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Articles - The Entrepreneurial Personality

SURVIVOR ENTREPRENEURS; Strengths lie in vision, efficiency, leadership

Thursday, March 11, 2004

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

If you recognize yourself in this short quiz, then you are probably a survivor entrepreneur, someone who overcame great obstacles to accomplish their dreams in life. Many entrepreneurs fit this profile.

For example, if you are impatient with details, it is because you are a big picture thinker. You are a visionary who can see the outcome before the average person. While the details are important in creating the outcome, without the vision, your life can become nothing but maintaining the details of life. You are impatient with details and with people who spend their days committed to details. But without those detail people, would you have anyone to help you turn your dreams into reality? Others don't really work too slowly, but it appears so to the survivor personality.

Because your survival depended upon quick action and attending to what was immediately necessary to accomplish your dream, this type of entrepreneur has honed efficiency to a fine science. Grass does not grow under your feet. Your gaze is constantly on the horizon, looking for the next opportunity or the next problem to solve.

If you're a passenger in the car (which is usually not the case!) you tell the driver to turn right at the next intersection before arriving at the intersection. It seems slow and inefficient to you to tell the driver only as you arrive at the intersection or even after you have passed it, which is what the "slow" people do. However, those slow people do enjoy the ride more than you do. For them the fun is on the way to the destination.

Your ability to do a lot of work is based upon efficiency and vision. Because you already can see where you're going and because you are constantly scanning the environment for improvements, you are a marvel at being in the right place at the right time. However, when you err, you are exceptionally hard on yourself.

Yes the survivor entrepreneur makes things happen. He or she is a bundle of energy that few can keep up with. Because of your uncanny insight and charisma, you have the ability to be a great leader too. People admire you for your talents. They want to share in your good fortune by helping in some small way.

Be aware of the important responsibility that you carry. A leader who engenders this kind of trust has to be extremely ethical. Do not assume because your charisma has won people over that those same people fully understand what they are agreeing to. You are the one with the vision. You need to be responsible to lead people where the need and want to go, not just what is best for you.

Many survivor entrepreneurs underestimate their strengths. They often assume that others have the same level of tenacity, the same ability to work hard that they do. They may think others are lazy or weak because they can't keep up. The survivor entrepreneur believes that all it takes is applying him or herself to succeed. However, it's important for the survivor entrepreneur to realize that your big picture thinking is what has made you successful, not necessarily hard work. Because you can anticipate fairly accurately what the next move should be this saves you time, energy and many mistakes.

Others who do not have this skill must learn by trial and error, a timely and more laborious step-by-linear-step process. Not everyone has this visionary ability. It is your gift and one that should be used generously and wisely. Others have different gifts to contribute that are just as valuable, but without visionary ability, they really can't so easily understand what you grasp in an instant. So take the time to walk them through what you know. When they do understand your picture, you may find that the detail person or the linear thinker has a profound contribution that you overlooked.

The word survivor is used to describe this type of entrepreneur because you have overcome extreme hardship to arrive at your successes. Some of you grew up in poverty. Some of you never knew one or even both of your parents. Some of you have overcome illness, physical disability, a poor education or learning problems to achieve the American Dream.

Some people wither in the face of adversity but not the survivor entrepreneur. He or she views adversity as a challenge, as an opportunity to prove what he or she is made of. The adversity may not be pleasant, but conquering it is a thrill. In a crisis the survivor entrepreneur is the hero.

However, it is important for survivors to be careful not to make a life of surviving. Some survivor entrepreneurs keep creating crises in their lives, often unconsciously, so that they can get the thrill of mastering the crisis. The entrepreneur may be able to handle this excitement but your family and friends may tire quickly of the emotional roller coaster.

Save the surviving for real adversity and take the time to stop and smell the roses with the ones you love. There are deep and profound rewards in the tiny things that occupy ordinary life too, if you will explore that territory. Just ask your child or grandchild to lead you to this simple life, even if only once in a while.

Entrepreneurs should tackle the new year with new priorities

Thursday, December 25, 2003

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

Remember good stress is as draining as bad stress. January can be a time to recoup and restore your energy and peace of mind.

January is also a time to build a foundation for the goals you want to accomplish this year. It's a long cold spell until our spring arrives in the Northwest. Use this time to rest, reflect and plan, but don't be too busy. Time enough for that come April.

However, entrepreneurs are usually not ones to take this advice.

With the distraction of the holidays behind them, they quickly launch into new projects come January first. Entrepreneurs are good at accomplishing goals, but not all that good at establishing healthy goals.

Before you launch into your typical January behavior, however, I'd like you to finish reading this column and gain a better understanding of how to make New Year's Resolutions that actually stick this year.

Many people walk around with feelings of fear and unworthiness. They are afraid to ask for what they want and therefore continue lives of failure, loneliness and desperation. Entrepreneurs fall victim to this mentality too.

You may think that entrepreneurs represent the epitome of going for what they want. However, often what drives an entrepreneur to success is a deep-seated fear of inadequacy, or a desire to impress others.

With many entrepreneurs, the focus is on what they don't have, not on what they do have. I have had many a self-made millionaire tell me they wished they could do their life over and have different priorities.

Those different priorities would include true understanding of the self and planning a life to maximize deeply held values and beliefs.

Let the New Year bring self-acceptance.

