Challenging the Defiant Ones

Wordplay Rears Its Head Once More

Regular readers will recognize my penchant for engaging in interesting wordplay in this space whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Thanks for indulging me once again.

There’ll even be a “sidebar” bonus, because last week I didn’t have space to include another tidbit that fits into this category, and I hate to let a juicy bit of trivia slip by. 

 

A Client’s Defiant Daughter

This one begins with a coaching client of mine who was sharing a personal story with me (as clients typically do) about his daughter.

The young woman was being defiant, and they each stood their ground.  I’ll spare you the details of what happened for privacy reasons and since it’s still a work in progress (what isn’t?).

Let’s just say that her defiance became a focus of our discussion together.

It was funny because during our previous call, before a bit of a summer break, he was pleased with some of the progress he’d been making in his relationship with her.

I’d even given him some ideas around allowing her to choose the ways that she participated in certain family projects, rather than having Dad point her in the directions he preferred.

 

Playing the Translation Game

Neither of us actually used the word “defiant”, but it was certainly an adjective that could have applied to what he was relaying to me.

A few days later, when the word defiant came up, during a meditation recording of all places, a bell rang in my head (I mean a proverbial bell here, not the one that ended the meditation).

I thought of the noun, “defy” and a close and related French word, “défi”.

The English translation of the word “défi”, is challenge.

Ding, ding, ding.

 

If the Defiant One Challenges You….

So how should you react when a defiant one challenges you?

Inspired by “fighting fire with fire”, my conclusion is to challenge them back.

It isn’t even that far off from where I had him exploring with her a while back, letting her choose her own way to be involved.

Maybe all we need to add is a bit of a challenge to it, to encourage her to not only make it her own, but to really make the most of it and outdo herself.

 

Translation Sidebar

Last week, in Stuck in the Mud? Don’t Wait for “MayDay”, it pained me to not have space to include some more “bilingual trivia”.

Did you know that “MayDay” actually comes from the French “M’aider” (roughly “help me”)?

Likewise, the term “Pan Pan” that was also featured last week, also comes from the French “panne”, which is roughly a “breakdown” for example regarding one’s car (“mon auto est en panne”).

Hats off to any creatives who thought the “pan” in Pan Pan was about being in the pan just before going into the fire of “MayDay”. 

End sidebar.

What Do the Defiant Want?

Let’s get back to the matter at hand, i.e. finding appropriate ways to handle family members who are defiant.

First off, it may be worth taking a moment to think back to how we might have handled situations when we were their age.

This spring when many people had young adults return home unexpectedly, many of us got to live a situation that had both positives and negatives.

When my wife was less than thrilled with the reactions of our two homebound college students, I quickly reminded her that if I had been forced back home at their age, I might be a bit churlish too.

 

I’m Impressed. Please Continue.

I’ve shared with anyone who will listen how impressed I am with today’s young people. I’m hopeful for the future of our world, largely because I have faith in our young people to do a better job than those who are running things now.

For those of you who agree, and who are lucky enough to have young adults in your family, I think you should share that feeling with them.

“I’m Impressed” is something most people enjoy hearing.

“Please continue” to impress me, might just be the kind of challenge that will keep them moving forward.

It seems like something worth trying, and is clearly a Win-Win.

And it sure beats trying to deal with constant defiance.

There’s energy in defiance, and if you can harness it like a martial artist, maybe you can even make it work for you.

Stuck in the Mud? Don’t Wait for “MayDay”

Stuck in the Mud? Don’t Wait for “MayDay”

New Perspectives on a Flashback Memory 

In the summer I love being at my cottage, and when here, one of my preferred spots is on my kayak, hoping to spot some bald eagles while paddling around the Chockpish River. 

See: From Upstream to Downstream in the FamBiz

This week I ventured to a part of the river near the first cottage we stayed in here, years ago, and it created a flashback to a memory that part of me prefers to forget.

As I casually related that story to my coach, Melissa, this week, we ended up in some new territory that makes me want to share it here now. 

 


Just a Trip to the Beach

It was a nice day for a trip to the beach, which, depending on the mode of transport, is either a five-minute drive by car, or a twenty-minute paddle by kayak.

