Evaluating Our Belief Systems & Change
Our attitudes and belief systems reveal a great deal about our social upbringing and values. Yoga encourages us to re-evaluate our belief systems and attempt to discover which attitudes are not serving our greater good. It involves correcting attitudes that are stress producing and changing habits that manifest stress in your life.
A yogi believes in constant change and cycles of life. If we could start to view our role as co creators of our world and continue to fulfill this role, than embracing change and letting go of short-term focus are possible to achieve. These concepts cannot be assimilated by mere contemplation or an intellectual exercise. Only direct experiential spiritual practices such as meditation can convey these truths.
I was crossing the G.W. Bridge coming into New York one day this past spring. Commuters waiting on a tollbooth clerk blocked me from the Ezpass lane. I noticed that the clerk wasnt overly grateful that the motorist had chosen her over the competing technology. I began to think of the clients/customers that had held me back from progressing and at that moment I was really able to empathize with her. I had been there myself, locked into serving clients/customers that were resisting change and uncertain of my future.
How we can overcome resistance to change? I believe that technology can help us to outsource repetitive tasks and refocus on creative business building.
I first became involved with technology or lack thereof about 18 years ago. At the time, I had just graduated and was armed with my M.B.A. and CPA and was expecting to become a small business consultant. I soon became aware that I was going to be a financial janitor instead.
During my first day I was horrified to find the secretarial staff pasting together large spreadsheets of data. They spent a whole day creating a consolidated financial statement.
And so I decided on my first day in accounting that I would like to play a part in changing the nature of the profession.
What I had done in my practice is to view each of my clients/customer from a Business-plan prospective. That is I took a big picture view of what my responsibility was in helping the client in building their business. This helped me think through the tasks that need to be done in order to accomplish long-term goals. By thinking in a Business-plan prospective you can develop new and potentially expansive business models in which you can participate.
As a CPA, I made a transition successfully incubating a number of technology internet companies through my own client/customer base. Technology now offers us the opportunity to automate traditional services. We need to become the knowledge workers that the market is demanding.
How can we make an effective transition? What skills are necessary?
I would like to share with you some of my insights from my own transformation that can help you chart a more appropriate course for you firm as we enter the new millennium.
Effective change management requires:
Does Any of This Sound Familiar?
Youre spending too much time administering services for your clients/customers. Due to the commodity nature of the services you must price those services at market value and your profitability is further reduced because your clients/customers may be slow to pay. You sometimes take on clients/customers that dont pay or dont follow your advice or both. You need to be constantly hiring staff because of turnover and poor quality. Since the work you perform is not stimulating, talented individuals leave quickly. You are concerned that technology may reduce or eliminate some of your sources or revenue. You find it difficult to manage technology, marketing, and the requirements of your industry.
We all want to break away from the role of janitor and move toward entrepreneur. The former involves the past the latter involves the future. Here are some tools you can use in moving your focus forward.
In any discussion that deals with implementing technology, overcoming the resistance to change represents the greatest obstacle. Ask the drivers who insist on waiting on line to visit a tollbooth clerk.
The fear of change results in inertia. If we can get beyond our fears, we can learn to accept a higher degree of uncertainty and risk.
By accepting uncertainty in a given situation, we open ourselves to a life of constant change. The only certainty is that things are going to change. For example, all business organizations must constantly reinvent themselves for if they stagnate they perish. If you review the top ten corporations on a fortune 500 list in 1980 and compare it to those in the year 2000, what do you think has happened? The companies at the top of the list in 1980 are no longer the leaders in 2000.
Critics argue that we need to be secure and reduce risk. Our response is to say that life is about change. Change is more real than security (ask the companies that used to be top on the list). The sooner you can learn to adopt and accept uncertainty and change, the more secure you will feel and the more willing you will be to embrace technological solutions.
How do we free up time to make changes in our business/personal life?
To become the knowledge workers that Bill Gates refers to in his latest book requires that we make an investment in ourselves. It means letting go of customers or clients that will not serve our long-term interests. Often times it is scary to let go of work that is paying our bills, but this is exactly what I did in the eighties when inexpensive software flooded the market. Although pushing our clients to embrace technology meant the loss of certain services, those of us that embraced the change were able to offer value added services. The best way to free up time is to always have an inventory of time dedicated to long-term planning. What I do is to always allocate ten percent of my revenues for new business development and technology. By not living above ones means and spending very prudently, one has the freedom to pursue opportunities as they arise. Running faster on the treadmill is not the answer and only will make ones transition more difficult to deal with later. We are a gifted life form.
