ChangeAbility: Lauren and Urs: Better Together!

The Newsletter of Redpoint Coaching
Volume 9, No. 1, June 2010


We are proud to bring you the first issue of the new ChangeAbility Newsletter published under our new brand, Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching. ChangeAbility provides you with hands-on tips and cool resources for growing your business and your leadership abilities.

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Lauren and Urs

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  1. Lauren and Urs: Better Together!

  2. Avoid These Traps When Setting Your Next Goals

  3. What Makes Business Successions Successful?


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1. Lauren and Urs: Better Together!

By Lauren Owen, MBA

Ever since I started thinking about writing this piece describing why Urs and I decided to work together under the Red Point brand, that Jack Johnson song, Better Together, kept playing in my head.

“It's not always easy and
Sometimes life can be deceiving
I'll tell you one thing it's always better when we're together.”

That pretty much sums up how I feel about working with Urs. It’s not a new partnership. We met sometime in 2003, shortly after he moved to Seattle to start a new coaching practice. I was still at my previous company and about to launch new business owner peer groups. I needed a really good facilitator -- someone who could stand up to some strong egos in the groups and yet bring a lot of heart and support to the process as well.

He was even better than I thought he’d be: challenging, funny, smart, a great coach and communicator. With his support, we met some wonderful people, grew the performance group program and helped our members achieve some pretty impressive results over the next several years.

Then Urs got an offer from one of his clients that he couldn’t refuse and left for a full-time position. While I continued on with my former company, last spring I came to the conclusion that I really wanted to focus on the one-on-one work with business leaders that I had grown to love.

Fast forward to last Fall. After confirming, once and for all, that corporate life was not for him, Urs was on his own. We were contacted by a couple of people who needed some help figuring out what the next phase of their lives and their businesses would look like. The next thing we knew, we were hopping jets (as well as ferries and seaplanes and turboprops) to Alaska and Eastern Oregon and generally having great fun (except when suffering from seasickness from the aforementioned transportation modes).

And just as important, we seem to be pretty good at helping our clients figure out where they are headed and guiding them as they chart a path to get there. The fact that Urs and I are about as different, personality-wise, as two people can be helps us discover insights into clients that we wouldn’t be able to on our own. Urs is fearless when ferreting out the “elephants in the room” while I’m a little more “touchy-feely”. My focus area is succession planning and Urs’ is leadership coaching.

We’ve found our past experiences from such a variety of different types of industries have been invaluable in our work as we can hone in on the key issues in most business models.

And, we’ve got a process that seems to make people feel safe to really share what’s in their hearts, because we believe that’s were it all begins no matter where your path is headed.

Our clients seem to agree as well. Sarah Altland of Whale’s Tail Pharmacy, said, They were able to ask questions of us individually and together, then get right to the heart of the problem. Then as a team they helped us formulate possible solutions. They were not afraid of asking the hard questions or pinpointing our short comings- yet always in a positive way. They did their research on our business and our profession and were extremely well versed in both.”

Do you know of a business leader who is having difficulty figuring out his or her future and what their role will be in their company? Are you a member of a family business that has trouble tackling those elephants in the room? Or perhaps you know someone who would make a great leader but they’ve got something that’s holding them back from realizing their full potential?

Give us a call so we can get started. We’d love to hear from you and explore how we can help. We can’t promise it will be easy but we’re pretty sure it will be better when we’re together.

(To find out more about our backgrounds and what we’ve been up to lately visit Meet Us)


2. Avoid These Traps When Setting Your Next Goals

by Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA

At any one time, almost all of us work towards some sort of goals in our personal or professional lives. Think physical shape, work life balance, professional career or quality of personal relationships.

Yet, all too often we fail to meet our goals. Why is that? And what can we do to ensure that we are not setting ourselves up for failure when setting goals?

Below, we share three of the many lessons we have learned from setting goals with our leadership coaching clients.

