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Once mastered, it’s a powerful tool for your arsenal of skills.

4 min read

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In business, it can seem sensible to say “yes” to as many requests as you can, because it’s a way to look like a team player who’s up to any task. But sometimes, saying “no” and declining a request can be the absolute best thing to do for your business. If you see the following signs, you can feel pretty confident that you can take a pass and not feel bad about it:

1. Not enough time

Taking care of everything that comes across your desk can provide a reassuring sense of competence and accomplishment, and it’s never a smart idea to let good opportunities fizzle. But the reality is you’ll reach a point where you simply cannot squeeze more into your calendar without sacrificing something. If you’re so buried in meetings, phone calls, emails and neverending to-do lists that you can’t give the new request the 110 percent it deserves, then feel free to say no in favor of your original priorities, especially if you’ve got an important deadline around the corner.

Related: 4 Things That Most Entrepreneurs Never Have Enough Time For

2. Not enough money

If the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that smart business leaders need to have enough capital to cover themselves in emergencies — which they should spend strategically based on clearly outlined priorities. (Looking at you, Adam Neumann and Kevin Plank.) Look carefully at your objectives, and if a request threatens the budget for those priorities, be clear about your financial limitations rather than pretending that the money for everything will magically appear.

3. Better alternatives

Just because you get a request doesn’t mean an offer that better suits your vision isn’t already on the table or will be in the future. You don’t want to sell a venture for $5 million, for instance, if another buyer offers you $10 million. Consider if any proposals might save time, money or both and have clear requirements that have to be met before you’ll look at a request more seriously.

It all comes down to the ROI

Saying no without regret boils down to looking at the three points above as a checklist to determine your return on investment. Because your biggest job is to help your company grow and succeed, ask the person making the request to present a professional business case that demonstrates what you’ll get back from accepting their proposal. For instance, how will completing their task be worth the time and money you put into it? How will it benefit the company, its shareholders, customers, employees or culture?

As a quick example, let’s say someone on your team asks you to get food catered in every week at a cost of about $2,000 a month. That cost might seem too high to you until the employee informs you that:

  • 60 percent of employees say free food is one of their favorite office perks.

  • 90 percent of employers believe providing food and snacks helps create team bonds.

  • The benefits of eating healthy include improved mood and memory.

  • It could reduce time spent “going out to lunch.”

  • Waste can be easily minimized by surveying employee preferences.

Here, the increase in productivity that comes from making the team feel happier and more connected might easily justify the $2,000 a month you’ll spend. You can use specific KPIs to verify that people are in fact working better and improving your bottom line due to the catering.

Related: Your Employee Advocacy Program: Measuring the Right KPIs

The bottom line

Every request has a potential cost and return. Both good leadership and life satisfaction occur when you think logically about those costs and what they might yield. And when you learn to say no, to requests that don’t merit the cost, you by default also learn to say yes to the things that will truly help you thrive. Remember to consider your time, money and alternatives when someone approaches you with a request, and you’ll always find clarity about which answer to give.


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6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The ability to change one’s mind when confronted with new evidence or information — or better yet, the willingness to actively seek out opposing viewpoints — is an important quality needed to be successful in both business and in life. It is crucial for leaders who want to ensure their organization remains innovative and necessary for society to function optimally. All too often, however, we can become insulated from information that runs counter to our existing beliefs.

Breaking this type of thinking should be a priority for anyone interested in enhancing their critical thinking skills. After all, when you insulate yourself from opposing viewpoints, you are potentially depriving yourself of information needed to make a more informed decision. Toward that end, here are a few strategies you can begin incorporating right away that can help you become more open to opposing viewpoints and enhance your ability to think critically.

1. Be willing to question your current view of reality

Take a moment to reflect on some of your most deeply held beliefs and opinions. As you do so, try to be intentionally broad, accounting for the full spectrum of social, political, and organizational issues that comprise your current view of reality. For example, you may reflect on your beliefs regarding the nature and source of inequality present in society, the trade policies most conducive to advancing a country’s economic interest, or how to effectively lead during moments of crisis.

Related: 16 Characteristics of Critical Thinkers

As you take stock of your own constellation of views and beliefs, what is the likelihood that each reflects a fully informed opinion? More pointedly, assuming that there is some truth to be known about each of these issues, such that the views you hold may be more or less factual, consistent with reality, or conducive to human flourishing, what is the likelihood that you just so happen to hold the correct view on each one of them?

