Why a mastermind is good for you and your business

Running Mastermind sessions is a passion of mine.  I love watching a group of people who may not previously know each other form a strong group: challenging each other to get things done, bouncing business ideas around, supporting each other when work feels tough, and celebrating in each others success.

But still a lot of the people I meet in business do not know what a Mastermind is, or how it can help them and their business.

So what is a mastermind?

A Mastermind is a group of people who meet monthly (some meet more regularly or less frequently, but my groups meet monthly) to discuss areas of their business they want to work on.  The aim of the sessions is that everyone gets an opportunity to discuss an area they wish to develop and they are then supported by the rest of the group to create a clear plan on how to deliver.  This is usually achieved through good questioning by the rest of the group and also by the group offering their knowledge and expertise (it’s good to have a group with different skill-sets for this reason).  But of course, having a plan is not enough – the group is also there to hold each other accountable; ensuring that if someone has made a commitment to do something, they do it.

Why is a Mastermind good for you and your business?

1. You will be part of an exclusive community

As part of a mastermind you will become part of an exclusive group. You will meet monthly and you will form strong bonds with the group you are in.  Not only that, mastermind groups are usually formed for their complementing skills.  This means that the group as a whole will be able to problem solve easily, ideas will flow and you will develop amazing action plans that really deliver.

2.  You will have peer support

It can be pretty lonely being a business owner – particularly if you are part of a small business, or work from home.  Having people who in your mastermind who you know are in a similar position and who you can bounce ideas off is great for giving you further sense of purpose and making you feel that you are not alone.

3. You will achieve results – FAST

A huge benefit from having a group of people listening to your work issues, is that you have a range of experience to draw on.  This means that when it comes to finding solutions you will come up with them quickly.  Also you will develop great plans for delivery and have a whole group of people asking about how the work is going.  Therefore, you have accountability – there is no hiding from getting the work done.  Consequently, unless you want to be the one to admit to the rest of the group that you haven’t done what you said you would; you will get your plan delivered – and of course, that means you will get results and much faster than when working on it alone.

4. You will gain confidence

There is nothing like feeling part of a successful community and delivering in your job.  When you feel successful, guess what? Your confidence soars! Who wouldn’t want this?

5. You will grow your network

The mastermind may be small (usually less than 8 people) but you will get to know those people really well and they will become your best supporters.  Therefore, you will be introduced to / recommended to, each of the members networks over time.  Consequently, by being part of the mastermind you will grow your network not just by the number in your group, but you will typically also gain the network of those in your group.  And the best bit is, that a a group you will genuinely want to support and help each other – and that means promoting each others business, which of course, leads to more business.

6. You will meet new people to collaborate with

As a close group who want to support you (and with complementary skills), it is highly likely that members in your group might find ways of collaborating.  You might find someone in the group who is a perfect fit for a project you are working on or you might have the skill that they need.  This will allow you to achieve far more.

 

If you would like to find out more about Mastermind groups or are interested in joining a mastermind in the Somerset / Devon / Dorset area, then contact:               Yvonne@astara-coaching.co.uk for more details.

 

 

 

Why Mindset Matters

Our mind is a powerful thing: it’s what creates our thoughts and ideas and drives us to take action.  But it can also hold us back from taking the action that we need.

I often coach clients who during their session becomes both clear on the outcome that they want and the actions that they need to take to get there.  I also check how they feel about it – and usually the client says that they are happy to take the action forward; and that they know it will deliver the results.  However, at the beginning of the next session, it’s clear that they haven’t done what they’ve said they are going to.  When questioned, the biggest factor to this is that the client’s mindset has got in the way and more specifically, they don’t have the thoughts and beliefs that are aligned to their outcome.

Why is this important? Well, in the years I have been coaching, the main difference between people who are successful in what they do and those who do not succeed, is mindset.  Those who have beliefs that are aligned with their outcomes can more readily generate the thoughts, feelings and therefore, actions which drive them towards that very goal.

