Ending the Year: Trace the Connections

As the year winds down, I am filled with gratitude. I awoke early on Sunday after a peaceful, beautiful sleep, filled to the top with gratitude. My reflections focused on the year and quickly turned to my life. The common factor in my gratitude is the people. Each stage of my life introduced me to new groups of people who taught me, laughed with me and cried with me. Not all of them stuck around, some moved through, but they each left a mark.

In reflection, I notice my life as an intricate network. The connections fire up with light as they are made and glow sometimes to get my attention. When something really great happens in your life, can you trace it back to the origin?

How did I get here? It’s a question asked by The Talking Heads and often a reflection tool for me. How did I get that awesome gig that will keep me busy in 2023? As I follow the trail, I realize many people supported me as I wove through my life. As I work through the connections that led to the business, my gratitude for each of those people along the way grows.

I have had a wonderful life. Full of struggles, heartache, joy, perseverance, grief – all of the ups and downs. Mostly, I have had a life full of wonderful people.

Try this reflection as we end 2022:

  • Grab a notebook, your favorite notebook, and a pen.
  • Pour yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and relax in your favorite spot.
  • Make a list of the times you felt successful in 2022.
  • Choose three or four of those successes and trace back how they came about.
  • If you were responsible for reaching out to make something happen, write down the people you encountered once you reached out.
  • If you cannot think of times you felt successful in 2022, think about times you felt supported. Who is the first person you call when you need to talk?
  • If you feel you have not been supported, please reach out to someone.

Be grateful and share your gratitude with someone else.

For more information contact Mary Balistreri, The Mindful Business Coach at mary@mbtmorebusinesstodayllc.com

For more information contact Mary Balistreri, The Mindful Business Coach at mary@mbtmorebusinesstodayllc.com

A Sign? A Miracle? Roses in Winter


There are roses blooming in my home office! The story behind it is one of a last-ditch effort to save my rosebushes by digging them out of their cozy location in the back yard and bringing them into the house in pots. A risky maneuver, but I hoped for the best.

Four of them grew healthy leaves all summer, and zero roses. Not even the hint of a bud, which is rare for them. And two of them also had beautiful leaves and no flowers last year. There are a multitude of reasons for this happening, weather being a major possibility. Yet, other roses in my neighborhood were flourishing during the same time period.

I have been growing roses for nearly 20 years. I have dealt with beetles, moldy leaves, weeds that tie themselves around the roots, and, the grossest of all, white flies. But this year, I had no success with my non-bloomers. I was afraid the flowering part of them had given up.

When I first dug them up, my hope was they would live through the winter in pots in the house, and I could replant them in the yard after checking the soil and making sure every facet of their needs would be fulfilled. Then, I would hope some more.

After about five weeks in the house, every bush is blooming. Some have multiple blooms. It’s a miracle! That was my first thought.

It’s a sign! I journaled about this thought. A sign meaning what? After spending some time looking inward, I realized it was a sign that I am doing the right things. Self trust. Trusting my instincts with the roses led to a beautiful, wonder-inspiring result.

The thought, and the roses, assured me I am doing the right things in other aspects of my life. The blooms are a reminder for me to trust myself, my experience, my wisdom. I need to be patient. More rewards are on their way.

What have you noticed? Do you believe in signs and miracles? What occurrences lead you to trust yourself?

Contact Mary Balistreri at mbtmorebusinesstodayllc@gmail.com for more information about coaching and professional development services.

Be Intentional: Bring Your Personal Drive to Your Professional Life


At this time of year, nonprofit organizations ask us to #GiveFirst, meaning, to think about the needs of the community and offer support before jumping into the excesses of the holidays.

Which organization or need draws your attention? Does your drive to support nonprofits have a place in your professional world? I believe it does. Your brand is who you are as much as it is what you do as a professional. And, clients want to know who you are before doing business with you.

Finding commonality creates a bond, sometimes before you meet someone. The simple action of revealing what drives you can lead to stronger relationships. Through my clients, I have discovered that there is a personal story behind which organizations they support. Their mother had breast cancer. They survived and witnessed domestic abuse as a child. Their child has type 1 diabetes.

