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We want a better workplace.

We don’t know about you, but we are disturbed by all the reports on the sad state of the workplace that have been in the news for some time now. The numbers really are alarming. Over 70% of the workforce is disengaged and, of this group, 30% are actively hostile to their employers. A full 80% of young adults in their 20s want to change careers and 64% of those in their 30s desire the same thing. It would be easy to blame corporate America, but the reality is much more complicated.

People’s hardwiring is key.

Part of the reason so many people are unhappy at work and in their chosen careers is because they have chosen fields and/or jobs that do not match their innate capacity, their hardwiring. It is only recently that we have been able to accurately identify and measure those unique abilities. That innovation has dramatically improved our ability to find the right career for the right person.

It is important to find good fit between people and their job responsibilities. Getting this right benefits both employee and employer. Turnover, burnout, and stress go down. Job satisfaction, morale, engagement and productivity go up. Happy workers make life better all around!

Due to increasing demand (because so many people are unhappy with their work!), we are launching a new service.

Dr. Elizabeth Lin & Our Career Advising Service

Liz Lin professional headshotWe are excited to announce a career advising service at Marigold and the appointment of Dr. Elizabeth Lin as an Associate and Career Specialist. Based in the Bay Area, Liz is a warm, fun, smart, thoughtful, kind, generous, loyal person. Liz has a doctorate in psychology and brings her own experience, broad knowledge of people and understanding of the issues related to finding the right career for people in our changing culture.

Liz writes an engaging blog on topics of identity, family and culture at She will also be posting for us on our blog Marigold Matters. Read more about Liz here.

Know anyone entering the employment market or seeking a career change? Give Liz a buzz at 248.842.3178 or email her.

Here are a couple of her favorite quotes, both by William Deresiewicz. We love them too!

“Moral imagination means the capacity to envision new ways to live your life. It means not just going with the flow. It means not just ‘getting into’ whatever school or program comes next. It means figuring out what you want for yourself, not what your parents want, or your peers want, or your school wants, or your society wants. Originating your own values.  Thinking your way toward your own definition of success. Not simply accepting the life that you’ve been handed.  Not simply accepting the choices you’ve been handed.”

“What are you going to do with that? By ‘do’ I don’t mean a job, and by ‘that’ I don’t mean your major. We are more than our jobs, and education is more than a major. By ‘What are you going to do,’ I mean, what kind of life are you going to lead?”

— William Deresiewicz


From success …

It used to be that success was a worthy goal. We wanted to be seen as successful, to have others say at the end of our lives that we had lived a successful life. Those days seem to be coming to an end. Much is being made about the need for a shift from success to significance as an indicator of a quality person and a good life. Those of the faith community, and now others as well, have become suspicious of the term success due to its association with an overemphasis upon status, power, money and certain careers. The recent Wall Street and political debacles haven’t helped much. Significance is being considered in its place. So now we should want to be significant people and live significant lives. Are you buying it?

A quick linguistics refresher: Linguists will remind us of the difference between denotation and connotation. Denotation is what a term literally or explicitly means. Connotation refers to the cultural or symbolic meaning with which a term is associated. The symbolism of success has become tainted by its current associations with greed, abuse of power, and selfishness. Significance, on the other hand, feels somehow more pristine—and important. The struggle implied in the shift from success to significance is all about connotation. It is a dialogue about the values and behaviors of people and our broader culture. The conversation around these issues is as old as human civilization. For example, Ecclesiastes suggests that riches, fame and power are all vanity, a chasing after the wind. Plato argues that the measure of a man is to be found in his use of power. Does he wield it well or abuse it? Dickens’ lead character in A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge (so also Forbes profile for Scrooge McDuck), is likewise challenged: Can a person who profits from the misfortune of others really be considered a successful person? Can such a career truly be considered successful?

The popularity of fame, fortune and power without substance is seen daily on reality TV, Wall Street and in politics. These reveal a cultural definition of success that is unhealthy and divorced from the values for which Plato and others since have argued. For all the progress humanity has made in technology, medicine, transportation infrastructure, government, business, and quality of life, we seem to be unable to transcend our dark side of greed, pride, and other such ailments.

to significance …

Significance seems poised to replace success as the new marker of a good life or person, at least in some circles of influence. I confess that I’m not entirely sure what the connotative difference is between success and significance. And how long will it be until significance becomes sullied and a search for a new term begins? The issue reminds me instead that language, like knowledge, is not enough on its own. We cannot but help to return to the reality of human nature and the problem of change so eloquently expressed in the novels by the likes of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and Dickens.

