Sometimes when my partners and I make a presentation at a national conference for one group or another, we go through a skit in which members of successive generations go back and forth over which generation should “call the shots.” It ends with the younger generation member saying something along the lines of, “Dad, when am I ever going to have THE seat at the table?  I’ve been carrying this business for the last 20 years and you’re still telling me what to do.  For crying out loud, I’m 53 years old!”  

 In some ways, that may be one of the drawbacks of being born either to the Greatest generation or the Boomer generation.  Neither generation has a lock on wanting to stay involved in a business that they either created from scratch or nurtured and grew as a continuation of their parents’ legacy.  And, quite frankly, your generation probably won’t be too anxious to give up THE Seat either.  You see, human nature really hasn’t changed very much over time.

For some family members, leaving the business may not be much of a challenge.  For others, their self-esteem is so wrapped up in what they do that they’re afraid they may never have an opportunity to reach their full potential or achieve their proper standing in life. In a recent social media group, Patricia Annino, a Boston estate attorney, refers to this as the Prince Charles Syndrome.

If you happen to be suffering from Prince Charles Syndrome, here are a few suggestions that might help you through the winter of your discontent.  You may or may not like them, and you may think that I don’t understand your situation.  But I do, I’ve seen it a number of times with clients; and I expect that I will see it again in the future.  

First, it’s probably important to ask yourself a couple of questions to build your self-awareness.  Here are four starters:

  • Who am I?
  • How did I get here?
  • Where do I want to go?
  • How do I get there?

Second, write out your definitions of personal and professional success.  Do your definitions and/or descriptions of success conflict with your answers to the questions above?  If so, then you might want to spend some time thinking about what’s really important to you, and whether or not you’re really in the right spot.  That can be complicated by your current financial position; but the choice of what you do to generate income and a livelihood is still yours.

Third, be very honest with yourself in answering this question:  If I never get THE Seat at the table, will I feel like I have failed or that I was “less than” I could/should have been?  If your answer is yes, then you might want to go back and redefine your personal and professional definitions of success.  

Finally, talk frankly with the older generation.  One of the most remarkable things about communication is that people think it actually takes place.  In some cases it does; and in far too many situations it never does.  If you’re not getting where you want to go, talk with the people who can help you get there and find out what they need from you to help you succeed.  

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