Family Biz Conflict and how to handle it

FamBiz: Conflict is NOT an option

Miami: FFI at 30

I am currently in Miami, having just spent the past three days at the Family Firm Institute’s annual conference, during which attendees were continually reminded that the organisation is 30 years old.

I recall that CAFÉ, the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise recently celebrated its 30th anniversary as well.

Also early in its fourth decade is the Three Circle Model (Family, Business, Ownership), co-created by John Davis of Harvard. Davis received what amounts to a lifetime achievement award from FFI at the Gala dinner last night.

I finally got to meet him in person and shake his hand afterward, and gave him a belated thank you for not only allowing me to quote him in my book a couple years back, but mostly for replying to my emailed request for that permission within an hour, which surprised me at the time.

Having now met the man, I am no longer surprised.


Conflict comes standard

FFI conferencs are filled with so many people and learnings, and I was reviewing some of my notes last night trying to decide on this week’s blog topic. I settled on Conflict is NOT an option.

But I met yet another experienced practitioner this week who happily noted that he rejects 90% of potential client families who come to him in full blown conflict mode. He doesn’t need the aggravation and much prefers to work with families in preventative ways.

But the potential for conflict in family business situations remains ever present. If this sounds familiar, you may have read something similar in this space a few short weeks ago. (FamBiz Conflict: Resolve it, or manage it)

One breakout session that I attended was moderated by one of the authors of Deconstructing Conflict, mentioned in that blog. She repeated that in any situation where family and business overlap, conflict is NOT optional. It will always be there, by default.


Even if you don’t want it

Go back a few decades and think about buying a car. Do you want power windows and power steering? Air conditioning? There were lots of options available that you could choose to add or not, depending on your wants and needs, and your budget.

These days, (almost) all cars come with all of those former options, and many more, as standard features.

And so it is in a family business, conflict comes standard, and you cannot even opt out of it! Recall the days when you could have an unlisted phone number, but that cost extra, to not be listed in the “standard” phone book (these days, what’s a phone book? Ask Grandma…)

So assuming that you accept that conflict is built in, what now? My take is that you acknowledge it and always be on the alert for where disputes might flare up, and try to get out in front of them.


Carving a Safe Space: Art vs Science

A common term for mediators and group facilitators is the “safe space”. An independent and neutral outsider comes in and creates a safe space for all parties to be able to share their concerns, wants and needs.

One of the panelists in the conflict session artfully pointed out that his task is always to “hand carve” that safe space. You cannot buy such a space at IKEA and assemble it out of the box.

This carving analogy fits quite nicely with my own assertion, which I made both in that post a few weeks ago and during the FFI session; there is much more art involved in facilitating group process than there is science.


Who I Am vs What I Do

Organisations like FFI are great at helping this young industry develop and share the science part of family firms, but the art in mediating conflict often comes down more to the “who I am” of the neutral third party than the “what I do”.

The work that one needs to do to become an effective third party is very personal and “internally driven”.

For me, coaching courses, mediation and facilitation workshops, and even Bowen Family Systems Theory training, have all been integral to my becoming more than simply competent to do this work and conduct these group processes.

They say, “practice makes perfect”, and while perfection seems too lofty a goal, practice certainly does make one “better”.


How to stay Calm in Family Business situation

“Calm-Fident” Advice for your Family

Sometimes the right word for something doesn’t exist, so we need to make one up. Okay, we don’t actually need to, but it can be a useful exercise.

On sports radio last week, a commentator was talking about a certain hockey goaltender and how his calm performances had helped his team get their season off to a good start. Right after uttering the word “calm”, he moved on to the fact that the team was quite “confident” playing in front of him.

That was when the “word” calmfidence sort of hit me, and it also fit nicely with some of the personal work that I continue to do, trying to become and even better advisor to legacy families.

(When I Googled “calmfidence”, I learned that while it certainly is not very popular or well known yet, I am not the first one to use it. If you also decide to do this, please say hello to Juneous for me.)