But the good news is that if your mindset is not in the right place, it is possible to change it.  By understanding the beliefs and mindset that is holding the person back, it is possible to challenge those beliefs and thoughts by introducing opposing positive beliefs which will support the client in achieving their outcome.  Therefore, if a person has a belief that they ‘are no good with money’, then a positive belief might be that they, ‘can manage money well and always have more than they need’.  These beliefs can be strengthened by using affirmations, so the person will tell themselves positive statements associated with money daily to retrain the brain those thoughts that are going to be more aligned with their goals and outcomes.  Consequently, in this case an affirmation might be, “Money comes to me easily and I always have more than I need.”.

Affirmations are important; they help create the right mindset to create the right action and it’s that which creates success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A change in perspective

“We can’t change others, we can only change ourselves.”, is a presupposition in Neurolinguistic programming which helps us to understand the differences between people but also the reactions that people have.

We all have experience, beliefs and values and intrinsic preferences (such as how we take in information or express ourselves) which means that we see events differently; and most importantly, how we react to events and interact with others.

So often in coaching, my clients raise issues about relationship with others – opening up about their frustration that someone has behaved in a particular way, said something hurtful or not understood their point of view.  And this is often followed a statement that the other person is, “unreasonable” and by the question, “How can I get them to change?”  The assumption being, that the problem sits with the other person and that by that other person changing, it would solve ‘the problem’.

In truth, the reality is, that we cannot change others but all is not lost – we can change ourselves which in turn, can improve the situation all round.  That change, usually starts with a change in perspective and by that, I literally mean trying to imagine what it is like to be in the other person’s shoes.

How can you do this?  Well, it starts by really imagining yourself to be them!  Start by taking on their posture, think about their likes and dislikes and what it is they need.  Then as you move on, think about what it is that they need from you.  The play out the conversations or interactions you have had with them; and think about how you may have contributed to the outcome.  Did you give them the information they needed?  Did you come with beliefs about how the other person would react, which affected the communication style (it’s surprising how often we are guilty of communicating in a defensive way because we are anticipating a particular reaction!)?  Did you take into account what was going on in the other person’s life and show empathy?

So often, when we see this new perspective, we get a huge sense of understanding and that as a minimum gives us a shift in how we see that event.  It literally changes us and can remove much of the angst and frustration around the event.

Furthermore, that new level of understanding gives us real insight in how we can change our communication with the other person; telling us what they need to hear, how we should say it and what body language we can use.  And guess what?  This change in us, often creates a change in the reaction we get – so good all round.

So next time you are getting frustrated with someone else (particularly if it’s an ongoing relationship such as family or work colleagues), do try to understand that person more, see a new perspective and don’t be afraid to change yourself – it will always be for the better.

When the plan is no longer the plan

At the beginning of the year I set myself some mini-goals for my own health and development.  I had realised that 2015 had passed in a blink of an eye and whilst I had paid attention to my business, I hadn’t paid attention to me.  So I sat down and had a think about what I could do to increase my health and happiness.  I wrote these down and published them (above) for all to see – as I believe that setting out your intentions, creates accountability and makes people more likely to achieve their goals.

So why am I now here telling you that I haven’t followed the plan?  After all I’m a Coach and I help others to achieve their goals – why haven’t I achieved mine?  Well actually there’s a very good reason for this.  I see it in my clients regularly – and my own example is prime!

