Having Conversations (Not just communicating)

I often harp on the need to communicate well. That means doing it clearly and often, among other things. Communication takes many forms, especially with today’s technology. The many forms help with the frequency, but unfortunately they have not done much to help with clarity.

In business families and their family businesses, communication becomes especially important. When people relate to each other through the business AND through the family, the relationships tend to become more complex.

With this complexity can come a multitude of potential problems and misunderstandings that stem from human emotions.  An effort to communicate regularly and clearly can often help to minimize problems, but sometimes the emotions alone can inhibit the desire to make the necessary efforts.

I love to send emails, and I often spend a great deal of time composing them to ensure that I am sending all the information that I want, and getting my message across just the way I want it to be received.

I regularly send text messages on occasions where the information is particularly timely and brief. But in many cases there is no better way to communicate that to just talk to people.

In some ways, having conversations is becoming a lost art. Who has not witnessed people sitting at the same table in a restaurant, each one looking at their phone, without anyone saying a word.  Sometimes they even text the people sitting at the same table!

The subject of conversations came up often at a recent workshop that I attended on business strategy for family businesses. Our instructor repeatedly used the expression “have the conversation”. On the second day, when he said it for about the twelfth time, it hit me.

The first day of the course, each time I heard “have the conversation”, my brain translated it into “communicate”, because that was my term. To me he was preaching the same communication gospel that I often harp on.

But there was much more to it. Not only is having a conversation a subset of communication, it is also one of the most often overlooked.

And in addition to being a hugely important part of communication, “having the conversation” was also the term our instructor was using to hammer home another point, and it is the point that I want to hammer home here.

All too often there are important subjects that should be discussed, but they are put off, due to the combination of two major impediments. People are either:

Too busy taking care of more urgent matters, and/or,
Not comfortable talking about “those subjects”

HAVE THE CONVERSATION.  Sometimes you need to concentrate on the important things, not just those that seem urgent.

And get over the discomfort. The hardest step is usually the first. Start the conversation slowly if you have to, but be open to keeping it going. You have to be able to leave your comfort zone to make progress.

In a ten minute discussion with any family-business person , I could come up with five areas where conversations should be taking place but are not.

What are you waiting for? The time is never perfect. Don’t make me come over there! (Although I will if you ask).

Steve Legler “gets” business families.
He understands the issues that families face, as well as how each family member sees things from their own viewpoint.
He specializes in helping business families navigate the difficult areas where the family and the business overlap, by listening to each person’s concerns and ideas.  He then helps the family work together to bridge gaps by building common goals, based on their shared values and vision.
His background in family business, his experience running his own family office, along with his education and training in coaching, facilitation, and mediation, make him uniquely suited to the role of advising business families and families of wealth.
He is the author of Shift your Family Business (2014), he received his MBA from the Richard  Ivey School of Business (UWO, 1991), is a CFA Charterholder (CFA Institute, 2002), a Family Enterprise Advisor (IFEA 2014), and has received the ACFBA and CFWA accreditations (Family Firm Institute 2014-2015).
He prides himself on his ability to help families create the harmony they need to support the legacy they want. To learn how, start by signing up for his monthly newsletter and weekly blogs here.