An honest and humble assessment of this question should open your mind to the possibility of your own fallibility and the value in exposing yourself to arguments that run counter to your current perspective. Accordingly, a critical first step toward becoming more open to opposing points of view requires a sense of humility, which constitutes a willingness to learn from others and an acknowledgment of your own limitations and fallibility. Luckily, this is a quality that can be developed and nurtured through practice.

2. Regularly seek out counter-information

Simply recognizing your own fallibility, while necessary, is not a sufficient condition for becoming more open and tolerant to opposing viewpoints. Indeed, it is all too easy to get into the habit of narrowly focusing our attention on information that aligns with our pre-existing views. Organizational leaders, for example, can easily find themselves in insulated information silos, such as when they surround themselves with sycophants eager to express opinions their leader wants to hear. Likewise, within the general public, the increasing prevalence of media curated for each individuals’ idiosyncratic interests and preferences makes it easier than ever to remain oblivious to information and evidence that runs counter to one’s existing beliefs. Overcoming such tendencies can be exceptionally difficult, especially when the beliefs and opinions we hold are highly entrenched or become tied to our identity.

Related: Most Grads Say College Taught Them Few Critical Thinking Skills

Given the mental discomfort that can arise when we encounter information contrary to our current views, a willingness to seek out alternative perspectives takes a conscious effort. Identifying your dominant or “default” point of view and making a habit out of consuming information that runs somewhat opposite of this reference point is therefore a crucial next step. For example, as a leader, you may reflect on how you view your current organizational processes and procedures and actively seek out sources that are critical of such practices. A good illustration comes from the open office space movement. Over the last few decades, many leaders have embraced open office concepts in their organizations, believing that such environments enhance teamwork and creativity. Yet, conventional wisdom regarding the benefits of open office plans is quite disconnected from the science.

Importantly, such advice can (and should) be incorporated into all aspects of your life, not merely those issues of an organizational nature. For example, if you naturally lean toward one end of the political spectrum, it can be helpful to regularly consume information from media outlets that lean opposite of your own political viewpoint. You may not agree with everything you’re exposed to — nor should you — but you will undoubtedly identify blind spots in your own thinking and may even strengthen your own convictions by understanding not only the best and most convincing arguments for your position but also those against it.

3. Become aware of how you feel in the moment

Even with the best intentions to remain receptive to opposing viewpoints, putting this mindset into practice can be exceptionally challenging. Oftentimes, the moment we encounter information that lies in contrast to our own beliefs, we run the risk of being carried away by intense affective reactions that can thwart a genuine effort to understand the opposing viewpoint. For example, we know from research that when we encounter morally-charged situations, we often make quick, instinctive judgments based on emotion. Only after the fact do we justify how we came to the evaluation in the first place. More troubling, this process often occurs below the level of awareness, leaving us to (mistakenly) think that the judgment we’ve made was the result of a rational, thoughtful process. Accordingly, it is important to remain mindful of these processes and to regularly monitor how you feel in the moment to ensure your judgment of the opposing evidence is based on reason and not on unbridled emotion.

Related: You Can Actually Learn to Think More Critically with This Online Course

There is value in exposing yourself to arguments that run counter to your current perspective. To reap the benefits, be sure to acknowledge your own fallibility, seek out opposing information, and remain mindful of your emotions when evaluating the evidence.  

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6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Last week, the Museum of Natural History decided to remove the statue of former President Theodore Roosevelt from the Central Park West entrance where it has stood since 1940.  Since it’s already been a bad month for Roosevelt, let me take this opportunity to further knock him off his high horse.

In his famous “The Man In the Arena” speech, Roosevelt said: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…”

I carried a copy of this speech in my wallet for years and often referred to it for inspiration, especially when I was starting my business in the mid 1990s. But over time, I have come to believe that while there is much to admire about “The Man in the Arena,” Roosevelt was wrong when he said, “It is not the critic who counts.” There is a certain blind arrogance and danger in not just ignoring one’s critics, but in creating a world where you have none. Critics are invaluable. I learned this lesson while writing my book, aptly named Don’t Take Yes for an Answer.

Related: Why Founders Shouldn’t Fear Harsh Criticism

A true “yes” is earned

After handing in what I thought was a masterpiece manuscript, my editor proceeded to rip it to shreds. Like anyone with pride in his work, it was a bitter pill to receive such an emphatic “no” after all that effort. I reluctantly went back to the drawing board and started over, but once I realized that my editor had offered me the gift of wisdom, I embraced it. While I didn’t agree with every suggestion, they were mostly right and made the book vastly better. That critique and input led to a brand-new manuscript, and my heart leapt when my editor said there was basically nothing she would do (except a few minor edits) because it was ready for print!  

