A well-run family meeting can make a huge difference on the trajectory of a family and its business.
I’ve had the honor to work with several families and watch their family gain clarity, momentum, and camaraderie as a result of their annual family meetings. Most of these family leaders were unsure and hesitant at first about their ability to hold an effective meeting.
Here are a few things you should keep in mind as you think about a family meeting:
Most Family Meetings are a Little Awkward at First
Families are used to getting together for the holidays enjoying dinner, etc. When you bring the family together with the backdrop of the family business, most family members aren’t sure what to expect. So just know that at first, it can be a little bit uncomfortable. That’s where it’s important for the family leader to set the right tone and vision for the meetings.
Create a Welcoming, Open Atmosphere
Most families I’ve worked with had family members that came to the meeting a little apprehensive and not sure of the purpose. One of your most important, first goals is to get everyone comfortable and trusting the process. This happens by creating a friendly, open-minded atmosphere.
Create Small Expectations
Just like when someone goes to the gym for the first time, a smart trainer won’t try to put too much weight on the barbell and ask their client to lift it. Set small goals at first. Try to get people to attend, be open to the process, and be willing to share their thoughts and ideas. If you set too big of an expectation for yourself or the group, you will probably be let down. You could accidentally create the opposite of what you’re trying to have happen.
Momentum and Teamwork Happen After Several Sessions
It’s been fun to watch families in this process. As everyone begins to understand the process, they are more confident to open up and create the kind of dialogue that can really set the course of a family for many years to come. Effective family leaders or trained facilitators can really help bring out the best in everyone. Be patient with the process.
Give Everyone Input on the Agenda and Venue
If you really want to have an engaged family, consider letting everyone give input on the agenda and location of the meeting. It’s such an important element with today’s youth. They really want to have a say in the matter. Of course the family leaders will still set a lot of the broader agenda. They can still gain buy-in by allowing the younger generation to have input.
Trust the Process
This is one of the most difficult things to do. Trust that if you set a good, open agenda and bring a warm heart and a reasonable amount of facilitation skills, you will create a stronger, healthier, more vibrant family. Stay confident, even in the shaky moments, because every team goes through a few ups and downs. The great teams have leaders that trust the process.
Get Started Sooner Rather than Later
I can’t tell you how many times families put off having a family meeting because they are nervous and unsure about the outcome. Yet, after diving in and following the recipe, so many of them asked, “Why didn’t we start this sooner?” Get started, you can do this!
Play to your potential!
Pete Walsh offers family business consulting services, workshops, tools and resources as the founder of the Family Business Performance Center. Subscribe to his newsletter or get in touch to get actionable insights to help your family business grow for generations to come.