Getting Down to Business with Kim Wilson of Lucy’s Market

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Small businesses have gotten a lot of visibility over the last two years.

As the world slowed down and dealt with a pandemic, we were more aware of the businesses on the corner that weren’t focused on five-year plans but were focused on next months’ payroll to survive. It brought front and center a look at how small businesses work and interestingly, as the world reset, it seemed to inspire a whole new culture of entrepreneurs and people who’d like to be their own boss.

But running a small business isn’t for the faint of heart. As the last two years have proven, the safety net looks very different for a small business than it does for a big company. And as we move beyond worries and reset with opportunities, we thought it would be fun to talk to a small business about success, resets and lessons learned.

If you’re in Atlanta, it won’t surprise you that we went straight to Lucy’s Market to talk to Kim Wilson. But if you’re listening from another city, here’s what you should know.

Lucy’s Market is the special place in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta where you go for fresh vegetables and leave with the makings of a party. Or you dash in for a bottle of wine and a favorite cheese and leave with the serving pieces that make it look like you worked harder than you did to create a setting. It’s a local spot with warmth, charm, a little spunk… and an expanded list of offerings that seem to have evolved effortlessly over the years.

In this episode, Sally talks with Kim Wilson, the founder of Lucy’s Market. Kim shares her story and more about what it took to build Lucy’s Market.

More about Kim Wilson

Kim Wilson has always had a passion for fresh produce and florals, spending a number of years growing an extensive vegetable garden in her backyard. However, she never considered evolving that passion into a career until she was ready for a change after working in advertising sales for over 25 years. At the same time, a gas station was abandoned on Roswell Road in the heart of Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. Kim took over the space in 2009 and turned it into a farmer’s market, establishing Lucy’s Market. The market’s growth ultimately led Kim to move it inside the gas station before expanding and moving to another location. In 2017, Kim relocated to where the market stands today. Named after Kim’s love for her grandmother and daughter, Lucy’s Market still carries the same deep roots and many of the same customers since the early days. Over the past 12 years, Lucy’s has ripened into not only an admired farmer’s market but a specialty store, gift shop, and floral boutique.

Show Notes

  • Who is Lucy?
    • Kim Wilson’s grandmother was named Lucille, and she named her daughter after her grandmother.
  • Was Lucy’s Market a grand vision, or did it evolve?
    • The market began very small with Kim’s love for veggies grown in her backyard. Lucy’s started as a place to get fresh veggies Monday-Saturday, and then the business spread word of mouth. Kim had over 30 years of sales experience before starting Lucy’s Market started.
  • Movement
    • The business moved around a bit and evolved, and the concept followed. Location and parking are the most important things when moving. She seeks wide-open locations with lots of space. Her experience in real estate has helped her understand the value of location.
  • How did she grow this?
    • Using her sales experience, she got to know each customer by name and worked to understand what they liked and what they were looking to purchase.
  • The Business Today:
    • Currently, 7000 sqft retail space, 8000 feet of office and storage to hold seasonal inventory.
    • 30 employees, many are part-time with a core full-time team.
    • Seasonal employees are hired in addition to the 30 consistent year-round employees.
    • Market is open Mon-Sat
    • They sell fresh produce, locally prepared food, wine, flower arrangements, gifts, and gift baskets.
  • How do you decide what to offer?
    • Decisions are made based on customer desire.
    • 85% of the business are women.
  • What has surprised you most in terms of what people come in to buy?
  • Lucy’s Market is about creating memories.
  • Was the pandemic rough for Lucys?
    • The hours were changed, but they could stay open through the pandemic because they sold food – curbside and delivery. They made it easy for the customers to purchase, and Lucy’s Market grew. Prior to the pandemic, they had a solid customer base. They swiftly shifted the method but didn’t need to build the base.
    • They started doing a weekly video that became extremely popular and helped build an audience in Atlanta and nationally. In January of 2020, they took products online. Now they are completely online as well and open in-person. They promote things daily, and the users will go online and purchase.
    • Between 5 and 10% of sales online are predicted for next year.
  • Mistakes that Lucy’s Market has learned from?
    • She’s made mistakes but continues to listen to customers.
    • When introducing new products, you have to train your customers to pick up products from Lucy’s.
  • How do you know when the time is right?
  • When have you learned about risk?
    • Many things work out. When it comes to risk, make sure you have something lined up and things to back it up.
  • What is next?
    • Another location, being open and accepting new opportunities
  • Kim Wilson’s BackgroundNo background in retail but 30 years in sales.
    • She knows what she likes, knows how to get it.
    • Pay people well to keep good workers. Because of great workers, they’ve been able to grow.
    • Kim understands marketing and learning to manage her team, putting the right people in the right place.
  • Advice?
    • Marketing is essential – understand social media and utilize your online platforms. People get their information online, so you need to be online.
    • Lucy’s Market posts something every day, and they do weekly videos.
  • Referrals and Hiring
    • Lucy’s Market used to employ friends and family but now referrals come to Kim through friends of friends – currently, no family working for them.
  • 2-3 Golden Rules For A Small Business Owner
    • 1. Customer service is key – be nice to everybody
    • 2. Create an experience for your customer
    • 3. Always be positive – being positive is a key to life.
  • “I’ve made something, and I think it’s going to be around for a while.” – Kim Wilson

Like what you hear? Hear more episodes like this on the What’s Your Story podcast page!

Resetting & Reducing Social Distance with Karen Riddell

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Social distancing is a term that took hold during the pandemic as a descriptive way of creating boundaries from each other. But after two years of distancing and now going back to offices and social settings with colleagues and friends, social distance may take on new meaning.

At a minimum, the re-engagement in groups feels awkward at first. We’ve forgotten some of the social norms and feel a little rusty at small talk. In a corporate setting, we realize that Zoom calls didn’t allow for much of a relationship with colleagues. So, we aren’t quickly at ease as a member of the team. Virtual events just aren’t the same as taking time for lunch or going on a walk with a colleague or friend.

