Different Things Drive Different People
It’s fascinating the things one can learn by listening to “real people” talking about their lived experiences. Too often our learning comes from reading more theoretical ideas that, even though they come from smart people, can lack in true substance.
In some other instances we may spend time with colleagues or other peers, exchanging stories, ideas, and learnings, but those too sometimes lack the “oomph” that we can get when we have the chance to hear from those who are actually in the middle of living through an experience.
So when I recently had the opportunity to listen to a panel of rising generation members of local family enterprises share their stories, I was all ears.
Sharing Viewpoints On What We Heard
Of course I absolutely love opportunities to share with peers too, and when that sharing follows a panel of real-world experience sharing, it’s the best of both worlds.
And therein lies the genesis of this week’s post: comments about this panel of young people assuming important roles in businesses owned and run by earlier generations of their families.
One member of our group marvelled at the “thirst for knowledge” that all the panelists shared. “Hmmm… she’s right”, I thought, as I reflected on what I’d heard.
It was true that each of the three panelists did seem to share that part of their journey involved wanting to always learn more and more and finding a variety of ways to continue that path.
But is a thirst for learning enough, I wondered.
Thirst for Knowledge VS. Hunger for Growth
Just a couple of weeks ago, in Sibling Compatibility Is Not Sufficient, we looked at how important it is that those expecting to take over the reins of any family business be competent, and not simply know how to get along well with each other.
Inherent in that competence, at least in my mind, is a willingness to take risks in order to continue to grow the business.
And another way to express that could be to talk about one’s hunger.
So when my colleague noted the thirst for knowledge that we had witnessed during the panel, my mind went to hunger. (Okay, it was also getting close to lunch time).
One Without the Other Is Asking for Trouble
So when we think about the attributes we’d like to see in rising generation family members who will someday take on key roles in the family enterprise, ideally they will have both a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for growth.
Let’s look at what you’d have if you only had one, without the other.
If you have the thirst for knowledge, you’ll have people who are curious and always wanting to learn more. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. But, without at least some hunger to drive them to take risks, they could easily succumb to “analysis paralysis” that could certainly lead to stagnation.
On the other hand, if all you have is someone willing to take risks, but without the curiosity and desire to inform themselves in advance, you could have a lot of reckless behaviour that could quickly sink the business too.
A Look in the Mirror for Me
When I do some self-reflection, I realize that one of those situations I just described actually fits me pretty well.
Whenever I do any kind of assessment like Strengthfinder, I always score very high on “learning”. I’m constantly looking for any opportunity to learn more.
But if I were to assess my willingness to bear risk, I’d score at the other end of the scale.
I’m guessing that deep down inside, when my father decided to sell the operations of our family business, that he had started before I was born, he also realized that handing the reins to me might not work out as well as he might have originally hoped.
No Regrets and Back in the Family Business Game
As his only son, I recall from my earliest days being told that my duty was to eventually take over the business from him.
And for the first four and a half decades of my life, that was the direction I took.
Now that I am back in the family business game, working with other families, my goal is to not have any family members need to take so long to find their rightful place.
There is room for the thirsty and the hungry, and both, in every family.