Because January first brings us the opportunity to make New Year's Resolutions, I think it is about time to start a new tradition, that of appreciating ourselves for who we are. As one bumper sticker proclaims, "God doesn't make junk." Let your New Year's Resolution this year be "I will accept myself totally and unconditionally and be the best I can be this year."

If you can appreciate who you are, that each and every day you are making a valuable contribution to your community by just doing your everyday thing (not overachieving), then you will have a much more prosperous new year.

You will notice your talents more and strengthen them. You will notice your flaws more too, but you can build a plan to correct them.

Those opportunities that always come to others, will finally come to you. The opportunities have always been there, but your tendency to focus on losses and inadequacies prevents you from seeing the obvious and taking advantage of it to make your life work even better.

If you have been successful accomplishing other people's goals, think how much you can really accomplish if you lead your own life.

Change your paradigm.

OK so it is hard to shake off years of self-imposed negativity or a belief that if you are not perfect or the best, you have failed. And you have failed at all previous New Year's Resolutions, so why should this time be any different? This time, however, you have a new paradigm to work with. Instead of focusing on what's wrong in your life, you are going to pay attention to what is right. These tips will help you get started.

100% of the people in the world have problems, serious problems at some time in their lives and usually regularly. You are not alone in this.

  1. You are not broken just because you are hurt (or angry, or ignorant, or misinformed, or make a mistake). Remember that being hurt is a symptom of something that needs changing.
  2. Bad things do happen to good people. Being good is not the goal. Maturing is.
  3. You cannot change the past, but you can learn from it. If you continue to brood over the past, maybe it's because you haven't learned from it what you need. Search for the lesson.
  4. Not everything in life can be changed, nor should it be. Accept the things you cannot change.
  5. Trust that you have the resources within yourself to make the changes you need and want to make. You may not know what those resources are, but trust that they will come to you one way or another.

Self-acceptance turns crisis into opportunity.

OK, so now that your paradigm has shifted, do you notice anything different?

Are the colors a little brighter? Is there a bounce in your walk? Are you making more money?

Do you feel love all around? No? Well that's because, you still have work to do. Just because you think differently doesn't mean there's nothing left to do. Now the hard work of change is necessary. But at least you have the right attitude to get you to your goals.

If you recognize that life is a complex and problem-filled arena designed to assist you on your quest toward wisdom and maturity (just as it is for everyone else), then when you have a problem you'll face it squarely with full self-acceptance. You'll dig in, assess, diagnose and search out the meaning. You will use all the strengths at your disposal to create workable solutions. At the end you'll be a little smarter, a little wiser, a little stronger, a little saner.

Long ago I learned that the Kanji for "crisis" is made of two figures. The first is "danger" and the second is "opportunity." With self-acceptance securely under your belt, you will be able to wrest the opportunity out of any danger.

Although not all problems can be solved necessarily, all problems can produce learning in preparation for the next step in life. Use your New Year's Resolution of self acceptance to help you live the life you were meant to have and to take you where "no one has gone before" to paraphrase Start Trek.

In other words, instead of just accomplishing things, instead of impressing others, instead of striving to be perfect, make your New Year's Resolution to accomplish those things that really have value to you.

Happy New Year!

Defining entrepreneurial style as a couple can keep business from getting complicated

Thursday, November 27, 2003

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

If you have read my columns in the past, you are aware that I frequently refer to couples in business as entrepreneurial couples. Now that I have bandied the term around for several years, it is probably time to formally define just what I mean.

Some of you may not even recognize yourselves as entrepreneurial couples because you have always been entrepreneurial, or come from entrepreneurial families, or the style is so common (especially here in the Northwest) that you never considered a definition important.

However, defining the type of entrepreneurship that you and your spouse share can be very enlightening. Knowing who you are and why you are that way will assist in problem solving and future planning, as the following case examples will show.

Even though there are always exceptions to the rule there are three basic entrepreneurial couple styles to start with. You may be a blend of two or even three and you may have changed your style over time. However, I am sure you will find your bedrock image in one of these styles. They include the solo-entrepreneur with a supportive spouse, the dual-entrepreneurial couple, and the copreneurial couple.


Bob and Carol used to work together in their successful nursery and garden supply business, but Bob has since returned to his old employer leaving Carol to manage the business on her own, as a solo-entrepreneur. Bob has become the supportive spouse. He is employed elsewhere, providing emotional support to his wife's business, but not really involved in the day-to-day management and headaches of running it. Carol, on the other hand, recognizes her talent as an entrepreneur and is much better suited to running the operation on her own as a sole proprietor.


Another style involves dual-entrepreneurs like Sharon and Dave, who each run separately their respective businesses. Sharon is a realtor and Dave runs several successful small businesses. Dual-entrepreneurs are like solo-entrepreneurs in that each spouse is an entrepreneurial spirit tending to their own sole-proprietorship (or even partnership with a non-family member). They also may function as a support person to their entrepreneurial spouse. What distinguishes dual-entrepreneurial couples from the others is that they each have the entrepreneurial spirit yet they are not in business partnership with their spouses.

Copreneurial couples

Larry and Dorothy, who for 15 years have worked side by side building their farming enterprises, are a copreneurial couple. Copreneurs share ownership, management and responsibility for their business as full-time partners. Copreneurs are different from dual-entrepreneurs in that they operate a joint venture. One partner may have more of the entrepreneurial spirit than the other partner, but they both are equally committed to the enterprise as owners and managers.

