Career Resilience for Entrepreneurs
Regular readers know that I'm a strong proponent of working for yourself. Even if you have a day-job, I think you should always be looking for ways to diversify your income streams as the next lay-off could be right around the corner, despite your best efforts.
Yesterday's post on career resilience in action got me thinking about how the 4 patterns of resilience apply to those who run their own business(es). These patterns are not just for people who work for someone else. They're patterns that support successful self-employment too.
The Clarifying pattern when you work for yourself is something you must constantly be working on.
- What is going on with your customers and the industries you are working in?
- How do your strengths and assets intersect with these trends?
- What are the most important priorities for you and your business?
- How do you want your business to reflect your values and the values of your customers?
Clarity of purpose, clarity of assets and clarity of goals are all critical to the healthy functioning of your business.
As a small business owner myself, I find that I must be intentional about integrating patterns for finding clarity into my work life. It's easy to be so caught up in projects and business administration that I forget the need to periodically take a step back and get clear about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. This is where rituals and reflective practice become important.
Clarity can also be found in making the right kinds of connections and creating mastermind groups for support and accountability.
Clearly the Connecting pattern is critical to small business owners--this is how we find our customers and connecting to others to market our products and services is like breathing for most successful entrepreneurs. We do it without thinking.
What may happen less often, but be equally important, is using the pattern of connecting to support other aspects of our work.
As small business people, particularly if we are solo entrepreneurs, we need to make connections that can reinforce our personal and professional growth and that feed our need for social contact. We need to find mentors, communities of practice and mastermind groups who can challenge our thinking and hold us accountable for achieving our goals.
We also need connections that can help us cooperate to compete--people who may offer complementary (or even competitive) products and services with whom we can build new offerings that benefit both their businesses and our own.
Connections from diverse industries and occupations are also important. They feed us new information, new ideas and new possibilities. But we must seek them out because they won't necessarily come naturally to us.
We can use our clarifying activities to help us get clearer about where we need to build and strengthen our connections. Then we can be intentional about growing those connections as my friend is doing through her own career resilience work. This is an example of the next pattern we need to work on--Creating.
Most successful small business people I know are pretty good at the Creating pattern. After all, without creating, you have nothing to sell.
But Creation is more than just daily doing and activity. It's also about risk-taking and experimenting.
- How are we stretching ourselves in the creative process to bring something truly great into the world?
- How are we using what we learn through Clarifying and Connecting to create a business that plays to our strengths and that achieves the goals we've set for ourselves?
- How are we dealing with and learning from failure?
The Creating pattern is also about making sure that we've put into place for ourselves the right structures and supports for getting our work done.
- Are we constantly putting out fires or do we have an infrastructure in place that allows us to be more deliberative and intentional in accomplishing our work?
- Are things falling through the cracks and are we missing opportunities or have we created processes that allow the work to flow?
Our patterns of creating should be structured around inspiration and purpose, not just around our daily to-do lists. For this to happen, though, we must be intentional in developing patterns that allow us to create from a place of inspiration, not desperation.
In my dealings with other small business people, as well as in looking at my own life, I see that developing patterns for Coping is probably the area where we entrepreneurs can have the most holes.
There is a cult of entrepreneurship that drives us to believe that working for yourself means working 24/7, which makes taking care of your emotional, physical and spiritual needs a very low priority. This is true particularly when our businesses are new or if we've failed to put into place the right structures for Creating, Clarifying and Connecting.
But creating healthy Coping patterns is critical if we hope to run our businesses for the long-term. Making sure that we nurture and sustain those non-work parts of ourselves will prevent burnout. And healthy coping patterns also feed our capacity to engage with the other 3 patterns of resilience.
In particular I've found that healthy Coping mechanisms are about what I call "following the energy,"--that is, paying attention to how we're feeling throughout the day so that can see which activities and people feed and nurture us and which of these are a drain. Emotions are a powerful indicator of what is and isn't working, but we need to pay attention to them in order to address what they are telling us.
Coping is also about paying attention to our mental frames--the stories we are telling ourselves about our business and ourselves. Resilient business people need to focus on developing frames that support our business plans, while weeding out those thinking and behavior patterns that hinder us.
I find that as an entrepreneur myself, I'm constantly having to look at the 4 patterns of resilience and how I'm using/developing them in support of my business. When things don't seem to be going as smoothly, by examining what's happening with these patterns I can quickly see where I need to do some work.
Resilience is something we all need to develop, but for entrepreneurs, this is probably job one.
How are you, as an entrepreneur developing your career and business resilience? Which areas of resilience are easy for you and which are harder for you to develop?
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