Goldilocks Advises a Family Business (Part I)

What Could Go Wrong?

Metaphors have always been one of my favourite ways to explain things, but sometimes, admittedly, I can twist things a bit too far.

I hope this won’t be one of those occasions; apologies in advance if it is.

So be forewarned that this is not actually a story about a young blonde girl who advises a family business (or a family of bears).


Insiders, Outsiders, Goldilocks?

The genesis of this post is actually an introduction I heard on TV about an upcoming guest on a show I happened to be watching.

It was an American show, and the guest was an Irishman who spends half his time in the USA, and half his time in Ireland.

The host proclaimed that this gives the man, 

   “The knowledge of an insider, and the perspective of an outsider”

Bang, there it was. I actually paused the TV, rewound, and made sure I had the quote right.


Finding the Right Balance

I instantly thought about situations where a family business, or more specifically, a business family, calls in someone from outside the family to work with them.

Of course that’s because this is exactly the kind of work I love to do, when I’m not writing about fairy tales.

Many families are loath to bring in anyone from the outside, preferring to keep everything in-house, within the family, for fear that outsiders cannot be trusted, or believing that nobody else could ever understand “our family”.

They’re wrong on both counts, and we’ll get to the reasons why, but for now, let’s look at this “insider / outsider” dynamic.

Perspective of an Outsider

We’ll start with the perspective piece, because this is truly the biggest reason to enlist the services of an outside family business consultant.

Any person who is not a part of the family is also not part of the “family system” as those who use a systems theory lens would say.

The family system is called that because of the interdependent nature of the relationships that the different members have on one another, thanks their many common goals, and to the way that they interact on a long-term, repetitive basis.

An outsider, especially one trained in this kind of work, can instantly offer that family system the benefit of their outsider’s perspective, precisely because of what they are able to see, thanks to the fact that they are not part of the system.

When I peer into my aquarium, I see that the fish are all swimming in the tank.  I’m pretty sure that the fish don’t see things the same way.


Knowledge of an Insider

Naturally the person who isn’t a part of the family won’t have the knowledge of an insider who’s been a part of the family their whole life.

But that doesn’t mean that, with time, they can’t come to know the individual members of the family, and how they work together, pretty well, all the while maintaining their outsider’s perspective, which is so valuable.

In fact, a good outsider knows the limits of how far inside they want to go, knowing that if they ever lose their outsider’s perspective, they suddenly become a less valuable resource to the family.

Special Case: In-Laws!

We’ll get back to this Insider / Outsider stuff next week in Part II, but we need to acknowledge a special category of people who happen to exist somewhere in most business families, and who somehow live long periods of their lives in this “twilight zone”, in between insiders and outsiders.

Often the in-laws try desperately to be included among the insiders of the family, with varying degrees of success.  Somehow many of them are never truly accepted as insiders, and sometimes for good reason.

It also occurs that the efforts made to become insiders can negate any outsider advantages they might have had to begin with!

In-laws each have their own reality to face, and some learn to live with the cards they’ve been dealt better than others. 


Looking Ahead

Next week, in Part II, we’ll look at what percentage of business families actually hire outside consultants, as well as things that outside advisors need to be aware of, as they are welcomed into the sacred world of a business family’s inside workings.

As Goldilocks taught us, not all situations are “just right”.

Due Diligence for the “Soft Stuff”

Writing a weekly blog and being one’s own editor can involve making some interesting choices at times.  This week I decided to use a term in my headline that’s actually one that many of my colleagues try to avoid.

But, the term “soft stuff” (and its derivations “soft skills” and “the soft side”) does in fact nicely convey the stark contrast between the work that we do compared with that of others, including many folks with whom we often collaborate.

There’s no shortage of words I could’ve used to make my point, but I settled on the Soft/Hard contrast here, for reasons I hope will be appreciated.

The “Normal” Uses of Due Diligence

Actually, my choice to go “soft” was mostly related to its contrast with the other phrase in the headline, “due diligence”.

