Tag Archives: stress

Managing the Whirlwind Mindfully

Wendy Sage-Hayward
Wendy        Sage-Hayward

Leading in a family business is layered with complexity due to the integration of the family in the business environment. This complexity is highly rewarding but also stressful and challenging at times especially for family business leaders. When trying to balance the demands and needs of the family and the business it can feel like managing in a whirlwind. New research on the brain helps us better understand how we can deal more effectively with the daily whirlwind of the family business.

Typically we perceive a stressful event using one of two automatic brain responses:

  • Adrenalin based reactions – saving ourselves from danger by fighting with, running away from, protecting or camouflaging ourselves… ….fight, flight and freeze OR
  • Problem-solving processes – where we attempt to fix or resolve a perceived problem with higher level thinking. This is where we respond wisely and appropriately, rather than adding to the stress by engaging in automatic uncontrolled reactions. Neuroscientists call this a mindful reaction.

Mindfulness is “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally….” (Jon Kabat-Zinn). Mindfulness is a mental discipline which involves focusing our attention. It is not a method of distracting ourselves or tuning out. In fact, it is about tuning in. Research by Jochen Reb previously at The University of Cambridge shows us that leaders perform better when they are mindful. They make better decisions, are in a more positive mood, and effect change more successfully in their businesses. The anxious, stressed or depressed state of mind is a distracted state (i.e., mindless rather than mindful) and has a negative impact upon a leader’s performance.

Many research findings suggest that the regular practice of meditation increases our mindful abilities and has many positive impacts on our physical, emotional and mental well-being including “neuroprotective effects” which result in reduced mental decline associated with normal aging (Pagnoni and Cekic).

Incorporating mindfulness practices into the daily routine of family business leaders promises to bring about more thoughtful, positive and constructive leadership to both the family and the business. Mindful practices are simple and yet have a powerful influence on our family and business relationships. Here are two simple ways to practice mindfulness:

  • Attend to something easy like your breathing for one full minute. When your mind drifts away, bring it back to your breathing. The repeated returning to a focal point trains your attention.
  • Take a few minutes and focus on each part of your body starting at your toes and moving slowly up to your head. This is called body scanning.

The benefits gained by family business leaders from engaging in these virtually effortless, yet influential daily practices are quite remarkable:

–   boosting teamwork, cooperation and well-being amongst family and non-family employees

–   reducing unconstructive thoughts and emotions which waste valuable mental energy

–   renewing energy and creating a clear focus to address decisions and tasks at hand in the business

–   arriving home with a positive mood after the day’s whirlwind of activities

Mindfulness deserves our attention!


Trust is a Two Way Street

Anne Hargrave
Anne Hargrave

“I’m not sure I can trust my brother to handle that; he just hasn’t proven that he has what it takes,” a client said.  Too often family members place responsibility for trust on the shoulders of the other person, instead of their own.  Trust has come to mean focusing on what we expect, need or want from another.  When we lose confidence in someone, don’t see eye to eye, or our expectations are not met, we tend to react.  We don’t feel that we can trust.

If you don’t feel that you can trust a family member, consider stepping back and asking yourself some questions:

  • To what extent might there be a disconnect between your perception of that person’s actions and their intentions?
  • Might there be another way to interpret past events?
  • How do you differ in the way you respond to conflict and stress or solve problems?
  • How might you adapt your style to motivate the family member to be their best self?

Trust is a two way street – we each play a part.  And we can only change ourselves.


How Do You Find the ‘Merry’ in Your Family Christmas?

Kelly LeCouvie
Kelly LeCouvie

Family members that work together spend many days of the year dealing with business challenges, some of which have been particularly difficult since 2009. Then the holidays arrive and for some, the thought of spending Christmas together presents additional stress.

Here are a few suggestions that might help your family enjoy the holidays together:

  • Be mentally prepared. Holidays create stress and it often affects our behavior. We might be less patient, suffer from tension headaches, and react negatively to others.  Prepare yourself to react positively to others. Pause before you respond to comments that might create conflict.
  • It’s likely that you know what triggers negative reactions and anger among family members, particularly if you work together in the business.  Avoid those triggers.
  • Manage alcohol intake. One too many drinks might prompt an inappropriate comment or tone. If other family members are drinking in excess, it might be a good time to leave the party.
  • Use these family occasions to celebrate successes in the business. What happened in the last year that was positive for the business, shareholders, employees, and customers?
  • Spend time apart while visiting with family. While the primary objective is to enjoy time together, sometimes that is best accomplished by planning some time out (even for a drive) by yourself, or with your nuclear family.
  • Take advantage of an opportunity to visit community beneficiaries of family philanthropic initiatives.
  • Have some fun! Remember that in theory, this is one of your primary objectives. Take the time to relax and appreciate your family. They might even re-energize you for a better 2012!

Mixing It Up Around the Family Business Dinner Table

Chris Eckrich
Chris Eckrich

Every year at this time, the beginning of the Holiday season brings both increased opportunity for quality family time, and increased risk that mixing family and business discussions will result in added family stress.

Our souls are nourished by connecting with those we love most, and are bodies can be rejuvenated by time away from the stress of work.  

Still, many find that it is too easy to use the opportunity of family togetherness over the Holidays as a forum to hold business discussions.  There is certainly efficiency in using time together in this manner, but is it worth the risk or the cost?

Holidays are meant to create enough space to honor the most sacred days of the year.  They are a time to pull back from the mundane and reflect on the special, or even the miraculous.

The middle of a special dinner is not the time to raise an issue related to the business or enter into a potentially explosive family business discussion.  Families have found that setting aside time for business discussions throughout the year is a healthy practice, but those times and forums are best kept separate from Holiday celebrations.

Protecting these sacred family times is worth the effort.