A Mother’s Last Wish
In November of 2008 in Fort Worth I met Alison and Sean McCann for the first time. They were well into transitioning their successful wholesale distribution business over to their two sons, Jeff and George. They were concerned that the boys were so different they might end up stuck in conflict with each other.
Alison made an even more revealing and heartfelt plea to me. She informed me that she had recently been diagnosed with ALS and knew her time with her family was limited. She said to me, “More than anything I want to leave them knowing that my two sons can learn to get along in this business. They have butted heads since they were very young and I cannot leave knowing they might end up fighting here at work and putting the family, company and the employees in jeopardy.”
Wow. Sibling rivalry front and center as a part of a mother’s last wishes for her boys. I took her request to heart. I wanted to make her wish come true.
Sibling Rivalry is Part of our Human Wiring
Sibling rivalry runs deep. Part of the solution is to just notice this natural phenomenon and not let it derail you.
What Sibling Rivalry Looks Like & the Damage it Can Cause
Most sibling rivalry comes down to a few things from my perspective:
- Differing styles – example – detailed methodical person vs. big picture idea guy
- Old wounds – trying settle the score from childhood run ins – now in adult life
- Super competitive – STILL competing on the stage at the company
Sibling rivalry is super destructive to the family and the family business. It can:
- Create tension and stress with your staff at work – leads to turnover
- Create tension in the family – sets bad example for next generation
- When left unaddressed builds up energy that will cause major explosions that harm business
The Steps You Can Take to Minimize the Issue
Here’s what we hold our clients accountable to in order to move past sibling rivalry:
- Set your egos aside
- Accept each other’s differences as a source of team strength
- Make room so each other can be themselves – with some boundaries
- Put each other in BEST postion for the company
- Practice acceptance and gratitude
How it Turned Out in Fort Worth
I’m happy to report that George and Jeff have learned to work together. They realize together they make an even stronger team. Sure, their style differences can cause some tension at times but they keep the big picture perspective and don’t let it take up any energy.
They both stay keenly aware of it and make sure they are supportive and aligned with the entire staff. They’ve become a great team… Mom would be proud!
Coach’s Insight – Sibling Rivalry May be Unavoidable But Not Unfixable
Ok, sibling rivalry is here to stay but you and your family can stay vigilant to not let it become unhealthy or destructive to the family or the business. Stay aware of it, take steps to make sure it doesn’t derail you from your vision for your business and your family.
Pete Walsh is a demanding, courageous and playful Master Certified Coach in Phoenix, Arizona, and the founder of Peak Workout Business Coaching and the Family Business Performance Center. Check out Coach Pete’s free tools: the Family Business Landmine Detection Map and the Family Business Survival Kit. He can be reached at email@example.com.