Trap #1: Overestimating available time and setting too many competing goals.
You know how this sounds because you have been there before yourself: “This is taking a lot longer than I thought it would,” or “I don’t have time for this.” Or “I had no idea I would be so busy this year. I’ll just have to worry about this later.”

In our experience, this is the most common trap people fall into. We believe that one of the main reasons why people don’t achieve their goals is over-commitment and over-confidence about what is possible.

I hate to sound gloomy but because most of the people we work with are over-achievers and consequently want to get it all done and by yesterday, thank you very much, we have to remind them of the golden rule of business planning:

It always takes longer and it always costs more.

True in business planning and unfortunately true in almost all other areas of life.

Because of the notorious human tendency to over-commit (and then fail) we ask our leadership coaching clients to work on a maximum of three very specific leadership behaviors they want to improve. Yes indeed, for several months, we focus not on 8, not on 5 but on an absolute maximum of 3 improvements.

When setting a goal remind yourself of how busy you are now. Then be honest with yourself about what you will give up or say no to in order to make room for that new goal.

By limiting both the number and the scope of your goals, you will increase your success rate dramatically. Simple enough, right? But not always easy to execute.

Trap #2: Underestimating required effort
This is what you hear, “This is a lot harder than I thought it would be,” or “I’m tired. It’s just not worth it.”

It’s true, we sure live in a world of instant gratification where we are led to believe that change comes easily and effortlessly. Simply watch some day-time TV and you will come away convinced that it won’t take much for you to lose 30 pounds, show off great abs this summer and make $200,000 per year:

Simply call 1800 NOW!

I know that you and I are smarter than believing the rubbish they promise in TV ads and yet, I bet you haven fallen into the trap of confusing "simple” and “easy.”

  • Want to lose weight? Simply eat less, work out more.
  • Want to have more meaningful relationships with your kids? Simply spend more time with them and be really present when you are with them.
  • Want to be a better leader? Simply help our people to set meaningful goals and hold them accountable for the results.

All very simple concepts that are not easy to implement. What makes them hard to execute, of course, is that they require sustained effort.

Like getting in physical shape, making positive behavioral changes requires hard work, discipline and rigorous follow-up. There are no quick fixes and no short cuts.

When setting your next goal, be honest with yourself. Ask yourself: Am I willing and able to do the hard work, go the extra mile and go to uncomfortable places? Am I ready to delay instant gratification but stick with it for the long haul?

Trap#3: Goal is not truly yours
This is what you hear: “It’s not that important to me after all.” or "I don’t really care that much about it anymore.”

There is a whole body of research by social and educational psychologists that deals with this trap. The basic concept is that we increase our likelihood of achieving our goals the more intrinsic, (vs extrinsic) they are.

Truly intrinsic goals are goals we want to achieve because we love doing whatever it takes to achieve the goal and because we truly value the end result. We do it for the love of it!

At the other end of the spectrum are extrinsic goals. These goals are imposed on us. We do it because someone told us to, because we have to.

You don’t need a PhD in psychology to figure out that the chances of achieving your goals increase dramatically the more intrinsic they are.

Most goals fall somewhere between the two extremes of truly intrinsic and truly extrinsic goals. The trick then is to massage your goal so that it becomes as intrinsic as possible.

There is the great story of the harsh leader who had very little intrinsic motivation to change his style. After all, that’s what got him to where he was (or so he believed). When it was pointed out to him that he also acted harshly with his kids and that changing his style would not only make him a better leader but also a better and more compassionate father (something which was intrinsically important to him), his motivation to change increased dramatically. The goal moved from being extrinsic to intrinsic.

Next time you set a goal, ask yourself: Is this goal truly my goal? Do I truly want to do this or do I feel I should? How can I make this goal more intrinsic?


3.What Makes Business Successions Successful?

By Lauren Owen, MBA

Every business owner knows it takes dedication, hard work and long hours to make a business successful. Ensuring that it will survive past their own leadership takes vision and a good succession plan.

