Friday, February 8, 2019

Family Business Assessment

(From Friedman and Friedman, How to Run a Family Business)*
Have each family member complete this assessment, then average all the scores for each scale. A score below 5 on any scale indicates perceived difficulty in that area, a score between 6 and 10 indicates perceived strain in that area, and a score of 11or higher indicates perceptions that your family business is doing very well in that area. 

For each statement, circle the number that describes how strongly you agree or disagree:
3 = Strongly Agree    2 = Agree Somewhat 
1 = Disagree Somewhat    0 = Strongly Disagree

  1. People know what our business stands for.
    3    2    1    0
  1. We have a business plan that is evaluated and updated regularly.
    3    2    1    0
  1. There is a written succession plan for the next generation of the business.
    3    2    1    0
  1. As our business grows, our profit has risen as well.
    3    2    1    0
  1. We share our dreams and visions for the future, and know what each family member wants.
    3    2    1    0
          SCALE 1 TOTAL:
  1. Our family meets several times a year to talk about how things are going.
   3    2    1    0
  1. No deep conflicts in our family have caused family members to cut themselves off from each other.
   3    2    1    0
  1. Our family openly expresses differences of opinion.
   3    2    1    0
  1. We are able to resolve our major conflicts and differences.
   3    2    1    0
  1. We have a clear process for making different types of decisions.
   3    2    1    0
          SCALE 2 TOTAL:
  1. We evaluate clearly and objectively the performance of family members in the business.
   3    2    1    0
  1. Women and men participate in the business with equal opportunity.
   3    2    1    0
  1. Family members feel they are treated fairly in business-related matters.
   3    2    1    0
  1. Family employees know where they stand in the business, including limits and opportunities.
   3    2    1    0
  1. Family members in the business have clear responsibilities and roles.
   3    2    1    0
          SCALE 3 TOTAL:
  1. The head of the business doesn't have to be involved in everything or control everything.
   3    2    1    0
  1. The business is able to hire and retain non-family managers in responsible positions.
   3    2    1    0
  1. We listen to and consider new ideas from our younger generation and outside managers.
   3    2    1    0
  1. We share our planning with non-family managers.
   3    2    1    0
  1. Outside advisors meet with us regularly and have been willing to give us "bad news."
   3    2    1    0
         SCALE 4 TOTAL:
  1. Offspring have been able to learn about the business from their parents.
   3    2    1    0
  1. There has been some discussion and planning for the possible roles of heirs as they enter the business.
   3    2    1    0
  1. Heirs have had a chance to work elsewhere.
   3    2    1    0
  1. Offspring feel that plans for the division of the business are fair.
   3    2    1    0
  1. Offspring have opportunity to influence the future of the business.
   3    2    1    0
         SCALE 5 TOTAL:    3    2    1    0
  1. The family spends time together relaxing in non-business activities together.
   3    2    1    0
  1. Our family is active in the community.
   3    2    1    0
  1. Everyone in the family is actively involved in fitness and caring for their health.
   3    2    1    0
  1. Family members in the business have outside hobbies or interests
   3    2    1    0
  1. We encourage each person in the family to discover his or her own way.
   3    2    1    0
         SCALE 6 TOTAL:
*This book is no longer in print, but the assessment remains a non-threatening way to collect family member perceptions anonymously, as a source of data for probing further into their level of trust and/or conflict in the family business. Scott E. Friedman has a book still in print (1998) that may be similar, though I haven't read it: The Successful Family Business.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Mutually Supportive Development in Relationships

Understanding your Enneagram personality patterns will certainly enhance your personal effectiveness and spiritual development. This work is even more powerful when explored in the context of your relationships with others.

Changes you make may confuse, or even alarm, your friends and intimates. But when you commit to actions of benefit to both of you, the partnership becomes mutually supportive--which reinforces desired changes and builds greater intimacy.

Exploring your Enneagram subtypes will be an added and important element in illuminating the dynamics of a relationship, as illustrated below with an interaction between two style Nines.

