Monthly Archives: April 2012

Why Women Executives and Entrepreneurs Should Look to Mentoring!

Written by Karel Murray

When my son was in third grade, he asked that I participate in a Parent’s Career Day. During my 15 minute segment, I was to explain to his classmates what I did for a living. When I took my place in front of the room, introduced as Ben’s mom who works in a downtown insurance company, I explained that I worked as a boss who managed people in the operational departments of my company. I’m here to testify that a person will never feel so totally hung out to dry until they see a child’s eyes glaze over from boredom or incomprehension.

During a lull in my dialog, one blond haired freckled boy asked “Do you fire people from their job?” He totally focused upon me and I knew at that moment my answer would be critical. I told him that sometimes that was a necessary but sad part of my work. To that response, he sighed and in a trembling voice said, “My father was fired last week…is he a bad man to have his boss fire him?”

The teacher’s eyes welled with tears thus revealing to me that the next few moments were vital and I should tread with care. Through a small child’s effort to understand the whys of a situation, the nurturing aspects of my personality surged forward. I answered him with tenderness. To this day I still feel the tremendous weight of responsibility for making sure I communicate in such a way that it reinforces a person’s self esteem rather than carelessly destroy hope or motivation.

As females, we strove to burst through the Glass Ceiling in our careers, but I wonder if we dodged the shards?

Inadvertently, somewhere along the way, it became a hostile competition among women.

Through direct experience and observation, I’ve witnessed my female counterparts becoming their own worst enemy. Rather than focusing on the strengths of what women offer each other and using them to everyone’s advantage, efforts to undermine talented coworkers evolved into an all-or-nothing-war-like campaign.

The concept of mentoring and building up others to take your position when you move on was a foreign concept until the last decade. Fortunately, women began to realize that competition for promotion doesn’t have to be brutal. It’s about understanding that personality, creativity, dedication and accountability are the primary assets to promote.

When I speak with younger women in the work force, they aren’t nearly impacted by gender based promotions as Baby Boomer women were. Through these conversations I realized that this new generation was participating in what I call “reverse mentoring.” Our youth is teaching us about the new world order and sociological changes.

Mentoring isn’t something that simply takes up time and space anymore.

It is a personalized and truthful interaction with other human beings for the betterment of all.  Advice is now given with a caring spirit rather than a destructive mindset and it creates a new tone for success. Rather than operating in an environment of isolation, we can talk about family and dreams. But then we have to take it a step further and hold each other accountable for making those dreams a reality.

Mastermind group creation is a concept that is thriving in today’s business world.

Each participant has something to offer the other members of the group and whatever is discussed in those meetings stays confidential. It is a shared perspective on a common problem that allows us to reconnect the dots and come at an issue from a different direction.

Responsibility for our communication efforts, interactions, and intent must be fully accepted by us if we choose to become a mentor, informally or formally. There is no room for “off the cuff remarks” because when an individual is a mentor, the mentee places you in a position of trust and honor. It is your duty to handle it delicately and respectfully.

To this day, I’m proud of the direction I chose to take when answering that small boy’s question about his father’s character. By choosing to give him hope and perspective, I realigned myself permanently in respect to my female relationships and grew as a business professional, wife and mother.

Teaching around a campfire or through mentoring opportunities is hardwired in all of us. I don’t consider it a weakness to reach out to another person for help. And it only enhances your personal power when you respond and support others who need you.

Be a guide on the side: mentoring matters.

Karel Murray is a Certified Speaking Professional, author of “Hitting Our Stride: Women, Work and What Matters” and business trainer who helps entrepreneurs and executives resolve interpersonal issues and balance their work/personal lives. Now, you can listen to her exciting, free interviews that will help you maintain and sustain a healthy business and lifestyle at To learn more about Karel Murray, please go to her website

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Sheryl Eldene Has Moved

Exciting new endeavors have led fellow blogger, Sheryl Eldene, in new directions.  That new path, unfortunately for us, takes her on a separate and different journey than the BigDreamsAndHardWork blog.  We’ll miss Sheryl, but we wish her well.  Gail and Faith will remain with the blog, so join us for fresh insights on business with an intuitive twist!


