Milan’s Blog

self reflection questions

September 9, 2022

Self Reflection Questions: 57 Questions You Should Ask Yourself

What Is Self Reflection?

Self-reflection is the core of self-awareness. Through introspection and asking yourself "why" questions, you can gain a better understanding of your actions and behavior. If you regularly reflect on your life, you may notice that you're unhappy in some areas—such as your friendships, career, or self-care. Asking these questions will help you identify changes you can make to improve your mental and physical well-being.

What Are The Self Reflection Questions?

There are countless topics to reflect on, but we’ll focus on the ones that enable the most personal growth. We’ll also look at topics pertaining to civil discourse to see why it’s an important part of a balanced life.

Self-reflection questions help you to get to know yourself better by tapping into your thoughts and emotions. They allow you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, your core beliefs and values, so that you can grow.

Introspection—the process of reviewing thoughts, feelings and behaviors—is one powerful way to make positive changes in your life. Research shows that we think more than 6,000 thoughts per day, of which more than half are negative and more than 90% are just repeats from the day before. These self reflection questions can help you become aware of your thought patterns.

Questions about childhood memories

Childhood is a significant time in our lives that can help us become the people we are meant to be. Reflecting on your childhood memories can help explain why you make the decisions you do today. Here are some questions to ask yourself about your childhood:

  1. What was it like growing up?
  2. Did you have any experiences that felt traumatizing or overwhelming?
  3. Were your needs being met as a child?
  4. What is your favorite childhood memory?

Questions about mental health

The way we prioritize our mental health can have a huge impact on our lives. These questions can help you determine how you care for your mental health.

  1. How do you de-stress?
  2. Do you have a support network?  Who is at the top of it?
  3. On a scale from 1 to 10, how is your mental health right now?
  4. Are you too hard on yourself?

Questions about physical health

You can neglect your physical health in many ways. Consider the ways in which you care for your body and how you can improve to live a healthier life.

  1. Do you have any habits that are bad for your health?
  2. What activities may you feel physically well?
  3. Is exercise a part of your life? How so?
  4. What is your relationship like with food?
  5. How do you deal with burnout?

Questions about routines and daily life

The best way to get an objective view of our lives is to look at our daily routines. These self-reflection questions can help us see what works and what doesn’t.

  1. Do you have a morning routine?  Does it leave you feeling excited and energized for the day?
  2. What is your nighttime routine like?  Do you fall asleep easily?
  3. Do you leave yourself enough free time during the day?  How do you fill it?
  4. Name one thing you’d like to make time to do every day.

Questions about work

It can be challenging to integrate work into our lives in a healthy way.  Ask yourself these questions for introspection on whether or not you have a healthy work-life balance.

  1. When you’re not at work, are you able to leave work thoughts behind?
  2. Does your workplace encourage civil discourse on tough discussions?
  3. How do you feel about your job?  If it’s not fulfilling, are there ways to find fulfillment?
  4. If you could have any career without having to worry about money, what would you choose?

Questions about family relationships

Regardless of how close you are to your family, family relationships have a huge effect on our sense of security and stability. Here are some self-reflection questions to help you learn how you define family.

  1. Are you close with your biological family?  If not, do you have close friends who you would consider family?
  2. Does your family support your life decisions?  Are you able to have respectful conversations when you disagree?
  3. Do you spend quality time with your family?
  4. How important is the concept of family in your life?

Questions about friendships

No two friendships are alike.  Ask yourself these self reflection questions to determine how the friends in your life uplift or hinder you.

  1. Who would you call if you needed help?
  2. Do you make an effort to be there for your friends in their time of need?
  3. How do you handle disagreements with friends?  Are you able to forgive easily?
  4. What is most important to you in a friendship?

Questions about romantic relationships

Romantic relationships can be incredibly fulfilling.  They can also illuminate many things about ourselves that we may not be aware of or want to admit.

  1. What do you want from a relationship?
  2. Describe your dream partner.
  3. What is your love language?
  4. How do you maintain boundaries and independence when in a relationship?

Questions about self-care

Many of the things we consider to be self-care are actually self-destructive acts in disguise. These questions for self reflection will help you identify and change destructive habits.

  1. What do you consider self-care?
  2. Do any of your self-care practices hurt you in any way?
  3. Do you make time for self-care even when pursuing a personal or professional goal?
  4. Do you focus on caring for others and neglect yourself?

Questions about dreams/goals

Our dreams motivate us through periods of doubt.  These self reflection questions will help you identify what motivates you to overcome obstacles.

  1. What is a dream you have that you’re embarrassed to admit?
  2. Name 5 short term and 5 long term goals.
  3. Do you feel like you’re living your dreams?
  4. What are you willing to do to go after your dreams?

Questions about past trauma

As human beings, we’re often tempted to gloss over or ignore past trauma to protect ourselves.  By facing these incidents head-on, we can heal from the pain and emerge stronger than before.

  1. Is there any past trauma that you haven’t dealt with?
  2. How do you feel about pursuing professional help?  Are you willing to ask for help if needed?
  3. Have you healed from your past traumas?
  4. What do you do when you feel triggered or retraumatized? 

Questions about bad habits

Many of us have bad habits that we don’t even realize we’re doing.  Here are a few questions that will help you identify and eliminate bad habits.

  1. What are your bad habits and what are their consequences?
  2. Are you willing to practice contrary action?
  3. What good habits can you replace your bad habits with?
  4. Have you ever been in addiction?  If so, how did you deal with it?

Questions about interests

Our interests help sustain us and offer us a sense of excitement outside of our work lives.  These self reflection questions will examine the ways in which your interests uplift your life.

  1. Name 10 interests outside of work.  
  2. Now name 5 interests you’d like to pursue that you haven’t.
  3. How can you make more time for the things that interest you?
  4. Is there a group you can join to meet up with people with similar interests?

Questions about personal wellness and happiness

While there’s no fool-proof path to happiness, we can take steps towards a happy and contented life when we identify what brings us joy.

  1. Are you happy overall?
  2. How do you define happiness?
  3. What’s something you can do right now to bring more joy into your life?
  4. What steps can you take to improve your emotional well being?

Self-reflection is a valuable tool for all of us, no matter our circumstance. Whether you’re a CEO, a student, or an entrepreneur, self-reflection can help you better understand yourself and the world around you. The more you understand what makes you tick, the easier it will be to find ways to improve your life.

As you go through life, you will undergo major changes that will alter who you are. These self-reflection questions will help you get a better sense of who you are right now and what changes you can make for the better.

Civil Discourse

listening barriers

September 8, 2022

Barriers To Listening: 5 Tips On Being A Better Listener

When it comes to communicating, talking is easy–listening, not so much.  Listening involves more than just hearing what someone is saying. When you’re truly listening to someone, you’re taking in information and processing it. You're also paying attention to body language and other signals that might help your understanding of what the person is trying to convey.

Research suggests that we listen with only 25% efficiency, meaning that three out of four times we communicate, we misinterpret what the other person is saying or fail to retain it accurately. These miscommunications occur because of several barriers to effective listening that many of us are guilty of.

Why Active Listening Is Important

Active listening is one of the most powerful tools you can have at your disposal.  As a founder, I’ve learned that listening—and being open to the opinions of my peers—is key to being an effective leader. Not only does it prevent avoidable mistakes, but it’s also vital in respecting and understanding others. Active listening provides you with accurate information, making it easier for you to communicate, collaborate and make decisions.

What Are The Common Barriers To Listening?

I’ve found that while a number of barriers to effective listening exist, they generally fall into two categories: external and internal.  Here are a few external and internal listening barriers that can get in the way of active listening.

External Listening Barriers

Noise

It’s incredibly challenging to listen effectively when you’re concentrating on filtering out background noise. Too much noise from side conversations or phone alerts will distract you from what the other person is saying.

Visual distraction

Sights have the power to distract as much as sounds. A movement out of the corner of your eye, people coming and going, or staring out the window can all pose barriers to active listening.

Physical setting

The physical environment you’re in can hinder your ability to listen. For example, if you’re outside in the hot sun, in a crowded space, or in any setting that causes discomfort, it will be more difficult for you to actively listen.

Objects

While some people believe playing with personal items can help them pay attention, it often distracts them from listening. Playing with a pen or a piece of jewelry can be a barrier to active listening.

The person speaking

Your personal feelings about the person speaking can be one of the biggest barriers to listening.  Talking with a close friend, someone you don’t like, or someone you find attractive/unattractive can all cause distractions.

Internal Listening Barriers

Anxiety

If your mind is worried about something unrelated to what you’re discussing, then this can distract you from the conversation.  Anxious thoughts will prevent you from actively listening to what’s being said.

Self-centeredness

When you’re talking with someone, it’s important to give them your full attention.  Self-centered thoughts can take you away from their words and distract you with your own thoughts instead.

Mental laziness

We don’t always want to listen to what’s being said to us.  If we’re listening to complicated information, we might be tempted to tune it out to avoid having to follow along.

Boredom

Boredom is another barrier to effective listening that can be difficult to overcome.  If you’re uninterested in the subject you’re discussing, it takes much more effort to pay attention.

Sense of superiority

Listening is all about taking in information you may not already know.  If you believe you have nothing to learn from someone, this can prevent you from listening to what they have to say.

Cognitive dissonance

Our preconceived notions can shape what we hear instead of allowing us to listen objectively.  If we believe something strongly enough, then we might wind up interpreting what’s being said to support our opinion.

Bias

Bias may cause us to disregard the other speaker entirely.  If we have a bias that doesn’t allow us to change our beliefs, then anything that doesn’t match that belief will be ignored.

Impatience

The less efficient the communicator, the more difficult it is to listen.  We may let impatience with a slow communicator interfere with what we hear.

How To Eliminate These Barriers To Listening

We have now answered the question, “what are the barriers to active listening?” But how exactly do we overcome them? To help you become a better listener, here are 5 practices I use in my own life.

  1. Practice Civil Discourse

Civil discourse is a helpful mindset to practice in order to be a better listener.  It encompasses many practices that encourage listening over speaking to allow for a better exchange of ideas. To practice civil discourse, don’t interrupt or have side conversations.  You should also listen for the content of what others are saying rather than assuming.

  1. Ask Questions

Asking questions will help you ensure that you fully understand what other people have to say.  If you’re unclear about anything that’s being said, feel free to ask questions to clarify or request additional information.  Asking questions also reduces boredom and impatience by allowing you to engage and extract the information you need.

  1. Set Aside Your Own Bias

We all have opinions, but these opinions can get in the way of truly listening to what another person is saying.  While you obviously can’t change your opinion at will, try to take a moment to set aside your preconceived notions before a discussion.  This will help you listen to what’s being said in an objective way without responding emotionally or being dismissive.

  1. Prioritize The Other Person

It can be easy to let internal and external listening barriers distract us during a conversation.  Make active listening a priority by dealing with any external barriers as they arise.  If you’re in a noisy area, move to a quieter one.  If you find yourself fidgeting with something, set it out of reach.  If you find your mind wandering, ask the person to repeat themselves to bring yourself back on track.

  1. Listen More Than You Talk

A good ratio to strive for is to listen twice as much as you talk.  If you have a point that you want to make while another person is speaking, write it down for later reference and let them finish their dialogue.  If you focus on listening more than talking, you’ll make active listening a habit before long.

Poor listeners will often interrupt the speaker, formulate opinions while the other person is still talking and rush to judgement. The above listening barriers can hurt us by preventing us from effectively taking in information. Follow these tips to overcome these barriers to listening and be a better communicator.

Civil Discourse

stand up for what you believe in

September 7, 2022

6 Steps to Respectfully Stand Up for Your Beliefs

Your beliefs are the foundation of your personality. Firmly rooted in your ancestry, upbringing, and life experiences, they shape your narrative and define your life’s 

key moments. Your beliefs work behind the scenes to guide your everyday actions. 

Not only do your beliefs shape who you are, they also provide a moral compass for your life. To stand up for them, you must first determine what values and principles you abide by. Only then can you articulate those beliefs with passion and conviction.

​​The Benefits of Speaking Up for What You Believe In 

Expressing your beliefs is the key to living authentically and in alignment with your values. Taking a stand for your convictions helps you deal with life challenges in a level-headed manner. Here are some reasons you should work on speaking up for your own beliefs:

  • Preventing identity loss. Your individuality separates you from the crowd. Defending your beliefs establishes your identity and guards your voice against getting lost in the crowd.
  • Building respect. Sticking up for your beliefs builds self-respect. Going against your values just because it's more convenient is less than admirable. Standing your ground shows that you aren't a pushover and can voice your opinions.
  • Gaining confidence. Standing up for your beliefs is not easy at first. You may doubt yourself, be hesitant and feel awkward. But each time you do it, you’ll get better at it and gain more confidence. So step out of your comfort zone and speak up whenever you can!
  • Bringing about change. Expressing your values makes an impact in society. It helps bring attention to issues that may have been overlooked and can affect the lives of people who share your belief system.

How to Defend Your Beliefs 

When someone disrespects your beliefs or pressures you into changing them, it’s important to speak up. I’m not advocating for responding to fire with fire but rather being firm in what you believe and standing up for your rights. It might be difficult at first and you might offend people close to you, but it’s essential for protecting your self-esteem. Here are six steps you can use to defend your beliefs:

  1. Know your audience: Before standing up for your ideologies, know who you’re talking to. Are you speaking to a friend, a family member, or a stranger? Each audience requires a different approach.
  1. Select your words carefully: Your word choice is crucial when defending your beliefs. Make a clear stand and maintain a respectful demeanor. Refrain from using inflammatory language that might come across as argumentative. 
  1. Be prepared for pushback: Not everyone will resonate with your beliefs, and that’s fine. When people challenge you back, be ready to explain why you hold those beliefs. Have supporting evidence, statistics, or examples ready.
  1. Make room for different perspectives: While it’s important to voice your values, making space for other views is also vital. Turn the discussion into a civil discourse where everyone can safely express their beliefs. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but you must respect their right to hold those beliefs.
  1. Address self-doubt: Rejection is inevitable in life, but it can lead to self-doubt and a lack of confidence. If you’re able to acknowledge that failure is a natural part of the process to success and know that you’re worth more than a rejection, you can move forward with your beliefs intact.
  1. Practice detachment: When you stand up for what you believe in, you are making your opinion known and letting others know where you stand. Detachment isn't a call to avoid conflict; it's the acceptance that sometimes people will disregard your beliefs even though they know where you stand.

Negotiating Better and Integrating Beliefs In Your Life 

Seeking out perspectives that oppose your own helps you break out of your echo chamber. Civil discourse is a fantastic tool for negotiating with people holding onto different beliefs, listening to each other's stances, and showing respect for opposing views.

Civil discourse is about truly listening to understand, rather than pretending to be polite. It enables you to amplify your beliefs and question the preconceived notions that help you evolve as a human. It provides a learning space for everyone.

When you stand up for what you believe in and break out of your comfort zone, you will build respect for yourself, gain confidence and discover who you really are. It may not be easy at first but it’s really quite simple to do. Start by finding out what your beliefs are and let go of your fears, quit doubting yourself and keep practicing. Civil discourse is essential to foster a healthy discussion.

Civil Discourse

respect opinions

September 6, 2022

How to Respect Opinions Even When You Disagree

Difference of opinion is inevitable in any diverse society, but showing respect for opinions (whether you agree or not) is important for maintaining positive relationships.

When you can respect opinions you disagree with, you will be able to connect with others on a deeper level and build trust, which will open your mind to new ideas. Being respectful requires self-esteem, self-control, sensitivity, tolerance and fairness. As we mature, we’re expected to develop respect for everyone's opinions and not just those that belong to ourselves.

Many people are rigid about their opinions. Some even tend to disagree if what others say goes against their beliefs. But you can always find common ground by conducting civil discourse.

Opinions are the expression of your unique way of viewing the world. Your opinions reflect your upbringing, life experiences, education, and other cognitive biases. People with similar opinions may be drawn to one another, but a group of people with differing viewpoints can also be engaging and stimulating. You might not always agree with others, but it's important to respect their views. 

Here's a complete guide on how you can learn to accept people's opinions even if you disagree.

The Right to Have an Opinion

There is some debate about whether or not we all have a right to our opinions. While opinions are subjective, they may be based on facts such as when someone's opinion is grounded in technical expertise, for example, a legal opinion.

It's interesting how people feel strongly about the things they believe in. Their beliefs shape their worldviews, so it's natural to feel slightly rejected when someone disagrees with you. But it's also important to remember that everyone has a right to his or her own opinion.

Disagreements will happen. But you can choose to listen carefully and respectfully, and to communicate your feelings civilly. A world without such disagreements is a world without innovation and change. 

What Does Respecting Others' Opinions Look Like?

Scrolling through social media will often reveal people arguing aggressively over differing views. However, we don't always have to be hostile towards opposing ideas. Avoid heated debates - they never end well. Learn to separate your feelings from the issue at hand and analyze if someone else's opinions are valid in the context of their life experience. Arguing and undermining other people's beliefs will not help us grow. We learn by gaining new perspectives and widening our understanding.

Respect people's opinions and you'll be able to engage in civil discourse, which is vital for idea sharing. Humility and kindness are highly valued qualities. It shows you're willing to listen, even when it's hard. This will earn you respect even from people who disagree with you.

Disagreeing with someone doesn't have to be unpleasant. Here are some ways to respect differences:

  • Admit when you've made a mistake

When you notice your own flaws, you have two choices: either get defensive or accept your fault. The first choice will put your self-respect at stake and trap you in a never-ending argument. The second choice will help you take a solution-oriented approach that leaves no room for hurt feelings and burnt bridges.

  • When you disagree, listen to the other side patiently

Be curious about opposing views. Ask people why they hold those opinions and listen to them patiently. You may not agree with everything they say, but active listening will help you understand the ground of their views, which will make it easier to counter their arguments.

  • Don't raise your voice

You don't always need to prove yourself right. It’s fine to politely communicate your feelings and opinions in response, but yelling and being argumentative shows a lack of respect for the other person. The point isn’t to “win”, so there’s no reason to be aggressive. Agreeing to disagree is sometimes the most productive solution to a conflict.

  • Be polite and kind

Kindness and respect are intertwined. If you can be kind in the midst of a disagreement, you'll earn people's respect.

If you understand why someone believes what they say, it's easier to empathize with them. Despite differences, it's possible to coexist in a gray area without imposing your ideas on others.

  • Don't call others' opinions wrong.

Opinions reflect personal choices, not facts. It’s unnecessary to feel threatened or argue over which opinion is correct, because oftentimes, no one is “right”. The best way to learn how to respect someone's opinions is to consider how you'd want other people to behave when you share your perspective. This reminder will help you reciprocate respectfully with contrarian views.

The Benefits of Respecting others' Opinions in the Workplace

Showing respect toward others' opinions creates a cooperative environment. Be it at home or in the workplace, respecting diverse opinions yields excellent benefits, as mentioned below:

  1. People feel motivated to share their ideas.
  1. Employees don't engage in trivial office politics and are more satisfied.
  1. A healthy workplace culture is cultivated. 
  1. People engage in civil discourse that facilitates knowledge sharing.
  1. Teammates bond faster and develop enriching relationships. 
  1. Mindful listening widens the perspective to new ways of approaching the situation. 
  1. Being considerate of others' opinions earns you their respect.

Everyone has the power to think and reason. Differences in opinions have led to many innovations in the world. If we can benefit from diverse views, then we must also reap their benefits in our professional and personal lives.

Tips for How to Oppose or Respectfully Disagree 

Respect everyone's opinions, but don't be afraid to express your own. If you want to reach a conclusion that everyone can agree on, try using a civil approach. It might help avoid future clashes and disputes. 

Here are some solution-oriented tips to help you respectfully disagree:

  1. Stick to facts instead of emotions and opinions.
  1. Avoid making the person feel small for holding certain beliefs.
  1. Use "I" statements to communicate what you think and feel. Encourage similar behavior from the other side. For example, instead of saying, "This is not true," try saying, "I don't think this is true. Here's why."
  1. Ask questions to understand the root of opposing opinions and listen carefully.
  1. Have a civil approach and find a middle ground by agreeing to some parts of the discussion.
  1. Stay calm while explaining your perspective.
  1. Remember that you only disagree on one topic. This shouldn't change your relationship with the person.
  1. Agree to disagree if you can’t come to a middle ground.
  1. Walk away from the conversation if the other person turns hostile. Don't get defensive and escalate the situation.

A healthy self-esteem is the first step toward being respectful of others. Respect yourself enough to be honest with yourself and others. Understand that you are your priority—not what someone else wants or expects from you. When you accept that some relationships aren't meant to last, it's easier to move on from them.

Constructive Opinion and Destructive Critique

Opinions in the form of feedback come in two forms: destructive and constructive. Both types of feedback point out our mistakes, flaws, or potential improvements. While constructive criticism offers suggestions and possible solutions, destructive criticism is cutting, derogatory, or even mocks our failures.

Seek constructive feedback to improve your work. Ignore destructive criticism, which adds negativity and fosters self-doubt. Here are some ways you can differentiate between constructive feedback and negative criticism:

  • Intention - Constructive criticism keeps your best interest at heart. Destructive criticism aims to humiliate or insult the other person.
  • Focus of criticism - Positive feedback focuses on improving your shortcomings. Destructive critique leans toward personal attacks.
  • Nature - Productive criticism offers an actionable, solution-oriented approach. Destructive opinions are mostly vague and demeaning without any clear takeaways.

Always welcome constructive criticism with an open mind. Ask questions to understand their feedback, and use that feedback to improve yourself. Don't let destructive critique get you down; it's only words, not bullets.

To grow and learn, acknowledge your own beliefs and those of others. Create an environment where disparate points of view can be expressed respectfully. Civil discourse is the best tool at your disposal to build healthy, collaborative relationships.

Civil Discourse

productive conflict

September 5, 2022

The Art of Productive Conflict: Learn How to Turn Disagreements Into Opportunities for Growth

As an entrepreneur, I know what it feels like to be stressed out by the fast-paced work environment. While building a startup is challenging in itself, extra stress can arise among teams if conflict is avoided entirely. Most entrepreneurs avoid disputes in order to avoid discomfort, but this leads to poor results and more stress on top of their already busy lives.

While growing three purpose-driven startups, I’ve found that avoiding conflict does more harm than good. If you don’t communicate your disagreements clearly with the team, they’ll execute even bad plans. You may avoid disrupting peace in the short term, but in the long run, it will inhibit growth and progress in your company. Managing conflict productively is vital for avoiding undue stress and fostering an environment brimming with growth opportunities.

What is Productive Conflict?

Resolving any dispute requires a culture that encourages respectful communication and civil discourse. All team members should feel comfortable having open conversations where they can freely exchange ideas to reach a common ground.

Communicating civilly can help you turn a sticky situation into an opportunity for growth. Productive conflict is about having a healthy interaction with another person with a clear goal of dispute resolution. Positive conflict allows you to voice your disagreements with someone in a respectful tone, so that you can learn from one another and find solutions together.

There are numerous benefits that you’ll gain from embracing productive conflict. These include:

  1. Reducing workplace stress and increasing productivity.
  2. Making it easier to embrace and process contrasting ideas.
  3. Creating a solution-oriented environment teeming with growth opportunities.
  4. Nurturing mutual respect and holistic growth of all parties involved.

Components of Productive Conflict

Regardless of the size or nature of your company, productive conflict had three common characteristics:

  1. Have empathy for others

Conflict creates gaps in understanding. Empathy—putting yourself in the other person’s shoes—can help you understand why things broke down in the first place.

  1. Give respect to all parties

Respect is a powerful force in building relationships, allowing people to work together toward achieving common goals. Just demonstrating respect in a conversation can improve your relationship with another person.

  1. Focus on the problem

Focus on fixing the problem at hand, not winning the argument. Encourage everyone to bring their ideas to the table and work together toward a solution.

