One of the many struggles of entrepreneurs is finding harmony in their personal lives. As we try to continue in our path towards achieving success, we slowly lose grip on our relationships at home. On a mission to help couples navigate common entrepreneurial landmines while building their businesses, this episode’s guest, coach, and the Entreprenewer, Kelly Clements, joins Cameron Herold to extend her expertise on the subject matter to help you overcome these same challenges. She talks about how to have that conversation with couples who fall apart as the company starts to grow. She defines the alpha, beta, and omega personalities in the relationship and how play, praise, and purpose intersect. What is more, Kelly also discusses what separates ordinary from extraordinary between CEOs and COOs or their spouses.
Kelly Clements has been in workshop rooms behind closed doors with the entrepreneurial elite for years. After working for some of the most prestigious coaching companies in the world, she started her own coaching practice in 2012. Since then, she’s gone on to write a bestselling book and has spoken to hundreds of groups including Million Dollar Round Table, YPO, EO, Vistage, and a host of other mastermind companies. Her focus leans toward balancing the scales of business and relationships as she’s witnessed and experienced the toll entrepreneurship can have on marriage and families.
She believes the strengths that make us successful in business can be a challenge at home, but her perspective and strategies have worked to help entrepreneurial couples achieve greater harmony while building their businesses. Her experience working as a strategic coach gave her a broad understanding of the processes and systems that allow companies to 10x. Here, she was exposed to invaluable coaching tools and concepts designed to give entrepreneurs more freedom of time, money, and relationships.
Next, she moved on as a Session Director at Lifebook, and this role afforded her the opportunity to support successful entrepreneurs in their personal lives. Mastering the principle of interconnectivity gave her the unfair advantage in her coaching practice. Her innate understanding of the intimate connection between the love relationship and business development uniquely qualifies her to help couples navigate common entrepreneurial landmines. Her background also includes working for Walt Disney, Disney Cruise Line, Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island. She holds her Bachelor’s degree in Commercial Recreation from Illinois State University. She’s also a baseball, travel, basketball, football mom and committed to showing her sons, Will and Luke, all that life has to offer on and off the field.
Kelly, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.
It’s good to see you again as well. This was an interesting outreach. You reached out to me and said, “I’d love to be on this podcast. I have a unique perspective.” I said, “We only interview COOs.” You said, “I know all the COOs, all the spouses of entrepreneurs and I have the rest of the story.” That was what intrigued me for having you on. Thank you for pushing out to me on that.
I always see your marketing. When I think of second in command, my mind automatically goes to the spouse who may or may not be more behind the scenes. Thank you for being open to it.
Normally, my show is me interviewing with the COO of a company and trying to get the rest of the story. I’ve always said that if I interviewed a husband and wife in a traditional marriage or two-couple family and we’ll go with a traditional family. If you ask the husband how did you raise your children, he would give you his side of the story and it would be true. If you asked the wife how did you raise your children, she would have her side of the story to be true and there would be differences.
There would be a lot of differences on how they raised their kids. In the company, if you ask the CEO how did you grow the company and then you ask the COO, they have different perspectives. I’m curious for you to start us off and give us some insights that we can dive into later. Give us some of the insights onto the spouse’s perspective on the entrepreneurial journey. What is it like being a spouse of an entrepreneur? What are entrepreneurs like, not what we think they’re like?
I always say our greatest strength is also our greatest weakness and that’s where the whole adage about the things that make us successful and business can be hard at home. In particular for entrepreneurs, COO is the high drivers. If we’re driven in business, we’re control freaks at home. If we have attention to detail in business, we’re OCD at home. If we’re well connected in business, we’re always plugged in at home and we’re never fully present to our families. It’s the same strengths that make us successful in business that can work against us in our personal relationships.
That’s one of the things that I often hear from spouses is, “I feel like I’m his employee. He’s at work all day and it’s like yes. Everybody wants to retweet him. He gets to speak at these conferences and he always gets to be on this pedestal. I’m being generic through him, the entrepreneur at home and I’m not another yes person. Sometimes, I feel like me and/or my kids are part of the team and we’re one of his employees. I don’t want it to feel like that anymore.” Most often, the entrepreneur isn’t aware of that until we have the conversation and it’s lighthearted.
There’s a sense of humor that needs to go into that conversation. You know this well. Most ADHD, narcissistic, bipolar, pick the diagnosis, that can be a tough pill to swallow at home for a spouse that’s trying to keep life on the rails. Often, it requires a fair degree of sacrifice of our own goals, our own pursuits because we’re keeping life on the rails for our spouse, our kids, all the ancillary activities that come along with life. A lot of times, a spouse can lose him or herself in that gravitational pull of the business.
