How Do Next Gen Leaders Flourish in Your Family Business? Part 3 in a 3-Part Series

by Doug Gray | Nov 3, 2023 | Growing the Business

A group of enthusiastic millennials stand in the forefront of an office

Learning Assumptions.  Part 3: The Impact of Expressing Thoughts and Feelings on Important Topics in a Family Enterprise

In part one and part two of this series, we discussed the importance of expressing thoughts and feelings on important topics in a family enterprise and provided exercises to help individuals develop this skill. In this final part, we will explore the impact of these behaviors on the family enterprise itself.

The most important behavior is for family business leaders to express their thoughts and opinions on important topics.

Here is a quick review of the four assumptions for individuals:

  1. You have agency/ choice
  2. You have the capacity to flourish
  3. Your individual awareness drives your behaviors and career(s)
  4. Practicing leadership requires both knowing/awareness and showing/actions

Last week I had lunch with a G4 leader who said, “I want to thank you for being one of my mentors.”  Then she spent an hour updating me on the sale of a commercial property, her siblings and parents, and her excitement about the next phase of their business.  In short, she dumped her thoughts and opinions on important topics.  I smiled and congratulated her.

All leaders need to vent.  Family and non-family leaders have a unique understanding of complexity.  They embrace complexity.  When individuals in a family enterprise express their thoughts and feelings on important topics, they create an open and transparent environment.  They need transparency in order to accelerate trust.

Yesterday I led two workshops at an Owner’s Summit with family business members of an association.  The first topic was succession and continuity.  At breakfast I learned that one G3 leader agreed to return to the family enterprise only after she had convinced her sister to join her.  They shared their story with others in the room.  Within an hour all of the owners had shared their succession and continuity stories.  In confidence.  They needed to trust one another, practice transparency, in order to create change.

At lunch one leader said, “I need to attract new employees with a $1,000 referral process.”  After one month of good employment he promised to provide a $200 referral, then another $200 after two months, and the $600 balance after three months.  He needed others to share their thoughts and opinions, so that he could improve his business.

We all need to share best practices, or what really works.

There are too many leaders who bite their tongues in family enterprises because they are conflict avoidant.  Yesterday one leader said, “I’m afraid to talk to Uncle Charlie about his business performance because he was cruel to my daughter 15 years ago.”    That conflict-avoidant behavior decreases trust and blocks innovation.

When clients avoid conflict I ask for a family meeting.   My experience is that everyone is better behaved when you invite me, or someone, to your home for dinner.  In family meetings, skillful facilitators can accelerate conversations about thoughts and opinions that may have been unstated for many, too many years.  We all need a consultant at times.

Listening to others is a learned behavior.   Behavioral psychologists like me know that there are many levels of listening.  Those levels of listening can be taught.   Active listening accelerates trust because thelistener must 1) accurately repeat the speaker, and 2) va;idate their thoughts and opinions.  We all need to improve our active listening skills.

Pause here.  Think about someone that you want to understand better.  Or someone that you have avoided speaking to recently…

Now imagine reaching out to that person, in private, and asking about their thoughts and opinions about important topics.

What would happen?

My experience is that you would practice a critical skill.  We all need to be heard.  On good days, we get validation for our thoughts and opinions.

This post focused on the four assumptions for individuals:

  1. You have agency/ choice
  2. You have the capacity to flourish
  3. Your individual awareness drives your behaviors and career(s)
  4. Practicing leadership requires both knowing/awareness and showing/actions

Our research found that the  #1 desired behavior for individuals to fit in a family enterprise is to express their thoughts and feelings on important topics.   Any skillful consultant can suggest new behaviors to help others practice leadership.

You can assess the strengths and gaps in any non-family or family leader at www.AssessNextGen.com.  

When we encourage people to “express their thoughts and feelings on important topics,” then we can foster innovation, inclusion, engagement, and teamwork.

You can help Jack or Jill in your organization to  express their thoughts and feelings on important topics, starting today.

Visit www.AssessNextGen.com for more details.

References

  1. Gray, D.W. & Rhodes, K.B. (2022) How Does Your Family Measure Up? Using Assessments to Develop Effective Leaders. https://www.thefbcg.com/resource/how-does-your-family-measure-up-using-assessments-to-develop-effective-leaders/
  1. The Handbook of Strategic 360 Feedback. Church, A.A., Bracken, D.W., Fleenor, J.W., & Rose, D.S.  (2019).  Oxford University Press; New York.
  1. Gray, D.W. (2021). Distributed Ownership Tips for Family Businesses.  https://www.thefbcg.com/resource/distributed-ownership-tips-for-family-businesses/

 

 

Doug Gray
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Doug Gray, PhD, is a consultant with the Family Business Consulting Group, as well as an author, speaker, researcher, FFI member, and co-founder of Assess Next Gen, LLC. He has worked with over 10,000 leaders in multiple business sectors, schools and colleges, families and non-profits. He is the author of Objectives + Key Results (OKR) Leadership; How to Apply Silicon Valley’s Secret Sauce to Your Career, Team or Organization.

About the Author

Doug Gray, PhD, is a consultant with the Family Business Consulting Group, as well as an author, speaker, researcher, FFI member, and co-founder of Assess Next Gen, LLC. He has worked with over 10,000 leaders in multiple business sectors, schools and colleges, families and non-profits. He is the author of Objectives + Key Results (OKR) Leadership; How to Apply Silicon Valley’s Secret Sauce to Your Career, Team or Organization.