Holiday Family Giving Conversations Can Reap Great Benefits

At a recent University alumnae dinner, the host asked the attendees, to indicate, by a show of hands,
who engaged in family philanthropy. Nearly the entire room or about 150 guests raised their hands. But when the host followed up by asking who engaged the family in a conversation about the meaning of philanthropy and the impact they want their donations to have both for the organization (s) and the family, only 2 raised their hand.

With the holidays providing a favored setting for family conversations, perhaps this can be an appropriate setting to start a conversation about the impact of giving for the family.

Remember these 3 tips to make your conversation more engaging, should you choose to initiate a family conversation on charitable giving. Know and communicate the intention of the conversation and its intended outcome. Keep the conversation friendly and inviting rather than judgmental and limiting. Have an inclusive conversation by ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to say what is on their minds and in their hearts, without interruption.

When each member feels heard, understood and included, they feel connected. This connection can reap great benefits for families as they initiate or develop their family giving.

Holidays and giving, bring it home for deeper cheer.

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Trust is like a Spider Web

In a book I recently read, trust was defined in one word: predictability. That was powerful. And I began to inquire: “Is that all? Maybe that’s what trust comes down to.”

So, I started looking at trust more carefully, or more specifically, my use of trust, I understood it to be more than predictability. But what more was it? I looked at trust for me and saw that what was missing in this one-word definition were the additional components that give trust its almost mercurial characteristic. I would like to mention them here.

I have found that trust includes a sense of reliance in someone’s character. Where predictability infers expectation, reliability infers consistency. Whether it is a sense of reliance in their sincerity, their competency, or the way they show up, reliance in someone is a major ingredient to trust.

Another component to trust rests in understanding one’s motivations. Motivations reveal intentions, priorities, goals and needs. When I understand someone’s motivation, I can bestow trust.

Yet another component to trust is the feeling of true authority born by experience and not merely by knowledge. When I sense that someone is a student of what they are talking about, rather than a transmitter or information, I can grant trust.

What I find interesting about trust is that we can provide trust quickly, slowly, or not at all. There seems to be a continuum for the application of trust. I have found that this continuum revolves around feelings of safety, feelings of reciprocity, and feelings of being understood. Trust is a mighty bridge to building and sustaining connection. And like a spider web-strand which is ten times stronger than steel at its same weight, trust is a strong bond between people. And again, like the spider strand which can be easily broken and change the nature of the web, trust can be broken or withdrawn suddenly, and like the spider web, changes the nature of the relationship to which it was bound.

Let me know your thoughts on trust. How do you experience trust? How do you dole out trust? What causes you to withdraw trust?

Active Listening is Key to Strong Communication

How often do we fast forward through a conversation because A: We know what they’re going to say, anyway; B: We have something we want to say and are no longer listening to the other person or C: Our mind is wandering to something else and leave them speaking to the air? Never, right?!
When communication is rocky, use this tool to change the dynamic of the conversation: Active Listening. Active listening means listening to the intention of the speaker rather than inserting your own conclusion or meaning. It means taking the time to understand what the other person is saying instead of making assumptions.

For instance, the speaker may say: “I can’t give you money. I need it.” It is easy to make a judgment or assumption about what the speaker is saying but what is really being said here? As the active listener, you take the time to find out rather than jump to your conclusions and assumptions. This is an opportunity for inquiry with an exploratory response like: “Tell me more about what you need it for” or a question like: “So I can better understand, what is important about money to you?” Inquire with a sense of wonder rather than a sense of pre-conceived judgment.

It is important to learn, in active listening, what the speaker intends, with their words. In the example above, the speaker might be inferring that they have few resources and need to keep their resources for their immediate obligations. It could mean that the speaker is not yet convinced that your request is valid or important enough for them to give you any. It could mean that the timing of your request is inappropriate. It could mean that the speaker does not trust you. It could mean that you did not approach the subject in a way that was acceptable to the speaker. There are so many reasons that could have precipitated the speaker’s response. Active listening eliminates the need to assume, to judge or to react and use an inquiring methodology with your mind open to understand what is motivating the speaker to say what they said.

When you listen actively, you provide space for the speaker to tell you about their intentions and motivations. When the speaker has completed their comment, you, the receiver, can reflect and paraphrase what you heard, and relaying what you understood their underlying motivation or interests are. For example, if the speaker were to say: “You never help in the house”, you can reflect and paraphrase by responding: “It sounds like another hand with chores is important to you.” Then follow up with a question: “What would it look like if you had help in the house?” Note how this helps diffuse any shame or blame tricks, tactics or techniques. Note how this type of a response can create a bridge of connection rather than create a wedge of contention.

Communication is active. Tell me where you have found active listening benefit you.

