What People Like to Know Beforehand

Whenever experts share what’s important for families to do to successfully transition their business to the next generation, the concept of holding regular family meetings is always at or near the top of the list.

That all sounds pretty straightforward and simple, doesn’t it?

Of course simple is not the same as easy, as I frequently repeat.

Losing weight and quitting smoking are also pretty simple to explain, yet obviously much more difficult to do.

Ideas, they say, are a dime a dozen. It all comes down to implementation.

So this week we’re going to look at one of the key parts of getting families on the right path to regular meetings, by properly setting expectations.

See Great Expectations in Enterprising Families

Start with WHY

Whenever you bring people together for a specific reason, it’s so important for everyone to be on the same page as to why they’re being asked to assemble.

If people are unclear, and/or people arrive with different understandings as to why they’re there, then you should not be surprised if your results are sub-optimal.

Of course that doesn’t mean that all meetings are always perfectly in sync with respect to this question, far from it.

It is, though, something I recommend you strive for, and constantly work to ensure.

Knowing why you’re getting together, and working to constantly keep that “why” clear and consistent for all attendees, is so important.

It’s essential to try to instill this for meetings with family members, around the transitions you’re working towards.

See Live from the Forum: Successful Transitions

What to Expect, Generally – Why vs. What

Assuming you can all get clear and agree on why you’re coming together, we can now switch over and start looking at the “what” questions, or some of the details.

In my world, “what” questions are a category that also includes some of the other important yet mundane details, such as “when” and “where”.

It’s obviously key to make sure that the time and place are clear, but once those are set, they’re quickly forgotten. Not so with some of the questions we’ll get to now.

Another relatively simple question might seem to be “what are we going to discuss?” which typically becomes another version of “what’s on the agenda”.

This seems straightforward, yet can become tricky as well.

Because we’re talking about what’s supposed to become a regular series of meetings here, having a “standard agenda format” is ideal, yet not something you can expect to get perfectly established right from the first meeting.

Some Key “Who” Details

We’ve covered some key details so far, yet haven’t even addressed the “who” elements.

Who’s invited, who’ll show up, who’ll lead the meetings, who’ll support that leader, and who’ll speak in what order, are all areas to be considered.

Again, the answers to these questions can evolve with time and vary as some trial and error naturally takes place.

Having someone who cares about such details and who works to make things clear and consistent is paramount.

Repetition and Reinforcing Habits

For such a series of meetings to get traction, it’s important to find a repeatable process to get everyone in the habit of understanding what is expected.

A regular opening to set the stage can involve a check in around good news or gratitude, or re-reading a family mission statement.

Early on, if things have been contentious, maybe re-reading agreed upon guidelines might be necessary.

A standard ending about setting the next date, going over what was agreed to, and who will do what in the interim can also make sense.

Engagement and Alignment Revisited

Families who are working on these transitions can struggle with getting all family members engaged, so it’s important not to set expectations too high. 

It’s normal for it to take time, especially when beginning such meetings comes out of the blue.

See Family Engagement and Family Alignment – Chicken and Egg

Remember that engagement and alignment need to remain top of mind, and when one is missing, you can sometimes work on the other and get success.

My “Meeting # 0” Philosophy

I shared more here than I expected, and I didn’t leave myself enough room to talk about my “Meeting # 0” (Meeting Number Zero) idea.

I came up with this a few years ago and have used it on a number of occasions with success, and now other folks I know have begun to use it too.

We’ll look at that some more next week.