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Behind the “Flawed” Family Constitution

Behind the “Flawed” Family Constitution

This week’s post is about the wonderful world of the “Family Constitution”.  I thought about doing a “5 Things to Know…” blog, but decided against it.

There’s a lot to get to, so let’s dive in.

 

Just Who Are “The People”?

As I searched Shutterstock for an image to accompany this post, I entered the word “Constitution” and was amazed (but not surprised) at how many of the pictures featured the words “We the people” at the top of an old document.

Those are of course the first words of the U.S. Constitution, and they really sum up the importance of getting the preamble right to set the context properly in the creation of any important document. 

See: Co-Creation and Values in the FamBiz

It’s not hard to deduce from the expression “Family Constitution” that “the people” here would be “the family”.

 

“The Family”; OK, Thanks, Now It’s Clear. NOT

That’s all fine, of course, until it comes to defining exactly who all the individual people are, especially as definitions of family continue to evolve.

If that were the only issue to resolve, this wouldn’t actually be that difficult.  We’d need to start with the family leaders and then expand the group slowly, and then work together to come up with definitions and rules, and come to a consensus on who’s included.  Surely not an insurmountable problem.

 

Putting the “Con” in “Constitution”

Having a family constitution can be a very useful thing for some families, assuming their governance has sufficiently evolved and the family members have actually been key players in its development.

For every “Pro”, there are also many “Cons”.

The inspiration for this blog came from an article I saw on LinkedIn a few months ago, by Professor Enrique Soriano, who works with families on their governance, mostly in Asia. I’ve never met him, but we have 174 common connections on that network as I write this.

His post, Elements of a Flawed Family Constitution, is essential reading for anyone truly interested in this subject, especially for those who see the Family Constitution as the “be all and end all” of things that every family “must have”. 

The fact that many of those who believe this also peddle their services to families, and offer to create these documents for them, should not be a huge surprise.

 

One Person is NOT “People”

As I wrote last year in Family Governance: From Filaments to LED’s, if one person writes the constitution, alone, without major doses of input from people from different generations of the family, it simply will not work.  

Sure, you can fool yourself that you’ve got something worthwhile, but it won’t last.

Similarly, if the document was largely put together by a consultant, or even a team of consultants, it will not serve its intended purpose.  And this is true even if you hire the best consultants and pay them a lot of money to do this work for you.

As I always say about family governance (of which a family constitution is but one possible component) it really needs to be FOR the Family, BY the Family.

 

Cultural Differences?

Soriano notes at one point that perhaps the phenomenon of “flawed family constitutions” is more prevalent in Asia, where he is based.  That may be the case, as there could be more of an attitude towards the forced creation of a document that everyone is then expected to abide by in those cultures.

But I don’t care what country you are in, unless the family members were heavily involved in its creation and implementation, no family constitution is going to be worth much.

 

My Own Pet Peeve

The one thing that I personally hate about this subject, is that it’s so often based on the assumption that keeping the business and family together forever is desirable and doable.

There may be some cultural biases in this aspect.

If the attitude behind the creation of a constitution is to “force” people to remain in relationships that they otherwise would rather not be part of, then trouble will likely be ahead.

 

My “Family” Bias

My bias is always to make sure that the family relationships survive for generations.  If that means that changes need to be made to the business and ownership, then let’s figure out how to make those and keep the family intact.

If a constitution that reflects that can be created, then great.

Of course any family with that attitude might never think they need one…

2 kids whispering to each other

The Secret to Success for Family Businesses

Family businesses by their very nature are very diverse.  No two families are alike, and the variety of businesses that they own and operate are likewise very different.

So as someone who writes a weekly blog that always comes back to families and how they work together, I think it’s normal that my inspiration for ideas to write about is also “all over the map” and quite eclectic.  

This one comes from something I heard on the radio, but it wasn’t a country song! (Please see Blame it on Cinderella and Humble and Kind for examples of those).

No, this time it was talk radio, on a sports station.  But for some reason, they had Larry King on as a guest.  I guess he was in town for something and he popped into their studio.

 

“You Know What the Secret to this Business Is?”

Larry King was a long-time TV show host on CNN (1985 to 2010) and so he knows a thing or two about the broadcasting business.

He was chatting with the guys who host the afternoon drive show and suddenly he said, “You know what the secret to success is in this business?”

