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Kathy Marshack News

Pay Attention to Signals and You Can Problem Solve Before the Crisis Hits

Saturday, November 20, 2010


When it comes to problem solving, recognizing and interpreting the signals that others give us is crucial. For some of us, that does not come naturally, but if you take a little bit of time, you will be able to improve your skills. If you do, you will be able to minimize crises before they materialize.

One common error is to mistake signals for the problem.

 

When a person is angry or aggressive, we tend to listen, but when a person is quiet or passive, we tend to ignore them. Actually, those behaviors are signals of something. Just what they are signals of remains to be discovered. The key is that all human behavior is meaningful. But the meaning may come disguised as signals that look like problems themselves.

For example, one husband was beside himself because his wife could not keep the house clean. The couple ran the a business from their home. Although the husband was out all day with customers, the wife was at home taking care of the four small children, answering business calls, and running the company office. The couple had already problem solved somewhat and come up with occasional day care and even a once a month house cleaner, but still the house was a mess.

The problem was they were focusing on the messy house instead of what it represented. In this case, it represented that the wife was torn about her goals. She wanted to be part of the business, but she also wanted to parent her children. Making more time for her to clean the house, a chore she really didn't like anyway, wasn't the solution. What worked, however, was to set up a system where she could participate in both worlds without them overlapping so much.

Whenever confronted with a dilemma (Is it a signal or a problem?), ask yourself, "How does this behavior make sense to the person engaging in the behavior?" Don't ask, "How does it make sense to me?"

If the behavior belongs to someone else, chances are it makes sense in their model of reality, which may look very different than yours. In the case of the couple with the messy house, what made sense according to the wife's model of reality is that the wife wanted to have a neat house but she wanted something else more. In order to get a clean house, it was necessary to help her accomplish what was more important first.

While some solutions are easy and superficial, many problems require deeper probing. While a band-aid may suffice for a while, it will save a lot of wasted energy and questioning if surgery is done immediately. So, when you see a signal, probe, dig, and most important, don't ignore it. If you can’t figure out what the signals mean it might be time to ask a therapist for help.

If you’re an entrepreneur visit Entrepreneurial Life for more information.

How to Accurately Assess Your Management Style in a Family Firm

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Being the owner-manager of a family firm requires juggling many roles not just with family members but with employees as well. The way marital and family obligations are handled affects management style with employees and vice versa.

 

For example, in family firms where spouses work together, management style must be assessed in three arenas: 1) marital, 2) parenting, and 3) business management. Furthermore, the integration of these three styles must be assessed.

What is your marital style? Are you both leaders? Is one the leader and the other the support person? Does the style change depending on context? Are you a team? Or are you both separate and dedicated to your own spheres? Does your marital style differ greatly from your parenting style or your management style? Whatever your marital style - know it. Don't assume that it is irrelevant in your family firm. If it is incompatible with the business, then you will have many problems. Employees sense the discrepancies. They know when there has been a marital fight.

What kind of a parent are you? If a couple has children, whether they work in the business or not, be aware of parenting style too. Parenting style is affected by business-management style and vice versa. Those lessons are translated to the work place. Are you an authoritarian parent? Are you permissive? Are you authoritative? Parenting style is obviously related to marital style. If two marital partners do not think alike about parenting, there will be a disorganized, and possibly, very depressed family. Equally so, it is important that parent/owners determine if they are treating employees the way they treat their children.

What about your management style? Management styles can be categorized as one of the four styles: 1) telling, 2) selling, 3) participative, 4) delegating. Which are you? Are you apt to tell employees what to do? Or do you build a good case for what they should do? Or do you include employees or other managers in the process of developing new business? Finally, are you inclined to run the show yourself but delegate tasks to team members?

After honestly assessing these three arenas, keep these four important points in mind:

1. Accept who you are. Whatever your style, it is probably the most comfortable way for you to be. This doesn't mean there is no room for improvement. But it's best to start with who you are and then to build marital, parental, and management styles around your personality.

2. Accept your spouse's style, too. She or he has developed a certain personality that is unlikely to change. Rather, you two are looking for ways for both of you to realize your full potential.

3. When considering a parenting style, not only do your consider your partner's style, but you must also include the personalities and needs of your children. Most parents are astounded at how wildly different each one of their children are.

4. Remember that your management style at work is more related to your marital and parenting styles than you realize. It is in the family that we first learn to relate to others. How you treat employees and how you want them to treat you is dependent upon your understanding and utilization of these early lessons.

Understanding your unique management style in the workplace and how you have integrated past and present family lessons into a family business will help you to be flexible and to adapt to whatever may come. I work with family businesses in the Portland/Vancouver area to help them balance family issues with business issues – click here for more about my work with Entrepreneurial Couples.

My book Entrepreneurial Couples - Making it Work at Work and at Home is also available for purchase.

How to Cope with Addiction in the Family Firm

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Alcoholism and other drug abuse is an epidemic in our country. We are all aware of the general problem nationwide. Many employers are taking a hard look at the problems caused by drug abuse and alcohol addiction and have established employee assistance programs and redesigned insurance benefits to create treatment options for employees. Yet among family firms, drug addiction and alcohol abuse are frequently overlooked.