Sometimes the plan we set for ourselves evolve; sometimes, what we first thought we wanted, doesn’t turn out to be at all; sometimes the timing is all wrong; and we’re human – and sometimes we change our mind.  This doesn’t mean failure – and let me tell you why…

The plan I set at the beginning of the year, has actually let me understand a lot more about myself.  Putting myself as a focus for a change has allowed me to really understand what I want and what I don’t want.  When I decided to complete a triathlon it was because I wanted to get fit again and I had completed one before – so it was something I knew I could do.   I started my training plan and realised that actually I really love cycling; I also enjoy running – but swimming is something I dread. So I changed the goal – to pick cycling and running events (and possibly a duathlon if I find one) that challenge me.  I’m still fulfilling my overall objective to get fitter – but I’m not making myself stick to the original plan of completing a triathlon.  As a result I am really enjoying my workouts and getting stronger and fitter – and a few weeks ago completed a 60 mile cycle which I never imagined was possible a few months ago (and by the way, that’s a lot further than what was needed on the triathlon!).

I also planned to go to the cinema for myself – really to get me out of the house and do something for me.  Well again, lots of reflection and ‘me time’ has allowed me to understand that whilst I don’t mind going to the cinema, it’s not top of my list.  I have instead been out to dinner with friends and just booked my first ever trip to the ballet – something I am sure I will love.

The rest of the plan  I am pleased to say I have done and as a result I am feeling much more happy, healthy and fulfilled.  But it’s important to understand that plans do not have to be fixed.  In business especially, plans change all the time – we need to adapt to our customer needs; keep competitive with the rest of the market and keep ourselves happy so consequently, we need to adapt.

A good client of mine was recently debating this very thing: she was thinking of making quite a drastic change to her product line.  Her new products would be more profitable, had received good feedback but had alienated a few of her loyal customers of old, and this worried her.  She has since gone on to make this big change to her business and re-launched with her new products.  She now has a client base who she feels is more aligned to her ideal client, she is increasing her sales and profit, but naturally lost a few customers along the way.  Overall though, this has been great for business.

Another client was wondering why her plans for finding new premises weren’t producing anything.  There seemed nothing wrong with the plan – indeed I knew that if she followed it, she would achieve it.  So I knew there was something else: when we discussed it further it transpired that she was nervous about finding new premises as it meant making a huge commitment with her business partner; someone who she felt wasn’t pulling her weight in the business.  It led us to re-evaluate the plan and ensured that the business partner issue was dealt with before a commitment was made to the original plan of finding premises.

As a Coach of course I advocate goal setting, SMART action planning and getting the plan done but if I focused on this alone there would be lots of people achieving things that they then realised they didn’t want.  Paying attention to the plan, how it makes you feel and being adaptable along the way to get what you really want does mean that the plan is not always the end plan – and that’s completely ok.

 

 

 

Practice Makes Confident

Ok, confession time – I wouldn’t describe myself as a naturally confident person.  In fact, I spent most of my childhood, teens and early twenties being terrified at the prospect of having to present in front of a group (no matter how small).  If I had to do a presentation, I would lie awake the night before, imagining everything going wrong – and when I had to present, my knees would physically shake.

However, I was also ambitious and I knew that if I was to progress in my career, I had to overcome my FEAR.  At that time in my life I had never heard of NLP, let alone studied it, so I had to rely on my own determination to get me past that feeling of being terrified to confident.  So what did I do?  I put myself out there.  Instead of hiding from situations which made me feel uncomfortable, I actually looked for them.  My theory was that practice makes perfect confident (well, ish).  But over time, that is what happened – I stopped dreading those presentations, and just got on and did them.  Eventually, I even began to enjoy presenting because the instant feedback is quite gratifying.  And of course now, I coach and train people for a living so presentations are second nature to me – who would have believed it all those years ago?

Would I now describe myself as a confident person? No, definitely not – but I completely hold the belief that my (lack of) confidence should never hold me back.  At the end of the day, with some practice (and positive thinking – thank you, NLP!) I can achieve whatever I set my mind to.

You cannot separate the task & individual

In coaching I meet people all the time who want to make improvements to their lives.  They might come to me because they want a promotion at work, want to make more profit in their business or because they are struggling with workload or their work in general.