You could almost sense the anticipation as they waited for the punch line in the studio.  As I was driving, I too was intrigued and awaited the next words out of his mouth.

“The secret is”, he continued, finally, “that there is no secret”.

And so it is, dear readers, with those of us who work with family business.

 

What Questions Should I Ask?

When I work with a family business or a family office, I try to steer clear of the business end of things.  I do this not because I’m not qualified to help them there, because if I chose to, I know that I could add value there too.

I just prefer to stick to the area surrounding the family members, because that is where there is typically a crying need for some outside input.

But when I run into other professionals who also work with families, but who concentrate on business matters, they sometimes think that the work I do on family dynamics is something they could easily do as well.

It doesn’t happen that often, but sometimes they will even ask me for some of my “secrets”. 

“So can you just tell me what questions I should ask?”

If only it were that easy.

 

Listen, Ask, Listen Some More

There are no “secret questions” to ask.  It’s much more about being truly curious when you ask whatever question you choose to ask, and then listening to the answers.

It’s about wanting to find out what’s important to the family members, and I’m not just talking about the family member or members with whom you have your business relationship.  

If it truly is a family business, then the other members of the family are also important.  This is true even if there are some family members who don’t work in the business, and even if they are not currently owners of the business.

To truly serve a business family properly, you need to understand the family.  And to understand them, you actually have to meet them, and speak to them, and get to know them.

This can’t be a secret, can it?

 

Regular, Clear, Transparent Communication

I was just talking about advisors who work with families, but what about the families themselves?  Are there any “secrets” to success for them? Once again, I don’t think there are any secrets per se, just lots of common sense.  

And in the same way I was telling advisors that they should take the time and make the effort to learn about the other family members and their thoughts about the business, it’s even more important for the family leaders to do that too.

But they surely already know that, right?

And nothing worthwhile ever happens without some planning and intentional effort.

Making an effort to instill regular, clear and transparent communications within the family group is a great idea, and always worthwhile.

More families should probably do it, and not enough of them do.

So maybe it still IS a secret.  You can start changing that, now.

P.S. That “11-year-old daughter” in the Blaming Cinderella blog just turned 18 and will be off to college in the coming weeks. 

“Professionally Emotional” – A FamBiz Oxy-Moron?

Following up on last week’s post, Three Pillars of Family Governance from a Pro, in which I invoked the wisdom of Barbara Hauser, one of the veteran contributors to the field of family enterprise, I’m going to do something similar this week.

This time I’ve been inspired by Randel Carlock, a professor at INSEAD, who has also been a major contributor to this field for decades.

And whereas last week’s post came about as the result of my reading a piece from CampdenFB, this week it comes from a post I came across  from Tharawat Magazine.

Many of my blogs have their genesis in conferences I attend and interactions with families and colleagues, but these two websites have provided many sparks as well.

(LinkedIn and Twitter are great ways to stay abreast of things in this space, by the way).

 

Professionally Emotional

What struck me was this quote, from A Family Business on the Moon – Lessons from the Author, where Carlock says, “…we encourage families to become professionally emotional, which may seem like an oxymoron, but it works.”

As someone who loves to play with words and gets excited by the potential paradoxes in any oxymoron, this one ticked a few boxes for me.

While many people might feel like “professional” and “emotional” cannot naturally coexist, I think that those who inhabit the world of enterprising families will immediately recognize the possibilities this expression gives rise to.

Let’s take a closer look at what Carlock is driving at.

 

Professional Governance and Strategy

When it comes to the running of a successful business, it’s always important to have a professional approach to the strategy and the governance of the enterprise.  Few people will argue with that.

Of course, too many family businesses continue to operate with less than professional business operations and strategy, but that is a subject for another day.

In terms of running and guiding the company, “professional” is certainly the way to go, or at least something to aspire to.

 

Emotional and Caring Leadership

But family enterprises need to be a bit different than their non-family brethren in how they exercise their leadership.  

When you have several family members involved, and you therefore have more than a simple business relationship with the others around the table, other factors come into play as well.

It is in the leadership of these enterprises that the emotions and the caring need to be present.

So, “Yes” to the professionalism of the “what”, but also “Yes” to the caring about the emotional side of things in the leadership, or the “how”.