And now, we’re somewhere between anxious about reconnection, stressed about being left out or lonely because many of our friends have moved on. Our social life and world didn’t just relaunch or reset to where it may have been two years ago. We continue to hear from managers and leaders who are trying to accelerate connection and strengthen relationships across new work settings. And I think we’re all looking for some confidence in connection and some new ways of getting there.

In this episode, Sally talks with Karen Riddell, Sally’s long-time friend and Positive Psychology Life Coach who has taken a special interest in social connections.

More about Karen Riddell
Karen Riddell is a Positive Psychology Life Coach, who started her business after her interest in friendship led her to become certified in applied positive psychology and life coaching.

In her coaching practice, she works with groups and individuals to find the sweet spot where their strengths, purpose and passions align. Karen partners with clients to clearly conceptualize their goals, envision the possibilities, and map out a concrete action plan for thriving. Karen’s practice centers on positivity, engagement, connection, purpose and vitality.

In December 2020, Karen published Friendship Matters, a book extolling the miraculous power of friendship to transform your life. The how-to book details specific, simple ways to find, make, and build new friendships as well as ways to enrich, deepen, and strengthen existing relationships. It also contains an easy-to-use workbook that allows the reader to create their own personal path to joy through friendship.

Prior to this, Karen received two degrees from The University of North Carolina, moved to Atlanta with her husband, where they had three daughters, and Karen became a prominent community volunteer. She is now writing her second book for mothers-of-the-brides sharing tips on how to navigate the complex process of wedding planning, and doing it with joy.

Show Notes

  • Karen Riddell – Positive Psychology Life Coach
  • After social distancing, people now feel awkward with re-engagement and out of the practice of social norms. They are anxious about reconnecting, stressed about being out, and lonely. Social distance is more than just physical space.
  • For managers and leaders:
    • What are some of the most significant challenges with the limited socialization over the last few years?
      • The impact of social distancing is underestimated.
      • We are experiencing a double pandemic – Covid is threatening our physical health and social distancing is threatening our mental health.
      • Work is a structured social setting that fell through.
  • Social connection strengthens us in all the vital facets in our lives. It brings us physical and mental health, stronger families and relationships, and success in the workplace. Social disconnections weaken us in all those areas.
  • What about social anxiety?
    • Pre-pandemic – FOMO (Fear of missing out)
    • People now feel FOBI (Fear of being included)
    • Social anxiety can feel different:
      • embarrassed
      • awkward
      • uncomfortable in crowds.
    • Social anxiety can be felt physically:
      • heart racing
      • sweating
      • panic attacks
    • Negative emotions cause us to want to avoid social settings, so we are reluctant to jump back in.
  • People who live alone or had smaller social circles to start have struggled the most with social distancing—singles or anybody residing with an immunocompromised individual have as well. People with larger social circles or a family did not struggle as much.
  • What can most individuals do to reacclimate to social connection?
    • Start by taking a strategic approach to social interactions:
      • Before an event or activity, think of simple ways to ease its pressure.
      • Limit the time at the event.
      • Plan to go with someone else.
      • Think about who you will see and what you will talk about.
      • Plan how to recharge batteries after.
      • Plan at your own pace – start with people you know well.
    • Be compassionate and patient with yourself. If you start to have negative thoughts, try to reframe the thoughts.
  • New ideas on how to bring socialization into a virtual workgroup?
    • Most success comes from communication, not how but what you communicate about—balance work-related materials with social interactions.
      • Internally and strategically interact virtually – using programs like slack
      • Collaborate and create with virtual programs in real-time
      • Grouping people in subsets and prompting group ice breakers
      • Host contests and challenges
      • Send humorous videos
      • Host a lunch and learn
      • Play up holidays
      • Talk about families and hobbies
    • Work to replace something spontaneous with something structured.
  • What piqued Karen Riddells’ interest in this work?
      • All the things she had done were not activities and jobs that she was particularly interested in, but she did them because of the people she enjoyed being around. This realization got her interested in the power of friendship.
      • Friendships are vital to health and happiness and are the key to physical and mental health.
  • People with a strong network:
      • have a better sleep experience
      • less chance of getting a cold/flu
      • teeth and skin are healthier
      • less likely to have stress
      • heal faster
      • better cardiovascular health
      • stronger immune system
      • more likely to take preventative health manners
      • stronger working memory
      • less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression
    • People with a solid social network will have up to a four times greater chance of survival. The hills and hurdles in life are easier to manage with friends by your side.
  • How can you get a strong social circle?
    • Start by getting a friendship/positive mindset – you need to be ready to get in the right space.
    • Put your passions and interest in play.
  • Introverted leaders- What if you don’t have time to develop strong friendships?
      • Any leader in a business environment needs to make it a priority to develop friendships – Streamline your efforts to what will be the most successful.
  • The formula of great friendships
    • 1. mutual respect and reciprocity
    • 2. trust and vulnerability
    • 3. devotion and commitment
  • Companies struggling with employee retention – is friendship a retention tool?
    • Gallup organization research shows:
      • An employee with a friend at work is 7 times more likely to be engaged in their job. No friends, your chance of being engaged plummets to 1 in 12.
      • Work friends reduce stress and burnout – friendships at work increase job satisfaction by nearly 50%.
      • People with 3 or more friends at work are 96% more likely to be satisfied with their lives overall.
      • Create the moments and allow people to use them in a way that works for them.

*Please note the following story does contain sensitive material. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

  • Karen shares a story of being a new mother and getting out of a funk by getting active and developing a community. She then shares a similar story of her mother, who needed a community as she struggled with loneliness. She was suffering from postpartum depression in a new town.

Even just one friend has the power to make a difference.

Like what you hear? Hear more episodes like this on the What’s Your Story podcast page!

Does Presence Even Matter Anymore?

To answer that question, you have to consider one in return. How do you define presence?