Creating Productive Conflict: A 2 Step Method

When you have a plan in place for how to resolve conflict, it’s much easier to do so. Here’s a simple formula for creating productive conflict in the workplace:

  1. Be aware

In order to overcome conflict, understanding is key. Understanding the problem, your own position, mindset, and communication style as well as those of the person opposing you are all vital parts of resolving disputes peacefully.

To address a problem, first acknowledge that it exists. Second, create an environment conducive to civil discourse by being respectful of others' viewpoints and listening to their input. Also, understand the root cause of the conflict so you can move forward productively.

  1. Find Common Ground

Once you’ve taken a moment to pause, get everyone involved to focus on finding a potential common ground. Let everyone present their perspective, listen to each other’s points of view in a civil manner, and carve out the best possible way to resolve the issue at hand. 

The true art of productive conflict lies reaching a mutual agreement, and that requires common ground between opposing parties.

Productive vs. Destructive Conflict

Conflict arises when people have different opinions or work ethics. With multiple people working in close proximity, potential for conflict is inevitable.

When people are not aware of their behavior, conflicts can be destructive. In such cases, two parties may unconsciously become absorbed in an argument that saps their motivation and frustrates them. The mood of the entire team sinks and no progress is made.

Destructive conflict happens when you focus on the person, not the issue. When this happens, your team members may look for ways to deny responsibility and pass the blame to someone else. This shows that they're not trying to solve a problem; instead, they're looking to pass blame to protect their egos.

We can fix things by adopting a solution-oriented approach. This means we must reflect on the conflict from a new perspective and determine how to move forward.

To turn conflict into a growth opportunity, both parties must adopt a civil mindset and let all participants speak freely. This approach helps you build trust and enrich relationships with your team members, and it brings harmony to the entire team.

Role of the Leader in Productive Conflict

A strong leader will drive conflicts to a productive solution in their workplace. They involve all team members in decision-making, getting everyone to focus on the bigger picture. They seek not a single star performer within the team, but rather success as a whole.

A good leader is transparent and honest with their team. They communicate clearly and respectfully, building trust. This allows them to solve conflicts within the group in a productive way.

Ultimately, the leader should try to build a cohesive team where individual goals are aligned with the team’s targets. This will help ensure that everyone is working in sync to meet all challenges and that your team remains productive even amid conflict and strife.

Conclusion

Conflict is inevitable in the workplace. When faced with unproductive conflict, you must bring the issue out into the open. Then everyone must work to address it head on. Some people will need to develop more sensitivity to detect when people are getting uncomfortable, and others need to become more comfortable making their thoughts and opinions heard. 

Teams that work together respectfully, and are willing to adjust their communication style, can engage in productive conflict that leads to success.

Civil Discourse

leadership soft skills

September 2, 2022

10 Soft Skills that are Crucial for Leadership

The best leaders not only know how to work with numbers, they know how to work with people. Skills like empathic communication, active listening, and body language are “soft skills” and are essential to productive leadership.

As we embrace an automated future, people are investing more in learning technical skills. However, I’d argue that soft skills will become more critical as we settle into the age of automation.

 Being an entrepreneur, I’ve met several successful leaders. One of the biggest things I found common in them was - a good grasp of soft skills. This allows them to effectively collaborate with remote teams and guides them to new heights. 

Soft Skills that a Strong Leader Needs in 2022

Leading people is a function of an intangible connection that is difficult to put into words. Good leaders instill purpose in their teams and make them feel fulfilled with their work. Whether your teams work from the office or home, if you want to deliver your best, become a leader by heart and mind.

 This is where developing soft skills enters the picture. The strength of your soft skills will determine how well you can lead your teams. As a leader, your success is defined by the success of your people. Here are ten soft skills that you should work on developing if you want to be a better leader: 

  • Communication skills 

The ability to effectively communicate tops the list of soft leadership skills. Disagreements are natural when you manage a team of people with varied opinions.

 In such situations, practice civil discourse with your team. It’s a great tool that allows everyone to present their honest opinions and find common ground.

 Here are a few tips for facilitating civil communication: 

  1. Be open-minded to understand other people’s viewpoints.
  1. Ask for feedback and openly discuss them.
  1. Be confident while presenting yourself, and back your words with credible facts.
  1. Seek common ground to find solutions rather than focusing on points of conflict.

  • Empathic approach 

Leaders are primarily responsible for inspiring others. If you want people to follow your lead and take action, you need to know what they care about, which takes empathy. To lead them well, you have to understand their situation and feelings.

 Empathy as a soft skill fosters a work culture where everyone feels heard and understood. This instills in them a sense of responsibility to resolve conflicts. Compassion is a foundation of solid leadership. Here’s my personalized formula to enhance empathy for leadership: 

  1. Take others’ opinions into account before concluding.
  1. Engage in personalized communication by paying attention while listening and responding positively.
  1. Show support towards your employees and express willingness to solve their problems.
  1. Take feedback from the team to foster better understanding.
  1. Be genuine, kind, unbiased, and non-judgmental toward others. 
  1. Focus on growing as a team without leaving anyone behind.

  • Mindful actions that Win Over Trust

Trust is essential for the success of your team. Creating a trustworthy environment is only possible when your actions match your words. Employees begin to trust you when they realize you care about their well-being and take measures to help the company grow.

However, remember that your behavior needs to come from an authentic place. You can’t fake genuine trust. 

  1. Practice transparency in your work principles.
  1. Acknowledge others’ talents and value their strengths.
  1. Establish civil discourse with your team to allow the free flow of ideas.
  1. Don’t shy away from accepting your mistakes. 
  1. Be open and embrace other people’s perspectives or constructive criticism. 

  • Delegation Skills that Empower Others

The art of delegation is a must-have soft skill for leadership. As a leader, your goal is to empower every individual by recognizing their true potential.

Trusting employees with their assigned tasks without micro-managing creates a positive work environment. It also prevents you from overworking while boosting your team’s confidence.

Delegating responsibilities to capable individuals also allows you to hone your leadership skills.

Below are a few tips to help you effectively delegate tasks: 

  1. Conduct 1-on-1 sessions and group discussions to evaluate every individual’s standpoint.
  1. Offer challenging but achievable goals to your employees to help them grow.
  1. Give them space and trust in their process.
  1. Don’t micromanage at every step while the work is in progress.

  • Flexible mindset

Leadership is an ever-changing sphere. Leaders must be able to adapt to the constantly evolving industry standards.

Being open-minded with varied opinions elevates your strengths as a leader. If your employees view you as an approachable leader, they’d feel connected and dedicated to you. This leads to a productive workspace and promotes personal growth.

I’ve learned a few ways to adjust to different situations: 

  1. View changes as positive opportunities for growth.
  1. Don’t be afraid to experiment or push your limitations.
  1. Remain approachable.
  1. Adjust your conflict management tactics to effectively resolve stressful situations.

  • Collaborative Attitude

Bringing a team together is one of the most potent traits of an influential leader. It’s more about being a part of the team and not just allocating tasks to the employees. Inculcating a spirit of teamwork enhances cooperation, collaboration, and synchronization among the members. It helps you identify the team’s challenges while working towards a common goal.

A leader is nothing without a team. Guide them, split the responsibilities, and maintain clear communication with them. Polishing teamwork skills is imperative to becoming a strong leader. Here are some steps I follow and recommend: 

  1. Set hyper-defined goals.
  1. Develop a flow of communication among teammates.
  1. Provide updated tools and resources your team needs to seamlessly function.
  1. Conduct frequent review sessions.
  1. Clarify every member’s roles and responsibilities within the team.
  1. Praise the accomplishments and constructively address the poor performances.

  • Problem-solving skills

Problems are inevitable. A leader’s ability to deal with them separates a good leader from the average. A solution-oriented mindset becomes your strength to overcome roadblocks.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll encounter unique challenges. Your project might not shape up as expected, or your team might not be working up to the mark. You must objectively look at things in such situations to find the best solution.

My default mode of problem-solving involves the following steps: 

  1. Address the problem before assuming the pain points.
  1. Brainstorm possible solutions and analyze if their execution has some limitations.
  1. Involve your team in the creative problem-solving procedure. 
  1. Break down the challenge into a series of steps and individually tackle them.

  • Self-Awareness to Manage your emotional intelligence

Pay attention to your emotions, inner conflicts, and mindfulness to foster leadership skills. Your emotional triggers influence your behavior and guide your actions. Emotional intelligence helps you in confronting any challenging scenario.

High self-awareness is a critical component of emotional intelligence. Self-aware people have a purpose, influence, and achieve success in their lives. When you incorporate these key attributes into your work life, you’ll lead a competent and passionate team and bring desired results.

A few measures that help manage emotional intelligence are: 

  1. Know your patterns. Identify the emotional triggers that often take you off track. 
  1. Listen, analyze, and then respond to other people. 
  1. Value everyone’s uniqueness and appreciate them.
  1. Choose patience and empathy over conflicts.
  1. Take breaks. If you feel overwhelmed, slow down to recover whenever necessary.
  1. Be mindful while interacting with people who hold contrary opinions.

  • Efficient decision-making to overcome challenges

When you’re in a leadership position, your decisions have high stakes. You have the power to influence the lives of team members, organizational stakeholders, and the company at large. It’s essential to make good decisions when you’re leading a team.

Efficient decision-making must be one of your strengths in all your leadership roles.

Here are some tips to help strengthen your decision-making skills: 

  1. Manage your emotions and the emotions of visibly-disturbed teammates.
  1. Analyze the pros and cons of whatever issue is at hand.
  1. Limit the choices, so you don’t take forever to conclude.

  • Strong mentoring skills

A great leader is known for empowering other people, which improves organizational productivity. The best way to lead a team is by mentoring members and supporting their growth and development.

People often see the leader as a role model to lead an organization. Mentoring others is a soft leadership skill that brings integrity to the team. Here are a few tips to become a great mentor to the people who look up to you: 

  1. Bridge the gap between your actions and words. When your actions match your words, it enhances the trust of your team to follow the path you show them. 
  1. Understand the team’s drives and assign tasks that are exciting for the teammates and essential for the organization.

Leadership requires mastery of a variety of skills. Soft skills are often overlooked, but they’re just as important as your technical and managerial abilities.

The conversation of soft vs. hard skills for leaders reflects a more profound truth: Leadership is not just a programmed set of tasks you check off daily. It’s not a formula you follow or a code you adhere to. Authentic leadership comes from the heart. Genuinely caring about others is at the core of all soft skills that can empower you to be a more effective leader. If you don’t care about your people, they likely won’t care about you or the company.

We all want to know that our work is important and that what we do adds to something meaningful. Improving your soft skills and showing your team you care doesn’t have to add a lot to your plate, but it does have to be a priority in your days. Start small and learn as you go. It will make all the difference.

Civil Discourse

finding common ground

September 1, 2022

Finding Common Ground

A fundamental mindset shift that has helped me scale three successful startups from scratch is always looking for the best in people. This doesn’t mean I haven’t encountered conflict; which entrepreneur hasn’t? But I’ve always prioritized giving every person a fair chance to speak. Looking back, that has made all the difference in my journey.

Every person you meet has a unique perspective. Their personal life experiences, upbringing, and current situation determine their worldview. As a result, people see things differently and hold varying beliefs. This difference in thought is the primary cause behind conflicts.

Finding common ground enables you to find a mutually beneficial solution for both parties. You build trust and forge strong bonds with people who don’t share your mentality. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how you can find common ground during conflicts.

What Does Finding Common Ground Mean? 

Not everyone thinks, feels, or acts the same way as you do. You might find a few kindred souls who resonate with your thoughts, but most people won’t. Conflicts will inevitably arise. You must find common ground to protect your relationships. It’s a practice where you discover a topic, opinion, or perspective you both can agree upon. It allows you to see where the other person is coming from and better appreciate their point of view.

Civil discourse is an excellent tool for finding common ground. It allows you to create a non-confrontational environment where:

  • everyone can freely express themselves,
  • listen carefully to each other, and
  • show respectful disagreement.

Establishing a common ground doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything. You may share some interests with the other person, but other issues can still separate you. However, seeking mutual ground will help bridge the divides that pull you apart.

The Importance of Finding Common Ground

Locating a mutual ground ensures that both parties understand each other’s perspectives and strive to find the best possible solution to resolve the conflict. Here are some reasons why finding common ground is essential:

  • Builds strong relationships

Conflict pushes people apart. Establishing a common solution helps maintain relationships even amid disagreements. People develop strong bonds and build trust when they’re aligned toward a shared goal.

  • Resolves conflict quickly

You can resolve conflicts when you understand the depth of an issue. People’s viewpoints differ due to their unique identities. However, establishing common ground allows you to analyze both opinions without bias to arrive at a mutually agreeable solution.

  • Increases Open-mindedness

To resolve arguments, you must be open to opposing ideas. Conducting civil discourse helps all the parties to adopt a flexible mind toward varying perspectives. This allows you to quickly attain common goals.

  • Prevents opinion polarization

Everyone has a different approach to solving the same problem. However, sometimes, people counter the other person’s strategy to prove their solution right. Common ground prevents both parties from vehemently opposing each other’s opinions. It aligns everyone to focus on achieving the shared outcome. 

Civil Discourse: The Ultimate Strategy for Finding Common Ground

During an argument, people defend themselves to protect their egos. This further escalates the conflict. To resolve an issue, you need to constructively approach it so everyone can feel respected. Engaging in civil discourse lets you understand what matters to the other person.

Civil discourse enables a productive exchange of ideas. It helps both parties figure out what’s important to them. Such conversation allows people to express their views without rancor. It gives rise to mutual respect and reinforces people’s right to hold their beliefs.

Everyone must honestly present their thoughts to quickly find the middle ground. No one needs to downplay or overstate their ideas. Carefully listen to other people, ask questions, and show respectful disagreement whenever necessary.

Civil discourse lays down the stepping stone to align different visions and find common ground faster. Read on for the steps you must follow to tackle conflicts smartly.

Steps for Finding Common Ground 

As an entrepreneur, it’s essential to learn how to find common ground with your team. Learning this will foster a sense of teamwork and help your business grow. 

Here are the steps you can take to find common ground in any conflict:

  • Establish the tone with small talk

Small talk is a great way to break the ice. When you meet someone new, make a connection by talking about food, drinks, music, and hobbies. Talk about all the activities that allow you to experience commonality. It will create a comfortable environment where you can efficiently conduct civil dialogue with the other person.

  • Listen actively

Civil discourse ensures things don’t get heated up during a disagreement. You have to listen, take mental notes and be willing to embrace new opinions. An active listener focuses on what the other person is saying, not what they want to say next. Use non-verbal language like nodding or establishing eye contact to show you’re genuinely listening to them. 

  • Begin a more profound conversation by asking questions

Once the other person expresses themselves, ask open-ended questions to dig deeper into the conversation. Encourage them to speak freely and listen without interrupting them. Their answers will help you understand their side of the story and reach the common ground faster.

  • Don’t be overly judgmental.

As humans, we naturally have biases about other people. Recognizing what triggers you to be judgmental or critical of others is vital. Focus on the current topic and don’t delve into judgments during the discussion.

  • Be empathic to their perspective.

Everyone holds different opinions based on their idea of reality. Listen to their point of view, and consider the facts and opinions they present. Ask questions when you need elaboration. They might say something that makes you rethink your approach.

  • Be authentic

Avoid being confrontational when speaking your mind. Frame your thoughts using “I” statements. Explain how you feel and why you feel that way. The goal isn’t to prove that you’re right. It’s about sharing your stance that helps the other person comprehend where you’re coming from. This establishes the common ground both people are comfortable with. 

How To Find Common Ground With Friends and Family

Civil discourse not only enriches the workplace but also helps you locate common ground with your friends and family. When you establish a shared goal with people, you resolve conflicts faster and co-exist in harmony even with diverse opinions. This strengthens your bonds and develops mutual respect.

Here are some steps that will help you find common ground with friends and family:

  • Respond, don’t react

Listen carefully to the other person. Their opinions might trigger your emotions, and you may feel the temptation to counter them. But don’t. Strive to understand their perspective before reacting. Ask questions to ensure you’ve understood their points correctly. Remember that you’re looking for common ground, not ways to disagree further.

  • Keep calm during the argument.

You can easily become defensive when you disagree with someone close to you. Remind yourself to stay calm and take deep breaths. Don’t respond with rage regardless of the temptation. If the other person gets upset, calm them down and revisit the topic when things settle down.

  • Express your feelings

If your friend has a different perspective, talk to them about it. Don’t assume they know what you think or feel. They cannot read your mind. You must help them understand your stance and why you believe in it. This will let the other person do the same and help you reach an understanding.

  • Focus on solving the conflict, not on winning the argument 

You will experience disagreements no matter how close you are to friends or family. When diverse views arise, know that it’s normal. Don’t disregard their beliefs or try to prove your thoughts are correct. Patiently listen to the other person and be curious to know why they think what they think. The goal is to solve the conflict, not to win the fight.

Conclusion

Diverse views are expected. They arise regardless of the situation and people involved. This thought difference often leads to conflicts, which can sabotage relationships if not handled well. That’s why finding common ground that mutually benefits all parties is vital. When people know they’re working towards the same goal, they don’t obsess over their views. They listen to diverse opinions that help reach the goal faster. Civil discourse is a great way to establish a mutual ground amid a conflict. Ask everyone to share their views and agree to disagree with opposing ideas.

Civil Discourse

how to handle criticism

August 29, 2022

How to Handle Criticism Like a Winner

You can never be truly successful without the input of others. When taken in stride, criticism can improve relationships and make us more effective at what we choose to do. 

In the era of social media, it's far too easy for criticism to come your way, as anyone who has spent a decent amount of time on Twitter can attest to. If you don't learn to deal with criticism well, you'll spend your life letting other people define who you are. 

Above all else, if you learn to take criticism well, you will gain a powerful tool that can propel you forward personally and professionally. 

Types of Criticism

The ability to respond positively to criticism requires being able to identify it. Here are the various forms of criticism that you might encounter:

  • Aesthetic Criticism

This type of criticism is part of the broader field of aesthetics, which has to do with determining what is beautiful, how it connects to our emotions and other issues concerning human sentiment. Aesthetic considerations have a place in most parts of human life, so there is potential for much criticism.

  • Logical Criticism

A logical criticism is an objection to an idea, argument, action, or situation because it does not make rational sense. The critique usually refers to assumptions, coherence, implications, and intent.

  • Constructive Criticism

Constructive criticism is a suggestion for improvement—how things could be done better or more acceptably. Good constructive feedback helps you grow and learn and creates an open-minded culture.

  • Destructive Criticism

Destructive criticism is negative feedback that directly hurts people and their creations. It often takes the form of an attack on a person's character or personality or an emotional outburst. It may be based on prejudice or result from the critic's frustrations and insecurities.

Receiving criticism can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. By adopting these key traits, you’ll be able to handle any criticism effectively:

  1. A strong self-esteem
  2. Assertiveness 
  3. Mindfulness
  4. Emotional intelligence
  5. A solution-oriented mindset 
  6. Self-awareness

Constructive vs Destructive Criticism

Each person is unique, and so are their opinions. As an entrepreneur, I find criticism inevitable. The people I work with have differing experiences, mindsets, and creativity, often leading to disagreements and opposing thoughts within the team. To benefit from such conflicts, I engage in civil discourse within my team to give everyone a fair chance to express their ideas and constructively criticize each other's viewpoints.

Constructive criticism is a method of providing feedback that intends to improve. To be effective, it must be addressed in a way that acknowledges the person's strengths and weaknesses. In addition, it should provide focus on areas for growth and improvement.

In contrast, destructive criticism is negative feedback intended to harm, insult or destroy someone's creation. It's malicious and focuses on belittling the person at the receiving end.

Tips to Deal With Criticism

No one wants to be criticized, but if you want to build something exceptional, you must be willing to take it. The best way to fight criticism-related anxiety is to learn how to deal with it. 

Here are some tips to help you handle criticism effectively:

  1. Be calm and patient

Receiving criticism can be difficult, but if you lose patience, it will only increase friction. The best way to take criticism positively is to engage in civil discourse. This helps people conduct a productive discussion while respectfully accepting the criticism for improved results.

  1. Don’t be tempted to criticize back

The way you respond to your critic is crucial. Thank the person who offered the best suggestion they could come up with. Stay focused on learning and improving rather than reacting defensively to justify your motives.

        3. Project Positivity

The way you hold yourself during a confrontation is your biggest strength. Smiling gently, nodding in agreement, or relaxing your eyebrows can turn even serious disagreements into friendly debates. Open body language creates an atmosphere conducive to productive criticism and keeps the critic motivated to provide valuable feedback without personal attacks.

  1. Listen actively

By listening patiently to your critic, you can handle criticism well. We're not always the best judge of our situations. But, if you are all ears to the limitations someone else can foresee in your innovations, it will improve your methods and get you profound results.

How to Improve Accepting Criticism

Collaboration encourages you to accept criticism in the interest of better results. If the intention behind the critical feedback is constructive and focuses on improved results, you shouldn’t feel bad about it. Instead, use the feedback as fuel to refine your work and create incredible results.

Start accepting criticism like a winner by following these steps:

  • Don't let your emotions get the best of you

A calm mind is the first requirement for handling criticism. A raging sense limits your capacity to think objectively. Don't interrupt an argument, even if you disagree at times. Instead, take deep breaths to calm your nerves and postpone the conversation to a time when you're in a relaxed state.

  • Ask questions to seek clarity 

While dealing with criticism, it’s crucial to keep the communication to the point. Ask questions that add clarity to the discussion. It keeps the criticism constructive and helps you benefit substantially from the feedback.

  • View criticism as a challenge to overcome, not an excuse to retaliate

The way you handle criticism matters more than the criticism itself. Remind yourself that your critic is here to help you improve rather than belittle you. Evaluate the critical points rather than reacting negatively to their perception.

  • Acknowledge the critic’s efforts in providing insight

It takes courage to give genuine feedback, mainly when that feedback differs from your perspective. But on the other hand, expressing gratitude helps foster understanding and prevents conflict.

  • Avoid taking the criticism personally

When dealing with criticism, it's important to view it rationally. You're not perfect and making mistakes is a normal human tendency. If you take feedback personally and let it get to you, it will hinder your ability to take it in stride and grow.

Final Words

To thrive in this competitive world, you must learn how to handle criticism. When you receive feedback in your life, view it as an opportunity to grow. A critic becomes your ally when you accept their viewpoints as opportunities for growth. The ability to receive criticism without taking it personally is a skill that will allow you to live a happier, more successful life.

Civil Discourse

social media echo chamber|

August 16, 2022

How to Break Out of the Social Media Echo Chamber?

Social media is an integral part of modern life, giving every person the opportunity to share their thoughts with the world. Unfortunately, people tend to surround themselves with content that aligns with their perspectives and beliefs, making it easy for them to avoid viewpoints that differ from their own and effectively create a social media echo chamber.As algorithms become better at showing you content that fits your preferences and past behavior, they can also limit your worldview.

What is an Echo Chamber?

Everyone picks a side. You choose heads or tails, and you root for it: the same goes for online opinions. You tend to favor one side, regardless of how well-balanced your behavior is. Social media then bombards you with content that validates your confirmation bias.Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret information in a way that conforms to your existing beliefs. It is more prominent when emotions are attached to opinions, as on social media. Social media can create an echo chamber by providing versions of the same information that reinforce each other.Algorithms restrict your access to opposing perspectives, which can stifle the scope for civil discourse or productive exchange of ideas.

What are the Consequences of Social Media Echo Chambers?

Here are some severe consequences of being in an online echo chamber:

  1. Unintentional alliance in spreading fake news
  2. Lack of original ideas
  3. Absence of challenging viewpoints
  4. Less scope for knowledge growth
  5. Limitation of problem-solving abilities.
  6. Polarization and division between social groups

Why is it Important to Break out of the Comfort Zone of Like-minded People?