Parallel Planning Process

Carlock is encouraging families to work on their business and their family planning in parallel.  In fact, he coined the term “Parallel Planning Process” many years ago, in a book he co-authored with John Ward from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

That book, Strategic Planning for the Family Business, details everything quite nicely.

Not only is it important to do planning for the business AND to do planning for the family and its members, a major point is that they are equally important.

And because they are both important, they need to be done in a coordinated and aligned fashion.  They are interdependent, so you need to make sure that they’re both progressing side-by-side.

 

Match the Speed of Evolution

What often occurs is that many plans are made, professionally, concerning the future of the business.  The focus continues to be on making the business strong, and having it continue to grow. The family can be an afterthought.

That’s when things can get out of sync with the family.  When there is business planning without regard to the family members and the human capital that they can offer, many possible contributors can get lost in the shuffle.

The other version can occur too.  How many of us have heard of family businesses that get sold to outsiders, because no family members want to take over?  Typically, the next generation have all become professionals and have great careers going, so coming back to the family business can seem like a step backwards.

All the more reason to try to keep the plans for the family and for the business properly aligned. None of this is necessarily easy to do, it takes effort and diligence.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it though!

Kissing Your Sister: Playing for a Tie in FamBiz

As a lifelong sports fan, there’s been a phenomenon going on that I haven’t heard many people address. When I was a kid, a lot more games seemed to end in ties.

It was as a youngster that I first recall hearing the expression: “A tie is like kissing your sister”.  

As this subject came up as a potential blog post, it struck me that rule changes have been developed and implemented in some sports, notably hockey and soccer, to minimize the number of games that end with this seemingly “sub-optimal” result.

 

Is Family Business the Exception?

If ties are no longer considered something desirable in sports, maybe the world of family business could be the one place they’re still in vogue.  Let me explain.

Back in April, in Roles and Rules for Enterprising Families, I wrote about a presentation from the 2019 Institute for Family Governance Conference, which included an impressive 75-page slide deck.

In that blog, I intentionally chose to not focus on the great slide I noticed on page 50, because I was saving it for its very own post.

Here’s what the slide said:

 

A General Family Business Precept:

In a Family, if you play to Win, you Lose;

In a Family, if you play to Lose, you Lose;

In a Family, if you play to Tie, you Win

Richard Goldwater, MD

Boston, MA

I saw that slide in January, and months later it’s still with me, and rings even truer today.

 

Setting the Proper Context

Of course we need to think about this in the proper context, otherwise this statement can be dismissed as completely nonsensical, and that would be a shame. I think that there’s real wisdom here and I’d hate for it to get lost.

Dr. Goldwater is clearly talking about what goes on “intra-family” here.

Of course every family business, as a business competing with other businesses, should be playing to win, all the time, or else the business will not survive.

His thoughts on this subject are clearly directed at how members of a business family think about and deal with their interactions as members of the same team.

 

Misdirected Efforts

In essence, what I think he’s also talking about is how important it is to present a common front to the outside world, as a united team that is competing with other businesses, playing to win.

However, when some of the team members are busy expending efforts to win at some internal game that they are in effect playing against their siblings, parents, or cousins, then things can begin to fall apart rather quickly.

 

Sad to See in Real Life

Part of me wishes I could say that my only knowledge of these situations is theoretical, because it’s really sad to see things like this go on in the real world.

I have a coaching client who is fighting this kind of battle with their two siblings right now.

It’s so clear to everyone that there’s a power struggle going on.

And when I say “everyone”, I mean everyone.  

Employees see it, customers see it, suppliers see it, outsiders like bankers, accountants and lawyers see it.

brother kissing sister

Accidental Partnerships

The situation with my coaching client is one where the siblings are partners in a business together, but if they had started from scratch, these people would never have agreed to be business partners together.

They just ended up that way, accidentally.  Or, actually, through a lack of any real planning as their parents were transitioning out of the business.

 

Not Every Problem Has a Magic Solution

Unfortunately, there isn’t always a great way out of these situations.  

Various strategies are being looked at so that these partners can each end up in situations in which they are in control of their own destiny, and that their reliance on their sibling partners is minimized.  

We’ll see how it plays out, because there’s lots of complexity to manage, and the “parts” may be worth less than the “whole”.

 

Saving the Family Over the Business?

My bias, in situations like this, is to work on ways to “save” the family, even if that means making drastic changes to the business.