The Rider, The Elephant, and the Path

A while back, the owner of the fitness studio where I do my High Intensity Interval Training, posted a message. I thought it was relevant to this month’s theme of L.I.F.E., Living in Full Expression, where life is lived with purpose, meaning and significance. Initially, I was going to just highlight a few points in his message to us, but instead, after reading it again, I have decided to share it with you as he sent it to his H.I.I.T. members. I liked it that much. Now, before I do share it with you: Thank you, Josh Cooper and Embody Health for this message.

Have you ever acted against your better judgment? Ummmm, of course you have. We all have. Sometimes you do things that you later regret. And this keeps you from achieving that healthy, energetic life you want.

• You hit snooze rather than waking up early to exercise before work.
• You blow off your healthy eating plan to indulge in a hamburger and fries.
• You start an exercise program only to drop out two weeks into it.
• These regrettable actions prevent you from achieving your goals and keep you stuck.

Most of us are all too familiar with this frustrating paradox. It’s almost as if there are two sides inside of you, raging war on each other. Your sensible side versus your emotional side. What you want versus what you do.

A psychologist named Jonathan Haidt came up with a mental model that explains exactly why you do things that you wish you hadn’t – and how to take control to finally do the actions necessary to get what you really want.

“The image I came up with for myself, as I marveled at my weakness [of willpower], was that I was a rider on the back of an elephant. I’m holding the reins in my hands, and by pulling one way or the other I can tell the elephant to turn, to stop, or to go. I can direct things, but only when the elephant doesn’t have desires of his own. When the elephant really wants to do something, I’m no match for him,” explained Haidt in his book, The Happiness Hypothesis.

Human decision making is like a tiny rider on a massive elephant. The rider may think he’s in charge, but the elephant’s will always wins. The Elephant, The Rider, and The Path are a great framework for understanding yourself and what drives you. All human change depends on it.

Here’s Haidt’s mental model for creating lasting change in greater detail…

The Rider: is your rational and analytical side. The Rider is a visionary that has the ability to think long-term, to plan, and that is willing to make short-term sacrifices for long-term payoffs. The Rider loves to contemplate and analyze, has limited reserves of strength, suffers from paralysis by analysis, and relentlessly focuses on problems rather than solutions. Most crucially, the Rider is so small compared to the six-ton Elephant that anytime they disagree about which direction to go, the Rider will lose.

The Elephant: is made up of your emotions and instincts. The Elephant prefers the comfort and security of a well-trodden path, even if a new path leads to a better outcome – this is why it’s so difficult to change your habits. The Elephant has enormous strengths: love and compassion and sympathy and loyalty. The Elephant is the one who gets things done.

The Path: is your surrounding environment, the context in which the Rider and the Elephant operate. A rocky Path makes change hard, if not impossible, even when the Rider and the Elephant work together.

There are three steps to lasting change:
• Direct the Rider
• Motivate the Elephant
• Shape the Path
1) Direct the Rider:
Change begins with a plan, and it’s the Rider who comes up with plans. Direct your Rider to analyze what’s right, on what works. When you’ve lost weight and made progress towards your fitness goals in the past what worked for you? Focus on these bright spots rather than on potential problems related to your desired change. Once you’ve come up with a plan, move on. It’s important to move quickly and to avoid getting bogged down with paralysis by analysis.

2) Motivate the Elephant:
In order for the plans of your Rider to succeed, your Elephant must feel emotionally invested in the outcome. Find an emotional connection that you feel deep down in relation to the goal. Don’t just think about why you want to achieve your goal – feel why you need to achieve your goal.

3) Shape the Path:
Make change easy. Reduce obstacles in your life, so that the new desired behavior is frictionless. Move the barriers between you and the actions that you want to take. Lay out your workout clothes the night before. Spend time in the morning to prep all of your healthy daily meals. Get a trainer to hold you accountable to showing up to your workouts.

The key to effective change is getting the Elephant and the Rider moving together on a smooth path to success. Do this and you’ll stop doing things that you later regret.

Now, how will you use this metaphor to keep yourself on your path, the one you are shaping for yourself for your L.I.F.E. of significance?

Are You and Money Good Friends?

Have you ever heard the expression: “I have money that’s just burning a hole in my pocket?” This phrase refers to the notion of having money you don’t know what to do with. It is as if the money wants to be spent.

This phrase implies to me, that money has no real purpose. And that is a problem because although money itself has no purpose, our using it can and should have purpose.

Money is a means to something, be it a tangible, material or principle based. Money either fulfills a need, adds to comfort or is utilized with purpose.

I think that money is best utilized when purpose has been assigned to it. Having purpose to money gives money a chance of being utilized satisfactorily and with intention.

I think that it is important to get clear about money: What is its purpose for you? What is enough? What do you want it to give you? These are important questions to ask yourself about money. It is there to sustain you when you have a purpose for it.