How do you incorporate the organizations you support into your brand with humility? The fear I hear from clients is they do not want to appear to be bragging. The key to this is consistency.

  • Be intentional. If you lead with your personal beliefs, values, and passions, you will find the organizations you want to support. Pick one or two and dive in deeply. Show up for them. Go to their events. Find ways that fit with your ability to make a commitment.
  • Use social media frequently. Share the social media posts of organizations you support. Do this frequently. If you only share information on the designated days of the year, it may get lost in the rest of the holiday noise.
  • Serve on a board. Clients with whom I work are asked to serve on boards for organizations frequently. The subject is a common one of discussion in both the business and leadership coaching spaces. While being a director on a board offers business advantages, it also gives the opportunity to support causes. Bottom line: Match your passion with the organization.
  • Participate in or hold a fund raiser. Many of my clients have ideas for how to raise awareness through their network by participating in a fund raiser. It may be most effective when the idea for the event comes from them and they take charge of making it happen.
  • Include the organization in your bio. As a professional, you send out your bio frequently to business people who are interested in working with you. Including nonprofits to which you are committed in your bio helps the organization and it helps you establish your brand. Often it warms up a relationship because those reading your bio may have similar interests.

What ways do you promote nonprofit organizations? I would love to hear about them. If you are interested in talking with me about this subject, schedule a free consultation using this link.

Contact Mary Balistreri at mbtmorebusinesstodayllc@gmail.com for more information about coaching and professional development services.

Looking for Blind Spots Is An Active Pursuit


How often do you look at the back of your head? ( Video credit to FullCircle MKE and Elegante Luxury Event Venue. Thank you to Brandy Riley of Riley Design Studio for dancing with me.)

Recently, I attended an event and was exposed to a machine that takes a 360 degree video of anyone willing to stand on a rotating pedestal for a few seconds. My friend, Brandy Riley, stood there with me and we danced together. When I looked at the video, I noticed several things:

  • Brandy turned her head and her body toward the camera. I had not thought to do that.
  • The back of my head did not look that great. I need new conditioner!
  • I was not as present in the moment as I could have been.

What was I thinking? I learned so much about myself from this brief encounter. I have to share it with you!

First, we all need to actively look for our blind spots. This idea comes through daily when working with clients on mindset. Every week during a coaching call or time intentionally blocked off on the calendar, clients focus on thinking about their actions and reactions. This is one way to identify patterns that might be harmful to your success and to those around you.

If we do not recognize our blind spots, ask for feedback or take a leadership assessment. The next time I have a haircut, I will ask my stylist about the back of my head. Should I use a different conditioner or shampoo? Likewise, I advise clients to ask their colleagues and customers for feedback. The best way to improve is to understand what areas need to be improved. Another way to find blind spots is to take a leadership or personality assessment. Most coaches utilize an assortment of assessments that help individuals and teams identify areas for improvement.

Take a look behind and learn from the past. Several of my clients spend a few minutes at the end of each day thinking about things they did well, where they can improve, and how they want to show up the following day. This journaling exercise has helped many of my clients, because it quickly becomes a habit that keeps their goals in front of them every day. For others, looking back at the year in order to celebrate successes, learn from challenges, and plan for the future is enough.

Finally, be fully present. In the video above, I went with the flow and did not think about the best way to show up. Many of us get caught up thinking about what we will do or say next rather than experiencing the moment. I wish I had been more aware. The video might have been better, but then I would not have learned so much from it.

Get in the habit of looking behind you and in front of you. It is important to first be present in the moment and then to recognize blind spots and learn from the past.

For more information contact Mary Balistreri, The Mindful Business Coach at mary@mbtmorebusinesstodayllc.com

2023 Plan: Set Goals & Steps


This post is an update to the one I ran last year. The principles still apply. Now is the time to start planning for 2023.

