When Two Words Arrive in the Same Sentence
This week we’re going to do a bit of “freestyling” in this space, and see where it goes.
Regular readers are likely familiar with my penchant for taking some seemingly arbitrary topics or words and trying to weave them together into something useful and entertaining for those interested in the family enterprise space.
I’m writing this during the Christmas holidays, so it feels right to just reflect a bit and see what comes out. Thanks for joining me.
A Coaching Session as an Inspiration
As a coach, I think it’s important to also work with my own coach too, because it really helps to underscore how much one can gain from this kind of relationship.
It would feel pretty disingenuous if one of my clients asked me about my coach and my reply was “Who?”.
A few weeks ago during one of my sessions with Melissa, I uttered a sentence that contained “observe” and “absorb”.
Now you may not think that that’s noteworthy and I wouldn’t blame you. But as someone who writes 52 blogs every year, I need to find my inspirations wherever I can.
Observation is an Obvious One
When I work with members of a business family, one of the biggest things that I bring to them is an outsider’s perspective on what they’re living.
Lately I’ve been using an aquarium example to illustrate this, and I think it works pretty well.
I have a 90-gallon aquarium at home and a 55-gallon tank in my office, so this inspiration is never far away.
I know that the way I observe the fish in my aquariums is quite different from the way they observe each other.
The fact that I’m outside the system gives me an ability to see the bigger picture, and it allows me to have a much wider perspective of what’s going on within the system.
I need to constantly remind myself, though, that I need to work at staying out of the system, or else I’d quickly lose much of the objectivity that my outsider status affords me
And What About the Absorbing Part?
The part about absorbing might be a bit less obvious, but let’s see if we can make it make sense here. Whereas the observation part was more about the space aspect (i.e. big picture, outsider) the absorbing is more about time.
This is where thinking about a sponge can be helpful. When a sponge is completely dry, it has a lot of potential to absorb liquid, but it can’t do it instantaneously. It takes a few seconds to be able to take everything in.
And whereas the observing is typically something done with the eyes, the absorbing involves the heart and your emotions, and is more of a full-body experience.
Absorbing Anxiety from the Emotional Field
As an outsider to a family system, a great deal of my focus is on observing the emotional field of the family when they’re together. It’s amazing to note the difference in baseline anxiety levels from one family to another.
Some families have a “modus vivendi” of being together that’s very easygoing and free, while with others you can almost feel the tension. See Family Governance, More than a Modus Operandi
You can guess which families are more fun to work with, and they also seem to have more success in transitioning their business and wealth to the next generation.
When working with a family where there’s some tension, part of my role is to absorb some of it, almost like taking a sponge and soaking up some of the extra and trying to keep things tidy.
Family Members Assuming Their Roles
Naturally the observing and absorbing are not limited to the outside coach or facilitator, as each family member is also doing some of each.
Families with whom I work have typically already recognized a certain level of interdependence that they have with each other, and they are therefore part of a system where there’s a good deal of focus on all of their one-to-one relationships as well.
When the family members are able to make factual observations about each other, that’s usually a sign of progress.
At the same time, they’re hopefully acting in ways where there is less “absorbing” going on.
When all family members have adult-to-adult relationships and everyone becomes a resource to everyone else, you’re really in business. I love to observe that.