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Marketing and the Mat

By Gail Z. Martin
In yoga, your mat becomes the space in which you grow, stretch, and find rest.  Your mat is both a laboratory for self-exploration, and a refuge where you work out the stiffness that comes from carrying the burdens of life on your shoulders.

When you come to your mat, it’s important to come without judging yourself.  Yet, while you don’t judge, you are supposed to be aware.  Are you more stiff today than yesterday?  Does something hurt today that didn’t hurt yesterday?  Is one side moving more easily than the other?  Did a pose finally “click” for you?

This process of checking in with yourself has value outside the yoga studio.  How often do you go through the workday berating yourself for being off your game, instead of reacting to the variations of every day with compassion, asking yourself why today is different for you?

We’re not robots.  We’re going to have high-energy days, and days where we sleepwalk, days when we feel like talking and days when we don’t, days when ideas come easily and days when every thought seems to require hard work.

What would happen if instead of judging ourselves and beating ourselves up because we’re not just like we were yesterday or the day before, we ask: What’s happening with me today?  Where am I strong today?  What’s going hard for me?  Then play to your strengths instead of fighting your temporary weakness.  If today it’s easier to be social than to write, get your phone calls taken care of and leave the writing for tomorrow.  If you’d rather be working alone than talking with other people, switch your to-do list to accommodate what your mind and body are telling you they need.

When you recognize your daily fluctuations in energy and interest, and adjust your expectations and to-do list accordingly, it becomes much easier!

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Entrepreneurial Mindset

By Karel Murray, CSP

At what point do we figure out we aren’t like everyone else? For me, becoming an adult became a goal in itself. My mother drilled into my head that I must be responsible for my own financial support because prince charming may not be in my life plan. Yup, a real positive influence that I didn’t learn to appreciate until I was in my 30’s when I finally set out to build my own business.

My journey to adulthood had me envisioning my own home decorated the way I wanted and a checking account. How I funded that account never entered my mind until I procured my first job as a waitress. It wasn’t until then that I understood how hard that task would be. Working 8 hour weekend shifts racing back and forth from the kitchen to tables filled with fussy babies and petulant parents became a means to an end   to procure tips, cash paychecks and deposit those earnings into a fund that would eventually support me in the manner to which I was accustomed.

Okay, I was dreaming but it sure sounded like a reasonable plan.

Waitressing wasn’t my life calling, no matter how much I enjoyed the banter of friendly patrons who came in daily. I became tired of smelling like country fried steak. I determined that perhaps my efforts would be better spent working in a women’s clothing store at the mall – a move up in professionalism.

The company immediately hired me to work in the women’s lingerie department. How was I to know that I would have to watch middle aged women try and squeeze into girdles two sizes too small as their faces turned purple with indignation at the weight gain? Only now, as one of those women, can I appreciate their sheer frustration in never finding anything in my size. And for three months I submitted recommendations for the layout of the department and how to improve the customer interaction. For those three months, the owners looked at me with frustration and indicated that perhaps I should just concentrate on the job rather than trying to change things.

Okay, I was dreaming that a business would actually want to make their processes efficient and profitable, but it sure felt like a reasonable plan of action.

In my high school years, I worked in a hospital as a clerk for the nursing staff. This role educated me about leadership and dignity. I watched how some doctors rightly earned the scorn of the staff because of their arrogance and rudeness while other physicians treated the staff as a vital part of their medical team and earned respect and cooperation as a result.

For the first 15 years of my working life, I worked for other people. The lessons gained regarding the delivery of customer service, how to manage and supervise others in task completion, motivation, and balancing work and my personal life have stayed with me. But through it all, I always felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Little by little, I realized that I was losing my sense of wonder, excitement and yearned for the joy of creating something that was mine alone.

