Understanding the dreaded ‘Entrepreneurial Curse’

Chances are the dreaded entrepreneurial curse has already found you. You can shake it off without much effort in its early stages, but over time, it finds its way into your thinking and behavior. It makes you question why you do what you do — if all the work and stress are really worth it. As the curse digs in, it saps your energy, motivation, and enthusiasm for those things that once fired you up and made the business game fun. It’s not that you fell out of love with your work and your company; you just have this overwhelming feeling of being “stuck.”

The entrepreneurial curse is not about being “burned out” as much as it is about feelings of being stuck and lost in your own company. Burnout is pretty straightforward and defined as long-term exhaustion and diminished interest. The entrepreneurial curse is much more complex and is characterized by increased levels of frustration, disengagement, avoidance, and periods of “checking out.” Blame is cast in all directions for issues large and small but never where it actually belongs. There is a preoccupation with finding opportunities that are more challenging and worthy of your expertise and efforts. Thoughts of selling and getting out occur more frequently.

Left unchecked, the entrepreneurial curse can render a good leader ineffective and do irreparable damage to a company and its culture. Here are some no-compromise thoughts on how to recognize the signs that you have the curse and what to do to protect yourself from it if you don’t.

  • Time and Routine: Nothing gets your entrepreneurial juices flowing faster than starting a company. Everything about it empowers and consumes you in amazing ways. It’s the simple and glorious act of creation. But fast-forward five, ten, twenty, or more years, and a very different scenario is at play. You and the company have settled into a routine. Feelings of being bored, unchallenged, or just tired of fixing the same problems and handling the same employee issues preoccupy you. Your routine has you stuck — not your company or your work. Breaking that routine is tough and often requires the support of a leadership coach.
  • Worthy Challenges Await You: While you’re dreaming of selling your company, getting out and starting a shiny new career that will feed your passion and fire you up, consider all that needs to be done in your company right now. Aren’t those challenges and projects worthy enough? And here’s the kicker; if you were hired as a consultant to fix those identical problems in another company, you would feel like a kid in a candy store. You’d dive in headfirst, take command, and square things away in a matter of months. The problem is the entrepreneurial curse has convinced you that your current reality sucks. Guess what? It doesn’t. You have the best job in the world because you’re the leader, and you can make change happen. You are powerful, not powerless and stuck. Snap out of it and be the leader your company and your people need.
  • No, Don’t Do It: “I’m going to hire someone to run my company.” Well fearless leader, my recommendation is to flush that idea down the toilet immediately because that’s exactly what the entrepreneurial curse wants you do. First, because you’ve been playing reluctant leader, chances are your company can’t afford to hire someone with the skills to run it. Second, if money is a problem, it won’t be easy to find the right candidate, and it will take time to find one. Third, your company will be in limbo during a transition that could take a year or more to show positive results. Fourth, you may find what seems to be the perfect resume that meets all your requirements; however, you might hire the wrong person who leaves you with a bigger mess to clean up. Fifth, and once again, snap out of it and be the leader your company and your people need.
  • Responsibility and Accountability: It’s your company, your creation, and your dream. Even with all of its warts and blemishes (every company has them), you have created something extraordinary of which you should be proud. Your company provides livelihoods for many families, especially your own. And if you have had to sacrifice your paycheck so your employees could be paid, you simply did what entrepreneurs must do when cash flow isn’t flowing too well. But when all is said and done, you are responsible and accountable to your company. You are its leader. For now, no one can lead it like you can.

If the entrepreneurial curse got you, you are not alone. The past few years have been tough for even the best leaders. The first step to break the spell of the curse is to recognize that you have it. Only then can you be free to build a plan that re-engages you in your company. You will probably need a coach to guide you through the process of getting back in the game and to hold you accountable to your plan. All great leaders have a coach.

If you would like to speak about today’s Monday Morning Wake Up, e-mail me at neil@strategies.com.

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Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.


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