Responsible Stewardship is Key to a Successful Legacy

For families with businesses, there are issues that surface as the family grows and ensuing generations get involved or migrate away from the family business.

Conversations about the business that may have started in the living room at home, moved to the kitchen, then a conference room then to a board room, often become a struggle as families grow and as individual agendas develop. Working well together, across generations, can become tense when visions are not aligned, and responsible stewardship is not defined. Competing and contrasting priorities due to generational differences, ownership positions, and desires for the business as contrasted with desires for the family harmony, surface.

It is not natural to manage such complexity. Like a garden who needs proper care and maintenance to stay healthy, relevant, and vibrant, a family is best served by developing a disciplined and purposed component to their family and family business dealings and becoming responsible stewards of what they are growing and eventually, passing down.

Determining an initial purpose to both the family and family business initially separate the two entities so they can clearly define themselves independently. Agreeing on and articulating the value, vision and mission of each entity across generations is key to being responsible stewards. Adapting and becoming comfortable with change is the responsibility of each generation.

Questions to consider asking at home:
• Who do we want our family to be, as a family?
• What do we want our family to represent in the community?
• What is important to us as a family: what do we believe in? What do we stand for?
Creating purpose, mission, vision and family teams to develop the family’s success goes a long way to sustaining intergenerational trust and sustainability.

Questions to consider asking about the business:
• What is the purpose and mission of the business?
• Is the business meant to develop as a business or build family wealth?
• What do we need to do to support our working together?
• How do we communicate business information so it does not take over or interfere with the family environment?
Knowing the purpose of the business, communicating that to the family, developing trust in leadership development are all critical to successfully passing a business legacy and leadership from one generation to the next.

Leave me a comment on your thoughts or experiences on this important topic. I would be delighted to read your comments.

Do Not Forget the Past; It Provides Mighty Support

When we forget those who have come before, like our great- grandparents, we forget our history. When we forget our history, we must begin again leaving new footprints that are themselves, swept away and forgotten as our great grandchildren look back at photos of us and wonder who we were.

 

Contrast this with those families who have captured, and meaningfully nurture the values and enduring traits of those who have come before them as a pillar to support their own lives today and tomorrow.

 

If you do not care how your family will thrive or if it will drift into a fog of insignificance, your family’s history will play out as it has for centuries for most families. Great grandparents have no meaning, they have been forgotten. New generations start afresh as if nothing came before them.

 

But if carrying on the spark of “what matters most” to your family, as a group of like-minded connected individuals, then your family story is an important element to your family’s success. And you must create that story. It will not create itself.

 

Researchers at Emory University found that “…family stories provide a sense of identity through time, and help children understand who they are in the world.”  When adolescents can see the values and traits they share with past family members, they form a stronger sense of well-being and a stronger sense of identity.  This Emory University study also showed that ​there is real benefit in sharing the stories about where the family came from, both geographically and through their values. Family stories keep families connected through generations by its narrative.

 

Your story, the one that will live on, will include how you met challenges, what successes have meant to you, what values you deem to be important and why and how they have guided you. Your story will describe how you came to value what you do value so those who come after you can understand themselves better by hearing from you. When they understand themselves better, they have more confidence and feel more secure in a world where those without this foundation, struggle to be seen and known.

 

Do you have a family story in your family, one that benefits its members, is shared because it came from the “author’s” experience?  Let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts on this important recommendation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparation is a Great Inheritance Tool

I have been part of conversation focused on what the best thing to inherit is. Some think it is cash. Some think it is real estate. Some think it is a portfolio of assets to be reinvested. I suggest it is being prepared, being prepared to become stewards of an incoming inheritance.

 

Studies show that for 90% of families where wealth makes it to the 3rd generation, it is gone by the end of this generation. This is not due to a fault of this generation. They are merely responding to a lack of preparation and instead doing what is naturally the course, spend, squander or squabble over the inheritance.

 

Each generation has a unique view and interpretation of its partnership with money and the family. The first generation carries the vision, the passion and focus to build a new company. This generation tends to sacrifice their personal life for the business. They must do so in order to build a successful enterprise.

 

The second generation has a different perspective. They have grown up with explicit or implicit expectations placed upon them to build on the family fortune that often conflict with their own personal objectives. Understandably this can create great friction. Couple this with squabbling that happens between siblings over the purpose of the wealth and there lays a sure recipe for even bigger problems. Studies confirm that 70 % of families lose their wealth by the end of the second generation.

