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Protecting your business psyche

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One of the major contributors to information noise is the media. The media have adopted an almost obsessive parochialism about entering recession. They have been manic and almost willing it to happen. I’ve felt that the mainstream media as a whole must take more responsibility for balanced content on the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). It’s reasonable to have a higher volume of commentary on such a topical issue, but it’s the lack of balance in content that worries me.

Some of the economic commentators and experienced journalists should be ashamed of themselves. I’ve never met a wealthy economist and the GFC might just be their grand final day with interview requests and media commentary gigs aplenty. It does not take a great deal of skill in taking all the bad news and whipping it up for the doom and gloom merchants. It takes more intelligence and skill to actually balance your commentary with some positives.

If you are making profit in your business or have a job, times are actually OK. Interest rates are at 50 year lows. Fuel prices have fallen. The intricate balance between unemployment and inflation is still within reasonable limits. The opportunity to acquire businesses in this climate presents itself. The talent pool to recruit from has improved. Suppliers are offering lower prices, better terms and value-added offerings. Staff are focused on job security and the balance of power has switched from employee to employer (employees have generally held power over employers for the last decade due to the talent shortage and near full employment).

Given the state of the economy is merely the collective sentiment of the majority of individuals at any given point in time, the media noise has a massive impact. The major source of economic information for most individuals is still mainstream traditional media – television, radio and newspapers. While a smaller percentage of individuals may receive more balanced or varied content from online media or other sources, the vast majority are hearing the generic noise broadcast.

This continual negative noise has a powerful conditioning impact on both the psychology of an individual and the collective psychology of the economic community. It starts with general discussion at the Sunday BBQ or around the water cooler at work. It feeds on itself and spreads like wild fire. Everyone knows someone who lost their business or job and this negative sentiment propagates at will without any correction. Good news simply ceases to exist. Employees catch it. Suppliers catch it. Hours of discussion now gets consumed by the Aint It Bad Club talking about how terrible everything is. People go home and the radio, TV and newspapers remind them again for the day how bad things are.

And, of course, you’re not immune to this. You have the same incoming information and sentiment being broadcast to you. In fact, you have many more people communicating with you than the average person. You also may take in more media because you’re a business owner. The impact of this noise and the conditioning effect it has on you creates a major business risk. The risk is keeping your business psyche healthy. The personal symptoms can include loss of motivation, illness (physical and mental), weight gain/loss, detachment from your business/family/friends, or worse. From a business perspective, the business could be severely diminished or you could lose your business.

Protecting and nurturing your business psyche

So now we understand the importance of a healthy business psyche, let’s look at some ways in which we can protect and nurture it.

A key technique is to block or limit the amount of noise that you are exposed to. Do a quick review of the sources of noise that flow through to you. Stay away from tabloid journalism. Limit your exposure to commentators that don’t have balanced content. Try and surround yourself with rational people who have integrity and nurture and support you. Eliminate or limit exposure to negative or shallow people – I call these the Black Clouds or Dream Takers. These people could include employees, customers, suppliers, friends or relatives. It’s too easy just to let all this happen around you and while sometimes you obviously still have circumstances that require exposure to certain people, you are still capable of influencing the content of conversation and definitely the frequency of contact.

Another important technique is to monitor and manage your own behaviour. Commit to catching yourself when you start thinking dark or negative thoughts. Stop yourself mid-sentence when you start talking overly negative about a person or issue. Reward yourself when you do this to re-affirm the corrective behaviour.

You are the sum average of the five people you spend the most time with. Assess who these people are and the influence they have on you. Surround yourself with people that nurture your psyche. Make subtle changes to this circle of influence.

It’s important also to express yourself. Talk with your inner-circle. Seek out your mentors and talk with them openly about how you are feeling. If your mind is heavy and you want to speak to an independent professional, go and see a psychologist. The ability to talk confidentially to a total stranger can really heal and nurture you.

Remember to celebrate the wins. When you win a new customer, make a profit or simply do something good within the business, stop and enjoy the moment. This helps to create balance, motivates you moving forward and reminds you of what you want to achieve.

The final thing is often forgotten: Be kind to yourself. We’re so damn hard on ourselves it can be palpable. No one will ever care about you more than you. You need to care about yourself more than anyone else. Encourage yourself, thank yourself and be proud of your contribution to the business. Don’t forget that you are the real hero within the business.

Darren Bourke is a consultant, business coach and mentor who helps small and medium businesses struggling to maximise profitability, productivity, people and performance. His Free Report titled What Successful Owners of Growth Businesses Do That You Don’t, newsletter and updates are full of strategies and tips to make your business boom. Sign up now at www.businessinfluence.com.au

Photo: PDR

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