How do you begin those discussions? Where do you work with couples? Where do you work with CEOs? Where do you start? Do you start with the spouse or with the CEO on this stuff?
It depends. Most often, I start with the CEO because most of my clients come from my speaking engagements which is with YPO, Vistage, or different mastermind groups. I normally interface with the CEO first. That has been the biggest challenges in my business because what happens is they’re like, “Yes, my wife says things like that all the time. We’re totally experiencing that.” I have a two-part sale because they’re on-board right away, they go home, and the messages that they give at home is, “Honey, you’ve got to call this lady. She’s going to make you a better wife.”
It’s not what I said at all. Right away, the spouse was like, “Screw you. You’re the one that needs to call. It’s not my problem. Why am I the one that has to change?” That message gets diluted which is where the book came in. I give them a copy of the book where it doesn’t come across as there’s no blame. To your point, both parties have a story. That’s true. It’s harmonizing that story. It’s taking ego out, it’s taking the right and wrong out. It’s harmonizing the story to get back to that central point.
Do you think that either the entrepreneur or the spouse has to change? Is it getting a better understanding of the spouse so that you empathize with them more so that it doesn’t create your own stories? Is it a bit of both?
It’s a bit of both. Much of it starts with awareness. Spouses of entrepreneurs can feel isolated. If we say entrepreneurship is an isolating journey, the spouse of an entrepreneur can be even more isolated because we have our mastermind groups, podcasts, books, and all kinds of ways that we can interface together and share the entrepreneurial journey together. The spouse doesn’t necessarily have that. We’re starting to see more movement with that in companies like YPO and EO. It has spouse forums.
We’re starting to see that attention shift to the role of the spouse that they’re not isolated but a lot of times, a spouse can feel like, “I’m the only one. I want to talk to my friends about these problems that I’m having, but outside looking in, I have a fantastic life. What could I possibly have to worry about? You’re paid. Our education is funded. We have resources and opportunities. Who am I to complain?” The fact is that when you lose yourself in that gravitational pull and there’s a disconnect from your true self, your actual identity, there’s pain and suffering. That’s what depression and anxiety is. It’s that disconnect from our own recognition and actualization.
What it’s tied a lot to is that gravitational pull where the entrepreneur has all of that up on the pedestal, a lower spotlight on them versus a successful spouse as a doctor or a lawyer. They don’t have that additional gravitational pull, do they?
No. The gravitational pull is part of it. The real culprit is the ambition. If one person is ambitious and driven, they can see the end result. They can get from point A to point Z in a nanosecond. For a spouse that’s looking for more fulfillment, he or she may not want to monetize something. That’s a big conversation. It’s like, “As soon as I tell him I want to take up knitting, it’s like, ‘We can monetize that and we’ll get you an Etsy store. This is scale.’” It’s like, “No.” The CEO, the ambitious partner could be like, “This person has no drive.” They don’t have it. When we can see that contentment as a gift, because two driven people in a relationship is a totally different bag of challenges. A lot of times, ambitious people think, “I wish they were more ambitious when we shared this drive.”
On the surface level, that’s good but it takes a unique, dialed in, supportive couple to make a relationship between two driven people work. Our greatest strength can also be our greatest weakness. If we see this weakness as not being ambitious, when we can see that as a strength of my spouse’s contentment or my spouse’s sense of enrollment and balance helps keep my ambition so that I can focus on my own ambition. It does support us so it doesn’t feel like a liability. It feels more an asset in the relationship. It’s taking that judgment piece out and supporting the spouse. It still pursues something. It doesn’t have to be monetized, scalable, or marketable but there has to be some arena for them to be self-expressed in.
Is it different when it’s the male spouse versus the female being the spouse or is it similar?
The challenges are the same. When the female is more driven, that’s a completely different game. The first time I got asked to speak at an Entrepreneurial Women’s Conference, it was women in financial services, I said no. This message is not going to resonate with them. It’s going to be seen as anti-feminist because it’s not going to work. The meeting organizer pushed back. She said, “Kelly, my job is getting women through the ranks of my company. One of the rungs on our ladder to success is divorce. The more successful my women become, the higher the divorce rate happens.” I got that in my bones.
I’m divorced. I 100% credit my ambition to the device in that marriage because what happens is we spend a lot of time in environments with other successful males. What happened for me is I would start to compare. I was starting to tell stories of like, “This guy did this and this guy did this.” At first, it was an engaging dinner conversation. Fast forward a year or two, it started to become more comparisons and soon it was like, “Come on.” That comparison became a criticism. I don’t have to tell you this, the men that feel criticized, they shut down.