Bowen Family Systems Theory

Let’s get back to the idea of calmness as a key ingredient to helping a family. I am now into my third year of studying Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST), and it has been eye opening to say the least.

I have already vowed to write a book on Bowen Theory as it applies to family business and wealth, because I have yet to find the book that I was hoping to find when I first took an interest in BFST.

That book is still in my plans, but it will be a couple of years away at best.

As any “amateur” Bowenite can tell you, there are eight concepts in BFST, and as some of those will surely note, being “calm” is not one of them.

So where do I think I am going to go with this? I am glad you asked.


Anxiety versus Calm

One of the over-riding issues that Bowen talked about throughout the eight concepts is anxiety.

When Bowen spoke of “Differentiation of Self”, which we might more simply call “emotional maturity” today, he regularly noted that those who are more differentiated (i.e. mature) can and do function well, even during times of anxiety.

Those with lower levels of differentiation or maturity will have their everyday functioning impaired during times of high anxiety.

Anyone who is part of a business family will certainly recognize that family discussions can be anxious times, and are often far from calm.


Bring an Outsider Inside

Advisors will preach to any family who will listen, that it is important to have an external person at the table to help them with these discussions, especially when important subjects like succession are on the agenda.

Most families prefer to keep things private, not wanting to air their laundry to an outsider, and also often assume that they alone are going through their particular difficult family situation.

They also recognize that an advisor who suggests bringing in an outsider is being self-serving, you know, like the barber who hints that your hair is getting a little long.


Bring in some Calm-Fidence

So here is where I want to bring things back to calmfidence.

When an outsider to your family enters the scene, there are two ways to quickly evaluate whether or not they will ultimately be useful to the family. You guessed it, they are “calm” and “confidence”.

This outside resource should bring a calm presence, no matter how much anxiety there is in the room, whether that anxiety is actually on the table, or hidden behind an elephant somewhere.

After a couple of meetings with the advisor/consultant, the family (or at least a significant portion of it) will begin to feel much more confident that they are on the right track.

But what if they are not calm, and the family does NOT feel more confident, you ask? Simple. Get someone else!


Too Important to Ignore

You’ve probably heard “the biggest investment most people make in their lives is buying a house.”

Families with a business, wealth, and a legacy to pass on are not “most people” though, and this is the biggest issue that they will ever face.

Inter-generation wealth transfer is not easy, and getting the whole family on board is the toughest part.

Find someone who gives you the CALMFIDENCE to get it done properly. Keep trying until you find them.




Family Business To do list

What To Do with a To Do List


Hand with marker. Blank TO DO LIST list business concept, chart, diagram, presentation background

Most people are familiar with the concept of a “To Do” list, but there are so many different ways that they are used, and their relative importance in various people’s lives got me thinking. And of course when something gets me thinking, a blog post invariably soon follows.

Along the way, I am going to touch on the “will do” question, the “must do”, as well as the “could do”. As usual, there won’t be much “telling you what to do” from my end, because the older I get the more I am convinced that telling people what to do is one of the worst ways to get them to do what you want them to do.

The “will do” question doesn’t necessarily fit with this topic, but I could not help but include a quick discussion on it. It comes from the world of HR and hiring practices, and I have seen it a couple of times recently.

When you are looking to bring someone into your organisation, you will undoubtedly look at their qualifications to see what they “can do”, because you prefer not to hire someone who cannot do the job. But more and more, HR people are also being asked to look into what candidates actually “will do”.

I’m not sure if this is a “millennial” thing, but having people decide that some tasks are beneath them is becoming an issue that more and more companies are dealing with.

Moving along to more conventional “to do” list questions, I have found that it can be quite helpful to separate things out into a “must do list”, with a timeframe, and then everything else.

Some people rank their items A, B, and C, and start with the A’s until they are done, and then move on to the B’s. Some people plan things out for the week, others on a day-to-day basis. Whatever works for you is better than nothing, but coming up with a system that becomes routine has been a key for me.

