Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’


Subscribe to the RSS Feed for this blog.

The need, and desire, for boundaries seems to be circling me lately. Last week I listened as a mom asked for help in getting her toddler to stay in bed; it seems that the toddler cried for a bottle and the tired parents gave it to her or invited her into their bed. Having lived through similar situations I felt her pain but knew that both the problem and the solution was with the parents, not the toddler.

Not long after, a client brought a customer situation to me; the customer disturbed other customers and despite repeated requests hadn’t changed her behavior. And recently, the COO of a company told me the story of independent sales reps who didn’t want to follow procedure. Until recently, they had gotten away with it. All three of these situations have boundaries as the core issue. First, let me define boundaries. Boundaries are behavior that you hold someone accountable to in your presence; when the boundary is not met, there is a pre-defined consequence.

If you have children, your family has probably experienced the relief when a boundary is set…and upheld. We really are very much like children and want the same thing; to know what the limits are, to know what is acceptable and what is not. Boundaries are not always easy, but they are simple:

  1. Define the boundaries.
  2. Communicate the boundaries.
  3. Uphold the boundaries and follow through with the pre-defined consequence.

In the case of the COO, he explained to his independent sales reps what information he needed and by when; he clearly let them know, in a non-threatening, matter-of-fact way, that if the reporting was not something they could live with, then his company was not the right place for them.

Explain to employees (or customers or children!) that, while you’ve made the request before without any follow through or consequence, the rules have changed. Just like at home, boundaries in business will make life easier.

Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Office Politics

Election day is here! I don’t know about you, but I am relieved that the polling telephone calls – meticulously timed for homework time and dinner – will end. After months of campaign speeches, TV and radio interviews, and negative ads by the opposition, my head is overflowing with promises and nasty digs. There was one phrase, though, that stuck in my head: “We need to pay less attention to Wall Street and more attention to Main Street.”


I’ve always thought that it’s more important to pay attention to what’s going on inside your own doors than to the GDP, national unemployment rate, or the Dow Jones. While it’s easier to blame Wall Street or Washington than to ask tough questions of yourself, you will achieve greater results more quickly when you look in your own business for answers. Let’s turn some commonly heard complaints around:

  • Trust. Americans are dissatisfied and distrustful of elected officials and of large financial firms. What specifically do you do to instill trust in your customers? Your employees? Your vendors and business partners? Be as specific as possible.
  • “They’re only in it for themselves.” How do you give back to your community? In what ways do you contribute globally? Consider those issues that are most important to you and find a way to contribute.
  • “It’s their fault”. It doesn’t matter who “they” is – most of us can find someone else to blame our issues on! Instead, observe your business with an outsider’s set of eyes; what can you do differently? Accept responsibility for past performance. Look at your mistakes and learn from them.
  • Chances are whatever business you are in you can find someone who is succeeding wildly in the same type of business. Emulate best practices; look for ways the current economy can help your business.

The shenanigans of our elected officials and big corporations can be “interesting” but you’ll get the most bang for your buck by looking inside your own doors.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Stepping Into Your Leadership Shoes

Leadership ShoesThe Chronicle of Philanthropy announced this week that donations to the nations’s biggest charities dropped 11% last year; the worst decline in two decades.

That’s odd. One of my clients, the executive director of a not for profit, just reported to his Board that the organization had exceeded their grants/high donor goal by 41%, and in fact exceeded their Research Fund goal by over 12%.

If other not for profits are losing contributions, how on earth did this fundraiser blow the doors off their projection? This ED has run the organization for years, so we can’t chock the growth up to learning. Besides, we’re talking about 41%!

He did it by stepping in to his biggest leadership shoes. This ED stepped out to high donors in ways he hadn’t before; he realized that he was a peer to these donors and that they wanted to meet with him. He accepted that he is the face of the organization. In short, he became a true Executive Director, representing an organization that he feels strongly about.

I have seen too many business owners hiding out, playing small, and it doesn’t serve anyone. The smaller they act, the smaller they become, which causes them to act smaller still. Business suffers as a result and often their personal life as well. Trust me, I’ve spent enough of my own time playing small and it’s just not worth it. And, it’s a lot easier being my natural self.

The next time you find yourself saying, “I can’t do that. Who do I think I am?” try this instead: “Who am I not to do this?” and step into your biggest leadership shoes.


– Helen Dutton, Business Coach


It seems that every time I listen to economic news, I hear the word “uncertain.” It got me to thinking, if “uncertainty” stands out as how we describe our outlook, would experts and business owners alike in years past have called our future “certain”?

My Webster’s dictionary defines “certain” as “positive, without doubt.” Have we all gotten so complacent that we believe our future is without doubt? Yikes. No wonder we’re in aQuestionMarkCreditjscreationzs mess economically!

Let’s get back to basics: In your business and/or life, what is certain? Facts are certain – I am sitting at my desk, my dog is under my desk; I am certain about those facts. I have no doubt that I am a good coach for my particular audience; bright, decisive, and energetic business owners. I seem to have products and services that people want right now.

What can I say, without doubt, about the future of my business? Not a heck of a lot, to tell you the truth. I am certain that I will continue to try to evolve and grow and that I will do my best to help my clients grow and to reach their goals. Hopefully I will realize my own personal and business goals as will my clients. But can I say that my clients or I will reach our vision without doubt? Not a chance.

This lack of certainty does not mean that I throw my hands up in the air declaring “Oh well! I’m not in control so no sense trying to make plans.” It means that I pay careful attention to what I am in control of: my actions, my words, and how I choose to spend my time. I can say that, based upon my current knowledge, my actions will help me to reach my goals. It is imperative, though, that I evaluate my actions continuously and adjust my course as I think necessary at the time. While I like to amuse myself in thinking that my course adjustments will take me to my desired end result, again, I would only be fooling myself. It is nothing more than my best estimate at the time.

As you progress through your day, catch yourself when you find yourself thinking, “Well, I know that will happen.” Stop, dig a little deeper, and find what you can truly be certain about.

Is your behavior in line with your true goals? Ask yourself what assumption you’ve made and then turn it around; what if that assumption was not true? What course corrections would you make? Is there value in making those adjustments now?

I love taking a “truism” and turning it upside down. Sure, questioning our actions or making adjustments can be uncomfortable but you will learn something. And that I can say without doubt.

– Helen Dutton, Business Coach

Helen Dutton, A Vision of Your Own, has provided business and personal coaching for small business owners since 2000, providing online and face to face coaching for entrepreneurs, small business owners, start-up businesses as well as established businesses across the country. Clients come from New Hampshire, her home state, but she has also acted as a mentor to business owners in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Denver area, and closer to home in the Boston area. Helen helps her clients develop their small business ideas, create marketing plans, improve operation efficiency, build customer service systems, build management and leadership skills, and develop confidence as a business owner. Helen provides business tips and resources through her blog and her newsletter, where you can also find business templates to help your business prosper.