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

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