All posts by Anne Hargrave

Level the Playing Field: Bring All Voices into Meetings

Anne Hargrave
Anne Hargrave

Have you ever walked out of a meeting thinking that it went very well, only to learn later that many in the group were frustrated and discouraged?

Or, have you worked hard to formulate your thoughts for a meeting and then just couldn’t find an opportunity to voice them?

The differences between extroverts and introverts in planning and decision making processes have a direct impact on how people feel about their roles, their ability to contribute and, ultimately, the success of the endeavor.

Adam Grant of Wharton, Dave Hofmann of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Francesca Gino of Harvard conducted a study within 57 locations of a pizza chain to determine the impact on profitability of extroverted leadership when the employees were passive versus proactive.

They found that extroverted leadership was linked to significantly higher profits when employees were passive, but significantly lower profits with employees who were proactive.  In Gino’s Harvard Business Review article about the study, she notes that in stores with passive employees, those led by extroverts achieved 16% higher profits than those led by introverts.  However, in stores with proactive employees, those led by extroverts achieved 14% lower profits. The results suggest that introverts can use their talents more effectively with proactive team members because they are more open to those who champion new visions, promote better strategies and introduce changes.

Understanding and managing the dynamic in a group is essential to being able to have effective discussions. Extroverts have a tendency towards group interaction, talking to think and sharing ideas openly — they gather their energy from the group. Introverts don’t like to be interrupted, often prefer quieter environments and need to think before taking action or speaking. They gather their energy with quiet time, reflection and focus on topics of importance to them.

Structuring family business meetings to take into consideration the differences between introverts and extroverts levels the playing field, and provides a platform for everyone to be heard.

As a new client recently said, “We are listening to each other better, but we need to quiet the talkers so that they can hear the other great ideas!”

What can you put into place to encourage everyone to have a voice?

Here are a few ideas that have worked for other families:

  • Learn about each other’s personal style. Take an assessment like the Myers Briggs and learn about how people gather information, make decisions, gain energy and deal with the outside world.
  • Provide the materials for a meeting well in advance of the meeting.
  • Agree to read meeting materials in advance. Consider providing a “pre-meeting” time on the agenda for those who have a tendency to do it at the last minute.
  • Identify specific questions in an agenda for those who need time to reflect and collect their thoughts.
  • Offer an opportunity for meeting participants to ask questions in advance of the meeting to obtain clarity on a proposal.
  • Open the meeting by asking each person in the room to answer a question, setting a time limit for the answer. Use the opportunity to get to know each other better, share insights and practice listening to each other.
  • Have the group leader or facilitator actively create an opportunity for each person to speak, while encouraging the louder voices to enjoy the listening process.
  • Break into small groups, even twosomes, to bring out the thinking of those who may be less apt to speak up in a group scenario.
  • Offer opportunities for participants to write down their thoughts and have the facilitator read them out anonymously.
  • Have each person speak directly to the facilitator, not each other, if the topic has a lot of emotion attached to it. Invite others to ask a question of the speaker, but direct it to the facilitator.
  • Take breaks frequently to allow time for those who need to gather their energy and process ideas.
  • Focus on creating a valuable discourse, dig deep into insights and allow for thoughtful debate.

Let us know if these ideas work for you and what you have tried to bring everyone into the room effectively!

Avoid Scrapes and Bruises with Situational Awareness

Anne Hargrave
Anne Hargrave

My father flew F-106 jets in the Air Force. I recall hearing numerous stories about his many near misses. There was the time the control tower didn’t see that a plane had landed the wrong way and was heading towards him as he was landing in the right direction.  He also nearly had a mid-air collision over Canada with a fighter from another squadron who was being controlled by a different radar site.  And, he just missed colliding with a civilian Piper Club that was flying in a restricted area after he descended through the clouds going over 300 mph.

These stories, and many more well beyond his Air Force years, focused on the importance of being aware of one’s surroundings.  The value of this advice transfers beyond dramatic air maneuvers into our daily lives  — whether it’s dashing across a busy street, commuting to work or participating in a family business meeting.

In any given family business meeting, family members will figuratively walk in with a collection of hats. In one meeting, you might be the spouse, parent, child or cousin.  In another you’ll have that hat on in addition to being an employee, a shareholder or maybe everyone’s ultimate boss.

Taking time to reflect on who will be in the meeting, the role you and others are playing, the goal for the meeting and the impression you want to make lays a foundation for success.

In a meeting, look for information and behavioral clues so that you can be thoughtful about how or whether to ask a question, when to lean in and when to step back. Asking a difficult question or making a challenging comment in a group environment might damage a relationship, or how you are perceived.  Saving it for a 1:1 dialogue will likely foster greater understanding and collaboration.