As humans we are prone to self-distortion. We have this amazing capacity to not see ourselves clearly. We can change our language, but in the end it can become a linguistic game. Jargon functions this way. It can hide reality. A language shift does not necessarily change a person’s character, attitudes, values and behaviors. We see this at work with other terms like humility, servant leadership, etc. We may label ourselves as such, but our way of being in the world betrays our language.

… to substance?

In a flash of insight, I thought that perhaps we might use the term substance to replace success or significance. From success to substance has a nice ring to it. I am a substantial person. She is living a substantial life—filled with meaning, purpose, integrity, authenticity.

But I was deflated when an advertisement for a luxury car company lumped all three terms together—success, significance and substance—and they included meaning and purpose for good measure. So perhaps I’m too late with this suggestion. The words remain, but don’t be fooled by them. And we need to remind ourselves to not hide behind them. Whether you’re living a life of success, significance or substance—or all three!—it’s the connotation that counts. How you live out those words in your cultural context is the key.

So whatever term you use to describe a good life, make sure that life is filled with these attributes—or positive connotations—of success/significance/substance: quality of character, authenticity (being the same person inside and out), a view of the self that is balanced with the reality of how fortunate they are in life’s lottery (for people of faith, read God’s goodness for lottery), humility, generosity and gratitude, and the ability to relate across all spectrums of social class with grace and empathy. Such people treat their fellow travelers on life’s journey with goodness, kindness and care. They are self-less and seek the good of the other while at the same time practicing self-care and personal development. Their lives are a tough balance that is the result of broad life experience and exposure both to success and failure, adversity and triumph.

To become this sort of person and live this kind of life is to be successful, significant and a person of substance. This will in turn shape how we use our finances, power and status.

Or Why is Change So Hard? (Part 2)

The challenge of adaptive change: it’s difficult, whether you’re an individual, a family unit or a larger organization. But the outstanding results of working through the process far outshine the momentary—though real—discomfort.

Why is it that leaders have advisory councils? Three reasons immediately come to mind:

  1. Expertise.
  2. No matter how accomplished an individual may be, they don’t have all that is necessary for them to govern well.

  3. Time.
  4. No leader has time to do all the tasks of leadership themselves. Advisors help expand time by increasing the person hours available.

  5. Objectivity.
  6. Every leader is the victim of his or her own perspective. They need others to offer challenges and diverse points of view.

The same holds true for others desiring real change, whether an individual or larger group. Embracing change can be difficult on our own. We often lack the expertise, time, and objectivity to get us from point A to point B.

Our Marigold process: ARPE

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to have a trusted advisor walk you through a change process? Someone who will tell you the truth, expand your knowledge, and catch your mistakes? Our consulting service at Marigold Associates provides trusted advisors for individuals and companies going through adaptive change.

Our process enables our clients to achieve far-reaching, lasting results beyond anything they could achieve on their own. We start with our intensive assessment followed by custom retrofitting and optimized performance, which in turn allows for well-devised expansion. Here is an example of how we address such complex issues.

Family businesses are often prime candidates for adaptive change. The familial and the business relationships become so complex that it’s often hard to see the solutions. Let’s take the imaginary (but typical) Hobbitson Building Products family-owned business as an example. Paul, the founder and owner is nearing retirement at 72 years old. He has recently been diagnosed with cancer and, although he will survive, it is a reminder that it is time to put his affairs in order. His wife Hope wants him to slow down. Their two sons Bill & Greg are active in management in the business. Daughter Trudy is an architect with her own practice. Paul has no succession plan for either ownership or management of his business. He is a self-made man who has gloried in his role in the business, community and family. And as you might expect, Paul is not the most self-aware person on the planet. They hire Marigold Associates to help them work through the change process.

  1. Assessment: Observing the Critical Issues
  2. In our assessment process we do a deep dive into the systems that are relevant to the problem. In the case of the Hobbitsons, we need to know a lot about their family and work relationships. We assess the health of their communication and boundaries. We take a good look at their individual and family history, personality and leadership styles, talent for management, values, and desires for their share of ownership and management of the family business. We learn that there are some unspoken conflicts. Bill & Greg have “modern” ideas for running the company. Paul has been unwilling to let them have a go at it. Trudy feels excluded from the business. We learn that all three of the second generation have talents that could be put to use in growing the business.

