Posts Tagged ‘family business coaching’

Winning in the family business – getting real with your sibling about performance and job duties

Business workers stand togetherI can’t tell you how many times in the family business I see people comfortably settling in to certain roles and responsibilities based upon their own needs not the needs of the business.

Take for example the family I was working with recently.  The more we clearly outlined performance expectations and standards, and mapped out where the family business needs to be for the arrival of the next generation, the more it became clear higher levels of results needed to be produced.

As we began discussing this, one brother spent a lot of time telling us about all the things that he’s doing.  That’s great but unfortunately many of those things are not the things that are most strategic for the business.  Or more importantly, what he’s working on is what he enjoys the most, but not necessarily what he’s good at!

In family business coaching we are constantly focusing on what the business needs to be successful.  Many times this involves what we call professionalizing the firm.  That often entails identifying higher levels of predictable and professional accountability for results.

It’s our job as coaches to “referee” with the family members and help them gain objectivity about what results are being produced and who should be producing them.  Many times this process involves prying a few fun things out of people’s hands and putting a few more difficult things on their plate.

If they can’t produce the results they are asked to produce then we help them identify what’s missing, is it skill, commitment, or talent?  Through coaching we will create a process to help them identify the gaps and they will be held accountable to closing those gaps.

At the end of the day, as family business coaches, we want to see all of our players succeed and win in the marketplace and the family for that matter.  Sometimes that involves helping them find the right role on the team and helping them acquire some new skills so they can produce high-level results.

Business is a competitive sport.  If the family business doesn’t continue to challenge itself and challenge its teammates to be open and honest about their performance and strive to compete at the highest level the family business will go extinct.

Losing in the family business – be right but have no team

business-man-big-jumpMany of the family business entrepreneurs we work with are very strong minded individuals who have had a lot of success in the business.  Their success further strengthens their position that their way is the right way.

The problem is there’s been an ongoing trend over the past several years of people wanting to have autonomy – the ability to make their own decisions and add their own individual fingerprints to their work.

For the stubborn family business entrepreneur this seems like a bad direction.  I hear things like “Why fix it if it isn’t broken?  Why would we possibly want to do things differently when we’ve had such success with our current way of doing it?”

I have a client right now I’m working with who has been struggling with this dilemma for quite some time.  He continues to “be right” and continues to run off talented and hard-working people who would love to help the company move forward.

And truthfully, this guy is extremely smart and knows the business well.  Many of his ideas are great ideas.

I keep reminding him that if he wants it all to be done with his ideas he may be a leadership team of one.  He knows he wants to someday successfully transition the business and I have to give him a dose of reality with the fact that if he doesn’t start letting other people do things in their own unique way they will never stick around.

We’re a bit of a victim of the way we have raised the up and coming generation. We have encouraged them to be strong minded, confident and willing to speak their mind.

So the successful family business entrepreneur needs to find a way to gently straddle that line of letting people have a say in the matter but not allowing them to make decisions that will put the company at undue risk.

In family business coaching we teach the entrepreneurs how to use the Socratic method of teaching, mentoring and coaching to use their experience and expertise to ask better questions and do a better job of developing the younger generation.  When we teach the family business to create a coaching culture it accelerates development and communication and improves business results.

I know how hard it is to watch people make mistakes but ultimately it’s one of the best ways they really learn the lessons.  Remember you have a decision – you can be right and be a one man band or you can learn how to be a better mentor and build a great team and have a successful transition! Choose wisely!

Cousin Thinks He is the Star; Employees Think He’s Average at Best.

business-superman-955075-mIt’s not that uncommon for us to come across family members in family businesses that have an unrealistic sense of their abilities and impact. However, this can have a detrimental effect on the business as well as on the person living a bit of a… delusional life.

I have seen this many times. It happens for a couple of reasons. First of all, many family members assume greatness due to their name and lineage. It’s easy to see how that can happen. They grow up hearing stories about the founder’s vision, tenacity and accomplishments and they kind of fall into the trap of assuming all of those qualities were bestowed upon them at birth. We know that’s rarely the case.

The second reason it can happen is that deep down someone has a sense of insecurity, and so they overcompensate by acting as if they are the superstar, when in fact they are not.

These situations have far reaching implications to the family business. I’ve seen family members heading up key parts of the family business such as sales or finance, when they don’t have great skills in those areas. Having an underperformer in any area of a business can be potentially fatal to the business. Additionally, having an underperformer in a key role can be disheartening to other members of the team.

When you combine that situation with someone strutting around like a superstar, when in fact they are an underperformer, the effect can be downright embarrassing.

If you work with us at all, you will know that all of our family business coaching revolves around creating role definitions and results based upon the best practices of great companies.

