Never say never

I only took up dragon boat racing in 2008, so I never thought it possible that I’d be going to a national championship the following year. If anyone had suggested to me a few years ago that I’d be a state representative in a sport I’d never participated in, I would have laughed. It wasn’t a possibility I’d considered.

As soloists, it can be challenging and overwhelming to consider delivering our services and products in areas that we’ve previously not thought possible.

It may be as simple as having the opportunity to deliver a presentation to a potential client or speak at a conference, or it may be such a big hairy audacious business goal that you get goose pimples thinking of it. Either way, just think of me proudly wearing my NSW team uniform, and remember that anything is possible!

Do the background work

In the lead up to the championships I was in training for months.

Similarly, when working to acquire a new client we need to research as much as we can about the client’s needs. The more background work we do, the better equipped we’ll be to fulfil their requirements.

Communication is everything

If you want 22 people to make a boat move in the same direction as quickly as possible, you need to have clear communication.

Clear and regular communication is also an essential business lesson if you’re going to be of service to your clients and achieve common goals.

Talk to your clients about their preferred form of communication and respect their preferences so they know they’re being heard and supported. And even when the going gets tough and you need to have some difficult conversations, remain committed to keeping the lines of communication open.

A little encouragement goes a long way

In the lead up to the national championships there were times when I questioned my ability. But whenever I doubted myself, someone would step up and offer me words of encouragement.

As soloists we need to ensure that we build a network of positive, encouraging and supportive people around us.

It’s also important not to give the little gremlin of doubt that we all seem to have chattering away in our heads the power to stop us from achieving our goals. When that doubting voice comes to visit, speak to someone you trust about your ideas. Consider your options and believe in yourself.

Leadership is essential

The NSW dragon boat squad I was part of involved over 300 people across numerous divisions. But we were united by the head coach, who had a vision for the team and expressed it clearly, inspiring and motivating us all.

As experts in our respective fields we’re also leaders, and our clients expect us to show leadership qualities. We can achieve this by communicating clearly with our clients using active listening skills and asking appropriate questions. We also need to be able to understand our clients’ visions for their organisations and work with them to help them reach their goals.

Our credibility goes hand in hand with our leadership skills.

Teamwork can achieve amazing results

By the time the championships arrived we were all working together as a team and focused on our goals.

As a soloist, it’s easy to think you’re not part of a team, but in fact, for many of us, our clients are our team members. Together we build a positive and mutually beneficial relationship that helps them achieve their goals while we achieve our own. This positive experience can often lead to repeat work that’s enjoyable and profitable for all. 

What business lessons have you learned?

“ As soloists we need to ensure that we build a network of positive, encouraging and supportive people around us. ”
 
Maria Pantalone

Maria Pantalone works with individuals and teams in developing their business communication skills. Her company, Infinite Growth, provides training in presentation skills, business writing and leadership development. Armed with these skills, there is nothing a business person cannot achieve.

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