  3. Retrofitting: Shoring up the Weakness
  4. Families and businesses are rarely designed and constructed with a unified vision; rather, they are organic, constructed over a long period of time and modified as the individuals who comprise them live and grow. Some of the ways in which they have operated in the past continue even though they are no longer efficient or productive. In order to move into the future, it is often necessary to “repair” the foundational systems. This can prevent cracks from becoming deep fissures as pressure is added. We use the term retrofit to capture this phase of the work.

    For the Hobbitsons, it would be a grave mistake to move forward with a succession plan before we have repaired their ability to see each other clearly, resolve conflict in a healthy manner, and define boundaries between family and business. In the retrofit phase we help the family see their differences as a strength rather than a weakness. They learn about their own and others’ talents and are able to see each other as the talented adult professionals they have become. We work with Paul to reshape his identity and move beyond the business as the sole definition of him as a person. After they are clearly articulated, their family values become a unifying platform for them. They learn a healthy way to resolve conflicts so they can give up their old habits of avoidance.

  5. Performance: Adding strength to the foundations
  6. Once the weaknesses in the system are resolved, the family is now able to build on their strengths. New structures and processes can improve performance. The Hobbitsons are ready to design a succession plan utilizing the knowledge they have gained about the strengths of the individual family members. Bill and Greg are equipped and supported in their roles as CEO and COO. Paul relaxes as Chair, begins to show more of an interest in the things his wife Hope has longed to do together with him. Trudy establishes a profitable new division of architecturally focused “green products.” The ownership plan that passes the assets to the second and third generations is developed. A key element is the establishment of a board of directors that includes both family and non-family members.

  7. Expansion: New growth
  8. Once the new culture, values, practices and systems become more stable, it is 
time to think about growth into new areas, expansion for family members and business. The strategy Bill and Greg developed for the business has been positively modified with Trudy’s input. They are now able to grow the business without the conflict and alienation they had all felt at different times. Perhaps most importantly, their strategy and planning are tied to a more objective measurement of family members’ capacity. They are focused upon optimizing the talent they have and ensure match of resources and mission.

    The Hobbitsons have regular family meetings and are focusing on their parenting styles and the continued shaping of emerging generations. Executive coaching is strengthening their management. Their employees are benefiting from a healthier workplace. They are learning to be wise in their use of their increasing wealth and are becoming more integrated in their understanding and practices in business, ownership and family matters. They continue to grow and move forward as both individuals and as an extended family unit.

Lasting adaptive change requires engaging the entire ecosystem of a life. Key issues of capacity, belief system, values, character, communication, and wealth are continually weaving together across the domains of personal, business and family systems. The Marigold process addresses the complexity of life in order to make the changes that allow our clients not only to survive but flourish!

Both Linda Wagener and Richard Beaton contributed to this post.

CC Photo by cbanck

Meeting with your financial advisor?

Here are some key decisions to make before you do.

The financial industry and wealth advisors are always looking for that competitive edge that will gain your attention, trust and assets. Many now claim to be interested in your life and lifestyle, even professing to augment their financial advice with life advice. I read one brochure that defined their work as “wealth and life builders.” But when I explored their web site, it was difficult to locate anyone on their staff with expertise on the life side, and their products and approach were purely financial. This is a pity, because they really do belong together.

Because financial advisors’ expertise is only with managing money, it is incumbent upon you to do your homework prior to meeting with them. Before you plunk down your hard earned assets, you need to think and talk through a number of issues. The more care you take at the front end, the better the impact on the quality of your life and on those around you. Essential to this task is bringing your financial interests into contact with the broader concerns you have about life, your beliefs, values, and vision of who you want to become.

Here are a few of the many items we recommend that you sort out first. Remember, to move beyond a shallow discussion, you will need expertise and an outside voice. Find someone who knows the area of life issues well.

1. Do you have a plan to build your human capital alongside your financial capital?

We suggest that you think hard about how you can grow and develop as a person. Set aside some of your funds to support your growth and development. I’m always amazed that people will spend a pile for a first class international plane ticket and exclusive retreats and then become cheap when it involves their own development as a person. Vigilance in this area (prevention) will cost much less than problems later.

2. What will the impact of increased wealth be upon your relationships?

Wealth is not neutral; it will have an impact upon you, and your relationships with your spouse, family, children, friends, and community. Money amplifies issues. The better your relational skills, the more successful you will be in not allowing your wealth to damage important relationships. Do you have appropriate boundaries? Do you communicate well? Do you have a safe, confidential relationship to process the difficult issues that will emerge?

3. Are you parenting in a healthy manner?

Parenting is a challenge for anyone, and wealth only adds to the complexity. Sadly, the phrase “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations” is kept alive because this is often what happens in families. And more often than not, the rise and fall of wealthy families is more the result of poorly handled human issues than poor financial management.

