Moncur Consulting Connecting you to the world that needs what you offer Thu, 17 Sep 2020 16:35:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Moncur Consulting 32 32 170881411 Celebrating Labor Day by honoring our essential workers Mon, 07 Sep 2020 19:39:40 +0000 Traditionally, Labor Day is a harbinger of fall. After a short camping and hiking trip to Southwestern Minnesota earlier last week, we spent this weekend preparing the yard, taking down our small pool, which helped get us through a hot summer in quarantine, and washing windows – and not one minute too soon. Today, it’s cool and gloomy outside.

According to the US Department of Labor, Labor Day was “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

This year, more than any other in recent history, so many workers have sacrificed their time, energy and health to keep the rest of us fed, secure, cared for and so much more. I am grateful to have been able to work from the comfort of my home with the help of reliable internet and electricity, enjoy some outdoor dining and receive health care as needed.

So this year’s Labor Day, I celebrate and honor especially those essential workers who contributed to making that happen. And at Moncur Consulting, we recommit to continuing to reimburse our freelance team members at rates that value their education, expertise, diligence and dedication to producing outstanding work for us.

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

Martin Luther King Jr.
Thank you for all your hard work! Happy Labor Day!

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“Your Brain at Work” – 7 key takeaways Tue, 25 Aug 2020 21:47:34 +0000 I just finished reading – ok, fine, listening to – David Rock’s book “Your Brain at Work.” It is full of fascinating and helpful information about how the human brain works and how to tweak it to increase our performance in the workplace and at home. Here are my key takeaways.

“We all often think about what’s easy to think about, rather than what’s right to think about.”

David Rock, Your Brain at Work

1. Our thinking and decision-making abilities are limited resources

Conserve these resources as much as possible by limiting multitasking and unnecessary choices. Our willpower will decrease with every decision we have to make.

Schedule the day and prioritize tasks to do the hard work and the things that require more willpower first. I find making a rough plan and choosing my 3 highest-priority tasks the night before helpful for hitting the ground running in the morning.

Reduce distractions before they happen because every distraction we resist decreases our limited amount of willpower for the day. Whenever possible, designate times away from emails, calls, texts, social media, news alerts. My Android phone has a Focus Mode setting. When I turn it on, all distracting apps that I don’t need for work are unavailable, including their notifications. That allows me to still get phone calls, texts and email. If I need to go completely offline, I set my phone to Do Not Disturb.

Turn the most important tasks into habits to avoid having to make decisions or use up precious willpower. Eventually, they will run on autopilot and help conserve more mental energy. (More on habits after I’ve read “Atomic Habits” by James Clear.)

2. The right amount of arousal of our brain is required for optimal performance

Simplified: Norepinephrine is for focus. Dopamine is for interest. In order to achieve maximum focus and attention, these two have to be in the sweet spot. Too low causes low performance. Too high causes stress. Interestingly, we can control these levels to a certain extent.

If we lack focus due to low norepinephrine levels, remind ourselves of the negative consequences of not doing the task, e.g. missing a deadline or losing a client.

If we lack interest due to low dopamine, remind ourselves of the positive consequences of finishing the task, e.g. taking a well-deserved break or getting paid. Having an unpleasant task done and dealt with might be a reward in and of itself, but we likely have to remind ourselves of that to overcome the natural resistance to dealing with unpleasant things.

3. Insights often come from unconscious thinking

Not all solutions are found by logical reasoning. Some require serious unconscious out-of-the-box thinking. Sometimes, an insight just pops into our head. Fortunately, insights can be encouraged by certain activities. When we’re stuck, we can take a break from thinking about the problem. Meditate or let our mind wander. Do a physical activity. Do something that brings you joy. Anything that would boost creativity also increases our chance of coming to an insight.

4. We can change our thinking

Practicing mindfulness makes it easier to spot negative or unhelpful thoughts and returning our focus to the task at hand. To practice, focus on our sensory experiences when going for a walk, having a friendly conversation, enjoying a good meal. If the mind wanders off, gently come back to the present experience. This will increase our ability to control our thinking and switch attention to where it is needed most.

