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Articles - The Entrepreneurial Personality

What do women want in a family firm?

Thursday, December 07, 1995




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

"How do I get my wife to do what I ask her to do at work?" This question was asked by a beleaguered husband/entrepreneur at a recent meeting of Portland CEOs. I have heard this question often and in many formulations. Another version is, "What do women want?"

Today, much is being written about the psychological differences between men and women. While there are differences, some of them profound, there are also many similarities. And when it comes to answering the question of "What do women want?" the answer is simple. They pretty much want what men want.

In a family firm, especially one where husband and wife are co-owners, there are bound to be power struggles. Women as well as men want to feel in charge of their lives. They want to feel valuable, appreciated. We call this concept "Power." Even children need a sense of personal power, of having some say in the direction of their lives.

A husband who asks, "How do I get my wife to do what I ask her to do at work?" is probably engaged in a power struggle with his wife. Both are worried that if they don't get their way, they will lose something (perhaps power over their own destinies.)

The solution is simple. Put your fears and your ego away. Ask yourself, how am I interfering in her sense of power? How can I include her in the decision-making process? How can I feel powerful and still give my spouse room to feel the same? In other words, look for a win-win solution.

Couples who work together need to develop a structure for communicating and decision-making that works for them. If you have a consensus model at home, it is difficult to implement a hierarchical model at work. If a husband and wife are used to making decisions together for the family, this is likely to be the best style at work as well. It is confusing and leads to power struggles when a wife is an equal partner at home, but must answer to her boss/husband at work.

Some copreneurs (couple who own, manage and share responsibility for an enterprise) have resolved these problems in creative ways. For example, one solution to power struggles at work is to have separate domains for husband and wife to work in. This way, neither husband nor wife has to answer to the other for the daily operations of their departments.

Another possible solution is to have differing levels of decision-making. Some levels of decision-making in the business require consensus by husband and wife. Other levels of decision-making can be handled by one spouse or the other. And still other levels are strictly the responsibility of the spouses managing that department.

In order to implement a successful plan for decision-making and prevent power struggles, a husband and wife need to attend to their personal relationship first. Relationships based on fear don't work. There must be respect, love and support to maintain a healthy relationship. There must be room for individual differences. There must be an honest assessment of each other's strengths so that duties at work can be assigned to produce the most efficient and successful outcome.

Too often copreneurs rely on traditional gender roles to define their duties at work and at home. While this may work for some couples, it can produce power struggles for other couples. If you are not a traditional couple at what makes you that that style is appropriate for work? Or perhaps the traditional model worked for you when you were younger and raising your children, but now the kids are grown, you need a more egalitarian style. As you establish your decision-making structure, consider your optimal marital style, keeping in mind your current values about family, marriage and work.

Jewish families have a tradition that helps them keep their perspective about family and work. On the right side of the entry door of a Jewish home, you will notice a small decorative box. This box holds a Mezuzah, a message from the Bible. The message is a reminder to family members that each day as they return home from work, the center of their lives is the family. In other words, all of one's accomplishments in the world of work have little meaning if they can't be shared with one's family.

Successful family firms and copreneurial venture seem to share this value also. There is a recognition that men and women, husband and wives really want the same thing. To be sure, they want success at work. They want to know that they are in charge of their destinies. But most important, they want to know that their accomplishments are appreciated by the ones they love and who they love.

So the next time you are engaged in a power struggle with your spouse, take a look at how you have been addressing your priorities. If you business decisions are coming at the expense of your intimate relationships, your spouse may be fighting for the survival of the family. Reorient yourself to family first and your business decisions will have the full support of your loved ones.

Emotional information is as important as rational imformation

Friday, October 06, 1995




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


"Kitty! Kitty! Kitty" my four-year-old daughter screamed as she watched in horror the cat fall into a raging river and wash away toward the waterfall. We were at a matinee showing of a Disney movie, but the scene evoked such a torrent of feelings from Phoebe that I could not comfort her. She cried through the rest of the movie though the cat was eventually rescued. Upon our return home later, she insisted on checking on our own cat, Tolstoy, to make sure he was safe. And this movie was rated "G." Later when things had calmed down at home, I pondered why my daughter had been the only child to scream out and cry about the poor cat's predicament. Indeed, everyone seemed so startled by her outburst, that at first there was stunned silence from the other movie goers; then I heard a few giggles, from adults and children alike. My older daughter, age 7, sat quietly in the theater, not startled by the screen event, but certainly there were other four-year-olds who might have perceived the event as shocking. Daniel Goleman, a psychologist, suggests that these differences among children (and among all 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, or the son for that matter, 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. My daughter knew that there was something terribly wrong when the cat fell into the river and she felt the shock of it throughout her body. Acknowledging the shock and allowing it to be there, lead her to a decision to check on her own pet back at home. If bad things can happen to a cat in the movie, they can happen to her kitty. Successful decision-makers use the same process as Phoebe did with the Disney movie experience. 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.

