Parents in North America are caught in a dilemma. Baby boomers have more money than previous generations and one of our core cultural values is to give to others. Naturally, parents form the notion that “we have money so we should share it with our kids”. This type of thinking leads to children getting what they want and often much more than they need. They get caught in the entitlement snare.
Recently when working with a wonderfully loving and giving family, I realized that love is not enough – especially in a family business. The famous line “love is all you need” may be leading us to believe in a fallible principle.
Parents need to establish and manage clear, reasonable boundaries from an early age in a family firm. Boundaries are rules or expectations you have as an individual, in your home and family, and in your business. As with many things in life, it is not the articulating of boundaries that is the challenge but rather the enforcing of the same. Most of us have a shared notion, for example, of what we consider to be healthy expectations and rules within our family firms: show up on time, deliver on what you promise, be respectful, accept feedback as positive input to your development, pay your own way and the like.
The real challenge comes with managing our boundaries and doing so with grace, finesse and wisdom. Boundaries can too easily get blurred due to the complexity and emotional context of a family firm. Unfortunately life is not simple. Circumstances and relationships are not black and white.
As leaders of a family and family business it is imperative to consider what boundaries are important for you, your family and your business. In addition, it is critical to evaluate the type of support you may need to keep your boundaries strong.
One important cautionary note… It is too easy to suggest that we “set and hold” our boundaries one hundred percent of the time.
Sometimes it is fitting to re-assess and move the line you have drawn in the sand to more aptly address the situation at hand. Only good judgment and wisdom can help us understand the rare situations in which we need to be flexible with our boundaries.