Some advisors prioritize the business.  I rarely do.

 

Kiss and Make Up

Getting back to the title of this post, maybe kissing your sister isn’t so bad?

And maybe it’s all part of a “kiss and make up” strategy.

But please recall that a tie can really be a win.

Continuity Planning: Who’s at the Table?

There are subjects I to return to regularly in this space, and “continuity planning” is certainly one of them.

I still clearly recall first coming across this term, and it was a bit of a head scratcher for me.

Lest your head also feel itchy, allow me to share what I learned when I first asked “Um, what’s ‘continuity planning’?” during the Family Enterprise Advisor (FEA) program in 2013.

 

Goodbye “Succession”, Hello “Continuity”

If the term “continuity planning” sounds new, it’s mostly just a newer, less threatening, and more accurate term for something that family businesses have been doing since, well, forever.  

Only most of them call it “succession planning”.

We were winding down the first module of the FEA program on “Family Dynamics”, looking ahead to the next six multi-day sessions that would take place over the coming months, one of which was called “Continuity Planning”.

The “outspoken” guy from Montreal asked, curiously, “What’s continuity planning?”

 

A More Appropriate Label

While the reply I got was largely that it was a “re-branding” of succession planning, I’ve since come to understand that it’s much more than that.

The biggest issue people have with the term “succession planning” is that it automatically makes one think about a future scenario when the key person or people will no longer be around.

In a non-family business or corporate environment, succession planning takes place all the time in many departments, and the idea is not nearly as “heavy”.

But in a family business, where the idea of “retirement” is somehow less common, that key person’s exit is too often presumed to only occur upon death.

 

What Will Continue, Versus What Will Change

When we substitute the word “continuity” for “succession”, there’s much more focus on what will stay the same, even when some of the people have moved to different seats on the proverbial bus.

The other idea that gets driven home is the longer term nature of the whole exercise.

We aren’t just concerned with the next transition, but also the one after that.  It’s the beginning of a long-running discussion about how to continue to prepare people for increasing responsibility for many years to come.

Setting the Table

If we want to have a good discussion about where everyone fits into the future scenario that we’re envisaging, my bias would be to include as many of these people in the conversation as possible.

What still happens too frequently is that Mom and Dad figure it out themselves and keep it secret.  Sometimes they even go see their accountants and lawyers to draw it all up officially.

And frequently those affected only eventually learn of their fates right after a funeral.  (See #5 in 5 Things you Need to Know: Family Inheritance)

Regular readers will surely recognize that I am not advocating for this strategy.

 

Start with the Family

The family business was likely built and grown for the benefit of the family, in most cases.  

If that’s true, then my belief is that it behooves the family leaders to involve the family in the first stages of continuity planning.

There are too many stories about expert advisors who lead the family down a certain path, for seemingly legitimate reasons (usually around tax minimization), on the assumption that whatever makes sense to them, will automatically also be great for the whole family.

 

Looking for Trouble, Without the Leadership to Solve It

Since this is often about a whole life’s work, there really shouldn’t be a rush to settle everything, just because some of the conversations can be difficult.

This is really important, but it shouldn’t be urgent.

What I’m suggesting is an iterative process, where a preliminary meeting is called to get the family in on the idea that plans for the future are now being worked out.

An invitation is also extended to family members to have their voices heard as to their ideas, hopes, and expectations around how they see things, especially as to what role they may have in things going forward.

 

Growing Into Their Roles

As more meetings are held over the coming months, the future family leaders can grow into their roles slowly over time, as the plans are co-created and become clearer.

After the family’s big picture ideas are clarified, it will then be time to get some outside experts to the table to work on the “how’s”.

Get the family around the table first. The experts get their place after.

Hikers climbing a mountain full of snow

Wanted: Purpose, Passion and Community

Wanted: Purpose, Passion and Community

 

When I was in Denver a few weeks ago for the annual Rendez-Vous of the Purposeful Planning Institute, I met a bunch of interesting people, as usual.

Having been there the past five years, I’m starting to see many familiar faces each time I return, which is great, of course.

And I always meet interesting new people every year as well.

Attendees come from a whole bunch of different backgrounds and professions, and occasionally I meet folks from areas where I’ve had no contact or experience.

Such was the case with the young women I met from Koplin Consulting.