Sally and Oona, both Enneagram style Nines, had been good friends and colleagues for more than a decade. Sally's instinctual subtype preference, however, is social and Oona's is one-to-one. They have similar values of honesty and integrity in relationship and share growing concerns about social and environmental problems. Yet Oona made two criticisms of Sally at a dinner party where several other friends were present. It was New Year's Eve, and Barack Obama had just been elected U.S. President.
When their mutual friend, Betty, expressed concern about possibly losing her government-supported job, Sally responded with a passionate discourse about state politicians and their poor allotment of financial resources. Oona listened for a while, then said, "What does that have to do with Betty's concern about losing her job?"
A while later, Sally said she thought Obama's choices of cabinet members would lead to more of the same problems experienced with the Bush administration but she was, however, happy the U.S. had progressed enough to elect a black president. Oona said, "I find it interesting that even though Obama had both a white and a black parent, people refer to him as "black." Sally said she meant her comment as a celebration of liberalism, but Oona--in what she consciously considered to be a statement of philosophy, not a personal criticism of Sally--looked toward the ceiling and said, "Well, I find it offensive."
Oona promptly forgot about both of her comments. But Sally agonized over them for two days, worried that she seemed insensitive to Betty's job situation and that she'd expressed her political views in ways that turned people off. She called Oona and explained how terrible she felt. Oona, upon being reminded of what she'd said, worried she'd been unfairly harsh. They agreed to meet for lunch and talk things through.

Each took time to think about and take responsibility for her own behavior, and both were committed to work out their differences. Notice how the changes they envisioned were mutually developmental:
Oona admitted she'd been missing one-to-one time with Sally, because they now usually met with a group of friends. She also said she'd been overwhelmed by all the social and political problems Sally raised because she felt powerless to change anything, but had tamped down her feelings instead of talking about them openly.
Sally knew she sometimes talked overlong when impassioned about global concerns, but said this was in part because she didn't always feel heard, because her friends didn't respond with interest or take the kinds of actions she felt were vital. She asked how she might talk about her concerns in ways that invited responsiveness and action.
Sally agreed to stop periodically, give Oona time to assimilate and ask questions, and help her think through what actions she could take so she didn't feel so powerless. She also agreed to more one-on-one time with Oona.
Oona committed to speak up when she felt overwhelmed and, instead of tamping down her panic, to ask for specific actions she could take where they shared mutual concerns.
Notice how, even though both are Enneagram style Nines, the focus of attention for each was quite different, explained in part by the difference in their instinctual subtype focus--social for Sally, one-to-one for Oona.

Note, also, how their agreements to change were mutually developmental and reinforcing:
By speaking up more directly when overwhelmed, Oona could act against her habitual tendency to tamp things down, while also helping Sally break her pattern of talking so long and so intensely that Oona (and probably others) would screen her out.

Sally could feel appreciated that her passionate social concerns were important to Oona, while giving Oona one-to-one attention by discussing specific actions in Oona's areas of interest.
They practiced this mutually reinforcing approach right away. Oona said she was interested in leadership attributes that could lead to new perspectives on world problems. Sally told Oona about a book that spoke to this interest, and brought the book to Oona's house later that afternoon. This became a shared, passionate topic for both of them in their future encounters.

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Partnership Path to Self-Knowledge