Take a look at Acknowledge 2021 before starting this activity. That post discussed the necessity to revisit the successes and challenges of the year before starting to plan for the next one. That acknowledgement exercise creates the tone for 2023 and makes creating the plan for the new year easier.

Revisiting your plans and aspirations is imperative to growth. Even with a three- or five-year plan, new experiences create new ideas, opportunities, and challenges to consider before moving into the new year. When I work with clients, we revisit their plans regularly in order to adjust to changes in their thought process or environment. Annually, we enjoy the beauty of shedding the challenges of the past and creating a fresh, improved path.

There is a critical link between planning and success. As you work through the steps below, remember to look back at the notes you took during the ACKNOWLEDGE exercise.

Grab your notebook and let’s get started!

  1. What are you trying to achieve in 2023? This is the overarching goal for the year. When you look back at your plan in December 2023, what success do you hope to see? Write it down.
  2. Create ways to measure your success – SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-driven) goals. Write them down and keep them in a place where you can see them every day.
  3. Create an action plan based on the SMART goals. What actions will move you toward success?
  4. Execute and evaluate. Throughout the year, execute on the plan, and take the time to evaluate along the way. What needs to change as the result of the new information your actions bring?
  5. Succeed. You can if you execute on the plan.

Reach out to me if you need support putting your plan into writing and then executing on the plan.

For more information contact Mary Balistreri, The Mindful Business Coach at mary@mbtmorebusinesstodayllc.com


Build Trust. Talk About Money


Transparency is one of the pillars of trust. Trust builds relationships. So, why do so many businesses avoid real talk about money?

  • You see it in job postings. Many times no salary is listed. Can the company provide a salary range? This simple action cuts copious amounts of time from your process. Overqualified candidates know not to apply. Candidates are aware of parameters of the job. And, you do not have to scramble after making an offer to someone who rejects it based on the financial reality of the situation.
  • You experience it in B2B. The web site of a consultant or professional you want to hire for a project has no prices listed. You participate in the initial sales call, and when you ask how much it costs, the answer is, “it depends.” It depends on how many employees you have. It depends, it depends, it depends.
  • Those selling services will often ask a prospective client, “What is your budget?” Many times, the conversation goes back to the example above. “Never mind my budget, what does it cost?”

Why is there so much hedging when business people talk about money? In one word, the reason is TRUST – lack of trust. Trust has not been built in the relationship yet. Each party is afraid that the other party will get the upper hand. So, they both hedge their bets and waste time in a back-and-forth negotiation that can seem never-ending.

In my work both selling my services and supporting clients who are building their businesses, I have found that offering transparence about money saves time, builds trust, and shows people what the working relationship will be like. It is a reflection of the business and the brand of the business.

What does transparency about money look like?

  • In a job posting, the potential employer lists the salary range. When a fantastic client interviews for the position, they say, “I really appreciated that you list the salary range. My salary expectations are near the top of the range, but I applied because I want to work in a place where there is transparency.”
  • In a B2B situation, when asking for the cost of a project, the vendor will say, “Our usual rate for a project like this is $X. That is a starting point for us. If it works within your budget, let’s flesh out the details and I will give you a final number.”
  • For the person selling services, when asking for the company’s budget, it may sound like, “It would be great if you could give me a range for how you budgeted this project. That way, I can tailor my services to your budget.”

In all of these cases, transparency about what things might cost leads to better conversations that are focused on the specific job. The relationship begins in a more trusting space, because someone who is honest about money will be honest about other things. Finally, it saves time, and time is money.

For more information contact Mary Balistreri, The Mindful Business Coach at mary@mbtmorebusinesstodayllc.com

Self-care for You


Sunday I was preparing to watch the first football game of the season. My ritual around the Packers games (I am from Wisconsin) is to plan everything I will do during the game. What will I drink? What will I eat? During half-time, I will make soup or chili. I have all that free time to paint my nails, moisturize my face, get on the floor and do some exercises, make my to-do list for the week. It becomes a wonderful, scheduled time for my self-care.

Obviously, I am a planner. I love to plan and then cross the items off my list. Not everyone is a planner. And, that’s ok.