I don’t expect my book to eclipse sales records and sit among the pantheon of the best business books of all time. That is unlikely. But it did make it to print and has thus far been well-received — it was even nominated for The Next Big Idea Club (curated by Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant, Susan Cain and Daniel Pink). And that would not have happened had my publisher given me a “yes” after that first manuscript. Now that the finished product is out in the world, I’m almost embarrassed that I even turned in that first draft.

All this is to say that contrary to Roosevelt’s words, the right critic does count. Someone who is qualified and cares about you and your goal can point out how and where you stumbled and how you can do better. It’s true that criticism that is not constructive is usually unhelpful, and tough love without love can be petty and mean. But if you are truly married to excellence and not your ego, you will learn to welcome and love criticism.

In my book, I state that if you want to find out what you’re truly made of and reach your utmost potential in your work and life, you must stop taking YES for an answer. We get a lot of positive feedback that we don’t actually deserve, which means you can’t trust all the yeses you hear. In fact, if you’ve checked off all the obvious boxes necessary for a stellar career in your field — education, credentials, years of experience — but still aren’t where you want to be, that lack of honest feedback is probably part of what’s holding you back. Because face it, if you’re doing just fine but you’re not truly killing it the way you always dreamed you would, I don’t care what anyone tells you — you’re doing something wrong.

Don’t you want to know what it is?

Related: 5 Ways Criticism and Rejection Builds Your Capacity to Succeed

Beware the echo chamber

If you’re frustrated because you’re falling short of your potential and you want to know why, you have to be willing not only to accept criticism, but also to seek it out. You have to find someone who cares enough to tell you when you aren’t all that, and accept that a “no” is often more helpful than a “yes.” An honest “no” will help explain why you haven’t been able to move your business or career further. A default “yes” will keep you stuck in a vortex of mediocrity. You will stay unaware of your true strengths, unconscious of your weaknesses, and probably unmotivated to make any significant change that will elevate you further than your current plateau.

I failed to follow my own advice when I wrote the first draft of my book. For the first year of research and writing, I surrounded myself with well-meaning friends and family. I was immersed in an echo chamber of “yes.” People kept telling me that they loved what I had written, or they said nothing, which I incorrectly took for praise. Those yeses made me feel great, but it wasn’t until I received an honest — and necessary — “no” from my editor that I realized my book was mediocre at best.  The guy who coined the term “the vortex of mediocrity” got trapped in that vortex without even realizing it!

It’s temptingly easy to fall in love with your own work, ideas and self. My advice: get narcissistic nausea. If you cannot find at least one person to criticize some aspect of your being, it’s a warning sign that you’re operating in a distorted reflection of reality. Welcome criticism. Demand it and then embrace what resonates with you after careful introspection.  

Don’t believe Roosevelt’s words that critics don’t count. Instead, take the metaphorical advice of another President: Abraham Lincoln. Rather than ignore his critics, Lincoln appointed them to his cabinet, creating a “team of rivals” that worked together to preserve the Union and win the Civil War. Once you get off your own proverbial high horse, you’ll be amazed at how much further you can climb.

Related: 5 Ways Criticism Can Make You Stronger

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Join Author Michael Canic, PhD, as he introduces a system for committing to focus, alignment and execution, and discusses how to inspire your team to find the will to do what it takes to win.

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1 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

To lead their people through a year of unprecedented change, the thing leaders need most is “ruthless consistency.” Join Author Michael Canic, PhD, as he introduces a system for committing to focus, alignment and execution, and discusses how to inspire your team to find the will to do what it takes to win.
Key Takeaways

  • The real reason why 60-70% of strategic change initiatives fail
  • The three things you must get “right” to execute and to win
  • The one trait all successful leaders have in common

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Michael Canic, PhD, is the author of RUTHLESS CONSISTENCY: How Committed Leaders Execute Strategy, Implement Change and Build Organizations That Win. He is also the founder and president of Making Strategy Happen, a consultancy which helps committed leaders turn ambition into strategy, and strategy into reality. Previously he held leadership positions at The Atlanta Consulting Group and FedEx. Michael earned a PhD in the psychology of human performance from the University of British Columbia and helped coach their football team to a national championship, led strategic change initiatives in the corporate world, and spent the past 25 years consulting with CEOs and top management teams across North America.

Business Achievement Awards

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Speaking to my business partner the other day, we were relaying stories of how investors have become more inclined to ask for updates now that there is an uncertainty to the economy. 

