A dialogue on the role of the family council

Steve McClure
Steve McClure

At a recent family meeting of more than fifty shareholders, spouses and future shareholders, an 18 year old asked a question during the Family Council Chairman’s report: “How did you set the priorities of what you worked on during the last year?”

It was a great question and the Chairman was on his game with the answer – it allowed him to remind the family how communication and decision making is supposed to work between multiple family members and a five person Family Council. He said, answering for the Family Council, “We purposely approached family members outside our own family branches and asked each individual what they thought was most important. Then we compared notes in a Family Council meeting and decided as a group for the family.”

A follow-up question quickly emerged, “Why didn’t you let us all vote on the priorities?”

Again, the Chairman, “We view our responsibility to the entire family, as elected representatives, to listen well and then make decisions and plans on behalf of the family. We carefully try to not overstep our authority by bringing our decisions and recommended policy to a vote by the entire family when appropriate. Yet, we must be productive too. Thus, we thought it best to proceed as we did.”

In this case, the Chairman could also refer to the qualifications of Family Council members which were written. One qualification is that individuals must be able to understand the family culture well enough to know when to act as a representative and make informed decisions and when to invite the entire family’s input on a decision.

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