Many family business people have convinced themselves they are great based upon their own scorecard. When we bring objectivity and business best practice measurements to the situation, it creates an opening for honest dialogue about improving family business performance.

Let’s go back to the underperformer. You want to create a safe, non-threatening environment where people embrace honesty and performance improvement. Lots of people kid themselves about their greatness, but strong, healthy family businesses face performance head on in healthy and objective ways.

Find a way to steer the family toward looking at performance, based upon best practices, and you will be on the way to improving the situation. Sometimes as coaches we can say things to people that no one else can say to them.

4 reasons and ways to practice acceptance with mom and dad in the family business

file000370064754Working in your family business with your mother and father sometimes feel like a prison sentence with no sign of parole anytime in the near future!  I know I spent 16 years doing time in my family business.

I like to use a little humor as a way to ease the pain.  My 16 years in my family business was rewarding on so many levels but ultimately my frustration with certain things in the business led to my happy and healthy departure in 1999.  It was the best thing I could have done for me and our family.

One of the things I encourage my family business clients to practice is acceptance.  For some people that sounds like giving up but it really is not about giving up.  Here’s some things to consider about  acceptance:

Number one acceptance gives you the right mindset: The Brain

Scientists have proven that when we are under stress or in a state of anger it shuts down the creative part of our brain.  This limits our ability to see more choices on how to handle the situation.

Number two think the best of people

I truly believe no one wakes up in the morning and says in themselves “I think I’m going to make some people’s lives miserable today”.  People have annoying habits but at the end of the day I really don’t believe people want to make other people miserable. I believe they are stuck in unhealthy patterns and simply don’t know how to get out of them.

Number three see your own responsibility in the situation

Almost never do I see a situation where it’s all one person’s fault in the family business.  It’s like the old saying it takes two to tango.  The sooner you can see how your behaviors, actions and attitudes are contributing to the situation the sooner you’ll be able to have acceptance about the situation

Number four acceptance isn’t giving up its freeing up energy to see new choices

When I encourage family business participants to practice acceptance, I think they hear it like I’m telling them to give up.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  So many people are stuck in being cynical or re-signed about the situation, I’m simply trying to move them from negativity to neutral to free up their creativity and power to see and take new choices.

Start today!  Find a way to find acceptance in your family business situation and you will have taken the first step toward finding peace, purpose and prosperity in the family business.

Top 5 traits family business should want for the next generation

passingkeyResilience and self-reliance

Life brings many challenges.  One of the greatest assets a person can have is the ability to handle adversity.  At the beginning of most family business stories is a story of overcoming adversity.  Too often the other end of the family business story is young people being handed too much too easily.  In the end this can be a great disservice to the next generation.

I know that as a parent we are anxious when we push our kids out into the world to find their way, but at the same time it is one of the most important gifts we can give them.  I am encouraging every family to have an employment policy that requires the next generation to go out and on their own for two years before joining the family business.

Healthy individual identity

Young people need to find out who they are outside the context of the family business.  I grew up in a family business that had great name recognition in our town and it was a good feeling.  But it was an even better feeling when I created my own accomplishments and began to know who I was outside of the family business circle.

When I got asked to lead at my Rotary Club, industry association, and Little League, I began to know my inherent strengths and leadership ability outside of business.  It was a great feeling.

I see a stark difference in the confidence and abilities of next gen’s who apply themselves and create success in areas outside of the family business.

When a healthy individual identity is created outside of the family business that person becomes 10 times more valuable inside the family business!

A fulfilling career

So many of us want to see the family business continue but I would rather see my children in careers that are personally rewarding.  We should encourage our children to explore and understand their strengths and find careers that play to these strengths. I see many 45 and 50-year-olds that find themselves 20 years into the family business career and are left unfulfilled, wondering if they should have pursued their passion.

Make sure, encourage, and demand that the next generation explores their strengths and passions fully before dedicating themselves to a career in the family business.

Emotional and financial security

Many family businesses give next gen’s a great leg up on the financial security piece but I find many times the emotional security and well-being is not great.

Family leaders should help next gen’s find out who they are, find rewarding and meaningful work, create a strong individual identity and then they will have the greatest combination of all: great emotional and financial security.


Isn’t that what it should all be about?  I’m not trying to say life should be easy or simple but at the end of the day the greatest gift in life is to find happiness in all of our day-to-day trials and tribulations.

I see many people who sort of fall into the family business and then at some point look up and realize that they are not happy for a variety of reasons.  Life is short and we should help the youngsters learn how to be thoughtful and courageous about taking responsibility and setting their own course for happiness in their life.

From Suffering to Celebrating in Your Family Business

It’s amazing the physical energy we take up on our families. In or out of a family business – our family members can frustrate us like nobody else can!

Why is that?