“One founder was telling me that their investor has asked for weekly updates in an email format with an up to date P&L,” said my business partner. “That’s hard, because what he really wants to do is run his business and not provide updates to investors. That’s not his job.” 

“Even better,” I replied, “I once had an investor send us a 10-page format complete with biographical requirements for all key hires with the option for them to stage a final interview.”

We both exchanged nervous and knowing laughter, wishing that we had read about these issues before taking on venture investment.

After completing your first financing round, smart investors will not just shake your hand and say, “Good luck.” Quite the opposite. Investors will often get involved in your business, offer advice, refer key hires and foster business development connections. 

At the very least, they will ask for periodic investor updates. Meant to be “check-ups” on the health of your business, these updates provide investors with crucial sales, financial, HR and corporate-development information. Investors know how to spot opportunities (as well as challenges), and periodic updates give them the chance to do so and make an impact. 

Unfortunately, investor updates can range from merely being annoying to an expensive, time-consuming distraction. This is such a challenge for founders that an entire company, Visible, is dedicated to creating a dashboard that allows them to provide updates to venture investors. 

Absent such tools, how can you ensure you are providing investor updates in the right way while simultaneously focusing on growing your business? Luckily, there are some key tactics. 

First, you should create a template with an easy Green, Yellow and Red approach mapped back to specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Second, you should make specific and concrete requests for investors to help. Third, you must endeavor to be honest and reveal the full scope of your company’s performance and status. 

Related: Everything You Need to Know to Pitch an Investor

Green. Yellow. Red.

One of the most important pieces of an investor update is its structure. How you structure the update will go a long way towards the investor’s view of the company overall. 

First, you must set out your company’s KPIs with investors ahead of the update schedule and set a mutually agreed upon timeline for achieving them. Once you have done so, you can structure your investor update into Green, Yellow and Red sections.

Slightly adapted from Hackernoon’s template, the Green, Yellow and Red update template maps the achievement of KPIs according to progress. Green indicates those that have been achieved. Yellow indicates those you may be worried about but believe you can overcome. And red indicates the KPIs you are failing against and looking to develop a new plan for. It is important to include updates within these areas on your product build, team and hiring metrics, business development and corporate development. 

Make Specific Requests for Help

In the most prominent place possible, you must endeavor to make specific and tangible requests for help. These requests can range from fundraising assistance and hiring referrals to new business-development connections. Although investors do not have enough time to sift through all of the data in your business, they also want to be helpful and make as much of an impact as possible in the short time they are spending reviewing your data. Putting specific requests out up front will help enable this. 

Be Honest

A few years ago, I was speaking to an investor who was relaying his concern about a company for not providing updates in quite some time. “If I do not get an update for a number of months, I know that company is on the verge of death or in fact, dead already,” he remarked. “Good news is always shared. The sound of failure is the sound of silence.” 

The average investor meets with thousands of potential investments a year and has developed a strong sense of pattern matching. In other words, if something is amiss, they have the instinctual capacity to sift it out quite quickly. 

To avoid this, you must be open and transparent in your investor updates. It’s not merely enough to provide updates on what is going well. You need to give background on what is going wrong, what you are scared of and what is truly a failure. 

What’s great is that instead of scaring investors, this often brings them closer to you, as they can offer their incredible skills, experience, and connections to help you and your business. They’ve been around the block enough times to know that not everything is perfect and smelling roses. 

Related: How to Keep Your Investors Happy 

After raising capital, investors will often expect periodic updates on the status of your business. In order to ensure these updates do not become distractive, you can take a few key lessons to heart. Namely, you can follow a Green, Yellow and Red framework, explicitly ask and describe what you need help with and be honest about what is going wrong and how you plan to correct it. 


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Learn how to anticipate expectations going forward and understand the tools and resources needed to reimagine operations.

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2 min read

As businesses have reopened, navigating “business as usual” while maintaining rigorous, science-based safety standards is essential. Make the wrong moves, however, and you could jeopardize your customers, employees, and even your brand.

Join us for a free webinar, How to Future-Proof Your Business and Prepare for the New ‘Normal’, presented by Salesforce and Entrepreneur. We’ll cover the areas businesses need to think about as they reimagine operations—everything from how to communicate and deepen relationships with customers to planning for customer safety to ensuring supply chain success and more. We’ll help small and midsize businesses anticipate expectations going forward and understand the tools and resources they’ll need to future-proof their business. 