When you constantly surround yourself with people who agree with you, it's easy to create a bubble in which you don't hear dissenting opinions. Unfortunately, this can lead to heated arguments and strained relationships.We see this trend on social media often, which can harm our understanding of the world. People fight in the comments, spread misinformation, and surround themselves with people who harbor similar opinions. This is why it's vital to break out of this pattern.The first step is to recognize that you're in an echo chamber. The next step is to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is the content shedding light on only one side of the issue?
  2. Is there concrete evidence behind the viewpoints, or are they based on rumors?
  3. Does the content take facts or statistics into consideration?

If you find your content consumption pattern one-sided and constantly bashing the other side, it's time to break free of your filter bubble. Of course, you don't need to abandon your ideologies completely, but stepping out of your filter bubble will feel liberating.You miss out on multiple growth opportunities by staying in an echo chamber. Once you start thinking outside the box, you unlock various benefits of listening to diverse opinions, such as:

  • Getting enough information from both sides to make a fair judgment
  • Letting go of your need to be right all the time
  • Opening yourself up to new learning opportunities
  • Not basing your ideas on someone else's perspective

How to Break Out of Your Echo Chamber

If you want to expand your perspective and break free from the comfort of echo chambers, try these strategies to find and listen to the opposing side of the story:

  1. "Like" everything

Don't pledge allegiance to any side on social media. Instead, engage with conflicting posts to feed your algorithm that you like everything, so you'll get recommendations from all facets. This way, you'll be exposed to various viewpoints, even if it goes against your confirmation bias.

  1. Be mindful of who you follow

Your favorite creators might be biased and not present a balanced outlook on both sides. An easy way to find their leanings is to see who they follow and who follows them. You'll undoubtedly find a common thread of ideology and confirmation bias in their posts.

  1. Sort chronologically

Instead of relying on the algorithm to feed you content, set your feed to view content chronologically if possible. This will allow you to see the latest posts irrespective of whether your circle agrees with them—and it may also help you get acquainted with differing perspectives on the matter.

  1. Give space to emerging voices

Don't just stick to the same creators. Instead, keep finding new voices and following them. Everyone has unique stories that lead them to where they are. In understanding their' whys,' you add diversity to your feed and may find reasons behind popular internet debates.

  1. Seek out opposing viewpoints

It isn't easy to consume the content you disagree with, but by following people with varying views, you can find knowledge across the spectrum. In addition, you create a healthy balance of diverse opinions by beefing up your social media content sources.

  1. Read everything with a critical viewpoint

Question what you read and hear. Don't share anything without verifying it first. Seek out the source of a news piece before passing it along to others. Never rely solely on social media for information; confirm what you hear or read with various sources. If a post sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  1. Talk, don't mute

Don't let your desire to avoid conflict lead you to silence others whose views differ from yours. On the contrary, by engaging civilly with people whose opinions differ from your own, you will gain the knowledge and understanding necessary for productive conversations.

  1. Manage your anger

Seek evidence, not just your own belief or opinion. Respect those who present facts and figures. Keeping calm is more effective in putting your message across in any disagreement.

Is it Worth Breaking out of Your Social Media Echo Chamber?

Social media can be an excellent opportunity to find new jobs, gain recommendations, and build connections. But it's not all sunshine and roses. You need to be aware of pitfalls—how to avoid confirmation bias, for example, or how to get over your attitude of always being right.To gain a broader perspective, you must take active steps to welcome opposing views.

  1. Be humble and recognize that you don't know everything. Be open to new ideas and opinions.
  2. When someone makes a statement contrary to your own opinion, don't be so quick to dismiss or scorn it.
  3. Identify and reflect on the biases you may harbor to gain a more objective perspective.
  4. Research opposing viewpoints when you need to challenge your ideas.
  5. Learn to identify the most common types of fake news.
  6. Respect the human on the other side of the screen before making offensive or harsh statements.

Avoiding an echo chamber is not about avoiding opposing viewpoints. Instead, the goal is to use empathy and civil discourse to bring people together in meaningful dialogue, even when you have differing opinions. Try the steps above to keep your social media feeds balanced. Remember that everyone has a different idea of what's essential, and keep an open mind.

Civil Discourse

how to improve time management

October 6, 2022

Tips For Time Management When You Are Overloaded

If you're like me, you never seem to have enough time in the day. Despite scheduling everything down to my morning meditation on my calendar, some days I still feel like I can't get it all done. 

Whether you’re a self-motivated entrepreneur or a high school student, it can be tough to find an effective time management practice.  In fact, research shows that 82% of people don’t have any time management system at all.  One of the most important lessons I've learned while building companies is that practicing time management can save you a tremendous amount of stress. Time is a precious commodity. Entrepreneurs who are busy growing their businesses need to maximize every moment of their day. 

Read on to find out more about the importance of time management and how to improve your skills.

What Is Time Management?

How can some people get so much done during the day? The answer isn’t that time works differently for them—it’s that they have mastered time management. Time management is the process of planning and delegating a specific amount of time to spend on certain activities.  Rather than spending "as long as it takes" on each individual task, you create a schedule in which you decide ahead of time how long to spend on each area.

The Importance Of Time Management

It takes practice to improve your time management skills.  In order to stay motivated in your time-management efforts, you should learn about the benefits that successful time managers gain by consistently practicing their techniques. 

Here are a few benefits for practicing effective time management:

  1. Increased opportunities

People who don't manage their time well miss out on opportunities that are available to those who plan effectively.  Proper time management means less time wasted on non-essential activities, which can open you up to opportunities to engage in meaningful experiences that help advance your career.

  1. Less stress

Whenever we find ourselves running up against the clock, stress ensues.  When you can manage your time properly, you’ll find you meet deadlines with plenty of time to spare. This will help you avoid the stress of letting your responsibilities slide, which can lead to tense situations with coworkers.

  1. More goals accomplished

The better you manage your time, the more you can accomplish.  During the time you would otherwise waste, you could do any number of things–take an online course to learn a new skill, spend time with family, or even take on additional projects at work.

  1. Improved reputation

People know who they can rely on, and who they can't.  You want to be the person that others turn to for help, advice, and assistance.  With the right time management strategies, you can establish a reputation as someone dependable and trustworthy.

  1. Reduced burnout

Burnout can come from taking on too much work and not enough rest, but it often finds its roots in poor time management.  While time management can help you become more efficient, it also requires that you schedule in the necessary amount of downtime to ensure you’ll be mentally and physically healthy enough to carry the burden.

Consequences Of Poor Time Management

You can be busy without being productive. When you lack time management skills, you may find that the busier you are, the less you actually achieve. Struggling with time management is associated with higher levels of stress, insomnia, depression, and other mental health issues.  You’ll need to learn how to improve time management if you want to avoid burnout and inefficiency.

General Tips For Better Time Management

Here are some of the best tips I’ve learned for mastering time management, building a more organized schedule, and achieving your goals:

  1. Set regular goals

Setting regular goals for yourself will provide you with direction and motivation throughout the day.  It’s easy to languish when you don’t know what you’re doing, but if you set specific and achievable daily goals, each new accomplishment will serve as a reinforcement.

  1. Choose your priorities carefully

Time management isn't about doing everything at once. It's about prioritizing your activities and making choices that will help you achieve the outcome you want. Prioritize your activities from highest to lowest priority, then divide out the amount of time spent on each accordingly.

  1. Take plenty of breaks

I always schedule breaks into my day, a practice that prevents me from burning out. If you schedule a short break between each activity—even if it’s just a 10-minute walk—you won’t get overwhelmed and decide to break from your schedule.

  1. Stay organized

Scheduling out your day can keep you focused on what's important. I use Google Calendar, but there are lots of ways to manage your time and tasks. Experiment with different systems and find one that works for you. The act of crossing things off the list can be a powerful motivator to keep going when you want to quit.

  1. Limit your time

Decide how much time you'll spend on a project—and then do your best to stick to that amount of time.  If you're ahead or behind schedule, adjust accordingly.  Once you get used to estimating how long something will take, you'll be less likely to take on tasks that are too much for you.

  1. Get rid of non-essential tasks

Time is a precious commodity you don’t want to waste.  If you find that you’re spending a large chunk of each time on something unnecessary, it’s in your best interest to cut it from the schedule.  The more of these tasks you rid yourself of, the more time you’ll have to achieve your goals.

  1. Plan, plan, plan

If you leave time management until the last minute, it becomes that much more difficult to stick to a schedule.  Plan ahead by writing out a loose schedule for yourself at the beginning of the week and refining the next day’s events the night before.

Time management can be hard to master.  You need to practice daily if you want it to become second nature.  Just as you must practice civil discourse and other social skills, you’ll need to practice time management on a regular basis if you want to enjoy its numerous benefits.

Civil Discourse

understanding people

October 4, 2022

8 Crucial Rules To Understanding People

Conflict comes from many sources, but nothing fuels conflict like a misunderstanding.  When you fail to understand people, you experience conflicts, embarrassing social gaffes, and frustrating emotional upheavals. The skill of understanding others is an important part of being an empathetic person, and it will take you far in every area of life.  In order to help you develop this skill, I’ll explain what it really means to understand another person and what tips will help you become more understanding of people.

What Does It Mean To Understand People?

It can be incredibly difficult to appreciate and accept those who are different from us, but our relationships with others will always be more authentic and fulfilling when we understand them.  But what does this mean, exactly?  

Truly understanding people requires more than just listening politely.  It requires you to give your full attention; to listen not just to what they say, but to watch their body language; to shelve your own assumptions and maintain an open mind.  We as a society have recognized the need to understand the people we disagree with, but few people are skilled at putting this into practice.

Why Do People Struggle To Understand Others?

If you struggle to make sense of your surroundings, it doesn’t mean that you are a highly flawed person. Everyone experiences mental hurdles that make it difficult to understand people, which is why practice is necessary in order to develop social skills. Our brains have a tendency to dismiss anything they don’t understand and change others' words into our pre-existing worldview. In order to change, we must practice and dedicate ourselves.

I've learned many valuable and interesting things that help me make sense of the world around me. But with this knowledge always comes the temptation to make assumptions, and you know what they say about assumptions. I work regularly at being present, mindful, and attentive in order to keep my skill of understanding others sharp.

8 Tips To Being More Understanding Of People

To understand people, you need to master certain skills. Here are eight tips to help you develop those skills:

  1. Put in the effort

Understanding people can be difficult. Like any skill, it takes time and effort to achieve. Before every interaction, take a moment to ground yourself and remember your desire to understand the other person rather than simply to be understood.

  1. Never assume anything

The assumptions we make can seem like harmless fillers for the blanks in our knowledge, but they can also obscure our view of reality.  Ask questions to seek more information; it's better to clarify something the other person has said than to wrongly assume a different meaning.

  1. Keep an eye on body language

Remember to focus closely on whomever you’re talking to and pay attention to their body language. Watch for clues about their stress level and posture, which can reveal important information about what they are saying. If someone seems nervous or stressed, ask follow-up questions to get more information.

  1. Stay present

Our minds wander all the time, but when you’re talking to someone, try to stay present.  If you don’t pay attention, you could miss words or gestures that lead to confusion later on.  Focus on what the other person is saying instead of rehearsing what you’re going to say next.

  1. Employ mindfulness techniques

Mindfulness is a practice that can help you be more present. Try incorporating meditation into your daily routine to give yourself time each day to slow down and be aware of your body. You can practice these techniques before important interviews or meetings to ground yourself and make it easier to pay attention.

  1. Practice civil discourse

The key to understanding is to listen carefully and with an open mind.  Civil discourse allows you to have conversations about sensitive topics without losing your cool or shutting down.  When you’re engaged in a conversation about a heated topic, try to set aside your judgment and listen with an open mind.  Refrain from interrupting the other person and try to listen for the content of what they’re saying.

  1. Understand personality types

People perceive the world in different ways, and the way that you operate may not be the same way that your colleagues operate.  When interacting with someone who is behaving in a way you don’t understand, try to evaluate their personality type.  Are they introverted or extroverted?  Type A or type B?  If you see their way of doing things as different rather than wrong, this can help you to set aside assumptions of malice or incompetence.

  1. Cut others some slack

We all make mistakes from time to time. When we’re the ones making the mistake, we know that we didn’t mean any harm. But when others make mistakes, it’s easy to rush to judgment. We need to forgive others and slow down before rushing to judgment ourselves.

Understanding other people is not just a gift for them; it also benefits you. The better you understand other people and their motivations, the more genuine your relationships with them will be and the less likely you are to feel resentment or discord. If you make an effort to improve your skills at understanding others, then you’ll give yourself the opportunity to grow on a personal level, build more fulfilling relationships with others, and boost your self-esteem.

Civil Discourse

body language

October 3, 2022

Body Language - Read The Unspoken

We often underestimate the impact of body language. The things we convey through our nonverbal communication can be more influential than the words we speak. Sure, we can tell our boss we’re more than happy to work late on a Friday, but our frown and slumped shoulders reveal that we’d rather be at home. Our body language reveals what we’re really thinking, whether it’s intentional or not.

When polled, most experts agree that 70-90% of communication is nonverbal.  How we use our bodies when we talk can have a big impact on how others perceive us, how receptive they are to our thoughts and ideas, and how willing they are to converse with us.

Read on to find out more about how the way you move helps or hinders communication, and what you can do to improve your body language.

What Is Body Language?

Body language encompasses any of the nonverbal signals that we use to communicate.  This can be a physical behavior such as crossed arms as well as a facial expression such as a grimace.  It can even be certain mannerisms that we don’t even know we’re making, like a twitching eyelid or shaking hands.  We all know the importance of body language in something as important as a job interview, but what about conversations with our friends?  Parties?  Networking events?  Do we pay enough attention to other people’s body language, or even our own?

Think about the last time you were on a first date.  Did your hands shake?  Did you find yourself reaching for your glass over and over, taking sips of water to quell your nerves?  Were your arms crossed in a defensive posture to help you subconsciously feel safe?  All of these body language examples express what our words may not.  Anyone who is well-versed in body language will be able to read between the lines.

Why Is Body Language Important?

As human beings, we’re naturally curious.  We want to know what other people have to say, especially if they don’t want us to know what they’re thinking.  To that end, the ability to read body language is a powerful asset in achieving your goals.  People who are good at reading body language can foster better relationships, collaborate well with others, and shine in their careers.

When you can read other people’s body language, you might be able to:

  • Deduce what someone else is thinking
  • Negotiate a better raise
  • Leave a lasting impression on a date
  • Create trust in relationships
  • Offer better guidance and support to those in need
  • Become a better leader

If you struggle with body language, there’s no need to worry.  There are many ways to learn how to improve body language through practice and a bit of effort.

How To Keep Your Body Language On Point

It is important to learn how to read other people's body language, and it is equally important to understand your own. If your body language does not match what you are saying, you run the risk of creating distrust.  Some people are innately able to read body language, but others have to learn it as they would any other language.  Body language is one of the keys to effective communication, so becoming an expert in it is a worthwhile endeavor.

Tips To Excel In Body Language

Here are a few steps you can take to improve your body language:

  1. Practice self-awareness

One of the first tips for body language is to practice being more self-aware.  We all have subconscious habits that we don’t even realize we’re doing: nail biting, finger tapping, teeth grinding.  But in order to improve your body language, you need to be aware of what your body is signaling to other people.  The next time you’re in a conversation with someone, keep an eye on what your body language is doing.  You’ll learn what your habits are and which ones you may need to curb.

  1. Straighten your back and relax your shoulders

A straight back and relaxed shoulders signal that you’re open, calm, and interested.  If your shoulders are slumped and your back curved, people may think you’re tired or worn down.  If your shoulders are raised, then this sends signals that you’re nervous and stressed.  If you find yourself doing any of the above, focus on straightening your back and relaxing your shoulders to put forth an air of calm control.

  1. Take deep breaths when feeling nervous

We can’t control when we feel nervous, but we can control how we react to it.  When we’re nervous, our breathing often becomes shallow.  This can cause us to feel even more nervous and enter fight-or-flight mode.  If you find yourself feeling nervous, take deep breaths to calm yourself down and bring yourself back to center.  A good guide for deep breathing is to breathe in for four seconds, hold it for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, and hold it for another four.  Then repeat this as many times as needed until you feel calmer.

  1. Practice mindful listening

Mindful listening will help you train yourself to practice more open body language.  If you’re focused on being a mindful listener, then you’re engaging in eye contact with the other person and using body language to show that you’re listening.  This means nodding, smiling, and doing other things that encourage the other person to keep speaking.  When you’re focused on these behaviors, there’s no room for negative body language to get in the way.

  1. Be engaged with civil discourse

Oftentimes our body language becomes negative when we experience unwanted emotions.  Engaging in civil discourse allows you to tackle tough conversations without letting your emotions get the better of you.  This means listening without judgment, allowing the other person to finish speaking before responding, and speaking honestly in a neutral tone.  When you make civil discourse a way of life, you become fluent in controlling your body language.  This is true no matter how emotionally charged the topic of conversation.

  1. Study other people’s body language

We often learn best by mimicking other people.  Whenever you meet someone who you think exudes confidence, take a look at their body language.  What nonverbal communication is giving off a sense of confidence and calm?  Is it their posture?  Their facial expression?  Unwavering eye contact?  Try and practice those same nonverbal gestures to improve your own body language.

  1. Don’t forget to smile

This body language tip is one of the more nuanced tips on the list.  Smiling too much can appear inauthentic, but not smiling at all is a surefire way to turn off the other speaker.  Smile whenever you’re introduced to someone for the first time, and continue to smile at regular intervals during the conversation.  In addition to nodding and small verbal encouragements, a smile is the perfect way to show that you’re engaged in the conversation.

Body language is as complex and nuanced as any other language. It can be used to communicate, to express our thoughts, feelings and emotions.  But we often don’t recognize the messages our bodies are sending out. By following these body language tips, you’ll improve your own body language and become better at reading everybody else’s.  Once you’ve mastered your body language skills, you’ll be surprised what a difference it will make in your life.

Civil Discourse

social leadership

October 2, 2022

What is Social Leadership?

Leadership used to mean a powerful presence and the ability to inspire others. But today, in the age of collaboration and transparency, leadership is also about building trust among your team members. It means sharing your own vulnerabilities as well as demonstrating vulnerability by listening closely to others' ideas. And it’s not only about achieving results—it's about helping others achieve theirs.

My journey as a founder has led to me being in leadership positions for a variety of teams, and I’ve had to learn hard and fast just how much of an impact a leadership style can have on employees. The emotional and empathetic leadership style of a social leader focuses on building strong relationships within the team, which has a direct impact on their collaboration and communication skills. 

With a focus on social leadership, I’ve learned that we can create a positive work environment by utilizing emotional intelligence to create trust and respect among employees.

What is Social Leadership?

Today's workforce is changing, and the traditional leader is being replaced by a new type – the social leader. The type of leadership we're talking about here doesn't rely on position or title; instead it's about emotional intelligence, relationship skills, and service-oriented behaviors. Leaders who lack these qualities will struggle to motivate their employees in today's workplace, where people are looking for meaning and purpose from their job.

Social leaders have a vision for where their company will go. They don't force their team members to follow orders, but instead listen and question people's methods to help them perfect their approach. As a social leader, you focus on the bigger picture and track all departments to know where you're heading as a company. You create a better tomorrow for yourself, your employees and customers.

What are the Characteristics of a Social Leader?

Dedication to the cause: All social leaders have a genuine desire to help others. They are willing to invest in their community and give everything they have in order to make a difference. They also tend to be motivators, who inspire others with their passion for their work.

Successful social leaders exhibit some common characteristics. 

They care. Social leaders are focused on the people around them. They create an environment where employees feel valued and supported. A great social leader has a strong desire to help others succeed, while also helping their business achieve its goals.

They communicate. Social leaders know that great communication is vital to driving engagement, and therefore, the success of their team. They are excellent communicators and are able to build rapport with their team members. They know how to separate important topics from non-essential ones and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

They collaborate. While your team may come from different backgrounds and cultures, we all share the goal of doing great work. Without teamwork, our efforts would not be possible. Social leaders know the importance of teamwork and are always looking for ways to improve team dynamics. They understand that no one is an island and know how to get the best out of their team by working together.

They’re self-aware. As a social leader, you know that what you do determines the people you lead and the culture of your team. In order to understand and develop yourself in an ongoing way, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Managers who are serious about growing their leadership skills set aside time to ask themselves questions like, ‘What do I need to work on?’, ‘Is there someone else who can help me with this?’ and ‘Do I really want this job?’ It can be hard at first, but asking yourself these tough questions often leads to positive change!

They’re people-oriented. Social leaders see their business as a family, not merely a corporation. Because they focus on the people, not just tasks or goals, social leaders understand that strong relationships are the key to a successful team. They work hard to build trust and rapport with their employees so they can get great results from people who actually enjoy working together.

They’re vulnerable. Vulnerability is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness. While this might seem risky, it's actually a great way to build trust with your team. By being open and honest, you'll create a more open, honest working environment that allows for all ideas to be heard and understood.

Civil Discourse to Promote Social Leadership

Leading with civil discourse is a way to create open and informed dialogue. It allows for candid discussions, which support innovative thinking and acceptance. It ensures that everyone can be heard.

Social leaders can leverage the tenets of civil discourse to promote their leadership style by:

  1. Actively listening to all opinions before concluding.
  1. Acknowledging any resistance to ideas and understanding counterarguments.
  1. Respecting diverse opinions to achieve a common understanding.
  1. Trusting individuals with their unique creative processes.
  1. Approaching all matters with a positive mindset by fixating on the ultimate goal.
  1. Communicating emotions in a safe space without prejudices.
  1. Accepting criticism to expand their scope for improvement.

If you want to keep your team motivated and engaged, you need to help solve its conflicts in a civil manner. By practicing civil discourse, you can resolve just about anything and everything related to workflow and productivity.

The traditional workplace is on its way out. In today's market, social corporations are paving a new way forward with people-first leadership practices. These companies are built on the social skills that make their employees happy, productive, and innovative. Social leadership is the difference between an average workforce and a high-performance team.

Civil Discourse

social skills

September 30, 2022

Social Skills In Social And Work Life

Your skills are what set you apart from the competition. Depending on your industry, you might need hard skills like social media management or user experience design skills. Or, you might find that soft skills like negotiating and a high work ethic will get you far. No matter what industry you're in, social skills are always going to be important.

People who are good at social skills, such as communication and emotional intelligence, tend to have more successful careers. In 2018, 42% of all workers held jobs in which social skills are the most important.  What follows is a guide to developing the most important social skills for developing your career. 

Everyone could benefit from improving their social skills no matter who you are or how confident you feel. While I have learned many skills during my time as an entrepreneur and founder, I believe that nothing would have been possible had I not worked on cultivating my social skills. Improve your skills and change your life by following these tips.

What Are Social Skills?

Social skills are the abilities we use to communicate with other people. Our tone, body language, and written communication (including emails) all fall under this umbrella. When we communicate with others—whether at work or with family and friends—we’re developing our social skills.

Your social skillset encompasses countless different skills. These are just a few examples:

Effective communication

Effective communication involves the ability to get your point across clearly and concisely. It also means being able to receive information in a way that ensures you understand exactly what’s being said to you.

Conflict resolution

Being able to handle conflict is an important skill for anyone to possess.  We all have disagreements at times, but being able to resolve them peacefully will keep both parties satisfied. 

Active listening

Active listening is the ability to listen to another person in a way that allows them to know they’re being heard. This can include open body language, nodding, and verbal acknowledgments.

Empathy

If you genuinely understand the feelings of others, it makes it easier to connect with them and build a relationship. Empathy means taking into account other people’s sensitivities and avoiding stepping on toes.

Cooperation

Not everyone is good at working with others.  It’s important to learn how to work as part of a team, sharing equal responsibility of the work and uniting towards a common goal.

