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Family Business Matters       07/14 11:03

   Self-Awareness: The Foundation for Success

   Understanding yourself and your effect on others pays big dividends.

By Lance Woodbury
DTN Farm Business Adviser

   I'm often asked if there are predictors of family business success. In other 
words, if a family performs certain actions, is it likely to keep the farm or 
ranch intact for future generations? To that end, many of these columns have 
focused on certain perspectives of legacy, various relationship-management 
strategies or particular communication skills that enhance family working 

   I'm asked less frequently about whether there is a key skill or behavior 
that an individual family member should possess to enhance chances of family 
success. The family's success is, in many ways, predicated on the ability of 
family members to relate effectively to each other. And, if there is one skill 
that I see present in family members who are working well together in business 
and in families that seem to be handling the transition well, that skill is 
self-awareness: awareness of one's values, goals, strengths and weaknesses, and 
awareness of one's impact on others.


   In her recent book "Insight," Tasha Eurich defines self-awareness as, "the 
will and the skill to understand yourself and how others see you." In her 
experience, people who "have a clear understanding of themselves enjoy more 
successful careers and better lives -- they've developed an intuitive 
understanding of what matters to them, what they want to accomplish, how they 
behave and how others see them."

   My experience in working with family businesses is similar. Family members 
who are tuned in to their motivations and have some sense of their impact on 
others seem better able to navigate the complexities of ownership, management 
and family relationships.

   Eurich offers seven "pillars" that comprise self-awareness, suggesting that 
you consider the following elements in your own life:

   1. What are your values? What principles guide your life?

   2. What is your passion? Are you doing what you love to do?

   3. What are your goals and aspirations? Are you achieving the milestones and 
experiences that create meaning for you? 

   4. What is your ideal environment? What setting is best for your family and 
work life? 

   5. What are your patterns of thought, your recurring feelings and your 
consistent behaviors? What can they teach you about yourself?

   6. What are your reactions to events or circumstances? What do they reveal 
(good or bad) about your capabilities? 

   7. What impact do you have on others?


   While some might find it easy to reflect on personal motivation, it often is 
much more difficult to judge how others perceive you. Eurich suggests you need 
feedback from others to complete your picture of self-awareness.

   Seeking feedback means receiving information that sometimes is hard to hear. 
If your trust level is low in the family business, this may be difficult; but, 
if there are people whose opinions you value and respect, then you should 
consider various methods to ascertain their perceptions. 

   Consider setting an appointment to get feedback or asking for individual 
feedback through an email or letter. Ask people to comment on what they see as 
your distinct and useful contribution, and what you could be doing better. The 
very act of asking for feedback will likely be encouraging to those around you, 
but it's important to show people you are sincere in your request, and you 
intend to use the feedback to become more self-aware. 

   Self-awareness may not be the first topic when you think of family business 
success, but I can attest to its power when a family is working together and 
planning for the future. The investment you make today in better understanding 
yourself and your effect on others will pay dividends in your family business 
well into the future.


   Editor's note: Write Lance Woodbury at Family Business Matters, 2204 
Lakeshore Dr., Suite 415, Birmingham, AL 35209, or email: 


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