Conflict shows that you’re alive, and that you care, but if unmanaged, it can destroy your family and your business
Family Conflict Resolution – Overview
When you mix family dynamics with business needs you have a recipe for big successes … and profound disasters.
The best of the highs is a strong and loving family that enjoys working together and makes a great success out of doing so, over the long term.
The worst of the lows is family conflict, which can get serious enough to destroy both the family and the business.
Part of the problem is that the family members nearest the flame, or some of them, just don’t get it. They place themselves in denial, or they fear to act, or they do things that make matters worse, and the cancer just keeps growing. Then there’s not only the conflict itself that eats away at the family, there’s also the disappointing feeling that those very family leaders whom everyone has learnt to rely upon for so much else are now missing in action, or culpably ineffective, just when they’re needed most.
If conflict is now infecting your family, or there’s a real risk that it will do so in the future, you need to manage things so the individuals, the family and the business all emerge on the other side wiser, stronger and in the “best possible” shape, under all the circumstances.
It may not be easy!
At one level, family conflict occurs when family members get themselves “unaligned”. Respect, trust and truth become early casualties and everyone starts heading off in their own selected, or impelled, direction.
Bringing everyone back into alignment can be as simple as discovering what’s knocked each of them off course (dismantling the situation) and addressing each deflector so its effects are neutralised.
By helping the family to appreciate that they’re all actually united by shared values, and that they can use these values to agree most of their high level visions and goals, the path back to alignment becomes an easy migration, not at all the cataclysmic event it looked like becoming.
Family Conflict Resolution
According to most people, family conflict is an area in which “angels fear to tread“, because the mix of individual emotion, family complexity and commercial imperatives spans so many professional disciplines and competencies that most advisers aren’t keen to get involved. Or if they do, they rapidly get bogged down when they find they can’t get a good grasp on the interactions between all the moving parts, or they get severely battered and bruised by the raw emotion on display.
That no-go zone metaphor helps to define us, because it’s where we began working with family businesses, many years ago, and it still ranks amongst our most important, unique and valuable services.
We combine serious legal/commercial expertise with advanced “human management skills” – enabling us to deal with the full range of issues that affect individuals, families and businesses. As Solutionists, we keep a careful weather eye on the big picture at all times, and it’s this attention to the survival and repair of the whole that helps us to address the family’s real needs, for the right reasons, and to avoid sacrificing one or more elements in the mix for the sake of expediency.
We help families to define and focus on the important issues and to resolve doubts, differences, tensions and conflicts. Our focus is always on helping individuals and families to achieve understanding, alignment, forgiveness and agreement.
As Solutionist mediators and facilitators, we collaborate with other experts, and co-ordinate their efforts, when there’s specific technical / professional work to be done. Most of these are lawyers, accountants, estate planners, financial planners and finance consultants.
In recent years we’ve found ourselves needing to engage psychologists, counsellors and executive coaches in a number of situations where one or more family members have serious behavioural problems that lie well outside the norm, and where they are almost completely non-responsive to ordinary reasoning, negotiations and consequences.
In such circumstances, which can get very stressful with risks of violent aggression, self-harm, and family breakdown, we may need to treat the condition (of an individual, or the family dynamics as a whole) before we can try to deal with the situation.
The stresses of family business, over many years, do seem to produce more than their fair share of tortured individuals.
“An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure”. Many of the components of family business best practice focus on putting things in place, and then using them, so as to help prevent conflicts from developing in the first place. These measures range from developing a shared sense of clarity about what’s going on and what’s intended, to having open and positive cultures, to developing formal codes, rules and structures to help manage family interactions.
We can guide your family through some or all of the best practice process, or just focus on doing things that will help to prevent conflicts from arising.
When prevention hasn’t worked and a conflict is developing, the sooner it’s managed the easier it usually is to resolve. Sometimes the family peacemaker (there’s almost always a peacemaker!) can safely do this, and sometimes it requires outside intervention, from skilled mediators who carry no emotional baggage.
We can provide advice if you want to have a go at managing the conflict yourself, or we’ll get more actively involved as independent facilitators or mediators. If things haven’t gone too far we find we can often de-construct the elements of the conflict, with the relevant parties, to give them an entirely different perspective on what they thought was going wrong.
Once that’s done there’s a good chance that we can steer everybody back into calmer waters without needing to manage any major confrontations.
When prevention and management haven’t been successful, and a full blown conflict is brewing, or has brewed, both the family and the business are probably suffering. At this stage it’s unlikely that intervention from within the family will be successful. At best it’s likely to suppress the symptoms for awhile; at worst it will compromise someone’s neutrality; then the embers of perceived injustice will be fanned into flames, and somebody, or everybody, will slide towards a meltdown.
This is where we come in: we practice non-destructive intervention designed to resolve the conflict and help everybody understand why it developed in the first place. By dealing with the causes, as well as thesymptoms, we achieve highly durable and lasting solutions.
By modelling a solution-oriented negotiation process, and by transferring knowledge, insights and skills to the parties through their participation in the process, we also increase their prospects for managing their relationships and interactions more constructively in the future.
Solutionist Mediation Process
The Solutionist Mediation Process is designed and delivered to minimise pain and damage to the individuals, the family and the business, and to achieve best possible outcomes, under the circumstances.
It’s considerably more interventionist than a standard mediation process, as it makes substantial use of the mediator’s knowledge and experience of family business factors and influences.
The process stages are:
- Identify every relevant issue that any involved party wants to resolve.
- Gather all available information.
- Assess the gathered information in the most appropriate manner.
- Obtain further information, if required.
- Complete the information assessment and identify implications thereof.
- Facilitate problem solving discussions and negotiations between the parties to:
- Build empathy and understandings.
- Re-humanise the other party(s) in each other’s eyes.
- Generate a range of options that could resolve the issues.
- Asses the options and select the best, by agreement.
- Adopt the selected option(s) as solutions and develop implementation plans, with timeframes, allocated tasks and responsibilities.
- Monitor execution of the agreed solution.
- Enforce the solution on the basis: “Execute, or EXECUTE!”