Have you ever worked in an environment where each person is pretty much out for themselves? Or maybe co-workers were more or less friendly, but management was hard edged? Or it all seemed nice on the surface, but push comes to shove, the knives are easily drawn so watch your back?
Unfortunately, I have experienced all that in my long working life. Luckily, I have also experienced the comfort of a tightly bonded work group where everyone had each other’s back, but in a good way!
No doubt, the latter group was my favorite and I did my best work there.
Surrounded by positive energy, supportive co-workers, and consistent encouragement we can all thrive on a level that surpasses times when those elements are absent.
You would think that when you run your own business you can make sure to instill these good vibes in everything you do. Yes, it can be done, but it is not that easy. I tried and too often failed in the first years of my marketing business because, alas, the negative elements are all out there swarming around you. Without the support of others, I found it difficult to protect myself, hold firm boundaries, and get up quickly after being knocked down.
I want to recognize and acknowledge the positive communities that I found to support me in my work life journey. First, for many, a faith-based community is the bedrock and I am never one to discount the power of that rock in one’s life. However, I found some secular (more or less) groups that still provide me with great sustenance.
First, I have to hand it to Toastmasters International. Never have I bonded so quickly with a group of like-minded people like I have with the members of my Sarasota Herald Tribune Toastmasters club. We meet weekly as a supportive learning community to polish our public speaking and leadership skills. Good vibes abound as we offer unconditional positive support and constructive feedback to help each other build confidence and skills that can change our lives.
Timing was everything for me. I joined Toastmasters the month before my sister passed away in 2013. I not only discovered that I could be very funny in a speech, but I also found ways to channel my grief and deeper thoughts through the speech assignments. I uncover that power of storytelling and connecting with others through the spoken word. I not only learned how to speak with impact, but also to listen with an extraordinary focus and goal to help others. It’s no wonder that my Toastmaster buddies are some of my closest friends now.
My Toastmaster mentor Liz Coursen who introduced me to the next group that has become pivotal in my business success, Business Network International. BNI is the largest business referrals organization in the world and consists of over 9000 chapters across the globe. In my mind, the power of this group is in the personal relationships developed with other business owners and leaders. I belong to Referral Champions and this group of 40-odd individuals maintains a level of positive energy and true mutual support that inspires me every Tuesday morning. The culture of Givers Gain, meaning if I work to fund referrals and give business to others, they will do the same for me. It’s like having a sales force of 40.
On a more personal level, these new friendships have opened up new worlds for me. Each individual in their own way offers me feedback on what I’m trying to do and I am able to grow from receiving this information. It was through BNI that I met Jessica Papineau, the stylist that helped set me on this path.
Another Toastmasters buddy, Debi Frock, signed up as a Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant, and I wanted to support her in any way that I could. I went to her Mary Kay party, bought some product, and agreed to let her and her director Penny Jackson share the Mary Kay opportunity with me. Although I said no at first, I circled back several weeks later when Debi needed an extra team member to earn her Red Jacket. Sure, I would try, but I honestly didn’t expect much to come of it other than getting my 50% price on skincare and makeup.
I was blind-sided by the overwhelming positivity, encouragement, group support and fun-loving vibe of this sales community. OMG. I started off as a curmudgeon grumbling about wearing a dress and progressed into someone who paints her nails pink and dreams of driving a pink Cadillac! I can even sing the song with all the hand gestures with a thousand other Mary Kay ladies.
I know, it sounds ridiculous, but I was ready for some fun.
No more long knives and looking over my shoulder for the next hit, I am doggedly surrounding myself with happy, honest people who want to help each other. I am girded with their good will and ready to fend off the inevitable negative ninnies out there. Don’t worry about me now. I am riding that wave of GOOD VIBES!