On Wednesday at 11.43pm, I received an email. Not only did it keep me awake all night but also shifted a lot in my mind and my self-perception.
I am a trained, qualified, accredited coach and trainer. I consider myself to have a high level of self-awareness. I can outsmart my emotions and mood (generally), make sense of failure and bounce back pretty quickly. Yeah right! That mail again showed me how blind I have been with myself and how I had been manipulated “again” by my negative self-beliefs.
The mail was from an old coaching client. When I began coaching a mother of two boys, this woman was returning to her high-intensity, high-paying job in the City. She was in a male-dominated environment, there had been a lot of shifting and changes at work and she was struggling.
We had one trial session together. Then, she went totally quiet with no answer to my mails and calls. My conclusion was “I messed-up. It was a bad vibe anyhow; I am not good at career coaching; I shall not do that.”
Here is the mail I received on Wednesday:
I hope you are safe and well, and coping during these crazy times.
You may recall we met up 18 months ago, when I was having a tough time in work and I was very confused.
Our initial discussion really helped me and whilst I didn’t continue with the sessions, I definitely felt that the suggestions and the conclusions you made me come to benefited me greatly. I stayed with my job and was subsequently promoted.”
And she referred me to a family member!
Hang on, WHAAAAT? WTF? Again? Again, I created a huge story in my head, made decisions and steered my wheel accordingly? Really? Yeah, really.
Then, all night long, I made a list of the success barriers that we, women entrepreneurs, create in our minds (these included my own barriers and those of hundreds of women that I have coached over the years).
There are many barriers, but interestingly, in our COVID-19 painted lives we have all dealt with a large amount of them in very efficient ways. Somehow this lockdown experience has been a boost for our entrepreneurial muscles. It has pushed us, in an empowering way, to say “stop” to our own demons.
Have we gained entrepreneurial strength during the lock-down?
I keenly believe so, and I want to explore this in depth.
There are many personal obstacles that we might be aware of (or not) that hinder us women entrepreneurs from leading and growing successful business. This, of course, also impacts personal fulfilment. The known ones are fear of failure, lack of confidence, lack of efficiency, perfectionism, negative self-beliefs, lack of self-discipline, etc.
Let’s see how the adversity of the lock down has inspired us and encouraged us to break them and move forward:
1. Tying the hands of the control freak
When you own a micro-business, or more specifically you are a solopreneur, you sometimes become your business. You may own a design agency, but you ARE a designer; you do not simply own a restaurant, you are a caterer; you are a writer, an accountant, a beautician, a personal stylist, etc. Believing that YOU are your business creates a chain reaction of inefficiency. First, the female solopreneur starts to link personal worth to business excellence. Whoa…
Then, understandably, she wants to control everything, every single detail of the business and how the business comes across: be on top of it, make sure it is perfect and how it should be. This then takes the entrepreneur into the rabbit hole of perfection and detail, making her lose the big picture. And finally, what’s not controllable (what the client does with your design, how the sub-contractor didn’t follow your brief 100%, how your audience didn’t pick-up the last post on social media, how the clients didn’t answer back to your latest promotional message, etc.) becomes an obsession point, dragging both your energy and momentum down.
What happened during the first few weeks of the lock down was pretty amazing to observe. Nothing was controllable… kids were wandering onto webinar screens, client calls were made from the bedroom; there were cancellations, renegotiations and in that craziness, we all started to take a chill pill. We began to let go off what wasn’t controllable and accept the imperfections. Maybe because we had to, maybe because everyone was in the same boat and it was simply easier to associate the imperfection with our image… Hence, female founders started to bloom.
2. Releasing the dancing star
The first manifestation of entrepreneurial blooming was vulnerability. We all started to “dare greatly” and put ourselves out there, in the world with our “perfectly imperfect” businesses. Talk about self-confidence and taking risks ☺. It was so exciting to see many of our EMPOWER Tribe members who were previously either against social media or didn’t like the videos of themselves, or felt weird to call their clients, were not ready enough, were this or that, to begin taking risks and jump into the muddy arena. Female entrepreneurs who have been waiting literally years to put their projects in front of the eyes, have finally come out of their shells. What has happened? Was it the fear of losing it all, the need for connection, seeing that others were doing it making it easier?
I don’t know the answer.
All I know is, when you analyse those entrepreneurs who are making a difference and bringing real value, they are the ones who have embraced the idea of imperfection. I really hope that we have all gained the strength to embrace imperfection and vulnerability as both of these are the real business movers.
3. Unleashing the power of discipline
In the past week we had our monthly planning webinar. I asked the participants to provide a score for their monthly performance for May. The mean score was 8 over 10. That was a glorious moment for me. I literally wanted to scream “YEAAASSS!” Because this meant, our EMPOWER Tribe members were on it, that they had accomplished 80% of what they had set as goal for themselves in the month of May.
I also observed a lot of wellbeing and physical and mental health commitments. Entrepreneurs are dedicated to keep a balanced life despite the difficulty to peel ourselves off the computer screens, Zoom calls and Insta-lives. We have witnessed an incredible dedication to learning and self-development within our tribe. Moreover, what came out of our member interviews was that “accountability” partnerships are working fantastically well. I believe somehow, the lack of external control made us gain self-discipline and commitment.
From a positive point of view, I believe lockdown has been an experience of growth and empowerment for many female entrepreneurs. Despite these difficult times seeing that our members are making progress with their businesses has been inspiring.