(From Margaret Frings Keyes' Enneagram Relationship Workbook)
  1. Falling in Love: Infatuation marks the first phase of relationships, when the floodgates of the unconscious are opened and we glimpse a possibility of our own wholeness. We project our unconscious positive images of the opposite sex onto the other person and we feel spiritually and mentally alive, because each sees the other only in terms of desired aspects and traits.
  2. Adaptation to Power Roles: Now we begin to divert attention away from our own unacceptable traits, urges, feelings, etc., and project those that are negative onto the partner. We also endow our partner with collective authority, and thus rebel or conform to what our partner expects. The relationship shifts as we create rules, roles, and expectations. To some degree we suppress ourselves for fear of losing the partner. Liveliness and compatibility are reduced as we begin to operate from our defenses. 
  3. Darkening Conflict: In this phase our unknown and unconscious aspects demand to be seen. We may become depressed, angry, and/or hurt, and one or both will engage in fantasies of separation, longing to ESCAPE! Positive aspects of life are projected onto the outer world (e.g., new career, new associations, new interests), so now everyone but the partner looks attractive. Our feelings and perceptions about power, betrayal, and abandonment deepen as our unconscious issues are reflected in even more negative projections onto the partner. Transformation depends entirely on our conscious involvement in our own drama, the decision to focus on our own need to change. Depending on our level of consciousness, we can:
    • Refuse to recognize and deal with differences (and later repeat the problem with someone else). 
    • Try to control the partner by anger, disapproval, withdrawal, or pouting. 
    • Experiment with separation (this can be positive if the goal is to achieve consciousness and choice, but remember that eventually even our work on ourselves will have to be completed in relationship). 
    • Begin the true work to integrate the Shadow. Although uneasy and ambivalent about it, we move our attention away from how we and our partner should be and toward who we and our partner are. 
  4. Remembering Self and Completion in Union: If we have the courage to deepen our own self-awareness and take personal responsibility for the relationship, we accept and integrate parts of ourselves that we have not wanted to know and see. We examine how our partner has characteristics that we have been unwilling to acknowledge in ourselves. We feel the pain that results from knowing ourselves, as we recall not only of the pain done to us, but also the pain we have created. Our gifts and strengths are heightened as we re-own our Self, instead of reacting solely to our partner. We develop the ability to observe our interactions without judgment and see our prejudices as distortions. Our love becomes based in reality, and the well-being of the other becomes essential to our own as we forgive our partner, our parents, and ourselves.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

You've no doubt heard the epigram first made public in January 1849 by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, founder and editor of Les Guêpes:
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
Usually translated as "the more things change, the more they stay the same," plus ça change refers to what happens when we attempt to resolve problems within the paradigm in which they were created. What does this mean in everyday terms? To borrow again from the French:
On ne fait pas d'omelette sans casser des œufs.
Translation: "You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs." I'm tempted to leave you with these powerful metaphors. But, I'll illustrate how plus ça change became the code for a married couple to interrupt an interaction pattern that was frustrating to both of them - to "break the eggs" they'd both been hatching and create a new "omelette."

This had been their pattern: When the husband perceived the wife as "interrupting" in conversation, he would shut down and "pout" (according to the wife). The wife, annoyed that he would blame her instead of speaking up for himself, kept talking while pulling back emotionally. He saw her withdrawing emotionally, wanted to have peace between them, so bypassed his feeling of being ignored and tried to draw physically closer. She felt "schizophrenic" - "He's critical and wants to get closer? Doesn't compute!"

In the past, the pattern had been the opportunity for each to give "feedback" to the other, not realizing that his telling her she interrupted, and her telling him he should speak up if he so desired, fed the plus ça change pattern so that it kept occurring, over and over. When they looked at their interaction systemically and saw how both of them kept it going the way it always had (plus c'est la même chose), they stepped back, let go of blame, and agreed that whoever saw the pattern occurring would simply say, "Plus ça change..."

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Playing a Bigger Game

Remember Games People Play? The relationship games described by Eric Berne are so familiar from our own interactions, it's relatively easy to notice when someone else plays them. In truth, though, if you're in a game, you're a player, too. When we view relationship interactions as systems, we can see how all players contribute to the pattern.
The popular "Why don't you--yes, but" game is described in 50 Psychology Classics as beginning "when someone states a problem in their life, and another person responds by offering constructive suggestions on how to solve it. The subject says 'Yes, but...' and proceeds to find issue with the solutions. In Adult mode we would examine and probably take on board a solution, but this is not the purpose of the exchange. It allows the subject to gain sympathy from others in their inadequacy to meet the situation (Child mode). The problem solvers, in turn, get the opportunity to play wise Parent."
The Parent, Adult, Child references are from Transactional Analysis, popular since the sixties and still highly relevant.

Now look again at the players in "Why don't you--yes, but." Either party can start the game. The problem solver might be in the role of wise Parent, or might be playing parent, period, whether reacting to the other or initiating advice. How many times have you described a situation to a friend, co-worker, or life partner where you wanted a listener or someone to brainstorm with as you talked it through, only to have the other person jump in and tell you what you should do about it?
When you re-read the above example of "yes, but..." notice the assumption that one player (the "Child" in this case) creates the pattern, and the "wise" Parent is the blameless bystander. Looking at our interaction patterns this way promotes blaming and judgment. Yes, we all play games, and yes, sometimes one party is less emotionally healthy than the other, but by definition an interaction takes two people.
Instead of judging the interaction games in your relationships as someone else's fault, notice how a pattern is perpetuated, by either or both of you, and look for inventive ways to interrupt the pattern. If asked for your opinion by someone who's typically responded with "yes, but," for example, say "I'm not sure what the best thing would be for you," or "What have you considered?" or "What do you think might work?"
And, of course, pay close attention to the games you initiate. They wouldn't be games unless both people wanted to play.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Parenting From the Inside Out

