You are living the dream and running your own business, but you should be careful not to sabotage all that you have worked so hard for. Women can sometimes be their own worst enemies—bad habits and behaviors hold us back. What you learned as a girl could bring your business career crashing down. So, to help you forge ahead with the skills you need to succeed, we’ve come up with 16 quick fixes to change your behavior.
1) Don’t think that testosterone rules
There is a temptation for some businesswomen to try and change years of evolution and start behaving as a man would behave. Truly effective and great bosses determine their own leadership style. You must be true to your nature and not assume another persona. When you are running a company, how you present yourself will change, but it should still be consistent with your own personality. We should celebrate our uniqueness—the very things that distinguish us from men—instead of downplaying these differences by mimicking males.
2) Don’t be too nice
Never worry that your words or actions will offend others. This doesn’t mean you have to be hard-nosed, but to be effective you must get in the habit of not always worrying about what other people are thinking of you. If you are locked into a dispute with a supplier, don’t take it personally. If you have to bring up a difficult topic such as an employee’s poor performance, be firm and clear about what you want from them and point out how their actions are having a negative effect. When you are finished, allow them the opportunity to have their say.
3) Bid farewell to the father figure complex
Although the number of women entrepreneurs is growing rapidly, it’s still a male-dominated business world. Some women view male figures of authority as father figures and seek their approval or become almost childlike in their presence. Yet these are powerful, successful, and assertive women. This behavior is most prominent in women who have come from families with a controlling male authority figure. The solution? Check yourself in these situations, ask why the person reminds you of your father, see that he is not, and remind yourself that you are his equal.
4) Abandon the idea of the perfect woman
There is no such thing as perfect. If you judge yourself against this benchmark you’ll never be happy. Concentrate on creating the best business you can. Have a realistic assessment of what you will be happy with. Don’t spend too much time fussing in one area at the expense of other parts of the business. Always ask yourself, “What is the most valuable use of my time?”
5) Don’t expect the world to come to you
Don’t be shy about coming forward, and not just to drive sales but to become a permanent presence in the minds of your customers. There are loads of things you can do to get your business noticed. Blog about your area of expertise, get stories in the media, tell everyone about what you do, reward loyal customers, launch a new product, and promote events.
6) Don’t give away the store
Adding value to your services keeps customers coming back for more, but don’t make discounts or complimentary products your default option. They are necessary sometimes, but think of ways of adding extra value that won’t cost a cent. Don’t compare yourself to the competition or try to match their giveaways. If you’re strong and confident in what you do, there’s no need to charge less or to continually look over your shoulder. Give away too much and it may cost you the farm.
7) Don’t disguise statements as questions
Statements are disguised as questions because women fear they will be seen as assertive, or they’re worried about the risk of sounding foolish. However, questions sound weak—statements are stronger. Get into the habit of making statements and only ask questions when there is a need. Solicit opinions after setting out your proposals. It suggests that you are open to hearing other opinions and gives the impression that you are in control.
8) Don’t ask permission
We’re still living in an age where women feel the need to ask permission to change direction, adopt a new strategy, or to implement an idea. This is what we did as children and it should not be the behavior of independent, strong-willed businesswomen. Give yourself permission to make changes and inform others of your intentions. Then turn them into action. If others have a problem, they’ll soon ask questions. Be assertive, confident, and courteous with your replies.
9) Banish bad body language
Many fail to understand the importance of body language, but used correctly, non-verbal signals such as hand gestures and posture can reinforce your words. Let any gestures flow naturally, making them smooth and well-timed. Match the gesture with the size of the audience you are addressing—the larger the audience the larger the gesture. Avoid signs of nervousness such as playing with the cuffs of your sleeve. Record yourself before a big meeting and ask someone you trust to evaluate your performance.
10) Change your wardrobe
If you look good and feel good you’ll radiate a confident, strong, and powerful image.It’s a balancing act—you want to dress to impress but you don’t want to detract attention from your business or message. Avoid looking too sexy or too plain. Don’t wear heavily scented perfume. Don one statement piece of jewelry. Hair should be well groomed, and makeup should be appropriate and make you feel confident. (Always check your teeth for lipstick!)
11) Don’t groom in public
Personal grooming is an intimate task, and doing this in public may embarrass other people. It’s unprofessional and suggests that you are disorganized. If you have to adjust yourself, go somewhere private. If it’s before a meeting, leave enough time and never keep people waiting. If you catch sight of your reflection on a surface, do not adjust yourself there—wait for an appropriate time to do it somewhere out of sight.
12) Feel good about power
The concept of power seems to create so much discomfort among businesswomen that many deny they have it. Of course, there’s a lot of historical baggage here as traditionally, women didn’t have a lot. You must acknowledge your power because you are powerful. You create opportunities, make important business decisions, and influence others through negotiations. Stop doubting yourself and don’t be afraid of what others might think about your acceptance of the power you have.
13) Welcome risk
The business is moving along steadily and making a little money, but owners avoid risk and are afraid of leaping out of their safety zone to really expand the brand. Be brave and diversify, start selling complementary products or services. Target new markets—use your imagination to think of new ways of reaching potential customers. While big corporations may be cutting services in the economic downturn, go after the smaller customers that may now be missing out. Consider the benefits of opening another location, franchising, or acquiring another business.
14) Don’t play not-to-lose
Are you worried about meeting targets, or whether the business will collapse? If so, you are playing not-to-lose when you should be playing to win. The best you can achieve here is not losing. Never contemplate failure. Don’t waste energy devising Plan B if things take a downturn. Ensure that you have the drive and tenacity to pursue your I will win attitude at every opportunity. Take up a sport and develop the habit of playing to win.
15) Don’t ignore instinct
Learn to trust your gut. Used in the right way, intuition can be a powerful business tool and a way of making sound decisions. If you’re faced with a dilemma, give yourself a short time-limit to resolve it. It’ll force you to go with your hunch. If a strategy or business development doesn’t feel right and it’s making you nervous, don’t go for it. Do not be obsessed by what-if scenarios. Learn to listen and act on your inner voice. It won’t let you down.
16) Value your time
Don’t shortchange yourself by giving your time away for free. A free business consultation seems like a good sales pitch, but think of how much it is costing you, and there’s no guaranteed work at the end of it. With a crushing schedule and the competing demands of home and work, it sometimes feels like you’re in the middle of a storm. However, the more you tackle, the more hours you work, but for the same money. Hence, you’re giving away your time for free. As hard as it is seems, learn to say no more often.© Copyright 2010 Ali Brown