Why Are Social Skills Important?

When you have social skills, you develop the ability to connect with others, interact and build relationships. This is an essential component for success in all areas of life, not just your career. 

Many doors will open and more opportunities will present themselves when you can effectively communicate with others by understanding their needs, desires and concerns. Being social is important, and it can open a whole world of possibility. Here's why you should work on your social skills:

Improved communication

When you have good social skills, you become a better communicator.  You learn how to communicate your wants and needs to those around you rather than waiting for them to read your mind and give you what I want.  I know how to make requests in a way that acknowledges the other person’s time and expertise, rather than demanding or hinting at what I want.

Better relationships

Not only will your relationships improve when you have good social skills, but they may even grow. The better we are at working with others, the more that people are drawn to us.  I've been able to open countless doors because I took the time to establish good relationships with the right people.

Access to a wealth of information

Through close relationships, you can also learn valuable information. I've learned how to ask and how to listen from people with different areas of expertise. When you have good social skills, you gain new ideas, techniques, and perspectives that can enhance your own.

The ability to help others

It’s not always about what we can do for ourselves—sometimes the path to success lies in what we can do for others. I share my perspective and help others succeed; this helps me succeed too.  A rising tide lifts all boats. It’s been my experience that if you help other people, they will help you when you need it.

Less conflict

Conflict hurts everyone involved, which is why the ability to resolve it is such a crucial part of being a leader. By developing my social skills and minimizing conflict in my relationships, I have been able to become a more effective leader. This allows my teams and I  to remain united in achieving a common goal instead of getting sidetracked with minor disagreements.

How To Improve Social Skills

There are a few ways you can learn how to develop your social skills.  This includes:

  1. Look for areas of growth

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Start by determining where there’s room for improvement in your professional life and practice those skills. For example, if networking isn’t your strong suit, attend events and give yourself the goal of talking to at least 10 people. The more you practice, the better you’ll become.

  1. Solicit feedback

Asking for feedback is a great way to find out if you are improving in areas you’re interested in. You can ask your colleagues to give you regular feedback on how you’re doing and what they think your priorities should be.

  1. Seek out mentors

Seek out people who have the qualities you want to possess and learn from them. Anyone in your life can be a mentor if they possess the social skills you’d like to have for yourself. Ask them questions about how they nurture these skills and find ways to practice them yourself.

  1. Practice civil discourse

Civil discourse is a powerful social skill.  Practice it by engaging in difficult conversations with honesty, respect, and structure.  Listen to others with an open mind, and try not to interrupt while they're speaking.

  1. Keep on track

Improving your social skills requires continuous effort. Evaluate your skills and look for ways to enhance them by observing others who are great communicators and by learning from them.

  1. Play to your strengths

Don’t ignore the social skills you already have.  Find ways to use them on a regular basis to strengthen them even further.  People will respect you for your strengths and become more willing to forgive your weaknesses.

  1. Target your weaknesses

Don't give up on a skill you want to attain simply because you are unfamiliar with it. Make a list of the skills you want but don't have and make a goal for yourself of improving each of them, however slowly.

Civil Discourse

team collaboration

September 29, 2022

What is Team Collaboration?

As a founder, one of the most important things you can do is to build a strong team behind your vision. Without the right people and a solid team in place, your startup will struggle to grow or realize its goals. Fostering collaboration is the key to building a stellar team. When your team members work together towards a common goal, they achieve remarkable results.. Focus on fostering collaboration among your team by:

  • Encouraging transparent communication
  • Holding employees accountable
  • Inspiring active team participation
  • Building trust among team members

Focusing on these things builds a problem-solving team committed to overcoming obstacles. Teamwork can mean the difference between success and failure. Here's a guide on what team collaboration means and how it can benefit your company.

Collaboration is a great driving force that can help your business develop and proliferate. It's based on establishing healthy communication among employees and results in increased productivity, better problem-solving, improved morale, and a positive effect on overall performance. It helps employees learn from each other, problem solve more efficiently, break down communication barriers and see the larger company picture.

What are the Components of Collaboration in the Team?

Keeping collaboration alive in a team with diverse viewpoints can be difficult. It’s especially hard in remote teams, where people often don’t meet in person or bond over things outside of work. Emotional connection is critical in building collaboration; when lacking, there’s less motivation to collaborate. Unfortunately, this makes it easy for people to judge others’ beliefs and kills the collaborative spirit. That’s why you need to create a civil environment where everyone can be themselves without fear of ridicule. 

 Here are some components that can help you achieve team collaboration:

  1. Communicate to build trust

Trust is essential to team-building. It helps people understand each other and get insight into their mindsets. Managing a team becomes effortless when everyone trusts each other. A united team can bring unique projects to life.

  1. Conduct civil discourse to accept varying viewpoints

Everyone has unique experiences and interprets things differently. This can lead to internal conflict if your team lacks tolerance for diversity of thought.

As a leader, you need to foster an environment that allows people to discuss their ideas and respectfully disagree with each other. This will enable them to share their ideas and find common ground freely.

  1. Empathize to bring the team together

Empathy is a vital factor in keeping a team intact. It helps people understand the rationale behind others' actions. In addition, empathy is a human emotion that helps people form bonds with one another. This bonding leads employees to respect each other more and work together as a team toward the company's shared goals.

  1. Practice transparency while making decisions

As a leader, you should not keep your team in the dark about company policies, business framework, revenue, and other pertinent information. Keeping them informed will help them stay focused on their job and less likely to worry about hidden agendas their superiors might have.

Transparency is a powerful tool for collaboration. It allows teams to identify obstacles to collaboration and work together to eliminate them. It also makes it easier to consider coworkers’ needs and interests when making decisions.

Benefits of a Team Collaboration

It’s no secret that collaborative teams are more successful than others. You must make collaboration central to your company’s culture to experience growth. These are just a few of the many benefits of collaboration in a team:

  • Enhances productivity among members

Collaborative teams work together for the success of the project. By doing this, they save time, energy, and other resources. In addition, each employee plays their part in accomplishing the goal as a team. This reduces the workload on individual shoulders and enhances the team's productivity.

  • Uplifts employee engagement and satisfaction rate

Workplace collaboration improves employee satisfaction rates, making employees feel supported, empowered, and comfortable doing their bit to reach the goal. In addition, this creates room for healthy discussions where everyone can engage, brainstorm ideas, and learn from each other.

  • Boosts employee’s confidence to innovate

In a cooperative workplace, people feel free to experiment with creative ideas. This nurtures their risk-taking abilities. In addition, every challenge presents an opportunity for them to learn, implement, and think out of the box.

  • Nurtures the well-being of employees

At its core, team cooperation is about building an emotional connection between employees, which makes them feel relaxed and comfortable. This enhances workplace morale and contributes to the company's success.

Collaboration drives businesses. It's based on establishing healthy communication among employees, resulting in increased productivity, better problem-solving, and overall performance. All these have a positive effect on your company's growth in the long run.

Civil Discourse

letting go of ego

September 28, 2022

Letting Go of Your Ego: 6 Steps

Today, the word ego is thrown around casually. Many people use it to mean "self-interest," but ego means something entirely different in psychoanalytic terms. Ego refers to one's sense of identity. It is also referred to as the self-concept, a collection of beliefs that come up when one asks the question, "Who am I?"

The ego is difficult to define because it is made up of many different beliefs that a person acquires over their life, and those beliefs can be contradictory. Essentially, your ego is a self-constructed identity that often includes a name, personality, and story. It's based on memories, beliefs, ideas, and sensations about "who you are," "where you came from," "what you're good and bad at," and "what you've experienced."

What Truly is Ego?

Ego is the Latin word for I. In philosophy, it refers to your' self.' It's your belief about who you are. You slowly build this self-image with time, and as you grow, it grows with you too.  

It starts with thoughts like, "I am great at coding," and includes inhibitions like, "My colleagues don't like me." You build your self-image by having both negative and positive perceptions. The problem begins when your mind gets overly negative or positive in constructing that image. 

In the professional world, this becomes, "I have performed well this year, and I deserve a promotion." Your ego takes a hard blow if you don't get that promotion. 

When you practice reflective activities like meditation, you get closer to the spiritual idea of ego. It manifests into a small voice in your head that tells you what you're worth. 

Jim Carrey eloquently summed it up in his commencement address at the 2014 M.U.M. graduation, “If you listen to the ego, there will always be someone who’s doing better than you. No matter what you gain, ego will not let you rest. It will tell you that you cannot stop until you've left an indelible mark on the earth until you've achieved immortality. How tricky is this ego that it would tempt us with a promise of something we already possess?” 

Letting go of your ego can be a difficult task, but if you’re feeling tired or worn out by ego-driven decisions or thinking, it may be time to start letting go.

How Can You Tell Whether Your Ego is in Charge?

Your ego is sly. At first, you may not notice that your ego has taken over.

If you've noticed that friends and colleagues are taking steps to avoid your energy, it may be time to take a hard look at yourself. Are you exhibiting any of these behaviors?

  • You always pitch your ideas but discredit other people's contributions.
  • You take on tasks as a challenge to be won.  If you’re not winning, you lose interest. 
  • You don't attach much value to experimenting, learning, and growing.
  • Your feelings get hurt at the slightest pretext.
  • You're not open to criticism.
  • You feel the need to be right in all arguments.
  • You find reasons to feel superior to others on every occasion.
  • You're jealous of other people's success.

How to Let Go of Your Ego

The ego-self wants attention, acceptance, validation, approval, and love from others. As a result, you get attached to your version of the truth. You must take conscious action to let go of your ego in order to make room for other realities.

Here's a practical and actionable approach to follow:

Learn to forgive and forget.

  • The most effective way of eliminating ego is by forgiving, forgetting, and moving on. Forgive everyone's mistakes, and most importantly, forgive yourself. Don't beat yourself up for not excelling in a few things; at least you're trying your best.
  • Don't let your ego get a boost when you prove people wrong. Break this cycle by not fighting with people just to win, and start by not participating in arguments that are useless.
  • Exercise empathy and make purpose-driven decisions.
  • Accept responsibility for your actions. When you’re not looking to blame someone else, you’ll feel happier and more content.

Break out of your echo chamber with civil discourse.

  • Participate in discussions without dominating the conversation. 
  • Practice civil discourse to respectfully listen to and understand diverse opinions. 
  • Ask for permission before interjecting into any conversation.
  • Politely present your opinion without disregarding anyone's experiences. 

Introspect to see when your ego takes dominance.

  • Ego is destructive only when you don't know it's in action. 
  • Take responsibility. Understand which circumstances trigger your ego-driven reactions.
  • Maintain composure when you feel hurt or things don't go according to plan. 
  • Stop trying to control people. Offer suggestions adhering to civil discourse.

Practice mindfulness.

  • Take a deep breath and pause. Ground yourself by paying attention to your surroundings.
  • Meditate to still the mind and free yourself from mental chatter.
  • Live in the moment. You can choose to bring an open, accepting and discerning attention to everything you do. Find joy in simple pleasures.
  • Be thankful for everything you have. Start maintaining a gratitude journal. Write three things that you're grateful for every day.

Beat your inner voice.

  • Don't give in to your ego even when it plagues you with negative thoughts.
  • Build courage. Don't be afraid of taking a leap of faith.
  • Focus on character development. Attach more value to the core intent rather than superficial emotions. 
  • Always strive to learn more from every experience.

Accept the pros of having an ego.

  • Your ego is a part of who you are. It doesn't have to be entirely negative. Manage your ego such that it never gets dominant over your other rational emotions.
  • Through introspection, you can even leverage your ego to stay away from pain and negative feelings.
  • Be true to yourself and don't suppress your emotions. Have honest conversations with those around you.
  • Let go of the absolute need for perfection. Keep your ego under control and exercise it to deliver the best you can. 

Embrace Your Independence From Ego

It's as important to exercise your mind as it is to exercise your body. Once you get out of your head and start accepting a broader perspective, you break free from ego. The journey of letting go of your ego is not easy, but it's a fulfilling one.

Remember: you are not fighting against your ego. If you try too hard, your ego will only become more assertive. So instead, add more gratitude, compassion, humility, and politeness to your demeanor. Keep at it, and soon you can break free of your ego as subtly as it had crept into your life.

Civil Discourse

September 27, 2022

How to Show Respect to Others

We all have different views, but respecting each other's opinions is essential to maintaining positive relationships. Don't be disrespectful when you encounter someone with a different idea than yours; engage in dialogue. 

Life is full of abstraction, and people have many different ways of interpreting what's happening around them. Why not use this to your advantage and learn and understand new perspectives? Respect pays off. You're likely to get the same in return if you respect others.

A Note on Self-Respect

As the saying goes, “Love begins at home.” Respect is no different. A healthy level of self-respect enables you to set firm boundaries. It means knowing what you stand for and what your values are and being accepting of both your strengths and weaknesses. 

When you respect yourself, you dare to say “no” to people and situations that are hurtful or detrimental to your well-being. It’s a prerequisite for making mature decisions that impact your life and the lives of others connected to you. Respect begins with you but has the potential to spread outwards into better interpersonal relationships.

Examples of Respect to Others

Imagine you’re talking to someone, and they keep interrupting you, cutting you off in the middle of your sentences, imposing their thoughts on you, and trying to convince you that they’re right. You won’t enjoy the conversation and will likely avoid interacting with this person again.

A lack of respect alienates people. Respect in your social interactions will keep bridges from burning with essential connections.

Here are some examples of how to show consideration and respect towards others:

Mindful listening

Mindful listening requires you to be completely engaged in a conversation. Listen carefully, process what you hear, and respond appropriately. You can reflect mindful listening through your body language by:

  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Asking questions
  • Expressing assent or disagreement through civil discourse
  • Offering a conclusion to the conversation

Respect starts with careful listening. 

Affirmations

By affirming others' viewpoints, you let them know their voice matters. In addition, you show your appreciation for their effort by saying something positive. This helps start a healthy conversation.

Try saying things like:

  • "You're very hardworking, and it reflects in your work."
  • "It must have been hard to deal with, but it's great to see your progress."
  • "I've been through a similar situation, and you're dealing with it better than I did."

It is possible to respect someone even if you don't agree with all of their ideas. Validating the positive encourages better discourse in the future.

Compassionate Behavior

Compassion is an expression of respect for others. It helps you understand other people’s situations and needs, even if you haven’t been through similar problems yourself. With kindness, you evolve into a generous, well-respected person.

People remember the small acts of kindness you extend to them. They are more likely to respect you if you show compassion even when they least expect it.

Polite Conduct

Politeness costs you nothing and yet is so rare in today’s society. Yet, a few polite words can uplift the spirit of a fellow human being. Nothing communicates respect more eloquently than politeness.

Gratitude

When people support you, express your thanks. Take the time to show appreciation for all that is going well in your life and the lives of others. When we express our gratitude, it not only changes us psychologically but it also changes the world around us.

Empathy and Respect

Respect leads to empathy. It shows you’re willing to forgive people’s mistakes and respect who they are. The same is valid for self-respect.

You accept your flaws and work towards getting better, but never thrash yourself for any mistake. We all are at fault sometimes. Be empathic towards yourself and the people around you. 

How to Be Respectful in the Workplace

A respectful workplace is necessary for a solid team to perform at its peak. The morale and productivity of employees rise when they feel valued and heard.

Here are some ways to show respect for your colleagues in the workplace:

  • Smile and communicate with kindness.
  • Encourage your coworkers to express their opinions.
  • Don’t exhibit negative body language like dismissive facial expressions, eye-rolling, or shrugging.
  • Accept your mistakes and apologize heartily.
  • Participate in constructive conversation.
  • Exercise your emotional intelligence before responding to any situation.
  • Include everyone in discussions and let them speak.
  • Praise others’ efforts without restraint.

How to be Respectful During an Argument

It’s not easy to be kind and considerate during conflicts. But you can learn to stay respectful with continuous practice. 

  • Talk in a way you’d want others to speak with you. 
  • Adopt a solution-oriented approach. Don’t seek fights.
  • Understand where the opposition is coming from and succinctly explain your reasons. 
  • Don’t focus on winning. Focus on understanding a new perspective and resolving the issue. 
  • Speak calmly without raising your voice.

You can use civil discourse to listen to differing opinions and respond empathically. Civil discourse is a strong proponent of coexisting thoughts despite disagreements. It's my go-to tool for resolving conflicts in my professional and personal life.

Respect can have a significant impact on people's lives. It can bring people together or tear them apart. We all want respect but often struggle to give it, especially in the online world. Because of the lack of real-life interactions with social media, it's easy to feel disconnected. Disrespect can happen easily with online communication. But giving respect is a powerful tool for improving relationships around you on and offline.

Civil Discourse

how to improve communication skills

September 12, 2022

4 Ways To Improve Your Communication Skills

When a leader thinks about effective communication skills, they’re focusing on the different ways in which we give and receive information. The ability to communicate is essential in all fields, but nowhere is it more vital than in the workplace. If you can't communicate effectively with other people, you will create unnecessary problems and be much less effective at what you do.

Have you ever had a boss you knew would give you their undivided attention and honest feedback? Conversely, have you ever had a boss whose feedback was vague and unclear? I've encountered a wide range of communicators during my journey as an entrepreneur, and I've tried to learn lessons from all of them. 

Communication with others can take many forms. Whether you're in an in-person meeting or sending a quick email to your boss, it's essential to communicate effectively and respectfully. Here are four ways you can be a better communicator.

  1. Be clear, brief, and specific

Communication is all about getting your point across. You risk being misunderstood if what you’re saying or writing is unclear, vague, or overly wordy. Be as clear and as concise as possible to get your point across. You should also be as specific as possible; avoid unnecessary words or overly descriptive language that can muddle or weaken your message.

  1. Always be prepared

Before you make a phone call, begin a presentation, or send an email, you should have a plan. No one appreciates having their time wasted, so go in with all of the information you need close at hand. If you’re dealing with a client, try and anticipate their questions so you can be ready to answer them. If you’re in a meeting or on a phone call, write down notes to refer to during the conversation to help guide you.

  1. Give your undivided attention

We all live busy lives, full of people who demand our attention at any moment. I’ve learned the importance of giving each task my full and undivided attention while building three companies. If you try to send an email to your boss while on the phone with a client, you may find yourself inattentive to both conversations. Always give your full attention to the other person, listening closely, and responding only when you feel you have heard everything they say.

  1. Don't be afraid to ask questions

Communication is a two-way process. If you’re unsure about something someone has said, never presume their meaning. It’s always better to clarify with a question than to misunderstand. Follow up with an email after a meeting to confirm that you have all the necessary information.

Tips To Improve Face-to-Face Communication Skills

While we've all been in meetings that could have been handled better via email, face-to-face communication is still the best way to hold meaningful discussions with others. Here are several tips for improving your communication skills during face-to-face conversations.

Although we may wish otherwise, not all conversations will be pleasant or lighthearted. You may have to fire an employee, have a difficult discussion with your boss, or disagree with your colleagues during a meeting. Practice civil discourse by speaking truthfully and respectfully while allowing others to disagree.  Avoid the temptation to lose your temper or interrupt the other person.  As long as you speak truthfully and listen to the other person’s point of view, it is possible to have difficult conversations civilly.

  • Practice active listening

When it comes to improving communication skills, listening is equally as important as speaking.  Practice active listening by giving the person speaking your complete attention.  Don't interrupt them, and make eye contact if possible.  While the other person is speaking, don't spend time formulating your own response; instead, take a moment once they’ve finished considering what you’d like to say next.  When you reply, paraphrase what they said to ensure you understand it.  Ask questions if you need more information before responding.

  • Focus on nonverbal communication

Language is just one of the ways in which human beings communicate.  Our body language can share many things that our words do not, from our facial expressions to the gestures we make.  If you’re a manager leading a meeting, be mindful of your employees’ body language.  While they may not say anything to raise a concern, they may be communicating discomfort or disagreement through crossed arms.  Be mindful of your nonverbal communication, as you want your body language to match your message.

  • Ask for honest feedback

Giving and receiving criticism can be awkward for both parties, but feedback is critical to personal growth.  To encourage others to communicate freely, ask for honest feedback when needed.  Most people will say what’s on their minds when given an invitation to do so.  The more you ask for honest feedback from your colleagues, the more you’ll learn how to improve your communication skills.

Civil Discourse

conflict management styles

July 27, 2022

A Guide to Conflict Management for Leaders

The best leaders neutralize workplace conflicts, making sure their team doesn’t lose sight of the company’s long-term goals.  Leaders often deal with conflicts with clients, employees, and other stakeholders. A strong ability to manage such conflicts can help a leader succeed. I used to fear that conflicts would grow in my team if I didn't address them immediately. Now, I've learned two things:

  • Focusing on preventing workplace conflicts can be a waste of time. Human beings are social creatures, and as such, we're bound to clash over differences.
  • Conflicts aren’t necessarily as bad as we fear them to be.  Conflicts can be growth opportunities, provided they are handled well.

After I learned how to manage conflict, my approach toward it completely changed.

What is Conflict Management?

Conflict management is the process of tackling disputes and the lack of consensus between individuals or groups.  The purpose of conflict management in a workplace is to learn to deal with disagreements effectively before they escalate into large disputes.  When conflict management styles bring team members together, they can find common ground and work towards a solution.Consider your conflict management style successful once you reach a mutually acceptable decision, whether through compromise, mediation, or collaboration. Remember that solving all fights and issues with the same conflict management style is impossible. You should be equipped with diverse conflict management tricks to judge and resolve each situation accordingly.To become an expert at conflict management, instill the following values in your team:

  • A growth mindset to encourage deriving a lesson out of every situation
  • A non-defensive attitude during arguments
  • Mindful listening to hear and process all perspectives
  • Emotional intelligence to empathize with everyone
  • Civil discourse to understand the disagreements

You must also find a balance between your assertive and collaborative reactions. Your initial response to disputes at the workplace should be determined by how assertive vs. collaborative you need to be in each case. This process will ensure smooth reactions in all situations.

5 Styles of Conflict Management

Leaders need to have some basic conflict management skills to tackle all kinds of conflicts.  Different styles of conflict management are employed depending on the gravity of the situation and nature of disputes. Some conflict-management strategies prioritize interpersonal relationships over any other factor involved. Let's familiarize ourselves with my top five go-to conflict management styles:

  1. Accommodating style
  2. Avoiding style
  3. Compromising style
  4. Competing style
  5. Collaborating style

These are the components of the  Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. It's one of the most effective teamwork-improving tools available that help you establish conflict grounds and guides to conflict resolution through negotiation techniques.

  • Accommodating Style

The Accommodating Style is best for conflicts that aren’t too big and when time is of the essence. If you don't think a dispute is worthy of your time, energy, and efforts, then you can resolve it by readjusting your side. It might seem like you're losing your ground by simply letting things be, but it’s quite effective for smaller conflicts. You accommodate the other person's perspective and compromise your personal interests. This reduces the risk of straining your relationship with a team member. For all the times when you don't want to be assertive and just need to resolve an issue immediately, go for the accommodating style. Pros: This conflict management approach allows you to solve problems immediately and project yourself as a decisive and empathetic leader.Cons:  You should not try this technique to solve bigger problems without first considering all sides of the issue.

  • Avoiding Style

The Avoiding Style of conflict management involves putting off dispute resolution until it's absolutely necessary. It can be smart to put off resolution for small conflicts until you've run out of other options.This style of conflict management works great when the involved parties need some distance from the subject. You let them cool off and then start a discussion to resolve issues. This will give them the time to gain perspective and headspace to have an open dialogue.Pros:  When the boss adopts an avoiding style, employees start to respect their manager more. Time and distance can work as great healers.Cons: If you avoid problems and their consequences, they won't go away. Some employees may also see you as weak or ineffective if you delay dealing with situations instead of facing them head-on.

