Are Messages Getting Lost in Translation?

This week I’m on the Family Governance beat once again, having recently attended a webinar on the subject of establishing a Family Council, and it got me thinking of some new ways to talk about the whole subject.

As regular readers know, being based in Montreal, Canada, I work in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French.

Being bilingual offers lots of interesting opportunities, including learning from groups that are outside of your “main” language.

English is my main language, but I do speak French every day as well, and I’m so glad that my parents “forced me” to go to French school all those decades ago.

Etablir un Conseil de Famille ?

A few weeks back, some francophone colleagues had set up an informative webinar to explain how some local enterprising families had set up their Family Council, why they had done so, and how it has been helpful as they plan for their family’s future transitions.

The webinar featured a small panel, including members of two such families to talk about their real lived experiences.  These included a woman in her thirties and a man in his sixties, so they had representation from both a “NowGen” and a “NextGen”.

There were dozens of attendees on the call, which is great because it confirms that families are interested in the idea of family governance in general, and in establishing a Family Council more specifically.

You Can’t Improvise It!

I was nodding along with everything that was being shared by the hosts and guests, glad to know that more families in my local area were interested in this and were now hearing from some folks who are doing the work.

Then I started to hear them use an expression, two or three times, that put a puzzled expression on my face.

               “La gouvernance familiale ne s’improvise pas !”

My French is slightly below 100% fluent, and this now seemed like it was from the part I was less familiar with.

It seemed at first that they were saying that you cannot improvise your family governance, which felt like it made a bit of sense, but in my head it took it way too far.

It’s All About Customization and Evolution

I always preach that you shouldn’t try to go too fast when working on family governance, and that you have to take things one step at a time and see how it goes, and then let things evolve in a logical way and at a pace that works for the family members.

I’ve actually toyed around with analogies that liken the process to “improv”, as in improvisational theater.

When my daughter was younger I signed her up for some Improv classes and ended up liking some of the key ideas, which enhance your creativity, teach you to “go with the flow”, and adopt a “Yes, AND…” mindset.

So to me, family governance, the way I encourage it, is in many ways very much like improv, but these folks were seemingly saying “Nope!”

Professional Driver – Do Not Attempt

Upon further investigation, I’ve since discovered that a better way to think of the translation is that you shouldn’t just make it up on your own.

The idea of an IED came to mind recently, as in “Improvised Explosive Device”, which is a fancy way of naming a “home-made bomb”.

It turned out that both the panelists were talking about the fact that their families had each engaged an outside professional to facilitate their Family Council meetings and to coach all family members around their participation on the Council.

You’ll probably guess correctly that I’m in total agreement with that point.

D.I.Y. – BUT, Not BY Yourselves

You cannot buy family governance, you need to build it yourselves, as I like to say. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it by yourselves, it works best when several family members are involved and the entire process is led by an outsider who knows what they are doing.

That statement about not buying family governance isn’t perfectly true, because there are professionals who’ll try to convince you that you should buy it from them, and some do.

You could go that way and end up with a professional-looking family constitution, but it would of less value than even a preliminary and improvised attempt at creating a family council.