And thanks to Google, we can quickly type in “due diligence meaning” and get this:

  • Reasonable steps taken by a person in order to satisfy a legal requirement, especially in buying or selling something.
  • A comprehensive appraisal of a business undertaken by a prospective buyer, especially to establish its assets and liabilities

Those definitions seem clearly aligned with what most people would agree are “hard stuff”, or quantifiable, legal matters that all businesses need to consider, especially when looking at a company’s ownership transition.

What About “Emotional & Interpersonal Due Diligence”?

Let’s start with a hat tip to Ron Reece, a US colleague I met recently as part of an FFI Course that’s part of their Advanced Certificate Program

As the FFI faculty member, I reach out to all the students in the course to arrange a Zoom meeting early on, to get to know them and where they are in their journey. 

The course is about Family Governance, and everyone in the class comes to it from different angles, so it’s truly a privilege to learn about their personal experiences.

During my intro call with Ron he shared a term that he’s been using to make his point about the importance of the work he does with families.

He told me he calls it “Emotional and Interpersonal Due Diligence”.  

“Wow”, I replied. “I’m gonna have to write a blog about that”.

Chess game

The Most Important Due Diligence?

Ron’s a psychologist, so he can pull off this kind of lingo better than most, but even guys like me who come from a business background can see how this can actually be the most important part of any due diligence process.

In fact, it deserves to be highlighted, especially in cases of family business succession, precisely because there’s likely to be less of the “regular” due diligence going on because the “transaction” is probably more of a “family transition”.

I’m having an A-Ha moment as I write this, so bear with me as I flesh this out.

Transactions Require Regular and Thorough Due Diligence

Transitions Require Emotional & Interpersonal Due Diligence

That thought wasn’t in my head when I started writing this, which is why I blog every week, for moments of clarity like this.

Some Important Work Needs to Be Done

If you are going to sell your business to someone, the buyer should/must/will conduct some form of due diligence before completing the transaction.

So when the business is going to go from one generation of a family to another, would it not make sense for some similar form of work to happen, to make sure that everything is going to work out as planned?

They need to be made to fully aware that a failed deal will come back to haunt them, and only some “soft side due diligence” can clear that up in advance.

Is the Shoe on the Other Foot?

What makes this trickier is the fact that every outside buyer would insist on due diligence and it will happen or else there’s no deal, BUT, in a family business situation, the “buyer” is often in a position of feeling like they are getting a favour, so the seller typically calls the shots.

And that’s precisely where (and why) things so often go wrong.

When there’s a group of related acquirers, who are beholden to the one who’s divesting, not enough attention is given to the cohesion and interpersonal relationships of the group of new owners.

What If It Doesn’t Work Out?

If the leading generation (seller) is in charge of the deal, they don’t want due diligence to screw up their deal.

They need to be made to fully aware that a failed deal will come back to haunt them, and only some “soft side due diligence” can clear that up in advance.

Coaching for Current & Future Family Leaders?

This week we’re talking about coaching for family leaders, both current and future. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart that keeps coming up for me lately.

I’d planned this piece a couple of weeks ago, and suddenly last Wednesday morning, something unexpected arrived in my inbox.

Well, it wasn’t completely unexpected, because I receive the latest edition of the FFI Practitioner every Wednesday morning, so that wasn’t the surprise. 

But the content was very much in line with what I was planning on sharing here this week, which I found serendipitous.

The featured piece is entitled The Benefits of Coaching for Family Enterprise Leaders and Practitioners by Greg McCann.


Hey! That’s What I Was Gonna Say!

Since I was going to say much of what he wrote, I decided to share his wisdom, and add my perspectives on the matter; kind of a win-win.

McCann outlines the benefits of coaching that still remain misunderstood by many people.  

He mentions “increasing the leader’s capacity for more than just the issue at that moment” and “a safe, neutral setting in which to process ideas, fears, perceptions, and patterns in their lives”, among other great points.

I’ve shared my history of trying to explain coaching to people in No, Dad, Coaching Isn’t “Helping Losers”.


Good Timing (For a Change!)

The coaching field continues to grow, in the number of trained and qualified coaches, and in its acceptance as a true field, which provides a valuable service to clients around the world.

My coach training journey began in 2013; at the time my focus was more on growing my facilitation practice, rather than 1-on-1 coaching opportunities.