I plan things out on Sunday as I look at the upcoming workweek, slotting in important tasks among whatever scheduled events I have booked.

If you are also trying to incorporate some physical workout goals (4 times a week has been good for me) this can be useful too, in the mode of “making an appointment with yourself”.

The items that are less urgent and don’t need to be done this week still need to be housed somewhere, because you need to keep longterm ideas, projects, and goals in focus. I use a whiteboard in my office, where I keep monthly and quarterly items in view at all times.

After looking at an important item for a while, I will often begin to feel some guilt about not having started it yet, and that will usually get me to break it down into more bite-sized pieces, the first of which will then go on to my following week’s “must do” list.

But my favourite aspect of this “_____ do list” question is the one I call the “could do”list.

To me, life is all about possibilities, and I find it liberating to have a number of big ideas laid out as things that I could do, both personally and for and with my family. I even like to think this way about client families that I am working with.

Whenever I am in a leadership position with a group like this, my preferred modus operandi is to share a variety of possibilities with members of the group, and then lead a discussion where the group selects what they think is best as far as next steps.

Of course there are some choices that I might logically prefer over others, but when harmony is important, whether it be in my own family or in a client family, this method works much better that the old style authoritarian way.

This is not exactly leading from behind, a concept that some people love and others despise, but more akin to leading from within.

Now, you don’t have to do this, but you could!

Simplifying Complexity and Ethical Wills | Blog on Ethics in Family Business

Simplifying Complexity and Ethical Wills

Writing Last Will and Testament. Closeup shot

A few weeks ago I came across a blog post by the Blunt Bean Counter on Ethical Wills that I liked, and I encourage anyone interested in this subject to check it out. Perhaps I can whet your appetite with my take on the subject here.

The man behind the blog and the website is Mark Goodfield, who is an accountant from Toronto. I would not necessarily call him an old friend of mine, but we did meet professionally last summer at a BDO SuccessCare course, “The Role of the Most Trusted Advisor”.

We spoke about blogging one day at lunch, and it was thanks to some of his comments that I undertook a rebranding and reworking of my online presence, for which the feedback I have been receiving from some of you has been gratifying.

An ethical will is essentially a letter that you write to your loved ones, outlining your wishes, which they can refer to and reread after you have passed away.

As Mark so nicely states, some examples of what people convey in an ethical will include:

  1. Your values
  1. Your hopes for your family
  1. An explanation of decisions made in your will
  1. Providing or asking for forgiveness

This is one of those ideas that seems to make so much sense to me, but that for many reasons is not as easy a sell as it appears on the surface.

It reminds me of Tom Deans’ great book, Willing Wisdom, in which he implores people to share the contents of their will with their beneficiaries. I get it, I love the idea, I encourage people to do so as well, but at the same time, I also know that he gets a whole heck of a lot of pushback whenever he gives a speech about the subject.

Now the title of this post mentions simplifying complexity, and that is where I want to go now, so please join me. This was its own separate blog post idea, but I often need to combine ideas because I seem to get way more than 52 ideas a year, and I vowed to keep these to once a week.

Whenever someone dies, the remaining family members are left to sort things out and move on. We have all heard stories about people who died without a will, or before ever having taken the time to put their proverbial affairs in order.

Let’s call that one “Simple Life, Complex Death”.

There is an alternative, but it takes some work, some foresight, and some courage. It’s all about doing the complex work up front, while you are still alive and of sound mind.

If you are willing to share the information about your decisions with your loved ones, you can make things as complex as you like. You do the hard work yourself, and then when you are gone, everything will be so much simpler for your family.

My father liked complexity more than most. He bought a farm as a retirement project, then bought more land from neighbours over time. When he was diagnosed with cancer, I feared that I would be stuck with the task of disposing of all these different acreages.