Defining your style

So what is the real value of knowing your style and that of your partner? Stan and Rhonda didn't evaluate their entrepreneurial style before they launched their successful retail chain, but they could have avoided many painful bumps in the road if they had taken the time to really talk and learn about each other.

Stan was restless and wanted to try his hand at running his own successful business. When Stan began talking about starting his own business, Rhonda agreed that they made an excellent team not only because of their love for each other, but because of their combination of professional skills. She was excited to get started on the venture.

Clearly though, this was Stan's adventure. True to his organizer style, he researched the marketplace to discover the most advantageous industry and location for his new business. Unlike the entrepreneur who pursues a business because they have a passion for a particular industry or product, Stan is the type of entrepreneur who can take any good idea and make it into a profitable venture.

When Stan discovered the right business for him, a store that specializes in a variety of environmentally friendly products for the home remodeler, the couple began the second phase of development. The plan was for Rhonda to keep her job for the steady income and benefits. Stan quit his job and threw himself into the work of getting the business funded and off the ground. Rhonda helped in the evenings and on weekends with whatever odd jobs Stan could not get to.

In this manner the business grew from one retail outlet to two within three years. At this stage the couple needed to reassess Rhonda's role. Stan could no longer manage alone and still achieve his dream of building a franchise business. Although Rhonda was ready to quit her job and come to work full time with her husband, Stan was not emotionally ready to share entrepreneurship with Rhonda. Their relationship worked fine when Rhonda was a supportive spouse, but when she left her job, Stan felt that she was usurping his territory. After a tumultuous year of trying to work together as copreneurs, Stan and Rhonda realized that Stan needed to hire professional management and that Rhonda would continue working in corporate America. They just were not cut out for the challenges of running a family business. What best suited this couple is the model of solo-entrepreneur with a supportive spouse.

Your role as the entrepreneur or the supportive spouse is much less complicated if you, as a couple, clearly define the type of entrepreneurship that suits your personalities best. If you are a hard driven, competitive type, probably you will do best as a solo-entrepreneur. If both of you are this type, try dual-entrepreneurship. If you are team players and enjoy sharing the spotlight with the one you love, copreneuring is for you. And if you are the quintessential woman/man-behind-the-scenes, and you don't really want to be too involved in the daily managing of your partner's venture, you are well suited to be the supportive spouse.

Spiritual component essential to healthy entrepreneurial life

Friday, April 11, 2003

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

Not only do entrepreneurs have the normal stressors that plague all career-minded Americans, such as the competing demands of love and work, but they have the added stress of having these domains of life overlap considerably.

Working long hours, working out of your homes, or working and living with your spouse/business partner twenty-four hours a day leaves little time to recuperate inner strength. As the stress increases and the opportunity for recuperation diminishes, many entrepreneurs fall victim to stress related illnesses, mental or emotional problems, chemical dependency, and spiritual despair.

The process of losing your health (physical, psychological, interpersonal or otherwise) begins long before symptoms develop. The stress process begins the moment you allow any part of your life to be out of alignment. If one system (such as your body, your marriage, your work, etc.) is unattended or allowed to stay out of healthy alignment for too long, it affects the other systems which in turn produce stress and deterioration.

In order to keep your dynamic systems in healthy productive alignment, entrepreneurs need to attend to and take care of the whole person, in relationship to other whole people, in relationship to the whole business entity. In other words, you cannot really separate the mind, body and spirit. These are not separate distinct parts of yourself, but interacting developing progressions, just as the other systems (i.e., family, friends, coworkers, employees, customers) of which you are a part.

Mind, body, spirit

The basic components that makes us human are the mind, the body and the life force or essence that some call spirit. Unresolved stress in any one of these areas will affect the other areas, leading to a breakdown in your functioning as an entrepreneur, a spouse, a parent, a colleague and so on. If you are going to manage the excessive stresses of entrepreneurial life you actually need more stamina than the average person.

To combat the pressures caused by the competing demands of love and work and to build the necessary stamina for this complex lifestyle, you must build a power plan to maintain and enhance your health not just physically, but mentally and spiritually as well.

This article will focus on the development of your spiritual power plan, taking for granted for the moment that your mind and body are well cared for. Even if this last assumption is not true, too little attention is paid to the spiritual component of entrepreneurial life and I want to correct that error.

Spirit or spirituality are not synonymous with religion or religious. Church has nothing to do with spirituality directly. Rather the spirit is that part of each human that makes us a distinctive personality. It is the part of us that defines us and yet connects us to others. It has long been known that a strong healthy spirit will guide us successfully through adversity, whereas a conquered spirit will succumb to illness and death. It was Mother Theresa's strong spirit that transcended her small stature and seemingly insignificant role as a nun to profoundly affect thousands of people for the better.

Conversely, It is the conquered spirit that explains the powerful effects of subtle forms of brain washing in prisoner-of-war camps. In other words, spirit is that singular life force that directs and shapes our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Therefore, keeping spirit or life force healthy is essential to the process of achieving healthy balance in any life. For entrepreneurs especially, the key to effective stress management is the proper alignment and interaction of a healthy mind, a healthy body, and a healthy spirit.

