The Importance of Developing an Entrepreneurial Backbone

Business owners and employees can increase individual and organizational capacity and agility by focusing on these five key elements.

learn more about Terri Egan and Suzanne Lahl

By Terri Egan and Suzanne Lahl • Aug 8, 2014 Originally published Aug 8, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Many entrepreneurs are so focused on getting their businesses up and running that they leave too little time for personal and professional development. Between managing the balance sheet and binge-working under constant self-imposed deadlines, they don't realize the importance of developing their whole selves.

The fact is, all aspects of life -- relationships, career and health -- are interrelated.

After studying dozens of organizations, examining academic and scientific research and teaching at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School, we have identified five dimensions on which business owners and employees can focus to increase individual and organizational capacity and agility: the spiritual, physical, intellectual, intuitive and emotional (or the acronym SPINE).

Entrepreneurs are in a great position to build these elements into their organization's DNA:

Related: The 10 Unique Soft Skills Employers Desire in New Hires

1. Spiritual.

A study published in JAMA Psychiatry in May 2012 showed that people with Alzheimer's disease who had a strong sense of purpose in life had less cognitive impairment compared with those who reported less purpose in life. Since the majority of people spend most of their waking hours at work, finding meaning and purpose through their jobs may be related to maintaining cognitive function in advanced age. Finding a job that provides purpose and meaning is also important to being able to maintain equilibrium when working under pressure or in disruptive and challenging environments.

Collect and communicate stories that highlight how the company positively impacts its customers and the surrounding community.

2. Physical.

Rest is a physical need that goes unmet for a large number of people. When faced with fatigue many people press on believing that they can simply catch up on lost sleep. A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Neuroscience linked sleep deprivation to irreversible physical damage and a loss of brain cells.

Plus, sleep may also help clean out the mental clutter that accumulates in the brain during the day. Recognizing sleep patterns and understanding the value of consistently receiving a good night's sleep can help eliminate scattered thoughts and anxiety that accumulate throughout the day. Also, changing the unspoken rule of today's corporate world such as the need to be connected 24/7 will help employees prioritize sleep and think more clearly throughout the day.

Model the value of being unplugged by instituting technology downtime in the evenings and on weekends.

Related: The 4 Factors to Making the Best Decisions for You

3. Intellectual.

People's ability to put together complicated ideas to solve problems is dependent on working memory. And working memory is negatively affected by stress and sleep deprivation. If people are constantly anxious and stressed, they find it difficult to challenge assumptions and connect to big-picture thinking. Decision fatigue is a reality; the quality of decisions often deteriorates as the day goes on. People need stamina to be able to think creatively and strategically throughout the day.

Entrepreneurs should organize their workdays so that their important decisions are made during "prime time," when they and their employees are at their best. Institute a decision review board at the company that embraces the reality of fatigue and bias.

4. Intuitive.

Innovative and creative responses to disruption are a whole brain endeavor. Research suggests that people are most successful in generating creative responses when they allow time for healthy mind wandering, silence their inner critics and loosen up the constraints of their rational mind. This can be achieved by using imagination and understanding the importance of setting aside time for reflection in a daily schedule.

Add breaks, walks and exercise periods into the workday. Signal the value of reflection time by scheduling time for big-picture thinking and honoring closed doors.

5. Emotional.

Does the company value emotional awareness as much as intellectual acumen? Better decisions come with connecting the social, emotional and analytic circuitry in the brain. Compassion and empathy toward the self and others increases resilience, joy and well-being. Let emotions take their rightful place in the organization.

Become an emotional investigator. Keep a journal and encourage others to start tracking their feelings in real time. At the end of 30 days, see if new insights arise about issues that were zapping energy and clarity.

Related: Fight Overthinking, That Destroyer of Decision Making

Terri Egan and Suzanne Lahl

Pepperdine University Graziadio School Faculty Members

Terri D. Egan, PhD, is an associate professor of applied behavioral science at the Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management. Suzanne Lahl, MSOD, is a supporting faculty member at Pepperdine. They are co-founders of SyncUp Leadership Group, a leadership and organization development consulting firm.

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