Paradigm Shifter #5: You’re only as good as your last gig

Paradigm ShiftAndy Warhol stated that everyone will experience at least 15 minutes of fame.  The scope and reach of that fame might be different, but everyone will be in the limelight at least once in their lives.

The problem occurs when we cling tightly to our previous “moment in the sun” – and forget that yesterday is NOT today.

Couple this human tendency to dwell on our previous “glory days” with the enormous amount of information available to us and you have a society in which people’s focus is constantly being redirected to whatever is new or “trending.”

According to one blogger,

“one bit of information leads to five facts, which leads to three articles, which leads to an interesting interview you must listen to right now, which leads to 10 pages in your browser.”

Whew – no wonder we feel overwhelmed by the information overload in our lives! And no wonder many of us don’t even remember a lot of what we see, read, or even do.

The old cliché of “time marches on” has never been more apparent than today. Instead of marching, time seems to be running a never-ending sprint, constantly moving faster as we leave things behind.

So, even though we may remember the exact details of our past victories and successes, others will generally remember (at the most) just the highlights of our successes – and vice versa.

We have become a society that forgets.

While this might be depressing to some, I believe that this creates an opportunity for us to continuously re-invent ourselves. Instead of resting on our past laurels, we are presented with unlimited possibilities to create something new in our lives.

Dwelling in the “glory days” of our past prevents us from moving forward. As we learn more, grow more, and experience more, the types of successes that we can create ultimately expand well beyond what we were capable of in the past.

If we’re dwelling in the past, we can’t be fully present in the now.

Artists and musicians have always been aware of this fact. The curse of the “one hit wonder” is something that successful artists often use to fuel their creative drive so that they will be the ones who beat the curse and have a lasting body of work.

Why don’t more people in business embrace this perspective? Is business really so different from the arts?

Throughout my years in business and working with clients, I have found that it is all too easy to get “stuck” in one’s past triumphs. Change resistance is rampant. Just like the old joke about the size of the fish that keeps growing when compared with others, many business successes are glorified – even though important details and preliminary sequences are lost in the re-telling.

For example, I knew a financial planner who boasted that he held the record for the highest one day sale in the company’s history. Pretty impressive. However, he conveniently omitted that he had worked on closing that sale for a solid year before the deal was signed. He didn’t do it one day.

And he never again met (let alone exceeded) that triumph.

By looking at each day as a new opportunity to grow and learn, we can appreciate our past successes as the fuel that helps us move forward to something even better. It might not exceed the previous dollar amount or be completed as fast or even achieve the same level of notoriety and awe. But it can be something new that we have never before achieved – and that is personal growth and success.

Due to the revolving door found in many corporations, our professional lives are really comprised of a series of gigs that create not only our careers, but also our professional legacies. Gone are the days when we are hired right out of college, receive consistent promotions, a corner office, and a fully funded pension when we retire.

Just like the actor will play many different roles in many different venues, we, too, will have different jobs with different employers that are often in different industries. And, just like the actor, we will have both triumphs and failures.

But the successful move forward and move on.

What about you? Are you dwelling in your past successes – or looking forward to how you can excel based on what you have learned and who you are right now? After all, to others, you are only as good as your last gig.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

“Should do” vs. “Want to do”: Why Both Are Needed to Sustain Change

Change Button - BlueChange is a natural part of life.  In fact, many believe that change has become the new status quo.

But changing is rarely easy for the people who have to modify – sometimes radically – the way that they do things, their self-image, or even their goals.

In organizational change, the underlying reason is usually in response to shifts in the external environment.  The examples are seemingly endless:  A new competitor has entered the marketplace and “stolen” some of your customers.  Or perhaps a new law has drastically challenged your current payroll strategy.

Organizational change can also be in response to internal shifts, such as a new vision, business model, or target market.

But, whether the reason for the change is external or internal, the arguments made in support of the change are usually based on what the company “should” do – whether they want to or not.

And therein lies the rub:  organizations can only change when its people change.

