Four Cornerstones to Family Meetings

Published: Feb 22, 2022

At this stage of your family Enterprise, you’ve included your family members and you’re asking: “Do we know what each individual family member wants”?

The next step, if you haven’t done so already, is to bring the family together and begin family meetings.

It can be a bit daunting to get started. It’s understood that holding regular family meetings helps to connect, solve problems, and develop family cohesion. Family meetings can help to strengthen your bonds and bring you closer together. At the same time, it can feel like a huge task to get your own family started due to emotions, boundaries, past baggage, and even the idea of organizing it on your own. Holding a family meeting without focus could lead to discussions that lack purpose or feel chaotic. If you approach your family meetings with a plan and agenda, you will start to see the success in your newly found connections within your family.

Don’t worry about trying to do it on your  own, as Family Enterprise Advisors make great facilitators to conduct the meetings for your family.  They can help set the agenda, establish rules of behaviour, have ice breakers to get everyone comfortable opening up, and make sure everyone feels safe contributing to the important conversations.  It is important that no one family member monopolizes the conversations at a family meeting or is hurtful to others.  After all, the goal is to create the familiness advantage.

Wendy Sage-Hayward shared her outlook that family meetings have 4 cornerstones:

The four cornerstones are: Family Development, Family Enterprise, Family Cohesion and Family Fun.  I cannot put enough emphasis that Family Fun must be part of the process.  Without some feel good activities and events that bring everyone together in laughter and smiles, coming together may feel too structured.  That may work against how family members define family.  Do be clear on why you are coming together and what the purpose of that family meeting is about.  As the saying goes: “Families that play together stay together.”

Not all family meetings are the same. Coming together for a yearly family retreat works and bringing the family together for a conference to learn about governance is also a great way to open the door to further communication on the topic.  You may also bring in an expert speaker to have the family learn about tools to help with conflict management.  Each of these are great examples to family meetings.

Some families build a 5-year plan that include the four cornerstones outlined above. Family development increases individual family members intellectual capital and has the family participate in assessments such as the Myers-Briggs to understand each family member’s personality and how you can best come together understanding each nuance in your personality traits. There are all kinds of assessments that can be a great start to opening conversation on leadership, communication, and a multitude of skills. Family development also includes bringing the family to learn together and plan for the future.

Family Enterprise meetings include an entrepreneurial focus.  The previous generation can be great mentors, share their knowledge and skillsets and encourage the next generation to expand their own skills.  Such meetings may also include a tour of the family business and a potential internship. 

Family Cohesion includes story telling.  Knowing the roots of the family and the hardships of building the family wealth.  In these meetings, the family needs to speak about their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. These conversations also lead to building a clear family vision. These meetings achieve the greatest success when filled with the feeling of support, care and love.

Family Fun may have much less structure and be anytime the family comes together.  Adding the element of inclusion and intention make these very meaningful.  For example, coming together to celebrate Christmas and intentionally have everyone together and answer an ice breaker question or play a game that includes the multiple generations.  These shared experiences draw you closer together and build on the harmony of your family unity.

Family meetings help with creating a participatory culture, which is very important in an Enterprising Family.  When there is a participatory culture there is a greater level of agreement, common belief, trust, unity, satisfaction, view in the future, and buy-in to decisions.

Decision Tree Question: Do you know what the family members want?

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