Do you think about it merely in terms of how someone looks and how well they package that look in a business setting? Then, in a hybrid world, presence may matter more the day you’re in the office versus the day you’re on Zoom.

Or do you define presence in terms of someone’s confidence and the concept of “owning the room” or commanding the meeting? In those terms, presence may be evident in some meetings and totally lacking in others. When the workspace and the setting were redefined, presence didn’t translate easily. That’s why people are asking the question.

But if you think of presence more in terms of engagement and the ability to impact or influence others, then presence may matter more than it ever has. And that’s because business context has been blurred and the rules of engagement are looser. So, it leaves managers wondering whether they should address it and coach people, and it leaves individuals wondering whether they should listen to the coaching.

And to both groups, our answer is yes. Presence isn’t a mandate or a set of rules that should be force fit on someone. Presence is about awareness, influence and the ability to collaborate, connect and move others forward. As a manager, you can reset the definition and the guidelines so that presence has a fresh feel to your team, and your team can improve their overall effectiveness by thinking more about influence with a peer group or a customer group.

Here’s how we’ve reset presence in our workshops and helped our clients think about how to coach it within their organizations.

It starts with a clear definition.

All of the elements listed in the questions above are a part of presence. And that can make it sound like it’s solely visual, all about dominating, or even just about listening. When presence is described by the first two elements, it feels rigid, or personality driven. That’s because these are ways that presence shows up, but not really what it is.

Presence is the culmination of impressions. It’s not something you give yourself, but a way that others define you in terms of how they see you, hear you and feel influenced by you. It’s based on someone else’s experiences, and the expectations of presence are best described by how others need to feel about you to follow your guidance or line up to your ideas.

We define presence as the three C’s: Confidence, Commitment and Connection. They represent attributes built on impressions from others. And those impressions and expectations have stayed very consistent even with all of the shifts in our business setting. But because we shifted so much about where we work and how we work together, the power of impressions and the intention behind owning them should be reset to match those changes.

Here’s how we talk about it.

HOW YOU’RE SEEN: Visual impressions will always be the first way we focus on someone. It may be a quick impression or a lingering one. And it’s shaped by what you wear and choices you make with hair, nails, makeup, tattoos, facial hair, shoes, and everything else that we can visually see. And managers are beginning to ask: Do I need to set some guidelines around how they show up?

Yes, you should set expectations because without them, you can’t guide choices. But tread lightly in terms of setting do’s and don’ts and focus instead on owning impressions. Organizations are working hard on making all things inclusive, and someone’s visual expression of style is a part of that.

In our work, we’ve shifted from coaching someone on poor choices to helping them see that bold choices speak loudly. That means what I see may distract me enough that I never get to what you wanted me to hear. When you own your impression, you think about those reactions and learn to work with them so that you are heard. Consider a discussion where your team sets the norms or talks through what intention looks like for different groups.

HOW YOU’RE HEARD: Most groups have broken rules of effective meetings in a virtual setting, and they’re struggling to put order back into discussions in an in-person setting. And if you’re running some meetings with people in-person and others remote, then you’re right back to the “invisible audience” on the virtual platform.

We’re coaching people to make sure they’ve found a way to be active, involved and seen in meetings. The majority of impressions formed around someone’s brand and influence come out of day-to-day meetings. The outspoken team members often need to be coached to wait before they jump in. While they’ve gotten kudos for being involved and outspoken, their energy can stifle others. Peers will be less interested in working with them if they seem to always have the answer. Those who are quiet or more tentative in a group setting need some tools to bridge ideas or create space for questions and deeper thought. From both perspectives, it’s intentional choices that drive impressions of someone who is active in meetings and a valued part of getting to resolution.

As a manager, you can support the meeting setting by adding a little structure to discussions and giving advance notice about the topics up for discussion. Too often, managers approach their team meetings from their own perspective. They wing it or pull the agenda together a few hours ahead of time. Unintentionally, the manager is running a meeting that works well for the outspoken and provides no support to those who build confidence through preparation.

HOW YOU INFLUENCE: When we focus on connection, we shift someone’s perspective off of how they’re doing and toward how they make others feel. It’s a true differentiator of presence, and it’s gotten a little lost in the virtual world.

If you think about what influences you, it’s usually driven by an idea you like and your willingness or interest in aligning with the person who shared the idea. When we hear an idea from someone we don’t align with, we’re less likely to hear it as good and we’ll rebuke the idea to avoid the person.

Across the attributes of presence, connection is the concept that has suffered the most in a virtual world. And it may be the hardest to achieve as we shift to hybrid. There are a lot of bad habits that have taken hold as many people are pushing information out and not focused on drawing people in.

Influence is more about others and less about you. Active listening is the skill we coach and the ability to draw response from others. It’s harder to read and get response virtually, and it’s why we coach people to rethink the virtual connection and add ways that confirm response and impose participation.

As a manager, active listening is a great skill to coach. When you debrief on meetings, bring two perspectives to the conversation. Ask an employee how others responded to their idea and when they share what they think, ask them how they know. This forces discussion of response and the awareness of the communicator. It also creates an opportunity to consider ways to get that reaction or response from a group.

So YES, presence still matters. Maybe more than it ever has before because business context has been blurred and the rules of engagement are looser. And when there’s change and a little confusion, there’s always opportunity. We already see it as people share the impact of coaching. Those who pay attention to impressions are getting noticed and pulled into bigger opportunities.

If you think your team could use a reset on presence we’d love to help.

We’re here when you need us!

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

The Salary Negotiation

Even the phrase has a negative connotation. When I see negotiation, I visualize a game of tug of war and the back and forth between two sides. That’s not a great way to think about your salary. And a tug of war shouldn’t be your mindset for approaching those conversations.

Salary conversations rank in the top three critical conversations that people want to know how to manage, and with the increased movement in the job market, many people are having them more frequently.

