Tag Archives: emotions


Bernie Kliska

If you think firing a long time employee is difficult, try firing a family member. As daunting the task, sometimes it’s necessary. Any major firing threatens  to disrupt a business, creating fear and anxiety. But the ripples from firing a family member may spread throughout the family as well as the business. Handling this difficult matter the right way can limit emotional damage to the family and business and, with good communication and a few procedural tips, it can also ultimately strengthen them.

Prevention is always the best strategy. Because most terminations have long roots, it’s advisable to know as early as possible whether a family member is developing into a healthy plant or troublesome weed. Regular and honest performance reviews are essential. Although some people disagree about their automatic use, 360-degree reviews–reviews that solicit input from both subordinates and superiors–are an excellent tool for family business me mbers. Not only do 360-degree reviews help ensure the objectivity that is so difficult in reviewing family members, but if termination eventually becomes necessary, they provide important backup that can help defuse emotional reactions.

Keep the separation between business and family clear. It’s difficult to profess the family values of love, loyalty and all -for-one -and-one-for-all while delivering a termination notice. The person receiving the notice may understandably have difficulty hearing and believing that those family values still include him, but those values should still be clearly stated. Although for the ultimate good of all family members, including the terminated person, the business must come first; firing a family member from the business does not mean firing from the family. An uncomfortable fit for the business does not mean an uncomfortable fit for the family. Ask if there is  anything you or others can do to make him more comfortable.

Offer an honorable out. Consider offering the person a face saving resignation.

Use your board of directors wisely.  Make it clear that while the board has recommended termination, you have decided it. Remember, you want to enhance communication and the family relationship. This requires honesty.

Have an impartial third person present during termination. A third person is a valuable role for a family business consultant, who can navigate effective, clear, honest communication through the white-waters of anger, shame, denial and sadness swirling around the room. In an emotionally charged atmosphere, it takes more than good intent to make sure that the important things are said,heard and remembered. Firing a family member may feel like the ultimate paradox in a family business, but by handing it clearly, honestly and with consideration and compassion, it is possible for both family and business to emerge from the ordeal even stronger.


Ancient Wisdom for Today

JoAnne Norton
Jo Anne Norton

“What’s the most important thing I need to know to be successful in my family’s business?” asked the young MBA student with his soft Southern accent. This question after I had just been interviewed by his professor for over an hour in a family business class! We had covered everything from family councils to family constitutions, from family unity to family politics, from having strong family values to having inspirational family vision statements, and now he wanted to know the most important thing.

Sharing the ancient secret of the Oracle at Delphi, I whispered to him: “Know thyself.” While it is crucial to have the best governance possible in a family business, I explained to this serious student, there are many ways of learning why you are the way you are, why you do the things you do, and how your communication style differs from the communication styles of others. The more you know about yourself, the better you will be able communicate.

If you are in a family business you need to ask yourself, how does your birth order affect your personality? What can you learn about yourself from taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? What is your Enneagram type, and what does it say about you? Then once you’ve learned about yourself, learn as much as you can about the personalities and communication preferences of your family members, especially those who are in the family business with you.

Good communication is critical to the success of your family’s business, and understanding each other’s personality types makes communication easier. When you’ve invested time and energy to know yourself and your family, those little misunderstandings that have the potential to grow into big problems never materialize. Then there is no cause for resentment, retaliation, or retribution. So go on a journey of self-discovery—and take your family with you!


What does it take to make it as a next gen leader?

Drew Mendoza
Drew Mendoza

Our colleagues Asa Bjornberg and John Ward have both spent considerable time reflecting on and analyzing the answers to this question.  Their sage advice:  cherish what was as you embrace what will be.  Base your entrepreneurial initiatives on the spirit and culture of the business you are taking over. 

Read on to learn more.  Making the Most of Your Emotions