Family communication and harmony are components of the Succession Matrix® that can support or undermine succession planning strengths and weaknesses. As I work with families engaged in business, I come to the conclusion that harmony is a common goal of all except those consciously committed to terrorism and chaos. Although there is a limit as to how long we can hang out with some family members, putting aside current resentments most of our wants are stable emotions and to interact with family members as joyfully and productively as possible.

This motivation may mean that we want family members to see things our way but regardless of how each of us defines harmony, it appears to be a common goal of most families collaborating in business. Unfortunately, harmony is not that common among families that are engaged in business. The addition of business issues such as control, ownership, management, income, benefits, etc to the family dynamics make the achievement of harmony all that much more challenging.

I have the unique privilege of reflecting on families that have achieved harmony as well as those who continue to seek this revered goal. My position has afforded me the opportunity to identify common elements of families collaborating in business. My conclusion is that harmony is an acquired level of social wellbeing that requires a family to ACT harmoniously.

The “A” of ACT speaks to acceptance. Families are made up of diverse personalities who inherently have challenges interacting in a social setting and consequently encounter even greater challenges in a business setting. Harmony is achieved by family members accepting this diversity and consciously concluding that they will not take issues with other family members who have strikingly different perspectives of family hierarchy, business circumstances and life in general. The level of harmony is dependent upon the level of universal acceptance within the family.

The “C” of ACT speaks to commitment to harmony. Harmony is not only difficult to achieve it is also a formidable challenge to maintain. Avoiding commitment toward family harmony by focusing on personal preferences and prejudices, harmony can be at best a nerve racking “on again-off again” proposition. Again the level of family harmony is dependent upon the level of universal commitment of brothers, sisters, cousins, in-laws and parents to the family unit.

And “T” of ACT is for tolerance. Families are always changing with the multitude of circumstances impacting each of the sub units comprising the greater family such as marriages, divorces, deaths and births as well as the business circumstances in which the family members are working. There are never ending opportunities to take issue, become offended or build resentment. Harmony is both achieved and maintained by family members choosing to be tolerant of others within the family who predictably do or say things that would otherwise provoke and offend.

Simplistically speaking the families who can leverage the social bonding of their family to a business advantage are those that can ACT harmoniously.

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