How you choose to use your resources with your children will shape them in profound ways. There is a direct link between financial planning and parenting. For example, the tendency to use resources to protect children from challenge, adversity and pain is all too strong. If you hope that your children will become creators of wealth and fully functioning persons rather than mere consumers, they need to be stretched and permitted space to fail. Similarly, the amount left to them in your estate will impact them. How well do you know your children and your family system? Will the inheritance be a good thing? Will it damage them?

4. What is the purpose of money?

What is your end game? Is it just social status? Success? A way of keeping score? As important as growing your money is, how much do you need and what kind of life will you want to have? Some think that no debt, $2 million in investments, along with a house and car are adequate. The rest should be used for philanthropic causes. What is your philosophy? An old friend used to ask the reverse question: How much do I get to keep? What do you need to live a meaningful, purposeful life?

5. Do you have a larger view of capital than just financial capital?

Is money how you keep score, or are you also keeping track of your human, social, spiritual, intellectual capital? How are you developing the various forms of capital in your family? In your business? Money isn’t everything. You will find that happiness and security are more closely tied to factors beyond your finances. It’s still true that money can’t buy love.

6. What will you work at?

Work has become a bad word in our society, in part because many of us are doing things that don’t tap into our innate capacity. Do you have something that captures your interest, allows you to engage and explore your capacity? We all need to continue to develop our human capital—we need something to strain against, otherwise we can become idle and bored. The challenge with increased financial capital is that we can remove the opportunity for growth and development from the lives of those close to us and without realizing it and do damage to ourselves.

7. Are your values and beliefs becoming more coherent and defined?

Your beliefs and values will shape how you think about and use your resources. We all have beliefs and values that we talk about and think we live out and another set that we actually practice in everyday life. Authenticity is when the implicit (what we think our values are) aligns with the explicit (how we really live). Sorting these out with a person outside of your normal relationships will allow you to continue to grow into the person you want to become.

Wealth amplifies everything. As you pursue your big orange number or walk the green line, remember that the more carefully you have developed the human capital around you and implemented supporting systems and processes, the more it will lessen the negative impacts and increase the positive effects of wealth upon yourself and those you love. Think of building wealth and a good life in tandem: one supports the other.

Recently we discussed the difference between technical and adaptive change. We identified that one of the reasons our attempts to change fail is because we apply technical solutions to adaptive change problems. We prefer technical solutions because they don’t demand as much from us. Adaptive change requires sustained energy, a willingness to make mistakes and lots of practice. It can even cause some pain and loss.

For all these reasons, we usually need to draw on resources outside of ourselves in order to engage in adaptive change. Have you noticed how we become more like our closest friends over time? If I can only give people one piece of advice about how to make a change, I’ll recommend that they surround themselves with people who embody that change. If you want to do a better job of managing stress, hang out with people who are mellow. Chances are pretty good that you’ll get better at it too.

Join the Crowd

“Do you see yonder cloud that is almost in the shape of a camel?” asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet of Polonius. “Tis like a camel indeed,” replies Polonius. “Methinks it is like a weasel,” says Hamlet a moment later. “It is backed like a weasel,” acknowledges Polonius. “Or like a whale?” wonders Hamlet. “Very like a whale,” agrees Polonius.

So, why does Polonius so readily agree every time Hamlet changes his mind?

The issue of conformity has often been addressed within Western culture as a dysfunction of behavior. Going along with the crowd has been seen as a weakness. Yet it is fundamentally within our human nature to wish to be part of a larger community. Other cultures don’t see this as a weakness but as a natural and respected aspect of our humanity. They see that there are good reasons to temper our individual impulses with the wisdom of the larger group. So why not use this to our advantage? Why not align ourselves with a healthy community that is engaged in living a life that we admire?

Why is community so helpful?

One reason is that community provides a mirror of sorts. We have a hard time seeing ourselves clearly. We overemphasize both our failings and our successes. Another is that it provides encouragement and accountability while we risk something new. We stick with the familiar. The unknown is almost always more anxiety provoking than what we know; even if what we know is slowly killing us. Mistakes make us uncomfortable. Doing something new involves being a beginner again. Finally, community gives us support when we hit the skids. Change almost always includes loss and we don’t like loss; even the loss of something/someone who is hurting us.

Trusted friends and advisors, a community of practice or professional guidance are often good supports. They help us see more clearly, offer encouragement, hold us accountable, and celebrate our success.

Does your community support or undermine your desire for change?

