Confront the Brutal Facts of Your Reality/Family Business Question/Leadership Concepts Explained


The Newsletter of Redpoint Coaching
Volume 10, No. 5, May 2011


How are Urs’ athletic career, the incredible strength of one of America’s most famous Prisoners of War and the future of your business and career related?

Read on as we share the relevance of what Jim Collins famously called the "Stockdale Paradox."

New this month are our ‘Family Business Question of the Month’ and ‘Leadership Concepts Explained’ columns. Please let us know what you think. We love hearing your feedback!

Reach us at

Best Regards,

Urs and Lauren

P.S. Be sure to join our Facebook page for on-going tips, tools and news.

To subscribe or unsubscribe, go to the bottom of this message.

  1. Confront the Brutal Facts of Your Reality

  2. Family Business Question of the Month
  3. Leadership Concepts Explained
  4. Lauren and Urs' Personal Corner: The Most Fun I Had This Month Was...


Want a friend or colleague to read ChangeAbility? Have them sign up here

Thanks for your support!

We never sell or give away subscriber info

1. Confront the Brutal FActs of Your Reality

by Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA

Crazy Urs on BikeI have been a pretty successful athlete for most of my life. Almost two and a half years ago, I suffered from a partial tear of my left patella tendon. Ever since, my physical well being has been severely compromised. Things have been going from bad to worse and these days I am dealing with several joint troubles and I am happy if I can walk more or less pain free, let alone compete in 12,24, 36, or 72 hour races.

It goes without saying that this has been very challenging for me. I used to manage my energy level and well-being by working out at least once (often twice) daily. I met many of my best friends through my athletic endeavors. A lot of my-self worth and identity was wrapped up in my athletic success. I was known as ‘that crazy sports guy’ (and yes, I did not mind that I admit).

For the first year and a half or so after my initial injury, I would try and set my-self goals on when I would get better. I remember, for example, in the late summer of 2009 mapping out the fall with therapy and treatments and planning to get back on the bike by December 1st. It was not meant to be. Despite of all my efforts, I actually got worse that fall. I would do the same again in May of 2010 and plan for a re-entry into the athletic world by November of 2010. Again, while at least not going backwards, I did not get better.

I am learning a lot of lessons from this ongoing experience (and will probably write some more about it later). One of them is having what Jim Collins calls the ‘Stockdale Paradox’ coming alive for me.

Let me explain.

The Stockdale Paradox: Great companies (and people) retain faith that they will prevail in the end regardless of the difficulties and at the same time, confront the most brutal facts of their current reality, whatever they might be.

Or for me personally: Retaining faith that eventually I will be able to be physically active again, while confronting the brutal fact that there is no way of knowing or planning when this will be the case again. Maybe next month, maybe next year, maybe in five plus years...

The Stockdale paradox is named after Vice Admiral Stockdale who was the highest ranking US military official in the 'Hanoi Hilton' Prisoner of War (POW) camp in Vietnam. He was tortured more than twenty times during his eight years of imprisonment.

Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale USNHe lived without POW rights, a set release date, nor any certainty as to whether he would ever see his family again. He did everything he could to support other inmates while fighting his captors. At one point, he deliberately beat himself with a stool and cut himself with a razor so that he could not be put on video tape as an example of a "well treated prisoner." He invented a communication system of taps to help comrades dealing with the isolation. During an imposed silence, the prisoners mopping the floor swept the yard used the code to swish-swash out 'we love you' to Stockdale on his third anniversary of being shot down.

Asked by the author Jim Collins on how he dealt with the seemingly hopeless situation, he replied: "I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that I would get out, but that I would prevail in the end."

Asked about who did not make it out he says:

"Oh, that is easy. The optimists. They were the ones who said, 'we are going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they would die of a broken heart."

Stockdale goes on saying: "This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end - which you can not afford to lose - with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

As you ponder the Stockdale paradox, ask yourself for your business:

How disciplined are you and your staff at relentlessly confronting the most brutal facts of your current business reality?

If you are doubtful, consider the following questions:

  • Name three things you have been avoiding in your business. What can you do TODAY to bring these issues out into the open?
  • Which part of your current reality which are out of your control are you refusing to accept? Where are you holding on to the past?
  • What 'red flag mechanisms' (e.g. regular review of your financials) can you put in place to make sure you are confronting reality?

For more information about Vice Admiral Stockdale and his story, visit here.

2. Family Business Question of the Month

by Lauren Owen, MBA

family businessWe recently received this question from an owner of a family business:

I have three grown daughters. I own a small agency business that I founded 11 years ago. I am starting to get pressure from the only daughter who works with me. She does not want to share the business with her sisters. I have other assets but not equal to the worth of my business.

Our Response:

Look at this from your daughter’s viewpoint: can you blame her for not wanting to share? You and (now your business active daughter) have put a lot of sweat equity into your business that your other, non-active daughters, haven't. Your non-active daughters might not have any desire to participate in the business on any level anyway.

