Bite-Size Chunks of Wisdom

February 2022

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business coach accountability

There’s been some discussion swirling around my business coach community on the subject of accountability. Admittedly, it’s a broad topic that means different things to different people. However, accountability — primarily, the act of holding oneself accountable — seems to be most prevalent.

What comes to mind when you think of accountability?

As I ponder what accountability means in my universe, I define it as doing what I said I would do long after the mood in which I said I would do so has passed. That’s key — the mood thing.

It says I am reliable to do my part — even if I no longer feel like it. People can place their trust in me. It screams when I commit to doing something, I’ll follow through no matter what.

Frankly, it’s hard for me not to keep my promises (i.e., remain accountable) to others, no matter how much anxiety it creates. Staying accountable to myself, however, can be a unicorn.

The Accountability Argument with Oneself

business coach accountability

I’m not alone in my quest to hold myself accountable. One of the primary reasons people seek out a business coach is to keep them responsible for their goals.

What is it about the promises we make to ourselves or the goals we set that make it so challenging to hold our own feet to the fire?

It’s pretty easy to talk ourselves out of following through on a promise we made to ourselves. This is because it’s such an intelligent conversation. From the witty negotiation to the strong arguments against following through, it’s a surprise we’re not all allowed to try cases in a court of law without any formal training.

It reminds me of the cartoon with the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other while powerfully presenting the case for or against. Whoever wins the argument rules the universe.

Owning Accountability

One of my favorite definitions of accountable is by Business Dictionary

The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them and disclose the results in a transparent manner. It also includes the responsibility for money or other entrusted property.

It’s this definition that sheds light on our struggle.

As business owners, we are only accountable to ourselves. Unless your business structure consists of a Board of Directors or shareholders, there is no one to “scold” you for your “bad behavior.” As a result, there are seldom consequences — beyond the crushing disappointment of missing deadlines or treasured goals.

Beyond engaging a business coach to hold our feet to the fire and honor the commitments we make to ourselves — and then — it’s sheer willpower that seems to be the glue that holds it all together. But, unfortunately, it will lose its power throughout the day — much like a muscle loses strength from continual use. I can already see the epic flaw and failure in this strategy!

Knowing how easy it is to let ourselves off the hook, it’s essential to consider a better structure. Although I’m naturally going to advocate for hiring a business coach, after all, that is my thing — it is best to create your system of accountability.

With your system in place, you rely upon yourself. And, as the saying goes, you’ll never leave you. It’s foolproof.

The Business Coach Approach to Accountability

To help you create your accountability structure, here are a few considerations:

1) Make sure you’re genuinely committed to what you say you want to achieve. Lots of us say we want something. But, in reality, it’s more of a want, a wish, or a should. There’s no real commitment behind it. Unless you can settle upon a goal you are committed to achieving; you’re only fooling and frustrating yourself.

2) Once you’ve identified a goal to which you are genuinely committed, carve out time — dedicated, uninterrupted time — during which you will do what it takes to achieve your goal. Outside of time for achievement, it’s a Santa Claus moment as you await some miracle on 35th street.

3) Surround yourself with the correct information and the right people. You’ve set your goal and carved out time. You can’t continue to poke around on FB (or whatever other social media platform you use to kill time). Your goal, and your commitment to its achievement, are much too significant. And, you know the definition of insanity — doing the same thing and expecting different results. Ugh! What are you willing to change?

4) Put a little skin in the game. That worked beautifully for me recently during a 28 day no alcohol February. In the past, where willpower failed me miserably, I put my money where my willpower wasn’t. To hold myself accountable for my goal, I committed to donating $100 to the re-election of a particular politician that I absolutely, positively did not want to be re-elected for every drink I took.

It worked!

Every time I wanted to pour myself a bit of merlot at the end of a particularly stressful day, I thought of the check I would have to write for this so-called treat. Heck no!

Bottom Line: It’s a DIY World

There’s freedom in knowing you have built the internal and external structure to honor your commitments. Think about it. Your accountability framework eliminates the need or desire to blame someone else — to scapegoat others — if, for whatever reason, they don’t hold you accountable to your commitment. (Even writing this is a bit crazy-making.)

Yes, you can use the structure of a coaching appointment for accountability, but, honestly, a coach is not your boss, spouse, mother, or judge. They don’t have the kind of power for enforcing consequences — even those to which you have agreed.

You and your system of accountability, on the other hand? It’s a winning combination.

small business growth

Communication. It can build up your small business or tear it apart—the right kind of communication fuels optimism, hope, excitement, confidence, and small business growth. The wrong type of communication, well, let’s say it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the future. 