Do you remember the sheer delight of selling your first cup of lemonade and hearing that dime hit the bottom of your cash cup, knowing that it was the start of something big? How people who walked or drove by would wave, smile and shout words of encouragement? I recall the lessons of timing; that lemonade sells best when it’s hot outside and not in October when the leaves are blowing around the stand, that eventually your customer base will want variety and that costs go up and that it is possible that income can plummet. These are hard lessons for a child of any age.

Now I understand that I truly had an entrepreneurial mindset from an early age – constantly thinking of new ways to earn money within the confines of my situation. I learned that some hyped programs for home based businesses only made the person selling the plan rich (I spent 8 hours a day typing contact information off of thousands of coupons onto a form in my typewriter, only to make less than $75 a week for the effort). Eventually by thirty-five I realized that I needed to be the master of my own ship – to find a career that allowed me to utilize all my skills, determine my schedule and set my level of commitment.

As a result, a business owner was born.

The joy of being in business for yourself is unparalleled. I’ve experienced the pleasure of profitable years and the despair of wondering what happened and how will I keep my business up and running. Through it all, I’ve never lost the belief in myself to make the money I’ll need to thrive, even if it means re-inventing myself in order to adapt to shifts in technology and the world view.

Following your heart and making your own opportunities is the first step to career freedom. There’s a place for those who

  • Make the best cupcakes ever
  • Organize an office or a closet
  • Re-build  car engines
  • Use their voices to record audio books
  • Write speeches that inspire
  • Train dogs to help humans in need
  • Gets cats down from trees
  • Deliver correspondence between offices
  • Design applications that revolutionize cell phone use
  • Educate children through nanny services

Entrepreneurs aren’t like everyone else. We don’t like being categorized, we don’t believe in limitations and we thrive on applying every aspect of our personalities and mind capabilities into our daily lives.

Go on… step up to your ability and don’t look back.

Karel Murray, author, humorist and business trainer speaks nationally and internationally.  She is the author of “Hitting Our Stride: Women, Work and What Matters”, “Straight Talk – Getting Off the Curb”, co-author of “Extreme Excellence” and publishes a monthly online newsletter, “Think Forward® which has thousands of subscribers, The Profitability Blueprint Series: Career Building Concepts for the Real Estate Licensee and numerous articles in local, regional, and national publications.  You can listen to exciting interviews at  You can contact her at or call 866-817-2986 or access her web site at


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Letting Go of Perceptions

By Gail Z. Martin

When I started practicing yoga, I had a lot of ideas–perceptions–of what it should be like.

I thought it would be really hard. It wasn’t.

I thought everyone in the class would be as bendable as Gumby.  They aren’t.

I thought my teacher might be a fire-breathing vegan ascetic.  She isn’t.

I thought I might really embarass myself.  I didn’t.

One of the things I learned from yoga was how often our perceptions are totally wrong, and how we limit ourselves when we believe incorrect perceptions–especially when it comes to what we’re able or unable to do.

What perceptions do you need to re-think?

Have you held off from tackling something that scares you (like social media) because you don’t think you can do it?  Have you shied away from practing a new skill (like public speaking) because you’re afraid to fail?  Have you held back from doing something you’ve always wanted to do because you’re afraid of what someone else might think?

Now’s the time to break loose from those old perceptions and find out just how wrong they are.  When you challenge the perceptions that are holding you back, you find out they’re nothing but shadows–fears, misinformation, and misunderstandings that are keeping you from freedom and fulfillment.

Why not make today the day you challenge at least one perception and see what happens?

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A Sound Bite World

By Karel Murray

Took a trip on Twitter…a virtual vacation for the purpose of learning as much as possible about this communication venue.  The process of sending an update to people who chose to follow your “streaming thoughts” is called Tweeting.  The first thing I thought when I heard the term Twitter was what people did on the long train ride as a scene in “The Music Man” written by Meredith Willson. Talk a lot, cheep, cheep cheep.  The passengers exchange information and gossip at an astounding rate as the train barrels forward to its destination.