Changing companies is the right time to negotiate. Everything is up for discussion, and as the potential hire, you’re in a strong position. Once you’re offered a role, the negotiation of compensation and benefits may shift to a recruiter or an outsider resource who takes some of the awkwardness out of a conversation with a future manager.

You should consider a new role with a good understanding of how a company manages promotions and increases responsibility. When could you expect to take on more? What are the experiences of the peer group you’re joining? Will you be in the top third, middle third or bottom third with regard to skills and experience? What is the average time your peers have been in their roles? These are good questions and fair discussion as you consider a new opportunity.

Think of salaries as one part of a bigger compensation and benefits discussion. Companies negotiate in different ways. Flexibility in a work week, location of a role and mid-year bonuses are all ways a company may enhance a compensation package. If you’re in the market, you should know how your skills are viewed in the marketplace and how comparable roles are being positioned.

And if you make a move, be sure that it’s expanding your role in a way that feels like mobility to you. It may be an increased title and compensation, but it could also be increased responsibility and exposure to a new skill set. Don’t just move for money. It’s hard to take that forward to the next role or next step if what you’re doing hasn’t grown along with your salary.

Those may be the easier salary conversations because it’s an expected part of the hiring process. Just be sure that you’re ready with what matters to you and you have good insight to position it.

But what about the recurring conversations?

You’re with a company that you like and in a culture that you respect, but you just don’t think you’re paid fairly. How do you navigate a conversation about money?

For a conversation that people feel is a critical one, a lot of employees don’t know the basics of how compensation is managed within their companies. From grade levels to salary bands, more than 50% of the people who ask us about these conversations, don’t know how their company manages the process. And that sets you up for the wrong time and the wrong approach.

Learn the basics from your HR team and then consider the following three steps to involve your manager in a discussion.

Make the conversation about more than your salary.
Money is emotional. To an employee, it feels like a quantification of what your work is worth. To a manager, it’s one part of a much bigger picture around roles and responsibilities. Too often, employees think about money as a separate conversation independent of their work and their value to a role.

And that’s a mistake. Money follows value. Change the conversation to what you’re doing, how you’re contributing and talk to your manager about what you’d like to take on next. Increase your role and your value to the company, and the company will increase your compensation.

The easiest time for a company and a manager to increase a salary is when someone adds responsibility and steps into a new role. The hardest time for a company to increase a salary is when nothing has changed….except how you’re feeling about your role.

When you’re asked to take on more or offered a new position, you’ve aligned to the compensation discussion that’s similar to joining a company. Lead with the increased responsibility and value, and then explore and discuss what changes with your compensation package.

Time the conversation from your manager’s perspective.
The biggest disconnect is timing. If you’ve been with a company for a while, you may be relying on your manager to set the timing of a discussion or annual review. But managers view those discussions as resetting their entire team, and they’re working with guidelines that are set across the entire company. Their focus is resetting everyone to current roles, not making significant changes during those conversations.

Your desire to talk about what you do next may hit them too late to consider it. And if your peers were proactive in managing a career discussion, your manager may assume that you’re not as interested as they are in a next step.

I recently ran an assessment as part of a coaching engagement and asked two leaders what they thought the employee wanted to do next. Both replied: “I have no idea. I’ve never thought about what Joe will do next.” And that tells me Joe hasn’t made it known what he wants to explore or take on. And he’ll be frustrated when the manager doesn’t create that opportunity for him.

You have to keep this conversation alive and well-positioned. It’s a conversation about next steps and even two steps down the road. Most managers are very willing to help this process. They just don’t have the time to drive it for you. We’ve talked a lot about taking ownership for your career, and our latest book Disrupted: How to Reset Your Brand and Your Career offers guidance on how to do it.

Know the market and the value of your role.
We’re a little biased against chasing every opportunity that comes your way because we see people follow the wrong things and miss the opportunity to grow their skill sets. A lot has changed in opportunities, and you will move more in your career than you may have considered a decade ago. But what hasn’t changed is skill development. You need to be adding skills and expanding skills in order to increase your value to any company.

And you should stay involved in how your role is valued in the market and within your company. The increased movement has put a lot of information out there in terms of positions available and the salary range of the positions. Stay informed on your skillset. If a recruiter reaches out, it’s worth learning how they got to you and how they thought about your skillset.

Your peer network is also a great way to stay informed on how roles are growing and skills you need to be developing. Keep your manager informed and offer input on how roles are evolving. It helps them think more broadly about skills and development.

But a word of caution. Don’t use the market insight as a way to push negotiation on your manager. Don’t wait until you’re frustrated and feeling stuck to have a conversation about your opportunity and increased responsibility.

Too often, we see an employee leverage another opportunity as a way to force a compensation discussion. This puts a company on the defensive and many will try to “save” you because they don’t want to lose you. They add compensation and even new titles to try and keep you. But both sides resent this tactic within six months. The employee still feels taken advantage of because they had to threaten to leave in order to get what they felt they should have been offered all along. The manager resents it because they feel they’re now paying a premium for a role they weren’t sure you were ready for. And ironically, many of these employees leave anyway within a year.

There’s a much better way to continue to grow in responsibility and compensation.

Take ownership for how you move within a company. Be proactive in talking about where you are today and where you would like to be tomorrow. Focus on the value you can add to the company and involve your manager in helping you plan for the next steps ahead.

Movement within a company and to different companies is a reset we should all expect. And when you begin to think about a value conversation instead of a salary negotiation, compensation joins the conversation easily.

We’re here when you need us!

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

Proficiency vs Mastery: What it Takes to Uplevel Your Skills

January is the month of resets! From resetting company goals and strategies to resetting personal development, it’s the refresh and “clean slate” feeling that rejuvenates all of us and makes anything feel possible.

And if you’re a people leader, chances are your development goals include something about influence, personal presence and the ability to galvanize your team. If it isn’t your priority, it should be because the expectations of employees have shifted in the last two years and the ask of people leaders is being redefined as well.