Tomorrow I will be a new me! I will no longer be the way I am now. I will do things differently from now on! And yet…

Have you ever been determined to change after listening to a great speaker—only to find your motivation fading after you return to real life? During the presentation we get an infusion of exhilaration. We have a new perspective on our life. In the moment, we actually feel transformed. We are sure we’re going to do it differently from this point on. But … no, it doesn’t happen. We eventually go back to our old routines, trying to remember what it was that got us so excited.

I have had this happen to me on too many occasions. So often, in fact, that I was determined to find another model for human transformation— for myself and for our consulting practice. I am convinced by my own experience, as well as the numerous reports of others, that real change rarely occurs as a result of a single educational experience or workshop, even one that is inspiring and entertaining. We humans usually need more than a new strategy or skill. We need to be confronted by the hidden obstacles to change. We need to be immersed in a community that supports the change. We need to be willing to dig in deep to sustain the demand that change places on us.

Adaptive vs. Technical Change

Not all problems that prompt us to change are the same. A technical problem is one that can be solved by applying a familiar strategy. For example, you might solve the problem of an extra 10 pounds with a new diet or by stepping up your exercise program. If the conditions which caused your extra weight involve simply consuming too many calories or a low activity level, this will work.

An adaptive problem requires you to change your values, behaviors and attitudes. If your extra 10 pounds are due to the fact that you are overeating because your stress is too high, changing your diet or increasing exercise alone is likely to fail. Stress is the real problem, and that must be addressed for lasting change to occur. We are often frustrated in our ability to change because we apply technical solutions to adaptive problems.

As a seasoned psychotherapist, I know how hard it is for people to change. Even when people are in pain and their lives in ruin, it takes more than education and motivation to go through significant change. We think we can change our deeply ingrained habits of self-care, communication, interpersonal relating, or learning with a technical solution. We prefer technical solutions because they don’t demand as much from us. Adaptive change usually involves some pain, loss, sustained energy, willingness to make mistakes and lots of practice.

What do you need in order to change?

Think of a time in your life when you were successful at making the changes you desired and making them stick. What were the contributing factors? Now, think of a time when you failed to make a much needed change. Why do you think it failed? Does it help you to think about the underlying problems as being either technical or adaptive? Perhaps the failures resulted because you needed something more than a new strategy—more than, for example, a diet, exercise program, or 5-step solution. Perhaps you needed adaptive change.

In Part 2, we will look more closely at how we at Marigold Associates work with our clients to produce lasting change.

What is the foremost thing you would like to change in your life? Is it something that can be solved by technical change alone, or is an adaptive change required? Please comment below.

CC Photo by cbanck

Life coaching is becoming a big industry. There are now over 13,000 life coaches in the USA and this doesn’t include the numerous therapists who function in this capacity. Annual revenues are approximately $1.5 billion.

A recent blog by Chris Guillebeau on the topic of advice caught my eye. Challenging the need for life advice, Chris raises some great questions and expresses well the mood of our age. We all want to break out, live large, adventurous lives. We are tired of people telling us what to do and how to live our lives. The spontaneous “hell yeah, let’s do it!” moments can be far too few. And they certainly won’t happen if we are always suppressing what we would like to do because we want to please broader society, parents and institutions. It is an amazing world—get out there and experience it!

So why would a person need, or even want, advice about life from someone else? Why not just be a rugged individual, make your own decisions, “do what seems best to you at the time,” learn the hard lessons through mistakes and move on?

You might have noticed that we have taken a different stance. In fact, we created our business Marigold Associates to offer informed, wise advice for individuals, families and organizations. This is the core of what we are all about. Why have we chosen this route? Why do we think good life advice is invaluable and can contribute enormously to better living, families, and work?

It’s not because we like telling others what to do. (We don’t like being told ourselves, so why should you?)  It’s not because we think we have life “all figured out.”  Just like everyone else, we are continuing to learn, grow and develop in our own lives. We can tell you that we have seen the powerful effects that good, well timed, thoughtful life advice can have on people’s lives, our own included. We have come to value it so highly that we created our business around it.

Here are a few thoughts about how we think about life advice and why it’s important. A fuller exploration will appear in our soon-to-be-released book on this topic.  (Watch for it!)  In the meantime, we offer these thoughts on why we need good advisors:

1.  We are complex beings.

I recently took my French Bulldog puppy to the vet for her shots. The vet commented that she loves to work with animals because people are far too complex. She’s right—people are amazingly complex. One aspect of this complexity is that humans are divided within themselves; they have the capacity for both good and self-destructive things. We find this understanding within ancient wisdom, religious traditions, Freud, biographers. There are forces within us that drive us to do and behave in certain ways that we cannot always understand. Self-awareness comes from understanding these forces and the reasons for them, and then living differently as a result. The image of people as a blank slate, who are rational beings in full control of their lives and destiny is a modern white lie. We are not so rational or independent as we think.

