Family Dynamics: Some Things Don’t Change Much

Addressing the questions about how I got started in consulting family businesses, I did notice that there was one subject that was a part of every story: family dynamics. Making the study of family dynamics should be a part of the bedrock of everyone’s practice, with a special nod to the work of Dr. Murray Bowen. I was so fortunate to have been steered in his direction early in my career.

Add To Your Formal Education By Tapping Into The Experience Of Others

I was trained in organization development, business behavior, and group dynamics. I didn’t set out to be knowledgeable about families in business, but it happened because of an innate curiosity about how all things work. Throughout my career when I didn’t know something, I would engage professionals to teach me. I have learned from attorneys, accountants, engineers, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists—all worth every minute invested in listening and every penny spent for the time.

My First Family Business Client

My first client was three businesses, all interlocked by long relationships among the owners.

  • Business One: owned by a widow and her two sons, A and B. In that business was a non-related controller, C.
  • Business Two: owned by another widow with one son, D. In that business was an older gentleman, FR, who served as “family retainer,” holding the business together.
  • Business Three: owned by A + B + C + D + FR.

D had a severe and permanent congenital problem. He was dumb as a rock. I know that sounds harsh, but it was a significant factor. He had roomed with B in prep school, then with A in college until he (D) flunked out. The stated task was to merge the three businesses into one.

Please Keep In Mind That I Was 31 Years Of Age And Just Starting My […]

Every Professional Starts Somewhere: Choosing Your Practice Bedrock

I attribute my 50+ years of success to my choice of a remarkable foundation. Look thoughtfully and carefully for the bedrock of your practice. That choice can serve you well for your own half-century in the business.

Let’s Skip Family Drama And Just Get Back To Work

I am so happy to see the world starting to right itself after all these long months of societal upset and loss and sadness. As the pace of life picks up, I say that for the businesses I consult—let’s skip any family drama and just get back to work. I recently discussed some key tools to prevent in-house conflicts with Andrea Obston.

The Bowen Theory Was A Turning Point For Me

I have always enjoyed the mission of learning the “hows” and the “whys” of family dynamics, especially when it involves a family in business together, and that curiosity was what led me to the work of Dr. Murray Bowen.

Collaboration: Agreement On Methods And On What “Privacy” Means

After 20 years of being friends and being familiar with each other’s work, Dr. Jaffe and I were able to use our particular strengths to help solve some thorny issues, without stepping on each other’s toes or working at cross purposes. We shared information and we innovated together because we had agreed on our methods and we understood the enormity of the need for absolute confidentiality.

Stop The Family Argument By Deciding How To Order Dinner

Everyone has heard about arguments in Family Business.  Relatives in the business are all together to make key decisions. Two are deadlocked in a toe-to-toe shout-down with one saying, “I’m right!” and the other resolutely insisting “No, I’m right!” Perhaps yet another is trying to jump in with “Look at my idea!” The meeting agenda has dissolved into a process of Ready! Fire! Aim!

There is a tried and true way to end this, and here is an example. We are a group of five colleagues working together. We need to have dinner but would like to continue our work. One colleague asks the others, “What does everyone want to eat?” Instead of naming restaurants, they listened to all comments and agreed on the following:

  1. Must be suitable to continue our conversation over dinner, so that rules out a noisy place.
  2. Must be within 3 miles radius, so we don’t lose momentum in our progress.
  3. Must be able to seat five guests at 7 p.m., since that time suits everyone present.
  4. Must have selections on the menu that will satisfy one person who is mostly vegetarian.

Notice that there is not high “ownership” for any of the criteria.  After we do a quick survey of restaurants nearby, soon one or two stand out.

The operative word is ownership. So often in family business differences are grounded in whose idea is being discussed rather than what is the idea. In the Little Red Book of Family Business it says, “An Idea doesn’t care who has it.  It (the idea) has no opinion on the bearer thereof.” It is preferable to establish the criteria and then list the range of options that might be worthy of consideration. Each option is measured against the criteria, not against who proposed the idea. By eliminating the attachment to […]

Reduce Anxiety During This Crisis For Your Family Business

Your job managing the family business did not come with a crystal ball. But now, you are getting calls and emails from family members, employees, vendors, suppliers, city officials, the local press, and never-before-heard-from stakeholders about what is going to happen to the enterprise that supports so many. Let me give you a proven solution: appoint an Ombudsman.

The Bowen Theory Was A Turning Point For Me

I have always enjoyed the mission of learning the “hows” and the “whys” of family dynamics, especially when it involves a family in business together, and that curiosity was what led me to the work of Dr. Murray Bowen.

Boundaries: Who Does What?

There has been a lot in the news lately about “invading personal space,” and I really get why that is so important. Boundaries are a defining concept for every successful family business I’ve ever worked with, and it’s the second of my supporting pillars in my online course, Re-Imaging Relationships For Families In Business.  American poet Robert Frost noted that “good fences make good neighbors,” and I would add that good boundaries make good working relationships between family members.

In the nuclear family, usually parents and their children, or perhaps at some point just the siblings, there are relationships that have been developing since birth. Opinions about strengths and weaknesses have been forming for decades, and there are no secrets (usually) about escapades from anyone’s younger days. Normally by the time family members are working together as adults in a legacy business, they have already interacted with each other for decades within the intimacy of the family unit.

The family business must not become a metaphor for family.

Protocols must be different for work talk and family talk. The same is true for behaviors. If a bossy older sister has spent her life picking up projects abandoned by her younger brother, then she will continue to do this in the family business. This will result in the same resentment levels experienced by both siblings as this dynamic has occurred over the years. The family leader must know how to set the boundaries between sibling responsibilities,  and preferably with minimum risk to overall business progress. The leader must also know how to arbitrate when boundaries are disregarded. Perhaps that’s easier when a parent is running things, but when a sibling takes over as leader, he/she better be strong enough to insist on a) hands off someone else’s job and b) maybe job boundaries […]

Step 1: Alignment And Core Values–You First

Alignment is how learning to resolve family issues begins, and this is how my self-study course, Re-Imagining Relationships For Families In Business begins. My use of the concept of alignment is meant to be a 3D acceptance of your basic core values.

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This Is A Custom Widget

This Sliding Bar can be switched on or off in theme options, and can take any widget you throw at it or even fill it with your custom HTML Code. Its perfect for grabbing the attention of your viewers. Choose between 1, 2, 3 or 4 columns, set the background color, widget divider color, activate transparency, a top border or fully disable it on desktop and mobile.