came across mastermind groups when I joined Verity - a women's club in Toronto. Basically the group is made up of seven other women business owners and we meet on a monthly basis to talk and share issues concerning our business. The key is that they are not in a similar business and that there be a trained facilitator who can keep the group on track and ensure everyone "shares the air."

At the first meeting, we shared our issues and based on that discussion, set an agenda for the months ahead. Each month there would be a topic, and each month we would check in and discuss our views. Sometimes the focus would be more on one member, but it always seemed to balance out, as later the focus would be on someone else. And sometimes, you preferred it that way as you were not in the hot seat!

At the beginning of each meeting we would check in, sharing the highs and lows of the previous month, we'd cover the topic of the month, and at the end, do a check out, stating what goals we wanted to work on in the month ahead. Knowing that you would have to check in the next month, made you accountable and more likely to work on those goals.

For example, one of my goals was to find sponsors and in order to do that, I had to work on a sponsorship kit, which I did. Lesson one - leave your ego at the door. I went in thinking it was pretty good and the job done. Wrong. One of the women in the group had a marketing background and she gave me some sound advice and I went back and made the changes. The outcome - I recruited two sponsors last year. Would that have happened anyway? Maybe, but most likely I would not have got around to doing it. However, having declared the goal to the group, I was more compelled to get it done. I found the objective feedback truly helpful and it made me to look at my information package from a different perspective.

Based on my experiences in a mastermind group, I felt sure Company of Women members would also benefit and several of our business coaches have generously come forward to lead the groups. If you are serious about taking your business to the next level, consider signing up for one of these groups. It's two hours a month, $40/month (that's just $10/week) and you'll gain so much more from the experience. Think about it.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Imagine .... 40 women on a school bus. The noise level alone told you people were connecting, chatting and having fun.

Where were we off to? Over 80 women from Company of Women decided to check out the musical in town - Menopause Out Loud. Now I have to confess, I've seen the production twice, both times in Chicago, so I am definitely a show "groupie." However, I was thrilled that the Toronto production was just as good, especially since I'd persuaded 80+ women to join me.

Whereas menopause used to be a silent passage, after seeing Menopause Out Loud, you realize the whole process does provide fodder for a good laugh. And laugh we did. I am not sure what I enjoyed more ... seeing the musical again, or watching the other women enjoy the evening and laugh, sometimes hysterically outloud. Probably the latter.

Laughter is so good for you - you even burn calories - what better way to get slim?
The enthusiasm and excitement that this theatre outing generated among the women speaks to our need to let go and play. I got numerous emails from people saying how much they were looking forward to the event, and judging by the response last night, I don't think any of them were disappointed.

So let's build the momentum. Make sure you take time out to play - even if it is just for 30 minutes... you are more than worth it.