We can deliberately use reappraisal to interpret a negative situation differently. Studies have shown that reappraisal leads to a higher life satisfaction than inhibiting emotions. Try to find the silver lining in difficult situations or tell a joke when things get tense.

We can learn to regulate expectations. If a situation exceeds our expectations, dopamine increases, generating interest and desire. Unexpected rewards, like a surprise bonus, have a far more positive impact than expected rewards, like receiving exactly the raise we expected. Disappointed expectations, like not getting the raise we expected, decrease our dopamine and cause a feeling similar to pain. Learn to manage expectations by paying attention to them and adjusting them so that they are more likely to be exceeded. I have found this to be a very helpful strategy, without being pessimistic about the future.

5. Foster SCARF whenever possible

Status: Higher status leads to higher dopamine and serotonin (happiness hormones) and lower cortisol (stress hormone) and may increase information processing performance. Avoid giving feedback that could be interpreted as a status threat. Give regular praise. Allow for skill development. When receiving feedback, learn to reappraise the positive aspects of a talented team or strong partner as a benefit to the team – and with it, to you –, not a threat.

Certainty: We feel better when we are certain of our circumstances and in control of our life. Break down complex goals into smaller, achievable tasks. Develop flexibility and resilience. Express your expectations of others clearly to avoid uncertainty.

Autonomy: Don’t micro-manage. Include your team in decision-making processes, allow them to take on more responsibilities and encourage them to take initiative.

Relatedness: People are hardwired for connection and belonging. These feelings release oxytocin, make people less subjective to stress, free up mental resources, and may have physical health benefits. Use buddy systems or mentors and make plenty of time for one-on-ones with your team. Spend quality time with friends and family.

Fairness: Being treated unfairly activates the insular cortext and creates a very powerful threat response, such as disgust. Try to treat everyone fairly, don’t play favorites and encourage mutual acceptance. Set clear rules, expectations, goals and clarify team hierarchies. Better yet, work together to do so.

6. Compete against ourselves

We are naturally competitive and looking to increase our status. While retail therapy, picking arguments or good old Schadenfreude might leave you feeling a guilty or empty, competing with “yesterday’s self” satisfies our need for status and competition and feels better. Pursue a personal record, track positive habits, anything that you can improve on compared to yesterday. Be conscious of and count your little successes as much as your big ones.

7. Help others find the solution on their own

Feedback is often tough to swallow and rarely creates the desired results. Plus, it is much easier to truly understand and implement a solution or insight when we’ve reached it yourself. That’s why the best coaches use “guided discovery” rather than explaining or showing a skill.

Next time you want to help someone on your team, channel your favorite coach and guide them towards their own insights. Ask questions, elevate their status, acknowledge their skills, create a positive attitude and make them feel in control. They will come to see the solution in time.

It was hard to choose just 7 takeaways from “Your Brain at Work”. But being a natural process optimizer, I found #1 most interesting and helpful. What was most surprising to you? What will you try first?

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“Gear up for Growth” new course review Wed, 05 Aug 2020 22:35:20 +0000 This is a shameless plug for my business mentor and coach Jenny at ACThoughtful Consulting. She has been truly fantastic to work with. If you are looking to grow your small business but aren’t sure where to start, read my testimonial below and then check out her online course “Gear up for Growth.”

Early on in my small-business journey, I modeled most of my systems and marketing messaging after the EOS Model by working through the book Traction. It is quite possibly the best business book I’ve ever read.

Between that and given my 20 years of wearing many hats at a small agency, I was quite confident that I could successfully run a small business. However, I felt pulled into so many directions between client projects, operations, marketing and sales, not to mention balancing it with my personal and family life. And I found myself winging it every day; after all that had worked out pretty well for most of my life.

