Family Relationships and the Power of Affinity

Michael Fassler
Michael Fassler

It never ceases to amaze me how family members in some family enterprises are able to function with relative ease while communicating and making decisions. Their ability to function this way results in uplifting family relationships along with enterprise growth and continuity. An observation about families with this level of functioning is that they have a high degree of affinity for one another – a natural liking for one another.

A high degree of affinity among family members is often not the case. This may cause family members to function with relative difficulty as they govern their family enterprise. However with deliberate effort the opportunity remains to overcome these difficulties. By family members rallying around some common purpose, they are often able to engage in rewarding family relationships along with growing and continuing their enterprise.

To begin, accept the reality that just because family members share the same genetics and grew up in the same environment, that does not necessarily result in a high degree of affinity. There is going to be diversity in beliefs, behavior, talent and interest among family members. Affinity is a natural occurrence, you cannot mandate or will it into existence. However, the following actions can help what affinity exists to express itself:

  • Maintain an ongoing dialogue to uncover (or discover) some level of shared purpose for working together.
  • Acknowledge one another’s contributions within the family and the enterprise as they are made and express gratitude for the impact they are having.
  • Through assessment and study, develop a basic understanding of your own and other family members’ behavioral tendencies. This understanding can lead to increased acceptance of other family members and can help you manage your own behavior as well.
  • Remind yourself that your family enterprise is a group of people working together. To be effective as a group there are times when self-interest must be secondary to the group’s interest.
  • Add structure to conversations and decision making whether they are in the realm of family, management or ownership. Both informal and ad hoc communication and decision processes can get in the way of productive interactions.
  • As your family and your enterprise evolve, know that evolving your governance process will contribute to rewarding relationships, growth and continuity.

And one final thought: Yes, when there is a low level of affinity productive interactions can be really difficult work. The pay-off is protection of relationships with family members you love.