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Wellbeing / Business psychology

The surprising benefits of having Eeyore as a business advisor

In a world where feedback loops tend towards the positive, it’s not such a bad thing to run your ideas and dreams past a friend or business advisor who has a tendency towards the negative.

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If you’re like me, you grew up reading about the adventures of Christopher Robin and his childhood friends in 100 Acre Wood. What you probably didn’t realise back then is that all A.A. Milne’s childhood characters are mentally ill.

Think about it: Pooh has ADHD, Tigger has hyperactivity-impulsivity, Piglet has anxiety disorder, Christopher Robin has schizophrenia and Eeyore is depressed.

And if you have an Eeyore friend, this is great! That donkey character is exactly the kind of individual who can be very useful to the average soloist.

Here’s why.

"We soloists very rarely test our ideas against external reality. We tend to live in our own little world, and the feedback loops we create are almost always positive"

We very rarely test our ideas against external reality. We tend to live in our own little world, and the feedback loops we create are almost always positive – telling us things are going to work. For example: I have started five businesses and not one of them grew the way I wanted or believed. I’ve become somewhat of an expert at setting and failing to attain unrealistic goals.

OK, so I am an eternal optimist. But even when working with real numbers (say those from the previous year) I still manage to prognosticate poorly. In spite of my very best efforts to create “best, believable and worst” case scenarios they end up being, in truth, the “very best, best and optimistic” case scenarios!

That’s where an Eeyore comes in

Oh, how he or she can help us! Imagine someone whose weather forecast is “Nice day for an earthquake”, or who, when greeted with “Good morning” replies, “We can’t all have a good morning. Not me anyway.”

That’s pretty much the ideal person to give us a dose of reality!

Soloists, by their very nature, need to be positive thinkers. But businesses desperately need someone with a dissenting voice to speak to them. Someone should be allowed to point out when there is an elephant in the room – especially one of our making. Big businesses always make sure their governance board is well balanced and invites debate. Why shouldn’t small or medium business? I’m often called upon to be an independent board advisor for just this reason. I have no vested interest in the decision, but I will tell the truth. That truth is often unpopular. Maybe your accounts clerk or your accountant can be that person for you.

The trick is allowing them to have a voice, and encouraging them to speak freely without aggravated and defensive feedback. That doesn’t mean we have to take on board everything they say, but their view will help temper our own.

So I challenge you, right now, to get your contacts book out, go on your Facebook friends list, check out your LinkedIn connection network and find a business advisor who can be an Eeyore for you.

You’ll never regret it.

Do you have an Eeyore type personality to call on when the situation calls for it?

Robert Holmes

Th.D., PCC is an expert in the science of human behaviour and Co-founder of Frazer Holmes Coaching.

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