I love doing client work. That’s what I’m really good at. I also love working with technology and numbers, I can handle marketing and I can tolerate sales ; ) But I could tell I needed something else. Uncertainty, overwhelm and lack of direction were never far out of sight on slower days. I had so many ideas I wanted to implement and so many things I had to do, and I wasn’t sure where to start and how to do it all. To top it off, the closer I came to my birthday while in semi-quarantine, the more I wondered what it was all good for.

“Gear up for Growth” to the rescue

As luck would have it, I won a ticket to Jenny’s 8-week “Gear up for Growth” course and started it the day after my birthday. 2 months later, I have so much more clarity over my personal and business goals, along with the soft and hard tools to execute on them.

We inventoried and learned how to optimize all pillars of our business, including Finance, Sales, Marketing, Delivery, People and Strategy. I discovered my burning platform and learned how to time-box and organize my goals. It was a lot of work at times, but I thoroughly enjoyed the journey and looked forward to the start of each week.

If you are looking to grow your small business but aren’t sure where to start, I highly recommend Jenny’s “Gear up for Growth” course. Check it out!

Disclaimer: As an Affiliate Partner of ACThoughtful, I receive a small commission for every course sold through my link.

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Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end Sun, 02 Aug 2020 19:09:48 +0000 Last year today was my last day at TripleInk/Martin-Williams. After almost 20 years, I can’t say it wasn’t a little bittersweet. But mostly, I was excited to start a new adventure. Because I live in the land of Semisonic.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Semisonic, Closing Time

That new adventure and new beginning turned out to be becoming my own boss at Moncur Consulting. In the past year, I haven’t looked back once.

Moncur Consulting allows me to combine everything I learned at TripleInk with my tenacious passion for language and technology, removing barriers to connection and helping people increase their impact by turning challenges into opportunities.

I have thoroughly enjoyed deepening existing relationships and forging new partnerships with clients and freelance professionals alike. I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months will hold. And I hope you will be a part of it.

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In memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice Mon, 25 May 2020 04:24:55 +0000 I have lost count of which week of social distancing we’re on at this point. I’ve also lost sight of the big picture at times. Today I remind myself that this day is not just a holiday where we typically gather with friends or family, but it is meant to be a celebration of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

I did not grow up in this country and my former husband was not in the military, so I spent many years quite removed from what is at the core of so many other American families. Sure, we knew some people who had served a long time ago, but so did my grandfather back in WWI Germany. Not much cause for pride there.

It wasn’t until 2009 when I experienced first-hand what it meant to be part of a military community. While I had been a volunteer ski instructor for children and adults with disabilities here in Minnesota for several years already, this was my first time volunteering at the annual DAV/NDV Winter Sports Clinic in Colorado.

This event brings together about 400 disabled veterans, 200 volunteer ski instructors, many alternate-activities volunteers, team leaders, coaches and caregivers from all over the United States to allow the participants to experience a variety of winter sports and continue the process of recovery surrounded and supported by their peers.

What a life-changing event for everyone involved – participants, volunteers, family members and organizers alike! Everyone’s camaraderie and community, indomitable spirit and teamwork are palpable and simply beyond imagination.

Some participants arrive anxious or depressed, focused on their disabilities and unsure of their abilities. New instructors like me arrive equally anxious and unsure of their ability to teach long days for a whole week at altitude, sometimes teaching folks with very challenging physical and/or emotional circumstances at that.

Then the miracle happens and everyone leaves the mountain elated, with new skills and renewed attitude and perspective, and with a new set of goals in order to be stronger and healthier when we return in 51 weeks.

Due to the coronavirus, this year was the first year I missed the clinic since 2009. It’s safe to say most of us felt cheated to miss out on such a rewarding and – let’s be honest – fun event and we are all looking forward to seeing our friends again in 2021. Our collective indomitable spirit not only conquers the mountain, it shall conquer this too.

So to those of you who have loved someone who made the ultimate sacrifice and those of you who have served or still serve, I celebrate you today. To those clinic participants whose lives have touched mine, I miss you and can’t wait to see you in 2021.

