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Things Always Take Longer – And That’s Okay

It’s now been a bit over a decade since I discovered and entered the family enterprise transition world as an advisor to families.

Having come from my own family’s journey and closely followed that of my wife’s family, I came at this with lots of lived experience but not much else. (Okay, plenty of passion and curiosity too.)

Diving deeply into training in coaching, facilitation, conflict resolution and family systems, I was looking for any and every way to learn to do this work well.

Having decided to specialize in the family circle (as opposed to the business or the ownership areas) I had some catching up to do.

Regular readers will also know that I have latched onto every possible peer organisation as well, as my interactions with those have inspired many of my weekly missives here.

Hanging Out with a Bunch of Psychologists

One such peer group was founded thirty years ago by several psychologists who were hoping to create a place where those with that training, who’ve also developed a practice serving enterprising families, could come together and form a learning community.

A few years ago, a couple of its members approached me, suggesting I could make an interesting addition to their group.

At first I declined, stating that I was not a psychologist, so I was likely not “qualified” to be a member.

A couple of reassurances, arm twists, and Groucho Marx quotes about “being a member of a club that would have me as a member” later, and I was in.

I just returned from my third annual in-person weekend meeting with them (after 2 years of virtual encounters thanks to you-know-what) and want to share some of my thoughts.

Appreciating the Process

It’s amazing to me that a decade into this work, I still have plenty of A-Ha moments.

Spending quality time over a weekend with like-minded professionals who are all trying to learn to do this work better was chock full of them once again.

Working with families as they prepare to transition their wealth to the following generation is all about process, as opposed to content.

The “deliverable” is thus quite hard to define.

Psychologists, in their individual practices, typically see clients one-on-one, or sometimes as a couple.

The deliverable for their clients is also difficult to define, but those clients (patients?) are typically able to discern whether or not continuing to see their mental health professional is worth the time, effort and expense.

They spend time sharing thoughts with their doctor and work through how they are doing and what changes they can and should think about making in how they live their lives.

Making time to regularly visit someone like this is all about process.

Respecting Everyone’s Processing Time

Similarly, in my coaching work with clients, I help them think through what’s going on in their lives, give them a fresh perspective, and encourage them to make positive changes in their day-to-day actions.

While their time with me might last an hour, the weeks between sessions are where most of the processing takes place.

And different people process things at different speeds.

Much of the complexity that arises when working with a whole family comes from the fact that the members rarely process the required changes they need to make at the same speed.

During that recent weekend with peers, one of them noted that working with a whole family is like heading to the ski hill and seeking out only the double black diamond ski runs.

If you can survive those, everything else is a walk in the park.

Not only are we dealing with the family emotions, we layer in a family enterprise, and there’s a lot at stake in every meeting.

The rising generation family members in their thirties and forties have much different desires and priorities than their parents who are in their sixties and seventies.

Guiding the Process for the Family

Working with a family on their transition is a lot like being a tour guide. See Choosing your FamBiz Tour Guide

A good guide adjusts their speed to allow each person to process the journey and keeps everyone together.

The most difficult part can sometimes be slowing down those who want to move quickly.

Making sure that everybody has had enough time to process changes will always help.