  • Compromising Style

The Compromising Style is a win-win situation. Both parties aren’t adamant about their perspective, and they are capable of reaching a mutually-agreed decision. This is a simple conflict management style when both sides are willing to put in the effort and find a solution before proceeding with further work.The compromising style is commonly used when both sides have valid arguments. The project can be benefitted from both ideas if only they compromise a little on their ends.  This conflict management style involves putting relationships above all else, and disagreements take a back seat. However, this technique is not ideal for legal situations or industry compliance. If compromising can stir widespread discontent, there will be no point in using this method.Pros:  Compromise creates a strong foundation for relationships. The decisions are made quickly, and both sides have a part of their demands met in the process.Cons: Even though both parties make sacrifices, one party may feel exploited during the negotiating process. This can create resentment and anger in some employees.

  • Competing Style

When it's time to put your foot down and make a decision, the Competing Style offers a straightforward approach. It doesn't give too much weight to other people's opinions and values and makes self-interest a priority. This conflict management style is ideal in situations where you've already made up your mind and don't want to waste time debating.Competing Style is a conflict management tool that involves holding your stance against all odds and refusing to budge, even when others disagree. It is best used when you need to take a firm decision beyond popular consensus.Pros: When you make a firm decision, it reflects your competence and courage. You can use this move to create a good first impression, but only after considering all other factors.Cons: The biggest drawback of this method is you risk a bad reputation if your decision is wrong. You will also seem like a tyrant who doesn't listen to the people around him or her, but despite this drawback, your decision yields excellent results.

  • Collaborating Style

The Collaborating Style of conflict resolution relies on factoring in the concerns and requirements of all parties involved. It also involves clear communication and mindful listening so that managers can figure out a win-win situation and resolve workplace conflicts.This style demands more time and energy investment but the results are worth it. It requires hours of dialogue and meetings to reach a solution, but that conclusion is most effective. This should be the ideal conflict resolution tool for new managers who want to foster a collaborative environment.Pros: Everyone is happy and this lays the foundation for a strong and collaborative relationship. Cons: It is a long process and requires great commitment. It can be difficult to take time and energy out for collaborative conflict resolution from our busy schedules.

Test Your Knowledge of Conflict Management

What's your go-to conflict management style? Take a simple quiz to find out.In this quiz, the rate on a scale of 1 to 5 based on how strongly you resonate with the following actions. 1 is least likely and 5 indicates you're most likely to follow suit.

  1. I can analyze all aspects of a conflict and understand all points of view.
  2. I believe in myself and enjoy presenting my case until I win.
  3. I don't feel good during conflicts. I actively ignore them.
  4. I prefer discussions during a conflict to reach a solution.
  5. I always look for a middle ground in conflicts.
  6. I won't disrupt peace just to argue and get my way.
  7. I don't waste time in conflicts. I fix a problem and move on.
  8. I keep my disagreements to myself instead of sharing.
  9. I take great satisfaction in winning a conflict.
  10. I don't want to waste my energy in arguments when I can agree with everyone and relax.
  11. I don't like to stay near conflicts.
  12. I’m happy to negotiate with people so everyone wins.
  13. I want to stand true to everyone's expectations.
  14. I believe it's best to keep talking until we resolve a conflict.
  15. I know I'm right and I'll stand by it until everyone realizes the same.

Tally your scores with to see the conflict management style you tend to rely on:1, 4, and 14 are collaborative styles3, 8, and 11 are avoiding styles6, 10, and 13 are accommodating styles2, 9, and 15 are competing styles5, 7, and 12 are compromising styles

Civil Discourse as a Method to Manage Conflicts

Besides conflict management styles and techniques, I actively practice civil discourse in my personal and professional life. I define civil discourse as a productive dialogue exchange where people mindfully entertain diverse opinions and stay respectful. The real essence of civil discourse is in understanding everyone's perspective without any preconceived notions coloring our judgment. By mastering this clever art of agreeing to disagree, you stand by your perspectives while paying due respect to everyone else's opinions. This approach has helped me create a dynamic team, launch successful start-ups, and steer clear of grave internal conflicts. Here are some of my tried and tested civil discourse principles:

  • Listen actively

Civil discourse is not a veiled attempt to change people’s minds. Passive listening and nodding are not conducive to healthy communication, as they encourage more of the same from others; it’s all about expressing your opinion and listening to other perspectives. Practice patiently listening to someone else’s point of view and ask them to repeat if you miss anything. By mindfully listening to someone else, you make them feel heard and accepted.

  • Be receptive to diverse opinions

It is human nature to be biased. I understand that when I am communicating with others, my own biases play a role in how I react to their comments and ideas. In order to keep an open mind and listen more intently, I remind myself that my cognitive bias is always at play.

  • Convey value-adding opinions

Dialogue and debate are essential to civil discourse. However, it is important to understand that there is a difference between simply listening to others and having an open mind and going back to square one.

  • Be critical and accept criticism

Engaging in civil discourse doesn't mean you must accept others' opinions without criticism. You can be critical of others' ideas without using negative language. At the same time, prepare yourself to offer criticism even if you don't receive it.

  • Use assertive language with a regulated tone

I try to always be assertive in my language and moderate in my tone. All the participants listened attentively, responded to me, and considered my points. It can be tricky to make sure that you come across as confident and not utterly rude; so use polite gestures and body language to complement your confidence.

  • Present facts and figures

Practice civil discourse and back up your arguments with facts and statistics to become more persuasive. Focus on explaining yourself instead of getting drawn into arguments and personal attacks.

  • Demarcate your boundaries

While there are no hard and fast rules in civil discourse, you should define your boundaries at the start of any interaction. If certain topics are off-limits to you, disclose that early on. Remember that everyone has different limits and that everyone deserves respect.

Conclusion

A conflict is only negative when you don't know how to make the best out of it. Conflicts and disputes present an opportunity to learn and open up lines of communication. Use this chance to recognize your team members' motivations, understand their strengths, and develop a practice of civil discourse in your workplace.If some raging topics persist, follow the five effective conflict management styles:

  • Accommodating style
  • Avoiding style
  • Compromising style
  • Competing style
  • Collaborating style

These techniques will help you move past conflicts and create your ideal workspace brimming with productivity, but keep in mind that conflict management is only a temporary fix.  When all the team members value mutual respect, awareness, transparency in communication, and mindful listening, every business conflict can be resolved permanently. Start today and strive to build a thriving community with values of civil discourse.

Business and Leadership

Mindful Leadership

July 20, 2022

What Does It Take to be a Mindful Leader?

Mindfulness is the quality of being conscious of everything that’s happening inside and around you - maintaining a present awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and environment.People assume it comes with age, but in truth, mindfulness can be built with practice and instilled into your mindset at any age. I consider it to be an invaluable trait, irrespective of where you are in your career trajectory. But if you’re an entrepreneur, manager, or team leader, mindfulness can work wonders to translate your business targets into reality. Mindful leaders are not easily triggered by external events or swayed by emotion. They’re fully present in the moment and process their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and opinions with clarity. As a leader, being mindful is a powerful asset that allows you to have a clear vision and set well-defined expectations from your team. This inspires your team to be more solution-oriented and aligned with the company’s goals. Let's shed some light on mindful leadership and why you should consider putting it into practice.

What is Mindful Leadership?

Leaders today often tackle simultaneous challenges on a daily basis, and when you wear many hats, it’s inevitable that you’ll face overwhelm, stress, and burnout. That’s where mindfulness comes into play. Approaching chaos with a mindful mentality can be a liberating experience.A mindful leader’s presence, awareness and empathy can help them inspire and motivate their teams in an entirely new way. So how can you develop the qualities of a mindful leader for yourself?Let’s dive into some actionable steps.

Characteristics Of a Mindful Leader

Mindful leaders exhibit some unique traits that set them apart from others. To establish a mindful leadership culture in your organization, here are three characteristics you must pursue:

  • Presence

Bonding with your employees is pivotal to achieving a common goal and inspiring action. Being mindful will allow you to be more present while interacting with your team, and it opens the door to showing true compassion. When you’re able to fully direct your attention and focus on someone who’s speaking to you instead of letting your mind wander to emails, your to-do list, or an upcoming presentation, people will take notice. Being present in conversation goes a long way, and you might be surprised at how much more easily you bond with your team when you’re mindful during your interactions.

  • Flexibility

Having a flexible mindset is essential to being a mindful leader. When you embrace contradicting opinions that challenge your beliefs, it creates a collaborative ground for everyone to contribute their ideas. Conducting civil discourse is an amazing way to foster exchange of opinions to approach a common ground, and can help you be more open to others’ views and perceptions.

  • Authenticity

Authentic leaders show up as their true selves and are able to participate fully and honestly with their teams. Making an effort to show up as your authentic self is about accepting that you are an imperfect human who is simply trying to do their best. In the hustle culture we live in today, this can be a refreshing change that creates the space for you and your team to do your best work.

Why is Mindful Leadership Essential for Success?

Mindful leadership is imperative for productive teamwork. When leaders are in tune with their team and actively guide them to find effective solutions, the company grows exponentially. Here are a few reasons why mindful leadership is beneficial

  • High level of emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence stands tall on the two pillars of empathy and self-awareness. Self-awareness helps  you remain conscious of your feelings and allows you to respond presently to a challenging situation. Empathy allows you to acknowledge your team’s efforts genuinely and encourages them to give their best shot. 
  • Improved decision-making: Emotions tend to cloud our decision-making abilities, but mindfulness is a great way to keep your head clear. Smart decision-making results in better business acumen. Using a solution-oriented approach drives your business to higher pedestals of success. 
  • Enhanced innovative thinking: Creative thinking is a skill that’s often overlooked in the workplace. As a mindful leader, you’re able to create an innovative environment by encouraging people to think out of the box. Being mindful also helps you accept failure and move past it without dwelling on it for long.

Civil Discourse And Mindful Leadership

Civil discourse in the workplace is pivotal for executing collaborative ideas and solving complicated issues. When employees get the green light to express their perspectives freely, it paves the way to productive discussions. Here are some ways you can use mindfulness to incorporate civil discourse in your team:

  • Actively listen to each team member’s opinions.
  • Ask questions to understand their stance before expressing disagreement.
  • Disagree respectfully with counter points, without demeaning anyone.

As a mindful leader, you need to take the first step towards implementing these civil practices in your meetings. Lead by example and provide support for your team members if they’re struggling to take a mindful approach.

Final Words

As a purpose-driven founder, I strive to be mindful as often as I can. I've found that it teaches me to pay attention to the present moment, recognize emotions and keep them under control, especially when faced with highly stressful situations. I'm more aware of my own presence and the ways I impact other people, which goes a long way. When you’re able to both observe and participate in each moment, while recognizing the implications of your actions for the longer term, it prevents you from slipping into a life that pulls you away from your purpose.

Business and Leadership

Conflict Avoidance

July 18, 2022

How Leaders Can Overcome Conflict Avoidance

Imagine a situation where one of your team members frequently interrupts you in meetings. They build upon your premise, take credit for your ideas, and steal your thunder. What would you do?You have two choices:

  1. Confront the person and share your concerns with them. This approach may lead to a conflict.
  2. Avoid the conflict, let them have their way, and silently withdraw

If you choose the first option, you can use strategic conflict management styles for a productive confrontation. Humans, however, often tend to avoid conflict at a biological level, especially if there are any substantial repercussions. Most people who gravitate towards polite conversations will go for the second choice and dodge a dispute. But leaving anger unaddressed can be more dangerous than you think.

What is Conflict Avoidance?

Conflict avoidance is the quality of avoiding confrontations with other people by hook or crook to maintain a false sense of peace. People often sweep issues under the rug with the good intentions of not disrupting harmony. Common ways to avoid a conflict include 1) changing the subject; or 2) simply agreeing to a contrary opinion without putting forth your genuine concerns. The problem with this approach is that the issue doesn’t go away if you don't talk about it. While avoidance sometimes seems like the easiest way to deal with conflict, in the long run, you'll still suffer. The issue will likely continue and lead to recurring frustration and stress which can seep into your personal life.  When you run from conflict instead of addressing it directly, you're compromising your true feelings and storing up frustration that can negatively affect your health.

What Causes Conflict Avoidance?

Understanding the underlying causes of conflict avoidance requires a bit of psychology and introspection. While the root cause of avoiding conflict will differ for everyone, if you've been told in the past that your opinions are not valuable, you’ll probably be reserved about sharing them in the future. If you’re not sure whether you fall into the category of being “Conflict Avoidant” this short quiz can help you determine where you stand:

  1. Do you compromise your opinions just to avoid a fight?
  2. Are you afraid of disappointing others?
  3. Do you change the direction of conversations to get away from disagreements?
  4. Are you often the “calm one,” but you have a tendency to accumulate grievances and then let them out all at once?
  5. Do you frequently think about unresolved issues and yet don't take any action towards their resolution?
  6. Are you afraid of facing backlash over your thoughts?

If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you have definitely dodged conflicts in your life. Asserting your opinion can seem scary or unnerving, but it's worth it to build the confidence to face conflicts effectively.

Why is it Unhealthy to Avoid Conflicts?

No matter how much you enjoy being the “nice person” at work who never rocks the boat, conflict avoidance isn’t going to help you progress. Being calm and patient is a virtue, but compromising your true feelings and holding on to resentful emotions isn’t a healthy approach. Continuous conflict avoidance can lead to depression and loneliness. Bottling up your emotions can feel isolating and lead to a loss of trust with your team, hindering your professional growth. Is avoiding a conflict really worth losing so much? It might seem like the right way to go about things, but in the long run, conflict avoidance comes at a significant cost.

Being Open to Conflict through Civil Discourse

Most people find it easier to put off a difficult discussion until it's absolutely necessary to deal with, but great leaders can't effectively lead a workforce by consistently dodging conflicts. Be prepared to face severe consequences if you routinely practice conflict avoidance, like:

  • Strained communication between your team
  • Diminishing team spirit and trust
  • Low productivity
  • High employee turnover

Getting over conflict avoidant behavior starts with internalizing the belief that conflict is an unavoidable aspect of life and that the right approach can help you make conflict a productive event.When there are no disagreements, people become mere followers of commands and lose their innovative and creative zest. This doesn't mean everyone should yell, blame, demand change, and refuse to negotiate. There’s a middle ground, and I believe the key to reaching it is by practicing civil discourse. Civil discourse encourages respectful expression and fosters a better understanding of situations from all sides. When you face a conflict, instead of avoiding it, you strive to find a solution. Leverage civil discourse to unlearn conflict avoidance in relationships and the workspace by:

  • Concentrating on the issues in real-time

There's no need to beat around the bush. You can take endless time to ruminate over conflicts, but it requires courage to address them immediately. Start by stating facts about issues as they occur.For example: “I was also an active participant in this project, but it was disheartening to find my name missing from the first draft of the report. I'd appreciate it if my name is also mentioned in the next revision.”

  • Creating opportunities for open dialogue

Be open to unambiguous and respectful dialogue with everyone. Address all emotions in the workplace first-hand instead of avoiding conflicts. It's the leader's job to foster a healthy environment where all teammates are comfortable voicing their opinions. Share your experiences with conflict and create opportunities for open dialogue.For example: “If you're facing any difficulties, my doors are always open. Let's talk it out before it reflects on our working styles.”

  • Changing your stance on confrontation

Disagreements don't automatically translate to fights. It's not always about being right and proving someone wrong. Confrontation and conflict resolution also reflect taking a stand for yourself and demanding accountability for everyone's actions. There's nothing wrong with confronting someone and calling for respectful discussions. Keep in mind that a confrontation now can save you from bigger problems later.For example: “Whenever you're free, can we finish our discussion on the new lunchtime policies? I have a few points to add that may bring a fresh perspective to the matter.”

  • Setting safe boundaries

Boundaries play a crucial role in maintaining civil discourse. No one should resort to personal attacks or destroy the office decorum. If you disagree with someone, you can explain your side and help everyone see your perspective without being disrespectful. For example: “I won't raise my voice throughout the discussion and will mindfully listen to you. Can you please do the same for me?”

  • Keeping communication channels accessible

Many people stay silent if they’re hurt and avoid conflict. Don't shut everyone out when you're going through something and keep the communication channels accessible. Recognize your emotions and express them openly. Let others come to you for resolution even if it leads to disagreements. With civil discourse, you can solve your conflicts, but the first step is to move past conflict avoidance.For example: “I have some ideas that contradict your views. Should we have a 1:1 meeting the discuss them?”

  • Safeguarding your mental and emotional well being

Accepting your emotions also makes you aware of their intensity. Instead of giving in to anger, look at the situation through a lens of compassion. This way, you can safeguard your mental and emotional well-being without getting reeled into impulsive fights. Gain your composure and ask for a conversation to resolve a conflict.For example: “I'm feeling understandably frustrated about this right now. I’ll set up a time to discuss it after I’ve cooled down.”

Conclusion

Conflict is a sign of growth, and some form of it is a normal part of our personal and professional lives. It’s okay if you never learn to be completely comfortable with confrontation and difficult discussions, but learning to communicate through them to resolve issues is imperative for your personal growth. Look beyond the little roadblocks and keep making progress. Remember, smaller disagreements prevent bigger ones and are far better than avoiding conflicts completely. Own your fears and take a stand for yourself – that's the beginning of every leader's journey.

Business and Leadership

supporting team|resolving conflict at workplace

July 13, 2022

How to Support Your Team as a Leader

Leadership takes many forms and can be described by a multitude of definitions, but one thing remains true for great leaders across the board: Leaders translate visions into reality. Strong leaders are essential to success in any industry. As long as you have people who are inspired to do their best work, you can accomplish just about anything. The single most important factor in our knowledge-based economy is human capital, and if you want to be successful, you need people to stay inspired.Leaders play a vital role in providing the motivation, inspiration and direction that teams need in order to progress toward a common goal.  Leadership matters now more than ever, but in order to be an effective leader today, we need to shift from the old power-driven leadership model to a new way forward.  Supporting your team now requires a focus on purpose, inspiration, and a desire to care for your people. While building three companies (The Doe, Audo, and Guin Records) with diverse teams, I’ve learned that if you want to inspire and support your teams to work together for the greater good, you have to lead by example.

Why A Supportive Atmosphere at the Workplace Important

Supporting employees helps leaders build a more positive work culture and brings great results for your company. If you provide ample guidance, acknowledge talents, and trust your team members, the results will be reflected in your company’s overall growth.  A supportive atmosphere in the workplace can lead to several benefits, including:

  • Enhanced confidence and collaboration

When people of different skill sets and experiences come together as a team, they learn from and motivate each other. Such an environment makes everyone feel heard and respected. It develops fruitful collaboration.

  • Improved creativity and productivity

In a supportive work culture, people conduct civil discourse to share their ideas, brainstorm, and appreciate each other's uniqueness. This makes every team member feel valued and instills in them a sense of responsibility to do meaningful work. This further cultivates every member’s creativity and productivity which brings great results for the company in the long run.

  • Fewer stressful conflicts

People who encourage each other at work form a positive team. The employees don't hesitate to put their best foot forward and discuss their strengths and weaknesses openly. This enhances the team’s overall performance and decreases workplace conflicts.

How to Support your Team as a Leader?

Creating a supportive atmosphere for the team should be among your biggest priorities as a leader. Your attitude toward projects and routine tasks builds your reputation in the team and motivates them to give their best. Here’s how to offer the best support to your employees:

  • Engage in frequent and empathic communication

Empathic communication brings your employees together and cultivates productive teamwork. It’s important to conduct frequent team meet-ups to keep everyone informed about their roles and expectations. The process of sharing ideas, feedback, progress reports, etc. must be included in the meetings. The key to conduct insightful team collaboration involves practicing  civil discourse . This allows people to constructively state their varying viewpoints without resorting to personal attacks.

  • Be available to resolve employee challenges

Be accessible to your employees whenever they need to discuss, seek advice, or clear doubts related to fulfilling their responsibilities. A healthy work environment requires leaders to make time for their employees. Your presence to support the team irrespective of a busy schedule showcases your ability as a capable leader. The team members feel valued and supported at every step. This ensures a positive work culture and better growth of the company.

  • Conduct mentoring sessions to help employees up-skill

Helping your employees learn and grow is one of the prime qualities of a leader. You must provide learning opportunities within the workplace to target professional development. Conducting 1-on-1 sessions with teammates helps you understand their expertise and shortcomings. You can also guide your team by encouraging them to exchange insights. This will increase team collaboration and push everyone to work to the best of their capabilities.

  • Encourage employees to express their unique perspectives

Inclusivity is one of the most effective ways to support your employees in the workplace. As a leader, you must create a civil environment for everyone to share their ideas freely. When everyone feels accepted as a part of the system, they cheerfully participate in brainstorming sessions and push themselves to come up with innovative ideas. This approach also helps overcome challenges faster and brings the company one step closer to success.

  • Help team members in prioritizing tasks

As a team leader, you must be clear on which tasks to delegate to whom in order to fulfill the vision.  Effective planning and time management will help you prioritize team tasks. If everyone follows a proper sequence, helps each other out and hustles, they'll meet every deadline. The role of a leader plays a crucial part here in developing a culture of harmony within a team.

  • Provide valuable feedback

Check in periodically with your team to review their progress. When employees receive consistent feedback from their leader, they feel supported. Praising members for their efforts  and acknowledging their strengths motivates employees to push their limits.

  • Use break-time to build a personal bond

Building relationships with co-workers is essential to developing understanding. Leaders can utilize their break time to bond with employees. When you spend quality time with your team apart from work, they feel valued and supported. This ultimately facilitates a trusting and open work culture while boosting the team’s productivity and confidence.

  • Set realistic goals

Thriving in this competitive world is possible when you push your team’s limits with every new project. By the same token, understanding your team's bandwidth before assigning tasks is crucial to reaching goals. You can introduce a few challenges which help your employees learn and grow. But the team must not feel overburdened with too many tasks simultaneously. Support your team members by setting realistic targets and encouraging everyone to collaborate and assist each other.

  • Build emotional intelligence

Developing emotional intelligence is imperative to fostering a cooperative work environment. The ability to control your emotions and to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others is a soft skill that allows you to actively manage your team’s emotional triggers and needs.

  • Focus on empowering others

Empowering every team member is one of your key responsibilities as a leader. Trust your employees’ potential and encourage them to ideate, process, and execute a task on their own. To convey your trust on the team, delegate responsibilities without micromanaging every aspect.  When you’re ready to help employees grow, they will be ready to give their best.

What to Avoid While Being the Supportive Team Leader?

The best leaders know how to follow certain practices that discourage negativity and keep the team moving in the right direction. Here are a few practices every leader needs to avoid:

  • Avoid playing favorites within a team

Being supportive doesn’t mean being biased towards members you get along with. Such behavior degrades the company’s work culture. To genuinely support your team members, establish cohesion among them.

  • Be transparent in your demeanor.
  • Provide equal opportunities to everyone.
  • Take feedback on your leadership role from someone with more experience than you.
  • Don’t rely on false assumptions while making decisions

As a leader, you must be able to make decisions for your team. You need to understand each person's opinion and then consider them before coming to a conclusion. If you make decisions based on assumptions while neglecting members’ perspectives, they will likely feel demotivated and unappreciated. Here’s how you can make better decisions as a team leader:

  • Focus on promoting a collaborative work culture.
  • Listen to employees' concerns to provide solutions.
  • Conduct timely reviews and provide genuine feedback.
  • Be mindful and self-aware to promote the well-being of the team.
  • Avoid taking all the responsibilities by yourself

Leaders often make the mistake of doing all the work by themselves. This shows a lack of faith towards your employees and leads to burnout. Not only does it leave you overburdened, but it closes the door to creativity and innovation in your team. To consolidate your role as a leader, here are some helpful tips to follow:

  • Conduct meetings to discuss projects constructively.
  • Ask questions and seek mutual solutions.
  • Consider other member’s suggestions, ideas, and opinions.
  • Encourage members to take responsibilities that push them to their full potential.
  • Never respond with anger or frustration

It’s natural to get upset when your team isn’t performing as expected. But responding in such a state of mind will only make things worse. As a leader, you have to be aware of your emotions while fulfilling your responsibilities. Reacting to an employee's mistake without understanding the ground issue isn’t the best way to support your team. Here’s what to do instead:

  • Take time to process the situation and get a hold of your emotions.
  • Don’t criticize the employees by attacking them personally.
  • Think objectively to reach a better conclusion while reducing stress and friction.