Implicit mental models that cast shadows on our own decisions and the stories we tell about our lives can be made explicit through focused self-reflection. We are active shapers of our own construction of reality. (Siegel and Hartzell, Parenting From the Inside Out). 
If you're reading this blog post, you probably want to be a good parent to your young children or perhaps have issues with adult children you'd like to resolve. One way to view these issues is through the lens of attachment theory.

Childhood Attachment
Adult Attachment
Distress when mother leaves
Greets mother when she returns
Comfortable in relationships
Able to seek support from partner
Does not seek mother when she returns
Focuses on environment
Greater sense of autonomy
Tends to cut self off emotionally from partner
Very upset at departure
Explores very little
Fears rejection from partner
Strong desire to maintain closeness

A child's security of attachment is strongly connected to parents' understanding of their own early life experience. Whether you had good parenting, good enough parenting, or even traumatic parenting, making sense of your childhood can lead to healthy relationships with your children. The universal cure-all in any personal growth approach is to develop nonjudgmental self-awareness -- in this case, mindfulness of your own childhood dynamics and consequent worldview.

Siegel and Hartzell introduced the concept of mind-sight, the ability to perceive the minds of others as well as our own. Resolving issues with your children means mindfulness about your own personality and mind-sight about your child's personality. Research further indicates that intention, when followed by changes in behavior, can change how our brains function. I'm particularly heartened to know this can be done backwards. No matter how old you or your children are, you can re-live your own childhood and your child's, affecting brain chemistry in a way that heals long-held wounds. 

All personality styles have strengths and challenges as parents, whether you had a secure or insecure attachment when growing up. Barbara Whiteside, in "Seeing Your Child" (September 2009 Enneagram Monthly), gave the example of an Enneagram style Three mother who "had a very easy time with her style Seven daughter because they both had assertive energy and enjoyed lots of activity (but) struggled in understanding her style Four daughter. . . ."

Many of you with grown children will believe you could have done a better job as a young parent. However, thinking If only I'd known then what I know now will be wishful thinking unless what you know is based on deep self-reflection about your own personality style along with mind-sight about your child's, especially if very different. This is a potent exercise recommended by Siegel and Hartzell:
  1. Think of an experience from your childhood when your reality was denied. How did you feel?
  2. Think of a time when you and your child had a different reaction to the same experience. Now try to see the events from your child's point of view.
When my daughter's personality was barely forming, I naively assumed she would be like me. This was long before I learned about the Enneagram, and I had little capability as a young style Nine mother to be present to a style Eight daughter. My poem "Swamp Magic" likens my daughter as a baby to a tadpole, sleeping face-down with knees bent outward, "still swimming in the amnion," ending with these lines:
What could we talk about?
I was brought up to behave,
bewildered by a frog princess
who could be heard for miles.
A ring-tongued, Mohawked 
Tarot reader, a hefty bike babe,
she teaches me computer skills,
and I accommodate the real.
As do all families, we had good times and bad times over the years, but I tended to forget the bad times and reacted defensively when my daughter's recollections were different from mine. then she decided I'd never see the world through her eyes and we became politely estranged. I labeled this as her problem until I finally dropped my defenses and invited her to join me with a mother/daughter therapist duo. Only then did I develop retrospective mind-sight about my daughter.

Among many insights was accepting the reality of myself as an unaware young mother. I could see I'd shown little of the healthy style Nine mother (I encourage her differences from me and we co-create a playful environment), was mostly average (I see myself as nobody special but see my child as idealized. . . not the actual person), and to some degree unhealthy (She needs my full presence and she doesn't have it). Because of my young self's lack of awareness, my remoteness and blindness to the significant differences between us, I truly did not know who my daughter was.