Late last week, I found myself in a critical conversation. I won’t get into the details but let’s say it was one of those chats that left me feeling deflated. If it weren’t for a tiny detail, I would have hung up the phone or walked out on the conversation. But, instead, I was in a passionate exchange with myself. Egads!

small business growth

Have you ever had one of those conversations? You tell yourself everything you did wrong, point out all your faults, and whine about what’s not possible. But, of course, you have!

The words we say to ourselves are more damaging than words we exchange with others. This is because self-talk changes the way we see ourselves. It influences our performance, shapes our perception, and impacts our future.

The Science Behind Self-Talk

As many would believe, self-talk isn’t just a bunch of mumbo jumbo. Instead, from a neuroscience perspective, it shapes our internal modeling.

Ethan Kross, a psychologist from the University of Michigan, recently released a study in which pronouns used by people when they spoke to themselves silently – inside their brain – were researched. His findings were astonishing.

“What we find,” Kross says, “is that a subtle linguistic shift — shifting from ‘I’ to your name — can have potent self-regulatory effects.”

During his study, Kross had “nonfamous” people (i.e., you and I) divided into two groups. One group used the pronoun “I” as they prepared for a presentation; the other group used their name as if speaking in the third person as they prepared to talk.

The results were terrific. Those who used “I” in their inner monologue were much more critical of themselves and their ability to perform well. However, those using their name were much more supportive and encouraged how well they would do with their presentation.

Words Matter in a Mental Monologue for Your Small Business Growth

We all know negative self-talk contributes to stress. But, it’s a high price to pay. It affects our sleep, impacts our eating, interferes in our relationships, and grinds our business motion to a standstill.

If we don’t feel valuable to ourselves, we won’t benefit our clients. You may never realize your full potential the personal oration begins to change.

Start by monitoring your inner monologue—tune in to what you say to yourself. Change the dial. Speak to yourself as you speak to others, and have others speak to you. Develop different – and better – phrases to replace the ones used. And, by all means, know when to “zip it” when the conversation with yourself turns negative. 

business growth strategiesNothing is worse than being in a funk! Entrepreneurs experiencing a “mood” know, only too well, the adverse effects the blues and the blahs have on business growth. Although you can tell yourself to snap out of it, nontraditional business growth strategies can turn your performance around.

There’s no denying the impact the brain has on business performance. A research study entitled Brain mechanisms for emotional influences on perception and attention: What is magic and what is not has this to say on the subject:

Converging data from neuroscience and psychology have accrued during the last decade to identify brain systems involved in emotion processing, selective attention, and their interaction, which together act to extract the emotional or motivational value of sensory events and respond appropriately. This system generates saliency signals that modulate perceptual, motor, as well as memory processes and thus, in turn, regulate behavior appropriately.

Translation? If you’re in a funk, regardless of the reason, your behavior — and your business performance — is soon to follow.

Business Growth Strategy: Gratitude

Our brains seek out negatives, thanks to our prehistoric relatives. Yikes! Uncovering the positive — especially when our brains perceive anything but — is when the real work starts.

In Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychologyhe notes, “gratitude has proven to be a significant cause of positive outcomes.”

Daily Action: Write down three things for which you are grateful. 

Business Growth Strategy: Accomplishment

Indeed, the business growth strategy of accomplishment seems like common sense — until you realize how little time and effort we invest in taking inventory of our achievements.

My grandmother taught me the value of looking back and taking note of my accomplishments — especially when overwhelmed by the road ahead. It turns out she was right! Research conducted by the University of Chicago confirmed its importance.

Daily Action: Write down your accomplishments.

Business Growth Strategy: Opportunity

One of my incredibly bright clients helped me name this strategy during a discussion on tips for overcoming the drudgery associated with a lengthy, tedious, mind-numbing “to do” list.

Rather than catalog all that needs “doing,” how about flipping the tables by recording them as questions? Jot down “Can I complete my blog by 11:30 am?” rather than “Write my blog.”

Wording your “to do” in the form of a question inspires action and more successful outcomes.

Daily Action: “Question” your opportunities.

What do you think? Can these nontraditional business growth strategies lift you out of your funk? 

business growth plugins

Webster defines power as the ability to act or do. Given that, we all have it. Everyone can act. Despite that, not every business owner uses their power or uses it in the right way. Some entrepreneurs give their power away to others, and it’s not pretty. But, when tied to your power grid, business growth occurs easily and naturally. 

