You Are Not Your Company!
You spend the majority of your time working and when you’re not actually working you’re thinking about work, worrying about work, dreaming about work. So it makes sense that work becomes part of you, integrated into who you are. In the past companies actively cultivated this experience because it gave them control if you were a “company man”. Family businesses drew no distinction between work and personal life because “we’re family”, and now startups are unwittingly cultivating this fusion of personal and organizational identity. Working with a small group of founders or founding employees 24/7 enhances the feeling: the company and I are one. If the company fails, it means I fail; if the company wins, I win. Investors love this level of commitment and engagement; that you’re willing to give up your life for the company. They often think that’s the formula for success.
I beg to differ. You are not your company. You work at a company, lead a company, even founded a company, but you are not the company, and you don’t want to be. This loss of separation and perspective causes innumerable problems. Personal, family, and interpersonal issues get embedded in the business causing poor decision making, employee conflict, executive team dysfunction, drama, personal agendas, power struggles, lack of clarity, limited strategic thinking, fear of failure, and emotional upset; all leading to an incredible lack of productivity and paucity of positive results.
The loss of perspective is the most troubling impact of collapsing yourself into your company. Try this brief activity: Take your palm and place on the tip of your nose. What do you see? It is hard to see your whole hand, its blurry. Details aren’t visible, and it’s tough to see beyond your hand. When you are your company, this is your view. Now, move your hand back one foot. What do you see now? Not only can you see your whole hand, you can see all the details, plus the background. If your hand is your company, clearly you can make a better decision with this view.
So as Rumi says, “Do not collapse yourself into the other, let the winds of heaven blow between you.” Take a step back, and gain clarity and perspective: You are not your company. It doesn’t serve the company itself (or anyone really, family included) when you lose your individual identity. So take a step back, gain perspective and work FOR your company instead of becoming it.