So Mom and our daughter were going to drive and my son and I were going to take the scenic route via the water.

I had one “Walkie-Talkie” and my wife had the other, just in case.

“OK, bye, see you there in a few minutes”.  Not so fast…

 

Boat Safety Training Comes in Handy

My wife grew up on a river with power boats, and we’ve taken our share of boating courses, many years ago. One part of the training included using a VHF radio to communicate and to signal distress

(The protocols on the water and for aircraft are similar if not identical.)

The Chockpish river is not deep, and in places you can run aground, even in a kayak, but there was another danger lurking beneath the surface.

My preteen son (at the time) got into the small kayak and I pushed mine into deep enough water to get going, and was then going to board (mine is a “sit-on-top” model).

Off we go, except…

 

Did I Tell You About the Moose?

Our neighbour, Doris, had recently recounted a sad story about a moose who “got stuck in the mud, and died” in the river, because she (the moose) couldn’t get out.

That story came to the forefront of my mind, as I too, began to sink into the mud as I tried to board my kayak.

With my son waiting, “patiently”, for us to depart, Dad kept getting in deeper and deeper. This was NOT going as planned.

Did Doris mention that the moose had a heart attack trying to get out? I wasn’t sure anymore.

I was slowly but surely reaching panic mode.

 

Asking for Help, Before It Gets Critical

I remembered the Walkie-Talkie, and I remembered my radio training. We’re all familiar with “MayDay” as a distress call, when it’s a matter of life and death.

Fewer people know that there’s another signal to call out, before things get that far, but I knew it was time to use it.

I turned on the Walkie-Talkie and said “Pan Pan”.

           “Pan Pan, I’m stuck in the mud, and I think I need help”

My wife knew that this was not a joke and that I needed help, and she turned around and came back to help.

The rest of the story is thankfully uneventful, because after seeing her, I calmed down, which helped me stop sinking deeper, and I eventually extricated myself, on my own.

 

Lessons Learned when Stuck in Real Mud

I hope you never get to the point where you’re literally hip deep in the mud, even in shallow water.

  1. Don’t wait until it’s “life and death” before asking for help.
  2. Know how to ask for the right help, and from whom.
  3. Remaining calm will almost always be helpful.
  4. The presence of a helper is beneficial, even if they aren’t the ones who pull you out.

 

Lessons that Families Can Use

  1. Don’t wait until it’s “life and death” before asking for help.
  2. Know how to ask for the right help, and from whom.
  3. Remaining calm will almost always be helpful.
  4. The presence of a helper is beneficial, even if they aren’t the ones who pull you out.

 

Did You See What I Did There?

I probably could have made this point without the repetition, but I wanted it to be “in your face”.

Families get “stuck”, and they know things won’t magically solve themselves.

It’s OK to ask for help, you’ll be glad you did.

 

Invitation:

Send me an email with “Pan Pan” in the subject line, and I’ll offer you two complimentary one-hour coaching sessions.

Social Capital in the FamBiz World

Social Capital in the FamBiz World

The Human Need for Connection

Sometimes I surprise myself with a blog topic that feels like I’ve written about before, but discover that it’s still virgin territory.  

This is one such post.

Given that most of my coaching sessions with clients is spent on their relationships with other people, usually family members, and that my latest book is specifically about family systems theory, I’m actually a bit shocked that I haven’t yet addressed the subject of “social capital” in my blog.

Maybe it’s just a term whose time has come.

 

My Personal Social Capital “A-Ha”

Last week in An Uplifting Week, at Sea Level, we looked at the recent RendeZoom I had attended with a few hundred colleagues, who I affectionately called “my tribe”.

And even though this annual event was held virtually this year, I still felt very close to many of the people who attended with me.

That whole experience put the idea of “social capital” onto my radar, and yet I wasn’t sure that the term was well understood. 

I mentioned it to my coach, and even she wasn’t sure what I meant when I noted that I felt I had lots of social capital.

Sometimes you find inspiration in unexpected places, and when I searched Shutterstock for an image to accompany this post, entering “social capital” as the search term, I got a nice surprise; clearly I was not the only person who ever considered this term.