If there is an alcoholic in a family firm, be the founder, spouse, son, daughter, or in-law, the family is likely to overlook, condone, deny, rationalize or minimize the problem for the sake of keeping the family system intact. If the founder is alcoholic, alcoholism may be a family "tradition" that will be hard to break. That is, drinking may be interwoven into the fabric of family life and corporate life. Allowing addictions to go untreated is no way to take care of either the business or the family. By ignoring the problem the addict accepts this as tacit approval of their behavior. And by ignoring the problem, the potential threat to the integrity of the family and business grows. Alcoholism and other addictions leads to the breakdown of the family, just what a family firm wants to avoid.

What can help members of the family firm address these problems? Here are a few things to consider:

1.The addict is fortunate to have the backing of both his/her family as well as his/her business. With the support of the two most important systems in one's life, the addict has increased potential to succeed in treatment. They have a loving family and they have a job to come back to.

2. Stand as a united front when approaching the addict. If there are dissenters, the addict will solicit allies to defend their continued drug abuse and will not seek the help that they need.

3. To deal with the humiliation of recognizing that a family member is an alcoholic, education will help. Professional treatment centers emphasize that alcoholism and drug abuse are best understood as diseases. They must be confronted with their irresponsible and manipulative behavior so that they can change it. With professional treatment and ongoing support, they can be returned to their former productive and loving lives.

If you find your family is in this situation, contact Alcoholics Anonymous. Don't wait! To read more about addiction in the family firm, read this article in its entirety -  Addiction 'conspiracy' of silence hurts the family and business. You can also visit Alcoholism Recovery on my website.

Be an Optimist - It's Good for Business

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Dictionary.com defines optimism as "a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome." For some, optimism comes naturally, but for others it is something that has to be cultivated. The question is, can optimism help your business? We hear that attitude is everything . . . is that true?

Yes it is true. Optimism can greatly impact your business. Optimism helps you to be solution-oriented. When you encounter a bump in the road, instead of throwing your hands up, you continue to search for a way around the problem, convinced that there is a solution. You will also be willing to try new things because you recognize that there is no failure rather everything is a learning experience.

Dr. Marin Seligam, Director of the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center, has conducted hundreds of studies proving that optimism is a key to success. In one study, he found that "optimistic salespeople sold 88 percent more than the most pessimistic ones." (Entrepreneur.com The Successful Optimist)

If you are not naturally optimistic, do not despair! Work to cultivate a more positive way of speaking. Be aware of the way you describe certain situations and make a conscious effort to turn those comments into something more optimistic. This takes time and lots of practice! In a sense, you are rewiring your brain. Choose to surround yourself with things that promote a positive message. There are many wonderful self-help books that can help you develop an optimistic outlook. The issue really boils down to choice. Will you CHOOSE to be optimistic? It's up to you. In the words of Winston Churchill, "I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else."

Visit Entrepreneurial Life for additional information.

Is It Really A Good Idea To Work With Your Spouse?

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Working with your loved one can be very rewarding. 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. It is important to think through this decision thoughtfully since whatever you decide will impact your marriage.

Here are some important things to consider:

WILL YOU HAVE TIME FOR ROMANCE? 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.

CAN YOU HANDLE COMPETITION IN YOUR MARRIAGE? Another cause for stress with 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. 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?

COULD YOU SUFFER FROM A LACK OF CREATIVITY? Many members of family enterprises complain that their world is small. In other words they don’t get out much, especially 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.

WILL YOU HAVE ENOUGH TIME FOR YOURSELF? 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.

My book Entrepreneurial Couples - Making it Work at Home and at Work, discusses the many pitfalls that entrepreneurial couples fall into and offers practical advice on how to deal with them. Or visit Couples at Work and Home on my website.

Entrepreneurs - Tips For Finding An Ideal Employee

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Finding the “ideal” employee can be challenging. As an entrepreneur, you have worked long and hard to make you business a success and whoever you add into the mix can either be for the good or for the bad. Here are a few tips to help you when you are looking to hire a new employee:

1. Ask yourself, have you ever had a terrific employee that you wish you could clone? If so, make a list of that employee’s qualities, from their actual work skills, to personality traits. As you examine the qualities of this ideal employee, you will open your mind to the traits you are looking for in your next hire. Develop a list of the qualities you need to fit your particular setting. From this list, begin drafting questions that will elicit from prospective employees whether they have these qualities.

2. Always use screening tools to search out personality traits, emotional problems and psychological issues that do not surface during an interview. It is probably best to use the services of a psychologist who is expert in interpreting these tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

3. Ask yourself if your workplace is attractive to the type of employee you want. Do you need to remodel to make the workplace more ergonomic? Is your management progressive? Are there other benefits and perks you can offer? Remember, a healthy, hardworking employee is looking for a good match in an employer too.

4. Realize that all employees have problems in their lives from time to time that will affect their work. After doing a thorough screening, and hiring the very best person for the job, make sure you have a back-up system to deal with problems as they emerge. For example, providing a child care allotment, or flexible scheduling, or some form of employee assistance plan, goes a long way in correcting stress in an employee’s life, so that they can solve life problems as quickly and effectively as possible.