To avoid scrapes and bruises, foster positive family engagement and enhance situational awareness, families might answer questions like:

  •  How might we respectfully respond if someone asks a question we don’t want to answer in a group?
  • What signal can we give others if our stress level is getting too high and we’d like to take a break on a topic?
  • How can we let other family members, management or advisors know whether we are speaking from a family member, employee or shareholder perspective?
  • What agreements might we put into place to help us not embarrass other family members in a family business meeting?
  • What can we do to remind ourselves to be thoughtful about who will be in the room and how we want to engage with each other?

If you have found a clever way to enhance family member situational awareness, let us know!

Vulnerability: The birthplace of innovation, creativity and change

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Anne Hargrave

Being vulnerable involves risk, exposure, uncertainty and courage. Given that Dr. Brené Brown found, in a decade of research, that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change, for most business owning families it’s worth exploring.

We often expend exorbitant amounts of time and energy protecting ourselves so that those around us don’t see our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Family members and business owners who do the work to truly understand and appreciate each other, embracing individual imperfections as well as strengths, create a foundation for thoughtful and more effective planning for the future. Dr. Brown’s recommendations include:

  • Letting our true selves be seen by others; while it may not be comfortable its necessary
  • Being wholehearted through courage, compassion, and connection
  • Practicing gratitude and joy
  • Believing that we are enough; being kinder and gentler to ourselves and others

Check out Dr. Brown’s TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability” consider the role of vulnerability in innovation, creativity and change for your family and your business.

Might vulnerability help you crack the code to deeper engagement?

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Anne Hargrave

A non-family CEO remarked recently that his level of connection with G2 and G3 family enterprise owners had “vastly improved because (he) decided to be vulnerable.”  

He had always stuck to the task at hand in discussions with family members in their one-on-one meetings but felt something significant was missing.  There was a resistance to open, authentic conversation which he suspected would be essential in order to have important, and distinctly different, conversations needed with each owner.  

The CEO, with encouragement and guidance from a coach, looked for ways to connect with each family member – ways that he could say “me too” and share difficult experiences. Over time, he came to know their hopes, dreams and fears and found that being authentic wasn’t as hard as he had anticipated.  

As he connected more deeply with each person, he gained insights on how to broach difficult conversations around their interaction with the family enterprise. 

Research has shown that embracing our own vulnerabilities helps us be more open and accepting of others. Dr. Brené Brown, a University of Houston researcher, contends that “our imperfections are what connect us to each other and to our humanity.  Our vulnerabilities are not weaknesses; they are powerful reminders to keep our hearts and minds open to the reality that we are all in this together.”  From: I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy and Power”

When family enterprise executives and owners connect with each other authentically, they are able to develop deeper, meaningful and independent relationships, laying a platform for thoughtful decision-making. 

What change might you create by being more authentic with those around you?  

Laying the Entrepreneurial Foundation

Anne Hargrave
Anne Hargrave

At a recent gathering of 100 family business and family office advisors, from numerous professional disciplines, there was an expansive discussion about what it takes to foster entrepreneurship in business, philanthropy and wealth management.

Over the course of two days, a few themes surfaced around specific actions parents might take to instill qualities often found in successful entrepreneurs, such as…

Create a Foundation for Resilience. Resilience surfaced as the most common thread in entrepreneurial success stories.  Healthy relationships, sound health, eating and sleeping well, and physical activity all create a foundation for resilience.   When relationships amongst people in a family are healthy, individuals can withstand stress, even trauma.  When you feel resilient you are more able to view risk as a means to reward (not an impediment), and gain strength and courage from difficulties.

Insist on Respect. 
Being considerate of each other, demonstrating respect, is the tie that binds, even more than love. When we allow family members to define themselves, appreciating and celebrating differences, they can then embrace their own strengths – fostering confidence and self-esteem. When someone feels respected they are more able to believe in possibilities and their own personal ability, and dream actively – a foundation of entrepreneurship.

Embrace Failure.  Treat failure as a given; celebrate failure.  Some families actively seek out failure examples at the dinner table, or in family meetings, to explore what was learned and how the experience can be turned into another opportunity.  Making failure acceptable and expected encourages resilience, courage and the inner strength to continue to move forward.

Look for Mentors. Encourage family members at an early age to ask for advice, learn from others, and shape and create opportunities.  Mentors can be found through school, athletics, community, social relationships, business contacts, and family members.  Entrepreneurs generally have a strong work ethic influenced by those around them who modeled the right behaviors.  Mentors can help frame up a vision for the future.

Does Your Leadership Inspire Others?

Anne Hargrave
Anne Hargrave

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” – John Quincy Adams

Entrepreneurial leaders encourage entrepreneurial behavior and innovation in all that they do, which enables others to see things differently, and capture and act upon the problems and opportunities they see every day, in all their walks in life.