A Whole List of Sub-Topics

The image I chose contains a slew of ideas that make it pretty easy to get what I’m driving at: 

                    Belonging, Network, Participation, Trust, 

                    Engagement, Reciprocity, Values-Norms.

I think it’s simple enough to understand how in a large group of professional colleagues, especially in a “horizontal” field where many disciplines are represented, social capital can be important in maximizing what one can get out of being a member.

But where I really want to go with this is into individual families and their social capital, because there’s some good stuff to look at there too.

 

External Social Capital in Enterprising Families

Family business leaders, by virtue of their status and accumulated experience, naturally develop networks of people with whom they interact on a regular basis over the years.

These relationships are often based on trust, and that trust can and should be transitioned from one generation of the family to the next. 

This becomes one of the important assets that a family enterprise has, and smart, proactive families leverage this social capital, which often becomes one of the key advantages that family businesses have.

 

What About WITHIN the Family?

But as much as this social capital, from the family to the outside world, can be something worth cultivating, I want to talk about an often neglected area of “social capital”, namely the relationships within the family itself.

Not every family member is cut out for this role, but this field now has enough research behind it to make it clear that a “family champion” is almost always present in families who manage to keep the family together over a series of generations.

There’s a certain amount of intentional effort that must be given to the roles of engaging the whole family in the constant, long-term pursuit of its longevity as a cohesive unit.

 

Different Leadership Styles Come into Play

When you think about family businesses and their leadership, it’s natural to think about the person at the head of the business.  

The leaders I’m talking about here are different, but at some points in the evolution of the family the roles can both be held by one person.

The “Family Leader” is the one who undertakes the role of connecting with the family members, whether or not they are involved in the operations of the business.

Their concern spans areas like Belonging, Participation, and Engagement, and these leaders are constantly building Trust along the way.

 

Proactive, Intentional Steps, Over and Over

Such family leaders are very much like a “team captain” in sports, often demonstrating quiet leadership as much thanks to “who they are” as to “what they do”.

But what they do, while often hard to describe because there are so many intangibles, is keep the family working together, because they know deep down how important that is for the greater good of everyone.

A family’s legacy is as much about people as it is about assets, after all.  See Is Your Continuity PAL in Danger?

And that’s all about social capital.

From Concentric to Non-Concentric Circles in FamBiz

From Concentric to Non-Concentric Circles in FamBiz

A Story about Distributed Leadership

So many family businesses face similar issues, especially when they’re faced with the challenge of moving from the founding generation to “G2”.

The stories are never identical, but the idea of going from one person who loves to control everything, to a group of people working together is something that trips up many families.

And sometimes when the resulting business is very successful and it becomes a very large entity, the problems this creates can become huge too.


A Case Shared with a Peer Group

I’m privileged to belong to a number of peer groups where we talk about cases together, so we can learn from each other and sometimes get ideas when we’re stuck.

This week’s blog is about one such case, or maybe it was two (?)

Well, it was one such episode of sharing, that happened to cover two family business situations, that shared many similarities.

This was a few months ago, so the details aren’t necessarily “fresh”, but since I wouldn’t want to divulge too much, it’s better that way.

Also, the point about the “non-concentric circles” is the one I want to make, so the particular case details aren’t really that germane.

 

Replacing One Dominant Central Leader

The case(s) featured one main founder who had a family of successors, none of whom had anywhere near the potential to succeed their father in all of his success, which isn’t at all uncommon.

As noted, when the success is really rapid (within one adult lifetime) and large (thousands of employees, global presence) it’s almost impossible to expect that any one of the offspring will be able to simply step into the founder’s shoes.

It would likely be a recipe for failure in both the business, and then also the family, if they even tried.

In the case we were presented, that founder was the main leader in all three circles: Business, Family, and Ownership.

See Three Circles + Seven Sectors = One A-Ha Moment (from 7 years ago)

 

Leadership Doesn’t Show Up “Overnight”

The rising generation, who were all adults when Dad passed away suddenly, were all involved somewhere in the businesses, but none of them had the experience or the gravitas to take the helm, or helms, that their father held.

