One would think that since I was once an actress who lived LA for many years, I must have developed the kind of thick skin that now serves me well in business. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely true. I’ve taken things personally for as long as I can remember, from the disbandment of my kindergarten coloring book group to the many, many roles I didn’t book years later. Because of course, in my mind, these occurrences were personal rejections—proof of the story I had in my head that something was indeed wrong with me. Over the years, this mindset caused me a lot unnecessary suffering.
So it’s a bit difficult not to take the business I’m building personally. After all, it’s my business. Not to mention it has my name, my writing, and my image, smacked all over it. When I’ve released a blog post that hasn’t receive good traction, or tweeted about something business related to no replies, often my feelings have been hurt.
Here’s the thing though: my business actually isn’t about me. I’m the vehicle through which it’s being facilitated, but the vision and purpose of what I stand for is about so much more than me. Once I realized that, I realized I needed to make strides to separate personal from professional. Here’s what I did and recommend.
1. Create a client contract.
When I worked with a business coach last summer, I was slightly annoyed when asked to sign a client contract. Did my coach not trust me? Did she think I would bail on our agreement? Having now created my own, I can tell you a big part of contracts is about perception. There is something about a signed contract that makes a deal seem more legit. People take things seriously when a contract is involved. For that reason alone, I certainly think it’s worth it. (You can send 5 electronic contracts a month for free via EchoSign.)
2. Get clear about scope of work, agenda, and objectives.
I’ve been burned more than once because I failed to clarify what was expected of me or what I expected of others. Sure, this may change during the course of a project, but it doesn’t hurt to be as detailed as possible up front and get any unresolved questions answered before the job begins. Trust me when I say more communication upfront can save you loads of time, and conflict, later.
3. Make sure agreements are MUTUAL.
An agreement is not actually an agreement until all parties are onboard. If you’ve ever heard or said something like, “I didn’t know you needed the document at noon” or “I’ll get back to you about that later,” a mutual agreement was not yet in place. Avoid hiccups and make sure all parties are aligned.
4. Stop being nice.
This is a big one for most people. We often equate being nice with being kind, but they're actually not the same thing. Generally when we find ourselves being nice, it’s because we aren’t 100% confident about something—our skills, our ability to lead, our relationships … you name it. We default to “nice” so that people will at least like us. Kindness, however, allows for human interaction without the loss of integrity. We don’t have to give up anything to be kind. Instead we can remain direct yet empathetic.
5. Realize it’s actually not about you.
I mentioned this earlier, and this point is the crux of it all. Once we're able to separate our feelings and fears of rejection or loss from the task at hand, we will find more clarity, more space to create, and more overall satisfaction. This won’t happen overnight, and it will most certainly require awareness and focus. But this realization is perhaps one of the best things we can do for our businesses and our lives.
Separating personal from professional doesn’t have to be an excruciating task. Once you accept that you are building a grown-up, responsible business, you’ll soon see that business can’t fully thrive when you allow yourself to get stuck in the personal for too long.