At the core of those expectations will be influence and impact. And when you evaluate the impact of a people leader, the data points become employees’ feedback, experiences and reactions to a leader’s communication skills.

This month puts it all to the test. At the same time that development goals are being discussed, communication skills are being tested. January is an important month for people leaders. Through internal meetings and strategy presentations, leaders set the tone, direction and enthusiasm for the year ahead and they define the ask of their employees for the months ahead.

The reality check for every people leader is: Are you a proficient communicator or a master communicator? There’s a significant difference.

Surprisingly, proficiency is where more than 85% of people leaders are considered to be. And they fall into two groups with that benchmark.

Some have accepted that benchmark for themselves and consider proficient to be “good enough.” They look around at peers and other leaders in a company, and they measure their skills against the skills of others. And they believe they’re good enough. Others haven’t accepted the benchmark, but they don’t know what to do about it. They developed foundational skills through repetition. And while they’re earnest in wanting to improve their skills, they don’t know how to get beyond proficient.

Knowing that the expectations on a leader’s skills will continue to shift toward a more compelling communicator and impactful influencer, we’re helping leaders set new goals and move their skills from proficiency to mastery.

So, how do you make the shift? We help communicators focus on Awareness, Intention and Effort.

Communication isn’t the first skill you’ve tried to master. We’ve all taken up a hobby or a sport in an effort to become really good at it. And I’ll admit, there are far more things I’ve become proficient at than I’ve mastered. Here’s why:

I started with some instruction to build skills, and then I expected to get better at it through practice. And I did make great strides initially, but I lost interest or focus on the skill before I really mastered it. Communication follows the same path. Maybe you took a course or got a solid foundation in skills and techniques early in your career. And you became proficient through repetition as you had opportunities or responsibilities to communicate more and more.

But repetition doesn’t get someone to mastery. It levels out at proficiency because feedback doesn’t continue, or the skills don’t evolve with the growth of a leader. Mastery takes the right tools and the right kind of practice to evolve and improve skills.

Here’s how we do it:

AWARENESS is feedback, assessment and input. As a leader, your effectiveness isn’t based on your assessment, it’s based on everyone else’s. And it helps to understand how your brand is perceived and how people hear what you say. We start with an initial assessment, but we also help leaders put feedback loops in place to ensure that all communication is measured for impact. This allows a leader to clarity, reinforce, and revise communication to keep sound bites active across a year. Less than 15% of leaders have a broader plan and a longer lifeline for big ideas and core messages that influence employee behaviors.

SW&A can measure current effectiveness and build a custom communication plan for a leader.

INTENTION trumps technique. Few leaders really understand intention behind techniques. They can explain what they do to develop and deliver content, but the intent behind those tools isn’t very clear. It’s what sets us apart as coaches, and it’s how we guide someone toward mastery. We’re helping someone define their presence and display it consistently in every setting. It’s understanding the use of the body and voice well enough that intention becomes habit, and a leader begins to shift their focus off of what’s happening for them and onto what’s happening for listeners.

SW&A understands intention and can translate it for any communication style. We see a difference in communicators who begin to ask less about tips and more about responses. And that’s when good enough shifts to great results.

EFFORT is about practice and knowing how to practice in a way that helps a leader align style and content for impact. Every leader is different bringing different strengths and challenges to their communication toolkit. So, practice has to be tailored to help each leader know how to work through their inconsistencies. We help a leader get to practice with intention, not just repetition. And that’s key to how well skills advance.

SW&A coaches a communicator on how to bring style and content together in a custom practice tool to leverage before events.

While communication is a universal skill, it’s an evolving toolkit that takes more than just repetition to improve. And with the shift in leader expectations, there has never been a better time to assess your skills and shift your goals toward mastery.

We’ve been coaching communicators toward mastery for more than 35 years. Maybe this will be the year we help you attain it as well.

Call us when you need us!

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

Are You Going to Write That Yourself?

It’s the last month of the year, and to everybody, that means a holiday break ahead! It’s a toast to traditions, time with family and a little downtime before we begin 2022.

When we come back for the new year, it will launch with great fanfare around the internal sales conference, commonly known as the SKO. Many companies are back to in-person meetings, and the excitement of being together is already building across the sales team and all the supporting functions. The SKO meeting is back on track!

Tenured employees will bring big expectations to reset on everything they’ve missed in the last two years. New employees will bring anticipation of things they haven’t had over the last two years. And both groups will roll expectation and anticipation together as they settle into their seats eager to hear the vision and direction on what lies ahead.

There’s a small group that carries the burden of delivering on that.

It’s the small band of leaders from sales, product and marketing, who have to deliver on that pent-up expectation. This isn’t the routine, annual conference. This is the reset conference, the opportunity to set retention, commitment and conviction across a sales team that’s had to work a little outside the boundaries. The demand and pressure on their roles has intensified; the support and camaraderie across the team has been a little challenged. So, the stakes are higher, and the ask is bigger. And that’s why we wonder: Are you going to write that yourself?

If you are, then you have an added task to complete before the year wraps up. Your holiday cheer needs to wait until you craft the right storyline this year. The message is different based on what’s happening within a company and the goals defined for sales in 2022. But the pent-up expectations seem to be building in all companies. And that’s why our advice is put in the extra time this year. Aim for more than just telling them what to do. This year needs to be inspirational. It’s a reconnect like no other as you pull the group together.

And while we don’t want to put pressure on a speaker, we are saying you should up your game this year. The timing of these presentations is always tricky. It is the holidays, and leaders deserve a little downtime, too. The virtual component took pressure off as most leaders didn’t stand in front of their teams last year; they read notes from a screen and kicked things off virtually.

The virtual SKO was fine, but it introduced some potential bad habits. Preparation was easier. Leaders thought about their message a week in advance and scribbled notes in a document that they referenced as they delivered the keynote kick-off. We know. We’ve seen the videos, and it’s pretty easy to see who’s scanning a screen. It’s also easy to see the drop in audience engagement. That’s why many groups are back in person this year. And it’s your opportunity and responsibility to step up and deliver on it.