The speakers will be Kylee Hall, Vice President of Marketing at communication platform Remind, and Adrian Fallow, AVP of SMB Sales at Salesforce. Attendees of this webinar will come away with a checklist to follow as your business continues to adapt to the changing environment. You’ll learn:

  • Strategies for delivering customer-centric digital transformation
  • How to lead and drive change within your organization
  • Techniques for building a culture that quickly adapts to meet customer expectations
  • And much more

How to Future-Proof Your Business and Prepare for the New ‘Normal’ will take place live on Wednesday, July 22 at 2 p.m. ET | 11 a.m. PT.

Business Achievement Awards

In his new book on corporate leadership, Winning Now, Winning Later, which debuts Tuesday, former Honeywell CEO David Cote has written what Fortune previously dubbed The War and Peace of business books. The tome, which is packed with management lessons and riveting stories from the trenches of corporate America and hits shelves June 30, is likely to inspire a new generation of leaders in training.

The book primarily deals with the tension every leader faces: satisfying Wall Street today, while still placing the big bets that will ensure growth down the line.

But on a personal level, Cote also delves deep about leadership, including his own processes for finding time to think big thoughts amid the daily grind. He lays out three elements of leading a large organization effectively: mobilizing groups of people, picking the right direction, and getting people moving in that direction. “Most people overemphasize the first one,” he writes. Surprisingly, Cote says that rallying the troops is only 5% of the job. “It’s not about giving lofty speeches,” he writes. Ninety-five percent of success is setting the right strategy and following up to ensure it’s carried out. “It’s even more basic than that,” he told me. “If you get the strategy and direction right, you can spent 95% of the time on improving execution, which in turn lowers costs and frees up more cash both for quarterly profits and new investment.”

And Cote highlights his own unorthodox routine for making sure he had enough space to think and set that direction. Throughout his career, Cote set aside two or three full days a month with nothing on his schedule so that he could hatch daring plans to take Honeywell in new directions, and for other modes of improvisation. He called them “X days.” “I lost some of the X days because of emergencies, but I did use about 20 a year,” he says. “I’d use some of them to make surprise visits to plants totally unannounced.” After a worker died in an accident at a plant in Louisiana, Cote hopped a flight on an X day without telling anyone on his staff, then rented a car and drove to the factory. “I just didn’t trust that they’d resolved the safety issues. I didn’t give any advanced notice so I could see the plant and the people exactly as they were, and didn’t have to listen to rehearsed stories or see freshly painted walls,” says Cote.

The remainder of the X days he used for unstructured thinking. “Often I’d just stay in my office,” he recalls. “I had a big, gorgeous fish tank, but after the first few days I didn’t notice how beautiful it was. I had 12,000 songs that I’d put on random streaming, listening to everything from jazz to country to hip-hop to alternative rock to opera. Some people find that distracting. I find hip-hop inspiring.”

Cote dubbed the days reserved for reflection as “blue book days” because he would jot down his ideas in a blue notebook. “I just let my mind wander, but not aimlessly,” he said in an interview. “I’d try to come up with big ideas. It was on a blue book day that I hatched the idea to study the Toyota Production System and develop what became the Honeywell Operating System.”

We’d recommend any leaders in training spend their next X day reading Cote’s book.

More must-read finance coverage from Fortune:

  • Why black-owned businesses were hit the hardest by the pandemic
  • George Floyd protests force Britain to reckon with its role in slavery, leading some companies to pay reparations
  • This influential crypto CEO warns that hyperinflation will be “the next big problem”
  • Looking to invest in companies that care about equality? This NAACP-backed ETF may be the answer
  • 6 reasons Boeing’s financial picture may be brighter than most assume

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7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

People are lonelier than ever before. In fact, 61 percent of American adults report they are lonely and among Generation Z workers aged 18 to 22, 73 percent report sometimes or always feeling alone. Additionally, since stay-at-home orders began, 75 percent of people say they feel more socially isolated.

Loneliness is not only negatively impacting people’s health but also employee engagement, productivity and loyalty as I highlighted in my recent article, Why Most Employees Are Lonely and Underperforming. Work is a major source of loneliness. Remote working, switching to a new team, eating lunch while answering emails or having no one to talk to on an “off” day can all contribute to people feeling lonely.

Related: 4 Ways to Avoid Loneliness as a Solopreneur

When workers feel lonely, they are less committed and less approachable, which makes it less likely that others will reach out to help, which compounds the problem. The opportunity to lessen loneliness and boost belonging lies in the hands of organization leaders.

Why leaders are best suited to extinguish loneliness

Perhaps the two things people want most in life are meaningful relationships and meaningful work. Organizational leaders play a unique role in that they can deliver both of those items.