When we first started therapy together, I knew no words would convince her I could be authentically present to her worldview, and I'd only gain her trust by hearing and acknowledging what her childhood was like for her, not what I wanted it to be. During our second session, she was beginning to accept that maybe I'd changed. Then, in a long phone conversation outside therapy she said, true to her personality style, "It's clear you've worked your ass off, Mom." 

Affirming that both of us had matured significantly, we joked about the Work Your Ass Off School of Coaching, a playfulness long missing from our relationship. I hope my story, and Parenting From the Inside Out, will help you get your own you-know-what in gear.
Making sense of life can free parents from patterns of the past that have imprisoned them in the present. By deepening our ability to understand our own emotional experience, we are better able to relate empathically with our children and promote their self-understanding and healthy development (Siegel & Hartzell, Parenting From the Inside Out).   
Also, see Barbara Whiteside's Enneagram Tips for Parents.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Owning Up*

As follow-up to exploring how both partners in a relationship contribute to interaction patterns ("Hands Off"), the following exercises will be most useful if both partners complete and discuss them.

Nonetheless, it's possible for one of you to significantly change your relationship if you think through and write down your responses to the following:
First, What is characteristic of you in regard to intimacy? (a) Think of a recent situation with your partner where your characteristic behavior played out. Run through it mentally from the beginning. (b) Now think of another situation. And another. (c) What do these three situations have in common? What do you notice about yourself and intimacy?
Second, identify ten things that annoy you about your partner. For each, explore: (a) What is your reaction to your partner's behavior? (b) How do you provoke that behavior?
Next, describe five painful situations that have occurred in your relationship: (a) What were the consequences for you? (b) What was your responsibility in each situation?(c) What keeps the situation alive for you (what is the pay-off in the present)? Examples are illusion of control, getting a charge from the anger, not having to face your own fear of intimacy, etc.
Finally, describe ten positive characteristics of your partner and the effect of each on your relationship. Reflect on how you might integrate more gratitude into your relationship and into your life.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Enneagram: A Compelling Vision

Susan Olesek's TED talk on behalf of the Enneagram Prison Project (EPP), Both Sides of the Bars, is the most compelling Enneagram presentation I've ever seen, for her own transparency, for her clarity and vision, for her compelling examples, for her intelligent presentation, and most of all for the power of her presence. This is the finest example of how life-changing the Enneagram can be in the hands of someone on an authentic spiritual journey. See also this Forbes article about Olesek's work.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Loop the Loop

What do I mean by a "systems approach" to relationships? An analogy is our natural environment, where we easily understand two key principles. 
A stable environment tends to maintain stability (homeostasis). For example, when sunlight is plentiful and atmospheric temperature climbs, phytoplankton on the ocean's surface thrive and produce more dimethyl sulfide (DMS); the DMS molecules in turn increase cloud condensation, and the increasing number of clouds lowers the temperature of the atmosphere. 

Changes in one part of the environment will affect others parts. Think of what happened with the introduction of kudzu, jokingly referred to as "the vine that ate the South." Kudzu was brought to the U.S. from China in an effort to control erosion, but these non-native vines spread rapidly and killed many trees by shading them with leaves.
Those who introduced kudzu to a non-native environment were using what's referred to as "single-loop learning": Hey, this plant grows quickly and would stabilize some ground that's eroding. Let's try it! "Double-loop learning" would have been to consider that basic assumption in light of a bigger picture, the environment into which the kudzu would grow, whether or not it would have natural boundaries or constraints similar to those in its natural environment.

You can use the same principles in your relationships:
What do you do that continues to maintain homeostasis, even when you don't like the results? If your spouse expects you to manage the finances, for example, and you'd rather not, do you grouse as you balance the checkbook, or do you step back and ask Wait a minute, why does this keep happening even though I complain? Clearly my grousing isn't changing anything.

What have you introduced into a key relationship, thinking it would have a positive result, only to find it made things worse? For example, one of the Love Languages is "acts of service." I have a client who wanted more intimacy with her partner, and kept doing little things for him that showed her love. Instead, he withdrew more and more, interpreting these acts as implicit criticism that he couldn't do those things for himself. His Love Language is "words." All she needed to do was tell him what she loves about him, but until they stepped back and examined their assumptions about "love," her attempts to fix the problem were only making it worse.