business growth plugins

Plugins to Electrify Your Business Growth

  1. Become toleration-free. When you’re tolerating (i.e., putting up with stuff), you’ve given your power to the very person, place, or thing you are tolerating. So, when you shift from a person who puts up with stuff to becoming toleration-free, you take back what was yours.
  2. Get your personal needs met. You’re familiar with physical needs such as food, water, and shelter, right? But, did you know that you have personal needs? Some of our everyday personal needs include the need for appreciation, recognition, and safety. And unfortunately, we are subconsciously driven to satisfy our unmet needs. This energy results in some not-so-attractive behavior and a sense of helplessness. By consciously getting our needs met, we can choose healthy behaviors that support us in achieving our business goals.
  3. Set strong boundaries. Boundaries are imaginary lines drawn to tell others the type of behaviors or interactions that are acceptable and unacceptable. It may be okay that someone offers constructive criticism. It’s not okay that they deliver that corrective communication in a degrading or demeaning way. You have a right to protect yourself from behavior that diminishes your spirit. You don’t need to suffer “pushoveritis” to be successful.
  4. Clarify your values. Values are who you are. These are the behaviors you’re naturally drawn to that bring you great joy and satisfaction. Think back to when you were six years old. What was it that you loved doing? Were you naturally inspired to create, explore, teach, or relate? Once you tap into your values, your ability to make intelligent, strategic decisions is enhanced.
  5. Develop a reserve for fear. The standard advice for facing fear is “feel the fear and do it anyway.” (By the way, that concept never quite worked for me.) Fear indicates a pending risk. One way to alleviate fear is to develop a reserve (i.e., more than you need) around what you fear. For instance, if your fear threatens financial stability, a monetary reserve to grow your small business may help eliminate fear. 
  6. Practice self-kindness. Self-kindness is the ability to take better care of oneself, a requirement for a powerful person. Self-kindness includes the frequent use of the word “no,” healthy eating, regular exercise, and hanging out with those who treat you as a brilliant person capable of accomplishing great things.
  7. Acknowledge your strengths and gifts. Buying into the perceptions of others as truth can drain your power. For instance, assertive, ambitious, energetic, hard-driving, and determined may be perceived as an asset for one gender group and liability for another. Some praise weaknesses as strengths; some perceive strengths as weaknesses. Decide for yourself what strengths you possess.
  8. Operate at 51%. Unless you’ve had a frontal lobotomy (i.e., removal of the brain’s frontal lobe) that renders you inept, you are responsible for all that is happening and not happening in your life. Erica Jong said, “Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing; there’s no one to blame.” Take control over your response to life.

Despite all written about personal power, it is often misinterpreted and confused with manipulation. That’s control, not power. When you have true power, you don’t need control.

Personal power transferred to your business creates new ideas, opportunities, and connections. 

Are you ready to plug in?

small business

The pandemic, politics, and inflation put many small business owners on edge. The uncertainty was evident in many coaching conversations over the two years.

Regardless of the economy, the small business owner is left to deal with uncertainties of some kind. So we have to make it work for our company to survive.

When uncertainty looms, it’s natural to want to retract – to shrink back from previous, well-thought-out plans – to play it safe “just in case.” It’s part of the flight or fight paradox with which we’ve lived since the days of the caveman (and cavewoman).

The problem with choosing the “flight” path is that it causes us to miss out on opportunities within our grasp – if we would only look up from issues that have yet to occur.

small business

I explained it to a client in this way.

Scaling back and playing it safe is undoubtedly an option when faced with uncertainty. It’s like holding a small bucket close to our chest. Much like a kid with a particular toy s/he grips, we develop a protective posture over what we currently define as “certainty.”

We hold tight. We look down. We guard our territory – all in hopes of retaining this tiny bit of control.

The problem with this position is that with head down and field of vision limited, we fail to see the opportunities within our sphere of influence. As a result, the same occurrences that would fortify certainty are hidden from view.

Rather than respond to uncertainty by going small – Go Big – and remove any option of going back.

You Can’t Come Home

That’s what my mother-in-law told her son (my husband) when he signed on with the Marines. Knowing the rigors of the Marine Corp during the Vietnam War, she was not in favor of his enlistment.

Despite her objection, he signed up.

When boot camp proved to be too arduous, he made one call. He called his mom. He begged and pleaded to come home.

There was no convincing his mom to let him return home when times got tough. Raised in south Chicago, she knew that commitment and discipline were qualities that served a young black man well during the 60s.

Much to his surprise, she refused his request to come home. He had decided to join the Marines against her council, and he would have to stay and make it work. So he was not allowed to come home.

Decades later, he says it’s the best thing that ever happened (besides marrying me).

He learned about the strength within, the discipline needed to succeed, and the honor of commitment. He uncovered a man much stronger.

Don’t Go Back in Your Small Business

Don’t go home in the same spirit of uncertainty, struggle, and doubt. Don’t play small – not now! Not ever!

Discover the strength, wisdom, and fortitude within yourself – and capitalize on the opportunities around you as you hold your head high and keep your eyes on the prize.

Core Business Assessment


Brooke Billingsley

Vice President
Perception Strategies

Synnovatia is a strategic coaching firm that is detailed and knowledgeable about business. i have a small business that grew from $150K to $750K because of the goal setting and resources that Synnovatia provided. It saves me years of learning on my own.

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