One of the most basic dynamics we see in working with family owned enterprises is how people engage in similar process of making meaning of the world in similar ways. We each take in information, organizing into our own unique observations informed by our beliefs and experiences in a way that helps us make sense of the world. However, even though the process is the same for each of us, we are likely to wind up with varying differences of opinions on our individual “takes” to the same set of circumstances. Even though this is a normal process, it can result in conflict between family members.
But it doesn’t always stop there. People are prone to organize their individually constructed perspectives around others’ similarly held beliefs or actions: We tend to associate with the people around us that we perceive to be interpreting the world like we do. Being from West Texas, one of my favorite (and perhaps most extreme) examples of this dynamic was the creation of a community in West Texas designed expressly for supporters of the politician, Ron Paul. The goal of Paulville is “to establish gated communities containing 100% Ron Paul supporters and/or people that live by the ideals of freedom and liberty.” In 2008, the New York Times reported, “For now, the town is little more than an idea and a title deed…” and that is how it remains today.
In larger families – sometimes branches of the family or even just a couple of siblings – can come together with similar perspectives. This innocent, harmless and natural way of organizing can become detrimental when the notions around which these sub-groups of the family have formed are counter to the overall mission or vision of the enterprise or the family. These kinds of intragroup conflicts tend to be more complex and present a unique challenge to manage so they don’t become detrimental to the enterprise or, more importantly, to the family.
In the next blog, we’ll look at some examples…