Wednesday, January 26, 2011


What is it and how do I know I can trust you?

Once trust is lost or broken, it is difficult to gain or rebuild.

It takes trust to build trust: a ‘counter-intuitive’ thought.

Since the beginning of this year 2011, I have had more than a few conversations with more than a few individuals on the topic of trust. In each of these conversations the dialogue started by the individual saying, “I just am not sure I can trust …my brother; my colleague; my business partner; my employee…”

When pushed for details as to why there is not a feeling of “trust” it was difficult for each individual to really articulate their feeling, but the feeling was definitely present and as we discussed the foundation of the mistrust, there was often a sense of misaligned expectations. If we define trust as the reliance and confidence in the other individual to meet our expectations, the expectations must be communicated and understood, explicitly and implicitly. To build a solid trusting relationship requires both time and proximity.

A friend of mine, Dr. Jay Desko, developed a 4-C model of trust that provides a starting point for a conversation.

Our expectations are viewed through our lens of how we perceive the other individual’s character, concern, communication, and competency.

Does the other individual reflect the 4-Cs?

- Character: A reliance on the honesty, fairness, hard work of the other…

- Concern: An interest or the importance of others, the family, the business…

- Communication: A consistent and intentional and effective interaction for clarifying expectation, feedback, disclosing feelings, explain changes, share perceptions

- Competency: A capacity to perform the task or role at an acceptable level of proficiency

There are several ways we can begin to understand what we mean when we say, “I don’t trust…”

Developing trust requires reliably meeting the expectations of others in the 4-Cs.

How are we as a Business Family doing in cultivating trust?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Meaningful Workplaces: Reframing How and Where We Work

A recent on-line educational seminar with The Network of Family Businesses, Dr. Neal Chalofsky, (Professor with The George Washington University, my Dissertation Chair, and friend) helped the membership gain a “New Perspective” or a “Reframing” of what goes into meaningful work. The seminar was based on the book Neal recently released by the same title. His findings and beliefs culminated from over ten years of research in organizations of all shapes and sizes.

Neal examined how the nature of work has changed over the years, what it is that makes a meaningful workplace, finding purpose in work, and how the culture of the organization and Business Family can drive commitment and engagement. He was quick to add that being committed to the organization does not necessarily mean one is engaged and vice versa. A meaningful workplace seeks to provide an environment where individuals are both committed to and engaged in the organization and work.

Another fascinating model (or way to look at something) was Neal’s concept of ‘Integrated Wholeness’. Integrated Wholeness is a sense of self, the work, and a sense of life balance and integration. These three key elements are crucial for meaningful work.

As I have experienced Neal in the past, he always provides very thought provoking ideas to ponder, and put into practice. Three key takeaways for a Meaningful Workplace require us:

1. To think and view all stakeholders (described as not only family members, but employees, community, vendors, customers, etc) as extended family and strive to create a functional organization.

2. For a meaningful workplace / environment we need to look at how we treat each family member and other individuals on a day to day basis, knowing we are building culture in the nurturing of relationships. It is not what we pass on to the next generation through our estate or the ‘perks’ that build meaningful workplaces, it is the culture we create.

3. To examine ourselves. We all have a moral imperative to help provide people with a meaningful place to work. If individuals’ can find meaning in their work, it can be a ‘win-win’ and Business Families may realize an increase in productivity and / or profit.

As Neal stated, “When you go to work each day knowing what you do makes a difference, that your voice is heard, that your work is meaningful, and that you enjoy the company of your colleagues, then you are truly part of a workplace community”.

This seminar can be viewed in the archives of The Network of Family Businesses at

Thanks Neal for a terrific and thought provoking seminar.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Juxtaposed Quote

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.

Martin Luther King Jr.


People who let events and circumstances dictate their lives are living reactively. That means that they don't act on life, they only react to it.

Stedman Graham

Are you acting or reacting in the face of challenge and controversy?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Time for the Family Business to consider a check-up

A New Year Check-Up

According to the American Medical Association and my own family Physician, we as adults (at least those of us over 40) are encouraged to have an annual physical exam at which time the Doctor usually recommends additional tests to understand what is going on in my body and to be on the lookout for potential concerns.

Family owned Businesses, of any age or generation, also need to take routine assessment of the health of their business, family, and individuals in the business. To get a clear true understanding, the assessment should consider all the factors that enhance the health of the Business Family.

There are many different formal and informal ways to conduct this type of assessment and each has its’ own pro’s and con’s. From my perspective, the critical issue is to ‘just do it” as Nike says, but also do it with an open mind to really learn what is going on in the business, family, and organization and then be committed to working at improving where we can.

The best way to find out is to ask those in the organization. One tool could be The Organizational Positioning System. This tool considers 11 critical areas that impact the life and vitality of a Family Owned Business. Understanding each area and the impact of these areas taken together and separately, provide insight for focused attention to strengthen individuals, the family, and the business. The 11 areas that are evaluated are:

Leadership; Values; Change; Goal Orientation; Empowerment; Communications; Team Work; Interpersonal Relationships; Familiness; Customer Focus; and Individual Recognition.

To help you begin the check-up of your Business Family, consider the aspect of Familiness and the questions to start the check-up:

A feeling of belonging, a shared sense of values and beliefs creates a sense of ‘ownership’, participation, and family. This dimension considers the extent to which members feel there is a sense of ‘family ownership and pride’ for all members.

1. There is a deep concern for all family members: stakeholders; stockholders, employees, customers, and others.

2. There is a very real sense in which all members of our family feel like a family.

3. There is a strong sense of pride and ownership by family members.

4. Each generation is inspired by their awareness of the family history and its vision for the future.

5. There is a shared vision of what the business will be like in the future.

How would your family, employees, and customers, clients, or vendors, answer these questions in their annual check-up?

We will explore other critical areas for the annual Family Owned Business in later posts.

What are your thoughts regarding the annual check-up?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Upcoming Seminar for Creating a Meaningful Workplace In Family Businesses

Creating a Meaningful Workplace In Family Businesses

Reframing How and Where We Work

The Network of Family Businesses has scheduled an on-line educational seminar with Dr. Neal Chalofsky on Creating A Meaningful Workplace In Family Businesses for Wednesday, January 19th at 11:00 AM EST.

In his White Paper found at Neal explains that economics requires a profit for a business to continue, but profits really are not the goal of a business enterprise. In his research Neal found people list money after values such as meaning, satisfaction, close work relationships, autonomy, work/life balance, and learning. It is not about the perks, it is about the culture. He states, “When you go to work each day knowing what you do makes a difference, that your voice is heard, that your work is meaningful, and that you enjoy the company of your colleagues, then you are truly part of a workplace community”.

Neal has been a Professor with the George Washington University Human and Organizational Learning program for over 20 years, and previously was the director of the Human Resource Development program at the Northern Virginia Graduate Center of Virginia Tech. He also has extensive background in working with many different organizations, both in governmental departments and the private sector.

In the spirit of full disclosure, Neal was my Dissertation Chair for my research at GW and has also become a friend. His recently released book titled: Meaningful Workplaces, has been portrayed on the NOFB website.

I am looking forward to working with Neal as he leads us in the exploration of this critical issue for business families seeking to build their legacy.

Registration for the On-Line Educational Seminar is available at

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 Vision

Where there is no vision, the people perish.
Proverbs 29:18

What is the vision for your family business in 2011?

Does your family know and agree?

Email me your family's vision.