2.  Subjectivity blurs objectivity.

In the best of all worlds, it would be great if we were purely objective and rational beings, with all knowledge and understanding of our world. Then we could make decisions and act in ways that are sustainable and healthy. But the reality is that we are all limited in our point of view, which has been shaped by our culture, friends, socio-economic circumstances, education, biology/brain functioning, family, society. And we are prone to self-delusion. We all need advice to counteract the powerful limitations of our own viewpoint.

3.  It’s difficult for a part to see the whole.

We are all part of larger systems that shape our character, personality and behaviors. These can include family, friends, loves, education, cities, states and nations. We are the product of these larger forces and they continue to exert pressures upon us. An example of this is the achievement orientation of so many Millennials. Their parents raised them with the understanding that the goal of life is to get A’s, so they learned do this well. They jumped through all the hoops, got the A’s and the high-powered career. One day they wake up, 5 years into a corporate law position, and realize they hate what they do and who they are becoming. What is worse is that they don’t feel like they ever made a decision to become an attorney, it just happened. But now what do they do?

4.  Reaching the goal is a challenge.

Remember the goal is to live a good life and become fully alive, your best self. This is more difficult than it seems.

5.  Why reinvent the wheel?

If the goal is living a great life and becoming our best self, the question is whether there is anything that can be learned so that we do not make the mistakes common to other people. You have user manuals for your car, cell phone, stereo; why not seek advice about living a good life? There is so much wasted potential and opportunity with this view of the world.

6.  Experience is of limited value.

I realize saying this is anathema in our times when experience is presented as pretty much the answer to everything. But honestly, for experience to be of value it must also be reflected upon and interpreted. Because experience derives from life situations that are specific to a place (culture) and time, we cannot necessarily draw generalized conclusions from it. We can tend to project our view of the world or our experience on to people when it really may not be relevant or useful.

7.  There is a distinction between information and wisdom.

There is a difference between these two and we need both. Information and knowledge are important elements but, like experience, they are of limited value. Wisdom is the essential ingredient that is often missing. Wisdom provides the perspective of the way the world works that allows knowledge/information its power.

While we think life advice does have a role in helping us live better lives, the person you receive the advice from is equally as important. I think we’ve all probably been given advice that we wish we’d never taken. Although no one is perfect, we think there are certain guidelines that can help us choose the right advisor.

Here is a list of qualifications we look for in our advisors at Marigold and in those advisors we ourselves seek for advice:

1.  A very good education with advanced degrees.

We look for quality education and professional standards for our accountants, attorneys, physicians, so why not this area as well? I might know how to balance my checkbook, but I’m pretty sure Microsoft won’t hire me as their CFO based upon that experience. A quality education means that you have been immersed in a knowledge base and various theoretical models that create abilities in critical thinking, assessment, and the foundation for interpreting experience. What is sadly missing in many science and business degree programs are the humanities. Courses in philosophy, theology, psychology are all wonderfully beneficial since they are the disciplines that explore the human person most. Look for someone who has a quality degree that can think critically and has at their disposal various theoretical grids through which to interpret your life. But education alone is not the sole criterion that makes someone’s advice worth listening to. A quality education merely provides a solid place to begin.

2.  Broad life experience.

Look for someone who has experienced diverse cultures, successes and failures, someone who has not had everything go their way and knows the role that pain and adversity play in shaping people. We also like our people to have lived internationally, since it can develop the capacity to see the strengths and weaknesses of the prevailing culture that we live in and struggle against.

3.  Ability to see systems.

This something that is rarely mentioned, but is essential. All of us are shaped and constrained by these larger systems. Few people understand them and fewer still have the capacity to really see them functioning and their impact upon you. Most people and organizations lack this distinct perspective.

4.  Comfortable taking their own medicine.

Have they done their own work and are they self-aware? Look for someone who is comfortable in their own skin, is self-reflective, authentic, open, aware. They can then listen to you and hear you.

5.  Superb listening skills.

Listening is a lost art that is increasingly under threat as narcissism rises within our culture. To listen well we need to have a deep knowledge of the area being discussed, understand the world, have a breadth of knowledge and experience and an ability to see the systems in your life. They should be able to see the deep structures in your life and what makes you tick.