Related: Could Solving Loneliness Be Streaming TV’s Next Innovation?

For tackling loneliness, work is very fertile ground for creating connections among people.

The growing concern of mental health and loneliness presents an opportunity for organizations and leaders to improve the well-being and health of its employees and thus boost belonging, engagement and performance. Here are seven ways to do it. 

1. Prioritize meals

Employees who say they have colleagues they like eating lunch with are less lonely. When people choose to eat a meal together, their body receives signals to calm down, because human biology knows we would have never eaten a meal with a person from a threatening tribe. Meals lower our guard and open us up for deep connection.

For example, the personal grooming company Dollar Shave Club utilizes an algorithm within its communication platform, Slack, to pair a person with someone they don’t know to share lunch together. The company even pays the bill for these so-called “Power Lunches.”

2. Socialize smarter

Create connections beyond traditional socializing. Although socializing outside of work (happy hours, company parties, etc.) can reduce loneliness, group conversations tend to stay shallow, and people tend to talk about what they have in common, which is work. One-on-one conversation or doing an activity together is more likely to create deeper connections. 

Related: Everyone Is Getting Lonelier. Here’s How Entrepreneurs Are Helping to Reverse the Trend.

For example, some UK companies have created connection spaces, such as a “Chatty Table or Friendly Bench,” where the expectation is for people to connect when present in those spaces. Other organizations have created micro-communities where people connect based on similar interests, such as running before work or salsa dancing. Recently, my company helped The Home Depot create an onboarding scavenger hunt where new hires were not only oriented to the work and workspace but also to the people inside the organization.

3. Prompt personal sharing

When people feel they do not need to hide their true selves at work, they are less lonely.

One of the primary hallmarks of a high-performing team is psychological safety, the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake. Create opportunities for individuals to share aspects of their personal lives with the goal of seeing the human behind the job. Ways to prompt personal sharing might be to have a bring your kids or parents to work day, provide a virtual tour of your home office or carve out five minutes each meeting to have someone share a personal anecdote.

For example, Vivek Murthy, the former U.S. Surgeon General, created the “Inside Scoop” exercise where his team devoted five minutes once a week during their all-hands meeting for one person to share pictures of anything they wanted as long as it wasn’t related to their current job. One researcher on Murthy’s team was perceived as very detailed oriented and “nerdy” by her colleagues, but that changed once they saw the pictures of her marathon training and heard about how she qualified for the U.S. Olympic team. She saw herself as an athlete, not just a researcher, and now her colleagues saw that too. 

4. Promote work-life balance

Employees are less lonely among employers that promote good work-life balance and when they can “leave work at work.”

Work-life balance should be pursued and consistently reevaluated by any organization. Enabling telecommuting, prioritizing volunteering, supporting vacation, offering childcare and extending parental leave are all examples of how organizations can help employees strike better work-life balance.

Related: Why Most Employees Are Lonely and Underperforming

For example, Facebook and IKEA recently began offering new parents (mothers and fathers) four months of paid parental leave. And JPMorgan Chase made headlines in 2016 for telling its employees they shouldn’t work on weekends as a way to improve their work-life balance.

5. Create a communication agreement

When employees feel that technology helps them make meaningful connections with coworkers and when technology is not perceived as a replacement for in-person interactions, employees are less lonely.

Ubiquitous connectivity has eroded many boundaries we once had between work and life. Communication can be impersonal and incessant if appropriate boundaries aren’t established.

Establish a communication agreement among the team that enables more meaningful connections and ensures every person is heard. Items a communication agreement can highlight are response time expectations, how face-to-face interactions are to be prioritized, preferred communication channels, appropriate technology for the type of information, “do not disturb” timeframes (vacation, evenings, deep work, etc.), channels for urgent communications only, participation expectations during meetings, etc.

6. Build rapport

Leaders should model what effective rapport-building looks and feels like. Here’s how to build a rapid, high-quality connection.

  • Look for uncommon commonalities. Similarities that you share that are rare.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Display real curiosity for the other person. (Don’t put them on the spot or cross any lines.)
    • What is the most meaningful thing that happened to you this week?
    • What are you reading, watching or making that is bringing you joy?
  • Self-disclosure. Share something about yourself.

Consider creating environments where two people can explore the above with each other. At times, a formal exercise can give the necessary permission to ask deeper questions of a group or team and the mutuality is built in.

7. Help them help others

Helping others helps people feel less lonely. Adam Grant, organizational psychologist and New York Times bestselling author, recently shared on his podcast that he was feeling alone one month, so he began sending emails to people telling them why he appreciated them. As a result, he felt less lonely. 