May money and you become friends.

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2 Steps to Take Now to Reframe Unproductive Money Behaviors

According to a survey by Wells Fargo, nearly half (44%) of those surveyed said that money conversations were the toughest to have, more difficult even than religion, politics or death. If you find that you are one of those who find it difficult to initiate or be in important conversations, you will want to read further. Money holds a lot of judgmental emotions and tension as inappropriate behaviors can usurp the initial intention of the money topic.

Let’s examine the following situations: You are at a dinner with friends and the bill comes. What happens next? Do you grab the bill? Do you wait for someone else to make a move? Do you talk about splitting it in half or per everyone’s individual order?

And how about this situation: You are invited to join an “By Invitation Only” group on a long weekend retreat. The group really wants you to join them but you know you do not have the extra money put aside for this. What do you tell them? Do you make up another “reason” for not being able to join them? Do you tell them you will think about it as a way to avoid talking about it? Do you put it on a credit card knowing it will take you eighteen months to pay it off as well as the other items on your credit card accruing interest each month?

It is so easy in these situations, and many others, to keep your thoughts to yourself; those thoughts like: “Let’s split the bill per each individual’s order.” “I can’t come this year, but let me know the cost for next year, so I can save up for it.” You do not want to appear different, inadequate, or bothersome. You want to do what everyone else is so seemingly agreeable to doing.

Unresolved money conversations create tension because you add a perspective of shame, guilt or judgment about you and money. But when you start talking about money openly and without the shame, guilt, or judgment built into the conversation, you can develop respect and understand around money and your role with it. But how do you do this?

There are two steps you can take immediately to begin to reframe your behaviors with money. The first is to understand what money was like growing up for you. I call this understanding your money stories. Begin by asking yourself: “How was money talked about when I was little?” “What did I do with allowances or financial gifts that I received when I was growing up? How did I talk with my friends about money when I was a teenager?” These and many other questions will give you insight into your own early views on money. You will probably recognize patterns you use today due to your early associations with money.

The second step you can take is to determine how you are going to handle money situations when others are involved, before the event happens. If you are going out for dinner with others, you can send a quick text to share your idea of splitting the bill. Prepare a response when you are asked to join events you cannot afford. Letting people know you have not allocated an amount for a particular “retreat” or other event to your budget presents a sense of responsibility with your money.

I know this just scratches the surface of changing money behaviors and habits but I thought it was important to talk about this.

Let me know how you handle money so money is an ally to you and your goals in life. I would be delighted to hear from you.

Key Strategies to Keep Money Intact Across Generations

When the subject of passing money to the next generation is broached, a question that is often asked is: “What are you going to do with the money?” Although this is a great question, I think there is a farther-reaching question to ask as well: “How is the recipient being prepared to receive their inheritance?” What make this question so compelling? Because it redirects the subject from being about the money to being about preparing the inheritors. And this is so important yet often omitted.

There is a common phenomenon taking place around the world. This phenomenon even has a phrase associated with it. It has to do with the common consequence to inherited money: inherited wealth does not tend to survive beyond 3 or 4 generations. Independent studies have found that 70% of families lose their wealth by the end of the second generation while 90% of families lose their wealth by the end of the third generation. The common phrase that accompanies this horrible unintended consequence is: in the U.S., shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations; in China, rice paddies to rice paddies in 3 generations; in Italy, barn stall to stars to barn stalls in 3 generations. Although this may be a common consequence to wealth, thankfully, today, this common phenomenon is being addressed head on. Families are looking to change the statistical probability to their accumulated wealth.

Let’s look at two strategies families are using to keep their wealth intact as it moves across the generations.

The first strategy is the passing down of the story, the one that describes how challenges ere overcome, how successes were dealt with, and what it meant for the creators of the wealth to build that which they can pass on. This is important for a family to have because each generation is farther removed from the wealth and having the story reminds them of their roots and of the principles it took to accumulate the wealth future generations have become accustomed to having. When succeeding generations understand what it took to build the wealth in an experiential rather than in a didactic fashion, there is a much greater chance for financial stewardship across generations.

The second strategy is to pierce the veil of sheltered silence, that silence protecting the status quo and instead, talk about the purpose of the money and supporting money stewardship in the family. Teaching money skills, like the 5 S.I.D.E.S. (Save, Invest, Donate, Earn and Spend)© of Money, help family members feel more confident with money conversations. Developing family philanthropic initiatives give families a formal method to talk about how their money impacts their community. Holding Money Nights, where one topic about money is discussed without judgment or interruption, develops deeper trust and more engaging conversations around money.

Find tools to use with your family so that the money you accumulate can stay intact across generations.

How do you view money as a family? Let me know your thoughts.

How Could My Parents Blow It?