A human being means not being a human doer but a cocreator. Our being involves honoring creation.
One way to begin freeing up time is to dump the dogs. You know who they are. Theyre the ones who demand the most, but want to pay the least. You may know some family members and acquaintances that fall into that category.
These types of clients/customers burden your business and drain your energy. It is a very liberating and empowering feeling to tell a customer or client You know Jim, you dont really trust me because , and you dont respect me because you havent paid your bill since . Since trust and respect are the basis of a relationship and we have neither, how can we continue to do business? You begin to own your power; you are pulling the strings now. Owning your power means not living above your means and giving yourself the breathing room to step away for unproductive relationships.
When you follow this suggestion I have noticed that several things can happen:
1) You find out that the client/customer has a brain tumor. This is not a joke, it really happened to me. This starts a dialogue where you are able to understand what is really going on with the client/customer. In my case the dialogue led to a better understanding and the client survived her medical ordeal and became an appreciative responsive paying client.
2) The client/customer apologizes for his behavior and tells you that he is in therapy addressing this issue, which has prevented him from having successful relationships with women. The client/customer becomes your best client/customer. You double his billings, he never complains and his payments are prompt.
3) The client/customer is very hurt by your accusations and tries to make you feel responsible. You will definitely lose these clients and for good reason be glad that they are gone. When you set out to dump the dogs, you will probably find that instead of losing 10% of your clients/customers you actually only lose 5% and the other 5% are now paying twice what they were paying before. It is called owning your own power, and it a very helpful way to begin breaking down the barriers and belief systems you have constructed which may no longer be serving your best interest.
Dumping the dogs might also mean letting go of employees who do not share your vision. These employees and that of society might be better served if they were redirected to another path. This can be accomplished in a loving and compassionate manner as will be described later in the section on Bringing Love into the Workplace.
When should we use new technology?
We have to start owning our own power and loving ourselves. The biggest obstacle is the fear that holds you back. Maybe you cant trust the End Run Company, perhaps they are holding you back from progressing in your career. In that case you have a decision to make. The most progressive companies will reward employees that come up with solutions to improve efficiency. The rewards will be not to let go of those employees but put them in a position of even greater authority somewhere else in the organization. These organizations will survive and thrive. These are the organizations you should be a part of.
Here is a tool you might want to try to help you confront your fears.
In my Yoga for Business program I have developed a position called A Firm Footing in a Changing Marketplace. Many of the positions in yoga are metaphors for a state of mind. In one of the exercises you completed earlier, you were asked to balance on one foot. If you lost your balance you caught yourself with the other foot. And then switched feet.
That is why it is important for all of us to be in balance. We need to be able to support each other.
This is called the Tree Pose and at the end of the CD is the Tree Meditation, which you can use to feel more balanced and secure in times of change.
This exercise, if practiced daily, will help you to incorporate the belief that you can be flexible to changes in your environment and you will always land on your feet. This exercise is also useful in balancing left and right brain functions, a topic that will be addressed shortly.
What are some strategies for effective change management?
Problems are opportunities: Effective business development requires a focus on problem solving and identifying solutions to client problems. This requires thinking outside of the box.
Often times solutions include applying technology in a new innovative way to a process. The Internet is one such tool that can improve business functions, expand the marketplace for goods and services, and improve customer service.
Devote attention to solving problems in your own business and bring that understanding to your clients businesses. Often times before I meet with an employee I will do a short meditation focused on how can I help this person achieve his or her goals and evolve their skills. I also engage in the same type of mental exercise before I meet with clients. Focus on really listening to the clients and discovering what their goals and interests are; let go of the need to have a predetermined solution. For prospective clients I let go of the need to close a sale and focus instead on trying to provide what the client needs. Clients and prospective clients can sense when you are really interested in helping them solve problems and when you are focused on selling. In this way your relationships can extend beyond the product life cycle and you can develop creative responses to clients needs, which may become new product offerings.