I’m not far off base for understanding the intent of this social network.   Small bits of information tossed out to the virtual world and if you’re lucky, someone grabs onto the sound bite and decides to follow your comments.  It is internet blogging in short hand.

Reading a few of the tweets makes me realize exactly how old I am.  It truly is a brave new world out there and as a solidly placed baby boomer, I’m trying to adapt with as little personal anxiety as possible.

The first hurdle to get over…why would anyone care what I am doing at a particular moment?  My husband only checks in on me once a day, much less several times in a 10 hour period.  And in that single conversation with Rick, we cover all of the interesting and bland things that occurred during the day while enjoying a hot meal.  Glasses are clinked, jokes are exchanged and personal observations enjoyed.  Total time – 30 minutes.  How do I write about that in 140 characters?

The art of conversation, to me, is digging deep for the resonance of the relationship, not skittering across the surface like a water bug.  How can I best represent my thoughts on such a venue as Twitter without having the opportunity to develop a concept to its fullest?  I’ve received some interesting direct communications from people who have chosen to follow my Twitter entries and it is obvious they are aggressively looking to create a virtual relationship.

But, I don’t know them… another mental block I’m trying to get over.

Having been raised in an environment where you walk up to a person, shake their hand and look them in the eye while reading the body language is totally missing from the internet chatter.  I fully am aware that what is written on-line may be a total fabrication… or, it could represent exactly who that person is and sometimes I’m concerned about the other party’s mental stability.  Worse yet, shouldn’t they be concerned about mine?

Context and contact are the foundation on which solid relationships are built and I believe that is possible to do within the confines of Twitter and any other social network.  As a professional and a human being, we often harbor thoughts that we would never express to someone face to face.  Anonymity of the virtual world can actually set us free to share our true feelings and opinions.  Perhaps that is why more and more people are connecting online first before ever meeting.  Reading between the lines will become an art form and it is one I’m determined to master.

Our younger generation has not lost the ability to chat or hold a conversation.  They just do it with their thumbs on a smart device – sound bites of information delivered at lightning speed.  I’ve expanded my communication to my 30 year old son to texting and quite frankly, I feel closer.  Funny thing, I know he is on his phone and I can just call him, but there is something exciting about waiting for the “you got mail” bing on my phone.

Twitter and other networks will continue to evolve and I don’t plan on being left behind.  So, reach out and touch someone.  Here is a 139 character Twitter entry that sums up this entire article.

Twitter set us free to exchange ideas, concepts and recommendations in a quick and effective manner.  Sound bites to connect with purpose.

Huh.  I think The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly in the Plains! Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady would be proud of me. 

Karel Murray is a Certified Speaking Professional, author of “Hitting Our Stride: Women, Work and What Matters” and business trainer who helps women entrepreneurs and executives resolve interpersonal issues and balance their work/personal lives. Now, you can listen to her exciting, free interviews that will help you maintain and sustain a healthy business and a healthy lifestyle at


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A Matter of Balance

By Gail Z. Martin

Yoga has become a big part of my life since I started practicing two years ago.  I can’t do some of the fancy postures where you seem to levitate on one finger (and that’s ok, because yoga also is about letting go of competitiveness).  But one place where I can see a big difference is in my balance.

I got a WiiFit for Christmas a year or so ago, and when I did the yoga section, it rated me on my balance by having me stand on the WiiFit board on one foot and then the other while it recorded how much I wobbled.  And did I wobble.  The little red dot jiggled all over the screen.

Then I started to really work on yoga poses that emphasize balance.  At first, I wobbled and lost my balance.  I had to start over, put a foot down, steady myself against a wall.  But an amazing thing happened with practice.  I got better at it.