One of the greatest gifts he ever gave me was the fact that he sold the farm, in no less than four separate transactions to four different buyers before he died. All I had to do was go to the notary’s office four times to sign the papers and pick up the cheques.

But of course before doing any of that, we had a family meeting, during which we discussed whether or not we wanted to keep the farm in the family.

We knew what he wanted us to do after he died, because the day of his diagnosis, he went home and hand wrote a multipage letter to us, which I later dubbed his “manifesto”.

Little did I know it at the time, it was his Ethical Will.

During subsequent family meetings, we have referred to it often, mostly early on, less so now.

With Father’s Day around the corner, I wanted to say, “Thanks again Dad”.


“Know How” Vs. “Show How” in FamBiz Advice

“Know How” Vs. “Show How” in FamBiz Advice

One of the things I enjoy doing occasionally is revisit parts of my eclectic professional career and find subjects that can help me explain things in areas around my most recent incarnation as a family business advisor.

Exactly 20 years ago, I was studying Intellectual Property Law in New Hampshire (Franklin Pierce Law, now part of UNH). During a class on patents, the terms “know how” and “show how” were discussed.

The MIP (Master of Intellectual Property) program was aimed mostly at international students, many of whom came from Asia, to get a one-year intense dose of American IP Law. A classmate from Colombia, whose English was still not great, asked me to explain the difference between the two terms.

We were standing in the student lounge at the time, and there were some vending machines nearby. I always love the challenge of taking complex issues and finding ways to explain them in terms that everyone can understand.

So I started with Know How, and suggested to my friend that if he were thirsty, he should go to the machine, put some money in it, and press a button. He looked at me intently, and said, “Okay…(?)”

Then, I walked over to the machine with him, and said, “Show How: Put your dollar bill in this slot here, and make sure you flatten it out. Slide it in until the machine picks it up. Now, look at the choices and decide which drink you want. Press that button. See, this is where it comes out. Don’t open it yet, because it just dropped and might make a mess because it got shaken. Get your change out of this slot. Show How.”

He smiled and nodded. Mission accomplished. So what does this have to do with family business?

If you are looking for Know How on subjects surrounding family business, and more importantly business families, there is no shortage of it out there. Just ask my friend Google, and he will lead you to more content than you could read in your lifetime.

But just as you could look up and read millions of patents and still not be able to put the inventions into practice, most of the FamBiz content you find really would fall more into the Know How category.

I read stuff every day on the subject, much of it coming from my Twitter addiction, and there are plenty of great ideas for things that families should be doing to make sure their intended transitions from one generation to the next go smoothly.

My problem with so much of what I read is that I believe that very little of it will ever be acted upon.

This may or may not be the fault of the writer of the piece, but I often picture the reaction of someone like my father, or my father-in-law, both of whom started with almost nothing and built successful family businesses, and I simply can’t picture either of them ever putting the advice into practice.

The lack of action by many families has a couple of components to it, of course. Lack of time or urgency is usually one part, and so is insufficient belief in the worthiness of the expected benefits. I can’t help believe that not having enough “Show How” is a very big part of it.

If someone reads that having family meetings is important, they may think that it could be worthwhile, but then might get hung up on how to go about that. What is on the agenda, who gets invited, how often should we do them, how formal, what is the goal, how do we make “ground rules”, do we keep minutes, ah just forget it. Maybe next year…

Many ideas sound great when we hear them (or read them), but then we stumble when we try to implement them, because of some uncertainty in how it is supposed to all work.

There are people who can help show you how, but not nearly as many as there are out adding the vast store of know how out there. You just need to find them and reach out.








There Is No “Fast Forward” Button

Last week we looked at the fact that people sometimes wish that they had the ability to hit the “Rewind” button in their life, but that outside of Hollywood, this was not something that is available to ordinary people (or even extra-ordinary people).

As I wrapped up, I promised to follow up with the mirror image of the Rewind button, which as we all remember from our 1970’s tape recorders or our 1990’s VCRs, is the “Fast Forward” button.

