Tag Archive | "entrepreneur"

Fake It Until You Make It: How to Believe in Yourself When You Don’t Feel Worthy

Via Entrepreneur

Do you ever feel like you don’t quite deserve your success or aren’t fully qualified to do what you do? That common feeling is what psychologists call the “impostor syndrome,” a phenomenon where successful people feel like frauds waiting for someone to realize that they’re unfit for their leadership roles.

“Millions of people, from entrepreneurs to celebrities, have a hard time internalizing their accomplishments,” said Valerie Young, an expert on impostor syndrome and, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women (Crown Business, 2011).

The impostor syndrome is especially common among people who become successful quickly or early, and among outsiders, such as women in male-dominated industries. “They explain away their success as luck or timing,” Young said. “They feel this sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

That fear is stressful, and often leads people to hold back instead of pushing for bigger clients or more challenging opportunities. Most of the people who feel like impostors are actually exceptionally capable. It’s their self-image that’s off. “Feeling like an impostor is different than being an impostor,” Young said. “Feelings aren’t facts.”

To beat the impostor syndrome and trust your success, try these four tips:

1. Interpret your fear as excitement.
When you face a daunting task that incites your insecurity, tell yourself that the fearful jitters are actually excitement. “Fear and excitement have the same physical reaction,” Young said. “Your body doesn’t know the difference.” It’s your mind that interprets the jitters, and you control that story.

To turn fear into excitement, frame the situation as an opportunity. Say, “I’m excited to tackle this challenge,” and “I’m going to learn a lot from this.” By replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, you let your adrenalin work for you instead of against you.

2. Set reasonable expectations.
People who feel like frauds often hold themselves to standards that no one could ever meet consistently. “They’ve set this ridiculously high internal bar,” Young said, adding that they often expect nothing short of perfection.

In order to gain confidence, learn to see that bar where it really is – not where you imagine it. Compare your self-expectations to your expectations for peers, or ask trusted mentors to describe what they would expect of you. “You have to redefine what it means to be competent,” Young said.

3. Focus on learning from failure.
People who feel like impostors tend to struggle with failure. “They feel that if they were really competent, they wouldn’t fail or make mistakes,” Young said. But even the most successful, competent people are constantly making mistakes – that’s how we learn.

To see failure in a positive light, practice failing in small ways. Pick up a new hobby, such as chess, and every time you make a mistake, write down what you learned and try again. As you practice, notice how your skills improve, and how those lessons help you get there. Seeing that connection when the stakes are low can help you learn to embrace failure professionally.

4. See “faking it” as a skill.
We all have moments when we need to fake confidence or sell an idea that was thrown together at the last minute. In those moments, impostors tend to focus on thoughts like, “that was all an act,” which leaves them feeling fraudulent.

But knowing how to appear confident is a valuable asset in any job. “It’s a skill to be able to walk in and act like you know what you’re doing even if you don’t,” Young said. Allowing yourself to build and applaud that skill – without practicing any intentional harm or deceit – will help you feel credible even when you’re out of your comfort zone.

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How to Keep Employees Engaged

Via Entrepreneur

We see it every day at the office: the I’m-in-pain-because-I’m-working-so-hard face. It may look convincing, but it’s not a metric for effectiveness.

“It’s an illusion that the harder and faster we work, the better our solutions will be,” says Diane Fassel, founder of Boulder, Colo.-based Newmeasures, which helps companies upgrade effectiveness through something better: increased engagement. “The mindset is that more is better. They’re not thinking that effectiveness is more productive than quantity,” she says.

It’s a focus that can lead to a major dysfunction: disengaged, burned-out employees, simply going through the motions.

Fassel, a Harvard grad, sounded the alarm on the unsustainable workplace in her books The Addictive Organization and Working Ourselves to Death. She discovered that an addiction to busyness drives a contagious loop in which company leaders model bravado behavior that actually undermines productivity and engagement. To break out of this counterproductive reflex, leaders must gather information about how people work – and how they feel about their work.

Engaged employees are more energized, dedicated and committed to their tasks and to the company than folks operating by rote. The oomph they provide, or “discretionary effort,” has been shown to increase performance and profits.

The Towers Watson 2012 Global Workforce Study measured 32,000 people in 29 global markets, focusing on engagement brought about in the following areas: leadership (leaders show sincere interest in employees’ well-being and earn their trust and confidence); stress, balance and workload (stress levels are manageable, there’s a healthy work-life balance and enough employees to do the job); goals and objectives (employees understand how their job contributes to achieving company goals); supervisors (managers assign appropriate tasks, coach employees and behave consistently); and image (the company is held in high regard by the public and displays integrity in business practices).