But near the end of 2018 I decided that it was finally time for me to get my own professional coaching certification in 2019, and I completed that last November, through CTI.

As it turns out, my timing was impeccable. 


Best Time Ever for Coaching

The sudden arrival of this pandemic has resulted in this being one of the best times and opportunities for coaching that we could ever have expected.

The new situations that everyone is now facing have created a lot more thoughtful self-reflection in people everywhere.

Coaching can be valuable for everyone, IF they understand what it is and what it isn’t, and if they are ready to embark on the journey.

While my training was geared to coaching anyone, I’ve chosen to remain focused on family business, or, more correctly, people who are part of business families.


Lonely at the Top, AND at the Bottom

Family business leaders, like CEO’s in any business, often feel lonely, because there are some subjects that they just can’t talk about with others.

Executive coaching has been a huge area where coaching clients have seen benefits, exactly because these leaders have found someone who isn’t simply a “Yes-Person”, and instead they now have a person who will level with them and challenge their thinking.

It’s easy to see the “lonely at the top” aspect, but it can also be lonely at “the bottom”, especially in a family business, when you happen to have the right (or wrong?) last name.

Been there, done that; know how powerless it feels.


One Person CAN Change a System

One of my greatest “A-Ha” moments of the past few years is the realisation that a change in one person, can and will have an effect on the whole family system, with patience and persistence.

That means that I, as a neutral outsider to a family, don’t have to work with the whole family to effect positive change, because I can actually have almost as great an impact by working with just one, motivated person.

WOW, that’s actually pretty HUGE.

Now that I’ve finally realized this, my challenge is to convey this concept to potential clients, who often feel helpless to make the changes that they know are required in their families.

It turns out that families are pretty interdependent!


Current Realities Align with Coaching Too

Regular readers of my blog know that I’ve been a big fan of online meetings via Zoom for a while already, which just happens to be a fantastic “delivery mechanism” for coaching services.  See Who’s Zooming Who.

I’ve coached several people that I still have never met in person, and I imagine this will continue to be the case going forward.

Members of enterprising families are all in a somewhat unique situation, where finding a “thinking partner” who “gets” them can be a challenge.

Good news: there are coaches who “get” you…

No, We Aren’t “There” Yet

In some ways the new realities we’re all facing during this pandemic are starting to feel like a really long car trip.

“Are we there yet?”, ask the kids for the umpteenth time.

No, unfortunately, we don’t seem to be “there” just yet.  

And it may be another few hours, if we don’t have car trouble.

Finding Gratitude

As hard as it is though, it could be worse. In fact, for many people, it is worse.  

Lately whenever people have asked how I am, I reply that if I took 100 random people around me, and ranked them by how much they now have to worry about compared to before, I would rank somewhere near the bottom of the list.

I try to remind myself of that on a regular basis.  It’s good to have things for which we are grateful. 

Gratitude, being thankful for what we do have, is an important habit that more of us would do well to adopt.

Comparing to Other People, and to Other Times

So we can compare ourselves to other people who have it worse, and admit that we have less to worry about than most of them; I suspect that most readers of this blog are in similar positions.  

Business families, and those who advise them, are often part of the upper middle class, if not also part of the proverbial “1%”.

So what if we compare this pandemic to how it might have been to live through something similar in a previous decade.

Imagine a real car trip from your childhood, where you were in the back seat, bored to the point of playing “licence plate bingo” or some other lame distraction.

Back then, we were truly left “to our own devices”, whereas today’s kids typically each have their “own device”!


Still Getting Things Done

Many of us are continuing to “get things done”, even if we need to modify how we do it.  

Many of us are “zooming” or using other online platforms to meet, and getting better at it all the time.

We better get used to it, because there doesn’t seem to be anything that will magically happen that will get things back to the way they were a few months ago.

And so if things will remain uncertain for a while, what can we do?

Plan for the Worst

I think that hoping things get resolved quickly and continuing to do very little else is likely the worst course of action.

The old adage of “Plan for the worst; Hope for the best” still holds.