There are likely more people who wish they could hit Rewind than Fast Forward, based on two simple facts: our own mortality often makes us prefer to slow things down rather than speed things up, plus the fact that what has already occurred in the past is known, while the future is at best an educated guess.

Last week I made the tie-in to business families by talking about how family relationships sometimes get “stuck” because some family members hang on to past issues far longer than they probably should, and well past the point of their usefulness.

Some of you may be wondering how I am planning to make the family business question tie in to the Fast Forward button. Here goes…

Unfortunately, this subject forces us to look at a topic that most people prefer to avoid discussing, and it is one that was mentioned in passing a bit earlier. If you guessed that I was talking about mortality, take a bow.

Before I get to the ultra-frank wording of the manifestation of this problem, I want to tell you that it is something that I have seen far too often, and it breaks my heart every time.

For the past few years, even as my kids were only reaching their teens, I told them many times that even though I don’t yet know specifically “how” I am going to do it, I am determined to arrange my affairs in such a way that they will never be placed in a situatiuon where they will be hoping for me and their mother to die.

And that is the big Fast Forward button that too many people secretly wish that they could push.

Of course nobody will admit this, at least not out loud. Most will not even admit it to themselves. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening all around us, every day.

I did not wish for my father to die, as he left us, seven years ago, at the age of 72, but I sometimes wonder what my life would be like today if he were still with us. I truly hate to admit this, but I honestly do not think that I would be as happy as I am today if he were still around. (Wow, did I actually really just write that?)

There must be a really good reason for me to share this with readers, and there is. Knowing what I know now, about the importance of allowing each generation to rise and become everything they can be, is what I truly want and need to share.

This is not saying that my father was a bad person, in fact, in many ways, it says more about me, and my part in my relationship with my father, and my not having the courage to put what I needed on the table for discussion.

We did not have anyone that we knew at our disposal to help us have the important conversations that we should have been having.

It’s not that I would have pushed the Fast Forward button, but how many people out there secretly wish they could?

You don’t have the excuse that I did, about not having anyone at your disposal to help you have those key conversations, because you do. You are reading his blog right now.

Relations Harmonieuses Maintenant; Mais Après?

J’ai eu le plaisir dernièrement de passer du temps avec plusieurs couples qui étaient tous au stade de leurs vies où la planification d’une transition inter-générationelle de leur entreprise familiale était un de leurs plus gros défis.

Le tout faisait partie du programe Triomphe de l’École d’Entrepreneurship de Beauce, où j’avais été invité pour discuter de mes expériences et de mon livre, Changez votre vision de l’entreprise familiale.

En fin d’après-midi, je me suis présenté au groupe, et ensuite ma tâche était de répondre à quelques-unes de leurs questions. N’ayant pas eu la chance de répondre à toutes leurs questions, j’ai décidé d’en faire le sujet de quelques blogues.

Cette semaine, c’est la question d’une mère, qui s’inquiètait sur la relation entre son fils et sa fille, mais pas pour aujourd’hui. Je vous laisse lire le texte de sa question:

“ Comment peut-on s’assurer que la relation entre les deux relèves, frère et soeur, vont continuer en harmonie, au fil du temps, à travers la difficulté, quand on y est plus?”

Wow, toute une question, une chance qu’il me reste encore plusieurs paragraphes pour tenter une réponse! Mais elle n’est certe pas le seul parent à avoir ce souci non plus.

Et une chance aussi que je n’ai pas essayé de répondre sur le coup, puisque c’est une question qui demandait beaucoup de réflection pour donner une réponse complète, et j’aurais sûrement manqué au moins une partie de ce qui suit.

En effet, ma meilleur réponse contient trois volets;

  1. Des conversations, 2. Une cédule, 3. Un parti neutre.


Nous avons tous des soucis pour nos enfants, et trop souvent nous les gardons à l’intérieur. Je recommande fortement de prendre le temps et de faire l’effort d’en parler ensemble, en famille.