When talking with clients about finding time to relax and take care of themselves, I find that the definition of self-care varies greatly from one person to the next. Some take great joy in the impromptu. A client recently told me he loves to find an afternoon with no deadlines, and take the time off. The adventure of deciding in the moment is greatly satisfying for him.

Some clients’ self-care revolves around exercise. They feel so good when they run, take a yoga class, go for a walk, etc. They are committed to taking care of their bodies, and the exercise provides an opportunity to clear their head and minimize stress.

During COVID especially, many people realized that connecting with other people was vital to their self-care. Friends and colleagues made a habit of meeting via zoom, calling each other, or texting regularly to stay connected.

What does self-care look like for you? If you have not thought about it, ask yourself these questions:

  • What relaxes you?
  • When is your heart rate lower? For some of us, this is so easy to discover because our fitness watch tells us.
  • When do you feel happiest?
  • Where and when do you feel most like yourself?

Answers from clients range from being with my kids to cuddling with my pets to reading a book. The important thing is to discover what self-care looks like for you, and add more of it to your life.

For more information contact Mary Balistreri, The Mindful Business Coach at mary@mbtmorebusinesstodayllc.com

Notice Me! Did You See That Opportunity Run By?


Scenario: You are having lunch with a prospect. You met two years ago at a trade conference and continued to stay in touch. You understand their job responsibilities, and you think they understand how your services help businesses. When the check comes, you offer to pay and your acquaintance says, “Thank you so much. I would really love to work with you. Our business is changing.”

Possible responses:

  • Some will see this as a green light and dive in to continue the conversation.
  • Some may be distracted by paying the bill and thinking of their next meeting. They may miss the opportunity completely.
  • Some may be pressed for time and will suggest to talk again in a few weeks.
  • Some will believe the prospect is just being nice and is not serious about working together.

The scenario is very real and something my clients discuss with me regularly. How do you know if the opportunity is real? Each situation is as different as the person seated across from you at lunch. The most important realization made by my clients is to respond swiftly. The only way to know, is to ask.

Why would someone not ask? Often our mindset gets in the way. As noted in the last example above, some people close their minds to opportunity. It is a self-defeating habit. Others allow distractions to block them from the opportunity. Their heads are so full with everything that needs to be done next, they are not fully present during the lunch or any part of life. Finally, some are too concerned about what to say next to really listen to the other person.

Here are some ways to respond:

  • Before the lunch, set your focus. Breathe or meditate for a minute in the car or while you are walking to the lunch meeting. Remind yourself to listen, listen, listen.
  • During the lunch, make sure you create space for your contact to speak. Ask open-ended questions, and wait for the answers. If you feel like you are talking too much, you probably are.
  • When the phrase, “I would really love to work with you,” is said, follow up quickly and appropriately.
    • First, acknowledge what they said. “Thank you. I really want to work with you too.”
    • If you are out of time and have a meeting to attend, ask to speak on the phone later that day or the next. “I have another meeting in a few minutes, and I want to hear how your business is changing. Can we talk later today or tomorrow?” Then take out your calendar and book the time.
    • If you have more time acknowledge the statement, then ask if your prospect has more time. “I would love to hear more about how your business is changing and how I can help you. Can you stay awhile and talk about it?
  • If you missed the line during the lunch meeting and remembered it after you got back to the office, follow up right away. Call or email them. “I apologize for running out so quickly, I really want to work with you, too. Let’s schedule some time to talk about how your business is changing. Do you have time tomorrow?”

Leaving an opportunity hanging out there for too long may cause it to evaporate completely. How long is too long? It depends on the person who wants to work with you. Ask them.

Contact Mary Balistreri at mbtmorebusinesstodayllc@gmail.com for more information about coaching and professional development services.


Collaborative Competitors


My favorite part of watching the American Ninja Warrior (ANW) competition on television is the attitude. From the contestants to the commentators to the families, everyone cheers for everyone. The attitude is centered in abundant thinking: if one does well, we all do well. If one falls, there is abundant support for them to rise back up. There is always the next obstacle, the next year of competition, the next competitor. (If you have never seen it, it is on NBC).