The study found that companies with the highest engagement levels had an operating margin of 27 percent, while those with the lowest were at less than 10 percent. At disengaged companies, 40 percent of employees were likely to leave in the next two years; at the most-engaged firms, the number was 18 percent.

Employee engagement is a major concern among large companies and human-resource professionals. But in the entrepreneurial realm, there’s little thought paid to working style; instead, it’s a flat-out, unconscious frenzy, a reaction to what’s incoming all day long. Engagement is the X-factor entrepreneurs would be wise to harness.

The key is in making people feel valued and trusted. “Feeling valued means that the work culture supports the employees’ growth and development, removes obstacles to getting the job done and allows employees to use all of their gifts in the service of the organization,” Fassel says. “If they don’t feel valued, they typically burn out quickly. But if they feel valued, they tend to work hard and cope well.”

Recognizing value requires effort from leaders to find out what people really think, by taking time to dialogue solutions and showing a willingness to communicate beyond mouse clicks. That means offering positive feedback, looking employees in the eye and affirming that they are doing a good job. Recognizing a good idea or dedication to a project fuels engagement, particularly when it goes to a person’s sense of competence, rather than just results. (“I like how you handled that.”) A sense of competence is a core psychological need that drives intrinsic motivation and a continuous interest in the work at hand.

A personal touch can go a long way to building an engaged team. Fassel points to hand-scribbled thank-you notes from supervisors: “It’s not just, ‘What a great job you did,’ but ‘When I saw you solve this problem, I realized what a wonderful asset you are to the team, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.’ These people keep these notes for years. If that’s all it takes, we’re really missing the boat.”

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10 Questions to Ask When Creating a Cybersecurity Plan for Your Business

Via Entrepreneur

Cybercriminals are increasingly preying on small businesses, which often lack the expertise and resources to adequately protect themselves. Last year, companies with one to 250 employees were the victims of more than 30 percent of all cyber attacks, according to Symantec’s 2013 Internet Security Threat Report. That’s a threefold increase since 2011.

With larger companies increasing their protections, small businesses are now the low hanging fruit for cybercriminals,” says Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

But your company doesn’t have to be vulnerable if you simply take some basic protective measures. Here are 10 key questions to ask when securing your company from cybercriminals:

1. Should I install antivirus software?
Installing antivirus software and keeping it updated is a must for business owners, says Brian Underdahl, author of Cybersecurity for Dummies (Wiley, 2011). Antivirus software detects and removes malware, including adware and spyware, and filters out potentially dangerous downloads and emails.

Underdahl says he uses CheckPoint Software Technologies Ltd.’s ZoneAlarm Extreme Security 2013, a comprehensive antivirus software security package. It costs $54.95 for one year and $84.95 for two years. Other popular, effective antivirus options include Bitdefender Small Business Security ($150 for one year) and Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus 2013 ($39.99 for one year).

2. How should I handle suspicious emails from known and unknown senders?
Never open or reply to an email that seems suspicious, Underdahl says, even if it appears to be from someone you know. And after opening emails, don’t click on suspicious links and attachments, he says. If you do, you could fall victim to email-borne financial and identity theft threats, including “phishing scams.” Phishing emails, which appear to be from trustworthy sources, such as a bank or an online merchant you have done business with, attempt to acquire private data, including bank account and credit card numbers.

Also, recommend to your employees that they set their email client preferences to show the full address of the sender, not just the display name in the From section of their inbox, says Brett McDowell, senior manager of customer security initiatives at PayPal and a board member at the National Cyber Security Alliance Advise employees to use unique passwords for all business-related accounts online and across your company’s information systems. Their passwords should include combinations of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols and should be changed every 60 days or so. Also, never use the same password for different logins and never leave your password written down near your computer, Underdahl says.

McDowell recommends multi-factor authentication to verify an individual’s identity, especially for financial transactions. For example, PayPal offers two extra forms of authentication to secure users’ financial transactions: the PayPal Security Key, which generates random temporary security codes to verify users when they login, as well as a system that sends security codes via text message to users’ mobile phones.

4. Whom should I allow access to my company’s critical data?
Administrative login credentials should be given only to key company personnel, such as the CEO, CIO and trusted IT staff. Develop a clear plan that designates which individuals have access to which types of sensitive information, McDowell says.