Si c’est plus facile d’aborder le sujet un-à-un, faites le ainsi, mais parlez-en. C’est presque toujours les non-dits qui causent les plus gros problèmes.

Et n’attendez pas la chicane avant d’agir, c’est toujours mieux de parler ensemble et de partager nos pensées quand tout va bien.

En discutant ensemble, vous avez la chance de réussir deux chose. Premièrement, vous allez vous soulager d’avoir lancé le sujet pour qu’on puisse en parler ouvertement ensemble.

Et deuxièmement, les paroles de vos enfants, qu’ils vont prononcer devant vous, seront très difficiles pour eux à oublier quand vous n’y serez plus.

Ça vaut la peine, et c’est bon pour toute la famille.


D’autres experts iront plutôt avec un mot comme “gouvernance”, mais je n’aime pas ce mot parce que chaque personne y attache une définition différente, et souvent ce mot fait peur aux gens.

La cédule, et surtout ce qu’on va faire avec, va accomplir les débuts de la gouvernance pour l’entreprise familiale.

Pendant que Maman et Papa sont encore impliqués, je recommande fortement de prendre le calendrier annuel et de céduler au moins 2, ou peut-être même 4, rendez-vous familiaux, où vous aller discuter uniquement du sujet suivant:

Nous possèdons une entreprise familiale, mais encore plus, nous sommes une famille entrepreuriale, et c’est la famille qui doit remporter.

Ce sont les débuts de votre “conseil de famille”. Vous développerez votre propre ordre du jour, vous ferez un compte rendu, vous allez céduler votre prochaine rencontre, etc. Mais vous allez formaliser un processus pour discuter des sujets importants dont on n’en parle pas tous les jours.

Parti Neutre

J’en parle souvent, mais à long terme, il est primordial d’avoir une personne externe, avec un nom de famille différent, à qui la famille a accès, et en qui ils ont tous confiance, pour discuter des sujets inter-personnels.

Ça pourrait être un employé sénior, un professionnel externe (avocat, comptable), un ami ou voisin, ou peut-être une personne d’une autre famille que vous connaissez qui a déjà fait face à ces sujets.

L’important c’est de commencer à inviter cette personne à vos réunions de conseil de famille au moins une fois par année, pour qu’elle puisse suivre le fil des sujets importants.

Ça prend les Trois

Je sais très bien que la grande majorité des familles ne suivront pas les conseils ci-hauts, mais je sais également que pour chaque famille qui décide de tenter de les suivre, les chances de faire un succès de leur transmission inter-générationnelle seront grandement améliorées.

[Si vous avez une question sur les entreprises familales que vous voulez me lancer pour en faire le sujet d’un blogue, allez-y. Merci!]


Leading Family Firms at IVEY

This week I attended a two-day program in London Ontario, at the fantastic Ivey Spencer Leadership Centre. The course was put on by the Ivey Business Families Centre, which is run by David Simpson.

David has been running the “Leading Family Firms” program for 6 years, bringing in families who are in business together, and getting them to learn about, and start talking about, some of the important issues that so often get too little attention.

We had an eclectic mix of people in the room, including a couple of brothers who are part of a third-generation company along with some of their cousins; two brothers-in-law who work along with two of their other brothers-in-law; as well as a Mom & Dad, & Son team.

In addition, we had a father with his recently graduated Ivey daughter, who does not work in Dad’s business, but who has been helping guide him in many ways thanks to her Ivey degree, as well as a handful of current Ivey students who come from family businesses to which they will likely eventually return.

I never get tired of hearing people’s stories about working with their families. There are always similarities to other situations, but then there are huge differences too. But because of this, there is always something we can learn from others in this field. Some is “what to do”, and some is “what NOT to do”.

Simpson started off the first day by congratulating everyone who was there. He clearly recognized that making the effort to take two full days away from your business is not a step that everyone is prepared to make, but that he was happy that they had all taken a couple of days to work ON their businesses (and their families!) instead of IN their businesses.