I heard a business owner on the radio recently, who happens to be a former client, who runs a manufacturing operation with a large and growing online B2C business.

He said that they are working on the assumption that things will remain as they are now for the next 18-24 months, and they are acting accordingly.

I knew he was a wise man when he hired me a few years ago, but he proved it again just there.

Doesn’t it make sense to plan for a long period of this, and then you can hopefully unwind it early, rather than to simply patch things as you go, and hope things will come back next month?


Family Issues to Be Addressed?

Meanwhile, these past few months have likely raised some issues in the family circle in addition to the business circle.

In some ways the question “Are we there yet?”, when asked about a family’s governance, might also have a clear “No, not yet” answer.

Some of these family aspects, now that they have surfaced, may be worth revisiting, before they get worse.

Individual Development for “When We Get There”

And as long as there’s still some more time to go until we “get there”, isn’t this an ideal opportunity for some of the individuals who are part of the business family, to work on themselves to develop whatever capacities they need to work on, to be even more ready for the day when they’ll be expected to take on more responsibility?

This new, unconventional situation we are living is full of questions, but not all of the answers are negative.

There are positives and opportunities here, available to those who have their eyes open and who have the right attitude.

We may not be there yet, but we will get there.

Doing vs Being vs Feeling in the FamBiz

Where IS everybody?

One of my recent Zoom calls began with someone asking “Where is everybody?”  

It wasn’t someone having a problem with technology and experiencing trouble with her screen. She was actually asking a much deeper question.

You might think of it as a modified version of “How is everyone”, which it likely was, but in these tumultuous times, it likely was more about “where” we each were along this journey we’re all on right now.

And make no mistake, even though most of us are confined and sheltering in place much of the time, we are all on a journey.

Stumbling Around in the Dark

Now the question “Where is everybody?” could also be something we say when we venture outside these days. 

There isn’t as much “doing” going on out there for us to see, so a lot of people are now concentrating more on their “Being” rather than just their “Doing”.

When our world gets shaken up, there’s a natural tendency to look inward and reflect, and spend some time thinking about what’s truly important to us.

Even that question from earlier “How ARE you” is very different from “What are you doing?”

And even though we may not be on a physical journey, many of us are on a journey to what’s next, even as we stumble around in the dark, not knowing what lies around the next corner.


Who Do You Want to BE?

As we get a bit more introspective, we sometimes begin to think more about who we want to be, instead of simply what we are going to do.

It’s somewhat more of a long-term view.

To me, the things that we do, over and over, are a huge part of who we are, and especially who we become.  It’s all part of the habits that we get into that make us the kind of person we are.


Girl standing and raising her hands over sunset

How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

Let’s now bring this back to the subjects we normally deal with in this space, enterprising families, and their challenges in attempting to transition their wealth from one generation to the next.

There comes a time in the lives of family business leaders when they start to think about how they want to be remembered

Hopefully they begin this process early enough in the arc of their lives to still make some changes in their focus.

The current crises (that’s crisis, plural, because there are several going on, even if you haven’t separated them in your head yet) may be forcing people to think more about who they are and how they want to be remembered. 

And that’s a good thing.


Legacy Definitions Vary

How you will be remembered is part of your legacy, in fact, some would say that that’s the essence of your legacy, the basic definition.

There are variants, of course, and different versions of the definition of legacy resonate better or worse with people, depending on a host of factors.

I’ve always liked this version: “Legacy is how people feel when they hear your name”, although I’m not sure where I got it. I just typed it into Google to see if I could find the source and nothing quite matched.

Perhaps my version makes more sense if we add “after you are gone”, but I prefer to think that one’s legacy need not wait until after their death.

I know that “how people feel” about me is also important to me while I’m alive too!


Maya Angelou Version

One quote that did come up during my Google searches is from Maya Angelou, and I think it fits into my conclusion”:


                “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said

                       people will forget what you did

               but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


At a time when there is so much uncertainty in all of our lives, I think it makes sense for many of us, especially those of us in the second half of our lives, to begin to shift more towards this kind of focus.


Doing, Being, Feeling

Working with family members typically get emotional, so our feelings are never too far away.