I was almost thinking in my head about if you had a male CEO or entrepreneur with that strong gravitational pull and drive, you could almost empathize with a woman being left in the dust, feeling left out, or feeling out of the spotlight and wanting to feel some of that. If I flip that scenario and had the strong female CEO, I don’t feel I’m empathizing with the guy. I’m like, “Suck it up, buttercup. Pull on your big boy pants and get your shit together.” I don’t have that same empathy and I probably should. It’s weird because they do have that similar feeling and they’re bucking against a trend where we’re only one generation into women being the breadwinner as well. They’re getting rid of that stigma too. It’s got to be hard for both.
It takes a special person to be in a relationship with a driven person. This is my favorite way to look at it. If we call the ambitious person the alpha, we think is the ideal relationship two alphas. That seems like there’s a lot of power struggle there. If we look at the relationship of like, “I have a driven ambitious entrepreneur with a supportive spouse.” We call that a beta. What I see there is the beta losing his or her identity not knowing who he or she is outside of the relationship and the model that I’ve been putting a lot of energy into it, it’s an alpha and omega. An omega is excellent and omega can stand on his or her own identity with or without the accolades or spotlight.
An omega is somebody who is fully self-possessed and can hold their own next to a powerful, ambitious spouse or without getting their identity from the relationship. I don’t think it’s alpha-alpha. I don’t think it’s alpha-beta. It’s alpha and omega. In a perfect world, it’s omega-omega and that’s the whole foundation of what Lifebook was. It was two extraordinary people, one extraordinary relationship. That’s the work I do. This original question was, does it change your awareness? The change that I work on with couples is for both people to get locked and loaded on their own unique identity so they’re showing up to the relationship.
I can see that happening too. I played a global board position role with EO years ago when we started these spousal forums for EO and I was on the committee for the global board on forum. We were doing all the debates and the focus groups to decide if we’re going to put a spousal forum in place. The argument was a resounding yes. One of the first spousal forums that opened had a male member as a spouse. We were like, “What?” It didn’t even occur to us. We’re like, “That’s even cooler.” It almost validated the concept that there needed to be a space for spouses to connect, share, and learn from each other when the first one had a guy in it as the spouse. It was interesting.
It’s a tough dynamic. I have worked with a couple of men who are spouses and the work with the female CEO and that is watching the compliment to criticism ratio. Making sure that you’re speaking life into your partner because as women, we are life-givers in the words that we speak. It means so much to our men and so watching that compliment to criticism ratio is the change that happens with the more ambitious partner. Don’t criticize, don’t make those answers wrong.
Does your work spin off into the children of entrepreneurs at all as well?
Yes. In fact, I am working with three father and son couples which is an interesting dynamic for me to be involved in.
I was talking with Chip Wilson from Lululemon. We’re both heading off to a conference. He said, “I love to be able to have you join me on my plane down but I’m having a father-son time with my one son.” I’m like, “I totally get it.” There are times when you need to connect and having another entrepreneur around gets in the way of that because we can always have somebody else in our world. You’re starting off the relationship then with a couple or with a CEO. How do you enter into this conversation? Where do you start with them?
The three portals that I’ll get into the relationship is either between play, praise, and purpose. If the relationship is “boring,” they’re not in crisis mode but there’s room for improvement. That’s where entrepreneurs get into workaholism mode is because work is more fun. We get into flow states there. All the juicy brain centers are activated. We’re getting great results with little effort. We’re making a difference. We’re making an impact.
How it becomes an addiction is because it activates those same brain centers. This is what I learned as a strategic coach was back in the whole model is work, let’s make more. It was the big focus is on free days. Entrepreneurs are flying in from all over the world. They’re writing checks to figure out how do we get these free days. It’s such a foundational concept. It’s the first concept that was taught. We set them up like, “Here’s your model. Here’s how you talk to your clients. Here’s how you set expectations with the team. Here’s how you do it.”
Many entrepreneurs don’t even recognize that the vast majority of their free days aren’t free days. They’re at a conference with other entrepreneurs that they’re having a fun time with but that’s not free time.
Here’s why that’s happening. Workshop one, we tell them how to have the free days. We send them out for 90 days. We give them a quarter of practice. They come back for workshop two and it’s like, “How are your free days?” I was making eye contact. It’s like, “What happened?”
I realized I’m heading off to this conference, Abundance 360. For me, it will be fun, engaging, and disconnecting from my business in terms of the day-to-day. I’m there as the thought leader and I’m with other CEOs, I’m sure I’ll have some clients there. My girlfriend is coming to join me at the event. She’ll be there for the whole time, but the reality is I’m going to be in work mode. If I don’t disconnect from that work mode then I’m not showing up as the person that you want to in the relationship either.