Business succession planning addresses all the potential things that can affect a business or owner, including retirement, sale of business interest, disability or death and provides for the funds and leadership capacity to allow the business to continue on into the future.

It’s estimated that because of the demographics of aging baby boomers, over 10 million small businesses in this country will change ownership in the next five years.

Given that, on average, 45% of a business owner’s net worth is tied up in the business. (LIMRA International, Small Business Owners 2005 Report), it seems that many of these same business owners are depending on the value of their business to fund at least half of their retirement.

And what’s really scary is that only 26% of them have any type of succession plan in place. (LIMRA International, Small Business Owners 2005 Report).

With so much at stake here, why are so few business owners doing succession planning? One reason is the economy. Succession planning takes time, vision, and long range planning, all things that we find difficult to make time for in the best of circumstances and almost impossible in today’s challenging economy.

Over the next couple of ezines, I’d like to address some of the other challenges that can prevent a business owner from developing a succession plan and offer some ideas for addressing them. Maybe you’ll recognize some of these circumstances in your own situation.

Family Business Succession -- It All Starts with Communication

On the succession planning side of our practice, we work specifically with closely held companies, many of them family owned. Particularly in family owned businesses, we often see what we call the “elephant in the room” syndrome: unspoken topics that no one wants to address. Managing business relationships with people who are also related to one another can create stresses and hurt feelings that build up over time. Prior relationship issues that go unresolved can get carried forward and magnified.

A family business that suffers from poor communication about basic issues will find it difficult, if not impossible, to make good decisions on future strategic goals for the company, including determining a succession plan for transferring ownership from one generation to the next.

When we tell people we work with family owned businesses, they often joke that we must need body armor to deal with all the fighting and hostility. Not all families in business have dysfunctional relationships! However, even in families with good day to day communication, succession planning can be such a huge topic that it can be difficult, if not impossible to get (and keep) the conversation about it started. Stakes are high.

Multiple children might be involved in the business. Some are potential leaders, some are not. There are usually other children not involved in the business. How can you transfer ownership of the business to some and still be fair to all? Scary topics for a family discussion.

Very often the same types of personality traits such as drive, tenacity and strong will that make someone successful as a business owner can also make it difficult for him or her to really listen and engage other family and team members in the conversation about succession planning. They can be used to hold what we call “versations”, meaning that the communication is going one way only, from them to others.

Succession planning has to start with everyone involved, engaged in two-way conversations and sharing what is really on their mind and in their heart. A business leader who tries to dictate the family into his or her idea of an "ideal" succession plan will find the conversation to be a short one.

If your family business suffers from these issues, here are some suggestions for clearing out the elephants:

  1. If there is a history of poor communication in the family, there must be a commitment among all family members to improve inter-family communication. If the family is not in agreement, it usually signals there is an “unspoken” issue that must be identified and resolved first.
  2. Bring in an outside facilitator skilled in working with family members who can help identify, surface, and resolve unspoken issues in a safe environment. It’s important that this outside person be seen as an advocate for the family and business as a whole and not just as “dad’s” or “daughter’s” person.
  3. Agree to an ongoing list of ground rules of communication. Examples of ground rules include: an agreed upon number of family meetings, definite starting and ending times, agendas that are published in advance with the input of the attendees, no speaking until the presenter has completed his/her entire thoughts, and everyone’s opinion is respected and listened. A good outside facilitator can help establish, model, and “enforce” ground rules.

Once the communication lines are open and in good working order, then start tackling the tough discussions and decisions on strategic management and succession issues.

In the next issue of ChangeAbility, I’ll talk about some of the other challenges to Succession Planning in non-family owned businesses.


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ChangeAbility is a publication of Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching, which is run by Lauren Owen, MBA and Urs Koenig PhD, MBA.

Visit Redpoint's website:, or call: ++ 1 206 372 8626

Copyright Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching, 2010. All rights reserved

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