In one of her recent podcasts Jocelyn K. Glei shared a quote by Clayton Christensen, “Questions are what opens up space in your mind for an answer. If you don’t ask a question then the answer has nowhere to go.”
A week ago we had a lively discussion in the Smart Teacher’s Library forum about the use of social media, especially in connection with the recent tragic event in New Zealand. We wondered about ethical considerations, how hard it is to stand out online in the first place (without the help of social media), and whether or not we can let it go.
These questions prompted me to rethink my Opted Out group on Facebook and its goals and direction. In the past several months as our Library forum has become more lively, I began asking myself whether investing myself into two different groups was smart.
I went back to my core values and thought hard about the decision that was now hanging over me like a heavy rain cloud.
I discovered in the process of reflection and journaling that there are no “easy-cut” answers and any business decision can affect my future in a number of ways. But I believe it’s important to use my values as a compass to guide me through the torturous process.
No matter how much we crave prescriptive solutions, I’ve found that the hardest business decisions are not between “good” and “bad” but between “good” and “better,” or even between “better” and “best.”
So in this post I outline my thinking process that will, I hope, help you navigate through your tough business turns. Below are my thought process milestones that helped me move from “I’ll just keep it so I don’t offend anyone” to “I need to let it go so I can serve my clients better.”
#1: Define your purpose.
I started my Facebook group at the end of 2015 as a place for my Opted Out book readers to share their thoughts and feedback and ask questions. Over time the group grew to include online teachers who needed more guidance and tips.
I began sharing content (tips, mini-posts, links to other content) with the idea of moving people to action, empowering people to start their online teaching journeys instead of waiting for a perfect moment when they have lots of “free time.”
Many of my current clients and Library members came through the group, and recently I’ve found it tricky — the act of balancing between inspiring the beginners and equipping the doers.
My purpose hasn’t changed, and my FB group has served its purpose of moving the right people to action. Now that there are so many people ready to act I had to define where I want to be (as it’s impossible to be in two places at once).
After 3.5 years I decided to delete my Facebook group with over 1,600 members. Here's the story.Click To Tweet
#2: Go back to your values.
Writing down values (as I’ve shared here) is not just hype woo-woo stuff that you do in your free time. Values guide you in the right direction, help you feel more in control and allow you to lead instead of reacting.
Here are some of my values:
- Stop telling yourself “I don’t have XYZ (time, money, etc.)”
- Find the courage to say “no” to things that won’t benefit you in the long run
- Teach and lead the tribe of people who sync with your beliefs
When I encourage people to say “no” to things that might be helpful now but not beneficial in the long run, am I willing to lead by example? Do I have the same courage now?
The process of aligning your values with practices is painful. You’ve got to do a lot of digging to mine gold. To reach an important decision you can’t brush things off or focus on “what everyone else is thinking.”
#3: Ask trusted business buddies.
Sometimes it’s tempting to ask your family. I asked my husband for an outsider’s opinion. He’s my greatest fan, but he thought I should “hold on to the group, just in case.” (Thanks, honey. That’s really helpful.)
The only people whose advice can be helpful are those who are with you in the arena. The outsiders might be your fans, but they may not see things the way you need to see them. That’s actually one of the reasons we encourage masterminding inside the Library. People collaborate and support each other so they can get specific advice.
The first person I asked was, of course, my teammate and co-librarian Veronika Palovska. Her insight gave me permission to detach myself from the pain of “what could be if I just left things the way they are.”
It’s clear that Facebook groups have a lot of “opportunity.” But as Paul Jarvis once wrote, every opportunity comes with a cost:
“When we work for ourselves, these time, energy and cost resources are especially finite, and should be guarded and protected with every fibre of our being. Otherwise, we become stretched too thin, overworked or frazzled and stressed from the obligations we’ve already got. Every opportunity comes with an obligation: to create something, to share something, to carve out time in a day for something, to be present for something.”
#4: When you make a decision, don’t look back — look forward.
At various points in my online teaching career I’ve made a number of tough decisions:
- Started a new business from scratch instead of trying to resurrect what wasn’t working.
- Closed down an Instagram account with over 11,000 followers.
- Stopped doing accent training and deleted hundreds of subscribers.
- Revamped my coaching services multiple times to focus on the format that worked better.
Every time, I’ve received emails from people saying that I was making a mistake or that I could have just done this or that. Instead of being radical I could just stretch myself a bit more, work a few more hours and keep making money.
When I make a decision, I don’t look back. I look forward to the new chapter that will be better aligned with my values and the purpose I have for my business.
A few closing remarks…
I can see how creating a FB group in the beginning helps you find the right people and connect with them. It gives you ideas on what they need help with and how you can be of service. Even when I coach new online teachers I advise them to start groups, and some have been quite successful.
However, once you’ve made your journey past that first “unknown” stage, once you’ve created enough content, products and programs (and in my case, a community of like-minded online teachers) a FB group might become a crutch.
At the point when it becomes an outlet that allows people to procrastinate or give themselves an illusion of doing something or connecting with people, it might be a good time to reassess whether keeping it is worth it.
Though the group will be gone, I will continue connecting through my newsletter, this blog and the Library. And I’d love to hear from you! What are some tough business decisions you have had to make? Do you have other guiding principles?