Entrepreneurs and managers: a family portrait – family dynamics, language and modes of effective dialogue
Orenia Yaffe-Yanai, Dov Yanai and Tamar Milo
For almost three decades, we helped enterprises make placement and promotion
decisions.We also provided career counseling to thousands of individuals
at various career stages and in a wide range of vocational spheres.
These processes are similar in that one is asked to understand the job
requirements, diagnose the individual’s personality, and determine the
degree of match between a cluster of job requirements and the individual
make-up of skills and personality traits.
Whether our client was a public enterprise, a family-owned business, a top-level executive or a young university graduate, the key to a successful placement was the same – finding
the best fit between the job requirements (in terms of skills, company
culture, industry environment) and the individual’s personality (in terms of
energy sources, family dynamics, the role of the individual within his
family, childhood wounds and longings).
Another source of insights into the complex interrelationships among
vocations, personality and family dynamics was our extensive work with
individuals, couples and families on their vision, their calling and their
career quests. Our work with family-owned businesses over the last decade
has given us insight into the conflict-laden interaction between entrepreneurs
and managers within the enterprise, as well as some keys to successful
conflict resolution dialogues between them.
We gradually learned that through the study of family background and
family dynamics, we could better identify, understand and consult our
clients. Such processes are carried out together with our clients and imply
the unfolding, exploring and understanding of their psychological makeup,
motivation, passion, sources of strength, fears and multigenerational
family legacies. In doing so we are defining and identifying our clients’
unique ‘language’ and ‘vocabulary’, and learn to converse in their language.
This enables us to be more effective in our dialogue with them, and in
solving communication break-downs between them and their various partners
(family members and fellow workers) and, above all, with themselves.
In our experience, family dynamics reveals people’s basic emotional pain,
which drives their personal quests and motivation, and leads to the roads
along which they develop the legacies of past generations.
Together with our clients we have learned that identifying the sources of
passion is one of the major consulting tools.To quote BillGates: ‘Your potential
is our passion.’ Passion is the source of meaning for one’s very being and
doing. When people’s barriers or obstacles are identified and then removed
or bypassed, the passion flows towards self-fulfillment of one’s calling.
Uncovering family dynamics teaches about the sources of energies, motivations
and the meaning of lifelong passion quests. It also unravels traps
and expected difficulties. Awareness and understanding of one’s inner story
is the beginning of change, as the Jewish thinking expresses so beautifully:
‘Everything is foreseen yet freedom of choice is given . . . .’ (Rabbi Akiva,
Sayings of Our Fathers, 3, 39). In other words, being aware of the script that
one is playing is the prerequisite for altering it.
After years of involvement in career choices, placement decisions and
conflict resolution within organizations and family businesses, we learned
(a) look for a match between personality and job requirements;
(b) understand the origins and the developmental factors that make an
entrepreneur as compared to those that make a manager; and
(c) uncover the language spoken by each group, in order to promote an
effective dialogue between them and within the consultation process.
This chapter presents some of our observations and insights with regard
to these three types of roles, and the people who fulfill them, in the context
of the family-owned enterprise.
It is easy to tell an entrepreneur or a manager when you see one. You just
need to know what you are looking for, in other words, what each of them
should look like or convey. The first of those features is the passion that
Entrepreneurs are hardly ever satisfied. Their hunger constantly nourishes
their passion. Watching an entrepreneur, one is reminded of Lacan’s
Entrepreneurs and managers: a family portrait view that passion originates from a deficiency that cannot be fulfilled.
Therefore it can never be satisfied (Lacan, 1977). Whoever has worked
with successful entrepreneurs has felt their burning eyes and the passion
inside them. Listening to Bill Gates saying in a lecture that ‘we have to do
something about Google because if we don’t . . .’, one realizes that for
him it feels like a matter of life and death, in spite of Microsoft’s might
and leadership position. Similarly, a successful client entrepreneur put it
even more bluntly. He said that ‘his passion was “wild”. . .’ and that
he ‘could not tame it’, admitting that actually he did not want to tame it –
he liked the temper and the feel of the burning urge to strive for the
Entrepreneurs crave to create a new world out of chaos. This new world
should always be bigger, greater and stronger, and leave a greater impact on
the universe. For successful entrepreneurs only the sky is the limit and, at
times, not even that. Managers’ passion is different. It is modified. It is controlled
and well tamed – more sublimated. Managers want to introduce
order into the chaos. They aim at the execution of measurable goals in an
existing universe. They lead people to reach clever and effective solutions.