Final Words

Being a leader is not just about being in charge, it’s about being an example for your team to follow. If you want your employees to follow you with blind trust, then you need to support them in the workplace and help them foster a positive, healthy work culture where they can thrive.A great leader focuses on finding opportunities, solving problems and keeping everyone feeling motivated and inspired. Implementing the above-mentioned tips will help you support your team, build a successful company, and make a lasting impact.

Business and Leadership

resolving conflict at workplace|supporting team

July 12, 2022

How Great Leaders Deal With Arguments

Conflict is inevitable when you're a leader. It's how you handle conflict that will determine whether you grow and propel your people forward, or disrupt momentum and divide the team. When it comes to team conflict, the faster and more effectively you deal with it, the better your chances will be for a positive outcome. I see team-building as a process of conflict and collaboration. It's the combination of these two things that leads to strong relationships and creative solutions in the workplace.  If you want to get the most out of your employees, you should know that conflict can be a great motivator. Here's how:

  • Constructive conflict encourages civil discourse and open communication.
  • It instills a problem-solving approach, thus fostering collaboration among teammates.
  • Constructive conflict ensures transparent communication between all stakeholders throughout the corporate ladder.
  • It welcomes out-of-the-box ideas to keep the organization growing.
  • Constructive conflict helps in avoiding frustration and suppressing resentment due to pent-up issues.

Companies can empower teams through conflict. In order to resolve workplace issues and leverage them for boosting employee productivity, you need smart decisions and swift action.

Causes of Workplace Conflict

The first step to resolving conflict in the workplace is understanding the underlying causes of the dispute. Some common reasons behind workplace conflict include:

  1. Poor leadership skills in the senior management and team leads.
  2. Bad communication patterns within the team.
  3. Inadequate training at the beginning of the job, leading to unequal contribution and unfair expectations from team members.
  4. Unclear job roles and designations.
  5. Lack of resources like tools, software, and machines required to complete a job.
  6. An unsupportive work environment where the employees see no growth.
  7. Employees’ resistance  to change due to fear or uncertainty.
  8. Unequal opportunities for all employees.
  9. Workplace politics or favoritism from leaders.
  10. Unfair competition between employees to achieve a higher position.
  11. Workplace bullying, harassment, and personal threats to safety and health.
  12. Work-induced stress that generates negative emotions like anxiety and lack of concentration.

What are the Consequences of Workplace Conflict?

As an entrepreneur, I am always striving to build teams that stay motivated and share my passion for achieving purpose-driven and impactful goals. I often ask my teams to speak up and challenge a point of view if they don’t agree (yes, even mine!) but this can sometimes lead to conflict. As I’ve mentioned, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: it’s all in how you manage it. Poorly managed conflict can lead to some undesirable consequences, such as:

  1. Unmotivated staff - It’s natural for employees to feel stressed and have low morale because of unresolved conflicts in the workplace. When a disagreement goes on for too long, employees feel concerned about their role and future in the company and may lose motivation.
  2. Poor internal communication - Conflicts create distrust and group politics within an organization, further weakening internal communication.
  3. Low productivity - When employees put most of their energy into engaging in conflict, it leaves them with zero to no time or energy to get work done.
  4. Degraded KPIs - As the productivity rate goes down due to disputes, companies fail to achieve their key business objectives, ultimately hurting their growth and revenue.
  5. Mental health issues - Continuous arguments trigger mental health issues like anxiety, depression, loneliness, and poor self esteem
  6. Absenteeism - Employees who can’t afford to leave their jobs tend to take frequent leaves if conflicts become a norm. They feel the need to take some time off and recover from burnout.
  7. Employee resignations - A toxic work culture accelerates employee resignations due to mental stress and frustration.
  8. Bad public perception - If the workplace conflict goes public, it creates a bad image of the company. It can put off prospective clients, future employees, and impact the judgment of loyal customers.
  9. Wasted resources - Time is the most valuable resource for any growing company. When ugly conflicts arise, companies stand to incur a lot of wasted time in the form of conflict resolution sessions, therapy, settlements, lawsuits, etc.
  10. Brunt on revenue - Conflicts have financial repercussions too. The negativity impacts the customer experience, and a hostile work environment leads to massive staff turnover, leading to additional costs to hire and train new employees.

Keeping these concerns at bay, when a strong leader utilizes civil discourse to resolve conflict, they can turn workplace disputes into a positive experience. Some ways this could transpire are:

  • Empathic communication - If employees acknowledge a problem and sit together to discuss it, they can understand each other's perspectives. This makes conflict resolution in the workplace easier.
  • Emotional sharing -  Civil discourse  gives employees the opportunity to express their negative feelings respectfully by avoiding any pileups.
  • Creative problem-solving - When employees are motivated to resolve workplace conflicts, they come up with unique solutions and creative ideas to tackle the problem.
  • Civil approach - Constructive conflicts can bring teammates together, allowing them to understand all kinds of opinions. They can trace it back to the root of miscommunication and resolve their conflict through civil discourse.
  • Identifying the leadership spirit - At times of crisis, new leaders are born. Team members can exhibit leadership skills during conflict and emerge as strong leaders in the future.

How to Prevent Disagreements in the Work Environment

Some conflicts are inevitable. But with the right measures in place, many can be prevented before they start. Leaders should be proactive whenever possible, and strive to put out the spark before it turns into a full-blown fire.Here are 5 steps to effectively prevent conflict among your team:

  • Have an open-door policy

When you create an environment of open communication, team members feel comfortable sharing their concerns with you. Let everyone know any team member can approach management without the fear of repercussions. Practice active listening, ask constructive questions, and foster the spirit of teamwork in them.

  • Focus on building relationships

If you focus on creating strong and transparent relationships among your employees, they’ll be able to tackle conflicts without an issue. Due to their positive relationship, they’re also more likely to be empathetic and civil throughout conversations.

  • Lead by example

Invest in leadership training programs for your senior staff who can take on more responsibility in the future to teach them how to handle difficult conversations. With a few tools at their disposal to conduct civil discourse and avoid animosity between team members, they can steer conflict management in the workplace effectively.

  • Encourage employee interactions

Senior management should take steps to encourage employee interactions irrespective of conflicts. There will be fewer disagreements and more informative discussions if employees have the habit of interacting with each other.

  • Offer incentives and training

A great way to encourage teamwork is by assigning incentives to achievable group targets. Once a team reaches the target, the collaborative teamwork gets rewarded. If the team struggles in working together, hold training sessions for them.If you implement such activities in your workplace, they’ll evolve as a part of the employees’ daily life. They’ll learn to interact civilly and find common ground in the face of conflicts to foster the company’s growth.

How Great Leaders Solve Conflict in the Workplace

To resolve conflicts in the workplace, great leaders take a wide-angle view of the situation. They establish the environment for civil discussions to carve a way through disagreements. Good leaders align the team to achieve a common goal.  Here are the 5 things great leaders do to resolve workplace conflicts:

  • Identify the source of conflict

The first step separates great leaders from average ones. While most employees focus on the problem at hand, good leaders know the reasons behind disputes are often deep-rooted. They acknowledge the concern honestly, considering the needs of all involved parties.

  • Create a safe space to communicate

Instead of playing blame games and wasting time on allegations, leaders need to create a safe space for communication. Gather all parties in conflict and allow them to present their perspective without angering anyone.

  • Listen to all sides of the story

When resolving a conflict in the workplace, good leaders keep their biases aside. All the employees who want to voice their concerns get a platform to speak upon. The leader doesn't interrupt or threaten the employees, but seeks active resolution based on their feelings.

  • Practice civil discourse

Foster the environment of civil discourse and encourage conversation in your team. In most cases, resolving conflict in the workplace is all about understanding everyone's situation and analyzing the driving force behind any conflict. With civil discourse, it's easier to conclude conflicts in the agreement or respectful disagreement.

  • Implement a plan to tackle conflicts in the future

The final step to conflict resolution is implementing a model to deal with similar issues in the future. This includes a healthy exchange of ideas, building trust between team members, and following civil etiquette. Through sustained effort, workplace conflicts can be reduced significantly.Conflict resolution in the workplace is one of the most challenging tasks for a leader. By taking the right measures to tackle disputes and conducting civil discourse, you can easily resolve conflict at work and collectively guide your team towards success.

Business and Leadership

how to be a good leader

July 11, 2022

10 Strategies to Become a Better Leader

Do you know the true purpose of leadership? A "leader" can be defined many ways, but the real meaning is often lost in translation. The majority of those in leadership roles falsely believe that their primary purpose is to be “in charge”. Being a good leader, however, is about much more. It’s not just about being in charge, it’s about taking care of the people in our charge. A good leader is the motivational force that navigates a team towards their common goal. Earlier, leaders were philosophers who offered pearls of wisdom and truth. Or they were military leaders who served, organized, and inspired. Leadership styles have significantly evolved over the years with the influence of the political, economic, and social landscape. Modern leaders are strong communicators, decision-makers, and risk-takers. But most importantly, they are empathetic and understanding human beings.

What is Leadership?

Leadership is a socially influential act of gathering and aligning teams to work towards the desired outcome. It’s not about hierarchy, job title, or pay grade, but about your potential to mobilize a team to translate a vision into reality. Before beginning my own entrepreneurial journey in college, I looked up to great business leaders and entrepreneurs for inspiration. Now that I have three growing companies, I know it was never about clout or notoriety for those leaders I admired, but about how they could bring people to work towards a common goal, and genuinely caring about those people along the way. Many people believe that leadership in a workplace involves efficiently delegating tasks to subordinates. But impactful leaders go beyond that. They create a positive impact on their team that flows through the organization with a ripple effect. Team members working under good leaders are happy and draw greater work satisfaction.In my experience, great leadership involves:

  • Identifying your motivation, strengths, and weaknesses
  • Aligning teams to achieve your goal
  • Connecting and inspiring a sense of ownership in every team member
  • Offering growth and development opportunities

Maintaining a give-and-take feedback loop while following  civil discourse

How to Become a Better Leader?

Most of us are hard pressed to come across quality leaders, but despite the lack of great leadership, it is a skill like any other that can be learned or taught. Good leadership is practicable and learnable, but you have to want it because being a good leader is not easy. When things go right, you have to give away the credit. When things go wrong, you have to take all the responsibility. If you want to be a good leader and have the drive to inspire a team to greatness, keep reading to learn the core traits of strong leadership.

  • Self-awareness

Self-awareness and introspection skills are vital to the role of leadership. The better you know yourself, the stronger decisions you can make as a leader. Self-awareness also makes it easier for you to accept your flaws and leave behind all baggage that stops your team from achieving success.

  • Accountability

Leaders need to take accountability for their actions. Your people are obliged to follow what you say when you're the leader. It falls upon you to guide your team members by taking responsibility. Leverage this power by encouraging people in a positive direction and making them enthusiastic about every project and deadline.

  • Courage

Leaders exhibit courage daily by accepting responsibility, voicing their expectations, taking chances on new ideas, and having the team's back in front of superiors. They engage in civil discourse and critical thinking rather than allowing conflicts to grow. When you’re courageous, your employees can count on you to address their concerns.

  • Integrity

With integrity and an ethical value system, you prove to be trustworthy for your organization. Your honesty and consistency become a testament to your credibility, and you will find that authentic relationships with your teams form more seamlessly.

  • Trust

You must create trust with both your superiors and your team members as a leader. When higher-ups can trust you, they will give you the space to do your best work. Similarly, your employees perform better when they trust you. Learn to trust people with their jobs and delegate tasks to boost the team spirit. With more trust, you can also exercise better decision-making.

  • Empathy

If you work in a position that challenges you, you'll likely face stress, burnout, and periods of low performance. When we experience tough times, empathy can be a powerful antidote and contribute to positive experiences for individuals and teams. Empathy also fosters more empathy. The more you care, the more your team will care; Both about their work and each other.

  • Gratitude and Respect

A  Glassdoor survey  found that 80% of employees say they’d be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss. We all want to know that our hard work is appreciated, and recognition is often the greatest motivator. Leaders who express gratitude in the workplace are likely to see happier and more productive employees. Take the extra two minutes to say thanks, it goes a long way.

  • Learning Agility

I’ve never met a great leader who thinks of themselves as an expert, they think of themselves as lifelong  students. Leaders who succeed tend to be curious, proactively seek out new knowledge, and take on challenges willingly. They are flexible enough to apply what they learn to unfamiliar situations so they can learn from their mistakes.

  • Skillful Communication

Effective leadership is closely tied to transparent communication. Being a leader is all about communicating through various channels and ensuring that everyone in the team has the same interpretation of a message. A leader's communication skills go beyond demographics, social identities, and company hierarchies. Skillful communication is an integral part of building trust between leadership and team members.

  • Influence

Don't confuse influence with manipulation. Some managers try to exploit their employees by making them work extra hours and subjecting them to high stress.  True leaders don’t conduct such practices in their workplace. Being a leader means exercising emotional intelligence and building trust with your team. When your influence on your employees is transparent, they’ll be naturally motivated to follow your direction.

Final Thoughts

While we’re all on our own paths and journeys in life, we look to leaders for guidance and advice.  Honing your leadership skills will allow you to make a positive impression on the lives of those around you.  Whether you're a CEO, department manager, or a small team leader, we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others.  This gives everyone a chance to demonstrate leadership qualities and inspire action. Motivation and inspiration can help you to be a strong people manager, but it’s your actions that will ultimately drive the respect and trust needed to be effective

Business and Leadership

December 15, 2021

Reconciling The Entrepreneurial Hustle With Your Need For Self-Care

[caption id="attachment_10215" align="aligncenter" width="800"]

Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash[/caption]

I will be the first to admit that I don’t always practice enough self-care. The drive to be successful and make a positive impact is strong, and it’s something that is pervasive among entrepreneurs. It’s gotten to the point of being a kind of toxic gospel, in which business gurus encourage young or up-and-coming entrepreneurs to abandon everything else in their lives in order to grow their business. Not only is this demonstrably bad advice from a business perspective, but it’s also extremely bad for your overall health and well-being.

On the other hand, building your own business from scratch requires hard work, long days and plenty of sacrifices. You can’t always “have it all” with the perfect amount of sleep, family time, social life and business success. In short, the entrepreneurial hustle is very real. So, how can you work hard while also taking care of yourself?

I cannot speak for every entrepreneur out there, but in my case, hyper-defining my goals has been the greatest way to keep my businesses running without neglecting my basic needs. Many entrepreneurs assume that they should keep their personal and professional lives completely separate. In doing so, they should be able to find ways to schedule both “work time” and “self-care time.” I’m not saying that this is a bad approach, but it does not fix the central problem in many cases. Why? Because it can open the door for personal goals (and schedules) that conflict with your professional ones, and vice versa.

Instead, I try to look at the really big picture and figure out my life goals. What do I want to do with my life? What legacy do I want to leave behind for the world and those closest to me? What kinds of activities leave me fulfilled? How can I balance my personal priorities while also pursuing my passions and interests at the same time?

As you might have noticed, none of these questions relate to one single aspect of my life. They all factor in my needs, desires, aspirations and motivations in both the personal and professional realms. I’ve found that by zooming out and looking at the really big picture, I can develop a daily routine that moves me just a little bit closer to meeting my most important life goals. In my experience, when you find yourself making this kind of broad-ranged progress, inching toward the things that will bring you the greatest sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in life, you are far less likely to suffer from burnout, self-doubt, frustration and all the other things that require extensive self-care.

However, this does not mean that setting goals (and working toward them) will free you of the need for self-care entirely. While some may see the term “self-care” as a recent addition to our collective vernacular that helps narcissists and self-obsessed people justify bad behavior, it’s a very real way to cope with the ever-increasing demands that our work and personal lives put on us. Besides, people have been practicing different forms of self-care since time immemorial; they just called it something else.

Semantics aside, self-care is something that can (and should) be practiced for the sake of bettering oneself and ensuring that one aspect of your life does not take away from another. For example, I always need a lot of mental energy to run my businesses. Whether I’m meeting with stakeholders, ideating with the team, writing briefs or simply emailing, I need to have the stamina to think critically and the patience to keep going when frustrated. There are all sorts of methods to keep up my energy levels, some more effective than others.

This is where I return to the importance of setting and working toward goals. For me, goals are what keep me driven, motivated and energized each and every day. Even during my “off days,” I find my mind wandering to ways in which I can get just a little bit closer to achieving what I want. Since my personal goals are interwoven with my professional goals (and given equal importance), this means that self-care becomes a natural part of both my work and personal time. I want to live a happy, healthy, fulfilling life — and I can’t do that without taking care of myself on a regular basis.

Even if you give self-care just as much importance as your work life and obligations, you may still find yourself with little time in the day to truly unwind and disconnect from “work mode.” Thankfully, one of the best parts about being an entrepreneur is that you have much more control over how and when you work. Sure, there will always be obligations, deadlines and the needs of others to account for, but generally, you can manage your schedule in a way that offers much more liberties than a traditional 9-to-5 job. This is why I design my work schedule and environment to incorporate self-care into the daily routine.

Whether it’s a morning exercise routine before work starts or a 15-minute meditation session in the middle of the afternoon, planting designated self-care time into your schedule is a matter of intention. If you’re an entrepreneur working yourself to the bone without any time or energy to take care of your own well-being, you’re doing something wrong. In many cases, it can be as simple as learning how to say “no” or delegating tasks so you can focus on yourself as needed.

When it comes down to it, being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean dedicating 100% of your life to your business. It’s true that businesses can take away a lot of your time and energy, but you should always look at them as parts of a larger whole. At the end of the day, if you’re not happy or unable to take care of your mental and physical well-being while building your business, you have to reevaluate your goals and recalibrate your routine accordingly.

Originally Posted on Forbes.

Business and Leadership

December 2, 2021

How to Deal With Teammates Who Don't Share Your Values

It’s no secret that we live in an era of divisiveness and polarization. I founded The Doe to introduce anonymity to publishing so that we could have a safe space to elevate marginalized voices, while also giving readers the chance to respond and debate different viewpoints we rarely hear from. Though it may be somewhat plausible to manage polarized views in a comment section, it’s not nearly as simple when the same polarization takes place behind the closed doors of a business.

As an entrepreneur, you will generally try to surround yourself with people who share your vision. However, this is a double-edged sword. You want teammates who understand what you’re trying to do and can help you achieve it, but you don’t want a room full of “yes” men and women. Moreover, I genuinely believe that it’s better to expose yourself to opposing views, otherwise you risk getting stuck in an echo chamber of your own making.

Naturally, this approach comes with its own drawbacks. If you choose to hire people who have opposing views, it may result in more debates in the meeting room. However, it should ultimately bring about better results. This is where it’s important to mark the distinction between opposing “views” and opposing “values.” What do you do if and when you have a co-worker whose values are drastically different from your own?

Being an entrepreneur requires conviction, but it also requires a lot of sacrifices. If you are never willing to cede ground to others, you will likely find yourself on a more lonely — and less successful — path. For this reason, you have to be willing to have difficult conversations with your teammates, even when it feels like you’re speaking about totally different issues.

You might be able to avoid talking about polarizing topics around the dinner table, but at the workplace, you have to talk about the issues that matter the most for your business. When the person sitting across the table from you has different fundamental values, it can feel like a never-ending battle. You are partners in the same endeavor, so you both share a stake in the company’s future, but you probably have very different visions of what that future should look like.

The Doe is all about questioning our preconceived notions of the world and being willing to listen to views that do not align with our own. I would be a fraud if I didn’t incorporate the same open mindedness in my own business dealings. Fortunately, this obligation has also allowed me to cultivate a few “tricks” to keep things civil, productive, and forward-thinking among all key stakeholders, even when our values fall on opposite ends of the spectrum.

The first “trick” is to truly keep an open mind. This means that, even if you think you already know what a teammate is going to say, you need to avoid negative expectations. Simply go into a conversation or meeting with an agenda of what to discuss and a willingness to listen. In fact, this is one of the best ways to “deal” with anyone who does not share your values. Simply listen. You don’t have to agree; you just have to listen with the aim of learning about their position, regardless of the topic at hand or how you think you should respond.

Trying to understand someone is not the same as conceding or reaching an agreement — far from it. You just want to understand a point of view that is foreign to your own; nothing more and nothing less. However, when you’re dealing with a teammate, you have to grant them the respect they deserve as a professional equal. You can’t just listen without at least opening yourself to the possibility of implementing strategies, changes, or processes that align more with their values than your own.

During this process of listening and expressing your views, it’s extremely important to keep your emotions in check. If you’re passionate about something, you can express that passion without losing control of your emotions or showing frustration. Instead, simply show that it is a very important issue for you; perhaps even something that is not up for debate or discussion (though this is usually not a good strategy to take). In any case, ensure that you check your emotions at the door and let your head do the talking.

Finally, it’s important to stay active as a teammate, both in the moment and over the long-term. In a conversation or meeting, allowing someone with different values than your own to hijack the entire conversation could ultimately take power away from anything you have to say. The same applies during day to day operations. Actively participate in your company and let your own values shine through. This way, you don’t have to consistently oppose your co-worker at every turn, but can instead find ways to collaborate with them in a more natural way. Oftentimes, when you just try to argue with each other directly, it can turn an otherwise small issue into a much larger one. Instead, allow your peers to actively participate in the same way that you do.

Working with someone who doesn’t share your values is never easy, whether you’re aligned on what the goal you’re trying to accomplish is, or not. However, the keys to ensuring a successful outcome are honest, calm communication and a willingness to learn. If direct argumentation has failed or reached a standstill, just allow yourself to take an active role in the growth of your business, and don’t take away your partner’s right to do the same.

Originally Published on Medium.

Business and Leadership

June 23, 2021

What Our World Would Look Like With an “Admire and Inspire” Mindset

It’s easy to talk about big ideas that could transform the world, but how would society actually change if we all lived to admire and inspire one another?

When I founded The Doe, I started with the idea that civil discourse had hit a barrier. From my perspective, people were no longer communicating with one another with positive intentions; they just talked at each other and debated for a right vs. wrong resolution. Anger and emotion trumped reason, making true discourse impossible. By letting people tell their stories anonymously and establishing a space for marginalized voices, I hoped to bring about a change in the way we, as a species, exchange and develop ideas.

Unfortunately, people tend to get cynical when you talk about “big” ideas. Perhaps they think that being a dreamer is naive, or that thinking outside the box isn’t practical. However, many of humanity’s greatest achievements came from the seeds of impractical ideas. There was a time when democracy was just a pipe dream — now it serves as the foundation for nearly every major government on the planet.

What does “admire and inspire” really mean?

inspiring mindset
Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/0G2ZxV31kk4

“Admire and inspire” is more than just a catchy phrase. When you really delve into the meanings of these terms, it’s easy to see why they reflect the best parts of human nature. When you admire another person, you recognize traits in them that you feel are positive, enviable, and altogether good for mankind. It is a way to use your own sense of what is right to heap praise onto others. This, in turn, helps others see the best in themselves and, ideally, work to become even better.

While admiration helps us identify positive qualities and ideas, inspiring others transforms these same ideas into action. When you believe something to be right and admirable, you’re more inclined to incorporate that action into your daily life. In this way, you project your best possible self onto the world, inspiring others to take action in the process. This creates a perpetual cycle of people inspiring and admiring one another.