That doesn’t need to be a bad thing, if we can focus on what’s important, and making sure we remember how what we do and who we are will always affect those feelings.

The Crisis as a Test of your Family Governance

The Crisis as a Test of your Family Governance

As we continue to move through these unprecedented times, some things are beginning to get a little bit clearer. 

There are still so many unknowns, of course, but for many family enterprises, they’ve succeeded in “putting out the fire”, and now a different kind of work is needed.

During this preliminary stage of the current transition to the “next normal”, most families have begun to learn a lot more about each other. 

Sometimes they’ve learned positive things, and other times they may have been disappointed.


People and Relationships

As much as they’ve discovered about other people in their family, what some families may have also started to notice is that the way they had their relationships set up before just might not be optimal anymore.

Let me give you the background and proper credit for this idea and how it came to me. 

If you’re like me, you’ve never received more invitations to webinars than you have in the past few weeks.  Some of them are actually worthwhile.

The idea for this blog came from one of those, sponsored by Family Enterprise Xchange (FEX), of which I am a proud member, as their FEA Program was what made me discover the world of working with business families in the way I now do.


A Friend and Mentor

In light of the new reality we’re all now living in, FEX recently hosted a webinar featuring guest thought leader Jim Grubman, who I consider a friend and definitely kind of a mentor to me, as he always has time for me, and I definitely look up to him.

Towards the end of the Zoom call, during the Q & A if I’m not mistaken, Jim noted that this current crisis is serving as a test of family governance for many families.  

He kept going for a bit, but as far as I was concerned, he could have dropped the mic right there.

Bang, it was so clear to me all of a sudden.  

Families who work together or manage assets together are feeling the shockwaves of the pandemic and its associated economic and societal fallout in interesting ways.


Are They Passing the Test?

At a time when everything is getting shaken up, systems and their limits get tested.  

When a system is well prepared, and is able to adapt quickly, the relationships between the people in the system will likely survive relatively unscathed.

But what about systems (families) where things don’t go so well, adapting doesn’t happen as some expected, people second guess each other, and contingencies that some assumed were in place don’t operate in the way they were expected to?

Jim is correct that underneath all of these relationships lies the family’s governance, whether they know it or not, whether they see it or not, and whether their governance is formalized or not.

That family governance is being tested these days, and some families are realizing that they’ve got work to do.

Students sitting in class and stressed

Character Building Events

Any crisis can act as a character-building event, and this one is no exception.  Things that were going “okay” just a couple of months ago are suddenly no longer okay.

For families who are working together, a crisis like the one the world is seeing now can be seen as a test of family character.  

Any shortcomings, that may have been hidden by the “good times” we were in, are now suddenly exposed.

If you’re having trouble picturing what I’m getting at, imagine any business being run by siblings or members of different generations of a family (or both). 

Now, throw in some new kinds of decisions that need to be made as a result of the new reality.


Decisions, communication, problem-solving

Family governance is all about how family members make decisions together, how they communicate, and how they solve problems together.

There’s nothing like a crisis, caused by a pandemic, to bring these into a sudden sharp focus, largely because some new kinds of decisions need to be made.

Ideally, everyone agrees not only on the right decision, but on who gets to make the call!  See: Who Gets to Decide Who Gets to Decide

The answers aren’t always obvious, and situations can get complex pretty quickly.


Self-Reflection Question

So, how’s your family governance doing? 

Is it passing the test?

If the answer is “No”, you’ve got work to do….

Pandemic Creates Spectrum of Opportunities for Enterprising Families

From Societal Transformations to Intergenerational Transitions

Thanks to the pandemic, there’s no denying that the whole world looks very different today than it did just a few weeks ago. 

Few could have predicted how quickly and profoundly things could change, and so far, most of what we’ve seen has been for the worse.

But while most of us haven’t figured out what it’ll all mean in the long run, some families have already started making some big moves to try to get out in front of the tectonic shifts that are happening.

From societal changes that are happening in plain view of everyone, right down to key transitions within families, it seems like everything is in motion right now.  

As a family enterprise advisor who lives and breathes the world of business families and their family offices, I want to share some of what I’ve already been noticing.