Addiction TreatmentCommunity in family business

Koplin offers in-home counselling, treatment and recovery services for those working through addictions.

I’m fortunate to not have ever been in the market for those services for my family or for client families – yet (?).

I ended up at the same table over meals with all three of their representatives at the conference and I found them very refreshing.

During one of these discussions, it was mentioned that the key to successful recovery usually involves people finding strength in three places: Purpose, Passion and Community.

The “Trifecta”

When I hear about something that works in one area of life, I’m compelled to see if it could also apply elsewhere.

So today I want to look at those three elements from the perspective of families who are hoping to transition their wealth down through the generations.

I just searched each of those words on my website to confirm that I have actually addressed them all in this space over the years, several times, but not yet in the same post.

Family Purpose

For a family to be successful in passing down their wealth to the rising generation, it’s really helpful if they have some sort of shared purpose.

When a family undertakes the work necessary to figure this stuff out, they often start by trying to analyze everyone’s values first.

From individual values, they typically try to identify a handful of common values that everyone in the family can agree on.

Finding a common purpose becomes easier once you’ve decided on those shared values.

Individual Passions

Just like everyone has their own set of values, each individual will have their own passions.

But unlike the values, where we hope to find a few in common, to help lay out a clear family purpose, the individual passions should be looked at for each person separately.

Everyone has different things that make them tick, talents that they exhibit that set them apart, and activities that they do so well that when they’re doing them, it doesn’t ever feel like work.

Human Capital

The special talents, skills and passions that each person possesses are part of the family’s “human capital”, and ways should be found to leverage each person’s individual strengths.

Families that are able to harness the best from every member of the family will have a much easier time keeping their family wealth together for coming generations.

Part of a Community

When it comes to the “community” aspect of a family, I think the most common element is how much time

family members actually spend together.

Time with the family

And while that isn’t something that you’d measure with a stopwatch, there really is no substitute for “face time” in the old sense of the word.

Technology has made it much easier for people who are physically separated to be in regular contact, and that’s great, but to be successful at keeping their wealth in the family over generations, some regular contact is a prerequisite.

Wanting to Spend Time with Family

As I work with various families, it’s pretty easy to see which ones have got the community aspect figured out and which ones never will.

In many ways, it has more to do with wanting to spend time together, and looking forward to lots of interaction than it does with the amount of time they actually spend as a group.

Putting it All Together

Families wanting to benefit from the Purpose-Passion-Community idea can do so by spending time together working on their common values to drive a shared purpose.

They should allow each member to work their own passions within that, though, and not try to make everyone the same.

There’s no substitute to spending time together, with everyone bringing their best self. Good luck.

Name tag with prepared written on it

5 Ways FamBiz Rising Gens Can Prepare

5 Ways FamBiz Rising Gens Can Prepare

People in and around family businesses everywhere spend lots of time worrying about the rising generation of the family, wondering if and when they’ll ever be “ready” to take over from their parents.

There are as many variations of the situation as there are families and businesses, but there are some things that many have in common.

Those who are not content to just “wait their turn” can do a lot more than simply “be patient”.

With that in mind, here are…

 

“5 Ways FamBiz Rising Gens Can Prepare”

 

  1. Get Mentored

A mentor is usually someone older than the mentee, typically by more than a decade (and often two or three decades older).

The most important detail for a rising generation family business mentor is that they NOT be the parent, or any family member who is ultimately their boss.

A mentor can be from within the company, or from an outside organization, and will have some life and career experience that can be shared, on an occasional basis, over lunch, coffee or by phone or Skype.

 

  1. Create and Lead a Project

Up-and-coming family members in a business often have difficulty carving out their own leadership abilities, separate from those of their parents.

Creating their own project, either within their department, or as something new and intrapreneurial, is a way for them to show that they are able to make something happen on their own.

Of course they need to do more than just conceive an idea, and actually lead the necessary steps to do the work and bring it to a stage where the project can be deemed an accomplishment.

 

  1. Work on Sibling Unity

Unless the person is an only child, they will need to continue to deal with their sibling relationships for many decades to come.

Whether their siblings are working in the business or not, and even if they seem to display no interest in the business, those relationships should not ever be taken for granted.

Especially when there are siblings who never work for the family company, it behooves the ones who do to continually over-communicate what’s going on.

