As a family business succession planner I am commonly asked

  • How do I help families find harmony? – And then more specifically;
  • How do I convert skeptical, envious, petty, self serving, back-biters into unified families? And;
  • How do I help them find agreement on goals and processes that will help achieve a mutually agreeable mission?

My response is that I don’t deserve too much credit because family harmony issues on their lightest days are far bigger than this little guy. What I can really take credit for is being a diehard optimist about the potential of family and not knowing when to give up. As you would expect, like most conundrums, there are multiple answers to questions about family harmony. I’ll take a shot at shedding some light on how some families find harmony and others just remain in a quagmire of resentment, angst and anxiety.

My first thought is that some families are just not destined for harmony and unity.That’s a brash comment for a guy who is an admitted family optimist. However the fact of the matter is that the only commonality some family members have is genetics or wonderment, “did someone drop this kid in the wrong crib?” I believe that some family members are not cut out to be members of a cohesive, interdependent social unit, such as a family. And unfortunately for many disappointed parents and siblings, regardless of desire, longsuffering commitment or willingness to give, some of us just cannot or will not play family. There are simple reasons for many of these unfortunate circumstances such as drugs, alcohol and traumatic divorce. There are other more vexing, less obvious situations. Regardless, all forms of teamwork, including the family, require two choices:

  1. To be a part of the group; And then
  2. To conform to the generally accepted level of common values and priorities of the group. 

No matter how bad you want a child or sibling to be a part of your family, you cannot make these choices for them.  Therefore, most families will admit that some children, siblings or cousins are name-only/blood-only family. It is what it is. On a more positive note, there is encouragement in the fact that just because a child or sibling chooses to “opt-out”, the family can still be a meaningful, supportive, and encouraging social and business unit for those who “opt-in”.

Next week, I’ll be providing some more insight into this topic in my post, Family Business Harmony – It’s Not an Inalienable Right.

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