While it might seem impractical to live in a world driven by the “admire and inspire” mentality, it’s not all that foreign. When we act in a certain way, self-interested or otherwise, we are projecting what we see as the “correct” way of being. The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre believed that “man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world-and defines himself afterward.” In other words, we create our own image of the ideal person simply by acting. When viewing the human experience in this way, one can see that we are largely the sum of our own actions.

Therefore, we have an innate need to inspire with our actions. We live to act, and we act for the sake of ourselves and others. Our actions, from an ethical standpoint, reflect what we want to see in others. We are inspiration personified.

However, the act of admiring is far more complex, as it requires us to view the actions of others as worthy of praise and emulation. To truly admire someone else, you have to let go of your ego and recognize the qualities in others that are — or at least could be — superior to your own. Thus, the combination of admiration and inspiration has the potential to bring about the best possible results for humanity.

What would it actually look like in practice?

mindset
Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/jpHw8ndwJ_Q

With an “admire and inspire” mentality, individuals, businesses, organizations, and governments would flourish by simply lifting up those around them. Rather than looking at those different than ourselves as “others” or adversaries, we could look past these differences to appreciate the best qualities they have to offer. In short, a world built on inspiration and admiration would be a utopia of collective progress.

While it may not be realistic to think that everyone on the planet would adopt this mindset, it isn’t so far-fetched to envision a world in which entrepreneurs and business owners might lead by example. Businesses, by nature, are designed to provide something to the world. They innovate and bring about new ideas to meet the needs of others. If more entrepreneurs could realize this and focus their energy on helping others, the world of “admire and inspire” would not be so far off.

My Challenge to Entrepreneurs

I challenge my fellow entrepreneurs to adopt the “admire and inspire” mentality in their daily lives. Though I’ve certainly made my fair share of mistakes, I’ve always aimed to create businesses that help people. However, I don’t look at myself as a source of admiration. Instead, I look to those around me for the inspiration I need to wake up every morning and try to be better than I was the day before. I believe that if we can separate ourselves from our own egos and work to admire and inspire, we can build a society that is worthy of praise.

Originally published on Medium.

Business and Leadership

Why AI Will Never Fully Replace Human-Made Art

September 7, 2021

Why AI Will Never Fully Replace Human-Made Art

It’s crazy to think that we, as humans, have been expressing our creative side for thousands of years. The oldest cave paintings (that we know of) date all the way back to the Prehistoric Age. Now, human-produced AI and algorithms are capable of creating their own art. Thus, the creators of art have now become the creators of the creators of art. However, there are still many things that AI simply cannot do. Even with how quickly automation and other AI tech are advancing, I sincerely believe that they will never fully replace human beings in the realm of art.That said, I’m a huge proponent of further research & development in AI. I even use AI to better some of my businesses. At The Doe, we conduct cutting-edge evaluations through AI; by utilizing natural language processing (NPL) and other technologies in our user quizzes, we help our readers better understand differing values and perspectives. However, just because AI is useful doesn’t mean it offers a solution to every problem. After all, if I want to hear a great song, I don’t ask Siri to sing something for me.

Art Is a Distinctly Sentient Process

I don’t want to offend any bots that might be reading this, but art has always been something created by (and for) sentient beings. Humans (and maybe even a few other species) have the unique capacity to feel emotions and produce things with intent. That is to say, we can make things not just out of necessity, but also out of desire. More often than not, it is the desire to make something of beauty.Whether it’s a poem, a song, a painting, a digital NFT, or something else entirely, humans have the unique ability to create things with intention. We want to enjoy them. If we produce art for the sake of others (as is often the case), then we want them to be enjoyed, or at the very least, appreciated.As a writer and music producer, I have a special place in my heart for my fellow scribes and musicians. Writers use their linguistic abilities to create beautiful prose, informative articles, entertaining scripts, and profound stories. On the other hand, musicians use a combination of senses to create intricate melodies and harmonies, beats that seem to reach directly into your soul and make your body move, as well as completely new sounds that have never been heard before. While technology may help many artists practice their craft, it’s hard to imagine an algorithm producing Sylvan LaCue’s “Clam Chowda” or penning David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.

Artificial Intelligence Merely Replicates Human Intelligence

As it stands now, Artificial Intelligence really has no ground to stand on when it comes to creative intent. We currently have no formal way to measure sentience, but since humans created AI tech and we know (with near certainty) that it does not have a consciousness, we can conclude that an AI robot is not sentient — at least, not under current definitions of the term.Thus, AI is only able to replicate human intelligence and behavior. A robot can appear to feel sad, but that does not mean that it actually feels sad. Similarly, a robot can be programmed to create a beautiful work of art, but in this instance, who is the real artist? The human who wrote the algorithm or the robot that carried out the directive according to a specific formula? I would say the human, as the robot is merely a tool in the artistic process, rather than the creative mind behind it.

Even If AI Can Rival Certain Sentient Qualities, It Cannot Replace Human Creativity

In any case, there’s no doubt that AI is constantly evolving and improving, so how can I be so sure that AI will never fully replace human-made art? Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that AI evolves to the point that it is virtually indistinguishable from human beings. By all accounts, we have created a sentient robot with the capacity to feel, think, react, and create things from scratch with vision and intention. In short, I’m imagining a future in which AI can create art on its own, without any help or guidance from human beings.Even in this hypothetical future, human-made art would still remain distinct from AI-produced art. This is because every human consciousness is its own entity; we may have collective qualities and properties as sentient beings, but we are all individuals living our own little lives. Thus, human art will always be a reflection of human creativity that is unique to each person, and to our species as a whole. AI tech may evolve to produce its own art forms, but they will exist separately from what we create.So, even as fearmongers worry about robots writing news articles or algorithms creating hit songs, human art will always have its own space. We may not always be able to tell the difference between human and AI creations, but this fact is largely irrelevant. As long as humans never lose our capacity to exercise creativity and produce things of beauty, no robot will be able to take that away from us.

Published

Why 5G Could Be a Game Changer For Entrepreneurs — and the World|

September 7, 2021

Why 5G Could Be a Game Changer For Entrepreneurs — and the World

We’ve been hearing about 5G for a while now, even though the vast majority of consumers still can’t access it. Currently, 5G-ready devices are priced pretty high, and ISPs are each scrambling to market themselves as “the” leader in 5G coverage — just like they did with 3G and 4G. While 3G brought us basic mobile web browsing and 4G brought us high-speed mobile internet and streaming, 5G technology promises to kick things up a notch.

Thus far, consumers and media outlets have mostly focused on the promised speeds that will come with 5G — and for good reason. Theoretically, 5G could be up to 10x faster than 4G, though some reports indicate that people might get speeds nearly 100x faster than what they have now. To put this in real-world terms, this means you could be able to download a 2-hour, 4K Ultra HD movie in a matter of seconds.

However, the true potential of 5G isn’t the potential speed — it’s the accessibility. If you’ve ever traveled beyond the realm of your home Wi-Fi network (as I’m sure you have), you’ll know that wireless mobile signals vary drastically. This is especially problematic in rural towns, states, and even regions, where ISPs have invested very little in the way of infrastructure.

While people in rural areas should have the same speeds as everyone else, it’s hard to blame ISPs for their priorities; they simply can’t get the same return on investment setting up mobile internet towers in Cheyenne, Wyoming (population ~65,000) as they can in New York City (population ~8.42 million). Fortunately, 5G will make leaps and bounds in terms of high-speed mobile internet access for everyone — not just big-city dwellers.

Why is 5G so much better?

A big problem with 4G is network congestion. Sure, you can watch a movie on the train ride to work, but when thousands of other people are trying to do the same thing, you’ll often find yourself with a blank loading screen — even when you’ve got full bars. This is due to the fact that 4G has, by and large, reached its data-processing limits. As 4G became the norm for billions of people around the planet, it also showcased the technology’s inability to quickly transfer increasingly large amounts of data across blocks of spectrum. With 5G, this is no longer an issue.

5G will open the door for ISPs to control more spectrum, thereby allowing more people to use the same network simultaneously without reduced speeds. On top of that, 5G tech is inherently built to deliver faster speeds, lower latency, and greater bandwidth by default. In other words, 5G will make everything you do online faster and easier.

But again, I’m doing the same thing that everyone else does — talking about speed when I should be talking about ease of access. Detractors have already tempered expectations about 5G’s capabilities in rural areas, which are mostly served by low-frequency towers. Since 5G is designed to function at mid-to-high frequencies, it will have less of an impact at the outset. However, the greater efficiency of 5G technology means that it could still provide less congestion and nominal speed improvements in rural areas.

Moreover, this is just what we can expect over the next 2 or 3 years. Beyond that, 5G infrastructure will likely make accessibility to higher-quality mobile (and home) internet even better. Plus, there’s another important factor that people need to keep in mind. In rural areas, most people are accustomed to unstable internet and mobile networks that deliver paltry speeds at best. Even a small uptick in average speeds and network access could make a huge difference to billions of people in underserved areas all over the world.

What does 5G mean for entrepreneurs?

There’s a reason why many young entrepreneurs leave behind their small hometowns and move to the big city to start their business endeavors. While it may be the “chic” thing to do, it’s also a sound business decision. Nowadays, most businesses are completely dependent on the internet. As a result, entrepreneurs need access to high-speed internet whether they’re working from home or just checking emails on the go. This means that mid-size and large cities are home to the vast majority of new businesses.

While this may just sound like the cost of doing business in the modern world, it also means that there’s a huge barrier to entry for entrepreneurs in rural areas who don’t have the funds to relocate to more expensive cities. Not only does this force many people to abandon their dreams, but it also robs the world of great potential. The next Bill Gates could be living in a small village in Africa, but without access to high-speed internet, he or she may never be able to show the world their true potential.

This is exactly why I’m excited about 5G. Sure, it stands to give the average consumer access to better quality mobile and home internet service, but it really means so much more than that. Once 5G infrastructure grows and 5G-ready devices become the norm (as opposed to the latest high-priced phones), billions of people across the planet will have the power of high-speed internet wherever they are, opening the door for almost limitless innovation. It may take a few years before we see the full effects of 5G, particularly in rural areas, but for many new and existing entrepreneurs, it will be well worth the wait.

Published

My Thoughts for Young Artists on Marketing Their Music in an Ever-Evolving Industry||

July 15, 2021

My Thoughts for Young Artists on Marketing Their Music in an Ever-Evolving Industry

An Ever-Evolving Industry

The music industry is changing rapidly, with new avenues arising for both creators and consumers every day. This begs the question: What will the music industry look like in the future?As the cofounder of an indie record label, I’ve watched many of the most recent changes happen in real time. Despite only working in the business for a few years, we’ve had to constantly adapt to new trends — both in music creation and consumption. While musicians can largely continue creating music as they have for years, the way in which they market their music and reach their audience is always changing.It’s easy to see how the music industry is evolving at an ever-increasing speed. Though SoundCloud has been around for more than a decade and is still one of the biggest players when it comes to discovering new, emerging artists, TikTok has emerged as a popular application for both creators and consumers. First introduced in 2016, the video-centric social media application has taken the music world by storm. Many new artists have gained huge followings on the application and, despite the Trump administration previouslyattempting to ban TikTokciting national security concerns, it has remained one of the most popular avenues for free music distribution, particularly among Gen Z consumers.In a sense, this is the future of the music industry. Whether you look at it from year to year or month to month, the ability to adapt back-end strategies is a must. However, one aspect of music marketing that has become increasingly relevant in the late 2010s and early 2020s is what I like to refer to as the “scandal factor.” You can create great music and garner a following as musicians have done for decades, but if you want to make it big in such a fickle and ephemeral landscape, you have to turn the dial up to 11.What does this actually mean in practice? It not only means doing something that no one else has done — it means doing something that shocks, polarizes and ultimately shifts the download and streaming data in your favor.Lil Nas X provides a perfect example of a musician where controversy has garnered attention and helped build his musical brand. He first turned heads by teaming up with Billy Ray Cyrus to create the highly popular and oddly catchy “Old Town Road,” a mixture of traditional country and modern rap that exploded on Twitter. The following year, Lil Nas Xpublicly came outin 2019, which in and of itself, shouldn’t have been controversial. However, it made him a mainstream gay male rapper — a rapper with a country hit who has attained international success. Lil Nas X capitalized further on this “controversy” with hismusic video for the hit single, “Montero,” which evoked images of the Garden of Eden before showing a fictionalized version of Lil Nas X twerking on Satan’s lap. While many saw it as an ode to the freedom of sexuality, manyconservatives decried it as blasphemous. However, regardless of how you felt about it, the controversy only put more money in the rapper’s pocket.This desire for increasingly shocking material doesn’t just exist in the music industry, either. The old modes of building brands — from political campaigns to retail shops — are falling by the wayside, with new players driven by clicks, streams, downloads, retweets and so on. Social media, particularly TikTok, Twitter and Youtube, might be the primary facilitator (for now), but the desire for controversy and virality are what underpin modern success. To be noticed, you have to do something worthy of people’s attention — which often means doing something completely unexpected. I learned this first hand by building the first completely anonymous publication. By allowing people to write for us anonymously, we get juicer, much more “controversial” perspectives. We’ve seen how the “scandal factor” of the narratives we publish on The Doe can lead to virality on social media like Instagram.Some artists may not like this data-obsessed way of creating, but there’s nothing inherently new about it. Musicians — and their labels — have been motivated by profits, usually above all else. Now, profits are largely calculated using algorithms and data provided by online platforms. Therefore, the environment for music creation and consumption may have changed, but the underlying drive to create new, interesting and profitable media remains the same.

The Bottom Line

My advice to young artists? Don’t feel that you have to cheapen or somehow betray your passion for music just for shock value. That said, if you want to reach a larger audience, you have to find ways to use your unique talents to create something worth talking about. There are millions of artists out there, so the key is figuring out how to make your music loud enough to be heard above all the other noise.This is why I like to tell artists to treat their music like a product and less like an art form if they want to succeed. That means every time they put music out, they should be treating their fans or listeners, no matter how small that group is, like a focus group they can garner feedback from. The fans may not always know what they want until they hear it. But they do decide what happens to your career, so being arrogant about knowing what’s “the best art” is probably not going to work out for you. Purpose-driven artists can build their careers by understanding how they can market or portray their unique art — even if it means pushing the current boundaries of artist comfort.Originally published on Rolling Stone.

Published

maintaining remote work culture||

July 15, 2021

How To Maintain Company Culture Remotely

The Transition to Remote Work

In many ways, the transition to remote work in the wake of Covid-19 has helped redefine existing conceptions of “company culture.” Even the term itself seems rather outdated; it conjures up images of bustling offices of decades past, with daily meetings, memos and synergetic pep talks. Though some organizations still function in this way, much modern-day business is done with teams spread out all over the world. Many entrepreneurs — myself included — now have to juggle multiple time zones and communication platforms, as well as differences in both language and culture.I’d like to make it clear that I am in no way complaining. In fact, I find the environment of remote workplaces exhilarating. That said, there’s no denying that we have entered an era in which traditional ways of developing and nurturing company culture no longer exist. Consequently, we have to find ways to build and promote cooperation, camaraderie, innovation and productivity — perhaps without ever meeting most of our coworkers face to face.

Company Culture Built On Communication

With the knowledge that work culture has evolved in a remote environment, many startups must spend a great deal of time considering and implementing various ways to strengthen the community from within. It may sound tedious to those entrepreneurs who are, frankly, just concerned with making payroll. You may wonder, who has the time to focus on company culture when there’s a never-ending to-do list? But when the “boss” is physically separate from everyone else, building strong professional relationships is essential.It’s not about monitoring people’s every move or badgering them for constant updates. Instead, it’s about developing a relationship built on mutual communication, trust and understanding. I seek to understand all of the people I work with — and do my best to make myself understood by them. Even when there is a clear hierarchical structure within the business, I want to let everyone know that they are heard and respected.While this may not be completely revolutionary, it is somewhat unique, even in the ever-growing world of remote work. Now that employees are no longer working under the noses of management, there’s a tendency in many companies to over-enforce policies that ensure productivity. In my opinion, this almost never has the desired effect. Instead, it results in more adversarial relationships, where business owners distrust their remote staff and remote employees resent their overbearing bosses.At my companies, most team communication takes place over Slack, email, Zoom or one of the productivity tools we use like Asana and Jira. Small nuances become important when much of our communication is no longer tied to facial expressions or body language. The need to over-communicate so that everyone can understand my tone and intention quickly becomes rather important. For this reason, I think one-on-one meetings allow us to understand each other on a deeper level. I never want to dictate; I prefer to collaborate.This is where I believe the future of remote company culture is heading. Rather than a series of top-down directives, objectives and policies meant to guide employee behavior, remote workplaces should be built on mutual trust and respect. This all begins with having the right people, in the right roles, who are crystal clear on their responsibilities and expected output.

Turning Remote Company Culture Into Business Growth

While I personally like to communicate in writing, I’m not blind to the fact that many people are visual or auditory learners. So, in getting to know the people I work with, I also come to learn the most effective ways of communicating my ideas to them. While I may not prefer to brainstorm or think out loud on a call — as opposed to brainstorming in private and coming back with written thoughts — I recognize the importance of doing so in some cases. Sometimes people need to feel heard and seen, even if you’re reading everything they’re sending you. This helps facilitate an environment in which open dialogue is not only encouraged — it’s just the way we do business.Take one of my startups as an example. The first product we launched was our publication: It’s entirely stories from people’s lives. We simply tell stories that are not being told in other places. While we do verify authors and their stories, we publish them anonymously to ensure their ideas are considered fairly by the public. However, this also gives a voice to those who don’t yearn for the attention their story could bring them. I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t organize my businesses using the same foundational concepts. Everyone involved — from part-time freelancers to junior employees — has a voice. While we may not always agree on the same strategy or idea, it’s up to me to listen to them all.Even if they aren’t physically by my side, I know that I can depend on a network of people all over the world to help turn our mission and aspirations for the world into a reality. We all work closely together, exchanging ideas and information — often on a daily basis. In doing so, we ensure that no one’s ideas are disregarded, and everyone understands that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves — even when we’re thousands of miles apart.

The Bottom Line

While many of us may be using many of the same tools — Slack, Zoom and so on — the difference lies in how you use them to build relationships. I believe in maintaining a safe and professional working environment for everyone, myself included, but I’m not afraid to get personal. In fact, my businesses depend on it. By building trusting relationships with all of your remote teams and network of associates, you can ensure that you’re cultivating a company culture that is built for everyone.Originally published on Forbes.

Published

Collage with various artists|

May 5, 2021

Nobody Wants to Talk about it: The Death of Artists

The Impact of Music — on Musicians

Arts and music are the most expressive industries. The spotlight they cast on artistic output is the death of many talented and upcoming artists. Contractual idiosyncrasies in the music industry offer several benefits, but also several distinct disadvantages. The mounting pressure to write, produce, and perform great music takes a toll on the artists, if not properly monitored. Although the current music industry offers many artists an opportunity to succeed, many times the artist will work themselves into a very unhealthy state. The creative process, and the pressure to remain relevant, exposes them to strong responses of depression, morbid public meltdowns, mental issues, and ultimately, may lead to their death.

The Impact of Streaming

On a similar note, the tantalizing premise of streaming services has led to success stories for a number of artists. As a consequence, music streaming services have resulted in a generation of single songs that have more impact than albums. At the same time, streaming has inexorably altered the music industry, which habitually notes the ‘death’ of artists, and many become tagged with the label of being one-hit wonders. However, as Paula Mejia wrote:

While streaming continues to evolve at a breakneck pace, the system through which artists are paid for the music being listened to hasn’t evolved in tandem — meaning that, as dissenters note, many artists are still paid little, after services and labels take their respective cuts.

Because of this new impact of streaming on artists, it is imperative to address the hot topic on the minds of many people — the literal and metaphorical death of artists due to mental health struggles, and the impact of streaming gatekeepers.

The wider cultural shift across the music industry, beginning with the advent of streaming, has introduced new types of gatekeepers. The industry is no longer siloed into discrete functions, such as promotion, publishing, talent management, and royalty collection, as it was in past decades. Streaming has changed music consumption and distribution, which has significantly altered popularity characteristics. The data used to evaluate the popularity of music and the artists, is obtained from streaming services in various classifications or charts. For instance, the Billboard’s Hot 100 includes weekly figures of the most popular songs across multiple regions and genres. It also ranks songs by radio airplay impressions, sales data, and streaming activity.

A Short Chart Life

The digital vetting process filters through songs, separating dubs and creating songs/singles that chart for only one week, known as “one-week wonders.” Digital songs are considerably more likely to plunge from modern digital vetting processes and disappear from the charts into oblivion. As Jerry Lao and Kevin Hoan Nguyen wrote in their article:

The end result is that digital songs are significantly more likely to fall off the chart in the first week compared to CD songs, but the effect moderates over time as the digital songs are scrutinized and only the good songs remain.

Moreover, the processes favor established artists who often regularly dominate the weekly charts. The digital platforms increase the avenues and frequency of music evaluation, as well as the speed with which singles from less established but talented artists peak and disappear — a one-time spotlight phenomenon.

The Decline of The Rising Career

The bedrock structure used by modern streaming services is disproportionately biased against emerging and midsize artists. The unfavorable model guts the musical career of many upcoming artists. Popular streaming services, including Apple Music and Spotify, use a “pro rata” model to determine how revenues are distributed. According to Mejia, the meaning of pro rata is that:

Rights-holders are paid according to market share; how their streams stack up against the most popular songs in a given time period. The people who hold the rights to the most listened-to tracks, then, stand to make the most.

This model is vastly critiqued as unreasonably privileged because it prioritizes and benefits the services themselves, followed by top artists and labels.

As a result, emerging and midsize artists have little chance to earn a decent living. In addition to money considerations, there is a shift toward purpose and mood-driven playlists, instead of full album plays. This pattern is mainly adopted as an advertising tool that functions on the basis that more value is derived from people listening more. Therefore, singles are pushed and popularized to the extent they matter more than artists or full-length albums.

Striving To Succeed

Music has a powerful positive impact on listeners’ mental health, yet many artists are subject to a negative impact, as they struggle with dire mental health issues. Sudden fame, and a lifestyle revolving around music creation and live performances, can intensify mental health challenges, including substance abuse and other psychological issues. In a tangential way, the quest to enter and rise to the peak of the music industry can massively impact an artist’s emotional health. Artists report despair and suicidal thoughts after repeatedly being turned away while trying to rise to fame.

This rejection reflects the brutal competitive nature of the industry, as only a few achieve a successful career. Several aspects trigger these problems, including lack of confidence, anxiety due to rejection and failure, negative influence of others, and the impact of exploitation. The callous nature of the music industry is evidenced by the peak in record sales immediately upon the death of an artist. Mental health struggles are a real menace in the sector that continue to steal big talents, and numb shining stars; as co-founder of Guin Records, our mission is to provide better support to artists

The Impact of Performance Pressure

The music community produces significant pressure and stressors. Artists often experience high-pressure situations, including gigs and live shows, attended by thousands of eager and expectant people. Artists are human, and the body is pre-programmed to respond in different ways under stress, which includes various physical and psychological states. Hence, musicians can either perform well due to the heightened awareness from adrenaline rushes, or suffer panic attacks or even memory loss, which cause long-term anxieties. Several artists have reported instances of stress-related breakdown that trigger unhealthy habits such as drinking and drug abuse.

Demi Lovato, for instance, has been admitted in hospital for drug overdose in the past. Before this incident, Lovato was and is still among the most vocal artists on mental health awareness within the music community. Anxiety struggles are also prevalent among several high-profile artists. Such debilitating issues cause much exasperation, necessitating the need to address them publicly. If left unaddressed, issues arising from high-pressure music industry may rapidly deteriorate to feelings of severe depression and suicidal thoughts.

