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Entering Uncharted Territory

This week we’re entering some new territory, in a number of ways. First off, I took up this topic based on a suggestion from a reader I’ve never met.

I received a LinkedIn message a while back asking me to talk about addiction and the role it plays, and was intrigued.

I also realized that this potentially huge topic can be a pretty big deal for some families who are trying to create and pass down a legacy, and yet I’ve yet to discuss it here, despite having written over 400 posts.

That all changes now, as I want to share my thoughts on what is also “uncharted territory” for many families, who are often unprepared for how they should respond when a family member has an addiction.

I decided to revisit a version of the “5 Things” blogs I’ve done over the years, much to the dismay of my wife, who wonders aloud why it’s always five things, and never four or six…


1.  You Cannot Change Someone Else

As much as we’d all like this to be different, you cannot change someone else. You can try, and many do, but true change really only occurs when the “changee” does the work.

This can be the most difficult realisation of your life, especially as a parent. 

When they have young children, parents can and do manage to create many of the changes they hope to with their offspring. 

Unfortunately, at some point, this ends. Then, the more a parent wants something, the less likely their children are to acquiesce.

If your instinct is to simply insist more forcefully, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

2. Look to Provide Help, Not to Punish

An initial reaction to a family member’s addiction might be to use some form of punishment to try to curb the unwanted behaviour.

Punishment, whether simply threatened or actually enacted, will often backfire and make matters more difficult to fix.

Nobody sets out to become addicted to anything. 

Yes, there’s often some behaviour involved that’s less than desirable, but by the time they reach the stage of addiction, it’s no longer an easily-solvable problem.

Offering help, in the form of support and understanding, will go much further, and hopefully get the addicted person to cooperate, as opposed to rebel, which is what punishment will often engender.

3. Set Realistic Expectations

There’s no magic wand that will make an addiction disappear overnight. 

These situations all vary, of course, based on what the addiction is, how long it’s been going on and how deeply affected the person is, and whether this is the first time or not.

Giving the whole situation the time required to be satisfactorily resolved is what I suggest, and it’s better to err on the side of planning for things to take more time (months/years) than less (days/weeks).

4. Work on Organizing the Rest of the Family

While the addicted family member seems to take up a lot of time and focus, you shouldn’t neglect the rest of the family.

In fact, I think it makes sense for most families to organize themselves to survive for the long term as if the addicted person will never get over whatever their particular affliction may be.

This is a variation on “plan for the worst” but also hope for the best.

If the addicted family member is putting the enterprise at risk, finding ways to minimize and eliminate those risks should quickly become the focus, and that means having different people assume certain key roles.

Making a plan that you can all work on together to get through this makes sense and should be a priority.

5. Bring in Outside Help to Manage It

Few families are well equipped to deal with such issues on their own.

Bringing in outside expertise makes sense for dealing with the addicted person, of course, but may also make lots of sense for the rest of the family as they deal with things in a new way.

I hold himself out as such a resource for families, so this suggestion shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone reading this, of course.

But an addicted family member creates emotional reactions that need to be managed.

You need to reduce the “reactions” and instead focus on a constructive “response”.

Ignoring the issue and hoping it will disappear rarely works out well.

This week we’re talking about Continuity Planning, which regular readers will recognize as the newer and preferred term for what many formerly called “succession planning”.

Too many still use the old term, but I’m doing my part to change the vocabulary, to change the conversations.

 

Efficiency: Let’s Get This Done

My bias is pretty clear, I find that far too many people look at continuity planning as something they’d rather not spend too much time on.

Especially for families who are running an operating company, which will normally have more than its share of fires to extinguish on a regular basis, taking time away from these urgent matters is typically a low priority.

It’s no surprise then, that when these families finally do agree to spend some time on the less urgent matter of continuity planning, their focus is usually on getting it over with as quickly as possible.

But just because something isn’t urgent,

that doesn’t mean it isn’t important.

 

Effectiveness: Let’s Get This Right

In contrast to focusing on getting something over with, some families rightfully prefer to concentrate on making sure that their efforts produce a positive result.

A quick Google search of the word “effective” reveals this: “successful in producing a desired or intended result”

This sounds like a much more worthwhile goal to pursue when a family undertakes this important work.

So why do so many families NOT get this right? Let’s go through some of the main obstacles.

A sign saying Effective & Efficient

Time & Cost

We’ve already mentioned that doing this right takes time, and we all know that “time is money”.

Furthermore, in order to make sure that your continuity planning will “produce the desired result” you’ll need to involve more people and “their” time too.

Many of those people will be family members, while others will be professional experts, again making time and cost factors that could stand in the way.

 

Professional Bias

I don’t love harping on colleagues who work in this space because ideally, I’ll work along with them to get the family to co-create the best plans for their circumstances and needs.

But so many of the experts that families rely on have their own biases that they have rightly developed over their careers.

You probably wouldn’t want to work with a lawyer who didn’t already have some pretty good ideas about how you could best go about creating your plan.

But that doesn’t mean that you should just turn the whole thing over to them either.  Or blindly follow all of their suggestions.

 

Touchy Subjects

The very idea of continuity planning necessarily brings up subjects that most people try to avoid.  We’re talking about death, money, and who will be put in charge of what.  Pretty heavy stuff, to be sure.

Of course, you could just be very efficient, draw up the plans you think are best and let the chips fall where they may.

But that seems so “20th Century” to me.  There are ways that will give you a far better chance of success.

These involve getting the people who will be affected by your decisions together and making them part of the process to make sure that your “intended result” actually has a good chance of working out as planned.

 

How Do We Do That?

It really needs to begin by figuring out, as a family, what that “intended result” could look like.

This can’t be done in a vacuum, and it can’t be done in one meeting.  There really needs to be a series of meetings, involving both generations of the family.

See: Successful Planning: Who Should Be Involved

 

What If Our Plans Are Already Made?

Now you may be thinking, “it’s too late for us, our plans are already made”.  Well, not so fast!

Do all the family members who will be affected by those plans know what’s coming?  If so, congrats, go to the head of the class.

For the other 90% of you, that would be a great next step.

See: Pre-Mediated Planning? Sounds Good To Me

 

The “Intended Result”

The final destination, or the intended result, should not be something that is dictated by the leading generation.

It needs to be based on the family’s values and their vision for the future.

That will take time to work out, but it will be well worth the effort.

If doing this important work means that you need to bring in an objective outsider to help facilitate the discussions, do it.