How to go forward with your business and work in 2020: do a power audit
Hint: you get to do what you've always done more clearly, explicitly and...better.
One of the themes in private coaching conversation recently has been about how to do better in 2020. Good news, and a good inquiry from good people, right?
Definitely, it's been a strong positive indicator that people - who were originally focused on building their businesses, up-leveling their leadership, or other things - have allowed themselves to be impacted by current events, and are taking to heart this chance to do better.
High five, this is good stuff. Perhaps you can relate to the sentiment?
"If my goals for my work don't contribute somehow to this wider conversation, I guess I have to toss them out and make new plans. Can we talk about that?"
"My business was already suffering from months of quarantine, and I need to tend to cash flow, but how do I make offers (create new classes, invite people to events, etc.) when the world is burning?"
"The people I serve are looking to me to be a model for how to lead, but I feel super behind and at risk for doing harm if I keep doing what I've always done."
I do so love people who think deeply and seek to course correct. Kudos to you if you’re allowing space for this. We’re all in this together, and I include myself in that. In fact, here are a few simple ideas for how to do better based on what I’ve been thinking about recently:
1. Ask the question "What did you care about before?"
Maybe you lead a community that helps leaders be...something that you feel is important. Maybe it’s get better at negotiations, get happier, be more spiritual, practice mindfulness, etc.
Or, let's say you offer a done-for-you service like writing, marketing, design or speaker training. Or, you support families in their health, or you're creating demand for something entirely new.
Whatever it is, it's really important to reground and reconnect yourself in what you cared about before the world took its most recent big leaps in awareness.
2. Next, ask "What's most upsetting to you now, about what's happening in the world today?"
Not everyone cares about the same things in the same ways. I call this looking for the grit in your oyster, the one that creates the pearl. What specifically pisses you off about what you're learning about politics, racism, the environment, the world beyond you?
Some examples may help to see how diverse the grit can be:
does #blacklivesmatter resonate most with you? what about #blacktranslivesmatter? or #indigenouslivesmatter?
does the COVID-19 response and the global death toll get your goat? is your heart with the lives of health care workers on the front line?
where are you with elections security and getting out the vote to communities that struggle to get to the polls?
maybe you're concerned about corporations neglecting workers who need to get back to work, or children who are missing out on school
All of these things and more are part of the injustice, inequality and violence conversation, and it's possible to care about more than one thing at a time. When in doubt, try to express what you care about in ways that are most personal to you.
3. Now that you remember what you cared about before the world got louder, and you've touched in with what upsets you most right now, the questions becomes - how do you connect these things together?
What I most want to get across is the fact that if you were a caring person before, what you focused on before is almost certainly connected to the issues and injustices you care about today. I'll use myself as an example:
I am a coach with a historical specialty in tough conversations. Today, I'm most upset about how people give up on each other, don't speak up because they're afraid of risking themselves, and my heart breaks when people talk themselves out of going for their real hopes. Instead, I see a lot of wasted ability.
Although six months ago, I wouldn’t have described the italicized things above as tough conversations per se, I do now. They are the new tough conversations I understand are mine to help with because I am connecting them to what's going on today. And they manifest themselves in writing and coaching like so:
Let’s stop giving up on each other as we talk about the contentious issues of the day - here’s how! What support do you need to take a risk and speak out about a cause your business believes in? Where can we help you stop compromising and going for the best use of you?
This is just one example of how you can connect what you built your business for, and how it’s meaningful today.
4. Finally, pause here to ask how you can change not just what you've done above, but how you do your work.
Can you improve your business practices, personal habits, and ways of being are more open, respectful and reduce harm? I call this a "Personal Power Audit." Here's a place to start this inquiry:
Where have I wielded my power over people in ways that make them less than?
Do I give people space to disagree with me?
Do I ensure people know they have a choice whether to work with me, or not?
Where do I prop myself up to make myself look better than you are?
Do I ever put other people down? How about unintentionally? In my sales and marketing or elsewhere?
Do I honour other people's experiences even when they’re difficult for me to hear?
Who do I tend to uplift, listen to, invite in, and center? How can expand the variety of people I include?
Have I genuinely and completely owned up to, and made amends for my mistakes?
Am I able to stay open to opinions and people who are different from me? A little or a lot?
What assumptions can I stop making about people’s access to the privileges I have, like housing, technology, physical safety, love and comfort?
Do I have a clear way for grievances to be brought to me and can I hear them without judgement?
Can I improve my process for integrating ideas that disrupt my status quo?
Insert your own questions about power and how it appears in your world.
The above are some starting points for you to use - they are intended as ongoing inquiries, not as a checklist that you can get an A+ on, or judge yourself lacking in. Apply them in a granular way to your classes, groups, and private work. Look to your webpages, your business policies, your habits of speech and ways of relating. When in doubt, consult with others for more good questions about your use of power, then rinse and repeat.
Got some questions you think should be added? Love to hear them!
Updating the connection between your mission and purpose …to what's going on in the world is called 'being and staying relevant.'
Don't make the mistake of the world moving on without you, making you look like a dinosaur overnight. Keep up by doing the above thinking exercise, and going beyond surface thoughts. Go deeper about the meaning in what you do.
Then, when you understand how who you are and what you bring is newly relevant for today, take a moment and grok the value of that.
People who sincerely engage with their exploration of power? Are going to be some of the most valuable leaders among us.
From here, you can create invitations to work with you with care, and good conscience. You are ready to be of service today. You are going to be able to help your clients with what matters to them today. You're not trying to sell expired inventory from the back of the warehouse. And you'll be able to lead and guide clients to do exercises like the above, in your own way too.
Connect the dots between what you cared about before, with what you've discovered you care about today. Stay there, and you won't need to worry about being inauthentic, performative, being a band-aid, or trying to something you're not. You also won't have to worry about sustaining your commitment to change over the long-haul, because your commitment will be sourced from the inside out, rather than a bunch of window-dressing.
In other words, we need to figure out how you've been doing good all along, audit your practices for any harm you've been doing, and then be much clearer and more explicit.
And sure, that includes things you've been doing that you're not happy with that you get to stop.
If you’d like to try this exercise and share your answers in the comments, I'd be glad to have a peek and support making sense of the dots, and connecting them!
I've said it before and I'll say it again:
We need you in the game. It may seem uniquely hard right now, but it is possible to do conscientious, relevant, anti-racist business in 2020. We all have so much more power than we think. Keep going.