They are always critical of their achievements and constantly look for
better and more effective solutions, only to discover that there are even
better ones ahead. Managers want to achieve remarkable results but such
that are within the world’s laws and order. Indeed, they devote themselves
to making order, taking control and motivate people to run an existing
HANDLING ONE’S PASSION
Passion is not easy to sustain and manage. Some of our clients said that
they were terrified to discover their passion, ‘because if I discover it, how
would I contain it?’We have come to realize that this worry does not apply
to the entrepreneur, since for him the more passion, the better. He immerses
himself in his passion and, in doing so, may lose other interests in life:
family, body, or news. He might die burning with passion. Often entrepreneurs
are enslaved by their creations. We could call them passion-haunted
individuals. Consequently they are extremely competitive, strive for unexpected
results, and courageously look for non-conventional, creative
methods and strategies. They are dedicated to the fulfillment of their vision,
in spite of everything.
Managers, on the other hand, tend to invest their energy in building an
internal personality ‘infrastructure’ in order to contain and lead an intense
passion. They do not allow themselves to be lost in it. Managers are careful,
conservative and anxious to be creative within the rules. They are worried
as to the effects their actions may have on the people who surround them
and on their organizations; they look for collaboration, affiliation and
teamwork. They take seriously their responsibility for others and for their
RELATIONSHIP TO THE BUSINESS
Entrepreneurs do not usually have a strong sense of ownership (nor did
their parents toward their own child). They do not accept their material
assets as a given, but rather as something they should constantly fight for.
Their attitude toward what they officially own may seem paranoid, as they
are constantly afraid that it will be taken away from them. This, however,
does not mean that their relationship to their assets is meek – the opposite
is true. Entrepreneurs feel that the business ‘is me’. It is the extension
of the self, with no barriers between them. As one entrepreneur, the
founder of a large family-owned business, once told us: ‘the business is the
painting that I have created. I will not allow anyone, including my children,
to scrabble on my painting.’ Like so many other entrepreneurs, he
felt that he was on his own and could (or should) do whatever he felt
Managers, on the other hand, feel that what they run and manage is
theirs, even when legally that is not the case. They have acquired a sense of
ownership early in their childhood, when their accomplishments were
appreciated and their belongings were recognized as being theirs. This laid
the foundation for an underlying object relation that can be paraphrased
as: ‘this is mine’ versus ‘this is me’ of the entrepreneur. The manager feels
that the business is his and collaborates with his surroundings in order to
protect and promote it. In so doing he takes into account facts, rules, possibilities,
risks and consequences.
Adizes (2004), the world-famous management expert, gives us an interesting
insight into the difference between entrepreneurs and managers
when he says that managers put out fires that have been so brilliantly set by
entrepreneurs. In other words, a business in a state of order and control is
an achievement for the manager, while for the entrepreneur it is an unbearably
dull and boring state of affairs. The latter is constantly on the look for
new opportunities and new alternatives which require immediate action.
The inner chaos that resides inside the entrepreneur is what causes unrest
and worry for the manager, making the collaboration and dialogue between
them very challenging indeed.
MANAGERS, ENTREPRENEURS AND THE
Nowhere is the confusion between the roles of entrepreneurs and managers
as common as in family-owned businesses. It is the source of conflict
between owners and non-family managers and often also between founders
and successors. A few common examples may clarify this statement. The
entrepreneur–founder of a business brings his recently graduated son into
the business. He dreams of having his son close to him, carrying out his
spoken and unspoken wishes and overseeing the business he has built. The
allure of the title, status and power, combined with a deep sense of commitment
to the family business, make the son accept the position. However,
he quickly finds out that his father strangles any initiative he proposes and
expects him to be the administrative–conservative manager that the
founder himself had never been.