I’m assuming I haven’t talked about this, but there are times where we’re jones for the curtain to be closed and we get our manned or self or out. When you’re always on, there’s always that mask up. That’s why I talk about play because in play we get to see our partner in their best light. They get to see us in our best light. We’re disconnected, we don’t have the masks and the walls up. Play produces the same level of rejuvenation that flow does. You can achieve the exact same way than you can at work and flow. That’s also where love grows. Matthew Kelly talks about carefree timelessness. That is where love grows. Look at our dating relationship and what gets us to the altar.
You mentioned Matthew, The Dream Manager. What’s your book called, Kelly?
There’s something in there about the whole Lifebook idea. Tell us what Lifebook is. Do you take a lot of the tools from Lifebook or still push people into Jon and Missy’s Lifebook Program at all?
The biggest tool I use from Lifebook is interconnectivity, which it says that all twelve categories of our life are deeply connected. Great if you have a nice business but show me where your health and fitness is, show me where your parenting relationship is. They all talk to each other. They all inform one another 100%. That’s the biggest takeaway from me that I use from Lifebook is helping couples understand the power of the love relationship. It’s powerful. Jon and Missy introduced Category 13 which is the sexual relationship and how much that feeds every other category.
When that love relationship is locked and loaded, both people are bulletproof. You have two eyes, two sets of ears, two brains, two hands working on the same problem. Getting the love relationship locked and loaded is one of the best business moves you can make. If they don’t want the spouse to feel great or marriage counseling. Sometimes we have to go in that door with CEOs to get their attention of how big of a deal it is.
I created a concept and trademarked it called The Vivid Vision. The idea with that Vivid Vision is leaning out three years into the future describing your business. We’ve also talked in the book Vivid Vision about describing your personal life three years in the future as well. Do you work with CEOs or their spouses on that aspect as well and doing a vision board or book ideas? Is that part of what you do?
That’s a great point. This is going to be useful to your audience. Lifebook, if for some reason people aren’t familiar, is intense four-day deep dive with looking at all twelve categories of your life. I’ve been in the workshop room with the best of the best going through this process. There are extraordinary couples in that community. The most extraordinary couples I’ve ever spent time with have come through the Lifebook community. At one point, we took all of our extraordinary couples and we looked at their introspect assessment, which is the assessment that you take going into Lifebook and it measures where your starting point is prior to the program and all twelve categories.
What do these couples have? What’s true for these couples that takes them out of ordinary and into the stratosphere of the relationship? We’re expecting to see a lot of similar scores and their financial life, spiritual life, and parenting. These are the categories we’re expecting to see synergy in. What we found out is that the most extraordinary couples, the category that they scored the highest in was life vision, which means they were working towards the same point in the future together. They were on different pages financially from a parenting perspective, spiritually, it didn’t matter what those other categories were, but when they show that they were working towards the same vivid vision out in the future, that was a thing that separated ordinary from extraordinary.
They have that same common goal and common drive. It starts to connect them back to why we’re doing what we’re doing now. How do you get the couples through some of the tough conversations? How do you get the CEO to wake up, get introspective, and see what they’re doing wrong or to see where they need to improve?
Most of my work happens individually. I’m not on the call with both people which lets me say things that I don’t have to filter. When I’m on the phone with a CEO, I can have direct conversations about how the need for control is interfering with their intimacy. That’s often a big thing and when I can be on a phone with a CEO heart-to-heart, I know how important it is for you to maintain control with your company. I understand it 1,000% and I support you 1,000%. At home, that need for control is shutting your spouse down. Your spouse can’t fully express, totally ready to be intimate, or ready to be connected to you. It’s that wall. Are you willing to look at what it looks when we don’t have that need for control at home working through the significance? That’s the most powerful conversation that I get to have. It doesn’t have to be a business model and workable, but if you can see her or him, that’s intimacy into me you see.
That’s Esther Perel’s line or somebody’s line. That’s interesting that you’re getting them to do their own work to go into the relationship having worked on themselves versus trying to get the couple in the same room all the time.
It’s the most effective way because they have skin in the game. I can say the same thing to either partner that they’ve been saying to each other for years because I have no skin in the game. They can hear me differently than they can hear their spouse or their partner. It comes through with no blame, no judgment, complete compassion. This trait, this skill serves you at some point. It probably still serves you in business. The game is figuring out when it’s working against you and in your marriage, it’s working against you.
You’ve got a good perspective on them. Walk us through the play, praise and purpose parts, and how do those all intersect or how do they fit together?