In fact, there could be and often are, lots of reasons why someone decides that coaching might be for them. But there is usually a common element to how coaching goes.  There is usually a problem the person wants to solve, we take time to discuss this and the client comes up with possible solutions – but it doesn’t end there: in fact, it’s usually at this point, that other issues emerge.  These issues have nothing to do with the person not being able to see what they need to do, or even having the ability to do what they need to do – it is usually that the person doesn’t feel that they can do it.

An example of this is a client who knows that in order to grow her business she needs to make at least 10 cold calls to potential clients per week – but does she do this? No.

In this case, the reason why the client can’t move forward is due to lack of confidence, but it can equally be past trauma, things going on at home, or concern that achieving their goal might give them a negative consequence (think of people who don’t want to achieve their income goals because they’re concerned that others will think differently of them; or it doesn’t sit comfortably with their beliefs – but negative unintended consequences could be anything).

This means that coaching is not as simple as helping a client find solutions for them to meet their goal.  I have to work with, and consider the person as a whole: working with beliefs, personal objections and confidence in order to truly make a breakthrough.  And that is why you cannot separate the task from the individual.

And employers – if you have a member of staff that is not performing, don’t just jump to the conclusion that it is a capability issue, consider your valued employee as a whole person!

Why I Love My Pendulum

Well first off, it’s pretty isn’t it?  It’s crystal, it creates beautiful rainbow patterns in the lights and I secretly admit, that’s partly why I was first attracted to having a pendulum.

However, I first came across using pendulums when I trained to become a hypnotherapist six years ago.  I did the course initially because I thought that hypnotic language could support my coaching clients (that’s a whole other topic though) but was perhaps a little cynical about hypnotherapy per se.  But during the course I was completed converted; and learned so much about mind and body connection.  This was especially apparent when using a pendulum: what I learned was that when we have different thoughts this creates reactions in our body which we are totally unaware of.  For example, if when holding a pendulum completely still, we think the word, ‘No’ then the pendulum will react (from physiological sensations) and will move in a certain direction; if we then think, ‘yes’ then the pendulum will move differently.

So what does this mean?  Well firstly, it’s a reminder to be careful about what you think of – because thoughts really do have a physiological link.  Secondly, it means that when we are really stuck for ideas we can use a pendulum to find the answer.  For me, I know that ‘No’ is symbolised by my pendulum moving from left to right, back and forth; and that ‘yes’ is symbolised by the pendulum moving in circles.  So I can ask myself a question and see what response I get (allowing my unconscious mind to generate the answer for me) – note: do not think an answer if you want your unconscious mind / subconscious to find an answer for you!

So why would you want your unconscious mind to help?  Well, actually our minds are often so full of chatter (both helpful and unhelpful); which means decision making can be quite difficult.  This occurs because when we need to make a decision, the subconscious (or unconscious mind) will make a decision – even before we are aware of it (usually several seconds).  As it transfers to the conscious mind all sorts of other information interfere, such as our beliefs etc, which means we can effectively change our minds along the way, without even realising it.  So if we want a true response without the interference of mind chatter (those little voices which say you can’t do something / you’re not good enough etc) or other beliefs, then we need a way of directly reaching our subconscious – the pendulum.

Also, I often lose my keys – and I know my subconscious knows where I put them, but has filed that memory away a bit too well!

So for me the pendulum provides me with a great reminder of the mind-body connection and to think positive thoughts; it helps me make difficult decisions when I am sure that my mind really does know the answer; and of course, it’s beautiful and I love beautiful things in my life!  Oh – and where are those keys?…

 

 

Why it doesn’t need to be a Marathon

I am always inspired when I watch the London Marathon and yesterday was no exception: I just love watching the runners – all of whom have a different reason for being there; and all putting their heart and soul into it.