Broad Societal and Industry Moves

Let’s start with the things that we’ve all been seeing on the news. 

With shortages of necessities like personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical personnel, hand sanitizer and ventilators, many companies, including plenty of family businesses, have begun to shift their production from their usual products, to helping fill the sudden demand for what frontline responders need right now.

There are examples, big and small, from all over the world, because every country is being affected by the current pandemic. 

On a more local scale, many family-owned restaurants and grocery stores are moving to deliveries to deal with the new reality of the “lockdowns”, as well as getting food to overworked medical personnel and to food banks having trouble keeping up with local needs.


Family Offices and Impact Investing

At another level, looking at things with a longer lens, family offices are already lining up future investments in industries poised to be part of the long term solution and new realities that the world is suddenly facing.

This crisis is presenting all sorts of opportunities, not only from an investment perspective, but also for the betterment of society. 

The field of impact investing, often a favorite of the younger generation of successful intergenerational enterprising families, is also rightfully excited by the chance to get involved on the ground floor of some of these widespread changes.

This ties in nicely with a piece I wrote last year on the natural fit between family offices and impact investing.  See Family Offices and Impact Investing: A Great Fit

Pandemic Creates Spectrum  of Opportunities  for Enterprising Families

From Macro to Micro

Within any given family, as much as the societal and industry shake-ups affect their businesses and the assets they own, there’s typically an upcoming generational transition that’s never more than a decade or so away.

Enterprising legacy families always need to look at the long term trends in the world at large, while making sure to never lose sight of the life cycle realities in their families.  

They need to look at the macro world and its opportunities with one eye, without forgetting about the micro reality and potential threats that might present themselves if they don’t sufficiently prepare the members of their own family to be ready to take the reins one day.

As the world faces major shifts, it becomes more important than ever for families to seize these opportunities while proactively involving the younger, rising generations of their family.


The Strengths of Each Generation

While the senior generation has the experience, wisdom, and patience to run the operations, the next generation of the family will normally be much more tech savvy, have more energy, and be well connected to peers all over the world.

Yes, the generations have different strengths, but in many ways, they have even more things in common.   See: Is There a Generation Gap in Business?

While the MIT-Sloan article above isn’t aimed at #FamBiz in particular, the similarities between members of various generations are even greater when we consider members of the same family.

There are so many opportunities to mentor and “reverse mentor” each other in such families.


Opportunities Abound – Will Your Family Capitalize?

This pandemic will create some enormous opportunities for those families that are poised to capitalize on them.

Families in business together can move into action more quickly than most corporate entities, because they’re more flexible, they aren’t focused on the next quarter’s results, and they understand the values that have made them successful over generations.

These crazy times are turbulent for everyone, and smart family enterprises are already beginning to capitalize on them.

2 people making a pinky promise

Under-promise and Over-deliver

These days there are many uncertainties surrounding the potential outcomes we’re all facing, along with lots of people in leadership roles being put on the spot for unknowable answers to questions that were inconceivable a few weeks ago.

At times like these we can learn a lot about leaders by how they address these questions, and whether they’re more inclined to skew their answers to one direction or another, depending on both their understanding of the situation and their propensity to lean either towards more optimistic or pessimistic outcomes.

A Huge Learning Opportunity

The current situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as scary as it is, will also be great opportunities for all of us to learn, if we are so inclined.

We’re already learning a lot about viruses and how they spread, as well as how some rather simple hygiene measures go a long way toward curtailing that spread.

But we’re also learning a lot about society, how different groups react to news depending on their culture, and how political leaders react under pressure, and whether or not they properly rely on the experts who advise them.

There are also plenty of things we can tie in to the world of enterprising families, which I normally cover here, and some lessons that family members will also hopefully learn as we work our way through this global crisis.


“Don’t Set Yourself Up to Be a Loser”

If my Dad were still alive today, he’d be proud that I haven’t forgotten this mantra of his, which I heard him say over a hundred times in various situations.

Many of our political leaders have been guilty of putting their heads in the sand, hoping this would simply go away, making statements to that effect, and being wildly optimistic, because in the short term, that plays better politically.