Here are the three steps we use to get a speaker ready.

STEP ONE: Create a Clear & Compelling Storyline.

That’s different than pulling together a group of slides. The storyline has to be anchored by a clear message and the big takeaway of the meeting. You’re painting a picture of what’s ahead and the role the sales group will play in helping the company get there. It has to be clear; it has to be compelling, and you have to get the entire room to want to join the journey.

They’re looking to you to define it. They’re looking to you to communicate it. And this is the year to exceed their expectations.

STEP TWO: Find Your Secret Sauce.

During the pandemic, colleagues have missed colleagues. And they’ve also missed leaders. They want to feel connected to you, and the best way you can do that is to add elements to the storyline to personalize the experience. This year, go beyond what you want them to hear and focus on how you want them to feel. It will take personal experiences and a little storytelling to help them reconnect with you. It’s your secret sauce. And it will make the difference in what gets remembered and repeated once the meeting is over.

STEP THREE: Deliver It Like You Own It.

Let’s be honest. The virtual keynotes have created bad habits. No one works that hard at delivering them. So, you may be a little rusty when you take the stage. The energy and effort from a stage is very different than behind your laptop. And an audience can tell the difference between someone who thought about what they wanted to say, and someone who practiced what they wanted to say.

Practice isn’t practice until you’re up on your feet going through the motions. Practice with intention brings the storyline and the delivery together and helps you shift your focus away from following a string of ideas to engaging every individual in a room.

And maybe that IS a little added pressure. But this year is a little more important. And if you don’t want to write it yourself, we’re here to help. The SW&A team gets leaders ready for these events every year. And with a coaching team behind you, we’ll lead you through the steps above and get your plans set in time for holiday cheer. It’s everything you need to exceed their expectations.

You just have to call us when you need us! 

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

2022 Learning & Development Trends

With only eight weeks remaining in 2021, we’re close to launching a new year with new priorities to adjust to new trends. And while 2021 was considered the year of resets, the year ahead promises to be less about realigning and more about accelerating forward in a new way. The uncertainties seem behind us, and learning and development teams have assessed the skill gaps and identified priorities for helping leaders, managers and teams feel confident in their roles.

Communication and influence remain a key need, although the “hybrid” work formats have created a broader interpretation of those needs, from helping people brush up on in-person presentations to imposing a more consistent approach to virtual meetings. And for many people, the greatest need is how to handle the constant shifting between both mediums from one day to the next.

Expectations have reset as promotions, broader roles and expanded responsibilities have created both opportunities as well as gaps in confidence and effectiveness in leading bigger teams and influencing bigger decisions.

And that’s why learning and development teams are looking for new programming and flexible formats. Here are three of the programs SW&A will introduce in 2022 to support the expanded development needs.

 

The Quantum Leap: From Manager to Leader

It’s a quantum leap from managing a team to leading an organization. And one area where it shows up quickly is communication. Most new leaders assume that moving from managing a team to running a division or organization will leverage their existing skillset. But they quickly see that the role is very different and the experiences that they’ve had as managers don’t easily transfer.

Add to the leap an immediacy of high expectations. Leaders aren’t allowed to be “first-time” leaders the way they were allowed to be “first-time” managers. There’s no “on-the-job” training for leaders; you have to show up ready to go.

In the last two years, seasoned leaders have retired at a rate 60% higher than pre-pandemic years. That means more young managers will be promoted into senior roles in the year ahead. And the difference in those who make the leap well will be based, in part, on the support they get to accelerate their own journey and settle confidently into a leadership role.

In 2022, we’ll introduce a custom program that takes a new leader through three elements of impact:

  • Step One: The Responsibility of Leaders
  • Step Two: The Messages of Leaders
  • Step Three: The Presence of Leaders

 

Managing a Hybrid Workforce

For many managers, managing during the pandemic might’ve been the easy part. After the initial chaos of shifting teams and processes to a virtual model, everyone was more or less working in a similar manner.

But now as companies return to work, there are new expectations on managers. Every company is setting guidelines a little differently, but all companies are looking to their managers to interpret those guidelines and set clear expectations for their individual teams.  Hybrid models seem like a great compromise on paper, yet they put more strain on managers. To reset a team, a manager has to become rigorous with process and clearer with communication.

In 2022, we’ll continue our work to give managers an intentional plan for how their teams should work.

The program introduces three steps:

  • Step One: Lead the Team
  • Step Two: Manage Individuals
  • Step Three: Run the Processes

Each step is a combination of discussion and exercises to understand tools, and then we tailor those tools to fit a manager’s team. This provides the opportunity to leverage the thoughts of peers as we consider how the concepts can be adopted by different groups.

 

Stewarding Your Career

Disruption happens every day in most business settings.

Resets are more frequent and often unexpected. And they disrupt employees who aren’t prepared to position themselves for the next opportunity. It’s why talent leaders advise individuals to take ownership for their own career path and development.

Those who thrive in disruption understand two things that will most impact their ability to navigate disruption and reset their careers: they know how to position their brands and they know how to tell their own stories.

We published the book on disruption in 2021, and we’ll introduce the concepts in a new workshop in 2022.

In this program, we help participants take ownership for their career direction and journey by constructing a compelling career narrative. We uncover the stories within a career and coach participants on how to elevate a brand and illustrate their experiences. And we pull the tools together through roleplays designed to coach the positioning of you and your skillset.

 

All programs are set to run as full-day experiences, virtual modules, and even 1:1 coaching engagements.

2022 is going to be an exciting year for leadership development and a crucial one for compelling communication. And at SW&A, we can close the skill gaps and help your leaders and managers feel more confident and effective in the year ahead.

We’re here when you need us!

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

The Quantum Leap

It’s happened in companies across the globe.