Entrepreneurship is really a life philosophy composed of attitudes and behaviors that can be applied professionally and throughout one’s life.  An entrepreneur believes that he can affect change, that there is a better way, that opportunities are everywhere and that there are no mistakes.  Failure is just about learning, and it’s important to embrace innovation, change and growth.  By persevering, pursuing opportunities and being willing to take risks the entrepreneur influences her business, family and herself.

Be an agent of change in your family business, or family office, by designing your own dream, by looking outwards and by empowering the organization to do the same.

 

Creating community…

Anne Hargrave
Anne Hargrave

Last week’s Time Magazine article, The Last Politicians, highlights female senators, from both sides of the aisle, who have been engaging regularly with each other for decades over lunch, dinner, bridal showers and play-dates.  Over the years they have created an unwritten rule of refraining from publically criticizing one another; they focus on what unites them and on listening deeply.  By getting to know each other well, they have learned to value different life experiences and appreciate their colleague’s ability to approach a problem from a different perspective.  Family business owners who spend time together having fun may find that it’s much easier to make decisions together when times get tough. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help new executives avoid landmines…

Anne Hargrave
Anne Hargrave

When you start the process to hire an executive from the corporate world to work in your family business, be proactive in setting the stage for the person to be successful.  Explore cultural and job fit deeply, and reveal sacred cows early on.

Before starting the recruitment process, create a job description that clearly defines reality and highlights decision-making scope and areas of authority.  And, do the hard work of getting buy-in from all key family and non-family stakeholders.

Cultural fit is much more than a buzzword; it often exceeds the importance of skill level.  In order to use cultural fit as a screening mechanism, step back and have multiple people participate in a process to define the current culture, or the culture you desire, and then create a robust methodology for assessing cultural fit in candidates.

When you have found the right person, encourage them to stay within the scope of their area of responsibility and authority so they don’t loose focus and credibility.  Often people fail in their roles because they loose perspective on the nature of the relationship between the family and the business; setting the stage for accountability early on supports their ability to succeed. 

Any executive worth their salt is going to challenge the status quo – that’s what you want.  The sacred cows often found within a family businesses come as a surprise to a person from the corporate world.  By laying out the realities of projects or initiatives that are important to the family or the business, and are not up for discussion, there will be less chance of creating unnecessary waves.  Evaluating fit effectively and being transparent helps new executives avoid landmines.

Trust is a Two Way Street

Anne Hargrave
Anne Hargrave

“I’m not sure I can trust my brother to handle that; he just hasn’t proven that he has what it takes,” a client said.  Too often family members place responsibility for trust on the shoulders of the other person, instead of their own.  Trust has come to mean focusing on what we expect, need or want from another.  When we lose confidence in someone, don’t see eye to eye, or our expectations are not met, we tend to react.  We don’t feel that we can trust.

If you don’t feel that you can trust a family member, consider stepping back and asking yourself some questions:

  • To what extent might there be a disconnect between your perception of that person’s actions and their intentions?
  • Might there be another way to interpret past events?
  • How do you differ in the way you respond to conflict and stress or solve problems?
  • How might you adapt your style to motivate the family member to be their best self?

Trust is a two way street – we each play a part.  And we can only change ourselves.

Next Generation: Embrace Your Development

Anne Hargrave

Often members of the youngest generation in a family enterprise sit back and wait for someone in the older generation to tell them what role they can fill within the family business.  When they don’t get a tap on the shoulder with a request to join in, they can become frustrated and negative. The business didn’t get to where it is today by sitting back and waiting for something to happen.  Success was likely related to pursing an objective with passion, and staying aligned with values.   

Rather than feeling neglected or incapable, a next generation family member benefits from looking at themself as a work in progress, with resources from the family that can support their development.  In order to have a positive impact in the business, or the family, it helps to have something concrete to offer which will be respected by others.  It’s important to explore what competencies and skills need to be developed in order to be credible within the family enterprise.  Take a thoughtful approach to choices about how time is spent, what would be good to learn, and who you are. Explore the world and look for where your passion is ignited.  Look for ways to develop a set of capabilities in other work environments, so that when you present your great ideas to your family there is a reason for people to pay attention. 

By exploring, learning and developing yourself outside the family and the family business, you have much more added value.   

When you come back to the family with something to offer, take baby steps.  Begin by having conversations with those in your own generation, with the intention of developing meaningful connections.  Then start a dialogue with the older generation and present ideas from the younger generation.  In a healthy family system, the younger generation doesn’t need to ask for permission if ideas are presented respectfully, and within the parameters of how the family operates.  By bringing useful insights to the family, you may help in creating an empowered next generation.

Anne Hargrave can be reached at hargrave@efamilybusiness.com or 973-377-3079.  Click here to read Anne’s biography.