A recent segment highlighted the relationship of two extremely accomplished competitors who are well known to those who follow the show. The two had started training together, and each wondered what they could possibly teach the other. Their level of mutual admiration was very high. Yet, the one who had more experience with the sport, noted that the other displayed a better strategy or technique for certain obstacles. That individual admired the stamina of the other and learned from him how to save energy. They mutually learned from each other, and the result was that each placed higher in the competition than they had before they spent the time to train together.

The story made me think about relationships at work and in business. What attitude do we take when a friend is promoted? Are we really in competition with a colleague? Do we feel like we are all on the same team? Would we have more success in developing business if we worked together, learned from each other, and shared in the results?

What makes collaboration with competitors work?

  1. Individual mindset. Each individual needs to start with a mindset that is open to learning.
  2. Self-confidence. Individuals need to be confident in what they know and what they don’t know.
  3. Trust. Trust must be present so that each has no fear of showing their weaknesses. The competitors on ANW fail very publicly by falling off the equipment. Some failure in business situations can also be very public. When trust is present, it is easier to admit to errors and brainstorm about how to do better next time.
  4. Listening. Listening is an art. It is important to give equal time to each other so that both parties hear new ideas.
  5. Determining the common goal. Ask each other how collaboration can be mutually beneficial.
  6. Trying new approaches. Not every approach will work, and collaboration often combines the old with the new.
  7. Practicing and tweaking for better performance. Practice is vital in every field. Practice makes for better preparation and execution.

If you are not sure what I am talking about, watch American Ninja Warriors.

For more information contact Mary Balistreri, The Mindful Business Coach at mary@mbtmorebusinesstodayllc.com

Set the OOO


Many of my clients take pride in how much they work, how hard they work, and how dedicated they are to their careers. In fact, they choose to show that dedication by never setting the OOO – out of office message on their emails and voice mails. Their reasoning is that they want to send a message to clients, prospective clients, and team members that they are available 24/7 to handle every crisis that might occur.

How often does a crisis actually occur? What kinds of emails, calls, and messages do my clients actually receive when they are on vacation? Do my clients only respond to the messages that are urgent, or do they reply to everything? These are questions that only the individual can answer. I have had a number of conversations on this subject matter and found that most people feel they are never fully away from their work.

Looking as if you are never away from work creates an image that can create dangerous practices. How far is the leap to actually never spending time away from work? The danger comes from projecting an image that is impossible to maintain and ignoring signs of fatigue and burnout.

While clients and team members do want immediate attention during a crisis, they also want to know the people who serve them. Developing strong relationships with your customers and team includes being human and making space for others to be human too.

Never setting your out of office message is a form of communication. You may be sending some unintentional messages, such as:

  • Everything is important to you.
  • You do not have a team capable of filling your shoes when you are out.
  • Team members may believe you do not trust them.
  • You do not have boundaries.
  • Your work is your life.

Equally important, setting the OOO can be used to send positive messages and build relationships.

  • You value your health.
  • Your team is outstanding and can be trusted.
  • You know the difference between urgent, important, and routine.
  • You are a fully-rounded person with a life outside of work.

Finally, using OOO can present opportunities to promote charities that are important to you and to show support for people who are important to you. For example,

  • I am out of the office today volunteering for ____. I will return your message tomorrow. If this is urgent, please contact _____ who is handling my workload today.
  • I am enjoying the week with my family. I will be back ____. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to the people below who are covering my work.
  • I am spending today with a client. Etc.

Planning your out of office time is as important as planning your day in the office. What messages do you want to send? What image do you want to project? Think it through, and then enjoy the time away being fully present no matter where you are.

For more information contact Mary Balistreri, The Mindful Business Coach at mary@mbtmorebusinesstodayllc.com

For more information contact Mary Balistreri, The Mindful Business Coach at mary@mbtmorebusinesstodayllc.com

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