How to deal with multiple personalities in your family business

Hi, it’s Coach Pete.   

Today’s letter is from Jeff in Seattle.  Jeff writes:

Dear Coach Pete,

My brother and I have been working together for 7 years and I am not sure I can take it much longer.  I see several opportunities for us to grow our business but my brother says we are fine just the way we are.  I’m optimistic and aggressive and he is conservative and content.  I see huge personal opportunities slipping away since I am stuck with him as a partner.  What should I do?

Great question Jeff.  I see this play out with so many of the families I work with.  In fact it was one of the biggest contributors to why I left my family business after 16 years.  The underlying issue is what we call in coaching as style differences.  As I look back now on our situation and I think about it, here’s a concept, get this.  If we had learned to appreciate each other’s styles, we would have been an even stronger team, but unfortunately people get stuck in resentment and frustration which leads to real issues in the business. 

A successful family knows that you actually need a healthy amount of tension between the different styles.  It’s what one of my clients describe is how they get the most juice out of the orange.  The first thing you need to do is to learn to identify and name the different styles between you and your brother.  I use a very simple and inexpensive questionnaire from a colleague of mine, Laurie Beth Jones. She has identified 4 basic styles: Earth, Wind, Water and Fire.  

Here is the link:

I am telling you, it will be some of the best money you have spent this year.  Sit down and map out your communication do’s and don’ts.  Really figure out what really works for you when others communicate with you a certain way and what really drives you nuts.  Now here’s the most important part, really start practicing having some self awareness you knucklehead!  Really start to see your style and other people’s style and action and try to identify their style and see if you can modify your approach to speak in their language.  Trust me it will make a big difference getting things done the way you’d like to get them done and then after you do that, go out and go to your brother; tell him what you have been up to and ask him to participate in this exercise.

Listen to me, you really do need these different styles and as soon as you can begin to genuinely appreciate each other’s style you’ll have better decisions, better results, and better satisfaction in the work you are doing.

As always send this onto to others who you think could benefit and send us your successes and challenges with this drill or your other questions you would like to see us handle.  It’s how we help all of the families in this community.  We all learn from each other. 

Here’s a bonus for you: Send me your test results, I’ll compare them to all the other people I’ve been working with and really tell you how screwed up you are. 

Now, get back into the game and play to your potential!