The praise is talking about the things that make us successful in business and recognizing there are good and bad qualities in every trait. It’s also the thing that drives you the craziest in your relationship like the thing that your spouse does that’s bringing you the most suffering is the thing that you were most attracted to in the beginning. At some point, that switch flips so it’s getting back and see how that trait is also working for you. It’s paying attention to the compliment to criticism ratio. Nobody wants to be home every day with somebody who’s constantly criticizing them whether it’s they’re too much or they’re not enough or whatever. One of my favorite questions is, what’s the best compliment you can get or what’s the best compliment your spouse can get?
A lot of times it’s like, “Kelly had tried. I try and tell her she looks great or I try and tell him he’s doing a great job.” That’s fantastic but if you’re coming home and you’re like, “You look great in those yoga pants.” She taught your kid to read that day. That’s what she wants to be appreciated for or thank you so much for all the work you bring to our family, but what I want to be appreciated for as I’m creating the legacy. Sometimes people don’t even know what their best compliment is. Getting back to NSC like, “What do you want to be seen for? What do you want to be celebrated for?” When I’m speaking to groups, I always get the pause where they’re like, “I don’t know.” That’s a good conversation for couples to have because even find that opportunity and speak into it.
It’s hard in generalizing but the vast majority of entrepreneurial CEOs are ADD and bipolar. Are there traits that you notice the vast majority of entrepreneurs? Are they different for male and female entrepreneurs? Are there traits that we can point to that people will go, “Shit, that’s definitely me. I need to start working on this?”
For the entrepreneurs, it’s the qualifying or the wanting to beef up like when your partner says they want to do something, it’s always correcting their goals or their dreams. It’s always having an input or offering a suggestion to make it bigger that tends to shut spouses down. It’s like, “I can’t even get my goals right so I’m not going to say anything.” Giving your partner a space to have freestyle conversations without judgment on them, it’s not right or wrong. It’s a new perspective. That’s the biggest thing. If your spouse or your kids have said to you, “We’re not an employee,” that sends another good indicator that there’s work to do if work feels more fun.
That’s a big one. I talked to a couple of entrepreneurs about that that the reality is many entrepreneurs have lost sight of what was fun and like, “Work is my passion.” Even Dan Sullivan, The Strategic Coach, I’m like, “Bullshit.” Work is not a healthy passion. Work is work and work is what we do to make money and give us free time. Passion is passion like playing games, playing sports, going for hikes, entertaining with friends, being interested in things, learning, and living life is fine. No one gives a shit. My biggest test is if you’re at a cocktail party, do people want to hear about your work? They don’t.
I don’t care about your work. You don’t care about my work, but I’m more interested in what are you doing for fun? What were you doing for deep introspective work on yourself? Where are you traveling to? What was the coolest dish you’ve eaten? What movie did you see? I want to know what people are doing for fun. Entrepreneurs have lost sight of that. Is that what their spouses are aching for is some of that playtime back with them?
Dying for it. One of my couples, their travel has become crop dusting. It’s like, “We want to see all these things, but we’ve traveled so well. Now, it cropped us. Every location, check it off the list.” One of them is like, “I want to sit, have a glass of wine at a café, watch people, and talk about people, and I have carefree challenges. I’m sick of that.”
I was thinking of this Abundance 360 and you said sometimes the spouse wants to pull back the curtain and be present with them. What I’ll do is grab Ashley each day, get the fuck out of the conference, and I’ll skip something. I don’t need to be at every lunch, coffee thing, or every break. We’ll go for a walk and go for a coffee outside of the building instead of sitting around with everybody. She calls me the mayor. There are constantly people coming up to me to say hello. Even with my ex, it was the same thing. At every event that I would go to, even though she was strong, there was always this beacon of light on me that was hurting that she doesn’t like.
We attract our partners for a reason. They want to be by our bigness for a reason. There’s something in them that’s wanting to come out and it gets to come out in our reflections with one another, so pouring that light onto her, it’s powerful and it’s little spurts. It’s fifteen minutes here and there. It doesn’t have to be these huge, fancy vacations all the time. When I talk about play, if we can get fifteen minutes a day, whether it’s walking the dog or playing dominoes, whatever it is, we can find fifteen minutes a day. We have other problems that we have to solve first. They’re jonesing for it in their bones and that’s why it feels like a lonely marriage. I can’t find them without the mask and all the people around them.
Do the CEOs start recognizing this first? Is it usually the spouse that’s recognizing the problems first?
The spouse recognizes the problem first but doesn’t know where to go, how to fix it, or it’s me or my marriage. The CEO tends to be, “Let’s find a solution for it.” That’s why coaching has become attractive as it’s not counseling where counseling is focused on all this stuff that’s happened in the past and you risked your house and you lost this business. It’s not whatever. Whatever happened has happened. Coaching is focused on the future. Let’s take whatever has happened and let’s decide what we’re going to make out of it which tends to let CEOs engage more because it’s not marriage counseling. We’re talking about coaching. We’re talking about establishing that revisit of envision in the future.