My colleague who presented the case had been involved in getting things on track so that the company would thrive and the family could remain successful in owning the business for the long term.

For the business, there were already lots of qualified non-family leaders in many places, so the business did not suffer much.

The ownership was also pretty clear, in terms of who rightfully owned what percentages of the shares, and it was relatively simple.

How about the family?

The Family Circle: A “Left-Over” Concern?

If you have any experience with family businesses, you’ll likely know that the family is often the last concern, because everybody loves each other and so let’s just concentrate on making money and they’ll all be happy.

I hope readers recognize that much of that last sentence was written in jest.

A better way to put it is that the family is never a problem, until it is.  And then it’s usually a huge problem.

Thankfully this family brought in some top advisors to work with them to make sure that the family problems remained at bay.

 

Many Opportunities for Many Leaders

Over the months and years that the consultants worked with the family, they ended up developing a number of opportunities for a handful of family members to step up into leadership roles.

They formed a family council, and a number of committees emerged from that structure, with different family members assuming key roles.

An “ownership council” was also created, resulting in the rising generation of the family learning how to work together in a variety of new ways.

Whereas their father was at the center of all of these circles during his lifetime, the next generation converted that to a series of different circles, with different people taking leadership roles.

Ultimately, this results in a much more stable structure for the family, the ownership, and the businesses that they own.

Serendipitous Timing

As I’ve noted previously, my social media posting is done by a third party, so I never know the timing of the content that I’ve produced showing up on my feeds.

Last week a post promoting my latest book appeared, reading:

 

The business system likely has strong leaders

For a family to successfully transition its wealth to following generations, the family system needs strong leadership too

 

Good timing!

Who’s Ready to Get Started? A Key FamBiz Question

Who’s Ready to Get Started? A Key FamBiz Question

Let’s get started, shall we?

I often begin these posts with a preamble, and later on segue into “getting started” with the real meat of the blog.

This week, I thought I’d tee it up differently, because the subject is actually “getting started”.

Although it has likely always been so, it seems that lately the ability to overcome inertia and to get moving has become more salient lately.


Families Are Groups of Individual People

The subhead just above is clearly one of the most obvious statements I’ve ever written, and there’s a reason why I chose to state it here nonetheless.

Too often, whether we’re part of a family or have a family that is our client, we sometimes think of that family as a self-contained unit, or somehow monolithic.

In reality, when you’re trying to make progress as a family or with a family, you quickly realize that not everyone moves at the same speed.

We think and talk about getting people “on the same page” and “going in the same direction”, recognizing that these are worthwhile objectives, and they are.

But even if the people are moving in the same general direction, some want to sprint while others may be stuck in the mud and enjoy it there.

 

So, Who’s Ready to Get Started?

The most important question sometimes becomes “who’s ready”, when attempting to get any family to make important progress together as a group.

For a “family system” to change, one way to accomplish this is for one person to change, thereby “forcing” the others to change along with them to attain a new equilibrium.

This generally requires some leadership on the part of that one person who’s willing to stand up and act in a new way, but if they do make such a stand, and are able to maintain it, change will come.

 

But Didn’t You Just Say….

Let me share a little crisis of confidence I had recently, after deciding that this idea was something I’d blog about.

My social media folks control my content posting and while all the content is mine, I usually have no idea when things are set to show up on my Twitter and LinkedIn feeds.

Now, imagine my thoughts as I prepared to write about “being ready to move” and then this quote shows up on my feeds:

 

“Don’t just do something, stand there. 

If your family is struggling with where 

to go next, allow yourselves the time 

and space to gain clarity before acting”

 

My first reaction was “Ooops.”  

But upon further reflection, I realized that this would not be a case of saying “Hurry up… Take your time…”, even though it somehow felt that way.

 

Where Is Your Family Going?

If the family in question “is struggling with where to go next”, taking the time to figure it out, without rushing, and making sure there’s a clear path that people understand and agree on makes plenty of sense.

The thing is, many families are already pretty clear about where they’re going AND what they need to do to begin the journey, BUT they don’t necessarily feel ready to start.

And that’s where finding someone who IS ready can make a lot of sense.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, as they say, and a family journey often begins with one person saying “I’m ready”.