 

For those families, whose wealth makes it to the grandchildren, there is a new perspective. The third generation is farther removed from the creation of the wealth. They are accustomed to being wealthy. From their point of view, having wealth is a birthright. They have never seen or been exposed to the struggle or the reason of making money. They are free to dream and create. They have never had nor needed the tools to build a productive life. They are only familiar with spending money.

In three generations, a family’s past and all its treasures will be lost and forgotten. Memories will fade as new generations spend their precious time scrambling to build a-new.

 

But when a family prepares its present and future for its inheritance, it can grow its bounty. A family who conscientiously grows and develops its assets, is called a legacy family. This is a family where the money as well as the family culture develops and is transferred from one generation to the next with purpose and intention. This type of family uses appropriate systems, tools and activities to stay connected through generations maintaining shared purpose, understanding, and trust. This family becomes a prepared family transferring its wealth with confidence it will grow in the family for generations.

 

Let me know your experiences on preparing inheritances for long term family connection. I would love to hear from you.

It’s Time to Alter the Traditional Financial Security Model

People are living longer lives. More years are being spent post work. And the current model of financial security funded by 401ks and social security is cracking.  Three out of five boomers, according to a recent report from Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, are forced to retire due to “layoffs, organizational changes, health concerns and family responsibilities.” Only one in six can retire early, with a secure financial net to carry them through their golden years.  The 2008 “Great Recession” hit the boomers hard as many found their retirement savings severely reduced, were laid off, or could not find increasing salaries above inflation adjustments to fund their lifestyles.

 

Boomers are not alone.  The Generation Xers, born between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s, are concerned about their financial security. According to the Transamerica 17th annual Retirement Survey, only 12% of Xers are confident they will be able to retire comfortably, 30% have taken a loan or an early withdrawal from their retirement accounts an 86% are concerned that social security will not be there for them when they retire. Their median retirement savings is: $69,000.

 

It is time for a change to the financial model we have in place.

 

I think it is odd that people can work and then find themselves without enough money in their sunset years, after they provided great benefit to companies they worked for. I find it egregious that companies skating on the thin line of ethical standards, can jeopardize the financial security of their employees, while the founders or CEOs raid the company to line their own pockets. I think it is not right that so many retirees do not have a secure financial base at a time of life when they are more prone to disease, increasing costs, and shrinking opportunities. Dementia and Cancer are potentially major financial requirements that can reduce a couple’s assets to almost nothing. I think it is terrible that very capable workers are unable to find jobs due to efficiencies of businesses and now find themselves falling further and further behind financially. These stresses do not help people live productive lives.  

 

It is time for a change.

 

Some countries are looking at alternatives. Canada and Finland and Switzerland, for instance, are looking at a base universal income. Switzerland is talking about a guaranteed income of 30,000 Swiss francs for its citizens. Here in the U.S., Alaska has been paying its residents a dividend since the 1980s. This dividend is based on the oil revenue it produces.

 

What are you experiencing in your community as it examines its own economic security? Let me know. I would love to hear what you experience.

Sometimes, Money is Hard to Talk About. But…

When money can be talked about without the added emotions of hidden blame or unrelenting shame, money conversations can become like other productive conversations: meaningful and connective.  When money conversations become supportive rather than decisive, money conversations can be engaging and powerful. Instead of blaming others for their behaviors or shaming ourselves for behaviors and habits we are exhibiting, we become supportive of another’s and our own objectives with money. We become engaged in conversations as we understand others and our own motives and intentions with their and our own money. We can then put in play powerful actions to attain our common objectives. What makes this transformation from feeling divided to feeling unified around money?

When we understand each other’s views and stories about money, we become more engaged with their struggles and triumphs with money. When we take money “out of the closet” of isolation, blame, or shame, and bring it into our shared lives, as partners and as a family, money becomes a productive tool.

What restrains you from talking about money? Is it lack of confidence on your ability to make consistently good decisions about money? Is it an inability to engage your partner in conversations you think are important with your money?   Is it an inability to know how to approach planning your financial goals? Is it an inability find time to spend on financial matters and if you had the time, not knowing how to frame a conversation on financial matters? Is it a fear that conversations about money will lead to tension or disinterest from your partner? These can be dealt with productively and effectively.

The first question you can ask someone you share finances with is:  What is important about money to you? And let them response without interruption from you. You can learn a lot by asking this one question.

When you find out what is important about money to yourself and to those with whom you share financial interests, money will transform from being hard to talk about to being a welcomed subject of conversation in your house.

Let me know what keeps you isolated with your money or, how you have created a bridge from isolation around your money to it being a productive tool in your and your family’s life.

