Monday, August 10th, 2015

CROSS LEARNING BETWEEN FAMILY AND COMPANY

I used to do a workshop on applying principles of a healthy business to families and the principles of a healthy family to business.  

Having just had a family reunion week of sixteen people, five under seven years  old I am reminded of a few of those cross-principles.

l. Teams, tribes, companies and families need to stop all at the same time every once in a while.  Being under one roof is not enough for connection. We stopped every night before dinner to literally hold hands for 10 seconds in silence and then plan the next day. The kids would remind the adults of “hold still” time. It killed the quality of “a chicken with its head cut off “that makes both work and play frantic.
I think we have lots of frantic organizations. What is a ritual that could make yours hold still for one minute at the same time?  Think virtual.

2. Watch what you start, you may have to do it again and again. This is mostly good. 
Four years ago with the same family group I set up my basement as a game room. It was a rainy week in Maine. I am talking about a cellar with stone walls.  Well, wouldn’t you know that this year each grandchild wanted a day with me in the game room rather than at the beach?  So during one of the most beautiful summer weeks in Maine, I was in a dark basement surrounded by laundry and camping equipment playing Shoots and Ladders. 
AND, happy to do it for the ritual of it.

Continuity matters. Building on something that worked once creates good DNA. Don’t question why.  Don’t change it. Use it. Think about this during mergers.
What odd organizational habit or ritual can provide continuity and comfort?

3. Stories matter mightily. They highlight history and learning and resilience,
special values and qualities. They help us remember why we are willing to gather and stay connected and give extra effort to belonging. (I think this is the very definition of “engagement”.) Company stories generate loyalty and grit and pride and laughter. Not a video. No podium. Beer not needed. Ask questions that generate stories.  One that worked for me is, “What was your first day of work like at The Delhaize Group?”  It was meant to be a warm-up and it became a morning activity. Created more unity than the rest of the leadership retreat.

4.  Make up your agenda. Design carefully. And be willing to let it all go if the right thing begins to happen. My family planned all kinds of stuff we didn’t do  and fell into magic that emerged–as in when all sixteen people had bubble wands at once and we created a bubble storm. Memorable, spontaneous and not planned.

Watch what works for your family.  Apply to work. Both are people systems.

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