In the last two years, seasoned leaders retired at a rate 60% higher than the pre-pandemic average. And whether they were pushed out, walked out or took advantage of the crisis at hand, they created gaps in the leadership and knowledge experience in companies.

Those gaps have created opportunities for millennials who are the largest generation in the workforce. The oldest millennials turn 40 this year.  And when you look at the age of people who are in management roles today, it’s split down the middle between leaders who are under 45 and those who are over.

So, it’s fair to say that there’s less tenure in leadership.

And the question is: Are the new leaders ready?

In many ways, yes.  Young leaders bring a new way of thinking, a new way of working and some of the skills that will help companies evolve to the next generation of products and services. But the gap that’s a little trickier to solve for is leadership skills. And as these new leaders settle in, we’re seeing gaps in their experience as well as a lack of awareness about just how different their new role is.

Every new leader says: “It’s more different than I thought it would be.” They assumed that moving from managing a team to running a division or organization would leverage their existing skill set. But they quickly see that the role is very different and the experiences that they’ve had as managers don’t easily transfer.

One area where it shows up quickly is communication.

Leaders communicate differently than managers.  Not because they’ve changed, but because the expectations have. And while previous leaders had an opportunity to experience the shift in expectations as they moved up a corporate ladder, the millennial leaders stepped up fast and the skills just haven’t developed.

How can it be so different? It’s just people talking to people, right?  Well, people are at the root of the difference.

For a new leader, relationships aren’t the same.  When you step up to run an organization of teams versus a single team, you just don’t know people as well. Layers are added, and your ability to see how things are done and trust that things are getting done blurs. You have to work through others in a different way.  You have to let go of details, empower others and trust.  That’s hard. And most new leaders say it’s a significant shift in understanding how you should lead.

For an organization, everything about leadership is communication. Employees want to know where the organization is going; they want to feel inspired and motivated to work toward a destination and an outcome. No more meetings run with notes on a napkin; leaders have to put the time and effort into being effective every time they communicate.

Add to it the immediacy of those expectations. Leaders aren’t allowed to be “first-time” leaders the way they were allowed to be “first-time” managers.  There’s no “on-the-job” training for leaders; you have to show up ready to go.

That’s why the increase in coaching mirrors the increase in retirements.  Giving a new leader the support to develop a stronger toolkit and the guidance to understand expectations makes the difference in those who settle in well or those who find themselves trying to recover from missteps throughout their first year.

It’s a quantum leap to step up to leadership, and there are three broad areas where we guide the transition.

MESSAGING: Managers who are good at inspiring groups are standouts. Leaders who can’t do it…fail fast. Messaging goes from an asset to a requirement overnight. The impact of not doing well is felt quickly, and the most common feedback we hear when a new leader is struggling is the inability to inspire a large group.

We coach leaders on how to build messaging effectively and to think about the big themes as part of an ongoing communication plan and strategy. A leader’s focus on clarity can accelerate work productivity and lift morale quickly. The lack of clarity or direction from a leader can stall organizations and lead to disengagement or attrition. Clear communication becomes one of the most critical skills to understand and master quickly.

PERSONAL BRAND: Many of the millennial leaders are being promoted from within a company. That means that employees are being asked to see a colleague or a former manager differently. It’s not an easy transition, and we work with new leaders to be intentional about how people experience their brand in a bigger role. Interestingly, because they are younger, their resumes alone don’t give instant credibility.  They have to earn respect and they often feel as if they’re trying to prove themselves for several months. While leaders build relationships with their direct reports, they find it hard to influence the broader group that they don’t know well. They need to build internal tools for feedback, insights and a pulse on how the organization is feeling and reacting to their leadership.

CONNECTION: New leaders hear the pressure to shift their skills, but they want to find their own, authentic way to get there. They quickly miss the connection they were used to as a manager and the involvement they had in working side by side with others. They need new ways to connect with people and engage the entire employee base. Employees see them differently, and leaders search for ways to deliver consistently on all the expectations in a way that is both authentic and effective for them. We help leaders find their way to drive engagement across their organizations.

 

It’s a quantum leap from managing a team to leading an organization.  And the difference in those who make the leap well will be based, in part, on the support they get to accelerate their own journey and settle confidently into a leadership role.

Call us when you need us!

Want a free 15-minute consultation with us to see how we can help you or your leaders? Book a call now!

Sally Williamson & Associates

The Mastery of Skills with Olympian Kenny Selmon

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Every day, we talk to people about practice. And we explain that to become effective at communication, you have to work at becoming good at it. And we define mastery of a skill as those who become so good at a skill that you can count on their performance and outcome consistently.

And once you begin to talk about performance and outcomes, it’s easy to draw a parallel between mastery of a skill like communication and mastery of sports like the Olympics. And that’s what we’re going to do for you on this podcast:  connect the concepts of practice, mastery and outcomes. And accentuate the value of practice and the ultimate results of effort.

Because that’s what today’s guest has achieved.

Tune in to see what Kenny Selmon shares with guest host Hurst Williamson about the Mastery of Skills.

More about Kenny Selmon

Recently back from the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, Kenny Selmon represented the U.S. in the 400-meter hurdles. He began his track and field career just down the road at Pace Academy in Atlanta (where my claim to fame is that I overlapped in high school with him for one year!) and where he won the National Championship in the 400-meteres in 2014. Then he continued on to run hurdles at UNC, where he places 2nd in the NCCAA Division 1 National Championships in 2018 and set UNC’s record for the 400-metres.

After graduating from UNC, he won the 2018 USAF Outdoor Championships and the Athletics World Cup in London. And in 2021, he qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team.