Is your conscious your friend or enemy?

Friday, June 02, 1995




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


Captain Picard of the Star Ship Enterprise is intent on the screen before him. He is standing firm and tall. His jaw is set and the tendons in his neck are extended. He is speaking in a stern and captainly tone to the Romulan captain on the enemy vessel. As the Romulan replies, Picard turns his ear toward Counselor Troi, who is standing on his left on the bridge of the Enterprise. He asks her advice, her empathic understanding of the meaning behind the Romulan's words. She nods knowingly and advises the Captain that the Romulan is speaking the truth, but that he is holding something back...that he is scared, though no signs of it show on his face nor in the tone of his voice. With this new information the Captain makes a bold decision. Then he turns to Number One and gives the command that saves the day. Those of you who are Trekkies relish these tense moments, fantasizing that you too are aboard the Enterprise playing the deadly games that the crew of Star Trek always win. But even if you are not a Trekkie, the allegories of Star Trek are remarkable. The relationship between Captain Picard and Counsellor Troi represents the importance of team work, or utilizing the talents of several people in making decisions for the whole. The relationship can also be viewed as the one we have within ourselves; the relationship we have with our conscious and unconscious minds, or with our intuitive and our analytical minds. Like Picard you can have a healthy relationship with your unconscious or intuition. You can trust her as he does with Counselor Troi. Or you can resist her input because you don't understand. And with lack of understanding, you can conjure up fear or anger. Picard accepts Troi's advice as valid feedback; incorporates it into his "map of reality" and creatively arrives at a decision. Then he entrusts that decision to his Number One to carry out for the benefit of the entire crew.

The third part of the equation for psychological health is to have the courage and to take action, like Number One. Creating a healthy balance between your unconscious and conscious minds is what we call Mental Health. Mental health is not just something that's an extra. It is vital if you want to run your family Enterprise just as Captain Picard does his starship. Being healthy psychologically means being able to utilize all of your mental resources. This requires the same attention and commitment as does your daily physical work out. If you miss a day at the gym, you can be set back for weeks. If you are inattentive of your psychological and emotional health, you can be set back for life. A few years ago we heard the expression, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Unfortunately many people take this attitude with their mental health. Only in times of crisis do they seek professional consultation. Similarly to waiting until after you have a heart attack to start eating and exercising properly, you may wait too long to attend to your psychological health until the dysfunction causes permanent damage. Or perhaps you have the attitude that you can handle any problem that comes your way; that in fact, you should not ever ask for help. Week after week on Star Trek we are witness to characters who try to go it alone and always the Enterprise outwits them because Captain Picard relies on his trusted advisers. Attending to your mental health is the willingness to "Boldly go where no one has gone before." Hire a psychologist. Explore that uncharted unconscious of yours to discover your latent talents or unresolved conflicts. Don't leave your weaknesses there for others to misunderstand or abuse. There is a Counselor Troi inside of you waiting to teach you about yourself and others. People who regularly attend to their psychological health are not only stronger emotionally, but they require less physical health care.

Research has shown that psychotherapy reduces medical and surgical costs in 85% of the studies. Also the research has demonstrated that among those individuals who are regular users of psychotherapy, they are the group who use medical and surgical procedures the least. Rather than the crisis management attitude of waiting until you are broken, it makes more sense to trust the humanistic slogan: YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE SICK TO GET BETTER. Individuals who attend to their psychological health prevent illness and improve their own personal well being. You will find that utilizing the full range of your conscious and unconscious talents, unburdened by neurotic hangups, creates opportunities that you never knew were there before. A healthy mind also draws to you other healthy people. In a family business or any endeavor for that matter, having mentally healthy employees, coworkers and family members can only improve business functioning. The old "if it ain't broke; don't fix it" mentality leads to mediocrity. In a family enterprise where there are two goals, that of nurturing a family and keeping the business competitive, there is no room for mediocrity. Within any average are extremes of excellence and extremes of inadequate performance. To compare yourselves to others is a waste of time. Instead ask yourself "how can I achieve excellence?" The answer is a simple one. Take charge of your Starship Family Enterprise as Captain Picard would do. Engage in psychotherapy to enhance your analytical and intuitive abilities. Cultivate your inner resources until they are healthy so that you can trust the inner guidance (Counselor Troi). Using your conscious and unconscious awareness as a team, you will have multiplied many times over the mental resources available to you. With this dynamic team in place, Number One (i.e., family members, managers, employees) is ready to carry out your ideas and plans in ways that only could have been dreamed before. Three to beam up!