I still can’t levitate on one finger. But I can stand on one foot without wobbling for much longer.  I can lean foward while standing on one foot as if I’m about to take off in flight without falling over.  And every time I move through my balance postures, I gain strength and confidence.

How’s your business balance?  Are you wobbly, thrown out of kilter by every news report about the economy or every conversation you have with someone who thrives on the negative?  Or are you remaining balanced, calmly working your plan, making course corrections when needed, remaining focused without veering into wild overconfidence or bottoming out in despair?

Do you get all your news from one source, or do you seek balanced input, questioning input that predicts impending disaster, validating before believing negative news, making sure your news sources don’t have hidden agendas?

How’s your life balance?  Do you still have time for friends and family?  Do you take time to enjoy nature, a walk with your dog, a good look at the stars? Do you take time for yourself?  Take time to give to others?  Take time to learn and play and care for your body?

When you start to work on your balance, it’s amazing how good it feels.  Why not make a conscious effort toward regaining and improving your “balance” and see what happens?

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Business As Usual… or Breaking Point?

By Karel Murray

I had no idea how long two straight weeks on the road really was.  It seemed like a great idea when I booked the five engagements in four different states.  The travel itinerary flowed logically and I certainly did not want to disappoint my new and repeat clients.  So… I lifted my pen, made my travel plans and grinned like a fool.  I felt efficient and effective.

The reality of extensive travel slapped me in the face when my first flight had a delay of 3 hours.  It only went downhill from there.  Envision borrowed toiletries because of misplaced luggage, overheated planes, and surly hotel staff overworked and under motivated.  I had a regular movie of the week plot line.  Thank heavens I approached it like a comedy.

The stress I place on myself to achieve professional goals has to have a negative impact on me.  Couple that with menopause symptoms, insanity can’t be but a step away.

What I missed most was the casual conversation with my husband, Rick, the playful welcome of the two Airedale dogs, and the comforting lump of a cat curled contentedly at my side while I slept.  What I need is a hotel that offers surrogate pets to fill the emotional void.

Because I travel so much, I watch the behavior constantly of other people.  The variety of personalities always astounds me.  During this two week stint, I couldn’t help but zero in on individuals who couldn’t sit still.  Cell phone and impassioned discussions with work counterparts fill the air as the talkers stride down the airport halls.  Legal and personal issues are discussed openly with little regard for confidentiality.  Faces creased with concern, papers shredded in clenched hands and rolling of the eyes to others who happen to catch their notice, all belies an atmosphere of business as usual.  It makes no difference that they are juggling several things at once.  Or does it?

The significant paradigm shift for my generation revolves around the immediacy of communication.  We used to call places and leave a message if the people we wanted to speak to weren’t there.  Now, we call people.  I’ve heard individuals have cell phone conversations in bathroom stalls, along the street and during their grocery shopping excursions.  Cell phones clipped prominently on a belt announces to the world “I’m someone that others want to call!”  I swear competitions will evolve around who is the fastest draw off the belt in answering that urgent ring.

My question is – Do we really have to be that available?  What ever happened to “down” time? During the fourteen day tour of bookings, other work surfaced.  Now faced with handling the keynote and training sessions as well as those business items piling up at home, stress continued to mount.

How did I know I was stressed?  I woke up at 3:00 AM five nights in a row to make sure I hadn’t over slept the 6 AM wake-up call.  No peaceful rest for me…there was business to attend to!

I’ve recently been appointed to plan a national convention in Las Vegas.  Never mind that I’ve never done this before.  Worries about venue space utilization, programming, food, and participant response accumulate into a persistent hum of duties to coordinate, check lists to complete and people to e-mail.  The possibility of allowing a critical convention item fall through the cracks is unthinkable.  Too many people are counting on me.  Add tracking down a presenter who will become the “face” of the conference only adds to the stress.  I will never again, as a speaker, assume the meeting planner can read my mind or know my location without a global positioning system tuned into my frequency.

