Define Your Job

JoAnne Norton
Jo Anne Norton

In the April Family Business Advisor (See April FBA) I wrote about the critical questions famous psychiatrist Dr. Murray Bowen suggested answering to “define a self:” Who are you? What do you believe? What do you want to do? Then on this blog I wrote about how families could also use the answers to these questions to help build their brands for their businesses. There is yet another important use of these questions for family owners: defining your job.

Bowen used to urge people: “Define your job until you can do it.” For those of us who work in family businesses either as family members or as non-family executives, our job descriptions can be nebulous to say the least. Many times we aren’t sure who or how many people we are actually reporting to. Sometimes they are not even clear about exactly what it is they want us to do.

Faced with this dilemma myself as a non-family executive for a large fourth-generation family business, I knew I needed to heed Bowen’s advice and “define a self.” So with the help of a coach, I thought of all of the things 65 family shareholders might think I should do in my role. Next I formatted these tasks into a survey, and I asked the adult family shareholders how important each item was to them on a scale of 1 to 7 with 7 being of the utmost importance. I asked about everything from taking notes at Family Council meetings to being a role model for the fourth generation. I sent the survey to the shareholders who were more than happy to tell me what they thought I should be doing! I made a list of the top 20 things they identified as being the most important, and I created an evaluation for myself that I sent to them annually with a note asking them: “How am I doing?” just like Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York used to do.

Not surprisingly I improved every year because I was getting the crucial feedback I needed to be able to define my job until I could do it and do it well. Have you answered for yourself yet: Who am I? What do I believe? What am I going to do?  The more clarity you have around the answers to these questions, the more successful you and your family business will be.


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