As the multi trillion-dollar asset based makes its way from one generation to the next, in what has been called the biggest asset transfer in history, I hear a repeating question that has plagued families for hundreds of years: “How could my parents blow it when my grandparents had so much money?”

According to the Williams Group, a wealth consultant group, 70% of wealth families lose their money by the end of the second generation and 90% of these families find their wealth has been squandered, spent, or squabbled over by the end of the third generation. And they are not the only ones to have uncovered troubling findings. U.S. Trust found, in their survey of high net worth individuals, that 78% of the wealth holders feel that the next generation is “not financially responsible enough to handle inheritance.” 64% of those surveyed have disclosed little to their children about their financial wealth.

I have heard many stories due to the work I do with families, keeping them connected across generations, when money matters. One family’s senior generation, turned over all financial decisions, after receiving a large payoff for the sale of a product, to their financial advisor. The financial advisor has become the arbiter of family and friend loans. The financial advisor decides how and when the money is to be used. The family has not established its own purpose to the money. There are no family conversations about money. Although the sale of the product was completed two years ago, there are already disagreements about whether or not to let the next generation know about their wealth, where to send their children to college, and whether or not to help an older generation with their mounting health care bills. The financial advisor is not equipped to help the family build a framework of purpose to the money so family conversations about money can be neutral rather than tense.

Another family, whose story I know, doesn’t want their children to know about the money they received from the sale of a business. They decided, after receiving their initial check that nothing would change at home. But within a few months, one parent had quit work, wanted to move their parents to live near them, and was adamant that they did not want their older teenage children to know anything about “the money” as it may ruin them. The other parent has found that they cannot engage in a meaningful conversation with their spouse about their money. It has created a gap between them.

Money, in families, needs to become just another topic conversation or more families run the risk of finding that their money becomes a “home wrecker.” When money is not talked about and understood for its role in the family’s life, data supports the fear that the next generation will “blow it.”

“How did my parents blow it when my grandparents had so much money?” is a question I am often asked. “They didn’t know any better. Nobody taught them about what money meant to them nor helped them construct a framework of purpose that the family shared, developed and sustained across generations.

What can you do to affect a framework of purpose and financial smarts in your family? Let me know I would like to hear your comments.

Starbucks Offers More than Coffee and Tea

In his book, Onward, Schultz wrote: “Stick to your values, they are your foundation.” He said these were key to rebuilding Starbucks.

Schultz demonstrated the fundamental benefit to a company having values, and using them to build their presence. “It is our mission to make sure the world sees us through those lenses.” He wrote.

Starbuck’s values are: Community, Connection, Respect, Dignity, Humor, Humanity, and Accountability. “They are visibly evident and often referred to in meetings and prior to key actions.

Values not only impact a company; they also impact our individual lives. What are your values? What role do they have in your life-are they directors in your life, or merely white noise around your life?

In a fast-paced world of deadlines and expectations, where impatience can override wisdom and expediency overrides understanding, values can get swept aside for “later.” This can have disastrous consequences in communication, in decisions and in the choices one makes.

Values are part of an intentional life. They form the foundation of success. Howard Schultz recognized the essential nature of this. Like Starbucks, how do you make your values the cornerstones to your life?

Values have Power, Massive Power

Values, what is the point of focusing on them? Although we rarely talk about them, our values are the foundation of ethical action. Values are both personal in their meaning, aligning with personal beliefs and universal in their understanding of its relative importance in people’s lives. Values have been studied by various disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, anthropology, sociology, history, theology, art, marketing, and behavioral sciences. Yet most of the time, we are oblivious to their impact, influence or importance in our lives. It is as if we want to prove values are unimportant by doing or being anything else than what our values direct us to do or be.

For example, I know that I can fill my time with activities, activities that ensure time is being spent and filled without thought to their significance to living a meaningful life. I can make piles, I can get the piles done, I can schedule, I can even avoid contacting people I am thinking about in favor of “getting things done.”

But all those return to their proper secondary or tertiary position when I ask myself these questions or reflect on the statements I am going to ask you to consider. As I reflect on the responses, it recalibrates my focus to that which is truly important to me. I think it may do the same for you.

• You have been asked to lead a team of advisors, all of whom are dedicated to their work and all of whom are committed to a best outcome: what values do you want to bring to this new team?
What other values do you think would be valuable for this team to consider?
• Describe what led you to pick these values.
Define these values with the relevance and meaning they have for you.
• Identify one of your top values. Talk about an experience where you expressed that value well.
• Think of a person in your life, who, in the last five to ten years, has had a powerful, positive impact on your life. Describe how they impacted you and how that experience has enriched your life.

Now, step back for a moment. See how you have just connected to your values and how that has affected you just now. Values have power.

Let me know what you experienced that brings your values to the forefront of your life.