Over last few years, I’ve learned my personal “business as usual” mentality may not coincide with the standards of someone who hires me.  My day often ends by 6:30 PM… that just won’t do when I’m teamed up with an individual who feels their business needs to be addressed at 8:30 PM.  And there’s the rub … we come full cycle – like a hamster on a wheel – spinning constantly to stay upright and on top of things.

Having the opportunity to speak with other presenters and road warriors, I’ve discovered that our need to succeed and be perceived as competent, efficient and effective often interferes with our duty to take care of our bodies, minds and family.  A good friend of mine, Ryan, recently suffered a severe heart attack… healthy one moment, in the hospital the next.  When the physician told him to take six weeks off work, Jake’s immediate response was “I can’t!  The backlog of work will be too much and probably give me another heart attack from the stress of playing catch up!”  The physician, with obvious misgivings, shortened the recovery period to two weeks and included strict dietary instructions

It wasn’t until Jake and I both read Fast Company’s May issue article that cited research indicating only 1 out of 10 people would actually change their lifestyle if they knew they were going to die without the making the necessary changes.  Jake’s face paled visibly after reading the article and he suddenly made the conscious choice to live.  He was going to tak the full six weeks off work.  End of story.

I’ve learned some fundamental lessons regarding business – the most disturbing one is that I’m dispensable.  There will always be someone else who can step up and fill my professional shoes.  I can’t be duplicated, but the tasks themselves will miraculously be completed with or without me.

The process of living our lives is harsh, demanding, and unpredictable, yet holds an infinite opportunity for joy, fulfillment and awareness of those around us.  When I returned home from that long trek on the road, I immediately implemented a plan to change the way I do business in 2006 and beyond.  Hiring a coach, redirecting my efforts, narrowing my focus and understanding the value of a fulfilling home life must merge or I may very well reach a breaking point that can’t be repaired.  I’d like to share my observations with you now:

8 Commitments To Achieve A Positive Lifestyle:

  1. Take inventory of what makes you genuinely happy.  As you list each item, evaluate what you do every day to ensure that source of joy remains solidly planted in your life.  Also list things you do that jeopardize your ability to be happy.  Sometimes we are our own worst enemies and don’t even know it.
  2. Be accountable for the decisions you make.  Every time you say “just a minute while I finish these e-mails” and you end up missing dinner with your spouse, understand you chose to stay “plugged in” to the business.  It doesn’t control you…you control your choices.
  3. Learn to turn off the phone…voice mail was created for a reason.  If you do make a phone call, be focused on the conversation rather than split your attention and give only half effort to the interaction.   Make it clear to those who work with you what your availability schedule is.  Learn to bundle calls and when returning calls, stop and fully connect to the other person on the line.
  4. Laugh at the absurdities that otherwise contribute to your stress level.  A young lady in shorts, sitting next to me at the airport terminal, was the recent victim of a walk-by sneezing.  Another passenger inadvertently spit on her leg in his convulsion.  He ambled on oblivious.  She, however, quietly dug in her purse and pulled out a tissue.  She wiped her leg, careful to shield her actions from others… Except I caught her eye and we both howled with laughter.  Bless her heart, she showed class in an awkward situation and exemplified the statement “Stuff happens…deal with it!”
  5. Learn to say “NO” with love and affection.  Only you know what your priorities and life goals are.  Evaluate what others ask you to do, and then determine your response in terms of how it interfaces with your plans.
  6. Talk with those closest to you to gain a well rounded perspective regarding how your behavior impacts them.  Sometimes a mirror held up before us can tell more than what our mind eye chooses to rationalize.  It may not be pretty, but at least you will have an honest starting point on which to make your lifestyle decisions.
  7. Handle your business tasks correctly the first time you deal with them.  Often I consult with clients who feel like the rats in the race are winning… they are overwhelmed by the volume of work they deal with.  When I evaluate their efforts, often I find tasks are addressed multiple times for a variety of reasons.  My advice is simple – slow down and check twice.  Not a bad motto to live by.
  8. Balance your high tech and low tech mentality.  I believe, as humans, a disconnect is happening with our ability to interact effectively with others.  Using e-mail exclusively only broadens the distance between us and our clients.  Find ways to make your contact personal.  A warm voice over the phone or a quick face to face visit can go a long way to cement a relationship.  I’ve learned that it’s the eyes, body language, and tone of voice that speaks volumes – imparting information that e-mail could never provide.