It’s a safer word for them. I’m not broken. It’s funny, my sister, when they first got married, went to a marriage counselor or coach, and I was like, “You’ve been married for six months. Is there a bigger problem?” She goes, “There are no problems. We want to have a highly functioning marriage. We’re both high-performance athletes that have always had coaches. We thought we’d get a marriage coach right at the beginning.” Do you work with couples like that at all where you get in and engage with them as they’re getting going versus waiting until there’s a problem?
One of my couples, dentists and a different entrepreneur in the different healthcare space. There is pre-baby, they both got through startup mode. They’re both starting to enjoy a little bit of autonomy in their business. Huge transitions with moving homes, things like that in their pre-baby. It’s like, “We feel like this can nosedive. We want to get some strategies in place as a couple before we put a baby into the mix.” That’s a fun conversation because these aren’t problems but it’s good that we’re talking through it now for some perspective before the baby gets here.
That’s a whole different world too. I had a couple that I’m friends with from a mastermind group and both of them are entrepreneurs, both in interrelated businesses, and they had their first child and they’re like, “It’s not going to change anything.” I’m like, “You are fucking wrong.” It’s going to change everything. It will be great, but shit, are you ever on crack? Big suggestions that you make for couples are big suggestions for CEOs in terms of starting these discussions or connecting with their spouse on this stuff. Where do they go? Where do they start? Trying to fix it right away, right?
I talk about date nights but not dinner and a movie because what’s going to happen is you’re going to sit down at dinner, you’re talking about the house, you talk about the kids like we’re going to perpetuate the right. Playtime for date nights like going out and doing an activity together is big. It coincides with that is having a marriage meeting because we don’t want to spend your date nights talking about the household management stuff and the household management stuff needs to be dealt with. If you can separate those out, you leave your date nights for fun. You leave your marriage meetings to talk about the calendar, the schedule, household maintenance things and, “You did something the other night that bothered me. I’ve been brushing it under the rug because there hasn’t been a good time. It made me feel insecure when you compare them to that other person.”
Whatever the challenge is because what happens is we kick the can down the road or we brush everything under the rug, there’s never a good time to bring anything up because we’re in a good spot. Why do I ruin it? I get late tonight, I’m not going to bring up this big problem that we’ve been having, or she’s already mad about this, I’m not going to put more guessing on the fire so we keep kicking masons down the road and established marriage, make marriage meetings. It sets up a safe rhythm where we’re going to talk about necessary logistics.
I love the idea of the marriage meeting especially because for the entrepreneur, they already get meetings. They understand that it has a purpose and outcomes, there’s a model, they’re on an agenda, they’re going to flow through and for the spouse, it’s like, “Good. We’re going to work on this.” The spouse will work on it whatever fucking plan you want to go with, we’ll work on it as long as we’re working on it. I have two CEO friends of mine. One is named Darryl Hicks who is part of Mastermind Talks and YPO. He and his wife, Natasha, go on a quarterly dinner together and they rate themselves on five areas: parent, spouse, lover, friend, and confidant. They rate themselves on how they’re showing up. Darryl will rate how he’s showing up as a lover and then he’ll rate how she’s showing up as a lover, and then how he’s showing up as a dad and how she’s showing up as a mom.
They rate themselves on the other one and then they flip. They do that every quarter. It’s powerful. I’ve done the exercises a couple of times. I’ve got another friend of mine, Greg Keyes who’s EO. Greg and Diana had spreadsheets. Greg decided to track everything that was important in their relationship. He was like, “If I’m going to have date nights, I’m going to track them and make sure I do them. If I’m going to go and have playtime, I’m going to track them.” One day, Diana came into his office and saw the spreadsheet that every day he would tick things off and she’s like, “You added three rows. You’ve got GO, DO and GDO. What are those?” He starts laughing. She goes, “What’s GO, DO and GDO?”
He goes, “It’s Greg’s Orgasms, Diane’s Orgasms, and Greg’s and Diana’s simultaneous Orgasm.” She goes, “Fuck you. You are not tracking our orgasms.” He goes, “When did our sex life get great again?” She goes, “It was about eight weeks ago.” He pulls out his spreadsheet and almost to the day, eight weeks before, he starts tracking them. She goes, “What does shower mean beside this day?” He goes, “Remember.” She goes, “You can’t put specifics down.” Greg is like, “If it matters, you have to manage that stuff.” If you care about your relationship, then dig in. I love that this entrepreneur found a system that was entrepreneurial but was connected to what mattered on the personal side. Have you got little systems, not quite as crazy as Greg’s, that in your book that you walk us through for your coaching?