When demands are made for people to change their normal behaviors or habits, there is an understandable pushback.  What is often overlooked is that this so-called “change resistance” can provide valuable insights into the nature of the change initiative.

But these insights can only occur if we actively solicit employee feedback before, during, and after the change.

Unfortunately, in most change initiatives, many of these change resistors are ostracized or transitioned out of the organization.

As human beings, initial resistance is somewhat of a hardwired response to change.  Just like the 3-year-old who crosses his arms and shouts “No!” when it’s time to go to bed, the logical arguments (or why sleep is necessary in order to avoid crankiness and unhappiness) usually fall on deaf ears.

In other words, although we know that the child should go to bed, he doesn’t want to go to bed.  Even though he might be forced to go to bed, it is a time-consuming, emotionally draining ordeal for both parent and child.

The same can be true of employees who are told what they should do as a part of the change initiative…but really don’t want to do.

Addressing what we should do as well as what we want to do should be an important consideration in any change initiative.

Addressing the “Should Do” of Change

Corporate leaders often have very logical, reasonable, and comprehensive reasons to change the long-term strategy or daily operations of their organizations.  They often argue their case via spreadsheets, pie charts, bar graphs, trend charts, and any other data-driven tool that can support the rational reasons underlying the need to change.

While analysis is a critical part of the planning stage of any change initiative, the role of the change manager cannot rely on pure analysis to motivate workers to change.  Organizational change is a major undertaking that can take years to fully incorporate into the existing culture – and can be emotionally draining for the entire workforce.

Although threats of what could happen if the organization doesn’t change can initially inspire fear-based change, people don’t like to live their lives in fear.  The “doom and gloom” prophecies that threaten workers’ sense of security—either now or in the future – will often result in key employees and high achievers “jumping ship” to an employment situation that is less frightening.

To sustain the long-term motivation necessary to change an organization, the focus needs to shift from managing employees to change by telling them what they must do.  Instead, change leaders need to inspire employees and seek their participation in determining the best way to create the change as painlessly and effectively as possible.

The logical “should” of a change initiative is only one part of the change equation because intellectual arguments are insufficient to inspire workers to put forth the additional effort needed to transform the workplace.

Addressing the “Want to Do” of Change

People need to be motivated to change – and motivation is not only inherently internal, it is also emotional.

Addressing this “want to do” part of the change equation requires tapping into WIIFM:  “What’s In It For Me?”  Unless employees are confident that there will be a benefit to them as a result of the change, it is doubtful that they will commit wholeheartedly to the necessary actions that will radically transform the organization.

In contrast, employees will often “go the extra mile” when they understand the value of the change initiative AND they have participated in the planning and implementation activities related to that initiative.

When people participate in identifying what needs to change, they are more likely to embrace the necessary activities that will create that change.  After all, if it’s something that I recommended, then I have a vested interest in ensuring that it will lead to the desired outcome.

Puleo’s Pointers:  3 Ways to Inspire Employees to Change

  1. Take the time to involve employees in the planning stages of the change initiative.  Be sure that they represent the various functional areas of the organization and come from different levels within the organizational hierarchy.  Not only will this assist with employee buy-in, but it will also generate some insights into the implementation plan that can easily be overlooked by senior leaders who are not intimately involved with daily operations.
  2. Treat employees like adults, not children.  Relying solely on the “shoulds” of a change initiative is the equivalent of a parent dictating actions “because they said so.”  Pushback is inevitable.  Instead, recognize that your employees are your only non-duplicatable competitive advantage and they were hired because they have expertise to perform their jobs well.  Tap into that knowledge by respecting their input and concerns.
  3. Schedule two-way conversations that address employee needs and fears associated with the change.   Announcing the change via a lecture by the CEO or an article in the newsletter typify one-way communication.  Such messages to change can easily be interpreted as being talked at rather than talking with.  But two-way conversations in live town hall meetings or even discussion boards in a special change-related online chat room enable better identification of the workforce’s WIIFM’s – which can then be used to modify, expand, remove, or add programs to the change initiative that will better encourage workers to want to do what is necessary to create the necessary changes.