For those who don’t know, I have loved running since around the age of 25 when my good friend encouraged me to go along to a running group with her because she didn’t want to be the only newbie (and secretly I am sure it was so she wouldn’t be last either).  I went along and completely surprised myself that I could run for a couple of miles without collapsing in a heap.  This was a massive victory for me since I was always the girl at school who was picked last for teams in every sport.  Finally, it seemed that I had found something that I could do for me – and at a pace that suited me.  Ok, I’d never win any medals, but I was fine with that because I was happy to race for me and the things I needed to beat were the demons in my head and hopefully, my previous best time.

So since then, on and off I have been a runner (breaks for having children, poor weather, and evenings when the glass of wine has won).  I have also more recently decided to start cycling and have set a target for myself to do a Triathlon in September.  It’s not even remotely comparable to a Marathon – the triathlon shouldn’t take more than 1 ¼ hours, so is within the reach of most people.  But it’s still a goal and it’s still important to me.

And of course, whether you are running a Marathon or taking on a smaller challenge, the approach is the same.  It starts with setting a goal, breaking it down into smaller milestones and setting out all the small steps to reach each of those milestones and eventually, the end goal.  This is the approach that I am taking with my Triathlon – and this is the approach that my clients take with their goals: whether it is their goal to build a business from scratch or to get one new customer.

So what I have learned along the way – in my personal life and in coaching my clients, is that the size of the goal doesn’t matter.  If a goal is set, there is usually a good reason for it and it usually represents a stretch for that person (otherwise, they wouldn’t have set it).  Big goal or small, there are usually challenges along the way but each small step will take you towards the finish line.

So for me, whilst one day I’d love to think I could do a marathon (if my knees are up to it), I know that in the meantime my short runs and my triathlon is more than enough.  And for you, regardless of what your goal is, it’s your goal and for every step you take towards it, be proud.

Why you need to stop faffing and get on with it!

I’ve said it before, I love, love, love being able to work from home.  My daily commute is approximately 30 seconds from bed to office space and it gives me flexibility to spend the day getting my work done, but also getting home things done such as the washing (and my God, don’t I have a lot of it – never thought 2 young boys could get through so many clothes!).

However, I have learnt that I need to be so disciplined to ensure that I do get my work done.  I have met and coached so many people in a similar situation to myself (Mum’s working from home) who really struggle with this.  They start the day with good intentions, take the kids to school and believe that when they get home they will get stuck into their work.  When they get back home, they decide that they can’t possibly start the day without having a coffee; oh, and the washing needs doing; and didn’t they need to bake a cake for the school cake sale…and isn’t Home Under The Hammer starting shortly???  Distraction after distraction, meaning that the actual work doesn’t get done.

Now I am not saying that you should leave the washing to pile up: I couldn’t live like that myself (yes, I have control issues – you don’t need to tell me).  But sometimes you need to remind yourself that if you want to have a successful business – that is, one that can earn you some actual money, you need to stay focused.  I always like to remind myself, that if I was employed to do this job, would my employer be happy with my performance?  If the answer is ‘No’, you need to stop faffing, and get on with it!

My way of doing this is to treat my business like a job – because of course, it is!  I set out what my goals and objectives are and then I develop a project plan setting out the actions and milestones that I need to take to get there.  That means that every single month, week and day I know exactly what I need to be doing.

So now when I get up, I take my children to school, put the washing on, make a cup of coffee (it might sound like faffing but I really can’t get going without at least one cup of coffee in the morning), get my project plan out and plan my day (this might be a combination of tasks from my plan and meetings with clients).  This means I am clear about what I need to do at every point of the day and I can get on with the tasks in hand.  There is also nothing more satisfying than crossing off items on my lovely ‘to-do’ list!

My reason why

For everyone who starts a business, there is a reason why.  For those who start a business where you really need to make a living from it, there is a compelling why.  This reason why is the thing that gets you up in the morning and gets you working towards your goals.  It’s a huge motivator for success – and without a clear why, many businesses fail (or plod along as a hobby, with no real income).

