More than anything else entrepreneurships is about high levels of sustained motivation. It is about the willingness to work hard and persevere—often overcoming major resistance and failure. Entrepreneurship is about the ability and willingness to act quickly—taking advantages of a unique opportunity and not looking back. No regrets. These characteristics, in turn, require alignment between the enduring aspirations of the entrepreneur and the work being done. These enduring aspirations are founded in a dimension of human life known as the “career” which (as Edgar Schein notes) is the point of intersection between personal aspirations and organizational intentions.
Entrepreneurship and Career Anchors
Each entrepreneur’s career is usually anchored in one or more specific cluster of values and behavior patterns. Schein identifies eight anchors or themes that are commonly found among all people who are motivated to work. He has shown that people will prioritize preferences for specific anchors. For example a person with a primary theme of Security/Stability will seek secure and stable employment over, say, employment that is challenging and riskier. People tend to stay anchored in one area and their career will echo this in many ways. Schein also suggests that when a person’s work is not aligned with their primary anchor(s), they often are not motivated to work hard and in a sustained manner—consequences which are antithetical to the performance of entrepreneurs.
While Schein makes very effective use of this “anchor” metaphor, I would propose that we need to consider two different types of “real” anchors and the differing ways in which these real anchors operate. The first type of anchor is the so-called bottom anchor. This is the large and very heavy anchor that most of us non-nautical folks envision. The bottom anchor consists of a shaft with two arms and flukes at one end and a stoke mounted at the other end (which digs into the floor of the sea or ocean bed once the boat begins to move and provides tension on the chains connecting the anchor to the boat). The second kind of anchor is called a sea anchor (also called a drift anchor or drogue). It typically is not as heavy as the bottom anchor and is often shaped like a parachute or cone with the larger end pointing in the direction of the boat’s movement. I propose that the second of these two types of anchors functions in a manner that more accurately typifies 21st Century careers than does the first type. While ground anchors keep a boat from moving very far from it mooring and use the sea floor as the base of resistance, the sea anchor is primarily used to slow down (but not prevent) the drifting of the boat and is used to help orient the boat with regard to wind and tides.
In a parallel sense, I propose that 21st Century career anchors do not lock a motivated member of an organization in one particular place—rather it provides orientation and enables the member of an organization to avoid drifting too far “off course.” This metaphor may be particularly appropriate when applied to the fast moving, opportunistic entrepreneur. This person is likely to feel confined by a career anchor that is firmly attached to an unmoving floor. Given this suggested variation in Schein’s use of the career anchor metaphor, I would still support his characterization of eight fundamental anchors and propose in this article that we can apply seven of his eight anchors in our appreciation of entrepreneurship and the way in which we, as coaches, can be of greatest value to entrepreneurs.Download Article 500 Club