Although these three suggestions take time, they can create the foundation for tremendous future benefits in efficiency and effectiveness during the implementation phase.  Employee pushback and resistance may still occur, but, through the use of participative management in the planning phase, it tends to be much less intense.

While the decision to change might be logical, the act of changing can be highly emotional.  Some changes we should do, but we won’t actually do what is necessary unless we want to do it.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Why Change Is Chaotic: How Transformation Leads to Chaos (Webinar Presented by Dr. Geri Puleo)

Many people believe that all change is inherently chaotic…but is it?  Transformational changes tend to be more chaotic due to the difficulties in navigating the transition period from what “was” to what “will be.”

This 7-minute “mini” webinar discusses why change and transition are not the same and how you can take the first steps to minimize your feelings of change-related chaos.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Have We Forgotten How to “Play Nice” at Work?

Teamwork - Bring on new memberWhen we were children, we were always admonished to “play nice.”  In other words, we should share our toys, be nice to other people, and help our friends.   In this way, we could enjoy our time together – and maybe even learn some valuable lessons about human behavior.

As adults, the equivalent to “playing nice” with playmates is to be respectful and helpful to our coworkers.  We should share our resources, respect our differences, and assist our colleagues when they run behind schedule or need a hand.

Like when we were children, we expect that there will be reciprocity:  if I “play nice” with you, then you will “play nice” with me.

While childhood was a much simpler time, these life lessons still ring true in the modern workplace.

However, I often wonder if we’ve really learned how to apply these childhood lessons of “playing nice.”  I have to ask:  have we forgotten how to “play nice” at work?

“Playing Nice” Is Inherently Reciprocal…or Is It? 

Just like no man is an island, no employee works alone.  We need to work with others in order to get the job done.

Ideally, teamwork enables us to get things done as the result of synergies arising from applying our individual KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities) to the task at hand.  The whole of our efforts, therefore, is much greater than the sum of our individual parts.  By helping one another, no one is overburdened or stressed out.

The ability to effectively work in teams also reflects (to a large degree) our mastery of interpersonal communication skills.  The logic is that teams understand how to communicate, embrace differences, and share a single-minded focus on an ultimate, unifying goal.  By being on “the same page,” conflict is reduced or averted.

All of these mantras on teamwork reflect the idea of “playing nice.”

However, problems occur when some team members “play nice,”…but others don’t.  When this occurs, there are inevitable feelings of hurt, anger, and betrayal – feelings that ultimately affect organizational productivity and performance.

Consider these examples:

  • Stanley is an extroverted, dedicated employee who makes the time to lend a helping hand to his colleagues.  During his 360° performance review, he is shocked to learn that his coworkers said that he was difficult to work with and actually prevented them from doing their own work.
  • Samantha is a highly creative employee to whom colleagues frequently turn when “stuck” on problems that require outside the box thinking.  As a key partner in the development of a new program, she is startled to discover that her coworkers “forgot” to mention her as a crucial part of the development team when they were interviewed for an article.

How would you respond in these situations?

Stanley chose to become more “cool” or aloof in his interactions with the coworkers who he believed “threw him under the bus” – a behavior that is incongruent with what he believes is required to have a productive workplace.

In contrast, Samantha decided to begin asking for the recognition that she deserves – but fears that she will be labeled as “difficult” and not a “team player.”

In both instances, the employees were surprised by the action or inaction of their team members.  According to them, they had “no warning” that anything was wrong with their relationships.  They felt confused, angry, and betrayed.

They also believed that the best way to respond was to change their behaviors in order to better navigate the politics within their workplaces.

But perhaps more importantly, both workers changed their perceptions about the nature of their work environments.  In fact, both are considering leaving their companies.

The question, of course, is:  could these situations have been averted if all team members “played nice?”

Puleo’s Pointers:  How to “Play Nice” at Work

Even though a worker believes in sharing resources, respecting differences, and lending a hand, it is impossible to “play nice” in a vacuum.  A workplace in which all employees “play nice” requires a culture of trust.