The course itself is based on the Roadmap course put together by the Business Families Foundation, which includes a series of videos about the ficticious Dupont family, and the trials and tribulations they face in running their hotel business. The videos are a bit dated and over-acted, but they do a great job of depicting situations that participants can identify with, and thus are wonderful conversation starters.

And conversations are the single biggest key to most of the issues that business families face. Actually, maybe I should say that conversations that have not happended are often the source of most of the problems that arise in family businesses.

While I was doing the Family Enterprise Advisor program this year, we used many of the same videos, and covered a lot of the same topics. One thing I can attest to is that the people who live in a business family are much faster at learning this stuff than most advisors.

Simpson told me beforehand that he accelerates the material when teaching families because a slower pace just isn’t needed. Having gone through it with him now, I get his point. But he gets it because he has been involved on all sides in family business with his own family and as a teacher in the Entrepreneurship program at Ivey.

On Friday afternoon as we were wrapping up, each person was asked to commit to one or two things that they were going to do in the coming months. There seemed to have been lots of progress made over two short days, as people were committing to some key steps that they were planning on taking very soon, which otherwise might have been left to “someday”.

All in all, it was an interesting, fun, and educational program, and I am certain everyone who was there found it worthwhile.

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

La communication a bien meilleur goût

Mon choix de thème cette semaine a été très facile, puisque des lacunes dans la communication apparaissent assez souvent dans ma vie quotidienne. Je remarque aussi des changements dans les habitudes des gens dernièrement, quant à leur façon de communiquer, et ce n’est pas toujours pour le meilleur.

Le premier sujet, c’est le choix de communiquer ou de rester muet. Quand je reçois un morceau d’information qui pourrait avoir un impact sur quelqu’un d’autre, mon instinct me dit que j’ai le devoir de communiquer cet information à l’autre personne, et normalement ça devrait se faire assez vite. Malheureusement, je me sens dans la minorité à cet égard. Combien de fois est-ce que ça vous arrive de penser “ah bien, ayant su d’avance que… j’aurais agi autrement”.

Ça revient peut-être à une question de “style” personnel, mais je trouve que c’est important de partager mes idées avec mes proches et d’être transparent avec mes intentions. Si je garde tout dans ma tête, ça ne m’aidera pas.

Quant à la fréquence de communiquer, je crois que plus souvent est meilleur que moins souvent. Cela mène parfois à la répétition, mais je préfère ce scénario, surtout quand on regarde le contraste, qui se résume par “Ah, je ne savais pas” ou “Ah, j’ai oublié”.

Comment communiquer? La technologie qui existe nous laisse des choix qui n’existaient pas il y a quelques années. Ça fait longtemps que j’ai posté une lettre (à part une mise-en-demeure récente), ou envoyé une télécopie (un “fax”).

Mais dernièrement j’ai participé à des appels conférences, j’ai envoyé et reçu des textos, j’ai parlé au téléphone, j’ai assisté à plusieurs webinars, j’ai jasé sur Skype, j’ai envoyé des tweets et bien des courriels, j’ai fais des mises-à-jour sur mon profil LinkedIn, et j’ai écrit des blogues. J’ai même eu un souper tête-à-tête hier soir avec ma femme, pour célébrer ses 4_? ans.

Il y a plusieurs mois, j’ai écrit un blogue (en anglais) où je discutais d’avoir des conversations, versus simplement communiquer. Prendre le temps de s’asseoir ensemble pour discuter de choses importantes, c’est toujours aussi bénéfiques qu’avant, même si c’est moins à la mode.

Les vraies conversations sont la façon idéale pour enseigner ses enfants ou ses employés (sans oubliés les enfants-employés!). Quand on prend le temps de discuter, de se faire entendre et d’écouter l’autre personne, on peut découvrir des points de vues révélateurs. On peut confirmer si notre message a été bien reçu et bien compris, et sinon, on peut la clarifier.

