The Macho Entrepreneur

Just about everyone has heard the 1978 song called “Macho Man” by the Village People. The first verse goes like this:

“Every man wants to be macho macho man. To have the kind of body, always in demand. Jogging in the mornings, go man go. Work outs in the health spa, muscles glow. You can best believe that, he’s a macho man. Ready to get down with, anyone he can.” Ugghh. I never did like that song. Usually this term refers to the male species and generally speaks to “showing aggressive pride in one’s masculinity,” according to one dictionary. The word is often associated with “machismo” which introduces the concept of self-reliance. I’m going to take some liberties here and loosely use the term as it relates to entrepreneurs – male and female.

Allow me to paint a picture of the Macho Entrepreneur. This individual is scrappy and passionate about his or her endeavors. The Macho Entrepreneur is driven to excel – a real Type A personality. Hard-charging and brimming over with ideas, this person sometimes has a mindset of “if you want it done right, you must do it yourself!” The Macho Entrepreneur is not going to let anything stand in his or her way to achieving success and will always “die trying.” Do you know anyone who displays these traits and tendencies? This used to be my self-portrait though I think I’m in more of a “recovery” mode at present.

The Macho Entrepreneur means no harm and thinks he or she is being noble by modeling strong-willed behavior and commitment. But there are inherent pitfalls in this approach that don’t promote the notion of building a team and ultimately a sustainable organization. When I was much more inclined in the macho mode, I received feedback that some people felt it was my way or the highway. In reality, I have a high level of ego-drive which when translated, means that I want to persuade anyone and everyone to see things my way. And my enthusiasm could sometimes come across to others like a steamroller. I was somewhat of a perfectionist – even when it made no sense to be so – which is a result of some obsessive-compulsive tendencies on my part. Finally, I’ve always been inclined to keep calm and “never let ‘em see you sweat.”

Here’s what I’ve learned. Being a Macho Entrepreneur is a dead-end. Well, maybe it’s more of a cul-de-sac because one can turn around and exit the behavior and take a new path. Regardless, the macho traits really don’t lead to building a successful organization. Trust me on this because I’ve lived through it all from start to finish. So, what’s the alternative?

I’ve said it many times – we must have the right people on the bus. These are people who share our values and have passion for what they do. This is critical because they will be motivated only if they understand our vision of the future and how they fit into the process of getting there. When we know we are surrounded by the right people we are more inclined to delegate. We don’t have to do it all ourselves. And we understand that while others may do some things differently than we might have, empowering them is even more important. As long as the ultimate objective is achieved in an efficient manner with integrity, we agree that allowing some latitude is a healthy thing. This gets us to the point of allowing others to make decisions. I once heard an entrepreneur say that he only wanted to make four decisions a year – four major decisions! This forced him to delegate decision-making and truly trust his team.

Discarding the Macho Entrepreneur label also means collaborating with others. This sends the signal that their opinions are valued and desired. And believe it or not, many members of our respective teams actually have some pretty good ideas! What comes next? We get to celebrate the success of others which reinforces the notion that they are capable of making decisions and moving the organization forward. Finally, we learn how to be a coach rather than command. No longer is coercion a necessity or an option (it probably never was). We help our team members look at the different possibilities and work through a process of determining the right approach to achieve the desired outcome.

Our lives and our organizations will be richer and more rewarding when we figure out how to transform away from being the Macho Entrepreneur. We accomplish this by surrounding ourselves with the right people who understand and share our vision; to whom we can delegate decision making and promote collaboration, and who we can coach and ultimately celebrate their victories.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 99 – Narrow Guardrails.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

Narrow Guardrails

Consider the following conversation that an entrepreneur named George is having with himself. “I really would like to accept the invitation to speak to the Downtown Civic Club. But I’m afraid I’ll be too nervous.” Here’s a similar conversation being held in the head of Megan, another budding entrepreneur. “I just don’t know. Maybe I should apply for that fellowship – but the odds aren’t in my favor to win.” And finally, Entrepreneur Don is thinking, “I’m reluctant to invest in a new product line because I’m not convinced it can succeed.”

But there’s more of a story behind each of these “conversations.” For George, he remembers the time several years ago when he made a presentation at a conference and was unprepared – he bombed. Megan recalls once applying for a highly coveted membership in a leadership organization. The process was very competitive and Megan’s application was rejected. Finally, Don previously invested in a product line that failed and he lost a chunk of change on the idea. I’m going to use a descriptive phrase for what is happening that will probably demonstrate a generation gap. What George, Megan and Don are doing is “playing old tapes.” Some younger members of the audience who may not know what “tapes” are. In the old days, some of us “old people” listened to music and dialogue on a thin magnetized strip of plastic film. There were reel-to-reel tapes, eight track tapes and cassette tapes to name a few “tape” formats.

To “play old tapes” is to recall negative experiences from the past and make decisions today based upon those experiences. Playing old tapes generally embraces the notion of lack and limitation. It’s based in fear – often an irrational fear – that shakes our confidence. Over time, these old tapes can have a paralyzing effect for an entrepreneur. Eventually we can fall into a rut with narrow guardrails that are reflective of our past failures. What we really want to do is to venture off this rutted road to nowhere and get back on the freeway that will take us to our dreams.

Getting rid of old tapes is harder than it sounds, but it can (and must) be done. First, we embrace who we are right now. We cannot change the past. There’s not a single person alive today who hasn’t made mistakes. And I think it’s safe to say that all of us have made many. We should use the past for its instructive elements while discarding the emotional aspects of how it felt to be embarrassed, hurt or even shamed. The instructive element for George is to always be sufficiently prepared for future presentations. It’s in his best interest to release the humiliation that he carries for it serves no purpose. In a sense, it’s time to get rid of the rearview mirror.

Once we have determined the instructive elements from our past mistakes and thrown out the emotional rearview mirror, we move on to the next step. What exactly does our success look like? For Megan, she holds an image in her mind’s eye. She sees herself attending a luncheon with hundreds of other people. And at the appointed time, she hears her name being called and watches as she walks to the stage to receive congratulations for winning the fellowship. This visualization is powerful and is a “tape” worth playing over and over. In so doing, we pattern our brain to be receptive to the success that awaits us.

Finally, we celebrate by making new “tapes.” This is accomplished by rejoicing in the small victories that we constantly encounter. We entrepreneurs think big. We set lofty goals and we are always pushing for the big wins. But we tend to overlook the small wins we experience every single day. Entrepreneur Don realizes that his sales are growing at a respectable pace. His team has been 100% intact for four years. His defective product returns are zero. All of these factors are wins and Don should take pride in their achievement. He now sees that he’s on the right track and is perfectly capable of making the right decisions.

We stop the process of playing old tapes by discerning the instructive elements from our past mistakes and eliminating the negative emotions that we remember. Then we repeatedly visualize our success and celebrate the wins we are experiencing on a daily basis. The end result is a completely new set of positive tapes that are free of lack and limitation.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 52 – Ice and Eskimos.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.