Before getting wrapped up in finding the right answer, you need to first ask yourself some very important questions:

  • When do you want to retire and what are your financial needs in retirement?
  • How much of your estate is concentrated in your business and how much is it worth?
  • How long, if at all, do you want to stay involved in the business?
  • How long do you want to keep ownership control?
  • Do you want to eventually sell to a third party or sell/gift the business to your active daughter?
  • How do I find out what each of my daughters want?

While you might not be able to give your three daughters an exactly equal share of your estate, you can give them fair amounts. One way of doing this would be to gift all or some part of your business to your active daughter and buy a life insurance policy that would pay out, upon your death, to your non-active daughters an amount equal to the value of the gift to your active daughter. How much you gift, if at all, is your decision but it should be made in light of your own retirement needs as well.

You might benefit by bringing in a skilled and experience facilitator to lead these important (and let's face it sometime awkward discussions). Make sure it is someone who can advocate for the business and the family and is not seen by the others as “mom’s person." Do you have a question about your family business? Send it to us at

3. Leadership Concepts Explained: Leadership Style

By Urs Koenig, PhD, MBA

What is yours, why should you care and how can you find out?

Your leadership style is determined by how you show up and behave day-to- day as a leader and manager. Your leadership style is a result of your personality, your experience, belief systems and philosophies. A very introverted and overly trusting person with a one type of educational background and work experience might, for example, lead very differently than an extrovert (with a entirely different type of background) who believes that the best way to get anything done is to do it yourself.

Note that no one single leadership style is best. The best leaders have strong self-awareness around their default leadership style but are able to “lean into” other styles when circumstances demand it. Almost all of us default to our inherent style when we are put under pressure.

Take a quick online assessment to find out what your preferred style is:

and find a description of the most common leadership styles below.

Autocratic or Authoritarian style

Autocratic leaders centralize all decision making power. They do not entertain any suggestions, input or initiatives from subordinates.

The autocratic style permits quick decision-making, as only one person decides. It is therefore often used successfully in crisis situations (e.g. in the armed forces) when time is of the essence.

Participative or democratic style

Participative leaders invite and accept input and suggestions from the group but will make the final decision.

The democratic leadership style can be very effective when used with team members who have highly specialized areas of expertise. Considering their input can enable the manager to make a better rounded decision

Free-Rein, Delegative (or Laisser-Faire) style

At its most extreme, the free-rein leader does not lead, but leaves the group entirely to itself. Members of the team are given a free hand in deciding their own goals, policies and methods.

In a situation where the team knows much more about both the big picture as well as the details , this style might be appropriate.

4. Lauren and Urs' Personal Corner: The Most Fun I Had This Month Was...

Our new column is our effort to celebrate the simple joys of having fun. Remember fun? You know, “lively, joyous play or playfulness: amusement, sport, recreation, etc.?"

Urs - The most fun I had this month was...

Taking my two boys Luc (5) and Liam (3) camping on the foot of Mt. Rainier. This was a bit of a stretch assignment due to the very wet and cold weather we have had in the Pacific NW this spring. As we tried to drive up to our usual camping spot (next to White River), the access road was covered in a foot of snow. Luc assured me that he could shovel it all away and that I would be able to drive through. I politely declined his generous offer. We drove down to lower elevation and found a great spot next to a forest service airstrip. We kept ourselves busy with roaming around and even witnessed a light aircraft practicing a touch and go,THE highlight of the trip for the boys! Evening came and it became very cold. The three of us snuggled up around the fire in our ski clothes watching the stars. Priceless moment for dad! Thanks to several sleeping bags, the night was not too bad with the exception of pee breaks the boys needed at 3 am (Temperature in the high 20s...)

Lauren - The most fun I’ve had this month was...

Getting back in the saddle! Horses are one of my passions and my friend Jane has a fabulous young horse named Quattro who is in training to be an event horse. Eventing is a challenging sport that demands a lot of horse and rider. I recently had the opportunity to watch Jane and Quattro work with their trainer and then take a short ride myself. What a thrill, like driving a high performance sports car (with just a bit of zigging and zagging along the way). Thanks Jane and Quattro. You make a wonderful team! (For you horsey folks out there, Quattro is a Selle Francais, which is a type of French sporthorse. They are a breed known for their powerful movement, speed, boldness, and trainability, all important traits when jumping solid obstacles cross country at a fast clip!)

Quattro, me, Jane, and SimonMe, Quattro, Jane, and Simon









Send an email to We welcome your feedback!

ChangeAbility is a publication of Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching, which is run by Lauren Owen, MBA and Urs Koenig PhD, MBA.

Visit Redpoint's website:, or call: ++ 1 206 372 8626

Copyright Redpoint Succession and Leadership Coaching, 2010. All rights reserved

To subscribe to this newsletter (to receive it via email), please visit our subscription page

Sign up for our e-newsletter ChangeAbility. ChangeAbility brings you hands-on tips and cool resources for growing your business.

* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
    Email Marketing You Can Trust

Read earlier editions of ChangeAbility