In another common situation two cousins are appointed jointly to run
the family-owned business. While one of them is continuously looking for
expansion and for new products and markets, the other is terrified by the
level of risk caused by these initiatives and strives to minimize financial
exposure and stabilize the control systems in the company. Mutual accusations
are quick to follow, with the other family members serving as live
loud-speakers of the conflicting voices.
In a third example, the owner of a thriving family-owned business
decides to hire an external CEO. He chooses an experienced manager who
would, it is hoped, introduce management practices into the enterprise. But
the clashes between the two begin after a very short honeymoon period.
The CEO’s attempt to determine lines of command clashes with the
owner’s habit of cutting through the line of command directly to the
employees. Decision-making policies and expense approval procedures
introduced by the CEO are continuously overruled by the owner.Worse yet,
the owner comes up with new business initiatives and new tasks daily,
making yesterday’s plans and priorities obsolete. He has little patience to
review plans and progress, thus leaving the CEO with little or no feedback.
Frustration and disappointment grow on both sides, until one of them
decides to give up.
Successful entrepreneurs who are the founders of the family business find
themselves in the role of managers as the business grows. They are usually
poor at introducing structure, order and hierarchy and long, therefore, for
someone who could do it for them. However, when the long-awaited
manager enters the enterprise and attempts to establish structure and regulations,
the ‘battle’ begins. It is as if a foreign organism has infiltrated the
organization, causing all the ‘antibodies’ of the immune system to act up.
It can be a ‘life-or-death’ war, as a professional non-family manager once
told us.We met him at a Family-Owned Businesses convention and listened
to his fascinating experiences in four different family businesses. He told us
how his employers would hire him in order to install structure, control
systems and rules in the business, yet he would find himself on the verge of
being fired once he had carried out their wishes. He talked about them
crossing hierarchy lines, approving expenditures without telling anyone,
firing mid-level managers without consulting their direct superiors and
signing new, previously unconsidered deals concurrently with other large
investments. Since he knew that he would be on a collision course with his
employers sooner or later, he made it his policy to keep a distance from
them. He would decline any invitation to their homes, would not accept
shares in their company, and would take only cash compensation. It was
also his policy to change jobs once every four to six years. Listening to his
story, we wondered about his motivation and about the underlying need
that was seeking gratification through this unusual career. ‘What’s in it for
you?’ we dared ask. The manager answered instantaneously: ‘It’s about
killing my father every day, only to get in the next morning, and kill him
again.’ Indeed, the roots of the differences, and consequently the conflicts
between entrepreneurs and managers, lie in the family environment they
grew up in.
THE FAMILY SYSTEM
Our multiple observations have taught us that entrepreneurs often come
from chaotic families, where structure, role definition and emotional stability
are poor, if not altogether absent. They come from families where
order and laws or hierarchies hardly exist. Their family is by and large
poorly functioning as a family, and the child has not been seen, neither by
the father nor by the mother. In our experience, the actual physical or emotional
absence of the father of the entrepreneur-to-be is very prominent.
Emotionally, this child is an ‘orphan’. Thus, in his adult life, he will constantly
re-create fatherless situations. He will have a hard time functioning
in a hierarchical organization, unless he himself is at the top of the hierarchy.
In that case he will probably tend to cut across hierarchy lines and
ignore rules and policies, always creating new rules instead. In extreme
cases, the entrepreneur will act not only as if he were fatherless, but also as
if he had no God. At times he may experience himself as God.
Being left alone as children, entrepreneurs have had to create the rules
upon which to act and be responsible for their enforcement. They were
free to choose, create and do. Freedom was the other side of their painful
experience of emotionally undernourished childhood. It remains a source
of pain, as well as of courage, to break the rules and create new ones and
to interpret reality in a new way, discovering previously unrecognized business
The chaotic situation at home created another opportunity for this
child – that of living in the future. The present feels too lonely and painful.
