It’s really quite amazing how much bad behavior is tolerated in well run family businesses. Most families know the behavior is damaging to both the business and the family yet they lack the needed skills to stop the behaviors.
When families proactively engage in skill building they can develop the skills necessary to head the bad behavior off at the pass. The first step is acknowledging there’s a problem and making a commitment to doing something about it.
We often think of a family business the way we think of a high-performing sports team. To enable the team to successfully compete in today’s highly competitive business world, it’s important for the team owner, or head coach, to proactively engage the team in dialogue about behaviors that build trust and camaraderie. The problem is most families don’t take the time to discuss and agree upon the team norms on a regular basis. Businesses tend to keep showing up day after day, trying to perform and not investing the time to, as we call it, “review the game film” of the their recent performances.
When the team starts to build the muscle of objectivity when reviewing team members performances, it creates a safer and nonthreatening forum to illuminate harmful behavior. It’s incumbent upon the business leaders to develop a supportive and instructional approach to encourage better behavior out of all members of the team including participating players and bystanders on the sidelines.
Just like the Little League coach, team owners need to proactively educate the players and the surrounding family members, who often mean well, but misbehave from the sidelines. A strong leader knows how to pull players aside as well as loudmouth cheerleaders who might be doing more harm than good.
Many families benefit by enlisting the support of family business professionals who can act a little bit like the umpire on the field, whose vested interest is to make sure everyone plays fairly and with proper behavior to support a civil and successful outcome.
Families who allow bad behavior either on or off the field run the risk of a bench clearing brawl that ends up making the front page of the local news! Be courageous, “nip bad behavior in the bud” and the family as well as the business will have a much greater chance to win the championship and the trophy – financial success and a sustainable family business!