6.  An appropriate model and process.

Do they have a way of working that matches the complexity of your life? Tools and questionnaires can be very effective, but they still need to be employed within your story, personality, and biology.

7.  Maintains confidentiality.

Privacy and confidentiality are an absolute non-negotiable. Psychologists and lawyers understand this and have developed a code of ethics around it. For an advisor to be effective, they will need to know you intimately and deeply. The better they know you, your history, family, belief systems, biology, notions of work and contribution, the better advice they can provide. To open yourself up in this way without an agreement about confidentiality is unwise.

8.  A perspective different from yours.

Finally, seek out someone who is outside your traditional relationships. Family and friends mean well and do have much to offer; however, they too can impose a view of you that may be limiting. They will offer you advice based upon their own experience of you, which is valuable, but it remains just another limited viewpoint that may or many not be valuable. Seek out a professional to help you acquire a broader perspective of yourself.

You only have one wild and precious life. The decisions we all make shape our present and futures. A good advisor will not make the decisions for you, rather they will help you to know yourself better, understand the world you live in and to see the systemic forces that are exerting pressure upon you. Good decisions for your life and work are based upon the broader knowledge and wisdom that is gained. And you will be on your way to that epic life that matches who you really are. Good luck!

And please let us know how it goes.

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Are you thinking about selling your company?

If so, did you know that 50 – 65% of mergers and acquisitions ultimately fail according to research? M & A firms and your attorneys will move you quickly to preparing your business for sale. If you want the deal to succeed and the sale to contribute positively to your well-being, there are some things you should consider well before you get caught up in the money trail.

Attention to the human factors will increase the possibility that the end result is a success. Being thoughtful about these “soft” issues will likely reduce the unexpected obstacles you will encounter as the deal comes together. Addressing them early in the process can

  • improve the chances the sale will go through,
  • save time and money invested into putting a deal together that may never succeed,
  • and flag areas that will need to be worked through as the deal approaches the close.

Many of these issues seem relatively minor in the early stages. However, they become amplified as the final signing day approaches. Early identification and engagement will increase peace of mind, help to maintain your relationships and ensure that the sale will have a positive impact upon your broader environment.

Here is our list of some important dimensions that we at Marigold measure when involved in a client’s M & A process. How do you score on these points?

  1. Have you thought about the impact of the sale upon you and your ownership group?

    The immeasurable investments you have each contributed in terms of hard work, time, energy, emotion, passion, and intellectual capital can give rise to powerful emotional—and even irrational—commitments. In some ways, cashing out is meant to be the reward for all the work. But there are a host of personal and professional issues that you need to think about that accompany a sale. Your identity, daily routine, sense of meaning and purpose, relationships, role in the community, level of stimulation, etc., will all be affected by this change. A business work environment provides structure, a place where we can engage important parts of ourselves. It is all consuming and demanding, but also very fulfilling. Have you thought this through carefully?

  2. Why are you selling?

    A good answer to this seemingly simple question is the most important element. Are you tired? Burned out? In need of the money? Ready for something new? Want a more balanced life

  3. Have you really thought about your next stage?

    Once you sell, issues in your life that have been left unattended for so many years may come front and center. Your identity will begin to go through a shift that could catch you unawares. Do you have a structure in place to help you process this? Type-A entrepreneurs typically struggle with this process since their role in their business has become their primary identity. This in turn has become the way they are known in broader society and even within their family.

  4. Do you and your partners have clarity about the sale?

    What do your stakeholders really think? Do they honestly agree that a sale is the best direction for the company? These are important questions that demand transparency, honesty, and a communication process that, if it isn’t in place, should be. If your communication process is dysfunctional, it is likely to get worse during a period of transition, not better.

  5. Are there past injustices amongst partners/stakeholders? Is the deal fair?

    A stumbling block to a sale is when one or more partners feel like they have not been adequately compensated for past involvement.

  6. Are you prepared for the infusion of cash and for its impact upon you and your family?

    A sudden increase in wealth is a challenge to even the most well prepared. Wealth tends to amplify everything, both strengths and problems. Do you have the systems, relationships, and life philosophy about money and materialism in place to help you and your children survive the cash infusion?

  7. Have you thought about succession within your family or among your partners?

    The sale of a company is not just about you and your desires. Are there others within the ownership group or family who have the capacity and interest in taking the company over? Capacity and level of interest are important elements that need to be adequately measured and assessed. This isn’t something that should be left to your instincts.

