Sheep, Getting Lost, and Business Ownership

I received a crash course on sheep and shepherds— and why the former need the latter— recently from a church sermon. Sheep, it seems, are uniquely suited to be, well, sheep. Their physical attributes are designed to keep them safe from predators, and it starts with the eyes. A sheep’s eyes are positioned toward each side of its head. This positioning gives it great peripheral vision and ability to see what is behind it, making it very difficult for predators to sneak up on it. This eye positioning is a hindrance for seeing straight ahead, however, as a sheep’s eyesight is only good for about 10 feet in front of it; he has very little vision for what is in front of him.

Sheep are grazing animals. They are constantly eating, moving from one patch of green grass to another, with no real plan on where they will graze first or where they will end up. They meander, looking for the next patch of green grass. Combine that with their physical inability to see in front of them (and throw in the fact that they are extremely dumb) and they get lost very easily. They look up and have no idea where they are. They need shepherds to keep them in their place, keep them safe, keep them from wandering off, and get them home at night.

In many ways, business owners can be like sheep. This is not to say that owners and entrepreneurs are timid or dumb— far from it— but it can be easy to get lost as a business owner. We get pulled in different directions and focus too much on what is right in front of us. We pay attention to what is happening around us— we have great peripheral vision— and spend too much time thinking about past results— we are great at seeing behind— but in doing this, we may not cast our vision far enough out into the future. We can only see 10 feet in front of us. A need to be involved in everything, to put out fires, and to deal with what is most urgent (but not always most important) keeps us focused only on the patch of green grass directly in front of us rather than on the ultimate destination. We look up and have no idea where we are.

In his book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber, explains our sheep-ness through his concept of the “three eyes” of a business owner. Owners see their businesses through three unique sets of eyes; The Entrepreneur, The Manager, and The Technician. When seeing her business through the Entrepreneur’s Eye, an owner is focused on the future; the Vision for the company, the keys to long-term success, the overarching Goals. When looking through the Manager’s Eye, an owner is focused on the past, evaluating previous results and performance in order to make changes and adjustments. In the Technician’s Eye, she is task oriented, knocking out checklists, wearing too many hats, and getting pulled in different directions. She is displaying her sheep-ness, with her head down and in the weeds (or the next patch of green grass).

Success comes from recognizing how you are seeing your business, and trying to spend as much time as possible looking at it through the Entrepreneur’s Eye. As business owners, we absolutely need to focus on results, and we need to be involved in the day-to-day, but we should be conscious of how much time we spend on those lower-level activities, and always work to move back into the Entrepreneurial Eye— head up, gazing clearly into the future in order to shape the direction of the company. Being a successful business owner means constantly evaluating how we spend our time and energy to make sure we maximize both. We need to shepherd ourselves through the day in order to stay focused on the ultimate destination, not just the next patch of green grass.

If this topic interests you, I’ll be facilitating a lunch and learn workshop on the Three Eyes on March 19th. Click here for tickets and details. I hope to see you there!

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