This should be done as “matter-of-factly” as possible, and never as bragging about one’s accomplishments or complaining about how tough it is to work for the parents.

Siblings may not be part of the business circle, but they are always part of the family circle, and don’t forget that they’re likely long-term ownership circle partners too.

 

  1. Build Your Network

While it is very important to get to know the people from outside the company who currently deal with the leading generation, from bankers, to customers and suppliers, having their own network is also beneficial.

Joining peer groups and making sure that they develop connections in their own age group will pay dividends down the road.

When their turn comes to take the lead on things, they’ll want to be able to call on their own contacts and people that they trust, and these relationships take time to develop.

It’s never too early to begin to cultivate a network of people you know and can trust.

 

  1. Round Yourself Out

Most people come into the family business from a certain specialty like finance, accounting, or marketing.

It is great to have a big strength on which to build your career, but the higher up the organisational ladder you go, the more that you can be a “generalist”, the better.

So if they’re known for their skills in one particular area, it may be a good time to work on building some skills and getting experience in another area where they’re currently less strong.

Once they get to the top, they’ll need to be able to properly relate to everyone, from a position of strength.

 

And Don’t Do This

The five ideas above are some ways that they can begin to take important and useful steps to ensure an eventual smooth transition.

Here is what they probably want to avoid.

  • Complaining to anyone who’ll listen that the current leaders are hanging around too long.
  • Whining that nobody takes them seriously
  • Bad-mouthing key employees
  • Being a part of “the problem” rather than bringing solutions
  • Displaying work habits that make them appear entitled

There are plenty of positive things they can do while they wait, and that includes some of the ideas outlined above.

Good luck!

Nuggets of Gold

Great Nuggets from Denver

Great Nuggets from Denver

Regular readers of this blog know that there’s one annual event on my calendar that I look forward to more that most.

I just got back from Denver, where I spent most of the week trying to milk as much as possible out of the conferences put on by the Purposeful Planning Institute (PPI).

Rendez Vous is the one time each year that I “fill up” with great ideas and input from other members of my “tribe”.

Working with families on the difficult tasks of transitioning their wealth from one generation to the next can be lonely work for some, so getting together with others who do similar work is energizing.

 

One Nugget at a Time

This was my fifth time at Rendez Vous, and after each one in the past I’ve used this blog space to capture and share some of my thoughts and take-aways.

(There are links at the end to those posts if you’re interested.)

For 2018 I’m taking a “random” approach, sharing some nuggets from my notes from at least a dozen of the thought leader speakers and breakout session leaders.

Here goes…

 

– Difficult Subjects: 

From Emily Bouchard, two of the biggest subjects in everyone’s lives are also two of the most difficult to discuss: Money and Death.

This work involves both of them, so it’s no wonder that bridging those subjects with clients is difficult.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take up the challenge.

 

– Business Exits:

From John Brown, transitions usually involve owners exiting their business. But the owners want and need to exit on “their own terms”.

If we want to be useful to them, we need to recognize this, and focus clearly on “owner-centric” exit plans.

 

– Financial Transitions

From Susan Bradley, wealth transitions usually present a lot of confusion to those affected. Within that confusion also lies an opportunity.

Each person needs to “figure it out”, and that often necessitates time and help. If we want to help, we need to recognize that everyone figures it out at their own pace.

 

– New Vocabulary

As usual, John A. Warnick, the founder of PPI, had plenty to share with his tribe, including an update on the new vocabulary required to advance how we work with “Legacy Families and Families in Business”.

He’s working to compile, clarify and disseminate a primer on the words we use in this space, to improve our ability to work with such families more consistently.

 

– Five Voices

From Mark Hartnett, I now know about Giant Worldwide’s Five Voices tool, and that based on it, I’m a Connector, as well as a Nurturer.

And my nemesis is the Pioneer, perhaps because that was my Dad’s main voice.

 

– Don’t Try to “Change” Families

From Matt Wesley, I better understand the folly in trying to “change” any family.

Any attempts to “violently homogenize” a family to fit into a particular way of being is bound to fail.

 

– Book Club Benefits and Bird Language

 From Amanda Weitman, I learned that creating a simple “Book Club” within an organization can have benefits far beyond what anyone could ever had predicted in advance.

From Jon Young, I learned that those who master an understanding of bird language also discover the secrets to sensory integration.