Read more tips on being a successful manager when your run your own business on my website.

Entrepreneurs Find Time To Vacation With Family

Sunday, May 23, 2010


Summer is just around the corner. Have you planned your family’s vacation yet? Maybe you think you’re too busy. One solution is to take a look at ways to integrate your business trip with the family vacation.

It is important to raise children who have a sense of belonging to a family with parents who are professionals. The children see the work as part of who their parents are ... and they are part of it too. Integrating a family/business vacation is much easier now with the help of hotels and resorts who cater to business travelers who wish to bring their children with them. While Mom and Dad are at their business meetings, or downloading their e-mail, the children are able to participate in events sponsored and supervised by hotel staff.

However, there is a potential problem. Workaholics may never learn how to leave work. Combining work and play as I have described above is one alternative, but another is to plan vacations without work in mind at all. Pure family fun is vital for recharging the entire family.

As a family who also happens to be in business together, you have the sophisticated task of integrating the needs of family and the needs of business. If your spouse and your children feel a part of your work, they are in a better position to help with business growth, even if only as interested stakeholders. And if you are willing to take time from your busy schedule to play with your children and family, even at a business conference or trade show, you are sending a very important message. That is, no matter how important the business, no matter how you wish the business to succeed, what’s the point if you cannot share your successes with the ones you love?

How Family Businesses Benefit from Working with a Psychologist

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Maintaining a delicate balance between business and family is absolutely necessary when running a family business. This is not an easy thing to do. There are differences in work ethics and personalities, along with different strengths and weaknesses. When problems arise at work, it is not only going to affect the business, but also the family arrangement. If you are part of a family business, you may want to consider working with a psychologist who specializes in family businesses.

A family business psychologist works to understand the “soft side” of families who work together. They help the family members to recognize interpersonal problems that will affect the business and the family. I’ve been working as a family business psychologist for a number of years and have seen firsthand the benefits of this approach.

I had the pleasure of working with Camille Eber who is a second generation owner of Roth & Miller Autobody Inc. in Portland. Camille recently wrote an article entitled, "Working with family member is a blessing, challenge" about her personal struggles working with family. She had difficulty getting along with her nephew, William, who is currently the operations manager. They decided to make an appointment with me to help improve their relationship.

Here is what she said about their therapy sessions, "Dr. Marshack, author of "Entrepreneurial Couples: Making it Work at Work and at Home," helped us set individual and business goals and define our responsibilities within the business more carefully, which is a key to success in a family business. The personality testing we worked through was particularly eye-opening. Once my nephew and I acknowledged we're nearly polar opposites, it helped us realize better how we could use that to benefit the business. We were able to return to work on the business as a team rather than working against each other." Click here to read the rest of the article.

If you are experiencing challenges within your family business, I highly recommend making an appointment with a family business psychologist. Like Camille's experience, you will be able to better understand yourself and one another which will help make your business and your family a success.

What is a Mompreneur?

Thursday, April 08, 2010


The term "mompreneur" has been popping up everywhere. What does it mean? Entrepreneur.com defines "mompreneur" as, "a female business owner who is actively balancing the role of mom and the role of entrepreneur." According to the Center for Women's Business Research, in 2008 "10.1 million firms are owned by women, employing more than 13 million people, and generating $1.9 trillion in sales." No wonder mompreneur has become a popular term – they are everywhere.

Being a mother and a business owner is no easy task. But when done right, both areas can be a success. Here are a few things to help keep a mompreneur in balance:

1. Stick to a schedule. Scheduling will help you stay focused on the most important tasks without getting distracted with nonessentials

2. Get the family on board. A supportive spouse is key to running a successful business. Also, involve the kids when appropriate. They can help you with things around the house or even get involved with some of the business aspects.

3. Take time for self-care. If you don't take care of yourself first, you can't take care of your family or your business. Take a few moments everyday to relax whether that means exercising, reading, or chatting with a friend on the phone.

I have written many articles about women business owners over the years as part of my Families In Business column. I invite you to learn more about how to be a successful business woman leader.

Are Family Businesses Really Different?

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Many people who work in family-owned businesses, or family firms, have never stopped to think of the concerns that are unique to family businesses. While about half of the gross national product comes from family owned businesses, and roughly half of America's workers are employed in family firms, the family business is seldom seen as having issues of any significant difference than other sole proprietorships, partnerships or corporations.

Inc. Magazine decided it was time to dig deeper into family business issues. Author, Christine Lagorio recently posted the article entitled, How to Run a Family Business, which discusses how to run your family business the right way. She interviewed experts on this topic asking them to share their advice and lessons learned. Since I’m a Family Business Coach and the author of, Entrepreneurial Couples - Making it Work at Work and at Home, I was able to share some practical tips for family businesses. I discussed the value of determining what your family style is and working that into your business, as well as the importance of writing a formal business-partnership agreement. Click here to read the article in its entirety.

If you would like to learn more about family business or being an entrepreneurial couple, please visit the Entrepreneurial Life section of my website.


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