90 percent believe in God

Remember that spirit is not bound by religion. Many successful entrepreneurs do not belong to a church nor any religion, but they do have a strong sense of spirit and they do believe in God. According to Gallup Polls as recent as 1997, 90% of Americans believe in God.

The spirit connection is not just a belief in God but the ability to relate to God, often through communities such as churches provide. The healthiest Americans are among those religious groups who have a strong identity with their church. For example Matthews and Koenig reported in 1997 that even if you control for dietary practices, Mormons, Jews and Seventh Day Adventists are healthier than other Americans. These three religious groups are known for their strong sense of religious community.

Therefore, it is not the religion, per se, that contributes to overall health, but the intensity of the commitment to spirit whether by being a member of a religious community or by maintaining a spiritual connection in some other way.

Religion without science is blind

Einstein once said, "Religion without science is blind. Science without religion is lame." As we move into the twenty first century we are realizing the truth of this statement more and more. Entrepreneurs are not different from other people on the planet. We are part of something much more than the sum of the parts. Those who embrace their spirit connection are finding greater health and prosperity and science is starting to prove it.

For example, in a Duke University study by Herb Koenig, elderly patients who are regular church attenders stayed in the hospital a shorter length of time (ten days on average) than those patients who did not attend church (twenty-five days.) In another study (Graham, Kaplan, Coroni-Huntley, James, Becker, Hames, and Heyden, 1978) researchers compared smokers' blood pressure among participants who were two-pack-a-day smokers. Those who attended church had lower blood pressure than those who did not; indeed the church attenders had blood pressure that was no different than those who did not smoke. In a third study (Desmond and Maddox, 1981), this on of heroin addicts, researchers reported that 45 percent of participants in a religiously oriented treatment program were still abstinent at the time of a one year follow-up, compared to only 5 percent who participated in a non-religious program.

It is true that you cannot always prevent pain. Although change is constant, you cannot always predict accurately what those changes will be and pain may be a natural by product of the interaction of your dynamically interacting systems. Yet if you have a healthy spiritual connection your suffering may be minimized, as the previous few studies indicate. For Viktor Frankl, a Jew confined in a Nazi concentration camp: "Man is not diminished by suffering, but by suffering without meaning."

Research shows power of prayer

Many methods of relaxation have been studied, including prayer. While prayer does not achieve any greater relaxation than for example, transcendental meditation (TM), other research has indeed shown the healing (not just relaxing) power of prayer. In fact, those who are prayed for, even though they do not pray for themselves, heal faster.

It is time to make not just new years resolutions but resolutions for a lifetime. If working hard to make an entrepreneurial business successful and profitable results in workaholism, drug addiction, financial problems, domestic violence, extra-marital affairs and divorce, what's the point? Even if your life has led you in one of these stressful directions, don't despair. Make meaning of the experience and put the disaster into the context of your life. Then reorient that life to meet your values.

If one of those values is a belief in God (as is true for 90% of Americans), yet you are not attending to that spiritual relationship, the balance in your life is compromised and will inevitably lead you to some form of personal or interpersonal dysfunction.

On the other hand, if you develop a stronger sense of self, a sense of self as belonging to something larger than just this earthly existence, and you make a commitment to that higher self (i.e. through prayer or inner contemplation), even when you have suffering, you will have a meaningful and prosperous life to share with the ones you love and work with.

Recognizing manipulation can save the family business

Thursday, March 13, 2003

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S., P.S.

How many of you will admit that you secretly admire the con artist? Even if you have been conned yourself, don't you think that the victims are just a little too naive? Don't you harbor just a little desire to get something for nothing just as the con does? Don't you wish you could be so clever?

The truth is that the con knows that you are not so different from him or her. The only real difference is that you have created an illusion that you are different, that you would never stoop to manipulation, that you would never willfully take advantage of another person. Because you are not so different, but are in denial about it, the con swoops in and relieves you of your money, your pride or your sense of safety.

I thought it might be interesting to look at the confidence game as it is played everyday in families and family firms throughout America. Snowing the ones you love creates incredible suffering not just in the short run but potentially for generations.

If you are to learn about the confidence game in your own family and family firm, the first thing you need to recognize is that you are just as capable as anyone of being manipulative. As difficult as it is to admit that we can be conned, it is even more difficult to admit that we can do the conning. However, the mark and the con are two sides of the same coin.

To investigate your manipulative qualities, ask yourself a few questions:

1. Are you in sales? 2. Does your business require that you use persuasion, diplomacy, and charm? 3. Have you ever lied? 4. Have you ever taken advantage of another's ignorance or naiveté? 5. Have you kept something you didn't pay for? 6. Have you ever cried in order to get your way? 7. Have you ever intimidated your opponent into capitulating? 8. Have you ever hurt someone else? 9. When you have hurt someone else, did you say, "I didn't mean to do it." 10. Have you kept a secret to avoid conflict? 11. Have you ever "dropped names"? 12. Have you ever changed the subject when the topic was too close for comfort? 13. Just once, was money your only concern?

The tools of persuasion, diplomacy and charm can be used ethically or unethically. They are like a hammer and screwdriver. The hammer and screwdriver can be used to build a house or to break into someone's home. The choice is up to the individual using the tools.

