Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's All in the Family

As most of you will be hosting or traveling to family gatherings this week, remember that family dynamics are a lot like client relationships. They’re often rewarding and memorable, but can also be a minefield of emotions, tightrope-walking and innuendo. Focus on what’s good about your family, not what’s wrong with it. Here’s why.

Sometimes what’s said or done is often less damaging to family harmony than what’s NOT said or done. Why didn’t you invite Uncle Joe to the ball game last month? Why didn’t you apologize to Aunt Miriam for poking lighthearted fun at her dance moves at your sister’s wedding last year? Did you ever apologize to second-cousin Sam who assumed his invitation to your son’s bar mitzvah was “lost in the mail”? How about your brother in law, Larry, a lifelong Wildcats fan? Do you consider his feelings when the rest of the family is gathered around the TV cheering on the Bulldogs who are giving the Wildcats their annual Thanksgiving Day whuppin’?

Even if you’re from a large, extended family that (mostly) gets along like mine does, communication breakdowns and lack of clarity about responsibilities—anything from who’s bringing the cranberry sauce, to who’s taking over as grandmother’s healthcare power of attorney—can cause friction throughout the year, not just during the Holidays.

Separate your work persona from family persona

Another area in which it gets tricky for adults is separating your work persona from your family persona. At the office, you might be CEO, senior partner or dean of your department….i.e. you’re used to calling the shots. But in your family, you might be the youngest of four siblings and have to defer power of attorney to an older sibling or relative who might not have the same business experience or legal acumen that you do.

Family gathering are even trickier when several blood relatives work in the family business. Tom Hubler, president of Hubler Family Business and a frequent contributor to Elite Advisor Report that we publish with CEG Worldwide, LLC told us happy business families don’t discuss business at family gatherings. He said they also know how to “manage boundaries where normal business differences erode family relationships, or where family rivalry undermines working relationships.”

Hubler said that harmonious families, like successful family businesses, have four common characteristics:

1.      Commitment to harmony
2.      Clearly defined roles
3.      Emotional intelligence skills (empathy, self-awareness, self-confidence, self-control, etc.)
4.      Forgiveness
Remember that, even if you’re in the business of advising families on sensitive estate planning and wealth transfer matters.

Another of our Elite Advisor Report contributors, Hyman Darling, an estate planning attorney in Springfield, Mass. courageously shared his personal story about his own family inheritance disputes with the Wall Street Journal recently.

Hubler may have summed it up best. “Even with people you love, it is virtually impossible to be a family and not accidentally step on each other’s toes. What is crucial is to have the ability to say, ‘Ouch, that hurts,’ as well as the capacity to say ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I forgive you.’”

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.
Best, HB
*** Our blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.


TAGS: Tom Hubler, Hubler Family Business, Gary Shunk, Family Wealth Dynamics, Hyman Darling, Bacon Wilson

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Positive Thinking Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer as you’re starting to get into the Holiday spirit. But, I couldn’t resist sharing Gabriele Oettingen’s recent piece about The Problem With Positive Thinking.

Obviously you don’t want to walk around shrouded in a black cloud of negativity. However, research has shown that being eternally optimistic can be just as debilitating as being overly pessimistic. Say what?
Experts say that fantasizing about “happy outcomes” all the time calms you down, and significantly reduces systolic blood pressure. Sounds good. So, what’s the problem? According to Oettingen, being overly optimistic can also “drain you of the energy you need to take action in pursuit of your goals.” She also argues that positive thinking tricks your mind into believing that you’ve already achieved a goal, thus “slackening your readiness to pursue it.”

Think about that if someone on your team is always playing devil’s advocate or if someone in your family isn’t always in the Holiday spirit.

The power of mental contrasting

So, you need to be on edge all the time if you want to hit your goals and keep competitors at bay? Well, that’s not the right approach either.  Oettingen says you need a “hybrid approach” that combines positive thinking with “realism.”
Here’s how it works: Think of a great client outcome such as landing an ultra-wealthy new client who came to you via a current client’s referral. Spend a few minutes imagining how your wish came true. Go ahead and let your mind wander. Then, spend a few minutes thinking about the obstacles that might prevent you from achieving your wish—for instance, you don’t have the infrastructure in place, or you don’t have a specialist in fine art and antiques on staff, or you don’t have someone who’s fluent in Spanish and Dutch. That’s what researchers call “mental contrasting”—and research shows this approach outperforms excessive optimism or excessive pessimism.

