I read a fascinating article about family business this week. I’ve shared the link to the article below. What I appreciated about the article was that it came from a group of family business scholars. They validated what I have been finding in family businesses over the past 20 years.
Conflict is not only normal, it is a healthy part of family business
I know, speaking from my own experience, that conflict in the family business can cause anxiety and stress in the whole family system. Having said that, you have to learn how to deal with the conflict rather than simply let it fester.
We know what happens to things that are left untreated; they usually get worse and cause bigger problems. See my Family Business Landmine Detection Map to see where your landmines might be.
When you know it’s normal, maybe you can be more courageous to face it
This is where the idea of normalizing comes into play. From my experience, most families think that conflict is a sign that something is wrong and are afraid of it. The sooner your family can realize it is a normal part of family life, and see it that way, the sooner you can lean into the conflict.
The more you deal with it, the more you get comfortable with it, and the more effective you get at handling it.
I think about driving in rush-hour traffic on the freeway. It’s a bit frightening for sure. It can be unsettling. It’s also a part of life and the more you do it, the more acclimated and skilled you get at navigating your way through it. I’d love to not get on the freeway to get home from work some days, but it’s still the most efficient way to get home.
Taking inventory of your taboos
The other interesting concept in the article was the idea that most families have taboos or subjects they never speak about. This would be another enlightening, self-reflection exercise for you and your family. What are the subjects that are off limits and why are they off limits? What is avoiding the subject costing you and the family?
Here are some of the most common taboos I’ve encountered with families. These are the subjects that many families don’t want to talk about:
- Declining health or performance of the founder or current CEO
- The inevitable exit of the founder/CEO
- Performance issues with family members
- Performance or personality differences with in-laws
- Financial matters as it relates to compensation or inheritances
- Bad behavior or embarrassing behavior from the family in the community
- Different work ethic or values within different branches of the family
- Firing a family member or an in-law – “pruning the family tree”
- Selling the business
- Pre employment requirements to join the business
How does this list compare to your family? If you take a minute and send me a taboo that wasn’t on my list, I’ll send you a signed copy of my new Family Business Playbook. Email me at email@example.com.
Great families are courageous and willing to tackle difficult conversations and even discuss their taboos.
Consider using this article as a starting point for new levels of discussion with your family. As always, if you’d like the help of a skilled family business facilitator, we can help.
Play to your potential!
If you enjoyed the concepts I’ve discussed, click here to read the article.
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.
His latest book, The Family Business Playbook gives you step-by-step exercises to help your family win!