Lessons from the Delivery Room

My apologies. I’d planned to write about why entrepreneurs do what they do this week. But it’s surprisingly complex. I’m still researching. So instead, something rather more fundamental: the simple matter of giving birth.

Or perhaps not so straightforward – because it’s the ‘simple matter’ of men giving birth. And if you haven’t already seen it – and as it’s Friday – watch what’s possibly the funniest video on YouTube.

I saw the video two weeks ago. We were having dinner at a friend’s house and his daughter – who’s determined to be a doctor – had it on her iPad. I thought it was really funny. My wife – having experienced the real thing – poked me in the stomach and suggested it didn’t go nearly far enough.

But playing the video sparked a really awkward moment. Because one of the other guests – a very successful entrepreneur – just didn’t get it. He simply couldn’t see the funny side of it or how a woman might view the video.

And he said as much to our friend’s daughter. It was one of those moments when the atmosphere round a dinner table suddenly turns icy. And there’s a very awkward silence while everyone desperately tries to change the subject.

Dav and I talked about that moment on the way home. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Because it crystallized a debate I’m always having with myself. Does the successful entrepreneur – the archetypal self-made man – need the ability to see someone else’s point of view? Or is it a hindrance to him? Is his one dimensional, ‘flat-earth’ view of the world a key part of what’s made him successful?

We’re constantly told to ‘think win-win.’ That the route to success is to understand what someone else wants or needs and to help them achieve or attain it.

But is that right? Because I can give you a very long list of successful people with a total inability to see someone else’s point of view – from the top sportsmen to many of the businessmen held up as examples to us all.

The obvious answer is that there’s more than one route to the summit. I’m just fascinated at how different they can be: that the qualities one successful entrepreneur has in abundance another completely lacks. Entrepreneurs seem to me to split into two camps – one who is determined to accomplish a task and sees people as a means to achieve it. The other who builds a team, and ultimately accomplishes the task.

I see both types round the TAB boardroom tables – and I enjoy the challenge of working with both of them.

Maybe the key for the entrepreneur is to remember the words of Polonius: “to thine own self be true.” If you’re not the ruthless, people-don’t-matter type of entrepreneur, don’t try to be. It won’t work, it’ll cost you money and you’ll upset people. And if you are Attila the Hun, don’t let anyone tell you to turn into Mother Theresa.

I’ll continue to watch the contrasting styles around the TAB table with interest. And one final word of advice. If you’re spending the weekend with your beautiful children, watch the video on YouTube – then kiss your wife and order some flowers…


One comment

  1. simonjhudson · June 21, 2013

    And if Attila the Hun and Mother Theresa are co-directors in the business make bloody sure they each have some tools to understand how they won’t always agree on the path upwards. They may or may not be able to see the other’s point of view, but they can at least have a process for resolving the gap.

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