02/18/17

Star Trek Ideals and Family Business

It’s a well-known fact that since its first airing in 1966, the Star Trek series has inspired generations of young people to become scientists. YouTube abounds with videos of astrophysicists; theoretical physicists; astronomers; cosmologists; giving lectures, taking part in conferences, presenting their latest findings. And in video after video, the scientists invoke their debt to Star Trek.

Star Trek’s optimistic view of the future continues to bring young people into careers where they see themselves helping to make that future a reality. In a way, the Star Trek world might be seen as a global business owned and operated by and for the family of mankind, one with diversity, innovation, communication, cooperation and courage.

The Star Trek world has similarities to well-established multi-generational family businesses. It has a far-seeing vision. It has a mission, and it has uplifting values. It encourages innovation—often the very lifeline for survival. Among long-lived family businesses can be found perhaps, some of the ideals that Star Trek showcases; a zest for exploration, flexibility, loyalty, job placement by virtue of inborn talents and acquired skills, mutual respect, integrity in leadership.

Could this kind of view, and these types of ideals, inspire your family’s young people to seek their place and their careers within your family business? What kind future do they see? Is it one they can wish to help realize?

02/3/17

Listening to Chopin

An entrepreneurial client recently mentioned one of his favorite Ted Talks: The Transformative Power of Classical Music, by presenter Ben Zander. By way of various piano renditions of a piece by Chopin, Zander illustrates several aspects of understanding classical music that I found extremely relevant to family business success. https://www.ted.com/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion

Ben Zander is conductor and music director of the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. I had known him through his book, national best seller, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life. In it he describes his leadership style as a conductor as one of embracing possibilities. He has subsequently taught workshops on his approach to leadership in corporate settings.

Several ideas from his Ted Talk came through to me as having critical relevance to family business:

  • No one is tone deaf; rather, perhaps, they have not learned how to hear the music. The capacity of family members to be instrumental in business success may be overlooked even by themselves. Look for signs of it in their conduct of everyday life.
  • An important characteristic of a leader is not doubting for one moment the capacity of people to realize whatever it is that the leader is dreaming.
  • The job of a leader is to make the players powerful, and this awakens possibilities of creativity and expression. Making other family members powerful awakens possibilities in them that will benefit the family.
  • Placing similar emphasis on every note in your business will distract you from your view of the big picture.
  • Expecting a perfect performance does not allow for the creativity and spontaneity that produce a resilient and viable next generation.

All of these ideas point to ways of embracing possibilities within your family business. They speak of a leadership style of openness and confidence in the family, the business vision, and in success for generations to come.

12/10/16

Authentic Leadership–Suggested Holiday Reading

Over the past month I have found myself recommending Warren Bennis’ book, On Becoming a Leader, to a number of people. Bennis, who passed away in 2014, was a prolific writer on leadership and, according to management guru Peter Drucker, this is Bennis’ most important book. I find it intriguing that I am now recommending it so often.

As per Bennis, ingredients of leadership include vision, passion, integrity, self-knowledge, constant learning, curiosity… even daring. Bennis writes: “Good leaders engage the world. Bad leaders entrap it, or try.”1

One of Bennis’ most popular quotes illustrates his perspective on how leaders can be creative: “There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish.” Visit Freedom Inc. to hear Mr. Bennis expand on this quote in a video interview.

In the ideas he set forth in this book, originally published in 1989 now a classic, Bennis lays a foundation for authenticity and personal ethics in leadership.

Since a capacity to develop leadership qualities in all family members is characteristic of family businesses, I strongly suggest On Becoming a Leader as productive holiday reading for all. It’s on my list to re-read in 2017.

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1.Warren Bennis, Becoming a Leader (Basic Books, 2009), 38

09/9/16

Momentum–Let it Ride!

The NY Times’ Corner Office, by Adam Bryant is one of my favorite business columns. In it he reports on his interviews with business leaders. On Sunday, September 2, he turned his spotlight on Ben Chestnut, CEO of MailChimp.

When Bryant asked him to name some of his leadership lessons, Chestnut’s answered: “Never sacrifice momentum. I might know a better path, but if we’ve got a lot of momentum, if everyone’s united and they’re marching together and the path is O.K., just go with the flow. I may eventually nudge them down a new path, but never stop the troops midmarch.”

This lesson came to mind while I was working with a client who was trying to decide on one of several possible paths. The choice became obvious upon considering where there was the greatest momentum, and thereby the possibility of a quicker return.

Recognizing a path with momentum can be tricky, but it can make all the difference in your business’ success.

04/2/16

Pulled Into the Future

The leadership, vision and entrepreneurial talent of the founding generation of a family business may be very different than that needed in subsequent generations; and installing a successor who is a copy of the founder may result in the failure of the business to change with an evolving market environment or the growing needs of a larger business.

For example, the business may now have more need of leaders who develop collaborative relationships than those who get things done by themselves, or of strategists who find new opportunities as the size of the family grows.

“Respect the past while keeping an eye on the future.” This important family-business axiom, together with a phrase I read twenty years ago in “Breaking Point and Beyond: Mastering the Future Today by George Land and Beth Jarman“allow yourself to be pulled by the future”–are potent strategies for expansion and growth.

01/22/16

Emotional Intelligence – Do We Have Two Minds?

Last week I wrote about why family businesses are particularly susceptible to the impact of emotional triggers. I observed that, well-directed, emotions can be useful. Successful business families blend cognitive perspectives–thinking, understanding, learning, remembering–with the energy of emotions. At the intersection where these “two minds” meet, the capacity for cooperation, innovation, growth and longevity is born.

The term ’emotional intelligence’ (EI), became popularized in the book by that title by psychologist Daniel Goleman. Also called ’emotional quotient’ (EQ), the idea can be stated as consisting of four capability factors present in differing degrees in each individual:

  1. The ability to recognize one’s own emotions;
  2. To recognize the emotions of others;
  3. To discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately;
  4. To use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emotional_intelligence

There are tools for assessing emotional intelligence factors such as empathy, relationship skills, family relations, social dynamics at work, job performance, leadership and more. With these tools you can identify your own and your team members’ emotional intelligence quotients. While individuals are often found to be stronger in some areas and weaker in others, the good news is that EQ levels can be increased.

Next week I will present how a family integrated principles of emotional intelligence into their family-business model.