05/26/17

Facebook Leadership—Triad For Success

“In a relationship as critical as the one at the top, how do you create open lines of communication, respect differences and grow the business together?[1]

In his article Sheryl Sandberg Shares the Key to Creating Chemistry at the Top, Zillow Group CEO Spencer Rascoff asks this question. He is probing into the secret of the successful collaboration between Facebook’s “oddest couple” leadership team—Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg. The answers he elicited hit the nail on the head for me when considering what’s needed for growing a successful family enterprise: “carve out time to communicate; prioritize the relationship; find a partner who shares your values.”

The ultimate management challenge for a family business is to open communications.

Without functioning lines of communication a palpable underground of misunderstandings, resentments, personality conflicts, will ripple through the family and the business impacting their workings and the bottom line.

Family meetings and staff meetings held on a regular basis provide groundwork for clearing problems before they build up. Between senior executives, the importance of maintaining constant communication cannot be stressed enough. Lack of strong partnership at the top can seriously hinder an organization’s ability to live its values and fulfill its mission.

Prioritizing relationships is another challenge for family businesses.

 This key point is easily overlooked because of the familiarity born into the family. When everyone grew up with everyone else it’s hard to see beyond personalities and personal histories. But for good or for ill, quality of relationships impacts the prosperity of both business and family.

Shared values lie at the very foundation of family enterprises.

The nature of the business and its mission may change with a changing external marketplace; values are the bedrock that underlies longevity. Again from Spencer Rascoff: “If you don’t have a shared language of values in an organization, it won’t work.”

The success of Facebook cannot be denied. Implementing its executives’ triad of ingredients for success—communication, relationship and values—can help family businesses achieve their own success, now and into the future.

[1] All quotes in this article from: Sheryl Sandberg Shares the Key to Creating Chemistry at the Top, accessible online at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/facebooks-sheryl-sandberg-shares-key-creating-top-spencer-rascoff

11/26/16

Diversity and Success

I recently heard Jennifer Brown, author, Tedx-Talk speaker and entrepreneur, talk about the social and economic advantages associated with diversity. 

In her new book, Inclusion, Diversity, the New Workplace & the Will to Change, Jennifer calls upon people who can drive change to embrace diversity. She argues that when we build systems that embrace diversity in all its forms, we directly impact the bottom line; and that diversity is essential for the viability and sustainability of every organization.

She identifies a bias toward our own thinking and our propensity to go with sameness as challenges to diversity. Importantly, she recognizes that diversity issues cover much more than race and gender. They extend to areas of leadership, our relationships, and collective customs.

Her talk got me thinking about challenges to diversity in family enterprises as they transition from one generation to the next. The leadership style of the founders may be significantly different from that of the next generations, and a stubborn prejudice in favor of one style can be detrimental to the future success of the business and the family. It’s important that family-business leaders recognize that the marketplace and the social environment will continually evolve. Different conditions will inevitably call upon different natural abilities in next-generation family members.

The hard-driving dominance of a founder who grew the business making tough decisions may differ from the relationship-style of the next family leader–a style perhaps now needed to carry the business and the family through the next generation.