 

– Appreciative Inquiry and the Importance of Voting

From Courtney Pullen, I learned how quickly one can go from “I have a problem” to “I AM the problem”, and how appreciative inquiry can help resolve that uncomfortable situation.

From Ian McDermott, I better understand the importance of how I “vote” with my Time, Money and Energy, and that “Trusted Advisors” become so when they “trust themselves”, making them “congruent”.

 

– Adult Development Levels

From Cathy Carroll, following up on Christine Wahl, I now realize that one can only properly advise others up to our own level of adult development.

 

– Purposeful Planning as a Career

From Michael Palumbos’ panel of industry veterans (Bradley and Pullen, plus Bruce DeBoskey and Kristin Keffeler) I know that we need to keep showing up “dynamically”, should avoid billing for our work by the hour, and not expect many referrals from lawyers or CPA’s.

 

– Last But Not Least, Jesus  

From David York, a perennial favourite PPI speaker, I know that Jesus is considered one of the greatest teachers of all time, yet, according to the bible, he asked many more questions than he answered.

And his most frequent question was “What are you looking for?”

If you’re looking for a tribe to support you in this kind of work, come join us in Denver next July.

 

 

My blog posts from previous Rendez Vous:

2017    Sharing Some Rocky Mountain Kool Aid

2016    Sweet Secluded Rendez-Vous 

2015    Rendez-Vous with a Purpose

2014    The Rising Generation in Family Business

2 adults sitting on a couch

Rest in Peace, While You’re Still Alive!

Rest in Peace, While You’re Still Alive!

Every so often I have an “A-Ha” moment as a result of seemingly random discussions that occurred weeks apart.

Writing this blog allows me to process these in some sort of useful way.

Today’s subject is “Peace”, which came up in conversations with my coach, Melissa, even though we typically don’t spend much time on that subject.

 

Inner Peace Through Meditation

After months of hearing good things about meditation, I brought up the topic during one of our weekly coaching sessions.

Melissa mentioned an App called Insight Timer that she’d been using for a while, and suggested I try it out.

A good coach will mention plenty of ideas that a client might want to look into, and then it’s up to the client to act on them, or not.

I did act on this one, downloaded the App into my phone, and tried it out.

Long story short, I’m a big fan, and maybe even an addict.

 

What Was I Looking For?                                  

A few weeks later, I mentioned that I was using Insight Timer a couple of times a day, and I was enjoying the ways it was making me feel.

Melissa noted that she thought it was pretty cool that I was working on finding “inner peace”.

“Wait, what?”

I never said that I was looking for inner peace (did I?).

The truth is, I didn’t know what I was looking for when I decided to try it, and I’m not sure that I know what I found either.

 

Mr. Legler Is Resting in Peace

Weeks later, as we were starting our weekly call, she asked me something along the lines of “So, how is Mister Legler doing this morning?”

I pulled out the old “Mr.Legler? That was my father!” line that I often use when I feel like someone is being more formal than necessary.

“And, he died in 2008, so I guess he’s resting in peace”.

There it was again. Peace. “A-Ha”.

 

Seek and You Shall Find

So many questions were now bouncing around my brain, and, as usual, that meant that I’d eventually blog about this.

Did Mr. Legler need to die to find peace?

Did he find it there? Or did he find it before?

What about me, am I finding it?

Was it even what I was looking for, don’t I already have it?

Do you need to seek peace in order to find it?

Do some people search for it and never find it, while others just sort of have it without much searching?

 

Multi-Generational Peace Process

As usual, I’ll now attempt to take the subject of this post and introduce the family business angle, because that’s the area in which I claim to have some subject matter expertise.

Business families, almost by definition, involve people from different generations.

One of their goals is typically to find ways for the family business and/or wealth to move smoothly from the senior generation to the rising generation.

Okay, so what does “peace” have to do with all this?

 

Everything and Nothing

The quick answer is that peace has nothing to do with this at all. It’s the easy answer, and the one that many people would prefer.

Of course, that means that I’m interested in the other side, the one that says peace has everything to do with it.

Many families struggle with the important discussions and planning that are necessary to effectuate successful inter-generational wealth transitions.

 

Peace, Love, and Harmony

Families too often delay talking about how they will handle all the details around who will get what, and who will do what, precisely because they are worried about upsetting the peace and harmony that exists in the family.