Show Notes

  • Mastery of a skill is an individual that becomes so good at a skill that you can count on their performance and outcome consistently. The podcast today will cover the practice, mastery, and outcome. Accentuate the value of practice and the ultimate results of the effort.
  • Kenny Selmon, Olympic Athlete, USA
  • What were some of the most difficult hurdles to overcome on the journey of being an Olympic Athlete?
    • Covid Impact
      • Lost sponsorship
      • No access to tracks to train
      • Unknow future of the Olympics
  • What is the difference between intention and repetition behind the practice? How do you keep that intention when training?
    • Know your ‘why”, understanding why you are doing it. Your “why” gives you the full vision and picture
      • Know what you want even if you are struggling to find your “why”
      • When you understand what you want it makes the steps to get there easier and will lead you to your “why”
  • What is it like to consistently practice even when you’ve mastered the sport? How do you keep going?
    • Every day you must perform at the highest level, even in practice.
    • You don’t know if it’s going to work, all you have is faith and knowledge that your work will pay off.
    • Have a coach that knows how to get you there
    • Prepare for disrupters (rain, heat)
    • Must always be ready to perform, there are no second chances
  • What role does resilience play for the brand of an athlete?
  • The importance of personal brand
    • Book referenced at 14:56, Disrupted! How to Reset Your Brand & Your Career
    • Genuine care to supporters – responding to text messages, listening, and understanding they are on the journey with you.
    • Everybody is competing with the brand and the personality next to you, how to stand out?
      • Understand that athletes are all people that have been given a gift. Always be a person first. It’s not about standing out, it’s understanding who the person is and being genuine. Be yourself.
  • Is there a brand that stands out to you? (Kenny)
    • “Brand” is connected to success
    • Allyson Felix for her brand to work so must continue to do well, compete, and win.
      • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allyson_Felix
  • Companies look for candidates that can show discipline and focus behind their experience. What are the parallels for an Olympic athlete?
    • Faith- What you can not see
    • Knowledge – You know knows what it will take, they’ve been through it
    • Delayed gratitude – Bad/hard days will be stacked up for one day of celebration
    • All of those experiences connect
  • Stoke – a free platform where people connect to chat about Live TV
    • www.stokeapp.live
    • Mission: Our mission is to virtually connect the existing communities that watch Live Sports, TV Shows, and more. We strive to create a fun and active social communication channel for Live TV that streamlines all the different conversations surrounding it.
  • Viewers pulled into the stories of Olympic Athletes. How has working alongside other Olympic athletes changed your perspective of storytelling and personal narratives?
    • They are all people and they have problems and lives, but their work is at a very high level. Understand they are all people at the end of the day.
  • Favorite story from the Olympics
    • Watching his coach live his dream
    • Knowing all structures were built specifically for that event
    • Organization and technological aspects of the event

Like what you hear? Hear more episodes like this on the What’s Your Story podcast page!

The Art of Coaching – How to Choose the Right Coach with Francie Schulwolf

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In the last year, millions of workers took early retirement, which created a band of less-experienced managers and leaders in most companies. It’s a great career opportunity and accelerated promotions for several managers. But it also pushes a less-experienced leader to learn how to drive while the car is moving, and it can create risks within a company when someone is leading who doesn’t have a bank of experiences to draw on.

That’s why coaching is a hot commodity.

A Coach becomes a trusted advisor to a new leader. A good Coach becomes a sounding board… and a confidante. A good Coach can broaden your thinking and help you solidify your options. And the best Coaches will help you expand your skills and your tools so that you can leverage the learnings even after the coaching relationship wraps up.

So, how do you find the right coach?

On this episode of What’s Your Story, Sally talks with her colleague and SW&A Executive Coach, Francie Shulwolf, about how they work together to identify the right direction and guidance for coaching clients. Francie has also been a recipient of coaching services from her previous leadership role in a large hospitality company. Over the years, she often says: “What we do here at SW&A is different. It’s so much richer in terms of takeaways.” So today’s podcast shares insights from both sides of the table.

More about Francie Schulwolf

Francie is an Executive Coach and Business Development Director at SW&A, and a former Communications Leader for a global hospitality company. Her focus is on developing strong, confident communicators. With close to twenty-five years of global, corporate experience in advertising, marketing and communications, she is intimately familiar with the demands executives face. This understanding, along with her honest and warm style, create a safe and comfortable environment for individuals to learn and grow.

Show Notes

  • In the last year, millions of workers took early retirement which resulted in a shift in the workforce, creating a group of less experienced managers and leaders.
    • A good coach can broaden your thinking and help you expand your tools.
      • How do you find the right coach?
    • Role of the manager has shifted
      • Managers are taking on a more significant role.
      • Distractions are gone, people are home.
      • There is more pressure to get things done.
      • People were being more intentional/more empathetic.
    • Do you need a coach if you have a mentor in your company?
      • Mentor sees you daily and helps you navigate the waters of your company.
      • A Coach provides you the valuable tools to enhance your leadership style and is a third party outside source that is focused on the individual’s leadership outside of the company.
      • A coach is results driven.
    • How to start
      • Decide what you need a coach for.
      • Coaches have the skillset to build leaders’ communication and leadership style.
      • Chemistry is important with the coach – Trusted relationships
    • Should you get a coach?
      • There is a difference between somebody who has experience vs expertise.
      • Coaches help you combine the two and become a compelling communicator and leader.
    • Tell your potential coach about what you are looking for
      • Most business decisions are not new decisions – a good coach has experience.
      • The coach brings insight.
      • Impressions are someone else’s perspective – insights shift to improvement.
    • Videotaping
      • Going through the before and after on the video – raise awareness of habits.
      • When you get out of your head and into the room, it shows.
    • Distinguish experience from expertise
      • The reason to go to a coach is the expertise in the final assessment.
    • The 4 things that help somebody align with a coach
      • Chasing chemistry – must have chemistry to get to a place of trust with a coach.
      • Insights vs improvement – get the feedback, doing something with it, have great awareness.
      • Balance experience vs expertise – What do you need to do to be better?
      • Inside coach vs outside coach – get a third party involved.

 

Like what you hear? Hear more episodes like this on the What’s Your Story podcast page!

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