Likewise, persuasion, diplomacy and charm can be used to swindle or to negotiate a mutually rewarding settlement.

If you truly want to end the con game within your family firm, you need to take a look at your own manipulative nature. Being conscious of your own manipulations, even the ones that you didn't mean to do, allows you to be ethical. With consciousness comes choice. Choosing to be ethical in your communications and dealings with others requires that you take the time to understand others and to be understood fully. There is no room for conning. The risk of destroying trust is too great.

The word con is actually an abbreviation for confidence. Therefore the con game is really the confidence game. The success of the game is to create confidence within the victim for the manipulator.

By having confidence in the con artist, we are handing over our trust, or temporarily suspending our disbelief. No matter how outrageous the con's behavior, once that person has your trust and confidence, the con artist can have their way with you.

Some of you may already know some of the signals of a scam and pride yourself on escaping. Some of the less well-known signals are more intuitive, however.

Feeling ashamed is a signal of manipulation. Feeling impressed or awed is another one. Feeling special or flattered by attention from someone you hardly know is a giveaway. An obvious clue to a con game is when there is no pay off to you. A little trickier is recognizing that you are being used when you are doing more work than the other person in the relationship. When the other person never seems to come through for you, but always has a good excuse, you can be sure you are being manipulated.

Less recognizable are the signals that you are doing the manipulation. But an easy test is to ask yourself how you would feel if the tables were turned. For example, when you hear those words "I didn't mean to, " how does it make you feel? Do you feel mad, confused, trapped? As much as forgiveness is a virtue, so is taking responsibility for one's mistakes and correcting them.

The person who uses the "I didn't mean it" con game is not taking full responsibility for their error. It's as if no wrongdoing was done if the person I didn't mean to. So the next time those words start forming on your lips, stop and make a straightforward apology for your actions and offer to clean up the problem, whether you committed the deed accidentally or intentionally.

Another way to investigate your own manipulative nature is to ask others how they feel. In a family this is a perfectly legitimate question. Because you may be hot on an idea and have charmingly persuaded everyone else to cooperative with you, does not mean they all agree with you.

Check it out. If you have bullied the others into submission, or charmed them into acquiescing, but deep down inside they do not agree, what kind of agreement do you really have? How much support are you really going to get in the long run? Do you really have your family's trust or are they just afraid of you?

Recently I met a very well known and successful businessman who is unaware of his covert con game. He is charming, persuasive and has many followers who agree with his every word, including family members. He makes frequent and generous promises which he does not fulfill. He keeps lunch dates waiting for hours. He jokes about his lack of follow through because he is such a busy man. He makes expensive propositions to others as if he is interested in partnering, yet he never puts his checkbook on the line. His behavior is so outrageous that it is amazing that others do not catch onto him. But the truth is the worst con artist is the one who believes in his or her own scam.

If your goal is to make a lot of money or to have a lot of power, and you don't care how you do it, then there is no point in your reading this article. But if you truly want to prosper as a family as well as a family in business, then it requires time to clean up the covert confidence games that are played at home and at work with the ones you love.

Cultivating resilient leadership can help a family business to succeed

Friday, August 23, 2002

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

What makes a leader? Is leadership a genetic trait or a learned ability? Are men better leaders than women? Is leadership ability universal or situational? Do leadership skills fade if not used?

These are questions that research has yet to answer. But leadership development is one of the major concerns of American executives. Business owners are frequently faced with the problem of developing leadership skills among executives and managers. These same executives and managers may be highly skilled in their particular specialty, but lack what it takes to lead his or her people to excellence in their industry.

The qualities of a leader are many. And to some extent the type of leadership style that works in one setting may not work in another. What is common to all successful leaders however, is the ability to communicate with his or her subordinates, colleagues and superiors. The confident leader communicates this confidence and encourages the best from others. Over the years I have often been surprised at how many successful and wealthy business owners have such poor communication and leadership skills. Apparently having good interpersonal skills is not a requirement for business success, but it certainly makes things go more smoothly. One wonders how much more could be accomplished by these wealthy and successful people if they had improved interpersonal skills.

When you are the boss you can compensate for poor people skills by firing troubling people. Most entrepreneurs are extremely hard workers, so another way to compensate is to put in more hours to cover for your lack of leadership ability. In family firms, if no family member emerges as a successor to the founder, the business can be sold.

These strategies seem rather primitive when good communication and interpersonal skills can be learned. It may be that some people are just born to lead, but with training in communication skills, a natural leader may be discovered who may otherwise have been overlooked.

The kind of skills that will enhance any leader's position and that could create a leader from someone with raw talent, come under what I call the "resilience factor." Within this factor are the qualities of flexibility, the win-win philosophy, quality over quantity, toughness, and foresight.

No matter what surprises lay in store for this leader, he or she is flexible enough to do what works in the moment. He or she can learn from even the lowest employee in the hierarchy. A father can take direction from his son or daughter.

Competition is a waste of time for this leader. A husband and wife who work together learn to appreciate the unique talents that each brings to the business. This leader's philosophy is that everyone wins.

Doing things fast is replaced by doing things thoroughly, efficiently and with quality. The leader who has mastered good interpersonal skills has a devoted work force, family and clientele. Therefore, taking the time to do it right and to learn from others pays off.