  8. What will become of your employees?

  9. Are you concerned about who buys the company? Will they maintain your culture and pursuit of excellence?

    A common problem for mergers has been the cultural integration of the two businesses. There are tools to help. But for privately held firms, there is so much personal investment in the culture of the firm and its pursuit of excellence that many struggle with giving it over to someone else. This is especially so if your name has been on the business. It is like giving away part of yourself. How will you deal with this?

  10. Do you trust your partners and other stakeholders to protect your interests in the sale?

    Do you have a quality decision-making process in place for the stresses that will inevitably arise throughout the sale? Are your relationships healthy enough to survive? Trust and open communication are the key elements to making this work. A third party who can protect your confidentiality may help you, since it is far easier to discuss these private matters with an outsider. Many times the hard business discussions fall into well worn ruts, and conversations inevitably tend to get stuck there rather than dealing candidly with the important matters involved. This is one stage where you really need to be honest, listen, and hear what your partner(s) is saying.

How well prepared are you for a sale? What else would you add to our list?

CC Photo by Diana Parkhouse


Fooled by jargon?

How can you tell when you are being jargonized? Jargon is technical language used within specific disciplines that becomes overused and then virtually meaningless. This is particularly true in the pragmatic business world of managers and executives looking for that next technical fix that is the game changer used by change agents seeking impact. Jargon can disguise a lack of knowledge and, more importantly, often defends against real change. Because the term or phrase is used without a thoughtful understanding of the concept that lies behind it, it allows for the same pattern of behavior or character to persist. The language becomes a shell game, where the prize is hidden from all.

We see this also in advertising. Like most of you, I enjoy observing how advertisers play with language, culture and felt need, creating a web of associations in a not so subtle attempt to create dissatisfaction and shape our consumption. As we all seek greater meaning and purpose in our lives, advertisers are capitalizing on this trend in the ads for banks, investment firms, luxury brands, even toothpaste. We, the potential customers, are presented as successful and significant and therefore ought to treat ourselves well. It is odd, though, to hear terms such as “successful,” “significant,” “meaning” and “purpose” and “substance” applied to someone who buys a luxury car or uses the services of an investment firm. Do you really think that these industries have the expertise to offer advice about what goes into building a good life—no matter how much they try to convince us otherwise?

Find Meaning beyond the Jargon

Jargon seems cool, can match a trend or fad, but ultimately isn’t satisfying. Next time you hear it, try what I do:

  1. Ask the person what they mean.
  2. Make them explain it in real terms that are understandable.
  3. Probe and quiz to see if there is depth to what they are saying.

I have found that in matters of business, politics and religion, we are well served to push beyond the BS. And who knows, your conversation partner might surprise you and actually know what they are talking about.

What jargon have you heard recently? How did you respond?

A Pile of Money

How much does money matter to you?


You have probably seen that TV commercial with the sensible people walking around with big 7-figure orange numbers under their arms. They “know” what their number is—it is a specific amount of money they need to have saved by the time they retire to ensure they can live the way they want once their work days are over. The losers are those who have no idea what their number should be. They don’t have a plan. They just “throw money at it and hope something good will happen.” None of us wants to be that loser. But I confess that commercial makes me anxious because I am that loser. How about you? Do you know your number?

I agree that we should be responsible with our financial future.  We should be wise about our impending loss of health, competence, and energy so that we can afford reasonable care and maintain quality of life during the final phase of life.

What other values are important to you?


I have found, however, that other values beyond financial security have dominated my life plan. My time, for example, is a critical and limited resource. I don’t want to have to work more than 40 hours a week in order to reach my number.  I have been determined to spend my evenings, weekends, and generous vacation time with my family and friends. I took 10 years off of full-time work while my children were small because I wanted to be home with them. My number has to be something I can reach within that lifestyle.

Our family values for quality education and life experiences for our children have also been primary determiners of what I do with my money.  Growing my number has to take a back seat while spending on tuition and rich life experiences including international travel as a family. These things are more important to me than retiring to two homes and daily rounds of golf.

We recently met with a young couple who are on a very fast career track, making as much money as possible, as fast as possible. They are waking up to the idea that they don’t want to work so hard anymore. They think they have enough stuff already. A bigger home looks like a bigger headache. Two homes seem ridiculous in this day and age. They want to have children and quality family time. They engaged us in order to have a conversation that starts with their quality of life and ends with their financial planning rather than vice versa. Smart kids!

I’m curious about how you are thinking about your number. What role does financial planning have in shaping your future?  What values other than financial comfort and security influence your life plan? What is your starting point?

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