5. Should I use a firewall to protect my company’s internet connection?
Always use a firewall to protect your company’s inbound and outbound network traffic. A firewall can help prevent hackers from tapping into your network and to block access to certain Web sites. They can also be configured to bar employees from sending proprietary data and specific types of emails outside of your network. Firewalls come standard on most routers and similar consumer network gear. But you can add additional firewall protection for free from ZoneAlarm or Sygate Personal Firewall Free.

6. How often should I back up essential company information?
Back up your business’s vital information on a regular basis automatically, using a combination of cloud and off-site backup, Underdahl suggests. Carbonite, an online data backup service for Windows and Mac users, offers encrypted backup storage services for small businesses for $229 to $599 per year. SugarSync is a similar cloud storage provider, with business packages starting at about $550 per year.

7. Should I use data encryption?
Encryption is essential to keeping such data as credit card, bank account and Social Security numbers as safe as possible. Encryption algorithms change information in your computer files into unreadable ciphertext, or “unreadable gobbledygook,” as McDowell calls it.

Whether a cybercriminal or a criminal employee walks away with some of your data, encryption would keep you protected because [he or she] wouldn’t have the special keys to un-encrypt the data and make sense of it,” he says. “Only you would.” If you’re using Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8 Enterprise, all your local files and folders are already encrypted via BitLocker Drive Encryption. If you’re using Mac OS X Mountain Lion or Mac OS X Lion, FileVault 2 automatically encrypts all your data.

8. How should I communicate company cybersecurity policies to employees?
Create a written security policy that details what employees can and cannot do on the internet while using company devices. Also, provide clear instructions as to how staff (and contract workers, if applicable) should handle vital company and customer data. Repeat your cybersecurity policies often via email and in-person meetings.

9. How can I secure my Wi-Fi network?
Instead of using an older, less secure Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) network, Underdahl suggests using Wi-Fi Protected Access version 2 (WPA2), which is widely considered the most current and secure encryption available. To hide your Wi-Fi network, change the name of your wireless access point or router, also known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). If you don’t, hackers could easily breach your network using the default SSID provided by the router’s manufacturer. For added protection, you can require users to enter a 25- to 64-character alphanumeric Pre-Shared Key (PSK) passphrase.

10. How can I secure company mobile devices?
Mandate that employees create passwords for their devices. Stolen or lost company-owned mobile equipment should be reported immediately to your tech support person or IT staff so that service can be shut off.

Consider installing an app like McAfee WaveSecure (19.99 with a one-year subscription, available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile) that enables you to remotely track the device’s SIM card, back up data and remotely lock the device before hackers can get their hands on sensitive company information. For iOS, consider Lookout Inc.’s free app, Lookout Free Backup, Security, Find My Device.

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Good Business Starts with Your Story

Something I learned early on as an entrepreneur and small business owner is that starting and maintaining a successful business depends on how well you understand and tell your company’s story. It sounds overly simplistic. Still, identifying and staying true to your new company’s story creates the foundation for a strong and healthy business. Consider the following tips:

1. Determine your MIT (most important thing).

Passionate and excited entrepreneurs are often sidetracked by all the things they hope to accomplish with their new company, among a seemingly endless array of possibilities. Clarity of purpose is critical in the first months and years of developing a business. This approach provides the structure for how you make decisions and adopt strategies. You must be able to tell your company story in one sentence or less. This is your MIT. Wal-Mart does this exceedingly well. The company pledges to deliver the lowest-cost products, period. FedEx promises to deliver overnight, guaranteed. Achieving this level of simplicity and clarity is fundamental to success.

2. Live your story.

Take your MIT and build a story around it that explains, as briefly as possible, who you are, what you are doing, and why it matters. In many instances, the only reason someone will pay more for your product or service than your competitors’ is because they believe that the story about your product demonstrates that it has more intrinsic value than your competition.

This is a critical point. It is all about value and values. People make decisions on products and services based on enlightened self-interest. They will weigh the dollar cost of the product with the story they want to tell about their own lives and how the product you are selling contributes to, or detracts from, their life story. Ultimately, if your product story is compelling enough to that customer—if it contributes to the story they want to tell about themselves—you win.

3. Write the Next Chapter.

Last, live the story you tell and allow it to evolve. As your business grows, you will find that some of your assumptions and hypotheses are no longer valid. This may affect the way you tell your story. Like a good book, your story will have unexpected turns and twists but be sure to embrace them and allow them to be part of your company history, even if they require admitting you were wrong, duped, or naïve in the past. If your intentions are good and people can see this, they will appreciate you all the more for the honesty and humility demonstrated by your willingness to learn and grow.

This article was written by Richard Averitt and published in Bloomberg Businessweek magazine.

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