Dans le monde émergent de “coaching” personnel et executif, tout est centré sur les conversations entre le coach et le sujet. Le coach sert presque seulement de poseur des questions, et le résultat est de faire réfléchir le sujet sur différentes points de vue, auquel il n’aurait pas eu l’esprit de réfléchir autrement.

Mais ça prend un effort. Ce n’est pas toujours facile à commencer. Mais la bonne nouvelle, c’est que, une fois débuté, c’est plus facile de continuer.

Finalement mon blogue sur la communication ne pourra pas se terminer sans parle de la langue choisie. Quand vous avez le luxe de pouvoir communiquer dans plus qu’une langue, je crois que ça vaut la peine de se pratiquer non seulement dans sa langue plus naturelle, mais parfois aussi dans l’autre(s). Même si cela nécéssite une correction (merci ma fille, avec ses bonnes notes en français du secondaire I).

Mon titre faisait allusion aux annonces sur les spiritueux de la SAQ, mais je vais terminer sur un autre breuvage, le lait. Quand je parle de communication, faire un effort c’est bon, mais deux, c’est mieux!

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

Take My Advice: Don’t Take My Advice

I recently read the following quote from an article by Vinod Khosla, tweeted by Vala Afshar: “For entrepreneurs, the toughest thing is knowing whose advice to take and whose not to”. Agreed.

In the family business realm, the head of the company may not consider themselves an entrepreneur anymore, but the question of whose advice to follow is just as difficult.

On my website [], I recently added a section called “Articles”, where I have begun to post links to some of the more interesting things that I come across. I added a link to the audio of an interview with Tom Deans, author of the best-seller Every Family’s Business, discussing his new book, Willing Wisdom.

Deans mentioned something that I found interesting about the differences between Canadians and our American counterparts, when it comes to whom they consider their “Most Trusted Advisor”.

For Americans, it is most often their lawyer, yet for Canadians it is their accountant. When you think about it, it is not that surprising, what with the relative number of lawyers in each country.

Because family businesses are more complex than others, the advice required often emanates from areas of overlap between “family” matters and “business” matters. Many advisors, both accountants and lawyers, feel more comfortable when they concentrate on their area of specialty, and it isn’t usually the family part.

So what do you do when your lawyer tells you one thing, and your accountant tells you something else? Thankfully, there is a growing field of multi-disciplinary advisors, coming through various programs, like IFEA in Canada, and FFI in the USA.
It is not difficult to understand that when the advisors understand each other and their respective roles, AND they learn how to work together to help their clients, better solutions are almost always developed, compared to each working individually.

But it is not always easy, because there are so many variables in a family business. I believe that most professional advisors are well-meaning and honestly want to provide quality advice to all their clients. I do not, however, believe that they are all successful in achieving that goal.

Too often things are done in a hurry, before everyone has taken the time to understand the situation and ensure that a coherent plan is developed. This could be because the client has serious “fee aversion” and expects to get quality work done at a low price. Or it could be the busy professional making assumptions about the client’s situation and proposing a “cookie-cutter” solution that had worked for others before.

So what is my advice? I wish you wouldn’t ask me that, because I don’t like to think of myself as an “advisor”. In the end, the client must make up his own mind about what advice to follow. You shouldn’t decide until you are confident that you understand your options, having examined the pros and cons of all your alternatives.

Sometimes people need help understanding all the options and all the advice their have received. What I believe they could use at times like those, is not another “advisor”, but more of a “confidant”.

Multi-disciplinary advisors are well positioned to take on the “most trusted advisor” role, because they have the ability to relate to and understand the other key professionals too. If the advisors can’t properly explain their advice in laymen’s terms, they may not be the right ones to use.

Like so many other things, it is not really the advice you get, but what you do with it, that counts. I prefer to offer my help in understanding all the advice, rather than offering more advice, because that would just make things more confusing.

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