Leaders who win are tough. They don't give up. Their employees and family members can count on them to come through. They aren't afraid to speak, nor to speak an unpopular position. And when they speak, they have thoroughly researched their opinion. Winging it was OK in those start up years, but if you want people to follow you, be thorough.

Among family business owners, cultivating leadership is even more difficult. The development of interpersonal skills is often thwarted by the system of primogeniture. That is, the leader of a family business may take leadership solely because he is the eldest son of the founder. He may have little leadership ability, and poor interpersonal skills, but as the son (or eldest son) no one looks further for true leadership.

Leaders of family firms who want the best for their families and their business confront the problem of cultivating leadership openly and honestly. They insist on training the next generation in the development of problem solving skills, communication skills, confrontation skills as well as the skills of the specific product manufactured.

Passing the business on to the next generation requires foresight, another quality of successful leadership. Being wrapped up in ego needs, leaves a business owner with no one to trust the business to when he or she retires or dies. The truly resilient leader is one who has planned ahead and created a resilient business.

Resilient leaders recognize the abilities and talents in others as well as themselves. These leaders realize that their greatest contribution to the business is their ability to lead, to cultivate excellence in others, to create a quality business with longevity. Without developing the interpersonal skills that create trust and confidence in the leader, this is just not possible.

It makes good business sense to use emotions intelligently

Friday, May 17, 2002

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

"She has a sixth sense with her business." "He can always close a deal." "They always make the right investment decisions." Do you envy them? What's the key to their success?

Daniel Goleman, a psychologist, suggests that these differences among people may be due to your EQ, or Emotional Quotient. Research demonstrates that not all success in life is determined by IQ, but may rest more on how perceptive one is with regard to your emotions. Those of us who feel our feelings, interpret them correctly, and then act upon that information, have an advantage over those of us who rely solely on intellect to make decisions.

Among those of you in family firms, a high EQ is vital. Emotions run high in these businesses because of the multiple relationships. For example, it is foolish to ignore that the father-founder may have mixed feelings about a son-employee who is not getting the job done. If the father is unaware of his feelings, (and the son is also unaware), he may have a difficult time transitioning the son to a more suitable position.

Another style seen often in family firms is for the wives and daughters to be the managers of feelings, leaving the men to handle the intellectual facts. Employees know that the wife-/co-owner is the one to seek out when they are having a personal problem. The wife intuitively knows the EQ of the entire company and the husband usually relies on her for counsel. The only problem with this is that two heads are better than one. The husband is sacrificing valuable information if he is not tapping into his own emotional perceptions.

If it's true, as Goleman suggests, that those of us with a high EQ are more successful, how do we develop this side of ourselves? Then, how do we integrate this information with our reason? It appears to be a matter of mastering these three steps: (1) feeling your feelings; (2) interpreting your feelings correctly; and (3) acting upon the feeling information.

Because you are a living, breathing human being, you are capable of feelings, both physical and emotional. It doesn't take long to acknowledge those feelings and begin to name them.

Feelings are things like joy, irritation, hunger, fatigue, boredom, confusion, pain, anticipation, pride, embarrassment, tension, and so on. The list is endless and I often advise my clients to get a thesaurus or dictionary and copy down as many "feeling" words as they can find. It is important to refine your repertoire of feelings and feeling words so that you can expand your consciousness about your EQ.

It is also important to remember that you always feel your feelings first. Because of how you are "wired" thoughts or interpretations come after feelings. So it is useful to notice those feelings consciously before your conscious mind decides to ignore them or misinterpret them.

The second step is interpreting those feelings that you have just noticed which is no easy feat. The key element here is to realize that feelings are basically neutral. That is, they are neither good nor bad; they are just feedback. For example, if you haven't eaten for several hours, you will feel hungry. At first the feeling isn't unpleasant, but if you don't eat for days, hunger can be painful. The feeling of hunger is a message that you need to attend to your body by feeding it. But the hunger pangs should not be interpreted as punishment, just because they are unpleasant.

Anger is another example. Anger may feel unpleasant to you and therefore, something to suppress. However, the feeling of anger is neither good nor bad; it is just feedback about something that is important for you to know. Try to view all of your feelings that way. They are feedback in feeling-form about your environment. One person may be triggered to feel angry about something, while another may be triggered to laugh. Feelings are your characteristic way of sensing your environment.

This brings us to step three, acting upon the information you have interpreted from your feelings. In the case of hunger or fatigue, a decision is relatively simple to satisfy those basic needs. But decision-making is more complex when the feelings are part of a financial plan for your business, or whether to fire an employee. This is where EQ really helps. Those individuals who have trusted their EQ throughout childhood and have refined and developed those skills into adult life, are in a much better position to make successful decisions.

While there is nothing like practice and life experience, here are a few basic tips to improve your decision making by including relevant feeling information. 1. Always checkout your feelings before making any decision. 2. Inquire after another's feelings before proceeding to decision making. 3. Check your feelings again after arriving at the decision. 4. Remember that "feeling good" about something doesn't always mean that the decision is correct. 5. Be willing to acknowledge that you are afraid or angry or confused. Hiding these feelings from yourself may deny you powerful and necessary information.

Many of you know those successful people who seem always to be in the right place at the right time. They aren't really any smarter than you are, but probably they trust an "inner knowing" based upon using all of the resources available to them, emotional, mental, physical and even spiritual.