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What makes you come alive? Mon, 04 May 2020 05:59:39 +0000 We are about to start week eight of social distancing and week six of shelter-in-place in Minnesota. The last two weeks felt less than inspiring to me, so today, I will attempt to channel my wild boy for a better week ahead.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Howard Washington Thurman, African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader

My firstborn has encountered his fair share of roadblocks and it would have been easy for him to become discouraged and afraid of failure. Yet the opposite seems to be true.

This wild boy is amazingly fearless and doggedly pursues the things he loves. Whether it is building mountain bike trails and jumps, learning a new trick on the trampoline or on his skis, teaching himself graphic design, or doing Parkour along the cliffs on a Corsican mountain range. It is all he wants to do and the frequent calls of “Mom, look!” bear witness to his pride in his accomplishments. That’s what makes him come alive.

Creating things, overcoming challenges and helping others are some of the things that make me come alive. What are yours? And how will you do what makes you come alive this week?

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Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy Mon, 20 Apr 2020 06:06:33 +0000 As we are entering our sixth week of social distancing and our fourth week of shelter-in-place in Minnesota, I would like to share this quote with you as inspiration for the week ahead.

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”

Guillaume Apollinaire, French poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist and art critic

Maybe now is just such an opportunity for pause. There’s plenty of time to get back to the rat race soon enough.

For now, I remind myself to be grateful for healthy family and self, food on the table, roof over our heads, and not living in a war zone or under an oppressive regime. And Netflix.

Stay healthy and happy!

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Never let a serious crisis go to waste Mon, 06 Apr 2020 09:26:18 +0000 As we are entering our fourth week of social distancing and our second week of shelter-in-place in Minnesota, a quote about dealing with crisis jumped out at me in a book I was reading. I thought what better quote than this to start a new tradition of finding —and sharing— inspiration for the week ahead.

While I am fortunate enough to be able to run my business from the home office without too much interruption, the rest of my life has still been impacted. Uncertainty of the future for workload and personal life, sad or irritable kids, being an active extrovert without social outings and, last but not least, the fear of getting very sick myself or losing loved ones, never loom far out of reach.

But then, I thrive on a good challenge and am typically blessed with a roll-up-my-shirt-sleeves-can-do-attitude, so this quote really resonated with me:

“Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

M. F. Weiner, Medical Economics, “Don’t Waste a Crisis—Your Patient’s or Your Own.”

To me, it reinforces the belief that challenges are hidden opportunities. A crisis can force us to shift gears, re-prioritize and grow. While uncomfortable and painful, it may end up an opportunity to pivot and thrive, rather than just cope.

As an example, I would like to share some of my personal short-term goals and silver linings of being sequestered at home with variable workloads and fewer distractions:


  • Finish the EOS/Traction models for my business
  • Grow the business through marketing and sales
  • Grow as an entrepreneur through eLearning opportunities and webinars
  • My favorite book for business: Traction by Gino Wickman

Financial Health

  • Re-evaluate and re-prioritize spending
  • Focus on shopping for essentials primarily
  • Putting any extra savings aside for a special outing, dinner or vacation once this is all over

Personal Health

  • Build a daily home workout habit
  • Find other ways to be active like walks or bike rides
  • Healthier home cooking instead of eating out
  • Choose some special projects to complete (home, yard)
  • Read or listen to more books (fiction and non-fiction)
  • Learn new skills, actively practice self-growth
  • My favorite book for personal growth: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** by Mark Manson
  • And yes, occasionally taking a night off to do nothing or binge-watch Netflix

Connection and belonging

  • Play and relax together (board games, bike rides, movie night)
  • Cook, bake and eat together (try new recipes, German comfort food)
  • Regular, meaningful 1:1 phone calls with friends and family
  • Maintain belonging in groups via virtual happy hours
This a difficult time for all of us, but I am confident we will get through it and emerge stronger than ever. As we navigate this crisis together, I wish us all strength and courage to focus on the things we can control and manage and I hope that you and your loved ones stay healthy and well. Have a great week!

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