He can hardly bear being in the present and has to create an inner story that
relates to a future which is envisioned by him alone (Kets de Vries, 1989;
Lapierre, 1991). So the practice of ‘playing’ in the future, and experiencing
it as an almost actual reality, is something that is so often found in entrepreneurs’
attitudes and arguments. They build their playground in the
future, which is where they feel comfortable playing. When they were children,
time schedules were not clearly set by their parents. They were
not supervised by a parental figure and therefore had to create their
own performance criteria, which could often be extremely and capriciously
Not surprisingly, the inner child of the entrepreneur-to-be is extremely
imaginative. This child is alive when dealing with future dreams and possibilities,
and easily forgets that these are only future plans. As adults, most
of us like to plan and dream, but the entrepreneur needs to constantly play
the game and ‘live’ in his or her dreams, where everything is possible. Since
their childhood experience has been that they had little to lose, they are less
afraid of failure or loss as grown-ups. They perceive their families as having
been poor and unhappy anyway, so they can take risks. In fact, they often
do not consider their courageous actions as risks at all.
Managers, on the other hand, come mostly from fairly stable families.
Their attentive parents watch over them, usually know what they do and set
expectations for them. Criticism, which is the counterpart of expectations,
is abundant as well. This combination of care, supervision, expectations
and feedback makes their mistakes particularly painful. Their inner experience
is that they have a lot to lose and, therefore, it is better to be cautious
and avoid risks.
MOTHERS OF ENTREPRENEURS AND MOTHERS OF MANAGERS
Another parameter along which entrepreneurs and managers differ remarkably
is the role their mothers assume in their lives. The entrepreneur’s
mother, who hardly ‘sees’ her child, is often self-centered. She is also a passionate
and powerful dreamer, usually of unfulfilled dreams. She has ambitions
for her child but rarely does anything about them. Her unrealized
dreams are often passed on to her child as a painful longing and a powerful
source of inspiration. If dreams are the name of the game for mother and
child, there is also wishful thinking that if a dream (this time the child’s
dream) becomes a reality, he will be seen by his mother for who he really is.
This longing becomes the inner source of endless motivation for the child.
It explains why, even as a very successful adult, the entrepreneur has the persistent,
emotional experience of not being seen and continues to fuel an
endless ambition for achievements, awards and recognition.
The situation is very different for managers who come from functional
families that are well structured, hierarchical, and where rules and orders
are set and enforced. Managers had a present father figure. He was often a
manger himself who was involved, along with the mother, in ‘teaching’
managerial skills to his chosen child. While he took an active role in the
child’s education in collaboration with the mother, the ambition was nevertheless
hers. The manager’s parent, often the father for the female
manager and the mother for the male manager, is constantly and explicitly
dissatisfied with his or her results. In their family of origin there was a
constant demand for a better outcome. It was never good enough. This is
one of the hidden connections between the manager and the entrepreneur,
who is never satisfied with his manager, causing the manager to want to be
Mothers of managers are well connected to reality and often are good
teachers to their chosen child, the manager-to-be. She is often an effective
mother who provides a managerial role model for her chosen offspring,
who becomes her ‘deputy’. She supervises him and generously rewards
and criticizes him. She is not a frustrated person but a realistic one who is
well and even pragmatically connected to reality. She has good common
sense and intuition, and is often ambitious for her child and takes responsibility
and invests energy in the child’s upbringing. This is why it is so
natural for the manager to bring up young managers and to teach them how
to grow and improve.
Our observations, by and large, substantiate Sulloway’s study (1997) in
which he concluded that first-born children identified with authority figures,
whereas younger ones rebel against authority. In the traditional family businesses
of the ‘old economy’ most of the entrepreneurs we encountered were
not first-born children. Many of them, however, assumed the role of a firstborn.
It seems that even in poorly functioning families, first-born children
receive closer attention from their parents. Before any sibling comes along,
first-born children are exposed mostly to adult conversations, which instill
in them a conventional way of thinking, together with some rules and regulations
that were established by the adults and which they try to abide by,
in order to gain parental recognition and to avoid painful criticism. Secondborn
or youngest children of poorly functioning families are not as bound
to the adult world conventions, giving them the freedom to make up their
own rules and create their fantasized world.
