Everyone is a Winner – NOT!

Everyone is a Winner- – – NOT!!!!

Beatrice Wolper

Emens & Wolper Law Firm

Columbus, Ohio

 We are raising a generation of winners.  They win at everything they do.  They win trophies for playing, for showing up, for “trying”, for listening and for being.  No one loses.  Ever.

But, in the long run, we are not doing them any favors.  Unless they learn how to lose, how to face adversity and how to face defeat, they may not be able to face failure.  And…everyone fails, sometime.

But it is natural for a parent try to avoid exposing a child to failure– something that would make his or her child sad.  And yet, as reported in Psychology Today, February 2013, failure gives a child a “solid foundation and a springboard for the trials and tribulations of life.”

For family businesses the inability to face failure is a huge stumbling block to the successful transition from one generation to another.  The more resilient a person is, the more he or she is able to create alternatives to road-blocks.  The more confident a person is, the more he or she can face a defeat, learn from it and move on.  When family business founders make it so that the next generation never has to create alternatives to failure, the next generation is stumped when a situation arises that they can’t fix.  And since they have no skills built in to cope with such a loss…they lack the confidence to figure out a solution on their own.  Consequently, a disastrous domino effect takes place:  the next gen can’t figure out what to do, they panic; the founders step in to quickly fix the situation, the next gen “hears” – “you are incapable of success”….  The result may be that they feel inadequate…and then next gen begins to think about leaving.

So what can the family business do to correct years of… everyone wins!!!  One of the first things is to start being realistic – no matter what the age of the next gen.  Children are not always on a winning team (especially if the team loses.)  Children are not ALWAYS wonderful, fabulous, marvelous, or outstanding!!!!  Sometimes they may need to hear, “that may not have been your hardest try” or “oh, that’s too bad you didn’t have a good score, but you tried and next time you may do better.”

Another extremely important corrective action is to have a conversation about confidence and resilience at a family business council meeting.  Since it may be difficult for a founder to talk about failures, a facilitator may help guide the discussions and can use illustrations to emphasize the importance of accepting some failures along the path to success. Have the founders give examples of failures that they have overcome —discuss a list of disappointments.  Let them share their worst failures, their greatest risks, their greatest achievements —all under an umbrella of overcoming defeat.  Many times the next gen only hears about the achievements, rather than sharing the dumb ideas, the total loss, the embarrassing “great idea” that failed.  It is helpful to know even founders made mistakes.

As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”