Many times I am asked what is the cause or source of conflict in a Family Business.
Though I do not believe there is one answer to that question for every situation or family business, I do believe based on my experience, the source of much conflict is ‘misaligned expectations’.
So what do I mean by ‘misaligned expectations’?
Each family member brings his or her own thoughts, ideas, experiences, definitions, interpretations, and perceptions to discussions, decisions, planning, and communication. These may not always be in alignment or the same as other family members. In many situations there is an assumption (we all know what it means when we assume) that others just know what we mean and we move forward acting on our own definitions or interpretations. Many family members are remarkably out of touch with each other. They fail to realize that they are not operating in isolation. These families take the greatest hits when change is necessary or a critical decision must be made. A failure to accept or hear questions posed for understanding often lead to a defensive posture. When that occurs the ability to move forward is definitely hindered and finger pointing or hostilities develop.
In these type situations it is important that family members seek first to hear and truly listen for understanding rather than thinking about what you want to say. Ask for clarification. Focus on the meaning of what is being said. Together commit to what and how you will move forward. For a family that may require revisiting and reviewing the vision the family has developed for the future and the values that will guide them in the journey.
All family members must understand and own the vision. The vision must be crafted with simplicity but with potency. The message and the means must be communicated frequently through all family members and stakeholders.
Deploying the vision means more than helping people know what the common cause is, it also means helping them get a clear idea of their own contributions to the success of the family cause. This involves helping them interpret the grand vision into a focus for action at their levels.
Countless families have great intentions and inspiring visions for themselves, but they don’t take the critical step of translating their intentions into concrete systems. Even worse, they often implement characteristics, strategies and tactics that are misaligned with their positive intentions, which in turn creates confusion and cynicism.
Don’t let ‘misaligned expectations’ derail building your family legacy.