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The Thinking, Feeling and Knowing Entrepreneur 

Are you the master of your mind?

I have been very privileged as a business coach to have worked right across the spectrum of business leadership, ranging from CEOs of major corporate businesses to entrepreneurs in start-ups. As you would expect, they are very different conversations. Of course, the scale of the operations they are running is completely polarised but what of the people themselves? Are they so different?

The corporate world looks on with envy at the apparent freedom and immediacy of the entrepreneur, whilst the entrepreneur typically finds the challenge of managing scale scary and unrewarding. So why are we attracted to different paths?

My interest here is specifically the aspiring entrepreneur and what makes him/her “different”.

To understand this better, we would do well to look at the emerging data available from neuroscientific research. This can offer insights that are invaluable to those who wish to advance their understanding of human behaviour, and, let’s face it; business is all about influencing human behaviour.

The ‘Think Feel Know’ model sets out to capture the essential principles underpinning neuroscience in a way that is simple to understand yet powerful in application. The model represents the three main regions of the brain. The thinking layer of the brain is the cortex and is where we process logic, data, structure, method and rules. The feeling layer, the limbic region, operates on totally different principles: here it is about energy, senses, feelings, emotions, relationships and creativity. The knowing layer, the basal region, is the world of instincts, intuition and “gut” responses.

By understanding these principles we can achieve new insights into the behavioural choices that impact our lives and our businesses. It can help us understand the personal and business journey ahead and evaluate our chances of success or failure, ultimate fulfilment or frustration. The learning starts with the way we communicate.

“Primary thinkers” (those who exhibit a tendency to use the thinking style more often than the others) tend to be orderly and structured in their approach, seeking clarity in rules and comfort in method. “Primary feelers” operate very much in the moment and are energetically sensitive to their immediate environment. They can be warm, creative and volatile. “Primary knowers” take a position quickly: they just want to get things done, to get to the point and not get distracted by fuss and irrelevance.

Each style has both strengths and weaknesses. The primary thinker will be diligent and comfortable with logic and detail: on the other hand others may experienced them as ponderous and clinical. Primary feelers can be warm, engaging and creative, but others may see them as over-sensitive or inclined to meander. Primary knowers offer confidence and drive, but they can also be experienced as arrogant and closed – minded.

So, where do you believe the entrepreneur fits into this classification?

Of course, we are all individuals so none of us fits exactly into one convenient “box”, but over time in certain situations, we will exhibit a tendency to favour one or two of the styles over the others.

I feel I have worked with enough entrepreneurs now to offer an informed, if generalised, opinion. Most entrepreneurs are driven by a vision of what they want to achieve. This is an instinctive vision, not one derived through tortuous analysis. (Know)

They choose to start alone, in a pair or small team because they don’t want to be bound by somebody else’s rules: they need to feel energised by the company they keep and be able to go with the flow (Feel) Typically, they are less comfortable with detail unless they can really see the purpose of it. They would prefer to out- source it to an accountant! (Think)

This analysis is clearly anecdotal, subjective and provided simply for illustrative purposes. Yet, there is an important message here, whether you fit my proposed classification or not.

Ultimately, personal performance comes from true knowledge of ourselves, understanding and believing in what we have to do to be at our best. This is a personal strategy that plays to our strengths. Yet not one of us is the perfect solution on our own. We need to have access to all forms of talent to achieve sustainable success; including those whose styles are different and whose talents may be expressed in different ways.

Understanding how we access this will prove crucial.

Words by Clive Hyland, CEO of Think, Feel, Know


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