To “play nice” in a corporate culture where workers don’t believe that their colleagues consider others’ best interests would be masochistic.  Adults will never “play nice” when “playing nice” ultimately hurts them professionally and emotionally.

  • If you want employees to “play nice” at work, then you need to establish an organizational foundation built on respect, transparency, leadership, support, and empathy.
  • Recruitment, selection, retention, performance appraisals, and development practices should be based upon and incorporate these fundamental values.
  • Corporate managers and senior leaders must also be appraised on whether their actions support or undermine a culture of trust.
  • “Playing nice” does not mean that there will be no disagreements between employees – accept that they are inevitable.  Remember:  it’s not the number of disagreements that indicates whether trust exists in an organization; rather it’s how you as a manager and/or an employee respond to conflict that reveals whether the culture is trusting or distrustful.

“Playing nice” is not an admonishment that should be given solely to children.  Given today’s chaotic, high stress workplaces, it may be the only way to achieve the natural synergies, enthusiasm, and innovation that result from people trusting each other.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Paradigm Shifter #18: Never say “never”…and never say “always”

Paradigm ShiftSome parts of life are predictable.  Birth, death, happiness, sadness, success, and failure.

Other parts of life catch us by surprise.  Serendipitous meetings, relationships, and “good luck.”  Unexpected illnesses, accidents, or tragedies.

The predictable events in life “always” happen, but the unpredictable, life-altering events are things that we “never” expect to happen.

Why, then, do so many of us use the extremes of “always” and “never” to describe what will or won’t happen in our lives?

Given the right circumstances:

  • Anyone can do anything – both good and bad.
  • Anyone can become anything – both good and bad.
  • Anything can happen to us – both good and bad.

To compound the conundrum, we humans are hardwired to paradoxically want both stability and surprise.  Yet we are bored by the predictable (the “always”) and caught off guard by the surprises (the “never”).  It’s impossible for us to simultaneously exist on both ends of this spectrum.

But life is not a black-or-white experience.  Life is inherently about the grey nuances – nothing is either totally good or totally bad.

These grey nuances of life are colored by the surrounding circumstances.  The exact same event can be viewed positively or negatively AND have good or bad consequences, depending upon what else is occurring at that time.

The events and results following whatever happens to us (both expected and unexpected) are shaped by our perceptions.  While we can control our actions and reactions to any situation, it is impossible for us to control the thoughts, minds, and actions of other people which help to shape that situation.  We might be able to influence others, but their free will assures us that we can never control them.

The curse and blessing of learning to accept that certain things are outside of our control presents a huge challenge:

  • The curse occurs when – despite our most valiant efforts – we realize that we can’t control the world around us and that bad things can (and will) happen to good people.  It can be terrifying if we choose to view ourselves as pinballs mindlessly being buffeted by the hands of fate in some cosmic game.
  • But the blessing occurs when we finally agree to control the only thing that we can control:  our own thoughts and actions.  We then recognize not only our own self-imposed barriers to success, but also our inherent power to eradicate them.  We finally have the freedom to get out of our own way.

Paradoxically, therefore, we have ultimate control yet we have no control.

The Peaceful Coexistence of Ultimate Control and No Control

Recognizing and accepting the boundaries of our personal control can be invigorating and exciting.  It creates a fertile ground for the anticipation of surprise or serendipity in our daily existence.  We begin to notice the nuances of the circumstances surrounding us and forego rigidly trying to change reality to match our personal expectations.  Living life in this way is rarely boring.

Understanding the paradox of having both ultimate control (over oneself) and an utter lack of control (over others) shatters many existing paradigms.  This balance is the core of staying on course toward our goals and mindfully enjoying the journey because:

  • We acknowledge that some things are predictable and that certain actions lead to predictable consequences, so we consciously act in ways that are more conducive to success BUT…
  • We also embrace the surprise and serendipity that are the “stuff” of life, so we focus on what we can control (ourselves) rather than what we can’t control in order to determine the ultimate “goodness” or “badness” of any unpredictable event.
  • We accept that (despite sounding like an oxymoron) change is constant and we embrace it.
  • Finally, we recognize the futility of saying “never” or “always” to describe what may or may not happen in the future.  After all, life is what happens when you’re planning something else.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

Fear, Change, and Life-Long Learning

Learning

Can we ever stop learning?  Most people would agree that we are constantly learning new things about ourselves, our environment, other people, as well as what works and what doesn’t.

