3 Ways To Build A Conscious Culture In The Family Business
By Kyle Danner - April 23, 2019
Over the past few weeks, I’ve shared a lot about Conscious Capitalism and why it’s a perfect fit for the family business, including:
- How to create a higher purpose that drives the family business to success
- How a family business can use a caretaking approach with its stakeholders
- How to help the next generation become conscious leaders.
With all of this in mind, Conscious Capitalism isn’t without its challenges. When it comes to building and reinforcing a conscious culture, there are some things family businesses will find difficult to take on.
Before I dive into those challenges, let me define what a conscious culture is. Conscious Capitalism uses the acronym TACTILE to list the seven characteristics that make up this approach to culture. These characteristics are:
It’s a fitting acronym. For Conscious Capitalism, a conscious culture is so strong that you can practically feel it when doing business with the company. It’s so clear and evident that your customers feel like they’re a part of your business. A part of your team. That sounds great, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to be part of a business with this kind of culture?
But, a conscious culture can be difficult for a family business to adopt. Families tend to be insular. They turn inward as a way to protect themselves and each other so the family can thrive. That filters into how the company is managed and consequently, the culture it creates. With this tendency to turn inward, you can see how families in business together will struggle with the other parts of the TACTILE acronym.
Challenges You Face When Building A Conscious Culture In The Family Business
Trust can be difficult to keep in a family business. For some, that’s a hard thing to hear. What do you mean you can’t trust your family members? Well, if there’s pain in the relationship from where loved ones have hurt each other (intentionally or otherwise), maintaining trust with them can be a tall order.
If you’ve been hurt before by someone you love, and that happens in any family, chances are you’ll be reluctant to trust them again. When that happens enough times, the relationship deteriorates to the point that they constantly argue or they avoid each other. Employees and everyone else are then left navigating a broken relationship — and usually end up picking sides. Rather than working together, everyone is working against each other, defending whichever side they choose.
Accountability is another potential challenge you may face. Family members may be hesitant to hold each other accountable in the business because that signals a significant shift in their relationship.
How willing is the founding parent, the one who holds the purse strings, to listen to their youngest child question their judgment or criticize them for not following procedure? How willing is the youngest child, the “baby,” open to confronting their parent who signs their paycheck? These problems escalate when there is a change in the family dynamic from protecting one another to holding one another responsible for their commitments.
Transparency is also difficult to achieve because it involves being open with information and decision-making. Entrepreneurs can be control freaks. They started the business because they had a singular vision: they believe they can solve a problem (or offer a product or service) BETTER than anyone else. Letting go and being open can be unsettling for them. It also takes trust and accountability — trust that others will follow through and get things done and accountability to hold one another responsible when they don’t.
When these challenges aren’t addressed in the family business, creating a positive company culture (let alone a Conscious Culture) can be almost impossible. They must be taken head-on so the family and the business can grow together.
3 Ways To Overcome These Challenges & Create A Conscious Culture In The Family Business
So what’s a family business to do?
First, don’t fool yourselves. Recognize that a shift to a conscious culture will be hard. But, also recognize that it’s better for the business and ultimately the family. Psychological safety, an essential ingredient in trust, is the key predictor of a work team’s effectiveness. The safer everyone feels, the more willing they are to take risks and be open with one another.
Next, repair damaged relationships. Things may not be the best between you and a family member. Acknowledge there’s hurt without blame or pointing fingers. Accept that you played a role, too — and ask how, together, both of you can make things better.
Finally, start with the family. Your family is the foundation of the business. Work to build trust with loved ones. Get comfortable holding one another accountable in a constructive way. And build transparency by openly sharing information and decision-making responsibility. As those habits are built over time, start working on them slowly. Explore how you can create a conscious culture together.
Is Something Preventing You From Creating A Productive Business Culture?
These three steps will help you work past the challenges of transforming your culture and get the entire family on board. For some families, however, they aren’t enough.
If there’s a significant problem going on behind the scenes, neither the business nor the family will be able to take a step forward. You’ll need to resolve this conflict before anyone can move past it. But, as you probably know, that is much easier said than done. Conflict can be incredibly stressful to deal with, particularly when the family is involved.
So what can you do about it?
Get my ebook, Is There an Elephant in the Family Business? This chapter will help you:
1. Identify the problem holding the business and the family back
2. Gain practical tools to address the problem
3. Get worksheets and other resources to involve the whole family
Thinking about retirement? Download the free chapter below to find out if the next generation is ready to take over the family business.