09/16/17

Women In Family Business—A New Report

An article about women in leadership roles that appeared in the New York Times on September 15, 2017, calls Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel an anomaly. Yet women are more likely to have leadership roles in politics than in business. According to Kim Harland, though, this is not the case in family businesses.

Harland is Managing Director of Insights, a not-for-profit organization operating out of Brisbane, Australia. Insights provides online education and tools to support the long-term sustainability of family businesses. Women in Family Business, their recently published e-book, offers a wealth of eye-opening facts about its subject—the impact of women in leadership positions on the health and success of their family businesses.

Here is a small sample of their findings:

Family businesses are more socially conscious than their non-family business counterparts.” And they are not as concerned with quarterly cash flow and profits, likely because they operate with far less debt.” A comment follows: “This this is truly a family-motivated attitude — what kind of leaders put their families at risk?”

“And that attitude, encompassing social and human awareness, may be one of the reasons why new research has shown that the world’s largest family businesses are far ahead of their non-family business peers in valuing gender diversity at all levels of the enterprise — from ownership, the boardroom and C-suite to every tier of the business.”

“…when women are included, they in turn support inclusiveness in the business. They help to maintain a close and cohesive family that finds value in being together beyond financial wealth. This cohesion shows all stakeholders that they are cared about, building motivation at all levels and creating passion that translates into performance, both financial and non-financial. Eventually, this cycle of care–passion–success becomes self-reinforcing, as success allows for even greater caring.”

The 40-page e-book reveals insights on women in family businesses seen through the eyes of the women who lead them. Illustrating its findings through case studies and Q&A, and culminating with an Action List for women in family business, this publication is well worth a read for both men and women in family businesses, and perhaps a place in your ‘must-keep’ reference files. 

You can download the e-book at: http://www.insights.org.au/women-in-family-business

10/22/15

Differences and Consensus

In his October 4, 2015, NY Times column “Corner Office” Adam Bryant presented his interview with Gary B. Smith, CEO of the Ciena Corporation: “Gary Smith of Ciena: Build a Culture on Trust and Respect.” In it Smith shares some of his history, his early influences and how his views changed with experience. In last week’s blog I wrote about Smith’s understanding that “it’s all about people.”

 And of course, with people there will be inevitable differences of opinion. Smith says that this is healthy. These differences should exist. But ideally, he aims at consensus. “I’m a great believer in getting consensus,” he says. But he knows that consensus cannot always be reached, so “you’ve got to say, O.K., that’s good enough.”

What’s critical he says, is that once agreement has been reached the leadership team must be synchronized and the agreement is communicated down the ranks of the organization so that all are moving in the same direction.

One of my first clients started our engagement by stating: “My dad has fired me twice.”

The point of contention was over my client’s approach for implementing a strategy. His father would neither acknowledge nor respect his son’s difference of opinion saying: “any way you do it is ok, as long as it’s my way.” Clearly there was no working toward a consensus.

Perhaps for the health of the organization it might have been easier, in the short run, for the father to fire his son, thus avoiding having the operation of the business skewed by trying to follow two conflicting directions. But for multi-generational longevity, an opening must exist, for at least a partial consensus.

To ensure multi-generational success, members of the next-generation need to be granted a degree of autonomy, allowing them to acquire leadership skills and giving them the invaluable opportunity to learn from their own mistakes.

Handling this transition is one of the most difficult challenges facing family businesses.