But how many times have you attended a mandatory training session – and been bored to tears?

Or how many times have you been “forced” to learn a new method to complete a task that required you to “forget” everything that you used to do?

In the 25+ years that I have been a trainer, facilitator, and keynote speaker, I have often been surprised that many of the participants really didn’t want to be there.  Some displayed this through a lack of interaction.  Others simply looked down and were absorbed with their smart phones.  Many adopted a “wait and see” attitude as to the value of the information.  Still others were blatantly hostile and combative to any new ideas that were presented.

Sadly, a not large enough percentage approached the training as something enjoyable, informative, and applicable to their daily tasks, duties, and responsibilities.

Of course, it is and always has been my duty and responsibility to engage the audience by answering the fundamental question that underscores all learning:  “WIIFM (or what’s in it for me)?”

Fortunately, I’ve been pretty successful in giving the audience something that they could actually use.  I admit that (thankfully) not all people have been resistant to learning something new.

But I can’t help but wonder what past experiences jaded many attendees to fully embrace new ideas in the form of life-long learning?

In corporations, a large percentage of training is required to meet regulatory compliance (e.g., sexual harssment, ethics, EEO, etc.).  However, much of the other corporate-sponsored training often focuses on building key employee competencies to successfully compete in their markets.

Such “competency-based performance models” are the new rage in business.  “Competencies” indicate a high level of mastery or expertise in key areas of knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors which are then used to create a competitive advantage for the company.  In other words, it’s the stuff that you’re really good at.

But, identifying those competencies is a lot easier said than done.

Whether or not the competencies identified by seniors leaders are actually the “real” core competencies for the company, the corresponding training always focuses on changing the tools, methods, and even reporting relationships that employees use to do their jobs.

How Fear Affects the Passion to Learn

Changing the way that you work is based on a changing organizational foundation.  And that’s scary for most workers.

Perhaps most frightening is “un-learning” things that have led to success in the past.  Can we be just as good at the new way of doing something as we were in doing it the old way?

Another challenge occurs when managers don’t reinfoce the training back in the workplace – particularly if the company follows a “new is always better” approach.  This occurs when company leaders are constantly changing the way that things are done…but without a sound explanation for employees as to why.

Is it any wonder that employees are reluctant to put forth the effort to learn something new when the past has proven that it will just be replaced with something even newer a few months down the road?

Adults are not children and they have very different learning needs than children:

  • Adult learners already have insights, opinions, and assumptions about what works and what doesn’t – so we are less likely to accept new approaches at face value.
  • Adult learners are often subject matter experts in our fields – so we want our opinions to be heard and shared.
  • Finally, adult learners are busy – so if we are going to spend time in training (and not on something else), we want to make sure that we will be able to actually use these insights back on the job.

Change and the Learning Organization

We live in an age of constant, unrelenting change.  In the book, The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge encouraged companies to embrace life-long learning across all functional and hierarchical levels.  In a world that is constantly changing, the only way to adapt is by being open to learning new ways to approach both new and old problems.

Notice that “learning” corresponds with “change.”  Given the high degree of change resistance in many organizations, it is not surprising that these fears will be most noticeable in employee reactions to training and development.

  • Ego plays an important role in the unwillingness to abandon old beliefs and replace them with something which is currently unknown.
  • Economic realities threaten our feelings of security when we aren’t initially “good” at something new because we fear that we are now “replaceable” in the organization.
  • In today’s time-strapped workplace, there is often an expedited learning curve that just isn’t conducive to learning and then implementing higher level, complex ideas.  It’s just easier to continue to do things the old way.
  • Information overload is a genuine problem affecting worker productivity and organizational performance.  Exhaustion and fatigue coupled with misguided attempts to multitask cause us to shut down to new ideas.  There is simply too much to learn and do.  We are overwhelmed.