That is something that can shut some spouses down like, “I don’t want to go. I have a whiteboard meeting with him because that’s his territory and I feel like I’m going to come in and my goal is not going to be big enough.” Sometimes, there’s resistance from the spouse like, “Don’t put a KPI on our relationship.” To that story, the results that are measured and improved results that are measured improve. If they’re measured, improved and reported, they improved dramatically. If it works for one partner, they can do that in isolation. That doesn’t have to be shared. The strategy is to co-create the marriage meaning. Find an environment that’s conducive for both people to show up and be authentic.
Find a rhythm, find the right questions, make sure we’re asking the right questions and having the right conversations. It’s not going to work if the CEO shows up and says, “Here’s what we’re doing.” It’s going to be a nice stuff but again, if there’s already judgment in the relationship, it’s going to shut the spouse down. The marriage meetings should be co-creative. How often are we having it? Where are we having it? What are we doing? Are we having wine or coffee? Where is it happening? To my point earlier of us being starving for that attention, it’s like, “Our marriage is going to start getting the same amount of focus of the business and I get the same how we’re going to keep.”
Keep your cell phone in the car in another room during that meeting, right?
Praise, what does that look like both sides?
It’s knowing what they want to be praised for. What we appreciate appreciates. If we’re always appreciating that they’re never connected, present, or working towards something, we’re going to see more of that. Appreciating what we want to see more of and speaking into that every time we see it knowing our partners want to be seen for, it trains our brains and reticular activator like, “She’s doing that thing that she wants to be loved for. I have to speak into that.”
It’s like following the love languages. The five love languages. Have you seen the five apology languages now as well?
Tell me about that.
The love languages are words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of kindness, quality time, and gifts. The apology languages, I don’t know them off the top are, how we like to be apologized to whether it’s a formal apology, time or space, but I got to go back through them all. There are five ways that people like to be apologized to as well. There are some interesting little bits of models that can be pulled into relationships too. My love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch.
My girlfriend’s love languages are quality time and words of affirmation. She likes time which means I put my cell phone away, whereas gifts mean nothing to her. If I bought her a gift, that doesn’t do anything. For me, the same thing. When somebody comes and gives me a hug, I melt. That’s all it takes to disconnect me. If a spouse pulls away from me physically to go into another room or anything, that destroys me because when mine is physical touch, I need something around. Even understanding your spouse that way as well.
Did you know that there’s a sex language index?
It’s by Jaiya. It’s called the Erotic Blueprint. I equate it to the love languages but it’s specific to sex. Anytime we have data points on our partner, anything or index that gives us ways to understand the worldview of our partner, it automatically makes us more in tune. It automatically makes us a better partner because we’re not looking at everything through our own lens and judging like, “Why aren’t they responding to this?” It’s a new data point for how we can show up for them and still make sure that our needs are being expressed in men.
I hope I won’t break that model, but I’ll check that one out, sex language. Any closing tips that you’ve got for us on how the CEO and spouse are? This is, how can the CEO show up for their spouse or how can even the second in command talk to the CEO? Give us something there because a lot of our audience are COOs and Second In Commands and their job is to help the CEO make their dreams happen. I think back to when we were building 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, I was the COO. Brian was the CEO. How could I have nudged Brian to have a better relationship with his spouse?
Paying attention to it in the workspace and I’m assuming with men, it’s not a safe conversation to have, it’s not a traditional, or an obvious conversation they have.
It’s okay one-on-one but not in a group.
Checking in on that and making sure that I’m here for the business’s success and your long-term success. How are things at home? Do you need more time off? I need more time off or we need to make sure our marriages are cohesive and making sure that it’s one of the data points that’s on the dashboard of success. It takes a special relationship to be able to have that rapport. Hopefully, that’s in play for the CEO and COO. Making it an obvious conversation to have and something that you’re checking on it with each other.
One thing for people to remember about at least the male CEO or the male entrepreneurs is deep down, they’re human. They’re starving for intimacy, human connection, and they’re in a partnership. We cheapen it when we say it’s about sex like if you want to get another blow job, be nice to your wife or you want to bring flowers. That’s all bullshit. That’s not what they’re starving for. What they’re starving for is that human connection of the person they fell in love with or entered into the relationship with.