Copreneurs and the family business Christmas

Thursday, December 01, 1994




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


"SHOWER - COFFEE - GO!" That's how one young husband and owner of a successful family firm starts his day. His wife of five years, however, has a much more complex morning routine. After making her husband's coffee, she feeds the baby his bottle until he falls asleep again. Then she wakes the toddler, dresses him and gets his breakfast. After brushing the toddler's teeth, he goes off to play leaving Mom to shower and dress for work. Before the wife leaves the house she confers with the nanny about any last minute needs of the baby. Then she gathers up the toddler and leaves for work. After dropping the toddler off at day-care, she arrives at work by 9:00 am. Did she get breakfast? By this time the factory is humming. The husband is deep into his work behind closed doors. The young wife takes the next hour to "check in" with the supervisors and foremen. She chats with the employees as she walks through the hall to her office. Once behind her desk, she works non-stop, as does her husband for the remainder of the day, which often lasts well into the evening. They rarely see each other throughout the workday except for a cursory "check-in" regarding mutual decisions. Lunch is an apple or a cup of yoghurt at their desks. The daily routine of this couple is typical of entrepreneurial couples or copreneurs as they are popularly called. Not all copreneurs have young children, nor do they work in the same building. Some ride to work together. Some work out of their homes. But regardless of the physical differences the one thing copreneurs have in common is the hard work of balancing the two worlds of marital relationship and business partnership --- or LOVE AND WORK. This balancing act can take its toll on a couple, the family and the business, especially at the Christmas season, with the added stress of preparing for the holiday. There are vacations to plan for, employee bonuses and Christmas parties, out of town guests, last minute "rush" orders to fill, school and community functions to attend, and so on. The research shows that generally the stress is felt most strongly by the wife, who must manage the additional holiday responsibilities along with the routine family responsibilities and her work responsibilities.

While the husband feels the pressure too, he can compensate by working longer hours at the business. Herein, lies the problems for many copreneurs. Although it is tiring to work longer hours, it is actually more tiring to have to juggle two jobs (home and work), two schedules and two different kinds of responsibilities, as any copreneurial wife is aware. Anyone who has worked rotating shifts knows what a toll it takes on one's health and social life. The two worlds of Love and Work are very different really. Trying to bring them together in a family-owned business creates constant friction. Yet family firms are a natural form of human enterprise. This form of enterprise has been with us for centuries. And most copreneurs report intense satisfaction from working with their spouses. The reason for this constant friction is that the purpose or the drive behind the business is competition and growth. Whereas, the purpose or drive behind a family organization is nurturing and protection of family members. The interaction of these two systems (family and business) necessitates accommodations to each system. Research has shown that family firms grow at a much slower rate than non-family owned firms. Simply, the reason is that the family system will not allow competition and business growth at the expense of the family. For example, a child who works in the business, but who is not suited for the job, will be retained because of the need to "take care of" all family members. Or a husband and wife will continue a business that is failing because it is the one thing they do together. Add to this difficult balancing act the stresses of the holiday season and the likelihood of an "explosion" at Christmas is dramatically increased. Actually the explosion is just as likely to happen after Christmas with the post-holiday depression. Not only is business slower than before Christmas, but all of the illusions we harbor about warm family togetherness at the holidays may not have been fulfilled. There are several things you can do to prevent the worst possible case scenario and to have a much more meaningful Family/Business Christmas.

First, assess the division of responsibilities between copreneurial husband and wife. Is it really necessary that the majority of the burden be carried by the wife to maintain the family? Perhaps she is better suited to the task, especially when there are young children, but it certainly takes its toll on the marriage to have the worlds of love and work so rigidly defined. With baby changing tables now being installed in the Men's room, it's not so hard for dads to assume more of these responsibilities. Secondly, assess your expectations of the holiday season. Remember now that you both work. The typical copreneurial husband works 60 hours a week in the business. The typical copreneurial wife works 49 hours a week in the business; then she goes home and puts in another 49! Don't expect that you can attend every function or have a perfectly decorated home. Some people even eat Christmas dinner at a restaurant. In other words, look at your work and home responsibilities and decide what you can and can't reasonably be expected to accomplish. Thirdly, along the lines of expectations, dig down deep and look at your feelings about the holidays. Many people don't have extended kin to visit at Christmas. Many people even have unpleasant memories about previous holidays. Many people are experiencing current problems in their lives that won't go away with Christmas or New Years. Don't stick your head in the sand and pretend that wishing will make this holiday a warm, wonderful Norman Rockwell affair. Notice your feelings --- sadness, anger, grief --- and if they are intense talk to a psychologist. Dealing with your feelings now will enable you to ease through the season and prevent the explosions that come from built up stress due to unrealized expectations. Finally, use those entrepreneurial traits that set you apart from other people, such as individualism, creativity, determination, willingness to work hard. With your spouse negotiate the kind of unique relationship that works best for you. Don't rely on stereotypes to define your roles at work and home. You can set up anything you want; you're the boss. Also Normal Rockwell Christmases are not the only kind to have. Start some new traditions that fit your lifestyle. For example, spend a quiet Christmas eve at home. Or if you have no extended kin to visit, invite friends over. Instead of a garish display of presents under the tree for the children, take gifts to the local children's hospital. Cater dinner. Have pizza. Someday your grandchildren will think that Christmas has always been a pizza party followed by a trip to the children's hospital to sing carols.