I have been part of this number for 25 years. It has not always been an easy ride. Trust me, it is a ride with twists, turns, steep climbs, sweeping descents, sweet victories and buckets of good humour. I am pretty sure that is why I love it so much. (But don’t ask me to ride a roller coaster!)
I like to think that in most things in life I am gender neutral. That entrepreneurs should be supported equally, and yet there is staggering research to indicate that the gender entrepreneurship gap is real. Do you feel that?
As a woman, I had some challenges, including the day the bank manager literally patted me on the head and told me to go back home and to stop dreaming about such a big loan! Needless to say his inability to share my vision was the end of our banking relationship. Taking no for an answer does not come easily to me. Smiling brightly as our sales surpassed our dreams (and his) did!
According to a WESK document called “Closing the Economic Gender Gap”, women are siting funding, lack of knowledge and experience as their barriers to success.
That is something we can do something about!
I am very dedicated to seeing entrepreneurship grow and be a profitable alternative for all women. To me, entrepreneurship is a movement that is not only about women running profitable businesses but also about women being in control of their destiny.
In 2011, an RBC report indicated that the aggregate contribution of women owned businesses in Canada was an estimated $148B. That is how economies get changed! And I want to be at the forefront. How can you close the economic gap and support a woman entrepreneur?
At a meeting with a group of bright, committed senior level executives discussing a critical issue things started to go sideways. The Chair, witnessing the hurdling rail car leaving the track, jumped in saying:
“Thank you everyone for your “opinions” they are very valuable. I would now like to continue the conversation asking those who have had direct “experience” to add their contributions.”
It was like switching from Fox News to CNN.
Sometimes opinions are important, but more valid and compelling is experience and data. The switch from “I think” to “ I know” shifted the entire conversation. Avoiding the group think mentality that was becoming very prevalent but was not based on fact or experience and could have resulted in some poor decision making.
Turns out a similar age old adage is rooted in ancient philosophy. It was Socrates who talked of applying a three-fold lens to our conversations. His advice:
“Say what is true, what is kind, and what is helpful.”
In other words, say what you know!
I was always good at thinking on my feet.
From a young age I was always the “performer” in my family and would always be putting on a show at family gatherings. So, it was no surprise that when I had the opportunity to join Regina’s premiere improv company, Hitchhikers Improv, that I jumped on the opportunity.
Improv has taught me so much more than how to expressively and humorously get my point across; it has had ripple effects into how I communicate in everyday life too!
Being understood is everything in business and in life. Being at a loss for words can be everything too – and not in a good way! Under communicating, miscommunicating, and over communicating can be a mine field that can affect everything from opportunities, to team morale and especially the bottom line
But, I have a solution: improvise!
There is one main takeaway I’ve picked up from being on stage that has enhanced my communication skills it is this:
Don’t Listen to Respond, Listen to Understand!
Often during a conversation, we are simply listening to what the other person is saying and waiting to respond and get our message across. We seem to miss the step of “understanding”.
Something I’ve learned from improv, however, is that if you simply listen to respond, the “wants” of your respective characters can go in completely different directions and the scene feels jumbled and without meaning. If you listen to understand , you can fully react to what the person you are communicating with is looking for and how that may fit in with your own ideas which allows the scene, or the business, to run a lot more smoothly.
Along with learning how to listen with intent, learning to improvise has also given me the ability to rapidly think on my feet and trust those around me to carry on the “story” if I draw a blank. That’s how good business teams work too! Knowing when to jump in and knowing when to stand back. It is a creative and intuitive way to be present, and that is just a great way to do business and live life.
Written by: Braedon McLeod