So here I am going to share my story and how I reached my reason why:

Seven years ago I had just returned to work following maternity leave, having had my second child (I have two boys, if you are wondering – Charlie and Jack).  The job was ok, I was working for the NHS as a Director which was great for challenging the brain but required so many hours – and it wasn’t a job I had planned to do, just something I fell into after university and found I was good at, but wasn’t entirely fulfilling.

I used to drop my children to the childminder and then go to work, feeling guilty about not spending time with my children (it was the childminder who first saw my youngest son crawl), about missing out on nursery and school events.  Equally, when I was at home, my head was so full of things that I hadn’t got time to complete at work: I was in a vicious cycle of having Mum guilt at work and work guilt at home – and because of that I never felt fully present, or being able to enjoy the moment (hideous when you have two young gorgeous children who more than deserve that).  That was my first reason why – and still is.

I knew things had to change and so spend loads of time thinking about how I could change my career which would allow me to spend more time with the children (becoming full time care-giver was not an option as I was the main breadwinner). After much thought I knew I wanted to become a Coach, helping others: years before I did a Psychology degree and knew I wanted to help people in the workplace, but didn’t know what that looked like; I had received coaching just a few years before, so really understood the power of it; I loved helping colleagues at work to fulfil their potential and helping others, really felt like the missing piece of the jigsaw for me.  So I trained as a Coach (qualification in coaching, shortly followed by becoming an NLP Practitioner and Hypnotherapy Practitioner) alongside a full-time job and being Mum – it was so hard, but felt like a worthwhile sacrifice.  I loved every minute of it, and I knew for sure, that it was the path I was meant to follow.

I continued in my job because as the main earner, I couldn’t just throw it in – I was also stuck in the job because due to my seniority it was argued that I couldn’t be part-time either.  So taking on my new career, even part-time was difficult.   Living my life in a highly demanding job and then coming home to look after the children, clean the house and be the family organiser was exhausting beyond belief.  I was tired all the time and constantly felt ill.  I felt so lucky to have my children, but I felt that I didn’t have any quality of life.

However, I was good at hiding how I felt and was able to project a very ‘in control’ version of me at work.  I used this to my advantage and spoke to HR about supporting others through coaching within the workplace – and that is what I did for several years: coaching people from young, aspiring leaders, to people feeling overwhelmed with workload, to Managing Directors and GP’s taking on new responsibilities.  This gave me the experience and continued enthusiasm to know that this was what I wanted to do.

I then had a breakthrough, which was a restructuring at work – which enabled me to take a redundancy option; giving me money to support my family whilst I set up my coaching business.

So now, I have my amazing business – but I always use my reason ‘why’ as my vision.  For me, my ‘why’ stemmed from what I didn’t want, and by knowing what I didn’t want, it allowed me to describe how I wanted my life to be.

So now my why describes exactly what is important to me: the reason I keep going.  So I have a vision board which includes pictures of my children in a happy home which represents me spending time with them and having work-life balance.  It includes pictures of holidays which represents real quality time away from all work.  It includes me helping others through coaching and providing online programmes – because I know that helping others is important for me and is what makes my job fulfilling.  I have pictures of money because I am still the main earner and it’s important that if I am to have a lifestyle where I get to have holidays with the children and still pay the mortgage that money needs to come freely to me. It also has pictures of me giving back – charity is important to me, so being able to give back (either financially or through my time) is something that I like to do, and aspire to do more of.

This reason why and my compelling vision of what I want my life to be is a great motivator for me – and on days when things don’t go right (yes, I still get them) – all I need to do is remind myself of my end goal (my vision board) and it is enough to me to keep going.  Equally reflecting on how my life used to be, is a great reminder that I never want to be in that situation again.

I am sure my story resonates with many of you – but the good news is, that you are in control of your life and if you set out a compelling vision for yourself, YOU CAN DO IT! Start with your vision and allow the small steps to follow – and no matter, how small those steps are they will move you towards your new life.