I am working my way back to a simple understanding regarding my business aspirations:

I work so I can live. 

I believe we have to define how far we are willing to push ourselves before we damage the positive aspects of our lives that give us true satisfaction and joy.

It’s my choice.  It’s your choice… business as usual or live your life like you mean it.  Choose well.

Karel Murray is a Certified Speaking Professional, author of “Hitting Our Stride: Women, Work and What Matters” and business trainer who helps women entrepreneurs and executives resolve interpersonal issues and balance their work/personal lives. Now, you can listen to her exciting, free interviews that will help you maintain and sustain a healthy business and a healthy lifestyle at


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How Flexible Are You?

By Gail Z. Martin

I love my yoga.  In the two years that I’ve been practicing, I’ve gained flexibility and balance, along with confidence.  I’ve learned just how “yummy” stretches and twists can feel.  And I’ve gotten more comfortable in my own skin.

Flexibility is both a part of practicing yoga and an outcome.  In the beginning, most people discover just how stiff they are, how un-flexible they’ve become due to age, a sedentary lifestyle, or old injuries.  With time, the body becomes more supple as you practice, able to move more freely.

Maybe your company doesn’t require physical flexibility, but success in today’s world definitely demands mental flexibility.  So, how flexible are you?

Do you waste time missing “how things used to be”, or do you dive in to the challenge of learning something new, like social media or using a smart phone?

Are you fearful of technology, or flexible enough to learn how to use it safely and confidently?

Can you adjust your sales funnel for the “new normal” of the current economy, or are you still trying to win business like you did in 2007  (and wondering why it isn’t working)?

Are you comfortable trying out new networking groups, new live  or virtual events, and new ways to connect online?

Without flexibility, we become stiff.  When we’re stiff, we move less and less until we don’t move at all.  When we work at remaining (or regaining) flexibility, movement is a joy.

Where are you stiff?  How could you loosen up?  Where could you practice some flexibility?  Make a conscious effort to be more flexible and see what happens!


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Auto Focus

By Karel Murray

The phone has stopped ringing… It’s been a week… 2 weeks… business is unusually slow.  Do you over react?

I’ve discovered a growing phenomenon of sales professionals who seem to have “lost their way” as a result of a changing economy.  At one point, vision is clear and the path to success stretches on to a predictable future.  Then, for no apparent reason, when the phone stops ringing… nothing feels or appears normal.  The unexpected down time disrupts the energy and brows crease in concern.  Surely, there is something to blame – a cause that created this unnatural effect.

A typical response to the stress may be the impulse to “change” everything… update the web site, revise the logo, streamline services, add benefits, expand ad copy, buy better equipment, hire or fire staff… the list goes on.  The sense of “losing the market” grips firmly onto the salesperson’s perspective creating an unfocused, sporadic knee jerk reaction to what might be a simple issue.

The level of self imposed panic increases in direct relationship to the percentage of income earned from commission sales.  The number of phone calls symbolizes the business barometer.  When it flat lines – there’s trouble on the horizon.

Well…not necessarily.

Consider how a complex camera assembly works.  Professional photographers understand the image needs to be isolated and brought efficiently into focus by the maneuvering of levers and dials.  A non-professional usually purchases a camera that has “auto focus” where the camera is programmed to zero in on the image and like magic; the camera adjusts and clarifies the field.  Simplicity at it’s best.  That’s because a set of instructions and logical processes are already programmed in the camera.

Auto focus is a concept you can apply to your business process by understanding that shifts in the market are bound to occur.  Learn to adjust smoothly and effectively.

