Is the glass half full or half empty?  How you answer depends on your perspective.  For someone who has always received a full glass and now is being told this is all the water available, this picture can be a perilous omen.  On the other hand, someone lost in the desert might describe it as salvation.

Perspective is critical when making decisions within your company.  A distorted perspective can lead to the wrong decision, sometimes with disastrous consequences.  The overwhelmed business owner and differences within family businesses are two scenarios where this often plays out.

Owners Putting Out Fires

One owner recently said to me: “All I’m doing is putting out one fire after another.”  Moving from one crises to another quickly dilutes a business owner’s perspective in two ways.  First, making a series of rapid decisions without time to reset leads to substandard or flawed decisions.  The second hit is to long-term perspective where you eventually find yourself in a never-ending cycle of crises without moving you and your company forward.

Families, Businesses and Perspective

Families often do not even recognize differences in their perspectives. In fact, the exact opposite is usually the case:  Family members assume their parents, siblings and children share their own perspective.  After all, they shared the same home and worked together in the same company for decades.  This perilous situation is then exacerbated when family members avoid talking about a concern or new idea because they assume they already know the response.  (I have also seen this same scenario play out in long-lasting partnerships.)

Regaining Perspective

For the individual owner, regaining perspective can be achieved by separating yourself from the situation.  Techniques are similar to those for fending off decision fatigue and include scheduled breaks and “deliberate rest”.  However, once ingrained in this cycle over an extended period of time, it is more difficult to break             out of it.

Divergent perspectives within a family business are even more difficult to overcome.  This pattern has likely evolved incrementally since “childhood” so, as stated above, family members do not even recognize there is       a problem.

So how do individual owners and family businesses ultimately regain perspective?  Working with an outside advisor who understands and experienced in similar issues can put the situation into a proper perspective as well as provides another vantage point from which to view it.

The business coaching model offers an ideal platform for owners to redefine and maintain their perspective.  Different from professional or personal coaching, the business coach assists the owner in focusing on the perspective and goals required to take their company to the next level.  My clients have commented on the added benefit of having someone to hold them accountable for working on and reaching their goals and objectives.

Reconciling differing perspectives within family businesses requires a different approach.  I have found the best approach begins with separate conversations with each of the involved family members.  These conversations need to be designed specifically to develop trust through questions which convey understanding of that individual’s point-of-view as well as actively listening to what they trying to say. In addition, interviews with key staff, spouses and, possibly, other stakeholders help clarify the differences in perspectives, the consequences of these difference and sometimes even their root-cause.  Together, these sessions often uncover reasons family members are hesitant to share their own perspective as well as how differences in opinions even can be used to enhance operations and grow the company.

Whether the business is a sole proprietorship, family-owned business or other form of partnership, maintaining a realistic and accurate perspective is critical to keeping to keep your company on the path to success.   This may not be easy but the rewards are worth the effort.