Direction Comes Before Destination for Families

Admittedly a Little Bit Counter-Intuitive

In last week’s blog I talked about the latest super-spreader event that I attended in 2022, and enough time has passed that I can safely confirm that I emerged unscathed once again.

I did leave the latest RendezVous of the Purposeful Planning Institute with lots of good stuff, of course, as has been the case each time I’ve attended since 2014.

There was a small nugget in the opening keynote presentation that made me jot down one single word, and I’ve been reflecting on its importance ever since.

That word was “direction”, and even though I can’t recall the exact context in which it was shared, it resonated with me, and so now I need to share some of my thoughts about that.


Fundamental Human Connection

The theme for this year’s conference was “The Fundamentals of Human Connection”, and our opening keynote was wonderfully delivered by Akasha Saunders, from Cultivating Leadership.

When he noted the importance of direction it hit me like a lightning bolt, as if it were the missing link to a number of disparate ideas in my head.

I write about families who face the challenges of transitioning their wealth or their business from one generation to the next, which is never simple or easy work.

When I’m engaged by a family as a resource to them to guide them on that journey, they often ask me lots of questions about the destination we are trying to get to.

I don’t like to get into “destination” type talk, preferring to focus on the “journey” instead.

The idea of focusing on “direction” appeals to me, probably because it’s even simpler than the journey, and is in fact a small subset of it.


But Doesn’t the Destination Give You the Direction?

I wrote about this 4 years ago in There IS No Destination which was inspired by a great quote I’d read: 

                                          There Is No Destination.

                                                It’s ALL Journey.

                                                    All. Of. It. 

That remains one of my favourite posts, and now I’m please to be able to revisit it and add the importance of direction.

Just because it’s a journey, that doesn’t mean it needs to be random.

You have a general idea of where you want to go, and that helps you and your family to point yourself in the right direction.


In a Hurry to Get to the End

I recently ran a first in-person family meeting with a family I’ve been working with remotely in 1-on-1 calls over the past 6 months, and as we wound up our successful time together, we ended with a look ahead at what could be the next logical step on our journey together.

Some of the family members seemed in more of a hurry than others, as the idea of tackling formal governance appealed to them.

I discouraged them from trying to “jump ahead” too quickly, and we decided together that working on defining the family’s shared values made more sense.

I explained my penchant for attaching the adjective “evolving” to the term “governance”, and they agreed that this sounded prudent.

See The Evolution of Family Governance, among other posts.


Shared Values Help Provide Direction

Uncovering a family’s shared values provides a great foundation, and that helps inform the logical direction that the family members need to take.

Getting everyone pointed in the same direction, and then starting to slowly move the proverbial train down the track is how I like to explain it.

Are you heading west, or south? 

You don’t have to know exactly where you are trying to go to begin to overcome the inertia that keeps too many families stuck in neutral.

Sticking with the train metaphor, there are lots of places where a train can deviate from straight ahead and take on a new direction.

The flexibility component of not simply looking rigidly ahead to a specific destination should not be understated.


Engagement and Alignment – Redux

In Family Engagement and Family Alignment – Chicken and Egg we looked at these two key elements and how interdependent they are.

We can now add direction, and perhaps even momentum, as key areas for families to focus upon, as they work to overcome the many challenges involved in successful intergenerational wealth transitions.

Most families have a good general idea of what it could/should look like, but that doesn’t mean that the exact destination is known or even achievable.

Simply making sure you have the direction right is something worth thinking about from time to time