Evaluate Your Delivery Systems
Internal decline in processes often cause disruption in business.  Are you delivering your product or service at the level of quality demanded by your market?  Review your last ten to fifteen sales and evaluate the delivery system… does it duplicate your “promise” to the public?  If at first review, it is at the level you want, consider calling the last five clients and conduct a short interview to see if the perceived disruption is non system oriented.

For example:  Your call prompts this client response, “Well, Mark, you always sounded so busy and rushed that I didn’t want to bother you with little questions.”  Light bulb time.  This could reveal you how your tight schedule and elevated stress energy translates to the client as “you’re too busy to bother” with their concerns.

A sad fact is customers will gravitate to business professionals who only have eyes for them.  They must be convinced of your total concentration and know you aren’t thinking about the next deal, but are focused on them.  Period.

If, however, the responses from your inquiries are positive and in line with your expectations, move on.

Gain Perspective
Speak openly and honestly with other business professional in your field.  It will not only expand your knowledge and expertise, it will open doors to future referrals.  Consider establishing a Mastermind mentoring group which consists of people in your industry who:

a) Are successful in what they do
b) Have a competence and expertise in areas you need to develop
c)  Are ethical and trustworthy
d) Will also benefit from the association of other group members.

Assemble under ten members while establishing quarterly meetings designed to address industry issues, personal development, and feedback on projects.  I’d encourage a broad cross section of participants from different parts of the country – remember, it’s about perspective and expanding the focus field.

If this isn’t practical, then read – a lot!  Dedicate 30 minutes a day to personal development.  This practice could dramatically impact your overall ability to anticipate future trends and probable growth or decline issues to address for your business.

Research Outside Influences
Have legislative changes created a tidal wave of panic?  Access the internet and analyze legislative recommendations.  Are your sales declining due to lack of consumer confidence in your industry?  Is new legislation detrimental to the growth of your business?

Don’t hesitate to establish a dialog with your state representative or senator.  They are serving you.  Have your thoughts and concerns concisely outlined, then make the call or send the email.  Your perspective may be more valuable than you know.

Look Inside
Careers are not necessarily easily matched to emotional temperament. If your first reaction to business slumps is despair and excess worry, you probably won’t last long as a commissioned real estate sales person as your body and brain fail to assimilate the assault of extreme ups and downs.    You may have always dreamed of a sales profession, but if the consequence of living your dream is destroying your health, perhaps a reevaluation is necessary.

Career choice does matter.

Analyze The Need
The public rules… if your service or product is deemed a “luxury item” in a down-turning economy, your business may be the first to be negatively impacted.  Create a list of benefit statements that will re-establish need as defined by the current environment.  Determine how the services or products you offer can become a “must have” in the marketplace.  Remember, it’s all in how to you present it in relation to the current public concern.

Update Your Business Plan
Revisit the goals, objectives and input you have gained as a result of your investigation and update your business plan accordingly.  Establish a budget that accommodates changes and remember to build in flexibility.  When you are prepared financially to cover the natural “slumps” in production, you will be less likely to negatively over react.  Following a well built, consistent plan enhances the sense of personal control and minimizes the impact of a slowing marketplace.

In this day and age of rapidly shifting attitudes, loyalties, and expectations, you need to establish your business identity as “solid ground” – like the light house beam which guides fog bound ships to safe harbor.  World changes may speed by for the public, but you and your business should always remain in their line of sight.  Stop flailing around in a self imposed fog.  Set up your equipment, take aim and click…

Auto focus – it is not just a technique; it’s an attitude of confidence and tenacity.

Karel Murray is a Certified Speaking Professional, author of “Hitting Our Stride: Women, Work and What Matters” and business trainer who helps women entrepreneurs and executives resolve interpersonal issues and balance their work/personal lives. Now, you can listen to her exciting, free interviews that will help you maintain and sustain a healthy business and a healthy lifestyle at

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