Back to the Water for More Analogies

A few of weeks ago, in Diving into a Family System Without Making a Splash we were in the ocean, playing with a metaphor.

Well, we’re going back to the water again this week, thanks to some new thinking I want to share here.

I’ve recently taken on yet another role in this wonderful field of ours, which has me re-doing some coursework I did over a decade ago.

As part of my training to become a “project advisor” for teams enrolled in the Family Enterprise Advisor (FEA) program, I’m observing each of the seven modules of the course over the coming months.

While sitting in on the Facilitation and Communication module recently, I was part of a background discussion with the instructors and the team responsible for the course deliverables.

What Needs to Be Done Vs. Who’s Qualified to Do It

While the enrolled participants were in a breakout room doing a role play, we talked about the fact that some former students would sometimes think that having done a quick two-day workshop on facilitation immediately qualified them to run complex family meetings with clients.

The vast majority of students come from a specialized technical profession and quickly recognize their limitations and rightly hesitate to offer themselves up as skilled enough to play that role without additional training.

But there are always a few who overestimate their ability and underestimate the complexity, not to mention the damage they can cause.

While the module on facilitation is meant to serve as a primer so that students understand what families need to think about doing with respect to having regular family meetings, it was not designed to make people skilled experts.

And that’s where I began to think of the analogy that we’re going to jump to now.

My Pleasure Craft Operator Card

I mentioned going back to the water again so let’s look at what you need to have to be able to operate a boat in Canada.

For the record, I obtained my Pleasure Craft Operator Card a few years back, making me, at least theoretically, qualified to operate a boat on the open water anywhere in Canada.

If you own such a boat, however, I strongly suggest that you not allow me to operate it, because I really don’t know what I’m doing, never having really driven a boat before.

My wife grew up on a river with a boat just outside her back door, and hence has decades of experience in everything concerned with safely taking a boat out on the water and bringing it and everyone on it back in one piece.

I play the Gilligan role to her Skipper, although I certainly bear more of a resemblance to the latter.

In case my point is not clear, taking a quick test of my knowledge on boating does not, in any way, give me the skills to safely operate a boat.

That Looks Like It Could Be Fun

So let’s see if we can put the analogy together with the point I’m making.

Taking a boat out onto the lake or river certainly looks like it could be a lot of fun. Let’s face it, that’s part of the attraction.

It’s also not as easy as it looks

There’s a show on YouTube called Boneheaded Boaters of the Week that you can check out if you don’t believe me.

There is no equivalent show about underqualified people leading family meetings, leading to suboptimal results.

Facilitating family meetings can also be fun, which is probably why some people want to try it.

But, staying in the water for a moment, if you just read a book about swimming but have never done it before, would you want me to drop you off in the middle of a big lake for your first attempt at it?

Skill, Confidence, Comfort

Almost a year ago, in On Clergy and Family Meetings, I shared a story about someone who had been a hospital chaplain, who now worked for a multi-family office.

I noted that I believe he’d be qualified to run family meetings because he had certainly experienced what it’s like to be in the room with a family during a difficult time.

He clearly has the skill and confidence to walk into a situation where a family is trying to make important decisions together during less than ideal circumstances.

Feeling comfortable playing a key role in that environment is not something everyone is cut out for.