Family Dynamics: “Hat” Tensions

In 1985 Edward de Bono published Six Thinking Hats, the hats being a metaphor for context. Two of the key learnings from this book are:

  • to solve problems by looking at them from different contexts
  • learning when to use each context.

Family dynamics

Balancing tensions can be an ongoing issue for all businesses, but more so for family businesses. Not only do they deal with fluid external and internal business environments. They also constantly deal with the overlay of family dynamics.

Often these family dynamics are emotionally driven and become a complication multiplier. Balancing these tensions requires soft people skills to complement the harder business skills.

Choose a hat, any hat?

While we are not talking about de Bono’s red and blue thinking hats, we are talking managing contexts or “hats”. Are we needing our Directors hat, our Managers hat, our parent hat etc?

Knowing which hat to use, and when to use that hat continues to be a difficult challenge.

Having the right hat on is difficult to do on the run. Structure and family governance can assist in achieving congruency. Successful family businesses aim to separate family issues and business issues.

One way to acheive this is by having structured routine meetings to discuss business and family issues separately. This enables you to create a disciplined framework to separate these issues.

Helping you with your hat

An external provider can also provide emotional distance and can offer contextual check and balances.  Non-executive directors and business coaches in the board room offer distance independence and a new perspective.

Culture, family values and historical circumstances can inhibit family issues from being resolved. Unresolved tensions can have a devastating impact on business performance.

Resolution discussions are emotionally challenging. So businesses can benefit by engaging a coach or facilitator to provide emotional separation and rationality.

Separation of tension enables a simpler and more structured way to agree on and communicate expectations. The use of independents removes family dynamics and facilitates congruency with strategic intents.

As with the Six Thinking Hats, businesses need to learn how to manage context tension “Hats”.

Woodhouse Consulting can help you navigate this area, and choose the right hat every day. Get in touch with us.

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