Keeping It in the Family – Mindset Matters

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If you witnessed just one of my family business coaching sessions, you would agree that the goings on make amazing fodder for a reality TV series. There wouldn’t even be a need for embellishment or added scripting because the day-to-day shenanigans I’ve encountered would be plenty to keep an audience captivated. For instance, the president of a prestigious retail company mooned his entire executive team right on the mahogany conference table. People, you can’t make this stuff up. Yet despite the humorous semantics, family businesses are failing at record rates and I have a front row seat, trying my darndest to bring to the forefront the scientific practices of what I’ve learned during my 3-decade journey to the employment truths.

As a brain based coach, my job is to come up with breakthrough solutions for identifying, retaining, and developing top performers in a way that moves my clients’ vision and mission forward. Organizations I work with are never wanting for ideas and passion for the company cause. The problem is, most of it exists in an abstract space – in the minds of the leaders – rather than in a concrete document or on-demand training module that the entire team can easily understand and follow. Even the term “family business” can mean a plethora of things, such as stakeholders that aren’t necessarily blood-related, but maintain that unbreakable bond nonetheless.

Since the statistics are stacked against multi-generational success it doesn’t help that most of these entrepreneurs haven’t come to terms with the fact that they’ve created a reality only privately-held businesses can sustain, but unfortunately not for very long. In an environment filled with family feuds, emotions running amok, favoritism, the loss of non-family employees, and a lack of succession planning, there’s little incentive for non-related professionals to join the ranks and contribute. Not to mention, owners rarely understand how difficult, yet essential, it is to find and develop talent that steers the company away from the nepotism family members often bring.

Since the human capital problems we see today manifest into the research projects of tomorrow, we were insanely curious if there was a prevalent mindset or behaviors of the successful organizations who continue to flourish versus those that do not.

Here’s just a sample of what we uncovered from our deep dive into the effective organizations who thrive through appropriate mindsets, and subsequent behaviors.

  • Their business is a living, breathing entity that should be fiercely protected.
  • The company strategy is crystal clear and is not kept behind closed doors like a covert FBI initiative and everyone knows it and their place in it.
  • There is no assumption that the next generation wants to be involved or will make the best leaders for the future of the business.
  • Formal exit/succession plans are a must in order to move the vision and mission forward.
  • They alleviate bias by requiring everyone to go through an interview process to qualify for a vacant role or earn a promotion.
  • Scientific assessments are used to measure each employee’s talent against the requirements of his or her current (or potential) role and the company.
  • They have established company behaviors that everyone follows and prescribes to.
  • They tap outside council to ensure they are considering different viewpoints.
  • They develop and maintain a hybrid training program aimed at maximizing everyone’s potential.
  • They have an accountability model that pertains to all levels of the team regardless of a person’s last name.

The last time I saw best-selling author, Jim Collins, speak, his message really stuck with me – the number one reason great companies have crashed and burned comes down to one quality: hubris. That’s right, failed family businesses are the workings of a classic Greek tragedy. Try delivering that punch line to the president of a once reputable organization.

Well, how does an organization, whether family owned or not, implement these research-backed strategies and behaviors while maintaining their identities? Watch our recent Mindset Matters Live where we discussed brain-based research, best practices, and the on-demand tool that’ll save your life when it comes to developing appropriate organizational behaviors from the top down.

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President and CEO

Joan Graci is an accomplished organizational consultant and executive coach with three decades of helping growing companies identify, retain, and develop top talent. Her time as President and Owner of APA Solutions, the premier brain-based human capital consulting firm of WNY, has been spent developing cutting edge, science-based solutions to the people pains of today.