Additionally, relationships don’t have to be lasting to be meaningful. A brief 40-second positive interaction has a significant impact on both people and can alleviate loneliness as long as the moment leaves an individual feeling seen. For example, offering a pen to someone who might be trying to fill out a form can make someone feel seen and less stressed.

Leaders should encourage their team to proactively look for ways to help someone else. As demonstrated by Grant, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to move from lonely to connected. 

Related: Is the Road to Success Always Lonely?

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6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Filmmakers are a force to be reckoned with, as it is not an easy feat to put their productions together. In fact, there is much entrepreneurs can stand to learn from filmmakers, considering that they not only have to bring their creative idea to life, but then have to market it, get distribution, find an audience and pay back investors. Their role is ultimately quite similar to that of an entrepreneur. 

Here are the top four lessons any founder can learn from filmmakers. 

Marketing and distribution for films needs to be strategically planned out and executed during production, not once the project is complete. “Marketing your film requires a long-term strategy,” confirms Jia Wertz, a documentary filmmaker whose recent release, Conviction, has played at numerous worldwide festivals. “It takes a significant amount of pre-planning, including identifying who your audience is, what their interests are and where they consume content. A clearly defined marketing strategy is the roadmap for success. A gripping trailer won’t cut it alone. A social media strategy, press outreach, surveying potential audiences, navigating film festivals and community screenings are all part of the recipe.”

Just like product development in the entrepreneur world, if you create a film without a strategy to market it, no one may ever see it, and all your efforts — not to mention costs — will go unrewareded.

Related: Former MGM President Yoram Globus’s $50 Million Plan to Disrupt Hollywood

Make Diversity a Priority In the Hiring Process

Historically, people of color have been underrepresented in television and film. The Washington Post recently highlighted 100 cases in which persons of color were miscast, underscoring decades worth of reinforced racial stereotypes.

“If we want to change our culture, we have to change the stories we share,” says Kirthi Nath, documentary filmmaker at Cinemagical Media. “And who tells these stories matters. We need people of color both in front of and behind the camera. People all over the world are feeling the pain and harm of white supremacy, toxic patriarchy and systemic oppression. We need to address this both at the roots and on the surface. As people of color our, lived perspectives and positionality grounds us with a lens to share authentic stories that disrupt the white gaze. Telling these decolonized stories will be part of the medicine for collective healing,” 

In recent years, we have finally begun to see a shift, one that’s proven to be universally embraced among audiences. But it’s no secret that companies in all industries have historically underserves persons of color in the workforce, both in terms of leadership and compensation. 

However, a shift has started taking place in recent years with diversity hiring. According to research by SocialTalent, most studies surrounding diversity in the workplace have found that for every 1 percent increase in gender diversity, company revenue increases by 3 percent, and higher levels of ethnic diversity increase revenue by a whopping 15 percent.

Entrepreneurs can create a more inclusive environment by following a model similar to Accenture with diversity training that is broken down into three categories. As their mandate states, that includes: “1. Diversity awareness, to help people understand the benefits of working with a diverse organisation; 2. Diversity management, to equip executives to manage diverse teams; and 3. Professional development, to enable women, LGBT and ethnically diverse employees to build skills for success.”

Film production clearly involves many more elements than what is seen in the final cut, and that’s because project management is broken into phases. It all starts with writing the screenplay and pitching, followed by casting. During pre-production, there are myriad logistical and budgetary concerns to factor in. Everything comes together in the end during post-production, where editing takes place and sounds, music and visual effects are added in. 

In entrepreneurship, project management should also be broken into a series of phases. “Whether it’s a product launch, marketing campaign or even a pivot, some elements of project management are simply evergreen and universal,” says Elisha Kalfa, founder of Focus Global, an early stage healthcare investor. “Once the need for a project arises, a team of experts are assembled. They go onto planning, which is followed by execution. The latter has its own set of sub-phases, including A/B testing, which is closely monitored and controlled before final completion.”

Explore Remote Options When Possible

There are plenty of positions in the filmmaking industry that can (and oftentimes are) being done remotely. Many of these revolve heavily around writing, but computer-heavy roles such as reviewing footage and editing also lend themselves to virtual contributions. And with some one-off tasks, freelancers or agencies are often contacted to quickly meet needs.

“We were already working remotely on many aspects of Conviction,” adds documentarian Wertz. “But once the pandemic hit, our entire team was remote and the process was nearly seamless. With all the technological advancements and options available to us, we’ve been able to have an editor work from Nigeria, an animator in India and team members across the United States, it’s really remarkable.”