Women business owners are not always taken seriously

Thursday, January 31, 2002

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

Women in business, one of the fastest growing segments of the self-employed, and yet we know very little about them. Half of America's workers are women. More and more women are entering the workplace and more and more women are entering at the business and professional level than ever before.

Women are not always taken seriously when it comes to running a business. I don't think that people are discriminating because of gender necessarily. It's probably more because they don't know how to relate to women business owners. Women have different values and these values are showing up in how women design their businesses.

Women business owners are more likely than men to accommodate their work schedules around family needs. Since they are in tune with the challenges involved with juggling work and family they are often willing to provide on site day care and flexi-time for their employees. A lot of women business owners working from their homes as telecommuters especially now that we have tools like the Internet.

My daughters have watched their mother develop her business from home. When they were babies, they slept in the bassinet next to my desk. Occasionally I would even take one of them to business meetings, rocking her in her baby carrier, as I took notes.

When my daughter Bianca was about 5, I heard her call out to me as she passed me in the kitchen, "Bye, Bye Mommy; I'm going to a meeting." She was dressed in an apron and high heels (my castoffs), pushing her doll carriage with one hand and carrying a briefcase in the other. (Actually the briefcase was a blue plastic crayola marker case but she has quite an imagination.)

This blending of family and work roles is commonly seen in couple-owned and family-owned enterprises. Yet women who attempt to blend both roles must fight invisibility. For example, I lost a contract to provide certain psychological services because my office is at home. I was told that home offices are not professional enough. However, I always thought I was clever to find a way to be with my family and still develop my career interests. Obviously this is not a value shared by the contractor.

Sometimes women reinforce this invisibility themselves. In an effort to maintain her role as wife and her role as business owner a woman may feel she has to take a "backseat" to her husband. For example, I asked a co-entrepreneurial couple to tell me their official business titles. Although the wife had started the business five years before her husband joined her, she told me she was a "sales associate," while her husband said he was "vice president."

Other copreneurial wives tell me that they share ownership of the business equally with their husbands, yet they rarely list their title as "owner" or "president." Usually they are listed as "secretary" or "treasurer." Their husbands on the other hand, frequently list themselves as "co-owner." So it appears that the need to hold back is coming from the wives, not the husbands.

I often get a call from a copreneurial wife asking for help with her marriage. She and her husband are struggling with balancing their personal relationship and their business partnership. Whether or not the wife was the business founder, she is usually the one with the most trouble accepting the power struggle with her husband. Men seem more comfortable with power negotiations and are at a loss as to why their wives are distressed.

Simply the wife has to learn to be assertive with her husband. She must draw boundaries around her turf. This is something that men do all of the time, but women may feel that they are being too "bossy." Women need to realize that most of the time their husbands are not offended by clear, assertive, decisive actions. In fact the chief complaint I hear from copreneurial husbands is that their wives don't speak up! So he doesn't know what she wants, nor how to help her get it.

If women business owners are to be more visible, they need to be bold and speak up. They need to educate lenders and others about the values of blending family and work life. They need to teach their daughters how to be true to her feminine spirit and yet develop her creative side through career, professional and business.

To bust the myth of invisible working women, business owners and others, girls need to see women at work. They need to be educated about how to successfully balance the demands of family life and work life. Women business owners are in a wonderful position to do just that.

Survive the shock, fear, anger of a lay-off by reaching out

Thursday, December 13, 2001

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

"This isn't paradise," are the words I heard spoken by a nationally recognized cleric just after the September 11th bombings. These words have stuck with me for weeks as I have reassessed my life and purpose and helped others do the same. This reassessment has taken several forms for people as we realize how fragile our lives and our dreams are. Some of us are rededicating ourselves to our relationships or starting new ones because we realize that we can't have too many friends. Some are seeking out a stronger spiritual commitment. Others are picking up long lost career and volunteer goals. Whatever is missing in your life, no doubt you feel a strong pull to correct the lack.

With the national economy and world economy stretched to the breaking point, some people are facing layoffs in record numbers. This is yet another way that individuals and families are being forced to reevaluate their priorities. If you are a recently laid off employee, it may not feel like a layoff is your choice, but it certainly is an opportunity to reevaluate your life direction. Once you get past the shock, fear and anger of a layoff, you can begin to think through what you are going to do next.

But getting past the shock, fear and anger are not easy. Your safety is being challenged, as are your illusions that you are in control of your destiny. The first step in dealing with the crisis of a layoff is to get busy. Engage in activities that you do have control over and mastery of. If you don't have a job create one for yourself. There are always long neglected house projects that you can get into. Perhaps this is the time to spend more time with the kids such as extra help with homework or coaching them on a sport or musical skill. If you have been lagging behind in your community service, roll up your sleeves and make yourself available to your favorite charity. This is also a time to catch up on much needed time to yourself. Catch up on your reading, sewing, crafts and hobbies. Teach yourself to play the piano. Build a Zen garden. In other words use your creativity to prove to yourself that you do have value.

It is not best to search for a new job while in the emotional throes of shock, fear and anger. You will come across in job interviews as neurotic. Better to give yourself a chance to cool down and come to terms with this life change. The idea of getting busy with projects is to prove to yourself that you do have value. The layoff is an economic fact, not a demonstration of your value as a worker or a human being. Rarely are people laid off during these times because they are incompetent. Hard working, competent employees are hard to find, train and keep. Just ask any employer. So the layoff is a result of economic hardship or perhaps your employer's miscalculation, but it is unlikely that it is a result of your innate value. So give yourself a couple of weeks to a month to come to grips with this change in your life.

