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What Can a Leader Bring to a Meeting?

This week we’re going to be looking at meetings involving members of the same family, and the importance of leadership in the room.

This blog idea has its genesis in an online training session I was part of a few weeks ago, where the idea of “weather” was brought back into my memory.

Then, more recently, while taking part in an in-person session with a different group, my deck of cards idea received an enthusiastic reaction, which makes me want to share it here.

As luck would have it, in my imagination, there’s a way to bring both these ideas together, and you’re about to see if I can pull it off.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Leaders Bring the Weather

The virtual training was part of the Family Enterprise Advisor program, which I initially took part in over a decade ago. I’m sitting in on all the sessions again as part of a new role I’m taking on as a project team advisor.

The facilitation and communication module included some great gems I’d either forgotten or which have been added to the curriculum more recently.

At one point one of the instructors shared the line that “leaders bring the weather”, which I quickly jotted down, as it instantly struck me as “blog-worthy”.

It also brought be back to my days working in the business my Dad had founded, and a question I often asked his secretary (yes, that’s what we called them back then) when I showed up at his office and his door was closed.

“How’s the weather in there with the Big Guy today, Monique?”

Weather Versus Climate

Much like many entrepreneur founders, especially those from that era, he was often high strung and sometimes his temper was volatile, putting it mildly.

It was always good to have Monique’s “forecast” in advance, so that I could be properly equipped for what might lie on the other side of the door.

I want to distinguish between weather and climate, though.

I liken climate to corporate culture, and ours was actually pretty good and generally healthy.

Of course even in a nice climate, bad weather and storms do occur.

The point is, though, that a leader in a room can have an outsized effect on what the mood is like in a room where a meeting is taking place.

When meeting with several family members, and where that leader also goes by the name “Dad”, it can be tricky to make progress in some areas.

A Facilitator to Randomize the Speaking Order

This leads nicely to my next point, about how leadership in a meeting room is so key to allowing important items to be raised.

The second peer session I referenced above included some colleagues who were newer to the family meeting facilitation arena

We were in a small group exercise sharing our best tools we bring to such situations, and I decided to include my deck of cards principle.

I always bring a deck of playing cards with me when I’m asked to lead a family meeting.

(Interestingly, this is another idea I came up with on my own, much like Using the Meeting # 0 Concept with Families.)

This allows me to easily randomize the order in which people are given the floor to speak, which may not seem like a big deal.

Follow the Leader?

When a family has the foresight and wisdom to engage a non-family facilitator to chair their meetings, that person is given a certain amount of power, which they then need to understand how to best deploy.

Such facilitators are charged with managing “process” considerations as opposed to the “content”, which is what the family brings.

A fundamental component of the process is speaking time and speaking order.

In many such situations, the default has typically been to have Dad share his views first, with the expectation that others will agree with him and toe the line. 

I bring a deck of cards and have everyone choose one, and then I decide the order in which they’ll each speak, low to high, or vice versa.

Using Your Limited Power Judiciously

Any outsider who gets the opportunity to play such a key role for a family must also realize the limits on the power it contains.

Using this “power” judiciously will almost surely help anyone to be able to wield it over a longer term.