These should be the people we love and enjoy the most. We are usually cut from the same cloth, have similar upbringings and life experiences, yet they drive us nuts! Add the challenges of the family business and it’s like a perfect storm.

Imagine what it would be like if you could really enjoy working in the family business? Why isn’t that the case more often?

We let ourselves get on the emotional roller coaster of what “should” be or “could” be. We get trapped in resentments of things that happened in the past. We tolerate people’s rudeness or poor behavior. We get caught in the cross fire of the disillusioned spouse who is angrily at home mad enough for the both of you.

All of this can stop. How you ask?

Practicing a few simple mental skills. The brain scientists have proven how we build new neural pathways — new brain patterns. New ways of thinking. Here’s a few practices I have worked with for years:

Decide to either shut up or leave – stop your whining and complaining. If it’s that bad – take the courageous step of leaving and doing something else. I did after 16 years in our business. After being away for awhile and out in corporate America I realized the same problems existed, only now I wasn’t an owner. I had less ability to impact the culture.

Be grateful – yeah it’s not perfect, yeah some of you have difficult parents or siblings. But you have a job. Think about the 20 million people who don’t. Shift your perspective.

Be patient – your time will come. It might be soon or might be a while. Being angry is only going to make the waiting more painful

Learn to communicate powerfully – Learn the skills of powerful communication and make things happen! Request a new role, ask for a performance review. Be a leader and make a better life for yourself in the business. Show what you are made of —don’t be a victim, be an owner

Enjoy the journey –life’s short, get a hobby and stop ruminating about your family. You think you have it bad. I can tell you stories that will make your hair curl.

Try one of these for 30 days and tell me if it helped! Get back in the game!


Create camaraderie in your family business

Don’t under estimate the power of friendship and fellowship in the family business. When I asked a family group what they wanted, Jeff, one of the brothers, said, “Camaraderie.” It turned out to be an important idea. At the time the sibling group was not really enjoying each other’s company. They were stuck in a strained relationship haggling over roles and responsibilities in the family business.

After Jeff’s suggestion the group committed to a series of camping trips and adventures together. It’s amazing how all of the tension can melt away around a nice campfire or ATV ride. After each trip the group began to laugh a bit more, relate to each as brothers and friends, and eventually that energy found its way into our business meetings at work. They began to collaborate and work together to solve their common business problems.

Now creating camaraderie is a ongoing practice. They each take responsibility for designing and hosting a quarterly adventure. Like everything, it takes a strong intention and commitment to keep up the practice.

Equal pay in a family business?

Nothing creates heartburn and heartache quicker than realizing you’re working 50 percent harder and producing more results, yet getting paid the same as the family member next to you!  One of the common problems I see in family businesses is equal pay or unfair pay.  I get it.  It’s easy to see why moms and dads fall back on the safe route of paying their children equally in the family business.  It’s a short-term fix but it will cause long-term problems.  Great family businesses design compensation systems that reward performance and results. Giving equal compensation to people who have different levels of responsibilities, producing different levels of results will build serious tension, dissatisfaction and ultimately cause long-term strife.

Here’s a short video that highlights a simple five-step process to getting away from the equal pay dilemma.  I realize getting away from this equal pay problem seems insurmountable, but trust me it can be done and it needs to be done for the long-term health of your family business!

Should I Join the Family Business?

The decision of whether or not to join your family business could be one of the biggest decisions of your life!

The problem is, so often, people either get caught up in the emotions of it all, or they don’t take enough time to thoroughly think about all of the possibilities and ramifications of this kind of decision. 

I’ve put together a short set of questions you should ask yourself and ask your family before you take the plunge into your family business.  What happens so often is that you join the family business either in haste or without taking the long term view, and the next thing you know you look up and you have serious reservations, heartburn, or worse yet you feel like you squandered away so much of your life.  Take a few minutes and watch this video and send it on to anyone you know who’s contemplating entering the family business.

Stop Competing! (Against Your Siblings)

One of the most counterproductive behaviors I see in family businesses is siblings still trying to compete with each other as adults in the business. They are trying to resolve the challenges they had as little kids in the station wagon on family vacations. Little brother is trying to prove he’s smarter and faster than big brother. Little sister is trying to prove she is as tough as the boys. It’s hilarious! Most of us played sports and board games as children and got the competition mindset at an early age.

We when become adults in the family business the competition can be destructive. The focus and effort should be on beating the competitor, not each other! Great business families learn to discover and capitalize on everyone’s own unique talents. Some folks make great accountants and others great salespeople. Some are better leaders than managers. The best practice is to put people in the position that will best serve the company and play to their individual strengths. If you want to compete, get the monopoly board out, or go hit the tennis court. In business you need to learn to collaborate to beat your competitor.

Please enjoy this short 3 minute video and make a commitment to STOP COMPETING WITH YOUR SIBLINGS TODAY!