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6 Ways to Lead the Family Business Through Anxious Times

By Kyle Danner

Bob Dylan once sang, “The times, they are a changin’.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I would have never guessed they would change this fast. 

It seems overnight our country has shifted from a place of comfort and normalcy to a place of uncertainty and fear. There is so much to worry about: our health, our finances, our businesses. Many of us feel lost, and we don’t know what to do to find our peace again.

This isn’t the first time our country has faced concerns, and it certainly won’t be the last. But while some businesses and leaders buckle under the pressure, others rise up. They encourage their team members, creating deep bonds that seem impenetrable. They keep the business afloat and their sanity intact. 

They transform the season of worry into a season of growth. As a result, they come out of the crises stronger than ever.

So what’s their secret? What do they have that other leaders don’t? There are simple practices you can follow during challenging times like we face today that can help you lead your business and support your clients, regardless of what the media may be covering.

1. It Starts With You

If you’re a business owner, the head of the family, or an advisor, everyone is looking to you for guidance. They need you to be their rock in the storm. That’s a lot of pressure on you. After all, you’re looking for your rock in the storm too. So what can you do? When you’re facing uncertainty, do the following:

Question your first reaction: With a constant stream of news, it’s easy to get swept up in the stress and anxiety of the moment. Not only is it overwhelming, but it’s also exhausting. It leaves you with little energy to manage the important work. 

When that happens, you’re more likely to react emotionally. Before you do, take 15-30 seconds to consider your response. Then ask yourself, “Is this my best thinking?” This short pause and self-check may be enough to keep you from simply reacting. 

If you don’t have the energy, or genuinely need more time to answer, tell the other person. Say, “I need more time to give you a good answer. I’ll come back to you [INSERT TIME].” Then be sure to follow up on your commitment. 

Ask fact-based questions: This situation is already emotional and, the more emotional it gets, the easier it is to lose your self-control. When that starts to happen, stick to the facts of the issue. Ask yourself and others questions that begin with:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • How

Avoid questions that begin with the Why, because “why” invites speculation and mind reading while fact-based questions engage your thinking. It’s a way to ease the tension without telling yourself or someone else to “calm down.” 

2. Be Open and Honest

Resist the urge to bluff your way through an answer so you sound like you’re in control. That won’t work. We human beings know when someone’s pulling a fast one.

 Instead, say, “I don’t know yet, but let’s figure this out together.” Note the emphasis on certain words. “I don’t know yet” says you’re not sure, but you are looking for solutions. “Let’s figure this out together” creates an opening for the other person to help. 

That takes some of the pressure off you and encourages them to take some responsibility for helping to find an answer.

3. Look Back

Chances are this isn’t your first crisis. You’ve experienced similar difficulties in the past, although the situation may differ slightly. With that in mind, take time to look back at a previous challenge and ask yourself:

  • What challenge did you face?
  • What new lessons did you learn?
  • What new skills did you acquire?
  • What mistakes did you make?
  • How can you apply that learning to the current situation?

Looking back is a reminder that you not only weathered a crisis before, but you grew from the experience. That growth can be used to weather the current crisis too.

4. Get It Out

When you’re overwhelmed and your thoughts are racing, there are two natural human reactions. One is to freeze, and the other is to lose yourself in a flurry of mindless activity. Either way, you’re stuck and you can’t focus on what needs to be done. 

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take some paper and write whatever comes to mind. It can be a list of everything you have to do or everything you’re concerned about. Don’t worry about perfect sentences, grammar, or punctuation. No one is going to see it but you. 

Whatever it is, just get it out of your head and onto paper. When you’re done, you can either reflect on what you wrote or put it away to read another time. The goal is not to create an insightful essay. Rather, it’s to get rid of all the distracting stuff swirling around in your mind so you can focus on the important work at hand.

5. Weigh Your Options

Right now you face any number of questions. Do you wait to hire a new employee? Do you buy another delivery truck? Do you refinance your building?

 And there are any number of answers for each of those questions. Of course, each answer isn’t equal to every other answer. That is, each answer doesn’t have the same impact or is equally valid. A weighted pros and cons exercise is a simple tool you can use to consider your options. 

Here’s how you do it:


  1. Write the option under consideration at the top of a sheet of paper or on a whiteboard.
  2. Divide the remaining space on the page or whiteboard into 2 columns. Label one column “Pros” and the other “Cons.”
  3. List possible solutions in favor of (Pros) or against (Cons) the option.
  4. Give each option a score of 1-5, with “5” being the strongest. Options on the “Pros” side receive a positive (+) score while options on the “Cons” side receive a negative (-) score.
  5. Total your score for the “Pros” and the “Cons.” The option with the highest total score is your best one.

Hint: Don’t get wrapped up in the actual scores. Rather, pay attention to what you learn in the process that will help you make a more informed decision.

6. Take Care of Yourself

At the risk of sounding like your mother, you need to take care of yourself during this stressful time. If you run yourself ragged, you put yourself at risk for falling ill or making poor decisions. 

Be sure to get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet, and drink plenty of water. A little self-care can go a long way. You’ll feel better physically and emotionally, which will help you make more rational and thought-out decisions.

If Today Has You Worried About Tomorrow, It’s Time to Build Structure

One of the biggest stressors in times of crisis is a lack of clarity. Without a clear path forward, leaders and team members find themselves asking questions like:

  • Who’s in charge? Who’s responsible for what?
  • What’s expected of me? Am I working on the right things?
  • Where are we going?
  • How are we going to get there?
  • When will we know we’ve arrived?

The answer to these questions is simple. It’s structure. If your business has a clear structure in place, everyone knows their roles and priorities, what’s expected of them, and where you’re leading them. 

There are many ways to create a sturdy structure for your business. However, I’ve found EOS® to be one of the easiest and effective. EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System®, gives the family business the structure it needs to face the challenges ahead. The book, Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, shows you the way to build that structure. Follow this link to request a free copy. 

Times of crises are stressful on everyone, but business leaders face the additional burden of supporting those who they look after. It’s OK to feel stressed and overwhelmed. In fact, it’s perfectly natural.

I hope these 6 steps help you gain some peace during all this chaos. In the meantime, I wish you, your family, and your business the very best.

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