If you pay closer attention, you’ll find insight and inspiration everywhere you go. As a blogger, I’m always on the look-out for interesting people and ideas. Sometimes my topics come to me simply by driving to a friend’s house for dinner (read my last week’s blog), or while networking with cool people (read my blog on Scope Creep highlighting expert Gail Kulas). Other times, I am gifted by serendipity, as I was this week while taking ballroom dancing classes. My husband and I signed up for a series of dancing lessons from the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Canton, CT. At this studio, owned by our friends, Erik and Eva Barckmann, we have enjoyed learning how to dance, and learning to overcome our dance anxiety, and my “need to lead.” In fact, I have new respect for the importance of following, not just leading.
Our instructor Becky Milan-Vega is a blast to work with. Becky is originally from England, where she has been ballroom dancing since the age of 3. She and her brother Ben hold the title of British Champion in Ballroom Dancing, and have represented Britain in many international competitions all over the world including 5 European and World Championships. She has also appeared on the infamous TV show Britain’s Got Talent where she reached the Live Semi-Finals.
During a recent private dance lesson with Becky, she gave us this little bit of advice, “You can always take smaller steps.” In fact, she said it’s a good idea in dance to take smaller steps, because it gives you more balance and control. You are less likely to get out of whack with your partner. Smaller steps means less strain and exhaustion. Makes sense doesn’t it?
So I got to thinking about taking smaller steps in business and career. Most people I know, including myself, like to make big leaps and bounds in their work. We expect great things from ourselves… on a daily basis. And when we can’t live up to those expectations, we often stop trying. We become discouraged and disappointed by our lack of progress. We lose our motivation. Our momentum stalls. Our potential begins to fade.
What would happen if we took smaller steps- baby steps- on a daily basis?
- If you are in a job search, take smaller steps. Rather than sitting behind the computer all day applying for jobs online, why not network with three contacts each day? You could call them, email them, text them, send them a LinkedIn message, or have coffee or lunch with them. Just three a day, every day, five days a week.
- If you are running a business, take a baby step to call a current client, an inactive client or a new prospect each day. Just one per day. Plant a seed with them, share something with them, offer insight, listen, or just reach out to connect and say hello. You do not need to be sending out huge proposals. Just make contact. It’s a baby step, but if you do this every day, 365 days a year, your business will be picking up steam and growing.
- If you are team leader, take a baby step to thank one member of your team each day. Repeat that baby step each day for five days a week, 4 weeks a month, 52 weeks a year? It could be in person, by leaving a voice mail message, leaving a post-it note on their desk, or texting them. Showing gratitude and recognizing the work of others is a very motivating force, and makes both parties – giver and receiver – happy.
- If you are giving a presentation, suggest to your audience that they take the next logical baby step based upon your information and recommendation. Don’t expect them to change everything, just take a small action that points them in the right direction. Success with a baby step builds confidence, and encourages more of the same.
I know that this smaller-steps strategy works because I’ve been practicing it for the past year. Working with my business coach Mark LeBlanc, I’ve been planting three seeds a day for sometime now. He calls it the Storm Starter Strategy. It’s powerful. But there have been times when I have slipped up in the daily execution of this best practice. To help me and his other clients, Mark gave us a most unusual gift at a recent “Whatever It Takes” conference in La Jolla, California this past November. He gave each of us a pill box. But instead of medication, he put three M&M candies in each of the AM pill slots. Here is a photo of my motivating pill box:
My job is to move the three M&M’s from the AM slot to the PM slot before the end of the day. Each move is at the conclusion of making one of three “high value marketing activities.” This could include reaching out to current clients, or inactive clients who haven’t heard from me in a while, touching base with existing prospects, facilitating a networking introduction. I could do this using the telephone, social media, email, texting, sending a card in the mail, sending a copy of my new book, Stop Global Boring, having lunch or coffee (in person or virtually). The choice of how I communicate and connect is up to me. Doesn’t matter how, it’s only important that I reach out to three a day. Planting three seeds a day – that’s the magic formula. Sounds like a baby step to me.
I’ve been having a blast with this tool. It sits on my desk as a visual reminder that I only need to take these three small steps every day to grow my business. I can do this. And when I do, good things happen. My business grows, my confidence climbs, my fun-meter is on high. And at the end of the week, when I have moved all the M&M’s to the PM slide of the pill box, I get to EAT THEM. Now, that’s motivating!