Learning inherently questions the status quo in order to create something that is more efficient, effective, and powerful.  This is a double-edged sword for many senior organizational leaders.  An informed workforce is like the child who isn’t afraid to say that the emperor isn’t actually wearing any new clothes:  employees can and will challenge organizational leaders and the decisions that they make.

Moving toward a commitment to life-long learning is therefore a major paradigm shift for both the organization as a whole and the individual workers within it.  But fearing new ideas and stubbornly refusing to at least try them is a prescription for failure in a constantly changing world.

Puleo’s Pointers:  Don’t extinguish the flame

As humans, we are hardwired to want to understand and know more about ourselves and our environments.  Many times we will fail in our first attempts to try something new – but that shouldn’t prevent us from continuing to move forward.  This is perhaps the greatest advice from Senge’s Fifth Discipline:  failure is nothing more than an opportunity to learn.

Once the fire for learning has been lit, we humans tend to continue to stoke the flames:

“Knowledge always desires increase; it is like fire, which must first be kindled by some external agent, but which will afterwards propagate itself.” (Samuel Johnson)

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com

From Employee to Entrepreneur: The Major Changes You MUST Make

Business owner multitasking

To many people, owning your own business and being your own boss is an enticing dream.  Visions of controlling your destiny and not being told what to do are reminiscent of a professional nirvana.

For many other people, being an entrepreneur is a roller coaster of conflicting emotions.  Entrepreneurship is a never-ending series of situations that can move from feelings of total control, creativity, and freedom…to feeling trapped, blindsided, and a slave to the company that you have created.

Working for someone else vs. being your own boss is a major decision that should not be taken lightly.  Being a business owner is not for the faint of heart.

Yet in today’s challenging job market, many professionals blithely open their own consulting firms or small businesses without fully understanding the critical changes in perception that must be made in order to succeed.

8 Perceptual Changes That Differentiate Entrepreneurs From Employees

One of the most popular recurring misconceptions about being a business owner is that you now call all the shots.  You can basically do whatever you want because you own the business.

However, businesses of any size do not operate within a vacuum.  No one – even the one-person sole proprietorship – is immune to the internal and external forces that affect a business:

  1. Changes in market demographics, lifestyles, and product preference.  Many new entrepreneurs look at what they are good at and turn them into products with the idea that, “If you build it, they will come.”  However, just because you do something well does not mean that others necessarily want it OR that they are willing to pay for it – often times not at the price point at which you want to sell it.   Even more importantly, people are fickle and their preferences change; if a new competitor comes out with a product or service that is more enticing, your customers are very likely to at least try it out.
    Key Questions Are you focused on both daily operations and long-term strategies to continue to thrill your customers so that they keep coming back to you – and do your operations effectively enhance your ability to actually do it?
  2. Fluctuations (often dizzying) in the economy.  Even experienced economists are wrong in their predictions about where the economy is going.  Without proper contracts in place, a client can decide to cancel or postpone an order due to economic changes that affect their businesses – and which also affect yours.  There is always an element of risk in any business.  When you are an employee, a bad economy might result in being downsized; but when you own the business, it might result in significant debt, sleepless nights, and personal as well as company bankruptcy.
    Key Questions:  Do you have processes in place to mitigate financial risk – or are you too highly leveraged?
  3. Flawed assumptions about what works in business.  Too many employees who have become entrepreneurs attempt to use the same business models as their previous employers.  The problem is that these employers usually had well-known brands, deeper insights into their markets, established clientele, and higher levels of working capital.  Adjusting a large company’s business model to suit a start-up or small company is more than just “tweaking”:  it requires gut-wrenching, data-driven analysis as well as an in-depth understanding of your unique strategic goals as the owner of an unknown business.  The real costs of an unsuitable business model can be substantial on financial as well as emotional levels.
    Key Questions Have you aligned industry insights, market trends, and labor with your business model?
  4. Failure to innovate.  Innovation is generally higher in entrepreneurial ventures – you have to be creative and think outside the box in order to do more with less in a way that creates value for your as yet unknown clients.  Many new entrepreneurs unsuccessfully try to replicate the products, services, guarantees, and/or price points of their large corporate competitors.  Creating and selling products/services is more than just manufacturing and marketing; the final offerings reflect a long line of processes, assumptions, and risk-taking that are unseen by the consumer yet dramatically affect those final outputs.  Necessity is the mother of invention and the only way to differentiate your company from the “big boys” is by doing something differently and doing it well.
    Key Questions While you don’t have to “reinvent the wheel,” what unique selling proposition (USP) does your company possess?
  5. Failure to implement.  Innovation and implementation work hand-in-hand – but this dual focus is probably the largest bailiwick for entrepreneurs who are cash-strapped, overworked, and desperate to close sales.  The greatest idea must be operationalized in order to be transformed from a dream into reality.  Without effective processes and engaged employees, it becomes extremely difficult for a company to “make good” on what it is attempting to bring to market.  The challenge is even more difficult for a one-person sole proprietor or consultant.
    Key Questions Even if your idea is great, do you know how to streamline the input/transformation/output process so that you can meet deadlines and sell the products at a price point that actually covers all your associated costs and expenses?  Are your employees on board and enthusiastic about what you sell and are you able to adequately compensate and recognize them for their efforts on behalf of your business?
  6. Viewing your business as your baby.  Many people have likened entrepreneurship to parenthood.  Your business is like your baby because you created it, nurtured it, and protect it to the best of your ability.  Like children, your business can give you a great deal of joy and pride, but also a great deal of pain and frustration.  Both businesses and children eventually mature and move away from the original owner or parent; it is only through solid processes, people, and products that your business can “grow up” into an independent entity that continues to thrive and grow.  But letting go can be extremely difficult.
    Key QuestionsCan your business baby survive without you – have you put in place the necessary processes to allow it to grow?
  7. Too closely identifying with your business.  No matter how large or small your business, owners usually see their enterprises as reflections of themselves.  Although many companies are eventually sold to new owners, many other companies remain under the tight control of the original owner.  This is both a good and bad thing.  It’s good because there is a hardwired need to run your business in a way that makes you feel good and allows you to be able to look at yourself in the mirror with pride and dignity.  But it’s also bad when it leads to rigidity and change resistance to ideas that you didn’t think of – especially when your business is in crisis.  Unless tempered, the amount of emotional connection that an entrepreneur has toward his or her business can skew sound business decisions due to the need to satisfy and substantiate the owner’s ego.
    Key Questions How great is the overlap between your business model and ego?  (Hint:  There is always an overlap!)
  8. Physical, emotional, and energy limitations of being human.  We are not robots or automatons.  Unfortunately, humans need time to rejuvenate physically as well as mentally.  Maintaining high levels of motivation and stamina is a challenge.  Many entrepreneurs lie awake at night (losing much needed regenerative sleep) thinking about the problems that still need to be solved, the clients who promised to pay but didn’t, and the ever-increasing “to do” list.  We can’t do it all and when you say “yes” to one thing, you must say “no” to something else.  This goes back to your strategic goals and how your business relates to the rest of your life.
    Key QuestionsHave you realistically determined the necessary trade-offs prior to launching your business – or are you over-extending yourself physically and emotionally?

Owning your own business is inherently different from working (however hard) as an employee in someone else’s business.  While the stakes are higher and the risks are scarier, the financial and emotional rewards of entrepreneurship are significantly greater.  While these trade-offs are not for everybody, to someone with an entrepreneurial mindset, these rewards offset the risks.

Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is the President and CEO of Change Management Solutions, Inc., an eLearning and Coaching company focused on eradicating workplace burnout through the B-DOC Model.  An entrepreneur for over 25 years, keynote speaker, author, blogger, business coach, university professor, and researcher, you can see her “in action” by watching her TEDx Talk on YouTube.  To contact Dr. Puleo, please go to www.gapuleo.com