Here’s why our firm finds mental contrasting so powerful. On one hand, it really motivates you when it truly makes sense to pursue a dream hard. At the same time, it allows us to abandon our dreams more readily when a new project or idea just isn’t going to work out. That frees us up to go after other clients, projects or innovations when an eternal optimist would just keep “plugging away.” Mental contrasting works in dieting, exercise, sports, romance, war, business and most other human endeavors.

As Oettingen explains, “ Like so much in life, attaining goals requires a balanced and moderate approach, neither dwelling  on the downsides nor a forced jumping for joy.” What she didn’t explain is how to know where and how to draw the line between plugging away and cutting your losses so you can move on to more productive pursuits. More on that next week. As regular readers know, we’re big on starting your New Year’s resolutions early.  

We wish you and your family a safe, happy Thanksgiving. Just don’t expect to sail through the Holidays without some traffic, flight delays, family friction and extra pounds. That’s not being negative. That’s just being realistic. Save you energy and focus on the good stuff.

Best, HB

Our blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.

TAGS: Gabriele Oettingen, Problem With Positive Thinking, mental contrasting, early New Year’s resolutions.  

Thursday, November 06, 2014

An Unexpected Gift of Time

Yesterday afternoon, one of our weekly client conference calls was cancelled at the last minute. Nothing remarkable about that, except the meeting organizer, who’s always very on top of things said: “Enjoy the gift of time” in her meeting cancellation notice. You don’t hear that every day.

And, it was a gift. Due to some IT issues that shut us down for half the day, we weren’t as prepared as usual for our weekly “gut check” call with this no-nonsense client. Nice folks from the midwest, but you can’t BS your way through a call with them. Suddenly, we felt we had magically “manufactured” an extra hour of time in the day. Trust me, it didn’t go to waste.

For many of us, the next 60 days will be a series of moving deadlines, delayed decisions, interruptions, weather “events,” travel delays and last minute shopping and year-end planning. You won’t know exactly when a big hole will be blown into your carefully organized schedule, but sooner or later it’s going to happen. We’ve found our most successful clients are not necessarily the ones who are the most organized; it’s the ones who can adapt the fastest to a changing landscape.  

How to cope? Tough love

If you’re expecting us to tell you to take a deep breath, count to 10, make a nice cup of herbal tea and talk a long walk, you’ll be disappointed. As regular readers know, we prefer the “tough love” approach.

So does one of clients, Gary Klaben, of Coyle Financial Counsel in Chicago.  Klaben suggests placing boundaries around yourself and your team so you can’t procrastinate or get distracted. Klaben said the simplest way to accomplish this is to get tough tasks on our schedule. Right there where everyone can see it.

Borrowing a page from Tim Ferriss (The 4-Hour Workweek), Klaben only puts something on his schedule only when it’s a “Hell yes, man, I’m really excited about it!” In addition to “hard scheduling,” Klaben said you should tackle your most difficult tasks first thing in the morning. “I find that if you put those boundaries in place and really schedule things, then 80 percent of the time the task gets done,” he said. “By contrast, very little gets done if you don‘t put it on the schedule.”

A West Point grad (like his son and daughter), Klaben is clearly a disciplined guy. But he also recommends building in “focus” days, “buffer” days and even free days into your monthly and quarterly schedule. This forces you to take a step back and think. In other words spend some quality time ON the business rather than IN the business. But, if you don’t schedule those days, they ain’t gonna happen.

As many of you know, we advocate getting at least a one-month head start on your New Year’s resolutions and revisiting those goals several times throughout the year. It doesn’t matter how lofty or modest your goals are. You need tangible metrics to show progress and make them stick.

If you’re not a morning person like Klaben, don’t sweat it. Just try to figure out when you’re most productive and leverage the heck out of that time of day. For tips on how to do that, check out one of our most popular posts of 2014, The Best (and Worst) Times to Do Things at Work.


Time’s going to keep flying by; we might as well have fun adapting. Happy Holidays  (way in advance).  We also recommend Tom Friedman’s NY Times op-ed piece from yesterday, The World is Fast. He explains how the three biggest forces on the planet — the market, Mother Nature and Moore’s Law — are interconnected and why you need to pay attention to all three.
Fasten your seat belt and enjoy the ride. We’ve got a lot more to do before we ring in 2015.

Our blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.