I have many clients who are involved in family businesses or who are consultants for family businesses. One question that is raised often is how do you create harmony when dealing with so many different personalities? I would like to address this issue today for all families, not just those in family business. Let’s face it; the “business” of running a family is not much different than the business of running a company.
First of all there needs to be clear leadership. A boss if you will. In my family growing up, that was my Father. That is not to say that my Mom wasn’t in charge most days. She absolutely was but when the buck needed to stop when the “you know what” hit the fan, my Dad was the top dog. It doesn’t matter who the leader is, Mom or Dad, but the family needs to know the hierarchy. Parents can and should be in cahoots about the rules of the house. There should be no confusion about what is allowed. Children will play you like a fiddle if they smell dissension in the ranks.
Many divorced couples have this problem when it comes to their kids. As in business, when the leadership crumbles so does the foundation of the values and the structure of the family. When this happens children start to push their boundaries. Everything from what they will eat to when they come in at night will be in question. When each parent creates their own set of rules, so starts the uphill battle of trying to please everyone. It is really valuable for divorced parents to agree to, and uphold, common rules they have formed for their children.
What is your family “code”? Corporations appreciate the value of a mission statement. It can keep people focused on the mandate of the business at its core. You can create one for your family. My family is from Scottish decent so we have a crest with a mission statement on it that goes back many generations. It simply states “Mean Well, Speak Well, Do Well.” That is the statement I grew up trying my best to live by. It helped me understand right out of the gate what was expected of me.
Understanding what makes each person tick is valuable information when trying to create harmony in one’s family. A fun exercise is to have everyone in the family design a dream board. This allows each participant to feel free to express their dreams, desires and goals independently and then share them later. At that point, you will see what the other members of the family want and can talk about how you can create a plan to incorporate and/or strive for each other’s dreams. There may be things that your children and or your spouse can’t voice that are really important to them. They can use their dream board as a non-judgemental playground for their thoughts. Anyone who can cut and paste pictures or words can participate in this.
Find out what the values of each member of your family are. If your children’s aren’t the same as yours, and they most likely won’t be, that’s ok. They are thinking independently. Understanding what their values are will help you to understand what is important to them. It will become clearer why your son loves playing the piano instead of hockey. Perhaps his top values are creativity and expression.
Pay attention to the continuous evolution of your family. If you hold on too tightly to the “way it was”, you will choke the life out of future growth and miss all the good stuff that wants to happen.
Just like in business, the family has to change to succeed.
Caird Urquhart is Founder and President of Newroad Coaching, a boutique coaching firm providing one-on-one personal and business coaching services. She is also author of 30 Ways To Better Days: How to Rally After You’ve Been Dumped. Find Newroad Coaching on their blog and on Twitter and YouTube.