Psychologically, however, entrepreneurs-to-be often assume responsibility
for their siblings and feel that they have to be their care takers or saviors.
One of our clients was the second of four children in a family where both
parents had been abused in their childhood. The father was often absent
from the house and the mother worked hard to provide for the family. The
oldest brother won parental approval by being a good student and a wellbehaved
child. His way of coping with the dysfunctional home environment
was to mentally record the children’s experiences and memories. When we
met the siblings as adults, it became apparent that the oldest brother had
retained detailed memories of their childhood, while the others had erased
most of them from their conscious memory. Not surprisingly, he became a
successful accountant. The second brother, on the other hand, assumed full
responsibility for his younger sister since he was eight years old. He took
her to school, fed her, took her with him to the playground and protected
her from the neighborhood kids. Even as a young adult he could not let go
of the deep sense of responsibility toward his sister, who was by now perfectly
capable of taking care of herself. As a child he entertained dreams of
becoming rich and providing for his entire family. We met him as an energetic
entrepreneur who had original business ideas and seemed to be on his
way to financial success.
The founder of a large service company was the fourth child in a family
of new immigrants, born after three girls. His father died suddenly when he
was 14 years old. In his late twenties, he and his wife quit their jobs, took
out their compensations and made the initial investment needed to start the
company. He proved to be a shrewd businessman and a talented entrepreneur,
and the business prospered. In the process he assumed the role of
leader and savior of the entire family, helping his sisters financially and providing
employment for nephews and nieces in need. Psychologically, he had
become the first-born son. The phenomenon of ‘birthright stealing’,
known to us from the story of Jacob and Esau in the Book of Genesis,
could be one explanation for Kaplan’s (Chapter 6 in this volume) finding
that entrepreneurs in high-tech companies in Israel were mostly first-born,
‘either physically or psychologically’.
It should be noted that while our observations were in line with previous
studies (Kets de Vries, 1996), they were mostly based on family-held
companies, which could be generally classified as ‘old economy’. Other
studies, such as Kaplan’s (Chapter 6 in this volume), Hisrich and Brush’s
(1986) and Pines et al.’s (2002), conducted in high-tech enterprises, found
that the majority of entrepreneurs in those new-economy ventures were
first born. It is possible that the explanation for the opposite findings lies in
the unique attributes of new-economy ventures. For one, high-tech ventures
are technology based. Their leaders must be familiar with state-ofthe-
art developments in their field and should base their innovations on
sound scientific and technological grounds. It requires a logical, step-bystep
mode of thinking, which is always well connected to reality, even when
it goes one step beyond the existing present. It takes a person who abides
by the rules and who is concerned with efficacy, efficiency and form to
become an innovator in the new economy. In other words, individuals who
are capable of starting a new high-tech venture should have many of the
typical manager’s characteristics: they live in reality and they want and
need to be well connected to it. They are less concerned with leaving an
impact on the world. Rather, they are interested in facts: how much, how
and with whom. Order, law and regulations are the realm within which they
operate and which they strive to improve. They have to consider facts and
means. They take the current situation to its next step, rather than argue
Second, the type of ownership in high-tech companies also differs from
that in most traditional industries. The rapid growth of high-tech companies
is supported by investments from venture-capital funds and other
financial institutions. Ownership is thus shared with partners who run the
partnership as executives would. Successful high-tech entrepreneurs
should, therefore, have managerial discipline and willingness to submit
their own dreams to the decisions of the board of directors.
Additional investigation of the issue of birth order among entrepreneurs
in various types of industry could give us a deeper insight into the family
portrait of entrepreneurs and managers.
TWO CASE STUDIES
The founder of a large, successful enterprise was the youngest of three
brothers. His mother was a courageous dreamer who left their homeland
when he was five years old, taking the children with her. His elder brother
assumed the role of the father, but this youngest son became his mother’s
emotional ‘partner’ and dream-mate. His uprooted childhood was rough.