In fact, they’ll do anything to avoid upsetting the peace.

In many cases, however, the harmony that seems to be there is actually rather fragile, precisely because of the uncertainty around what’s going to happen after the senior generation has passed.

 

Settle it Now, Reap the Peace Dividend

The lack of discussion leads to lack of clarity and adds uncertainty to both generations.

Those who take care of these things in advance reap what I’ll call the “peace dividend”

I like to think that Mr. Legler found peace while he was still alive because he had put his affairs in order and communicated everything to his family well in advance.

Don’t forget that peace dividend is shared by both generations.

discernment street signal

Questions of Discernment in Family Business

Questions of Discernment in Family Business

 

Discernment: Noun

  1. The ability to judge well
  2. Perception in the absence of judgement with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding (in Christian contexts)

This week’s blog is sponsored by the word “Discernment”.

Okay, so that’s not literally true, as there are no sponsors of this blog. Maybe I just had a little Sesame Street flashback, and should have said that it’s “Brought to you by the letter D”.

I keep a file of blog ideas and every couple of months I put together a calendar of topics. This is the first time that I’ve noted my subject idea with a single word, i.e. discernment.

 

Bowen Family Systems, Spring Conference 2017 

Discernment first popped onto my radar screen over a year ago, in Washington DC at the Spring Conference of the Bowen Center.

Murray Bowen’s theory has eight concepts, but the one he called “Differentiation of Self” is both the “biggest” one, and one that people have the most trouble truly understanding.

Some Bowen fans, myself included, tend to explain it to newcomers as “emotional maturity”.

At this conference though, some speakers proffered the word “discernment” instead.

Hmmmm, maybe they were on to something. But I also wonder if most people “get” discernment right off the bat.

(See: A Systematic Business Family? for my blog on that event.)

 

Definitions

I began this post with the definition that I got when I Googled “discernment” and found it both sufficient and interesting.

“The ability to judge well” is a great start to understanding what I’m getting at, and I feel like it fits with the “emotional maturity” part too.

Number 2, “Perception in the absence of judgement” almost threw me off at first, but then it made me flash back to my post “Judgement, Not Judgement” from back in 2016.

The take-home message there was that having good judgement is laudable, but being “judgemental” is not.

The spiritual and Christian angles also intrigued me.

 

Questions to Help Understand Discernment

In order to get a handle on discernment and how it applies to business families, let’s look at some basic questions and examine them from a discernment angle.

I’ll start with questions requiring low levels of discernment, and then move along to those that call for higher and higher levels.

 

– “WHAT” Questions

Asking about “What business are we in?” or “What markets should we look to enter?” are simple and relatively straightforward for any business.

They are also necessary to consider from time to time.

They require good business sense, but don’t necessarily require much in the way of discernment.

 

– “WHO” Questions

Then there are questions about people, like “Who should we hire?” and eventually “Who should take over when Dad retires?”

Now the need for discernment gets ratcheted up a bit.

And in some sort of “meta” way, we are looking at judging people about their judgement!

Once you get into questions about people, things usually get a bit trickier, and emotional maturity is often called for to make the right choices.

 

– “WHEN” Questions

Those “Who” questions can be tough, but so can those around timing, like “When should we start working on succession?” and “When should we start having family meetings?”

Regular readers will quickly recognize my bias around these topics, and that’s okay too.

As long as we’re on the topic of my biases, let me be clear that my preferred answers to those questions is always sooner rather than later.

There’s a certain maturity required to start tasks that have been kicked down the road long enough.

Combining “Who” and “When” questions, well, now we are getting into the area of “How”.

 

– “HOW” Questions

To me the types of questions that require the most discernment are about “How”, like “How do we make sure we include everyone?” and “How de we make sure we follow through on all our plans?”

I’m reminded of the expression “Ideas are a dime a dozen”, which is all about simple “What” questions.

Execution and implementation are the key to making any idea work, and that’s where you need people with discernment.

A “good sense of judgement” requires plenty of maturity and wisdom around the all of the “Who”, “When” and “How” questions that are part of getting things done.

 

Whose Discernment Are You Counting On?

If you’re a family business leader, and you’re hoping for your family and business to be successful in the long run, finding people high on the discernment scale should be a priority.