Harmony happens when separate pieces work together to produce a pleasing result
Harmonising the Family
Harmonising the family means: “to bring the family into consonance and accord”- where everyone plays nicely and feels good about it.
An ordinary family that doesn’t have shared business interests or expectations is “just” a social unit that usually finds its own natural balance.
A family with a business needs to do more, because business involvement imposes unnatural pressures on the family. Although each family needs to take its own unique approach, they all have the same core goal: long term peace and prosperity. This requires the complementary alignment of family with business objectives.
Aligned families enjoy Clarity, Certainty and Commitment – they know where, why, how and when they’re going, and who’s doing what on the journey. Individuals accept their assigned roles and responsibilities, and their expected outcomes.
The Alignment process strengthens the family team by getting family members working together on activities and projects they feel are worthwhile.
Keeping the family aligned requires a sustained management effort that should be exercised through relatively formal Family Structures and Family Systems.
To understand: who’s who, what’s what, where does everyone fit in, and where is all of this going?
Helps to locate: toxic dumps, landmines, deadly radiation, evil spells, bear pits, honey traps and pots of gold at the ends of rainbows – in the family and in the business.
Process: Information gathering via one-on-one interviews with all key family members, including spouses and partners, to:
- Gain information, impressions and unemotional assessments about individual personalities, issues, expectations, hopes and concerns.
- Obtain a feel for the strength and nature of underlying family dynamics.
- Build rapport with family members through honest feedback, explanations, confirmation of objectives, and explanation of process.
- Provide confidence in the process.
Communication and Relationships
They say relationships fail when communications break down. This is wrong – it mistakes the real cause: the relationship failed because it was dysfunctional, diseased, or damaged; they’re the problems that destroy communication.
So, to focus on repairing or improving physical communications, without first fixing underlying relationship problems, is to miss the main point, and is probably doomed to fail.
Broken Wing Syndrome
Identifying the root cause of the problem often means spending time with individuals who can’t participate adequately in a workout process, due to personality issues and/or existing mental / emotional challenges.
They need to be understood, validated, strengthened and supported, preferably by objective professionals who don’t create unforeseen, additional family resentment for over-protective behaviours by a nurturing, misguided parent.
If personal coaching and counselling aren’t enough, they may need specialist psychological help. We use psych-qualified personal coaches.
Families often resent any suggestion of mental illness amongst family members, even when clearly observable, highly disruptive behaviours have been causing mayhem and anger within the family, for a long time.
Courage here saves lives, and families. Making the response part of a broader process also helps to de-personalise the situation, as everyone is clearly working towards larger goals, which lessens the weight of attention on individuals.
Regular, structured family meetings inject discipline and purpose into business families. They are essential for establishing and maintaining family harmonisation.
Although families may behave perfectly well at social gatherings, their family business meetings need to be different affairs. Disciplined meetings are structured, and use logical and businesslike processes to help overcome family hierarchies, level the playing field, and encourage active participation in collaborative problem solving and decision making. This encourages rational thinking and helps to create stronger, more respectful, inter-generational family teams.
Family meetings also enable parents to work with their adult children on important decisions. When parents act as sponsors, rather than as parents, they allow next generation family members room to show what they’re made of. This can be a huge eye-opener for parents, and a useful contributor to succession processes.
Equal isn’t Equitable
Few issues cause as much conflict in families as perceived unfairness (lack of equity) in the distribution of rewards and benefits. Problems can relate to current arrangements, or to events of long ago, as in: “You were always the favourite, you got the new tricycle!”
Parents get themselves into a lot of trouble with the “innocent” mantra: “I love my children equally, so to be fair, I reward them all equally.”
The reality is that “equal” is often not “fair”. If one family member puts in more time and effort, or makes greater contributions, or is more needy, or has worked harder obtaining qualifications, than others, they may develop strong resentments if their differences aren’t, at least in their eyes, recognised appropriately.
Parental, or sibling Insistence on equality often creates deep resentments, and that can lead to conflict.
Some parents are very good at maintaining sensible balance and support for all their children. Others seem to lose the plot entirely and go “full emotional” – providing excessive support to needy (adult) children – which usually makes them even more dependent on the supporting parent.
There begins a downward spiral into guilt and resentment with, in many cases, seriously adverse consequences for the parents’ relationship with each other.
Knowledge, Confidence and Skills
The family harmonisation process aims to increase levels of capacity, resilience, self-sufficiency and confidence in individual family members, and in the family as a group.
This usually requires a focus on developing individual and collective “personal and human skills”, with the active monitoring and support of all family members.