In the long run, any trust that people had in such leaders is bound to be diminished as the truth comes out and reality sets in. 

This happens in society with politicians, and occurs in family situations too, where one family member makes overly optimistic claims about the family’s wealth, or their personal abilities, to siblings, cousins, or others.


Delayed Gratification

I often state that many family business problems are simply parenting problems that manifest themselves a few decades later, and this often comes down to whether or not parents tried to instill the value of delayed gratification in their children.

I wrote about this in Marshmallows and Filet Mignon about a year and a half ago, and I think it’s clear that some of our political leaders did learn these lessons early on and continue to reap the benefits, while others, well, not so much.

Last week I used a song as a blog title, and this week the song “Teach your Children” comes to mind as I think about this.

Many of us our now suddenly surrounded by children in our homes and there are plenty of lessons to be learned under the subject of “current events”

I hope that you’re benefiting from the opportunities to teach them important lessons based on the news.


Not Overpromising as a Coach

One thing I like about being a coach to families is that it’s actually difficult for me to overpromise what I can deliver.

You see, any well-trained coach will not only realize but will also share with their clients that the coach is not the one who does the work in such a relationship, it is the client (or clients).

The coach is there to provide some structure, process help, guidance, and accountability, but not to “do the work”; that is ultimately up to the clients.

This is a big part of why the “deliverables” are not easy to discuss or promise, because they’re out of the coach’s hands. See: Intangible Deliverables and the Family Circle


Promises to Family Members

Let’s finish off by tying in the idea of promises to the family, since many of us are suddenly in close quarters with family members, and may be for a while still.

Are there any promises that you made in the past that need to be reviewed? Maybe they were implied, or not defined well enough?

This may be an opportune time to clear those up. Maybe some assumptions around wealth need to be revised and updated too.

It’s safer to under-promise and over-deliver than the reverse.

2 people stuck in a maze

Stuck in the Middle with You

Most of us are living in a new reality, temporary as it will (hopefully) be.  There have likely been many adjustments in your day-to-day lives, some of which are unwelcome.

While nobody knows for sure how long this will last, it’s very unlikely that we will get back to exactly the way things were anytime soon, if ever.

That last part, “if ever”, is not meant to be alarmist, I’m just making the point that when such fundamental and widespread events happen in society at large, they create some displacements that end up being permanent in nature

We just don’t know what they’ll look like yet.


Not the Beginning, Not the End Either

So it’s safe to say that we’re not at the end of this ordeal yet, and we are no longer at the beginning.  You could say that we’re somewhere “in the middle”.

Unfortunately, I think we’re still way closer to the beginning, but hopefully I’ll be proven wrong (it’s been known to happen).

It’s a process that we’re moving through, and while decades from now it will seem like an “event”, right now, while we’re in it, it feels like it’s moving quickly, while in other ways it feels like it’s going too slowly.


Extreme Reactions, or Middle of the Road?

Another way to think about this week’s theme of “the middle” is that “Goldilocks” place I think we should all be striving for, in terms of how we’re responding to things.

Last week I went to my local liquor store, and had to wait in line outside, since they were intentionally limiting the number of customers inside, to increase personal space for everyone.

The man minding the line-up was asking us to be nice to the employees, because evidently some customers were less than nice earlier that day.

He then shared his thoughts about the kinds of people he was seeing. I’ll give it to you in colloquial Quebec French first, then translate:

“Y’en a qui s’en foute, y’en a qui capote, et il y a le reste, dans le milieu”

Loosely “There are those who don’t give a crap, those who are freaking out, and the rest, in the middle”.

Sometimes it’s good to be in the middle.


Middle of the Crowded House

Another change that many of us are being forced to deal with is the “crowded house” phenomenon arising from so many “stay-at-home” orders.

I was on a Zoom call recently with 16 people from nine different countries, and the vast majority were working from home, while the few exceptions were in very small offices.

The “stuck in the middle” title of this blog came from this idea that many people are now suddenly all being forced into staying together for much longer periods of time than usual, typically for longer than they’d prefer.

Luckily some warmer weather is finally arriving, even in Canada, that will allow us all more opportunities to at least get some fresh air from time to time.