Netflix’s uber popular Tiger King had a team of seven editors working on it that utilized Google documents and Slack conversations when mapping the story and figuring out the flow of the numerous interview subjects and twists that the film entails.

Entrepreneurs can also follow suit. As much of the economy shut down, many of the largest tech giants required their employees to work from home, and in many cases, they have continued to do so as offices have reopened. This arrangement cuts costs for employers, and allows them to hire talents from a much wider pool. It is one of the elements of the new normal, which is promising. Similar to the film industry, remote options can prove to be more convenient for positions that are heavy with writing or computer work. 

Related: 5 Project Management Mistakes That Can Harm Your Business

You don’t have to go through the Hollywood-studio system to absorb the fundamentals of running a small business, but it turns out a peek behind the curtain could serve as a reminder of what makes any successful company tick.


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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Some of my friends in law enforcement don’t want to use the word. But let’s call it what it is: Murder. That’s what Derek Chauvin did to Mr. Floyd, in my opinion.

“He had drugs in his system.”  “He was passing fake $20 bills.” “He had a criminal record.”

These have been some of the justifications repeated by a few of my law-enforcement friends and colleagues about former officer Chauvin’s heinous act, but there is no justification, so let’s acknowledge it for what it is. And once we acknowledge it, then it is our responsibility to take action. All of us must play a role in the solutions, including — or perhaps especially — our business community.

Approximately a dozen years ago, my former wife and I co-founded the nonprofit organization Dedication To Community, also known as D2C, to address some of today’s most pressing societal issues, including the tensions that exist between law enforcement and the communities served. Through education and guidance in the areas of policy reform and communications strategies, we are uniquely positioned to effect change, and this is a matter of life and death.

The D2C family trains law-enforcement officers to serve better, not to police better. I don’t use the word “police” as a verb. It’s not in my vocabulary. We concentrate our curricula on cultural awareness, implicit bias, de-escalation and wellness —vital information for those in authority. We also educate and engage with communities. Along with law enforcement, we work with members of society to position them for success; to educate them about how to interact with law enforcement in successful ways.

And that’s why so many people called me. Because I have committed my life to these issues; dedicated my existence to building relationships and facilitating solutions for individuals and organizations across this nation and beyond. I wrote a book about these issues and, after all, I am also an entrepreneur. Place a problem in front of me and, with all humility, I will find a way to solve it.

Related: It Doesn’t Take a Rocket Scientist to Solve the Racism Problem in Business

The avalanche of phone calls started seven days after Memorial Day on June 1, 2020. Seven days after the death of George Floyd. I received these calls non-stop from family members, friends, colleagues and associates who asked me two simple questions, all with the same focus: “What do I do?” and “what are the solutions?”

In my mind, the answer is very clear, and education is the key. That is, to start, lead us and no longer accept silence as a part of the equation. When you see injustice, call it out and make folks accountable. Refrain from complicitous behavior and, most of all, embrace the responsibility of being the one who heads up this movement.

Additionally, ensure that you are listening beautifully to those who are screaming for justice. Learn from them and understand the reason for their perspectives. They are in pain.

Lastly, acknowledge our history and why we are embroiled in these current circumstances, and take action with vulnerability and courage so that relationships can be built and restored — relationships that must be constructed with trust as a foundation.

This answer is not rocket science. As my former Boston College football teammate Blake Galvin often says, “It’s simple, but it ain’t easy.” The remedies for our societal ills are not going to work by just throwing money at the problem. Yes, money is needed by those who are doing the work, but money alone will not cure this disease of dysfunction. There must be sustainable long-term strategies in place that reveal the hearts of our society members. Sameness must be acknowledged while, at the same time, differences are embraced.

So here is my call to action for our business leaders: Educate yourselves and those whom you are leading. Step into your vulnerability with purpose and be deliberate about your selected course of action. Tell your stories of challenges and struggle. You will connect to those with whom you might not fully understand, those with whom you might see stark differences. These relationships will determine the destiny of our society.

This is a long-game approach, and band-aids are no longer acceptable, as they are certainly not effective solutions for our divisions. In order to live as one community, we must love as one, too.

M. Quentin Williams is an attorney, author and in-demand international speaker. His background as a former FBI agent and former federal prosecutor, as well as being a former sports executive, has been invaluable as he assists the business community to understand the societal landscape during these times of heightened unrest. Quentin’s book, A Survival Guide: How NOT To Get KILLED By The Police, has been critically acclaimed by law enforcement and communities alike, as a guide for all generations.

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