Once the sting of being rejected wears off, you can get down to the serious work of re-evaluating your priorities and finding the job that best uses your talents. Even if you took a voluntary layoff, you need time to adjust to the change in your life. Maybe you don't feel as rejected as the surprise layoff, but you are still out of a job. If you jump into a new job too quickly you may find that you wish you would get laid off again. Use this time to ask yourself some important questions about where you want to go next in your life. Here are some sample questions to get you going:

  1. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up? Could you still pursue this goal realistically?
  2. What aspect of your childhood dream could you pursue? If it's not realistic financially or geographically could you still pursue some of it on a volunteer basis to give you a sense of following your destiny?
  3. What have people always told you, you were good at? How could this be fashioned into a new career?
  4. If you really loved the job you lost, where else could you work that has a similar position? Don't be too quick to move geographically. There may actually be another employer who is hiring.

One mistake that recently laid-off people make is to hide away from others. This isn't the time to do that. In fact this is the time to ask others for help. Tell them what you are looking for. Ask them for feedback about your goals. Ask them to tell you what your strengths are. Always ask them for names of people who might be in a position to help you. When you reach out to others like this you are sending the message that you are of value and expect to be appreciated and hired. An added bonus is that people like to help. Helping you makes others feels as if they are doing their part. It's nice to feel needed, especially by a competent individual has courage enough to ask for advice.

Is it really a good idea to work with your spouse?

Friday, September 07, 2001

By Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., P.S.

Most of the time I am extolling the virtues of entrepreneurial couples, or at the very least, discussing how to successfully solve problems that come up for families in business. The lifestyle can be extremely rewarding when you work with the ones you love. As I have said often, "Who better to trust with your business than your spouse?" However, there is another side that should be looked at if you are considering the entrepreneurial couple life. That is, just what are you missing in your marriage and your work life by working with your spouse?

One of the major complaints I hear from practically all entrepreneurial couples is that they no longer have enough quality time together for romance and friendship. Oddly enough, working together for many couples turns out to be the only thing they do together. It is very easy to slip into work, work, work with your spouse at your side. You may not make a break for lunch to meet your spouse, because she's sitting right next to you. You may not pick up the phone to call him at the office, when you can just toss a note on his desk. When you get home, you may have talked about work all the way home in the car and continue the discussion through dinner . . . if you even have dinner.

So one of the really great reasons not to work together is to keep your worlds separate so that you get to come home to each other every night. When you have to leave work each day in order to reconnect with your family, you will actually make more of an effort to do so. When your family members are working by your side in a family business, you may make the mistaken assumption that you don't need to reconnect. But without that important psychological reconnecting, love starts to fade and fun with each other becomes a memory.

Another stressor for entrepreneurial couples is competition between them. This goes for other family members too. We have a strong need for recognition and approval from our spouses. We also have a strong need to feel like powerful, accomplished adults. Competing in the workplace with non-relatives can be like playing a game of tennis with a worthy opponent. Even if you lose to the competition, you can still feel OK about yourself because you did your best and your spouse can support you. But how do you feel about competing with your spouse? Who's the boss? Who defers to whom? Can you gloat about an accomplishment when you just bested your spouse?

When couples work separately either as solo entrepreneurs or as executives in separate organizations, they have the opportunity to be as competitive and goal oriented as they wish, with all of the support at home they need. They can be leaders in their respective fields with no fear of hurting the pride of their spouses. A side benefit of separate work environments is that with competition removed, each partner may actually be in a better position to hear feedback from their love partner.

Separate work environments create other advantages as well. Many members of family enterprises complain that their world is small. In other words they don't get out much, especially the women. When you work with family members, the only feedback you get is from family and this can be limiting. Working separately enables each partner to learn about the outside world more. They get feedback from colleagues other than family members and the feedback may be more honest. The research confirms that family firms grow more slowly than non-family owned firms for this reason alone . . . lack of creative feedback.

As important as it is to reconnect with your loved ones at least once a day, it is also important to have time to yourself. Seldom do I hear entrepreneurial couples complain that they have too much time with their spouses, but they do complain that they have no time to themselves. This is probably related to the overwork that results from running your own business. And it is probably related to the fact that they don't have a spouse calling them to come home or arranging a special evening out. Working separately means that your worlds have better defined boundaries. This doesn't mean that you will schedule much needed time at the gym, or call a friend for an outing, or steel some work time to play a round of golf, but defined boundaries do make us more organized. With organization comes a sense of importance about sticking to priorities. Taking care of your personal health and mental health should be a top priority for all of us.

There are many other benefits to working separately from your spouse, just as there are benefits to being an entrepreneurial couple. What is important in making life and career choices is to examine the whole picture. Choosing wisely means evaluating the downside with the upside. If you love your spouse and think you will be great business partners, you may be well suited to the entrepreneurial lifestyle. On the other hand, you might want to examine what you will be losing before you take the plunge. You may be brave enough to take some financial risk in order to achieve a career dream, but what level of risk are you willing to take with your marriage?