Behind the Scenes — the Artist Suffers

It is paradoxical that music and musical communities and events foster a supportive environment to relax and have fun, yet artists suffer behind the scenes. The music industry is often a smoke and mirrors business, where artists may be portrayed as figureheads who have greater fortitude than others. Media and even artists foster these perceptions and encourage misconceptions about the magnitude of financial success. Nonetheless, they conceal the dire health conditions, and even worse financial outcomes that often occur.

The industry provides a brief window of opportunity for an artist to peak, but is all too often the death of many aspiring artists. Although streaming is arguably an engine driving the music industry to new heights, it is a black spot for those labelled as one-hit wonders. The sector is characterized by monsters, including mental health disorders, depression, and the death of artists and talent.

The Death of an Artist

Unfortunately, the most powerful impact of mental health issues in the music industry arises after the death of an artist. This issue is reflected in the deaths of major acts such as Avicii, who reportedly committed suicide after struggling with thoughts about the meaning of life, and Michael Jackson, who struggled with painkiller drugs addiction for years before dying from a combination of drugs. Artists are perceived (by fans) and portrayed (by the media) as having fun, ‘living the time of their lives’, and as people with superhuman fortitude. With this increased attention, artists often become influencers, and the demand for them to share their personal opinions and become subjected to the pressures of scrutiny, become even higher.

Instances of depression, mental breakdown, and even death show a different side of the lives of musicians. This situation shows the complexity and skewed perceptions about the subject of mental health issues in the context of the music industry. Unlike the easily relatable and understood cases of depression and anxiety such as schizophrenia, mental disorders and associated death within the music community is a major menace. The morbid public meltdowns, depression, and mental issues and ultimate deaths of artists continue to intrigue people — but sadly, just not enough to take action.

Originally published on Thrive

Works Cited

Lao, Jerry, and Kevin Hoan Nguyen. “One-Hit Wonder or Superstardom? The Role of Technology Format on Billboard’s Hot 100 Performance.” 2016, web.stanford.edu/~xhnguyen/BillboardandTechnology.pdf. Accessed 15 July 2020.

Mejia, Paula. “The Success of Streaming has been Great for Some, but is there a Better Way?” NPR, 22 Jul. 2019, www.npr.org/2019/07/22/743775196/the-success-of-streaming-has-been-great-for-some-but-is-there-a-better-way. Accessed 15 July 2020.

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April 30, 2021

Big Businesses That Started as Side Hustles

The practice has gained much more prominence over the last two decades. Since the advent of the Internet, millions of 9-to-5 workers have put their extra time and resources toward making money through side hustles. According to a Bankrate survey, nearly half of full-time workers take part in some form of “side hustle” outside of their traditional job.

These activities can range from starting a fashion blog to working as a freelance delivery driver — and everything in between. When my co-founder Sabine and I pivoted Dormzi from being a service-based network to a marketplace powered by young people, our vision was to help students lean into their side hustles. One of the challenges we’ve been seeing since doing so is that many aspiring entrepreneurs believe that they would have to completely drop their 9-to-5 job or schooling to turn their side hustles into thriving businesses. Fortunately, this is frequently not the case. To show how to turn your side hustle into a full-time business, let’s look at a few real-world success stories:

Big businesses that started as side hustles

It’s a common misconception that your side hustle cannot become a successful business unless you dedicate 100% of your time and money to it. While it’s true that you cannot just expect a side hustle to become something more without any effort on your part, you can turn a side hustle into a full-time business without quitting your day job. How exactly can you do this? By regularly funding your side hustle with a portion of your 9-to-5 paycheck.

It sounds too easy to be true, right? The fact is that many side hustles remain side hustles because people don’t put additional funds into them. For example, if you provide writing services, you could pay to develop a website that markets your services and makes you look more professional. Without a website, you’ll likely struggle to gain new clients and turn your side hustle into a long-term business venture.

So, to refute the naysayers, let’s take a look at some entrepreneurs who invested in their side hustles and now run extremely profitable businesses:

Aytekin Tank, Founder of JotForm

Before founding JotForm in 2006, Aytekin Tank worked as a senior web developer for a large Internet media company in New York City. During his five-year tenure, Aytekin Tank was frequently tasked with creating tools with which editors could create unique forms, like surveys. However, Aytekin Tank often found the existing tools on the market wholly insufficient.

Thus, JotForm was born. While Aytekin Tank toiled away at his day job, he spent his free time developing what would become one of the most popular online form builder tools in the world. His work as a senior web developer provided enough additional funds to turn his ideas into a reality. Over time, Aytekin Tank put away a small fraction of his paycheck until he was ready to launch JotForm. Then, he had the funds to hire a team, grow his start-up into a full-time business, and become one of the dominant forces in his niche. Today, JotForm has over 2 million subscribers and counting!

Andrew Mason, Founder of Groupon

While Andrew Mason working toward a Public Policy Degree at the University of Chicago, he started developing The Pointa platform that introduced the “tipping point” concept of donating funds towards a particular cause. With The Point, users could collectively fundraise in support of a common goal. However, if the goal did not reach a certain number of supporters or a minimum monetary amount, no one would be charged and the goal would be abandoned. This “tipping point” concept would later form the basis of Andrew Mason’s subsequent endeavor, Groupon, with partners Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky.

Andrew Mason and his partners put a great deal of time and effort into The Point, which proved to be a failed idea, due in part to its lack of focus. However, they found that one aspect of The Point was particularly popular: collective buying power with group deals. Thus, in 2008, Groupon was born.

Andrew Mason worked as a server and a series of other odd jobs to pay his way through college and put aside funds to create The Point. Additionally, he was able to launch The Point with funds from his future Groupon partners. Even once The Point turned out to be a bust, Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky stuck by Andrew’s side. The trio turned their initial failure into a massive success, creating a company that is now valued at more than $2.4 billion!

Eren Bali, founder of Udemy

In the mid-2000s, Eren Bali worked as a freelance web developer based in Turkey. While working for various clients, including the now-defunct Speeddate.com, Bali was putting his extra time and funds toward his own passion project. In 2007, he developed software for a live virtual classroom. He saw a lot of potential in his new creation, so he saved up the funds to move his base of operations to Silicon Valley.

Once in California, Eren Bali met up with Oktay Caglar and Gagan Biyani to found Udemy, an open online course provider. The site launched in 2010 with minimal funding. In fact, Eren Bali and his partners tried and failed 30 times to gain the interest of investors. However, the early success of the platform allowed them to raise $1 million in just a few months. Later, Groupon investors Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell would help raise more capital for the burgeoning company. By early 2020, Udemy was valued at approximately $2 billion!

How to Turn Your Side Hustle into a Full-Time Business

It’s easy to look at success stories and feel that these side-hustlers-turned-business-owners just got lucky. While there is a certain amount of luck involved in every entrepreneurial endeavor, there are actionable steps you can take to turn your side hustle into a successful full-time business. Based on the examples above, you can reverse engineer their experiences to find a process that works for you. So, let’s take notes from successful entrepreneurs like Aytekin Tank, Andrew Mason, and Eren Bali!

Find and perfect your idea

In all three examples above, the founders of successful side-hustle businesses had ideas that they put into action. Often times, these ideas combined their existing skills or passions with a gap in the market. For example, let’s say that you are an excellent communicator and have expert knowledge in a particular niche. You could begin consulting for businesses in that niche. From there, you could set aside funds from your job to market and grow your side-hustle consultation services into a full-time business! This brings us to the second important step…

Develop a funding strategy

Most people begin side hustles to make money. However, to turn a side hustle into a business, you’ll need some starting capital. As a result, you’ll likely need to dedicate a small portion of your paycheck toward building your side hustle. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it’s actually a sound business strategy.

Think about it; if you quit your job just to focus on your side hustle, you greatly reduce your income and risk putting all of your eggs in one unpredictable basket. Alternatively, if you regularly set aside funds from your job (or your side hustle) to build your business, you’re essentially investing in your future without taking on any additional risk. Over time, this nest egg could be enough to get your business up-and-running. If you still need more capital, you could always look for investors or take out a small business loan to get things moving!

Launch your business

It may seem like an unimportant distinction, but a side hustle becomes a business once you identify it as such. Side hustles are essentially part-time, temporary work to make extra cash; businesses are long-term investments with the potential to grow and create much larger returns. So, once you officially launch your business as an LLC or similar entity, you’ve taken an important step in your transition from side hustler to business owner!

As illustrated in the stories above, side hustles are generally low-risk. You spend a little bit of extra time and money to (hopefully) make more money or develop a unique idea. However, launching a business entails much more risk. When Aytekin Tank formed JotForm, he struggled to pay and manage his ever-growing staff. Andrew Manson’s first business launch, The Point, turned out to be a momentous failure, though it led him to develop a much better and more profitable website. Finally, Eren Bali and his business partners failed dozens of times to secure funding before finally getting the capital they needed to grow their business. In all three examples, these entrepreneurs launched their side-hustle businesses in spite of the inherent risks.

Time to get started

Turning a side hustle into a big business doesn’t mean you need to quit your day job. In fact, a day job has allowed hundreds of entrepreneurs to routinely fund their side hustles, eventually transforming them into full-time businesses. Up-and-coming entrepreneurs sometimes argue that leaving their much-hated nine-to-five jobs to focus on a full-time business will increase their chances of success. While there is validity to the point that you can’t just “set it and forget it,” you don’t need to completely upend your financial life or career to build your business. Instead, routinely fund and dedicate extra time to your side hustle until you’re ready to launch your business venture.

Originally published on Entrepreneur.

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April 15, 2021

A Rock and A Hard Place: The Farmers of America

Today, small time farmers across the United States are stuck between a rock and a hard place due to unfair and unjust pressures put on these family run farms by mega corporations. This pressure has made it harder and harder for farmers to make ends meet to properly care for the health and wellbeing of their livestock. Unfortunately, nearly all farmers have to choose between, either, treating their animals humanely and making a small profit, or signing with a mega corporation to inhumanely raise livestock for a slightly larger profit. Poultry farms throughout the United States serve as a great example for how hard it is to compete with these corporations. 

The reality is that these mega corporations came in and changed the age-old standards of ethical farming. When looking at poultry farms, the price of meat and eggs has remained too low for too long for smaller farmers to compete and make a difference. Therefore, the poultry farmers have to make a tough choice between selling at the farmers’ markets, or signing deals with mega corporations for a better profit.

Factory farming, which is controlled by big businesses and corporations, are notorious for their inhumane treatment of animals. Poultry farmers, most of the time, have to compete with these mega corporations that find nothing ethically wrong with packing chickens into crates so small that they cannot move, failing to care for the medical needs in order to raise a bird bigger, faster, and cheaper. By completely neglecting any concern or care for the chickens, and placing these animals in horrific, unsanitary, and tortuous environments, big corporations are able to mass produce more eggs and poultry products at a discounted price. In exchange for money, they opt to torture animals.

This, in turn, drives down the price of poultry and eggs, considerably. Today, most farmers only make pennies per bird, due to the mass corporations that can afford to only obtain a marginal profit per animal because they own so many. Put in simpler terms, to make a $100, a mega corporation might only need to make 10 cents per chicken, since they have 1000 chickens. However, a small time farmer, who only has 100 chickens — but keeps them humanely, cares for their needs, and feeds them real food that is not genetically modified — would need to make $10 per chicken. This means that a small time farmer simply cannot compete with larger corporations that specialize in poultry. 

Ultimately, they, either, have to raise their productivity and, in doing so, sign a contract with a mega corporation, or remain small and sell at the farmer’s markets. Either way, the end result is the unfair treatment of poultry farmers and the continued mistreatment and abuse of chickens.

Not surprisingly, many smaller chicken farmers are reporting feeling extremely disgruntled and downright depressed over the current state of the whole enterprise. They remember the days, in decades past, when they could care for their chickens in an ethical and humane manner and still turn a profit because it was just them selling along with other farmers who grew for their towns. Now, you can buy the same brand of chicken all over the country. Because of this, fewer and fewer farmers are able to act ethically and earn enough to stay in business.

But there is hope. You as a consumer have the power to help these marginalized farmers and their animals who, ultimately, suffer the most. It is vital for all Americans to petition their governments — local, state, and federal — and demand that stricter laws and regulations be put into place in order to protect animal rights. Stricter laws will accomplish one of two goals: either, factory farmers will be driven out of business, or factory farms will be forced to treat their animals humanely and ethically. It is essential to keep in mind, that these larger corporations are lobbying lawmakers and petitioning to have their agendas upheld and undermine the legitimacy of truly dedicated and just farmers.

If factory farms shut down completely, then smaller farms will be able to thrive and prosper without having to succumb to barbaric practices. On the other hand, if these farms do abide by the laws and regulations which protect animal rights, then poultry farmers will be able to work in a humane setting and not be expected to abuse and mistreat animals in order to turn a profit. 

Either way, the farmer and the chickens will win and the corporations, which exploit farmers and torture innocent animals, will be thwarted in their nefarious actions.

Originally published on HuffPost.

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April 12, 2021

Leveraging Media Criticism to Get Your Business Ahead of the Crowd

Social media influencers, bloggers, third-party review sites, and even major publications give negative feedback to businesses all the time. Learn how you can leverage media criticism to get your business ahead of the crowd.

One trait that applies to most new entrepreneurs is hopeless optimism. While many entrepreneurs and startup owners keep their feet on the ground when it comes to budgeting and business management, they may not be so level-headed about media criticism. In fact, most startup owners expect to receive nothing but praise and cheers when their products or services hit the market. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case.

However, every dark cloud has a silver lining. Rather than throwing in the towel when you get negative feedback, you should leverage media criticism to your advantage. When it comes to leveraging media critiques, there are essentially two schools of thought. One approach is the “P.T. Barnum Pro-Criticism” technique; the other is Eric Reis’ “Adaptive Learning” strategy. Though both methods are very different, they offer you two ways to turn negative media criticism into a useful tool to grow your business and ultimately stand out from the competition.

What is media criticism?

It may sound like a no-brainer, but many first-time entrepreneurs assume that any kind of negative feedback qualifies as media criticism. In fact, there’s a huge difference between consumers leaving your business bad reviews on Yelp and a journalist criticizing your startup in a respected publication. So, let’s evaluate the differences between consumer criticism and media criticism.

Consumer criticism

Consumer criticism refers to any kind of negative critique of you, your product, your service, or your business by a patron or customer. For example, let’s say you run a business that provides digital marketing services. A client uses your services, feels unhappy about their experience, and decides to write a negative review of your business.

This is a prime example of consumer criticism. It is simply a form of negative feedback from a customer or client. More importantly, the customer or client is not a public figure, nor do they hold any sway over a larger audience. However, their feedback will likely be in the public view, so it does have the power to negatively affect your business and possibly deter future clients.

Media criticism

Alternatively, media criticism refers to negative feedback from a public and/or authoritative source. Sometimes, consumer criticism can also be media criticism. For example, if a prominent Youtube star makes a purchase from your startup and creates a negative review video for their Youtube channel, this would be a form of both consumer and media criticism.

In any case, media criticism generally comes from individuals or organizations that have a large audience or have the ability to sway public opinion in a substantial way. Here are a few common examples:

  • Journalists
  • Prominent social media influencers or bloggers
  • Celebrities
  • Newspapers, magazines, and other media outlets
  • TV programs, radio shows, and podcasts

Needless to say, there can be many different sources of media criticism. When many new startup owners are faced with media criticism, they may feel the urge to crumble under the pressure. After all, being the target of public criticism from a popular or authoritative source can be painful. So, how can you get over the initial hurdles and leverage media criticism to your own advantage?

Different approaches to managing and leveraging media criticism

As previously mentioned, there are two unique approaches to leveraging media criticism. The first approach is the “P.T. Barnum Pro-Criticism” method. This is a rather famous — and perhaps infamous — strategy implemented by world-renowned New York Showman and founder of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, P.T. Barnum. So, let’s take a closer look at the notorious showman’s strategy for using media criticism to grow his entertainment empire.

P.T. Barnum’s pro-criticism method

Though P.T. Barnum dabbled in a wide variety of ventures — from politics to journalism — he is most remembered for his traveling circus and widely publicized hoaxes. He became highly successful due to his keen observation that media criticism can be a good thing. In fact, many historians attribute the famous quote, “there’s no such thing as bad press,” (sometimes quoted as “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”) to Barnum.

One of Barnum’s most famous hoaxes was the “Feejee Mermaid,” which was the corpse of a monkey sewn to the tail of a fish, with paper-mâché to craft certain parts of the head and body. Despite its highly questionable authenticity, thousands of people flocked to Barnum’s New York-based museum to see the exhibit. In this instance, Barnum used controversy and negative media attention to grow his empire. This was further exemplified with his second most popular hoax, “General Tom Thumb.”

As part of his touring circus, Barnum employed several dwarfs and little people, one of whom he dubbed “General Tom Thumb.” The young boy began performing at the age of 4, with Barnum claiming that he was “The Smallest Person That Ever Walked Alone.” The act was so popular that Barnum took it to Europe, where Queen Victoria was both entertained and saddened by the young entertainer. His appearance before royalty — and the subsequent media frenzy — led to a hugely successful European tour.

So, how can these stories help you as an entrepreneur? The fact is that there is some truth to Barnum’s media criticism theory. Press — whether good or bad — provides exposure for you and your business. In short, it makes more people aware of your brand. For example, my business, The Doe, is a digital publication for anonymous contributors. Since we strive to encourage conversation and differing viewpoints, we have faced media criticism in the past. Most recently, we experienced backlash related to an article that argued against voting in the 2020 election due to the lack of quality candidates. Some of our more prominent followers took to social media to deride the article’s viewpoint, but as the founder and CEO of The Doe, I decided to lean into the criticism. Rather than ignoring, however, I always choose to respond to our critics, as often those conversations can be the most enlightening as a founder.

Eric Reis’ adaptive learning

In his much-lauded book, The Lean Startup, American entrepreneur Eric Reis puts forward a method for handling media critiques as a startup owner. Part of this process is a practice that Reis calls “Adaptive Learning.” As the name implies, entrepreneurs must analyze feedback so that they can adapt and learn from past mistakes. In short, it takes the same process that startups can use with consumer criticism and implements it with media criticism.

However, the ideas behind Adaptive Learning are far more complex than simply learning from one’s mistakes. In fact, Reis promotes a three-step process that every startup owner can use to their advantage. The illustration below provides a broad overview of Reis’ process:

As you can see, every startup must begin with a vision. This step defines the goals of your startup. To get to the next step, you must identify actionable steps that can get your startup up and running. Once you’ve identified these elements, you can start seeing how your business operates and how it is received. Are you able to profit right from the start? Is consumer feedback positive or negative? How about media critiques?

If you’re getting any negative feedback or taking note of metrics that could be improved, this is the moment to adapt and learn. This process of building, measuring, and learning is the foundation of Adaptive Learning. As you can see from the illustration above, you can continue through this process multiple times to improve your business and leverage media criticism to your advantage.

It’s inevitable

At one point or another, media criticism is an inevitability for every startup owner. Whether it’s a blogger who doesn’t like your product or a journalist who thinks your practices are questionable, there will always be media critiques of your business. Remember, you shouldn’t see media criticism as a reason to give up; you should see it as a reason to improve and build your business. Whether you use the P.T. Barnum Pro-Criticism approach or Eric Reis’ Adaptive Learning method (or even a combination of the two), you have an actionable path to success. You simply have to use your ability to leverage media criticism so that your business can grow and get ahead of the crowd!

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April 5, 2021

3 Ways Young Entrepreneurs and Freelancers Can Disrupt the Retail Industry

Deloitte’s 2021 Retail Industry Outlook report has some relevant findings for those willing to think outside the box.

Many young entrepreneurs and freelancers see opportunities in the highly disrupted 2021 economy, particularly in relation to bringing new products to digital markets that are only starting to stabilize in response to the pandemic.

Deloitte’s “2021 Retail Industry Outlook,” which surveyed fifty retail executives to analyze trends within the industry, demonstrates some of the unique ways young entrepreneurs and freelancers can benefit from retail trends. Digging in, we are able to see some ways that freelancers and others can pivot in 2021 to take advantage of retail industry shifts and turn existing skill sets into new avenues of professional growth.

Talent needed for digital formats

One of the major themes in the 2021 Deloitte report is an emphasis on reimaging how digital space is used by retail companies, and the importance of proactively orienting toward digital marketplaces as a long term strategy, not a short term stop-gap. In order to accomplish this, Deloitte recommends hiring digitally savvy, versatile talent that will reimagine websites, apps, and digital spaces to increase sales and improve UI.

Young entrepreneurs are also tapped into one of the biggest concerns for consumers today: trust, privacy, and transparency. According to Pew Research, 81% of the public believes that the potential risks of data collection by companies outweigh the benefits. Designing sales fronts and apps that put data privacy and consumer protection to the forefront of UI development will give new entrepreneurs an edge in an ever more cautious digital space.

One of the major lessons learned from the retail environment of 2020 was that supply chains were delicate and consumer behavior was harder to predict. Young entrepreneurs will succeed at solidifying supply chains and distribution networks through innovative partnerships forged outside of traditional frameworks that struggled to adapt in 2020. These will require digitally savvy talent able to reimagine how data is collected and connections are made in online sales spaces.

Livestream and virtual showroom content

The Deloitte report points to a growing trend in China of live streaming product demos, and many young entrepreneurs with live streaming experience from the gaming world could capitalize as this trend comes to the United States. As Inc’s Lindsay Blakely notes, the growth of livestream shopping in the US is particularly strong for male consumers and dads, which means content live streamers already confident in writing copy and performing live for male audiences could thrive in retail demoing of consumer electronics, luxury goods, or other products which benefit from the live stream format.

The Deloitte Report also pointed to the extreme importance of new, contactless ways of connecting consumers with products, including 3D Virtual Showrooms and consumer-oriented image databases of retail products. Freelancers in the photography space, many of whom struggled with 2020’s decline in public events, could pivot their efforts and portfolios toward virtual showroom photography that is oriented toward consumer behaviors. This would be a way for freelancers to partner with small businesses to create captivating online content that drives brand loyalty.

Complexity and personalization

One of the biggest results of the online retail shift of 2020 is the drive toward personalization and digital differentiation. This means that companies should be considering how to add personalization options and unique details to all items offered, and to design products and UI to be oriented toward digital customers. The folks over at Deloitte argue that “everything could emanate from the customer, precisely because AI makes such personalization possible by achieving economies of complexity (handling personalization at the lowest possible cost) rather than economies of scale (handling production at the lowest possible cost).”

In essence, “bespoke” is hip in the digital retail space. Young entrepreneurs and freelancers can take advantage of this trend by imitating companies that create innovative UI and allow for the kinds of customizations that matter to Millenials and Generation Z shoppers. Companies in the delivery home cookingbeauty, and skin care industries have been highly successful in these efforts: young entrepreneurs looking to move into any retail segment should look to how customization, combined with innovative digital sales platforms, can increase profitability.

Long term opportunities

Deloitte’s 2021 Retail Industry Outlook is optimistic about opportunities in 2021 for the retail industry to rebound and operate more efficiently. While many small businesses failed in 2020, and many young entrepreneurs put their dreams on hold, 2021 offers post-vaccine hope of rebounding sales, particularly within the digital space. By focusing on new virtual spaces, customer UI, privacy, live streaming, and bespoke customization, young entrepreneurs can take the best lessons from 2020 and integrate them to promote rapid expansion in 2021.

Perhaps more importantly, those looking at 2021 as an opportunity to pivot from previous experiences to a space in the retail industry can utilize the need to present products in new ways to demanding digital customers as a way to sell existing skills. Photographers, live streamers, brand managers, product developers — many freelancers and young entrepreneurs can benefit from the move away from brick and mortar to a more adaptive and dynamic digital retail space. By focusing on customer experience and new conceptions of digital space, young entrepreneurs can still reach medium and long-term business goals through rapid 2021 growth.

Originally published on Entrepreneur

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