Feeling Stuck – Usually Not Good

Enough about the middle, which isn’t necessarily a bad place to be.  

But feeling “stuck”, well, that’s rarely good, and for some people, that might be a feeling that is currently resonating with them, and not in a good way.

I want to share some thoughts on this, that can hopefully offer a new perspective on looking at our new reality.

There is clearly some upheaval going on everywhere right now, which means that things are changing.

If everything in your life was going well before, then change is not something you were necessarily hoping for, I get that.

But it’s here now, so it makes sense to acknowledge that things are changing and trying to think about what you can do now to be prepared.


Where Is This Going?

Unfortunately, nobody knows where this will end, and the only person I can control is me.

I’m spending a lot of time reflecting and being grateful for what I do have, and trying to think of ways to be a resource to those who could benefit from what I have to offer.

The rest will take care of itself.  Stay well, stay safe, be kind.

Feel free to reach out for a Zoom call to chat. Yes, I mean it.


“Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am….”

Phone with video confrerence

On Infections and Inflection Points

These past couple of weeks have been anything but “business as usual”, and so I’ve decided to break from my usual pre-set blog calendar and venture into the many discussions that are taking place in society and in the family enterprise space, on the many impacts the sudden uncertainty has us all facing.

I still have plenty of blog subjects that I want to get to about business families and their challenges in transitioning their wealth to the next generation, and we’ll get back to those in due time. 

But lately, as I’ve come across “regular” content in my inbox or on social media that seemed to act as if we were all still in the “same old, same old”, I’ve had an almost visceral reaction to some of it, as it struck me as tone deaf or just a little too oblivious for me to spend any time on, you know, right now.


Inflection Points – No Going Back

This past week, I was speaking with my coach, Melissa, about the new realities we are facing because of Covid19.  I was pleased and not too surprised when she told me that I am by far her calmest client right now, as most others are freaking out.

I shared with her my belief that we will be learning a LOT over the next few months; about the world we live in, about people, and about leadership.

We’ve hit a number of inflection points, and while it’s way too soon to predict how this will all shake out, I can state with great confidence that many things will never be the same again.  

But most of us will be just fine.

Family Timemathematical graph

One of the unexpected changes many of us are being confronted with is more family time.  

My wife and I have been “empty nesters” for almost five years (thanks in large part to boarding school) but we are now back into “full house” mode with both of our college undergraduates at home, likely finishing up their school years “online”.

It’s too early to tell how it will all work out, but so far, so good, everyone seems to have the right attitude, even with the “self quarantine for 14 days” part that they’re expected to respect after returning from the US.


Isolation and Distancing

This call for social distancing and isolation is being received better in some places and by some demographics than others, which is not unexpected either.

What it will do to the economy is still unknowable, but the variety of  timelines we’ve been hearing as people make their guesses as to how long until we’re back to normal is causing tremendous market turbulence.

In the future it will be easy to see where we should have been buying back in, but for now, it’s anybody’s guess.


Leadership – Good, Bad, Ugly

The leadership that we’ve been seeing on our TV every day has varied tremendously, from good, to bad, to downright ugly.

I won’t weigh in on who I think fits into each category, suffice it to say that I’ve seen a few in each category from politicians.

But I guarantee you that there will be some people that nobody knew before this crisis who will end up being heroes, and others who will get rich, and still others whose reputations will never recover.

But the jury is still out on all of that, and may be for a few months more.


Technology and Connection

Some of the good news is that technology now makes remaining connected so much easier than ever before.

As I wrote a few months back in Who’s Zooming Who?, I’ve become a huge fan of using the Zoom platform for online face-to-face meetings, both for 1-on-1 and group meetings.mathematical graph

More and more people are slowly learning about the benefits of such meetings, because they really don’t have much choice.


Reach Out, Just to Check In

One thing I’ve been doing (and promise to do more of) is to reach out to people, including clients and colleagues, from the past and present (and future?).

Reaching out without any particular angle or purpose, but simply to check in.

Connection is always important, and when times are filled with uncertainty, it becomes even more clear.

See you next week. Excuse me now, I’m going to call my mother.