It’s how I approach a lot of the CEOs that I coach on the fun side like, “This isn’t fun for you. You’re avoiding the fun. You’re avoiding calling your friends that you haven’t called for years. You’re avoiding hanging out with your wife and kids. You’ve forgotten about all of your hobbies. All you have left that feeds your dopamine rush is the unhealthy habits in your life. One of which is work.” Somehow, appealing to the longing for, “I want a date night too.” They want to let their guard down but they don’t know how to do that or feel safe. It’s somehow entering that discussion for them.
It’s such relief when you can put that in front of them and they don’t have to get there. It’s not a conversation. It’s a revelation. It’s such sweet relief for them.
Here’s one and this occurred to me. You and I have both got failed marriages, past marriages, or exes. I don’t think they’re failed anymore. I’ve looked at them as stages and part of who we are in this human dynamic, and 50% of marriages fail. How do you help spouses or do you ever talk to them about how to have a healthier exit and a healthier break up with their ex? I’ve been married twice. My wife and I have a good relationship where we raised kids together. We talk nicely and communicate well together. Can you work with them on breaking up clean and nicer with their ex as well? Was that a whole different area?
It’s a whole different area and I’ve only got close to that topic like are we or aren’t we a few times. It always comes down to gratitude, lessons learned, opportunities, past, and future.
It’s gratitude and self-examination. Being grateful for what was great in the relationship and also being self-reflective enough to see where you harm things too. I wish I had something on me. What color is this book? You look at it and say it’s white. The other side of the book is red. There are two sides to it. There’s even that in building a strong relationship with a couple as well as recognizing that your spouse has a different perspective for that same day that you have.
For me, the real freedom came when I accepted 100% responsibility because going through the divorce, it was like, “This happened and this happened.” I also did these other things. That, for me, was total liberation. It takes you out of the victim and it’s the part that you can control and grow from so that you never have to do that again.
The spotlight one that you opened with at the beginning where the entrepreneur is often in the spotlight or on the pedestal, how that feels to the CEO and to their spouse, struck me as fucking horribly true because most entrepreneurs are feeding off of that spotlight. I don’t think we recognize at all that it’s harming our spouse then it’s hurting them. They’re sitting silently suffering and they’re no longer cheering us on. In the early days, they’re there by our side, cheering us on, loving the spotlight, and excited for us. All of a sudden, it grates on them. I’ve never seen that until you mentioned it, which is scary.
Perfect timing. Timing is everything. Having the lens for that now, it doesn’t mean that you have to be out of the spotlight. It doesn’t mean the spotlight is wrong but our spouse gets to see us in our weakest, darkest moments. When they feel like, “I can’t be the one that criticizes him because everybody else loves him. Now I’m a negative one.”
Your spouse is craving some of that spotlight too. Once in a while, you can put the spotlight on them. It’s interesting. Kelly, if you had any words of advice for yourself going back to the 22-year-old starting out in your career, what advice would you have for yourself? Something you know to be true now but you wish you’d known earlier.
My mess is my biggest message. For a long time, I can’t talk about this. I’m divorced. It’s because of my “failed” relationships that have given me the strength to transform it, not only in my own life but now to have a domino effect with everybody I come in contact with. That ripple effect of fixing families and love relationships transcends anything that I could have done in a long marriage.
Kelly Clements from TheEntreprenewer.com, thank you for sharing with us. We appreciate this.
It’s my pleasure. Thank you.
About Kelly Clements
Kelly Clements has been in workshop rooms behind closed doors with the entrepreneurial elite for more than 15 years. After working for some of the most prestigious coaching companies in the world, she started her own coaching practice in 2012. Since then she has gone on to write a best selling book and has spoken to hundreds of groups including Million Dollar Round Table, YPO, EO, Vistage and a host of other mastermind companies.
Her focus leans towards balancing the scales of business and relationships as she has witnessed and experienced the toll entrepreneurship can have on marriage and families. She believes the strengths that make us successful in business can be a challenge at home. But her perspective and strategies have worked to help entrepreneurial couples achieve greater harmony while building their businesses. Her experience working at Strategic Coach gave her a broad understanding of the processes and systems that allow companies to 10X. Here, she was exposed to invaluable coaching tools and concepts designed to give entrepreneurs more freedom of time, money, and relationships.
Next, she moved on to Session Director at Lifebook. This role afforded her the opportunity to support successful entrepreneurs in their personal lives. Mastering the Principal of Interconnectivity gave her an unfair advantage in her coaching practice. Her innate understanding of the intimate connection between the love relationship and business development uniquely qualifies her to help couples navigate common entrepreneurial landmines.
Her background also includes working for Walt Disney World, Disney Cruise Line, and Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island. She holds her Bachelors Degree in Commercial Recreation from Illinois State University. She is also a travel baseball, basketball, and football mom committed to showing her sons (Will, 11 and Luke, 9) all that life has to offer on and off the field.