 

The Slowest Common Denominator Issue

Any family journey or family project of the type I’m speaking about here needs to be something that is “for the family”, meaning the vast majority of the people are involved, and hopefully everyone.

And, unfortunately, if you want to be nice and wait for even the slowest person to get on board, the journey is at risk of never taking place.

You don’t want to have to settle for the “slowest common denominator”.

 

Start Where You Are

I’ve long been a fan of the saying:

 

Start where you are

Use what you’ve got

Do what you can

And I think I have a useful addition to it, for times when you are working with a group of people: Start with whomever is ready.

When working with a family system, keep in mind that a change in one person will eventually effect change in the entire system.

Making improvements needs to begin somewhere, with someone.  Finding the one who’s readiest to start can often be the key.

The Art of Conversation: The Key to Family Communication

The Art of Conversation: The Key to Family Communication

When listing problems that business families face, communication is usually one of the first things people mention. 

 

Because it’s seen as a “big” problem, many people think that it requires a “big” solution

I beg to differ.


“100 One-Minute Conversations”

The initial idea for this post came from something I saw online recently, that talked about “100 one-minute conversations”, which in most cases are a better way to go than just having one, long, 100-minute discussion.

I wish I’d saved it so I could credit the source, because Googling it didn’t help me solve the mystery.

In any event, it lines up nicely with some of the other things I’ve talked about before, notably here: The Dimmer Switch vs. the On/Off

 

Clearing Up Any Illusions

My favourite quote about communication is from George Bernard Shaw, “The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place”.

Let me spell it out just in case you didn’t get it.  

The biggest problem for people communicating with each other is when the person who says something believes that the receiver heard and understood them, and they’re wrong, but they assume they’re right.

Why did I take the time to spell that out? 

Because if I continued this blog while assuming that you understood what I meant, but you didn’t, then I would have been committing the exact faux pas that I was trying to explain.

The Art of Conversation: The Key to Family Communication

Conversations as a Subset of Communication

Of course communication comprises much more than verbal discussions, which are in fact only a small fraction of the entire communication “platform” that any enterprising family uses.

These families need to share lots of information to remain united enough to properly manage the assets they own together.

But while everyone can see what’s written in a family newsletter or on their Facebook page, I contend that it’s in the smaller groups, and the quicker, more regular conversations, that the most important communication actually happens.

Yes, you need to have the big formal, structural communication platforms, but, and it’s a big but, if that’s all you have, then there’s a lot missing.

 

Heart to Heart

The simplest way to make this point is to consider the expression “Heart to heart”. 

What makes family businesses different from other businesses is the family element.  Plain old communication might be sufficient for “regular companies”, but for a family business, being owned and run by a family, there needs to be a lot more heart.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about “heart to heart communication”, by I know I’ve heard people mention a “heart to heart talk”, or “heart to heart conversation”.

 

The (Lost) Art of Conversation

Speaking of expressions, we’ve all heard about the “art of conversation”, and I contend that in some ways all of the technology we’ve been using to communicate has made conversing together a bit of a lost art.

But here’s the good news, and I even just Googled it to make sure it makes sense.

You can get better at it, with practice. Yes, I just searched “do you practice art” to make sure, and I got plenty of hits.

Whether it’s playing music, or painting, or sculpting, one improves the more one practices their favourite art.

And so it is with conversations.

 

Small Groups, One-on-One

Conversations can happen all the time, mostly in small groups or even simply one-on-one situations.

They don’t necessarily have to be structured, scripted or planned in advance, and in reality, the more natural and free flowing they are, the better.

Sometimes the hardest thing about them is just making them happen, especially now that simply picking up the phone to call someone seems to rarely happen these days.

 

Conversations With Your Coach

One of my favourite ways of actually putting some structure to conversations is to have them be regularly scheduled.

I have a call over Zoom with my coach every week, and I have calls with my coaching clients typically every other week, which seems to work well.

Having things “on the calendar” might be the best way to make sure that you’re staying in touch enough.

 

Seven Years Later

Way back in 2013 I wrote Having Conversations, Not Just Communicating. And I guess it’s still just as valid today as it was back then.

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.

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.