Excelling in boxing was his way of compensating for the inferiority he felt.
His physical strength enabled him to protect his brothers in unfavorable
situations, making him the family leader. His childhood dreams and his
longing for a father figure nourished the drive and the vision to make an
impact and become big and successful. He described himself by saying: ‘I
was born an entrepreneur. I tried desperately to become a manager, but was
not very successful at it. Then came the biggest challenge – that of becoming
an owner.’ Indeed, management was foreign and challenging for him.
He had no sense of hierarchy and could easily confuse his managers by
cutting through hierarchical lines, or giving conflicting instructions. The
consultation process helped him to limit himself to the ‘why’ issues, delegating
those of ‘what’ and ‘how’ to his managers. When his own children
grew up and started to enter the business, he became aware of their sense
of ownership toward the products and the production plants, which they
had and he lacked. Seeing them helped him understand his role as an owner
and to realize that he should not intervene in managerial issues, even when
his instinct was to do so, whether or not he knew what to do. Learning how
to be a father to his children, his managers and to his life creation – the business
– was his greatest and most rewarding challenge.
The hired CEO of a family-owned business, with whom we have worked,
was the eldest of three, the son of a father who was a mid-level manager
and a very organized home-maker. Both parents were dedicated. The father
used to take him to the desert, teaching him to drive at a relatively young
age, thus developing his courage. The mother set high expectations of him,
delegated to him some of the responsibilities for his younger siblings, and
provided him with feedback. Her expectations and criticism channeled his
ambition and shaded any personal dream or passion with guilt. As a CEO
he was highly devoted to the entrepreneurial founder, who admired his
ambition, his systematic mode of operation and his endless motivation for
work. His employees could always rely on him and trusted his judgment. In
the consultation process, we focused on the inner permission to have his
own dreams, to think ‘out of the box’ and, consequently, to allow the managers
around him to grow as well.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ENTREPRENEURS AND MANAGERS
Knowing the family background of entrepreneurs can help us understand
why they so often view themselves as terrific managers, while in fact they
may have very poor managerial skills. The family system in which they grew
failed to teach them about hierarchy, authority, control or stability. Often
times they took care of their siblings, assuming the role of the family
‘savior’, and tended to be protective and over-controlling. Yet in the
absence of a role model, many of them never learned to provide a systematic
structure, to set manageable expectations from others and to provide
feedback – the key factors of proper management. They often lack managerial
aptitudes and confuse management with ownership, thinking that
because they own the business, they are managing it. The truth of the
matter is that often they lack both the sense of ownership and of management.
When the enterprise grows and prospers, the entrepreneur begins to
feel that he badly needs a ‘deputy’, in other words, a manager. Moses, the
biblical entrepreneur, needed Aaron, just as Don Quixote, the literary
entrepreneur, needed Sancho Panza. This loyal and effective managerial
figure may be discredited and fiercely criticized. But the bottom line is that
the entrepreneur depends on his manager, just as the latter depends on his
‘boss’s’ criticism, for feedback.
CONDUCTING CONSULTATIONS WITH ENTREPRENEURS AND MANAGERS
Entrepreneurs are motivated by their compelling vision. They strive to
‘create a world’ and to leave a landmark behind them. Their concern is with
the purpose and reason for what they do. Adizes (2004), in his description
of Entrepreneurs (E) points out that their language contains mainly the
question ‘Why?’ – ‘Why should I do . . .?’ or ‘Why shouldn’t I do . . .?’ In
their determination to fulfill their passion and to ‘create a world’, they are
concerned with the aim or vision for doing (why) and with whether their
act would make a difference, rather than with the correct manner in which
to make it happen (what, how and when). In studying the biographies of
great innovators, statesmen and business tycoons, one often marvels at their
relative disregard for public criticism, as well as for warnings of difficulties
and hurdles. It is as if they were ‘immune’ to outside criticism and reality
checks, being propelled by the internal energy of their vision and passion.
Such behavior is better understood when family background is taken into
consideration, often revealing the absence of authority figures, or a systematic
family structure and properly set expectations and feedback.