Note: At the end of the CD is a meditation called the loving kindness meditation. This exercise will help you become more effective in dealing with employees and customers.
Remember to stay focused on the solution and the process. If you are only focused on the outcome or an exit strategy, you are not in the process. However if you remain committed and focused on the solution, the desired outcome will evolve.
Develop a broad mission statement with a number of specific goals to be accomplished. This will help the client stay focused when considering new projects or spending plans. I had the opportunity to work with a Russian technology client in building the largest portal in Russia. Our mission was to use technology to allow Russians to participate in the global economy through a portal with a distinctive and genuine Russian focus. Some of our goals were to allow Russian global communication through our sophisticated email service (mail.ru) allowing Russian businesses to purchase goods and services at market prices. We also wanted to allow technology workers to outsource their services, and to help build an e-commerce infrastructure in Russia. Staying focused on these big picture goals helped us avoid pursuing activities that were motivated by an exit strategy.
Being focused on the solution means being prepared to change direction at and moment and not mean being rigidly attached to the trail. Sometimes there are obstacles in our way. We can find alternative pathways as long as the summit of the mountain remains our goal. Forcing solutions on problems will always create new problems somewhere down the road.
There are a number of fatal errors that companies sometimes make such as:
Successful entrepreneurs are persistent and dont look on obstacles as failure. They keep trying different approaches until they are successful. Nature uses the same principles in evolution. If nature hadnt been persistent, we wouldnt be here.
How can we develop entrepreneurial skills?
In the company of the future we will all need to be entrepreneurs. This will require us to be willing to both create and destroy. This is what keeps your body in equilibrium. Part of you is dying and another part is being born.
The dictionary defines an entrepreneur as someone who organizes, operates and assumes the risk for a business enterprise. Most business people have no problem with organizing and operating but have a general aversion to risk. We fear change. When we can accept change as a constant we can feel more comfortable stepping into a world of uncertainty. Taking that step requires a leap faith, but beyond the doorway are limitless possibilities.
Leonardo DaVinci, one of the most amazing men to ever live, who was not only was a great artist but also solved the problems of aeronautical engineering hundreds of years ago. When he was asked what the key to his success was he gave the following response;
Business people are especially focused on left-brain, which is the area of the mind that focuses on technical and analytical thinking. The tree pose discussed earlier is an excellent exercise for developing these balancing skills.
We each have a bias for using one of our senses and subjugating the rest. We need to bring the rest of our senses into the equation and trust our gut reactions. I use all my assets. I spend time in silence each day. Through mediation and focused concentration we can improve our synchronicity: meet the right people at the right time, be prepared when opportunity presents itself, and find what we are here to do.
If a client or customer of yours was running a business, and not fully utilizing their assets they would probably go out of business. As a concerned business associate you would make sure they leveraged all their assets to achieve their business goals.
Many of us are not using all our potential; we are running on one brain hemisphere and only using one or two senses. We rarely if ever engage in quiet contemplative thoughts. It is important to consider all the technologies that will alleviate you from certain mundane chores. The time freed up can be re-allocated to creative business building. You will be very empowered by upgrading your skill and repositioning yourself for success in the new economy.
But above all imagine how secure you can feel knowing that you are staying ahead of the changing marketplace. By embracing technology you will remain a competitive and vital force in your industry.
© 2009, Bruce Eric Van Horn
If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health. - Hippocrates
Author, CPA, MBA and yoga instructor Bruce Van Horn founded Yoga for Business, Inc., a company devoted to organizational and individual wellness. He presents a daily Yoga Workout routine that provides a complete physical, mental and spiritual workout. He is the author of Yoga for Prostate Health and Yoga for Men, designed for all levels of experience with yoga.. He has renamed (Asanas) positions in Yoga using terms from business to help you identify with the movement and focus your attention. He is the Chair of the Advisory Board for the Center for Complimentary Medicine at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Bruce also leads a volunteer yoga program designed for cancer patients and healthcare workers at Beth Israel Medical Center. He lives outside New York with his wife Michelle who is a Reiki Master. Bruce has two daughters who have asked that he refrain from headstands at the town pool. His website is www.yogaforbusiness.com If you have any questions, feel free to write: E-Mail.
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