To capture the entrepreneur’s attention, the consultant should speak the
‘right’ language, focusing on the vision, the reason for it and the impact it
might have. In order to be effective in the consultation process, the consultant
must assume a role that is familiar and comfortable for the entrepreneur.
Knowing that many entrepreneurs were ‘fatherless children’, it is
recommended that the consultant act as a partner, team member or
confidant, rather than as a ‘super-parent’ or ‘guru’. Entrepreneurs have not
been taught the language of subordinates, which includes listening and
receiving criticism, and therefore communicate poorly with authority
figures. Moreover, being engrossed in their vision, their messages to the
organization may be unclear and even confusing. A consultant who can
apply a variety of communication styles can be valuable in clarifying the
entrepreneur’s vision, explaining it to the organization and exploring – with
the manager – the ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘when’ and ‘who’ aspects of the vision.
It is exactly these last four types of question that are the key ingredients
of the manager’s language. As sons and daughters of properly functioning
families, managers operate within a set of expectations and objectives.
Their ambition is not only to reach the objectives set for them, but to do so
efficiently, correctly and profitably, and to be credited for it. Managers draw
satisfaction from a good plan that is properly executed. They are interested
in employee satisfaction, are concerned with their image as managers and
strive to prevent criticism. As children, they have seen their parents evaluating
plans, weighing up pros and cons and changing course of action
accordingly. Consequently, consultants who work with managers find them
in general receptive to their criticism and advice, and cooperative in revising
vision statements. They are usually willing to invest in sharing their
vision with the entire organization, in order to set the stage for effective
What are the practical implications of these differences in language and
communication for the work of the consultant? First, the dialogue with a
manager revolves around issues of feasibility (if), execution (how, when,
where, who), performance (how much) and criticism (how else). In this dialogue,
the consultant is expected to assume a parental role and act as an
authority figure, a mentor and sometimes even a guru. He can expect to be
listened to with reverence and discipline, even when his advice may not be
practiced. Consulting an entrepreneur requires an altogether different terminology
and inter-relating, a partner or an echo. Discussing the ‘why’ and
‘why not’ aspects of a vision requires creativity and optimism, and a longterm
orientation on the part of the consultant. Skepticism may be particularly
detrimental. The role of the consultant is that of a sibling with
complementary skills whose contribution is valued but not considered
essential – entrepreneurs do not usually favor becoming dependent on their
Some consultants can flexibly switch from one role to the other and adapt
the suitable terminology for each client, thus working effectively with the
founder and the manager of an enterprise. In other cases, it is recommended
to use a team of two consultants, who can jointly provide the full necessary
repertoire of role and communication patterns.
Second, consultants are often called to mediate between founders and
managers, and tend to do so by arranging a family-like, three-party meeting
to discuss the issues at stake. However, in light of their family background,
many entrepreneurs are unaccustomed to family assemblies and may
feel uncomfortable in this type of setting. A separate meeting with each
client, with the consultant serving as messenger, is often more effective.
Alternatively, we have had successes in solving conflicts between founders
and managers in the presence of two consultants – one for each client.
Working as a team, the consultants can provide the full range of styles and
maintain the trust of both clients throughout the conflict solving process.
Last, but not least, the consultant could enhance the entrepreneur’s leadership
by magnifying his role as the source of inspiration, but minimizing
the expectation for him to act as a teacher. This differentiation between
inspiration and teaching is particularly important in the family-owned
business setting, where offspring expect their father to be their business
mentor. The disappointment often results in anger and animosity between
the generations. Consultants, who are cognizant of the psychological portrait
of both groups, should manage expectations and promote the establishment
of appropriate settings for the founder’s leadership. We have
worked with founders who learned to exert their influence and leadership
through their contribution in the board of directors, their speeches at
company meetings and their impressive presentations to their managers.At
the same time, they entrusted their external board members with the task
of preparing the next generation for ownership and management. They
were at their best communicating optimistically and enthusiastically their
passion and their dreams, to the benefit of the entire organization.
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