 

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Connect with Loved Ones over the Holidays by Trying This

It’s time for the family gatherings again. You know the ones I am referring to: where people cluster in their usual groups, talking about the weather, travel hiccups, politics; where people cluster around the food taking bites in short and informational filled conversations; where someone introduces a topic they know will fuel the flames of emotional reaction. Yes…those dynamics.

 

This year you can come to a family celebration prepared to add a dollop of meaningful connection. Bring a series of questions with which you can connect more personally with those you engage in conversation.

 

Start by asking someone to share something significant that has positively impacted them this year. Listen as they share that event or experience with you. Then follow up by asking them either: how this significant impact they experienced benefited them or ask them how this significant impact made them feel.  And again, just listen. When you do, you will find that they will share with you a value of theirs that is important to the core of who they are. This will connect you to them in a very personal way that small talk cannot.

 

I find that asking questions like these, at the end of the year, to be a wonderful icebreaker and connector with friends and family.

 

Let me know how the outcome of having this conversation at your family gathering. I would love to hear your comments.

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How Will You Be Remembered? How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

How do you want to be remembered? How will you be remembered? Is there a gap between the two responses?

If so, identify an element to that gap that you can address and take action on. Then, craft the first action step you can take towards bridging that gap. For example, a woman I spoke with wanted to be remembered as a creator of evocative paintings. When I asked how she would be remembered she said that she would not be remembered as a painter as she kept her paintings in her studio.

Realizing that she would most likely be remembered differently than how she wanted to be remembered, she decided to put a few pieces on walls in her home. She did not stop there. She organized an art show for family and friends. What began as a bridge to gap the distance between how she wanted to be remembered and how she would be remembered became an annual “Get Connected with Art” Show (now celebrating its eleventh year) where select artists, their families and friends came together to share their legacy through art.  Art pieces were sold, auctioned, and given away. This woman is both ecstatic and amazed at what resulted by addressing a gap to her legacy. She will now be remembered for her art…and much more.

How will you be remembered? How do you want to be remembered? Are they aligned? What is the first step you can take to bridge the gap? Let me know your thoughts on this topic.

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There’s Power in This Conversation that Matters

Knowing she was dying, Anne wanted to make sure her children knew who all the people in the pictures were. So, together, she and her two children went through five albums and hundreds of loose photos that reminded Anne of her past, her heritage, the things she did, and the people to whom she was connected by blood, but knew little about.

When I came over to visit, Anne instructed her adult children to show me the pictures on the guest room wall and explain who everyone was in those photos. But her children were unsure of who these people were. Yes, they had listened as their Mom reviewed the pictures with them, but they quickly forgot the information. Most of the people did not mean anything to them. The photos were pictures of the past without anything more to connect the children to them.

When I returned to the room where Anne was spending most of her waking hours, I wanted to help her communicate some of the meaning that these pictures had that she wanted to pass on to her children.

I asked Anne to step back, in her mind, to a time in her life, when she was a little girl, 10 or younger; I could see her expression change as her mind and imagination took her back to her home in Canada. I then asked her to think of someone, a school teacher, a religious teacher, a sports coach, a friend’s parent, an after school organizational leader, someone who had had a tremendous positive impact on her at that time of her life. Without hesitation, a big smile beamed across her face, her shallow eyes began to gleam as she whispered: “Lisa, my best friend.” I asked Anne to describe her friend Lisa and as she did her eyes sparkled with joy and contentment. I asked Anne what powerful positive benefit Lisa had on her back then. Again, without hesitation, Anne gazed into my eyes and boldly stated: “Acceptance. Lisa showed me then, as she always has, the power and possibility of acceptance.” Delving into the value of acceptance for Anne became a powerful compass point in Anne’s life. As she talked about the power and beauty acceptance had had in her own life tears welled up in her eyes. She thanked me for finding a way for her to recognize this.

I, who have known Anne for ten years, felt a shock wave of new understanding as I learned how important acceptance was to Anne. Anne confirmed this by saying acceptance is one of the most important values for her. She smiled. I looked over at her adult children, who had witnessed this conversation and their eyes expressed a sense of amazement as they just understood something profound about their mother they never really knew or understood before.  It was a profound moment of great bonding for all of us.

As tears came to their eyes, the children said: “In this short conversation we have gotten to know our mother so much more powerfully and in ways we will never forget. We can carry the value of acceptance forward, in her honor, in our lives.

Imagine knowing the people in the photographs on the guest wall in this way.  This is where the connection is, not in the scene they are in or the pose they have struck. In this experience, revealed by a few key questions that matter, Anne will be more than a photograph. She will hold something that matters, a value, which her children will honor, perpetuate and pass on to their children.

Isn’t it time to have more conversations that matter?   2015.05.27.Kirkland.Juanita Bay Beach.Water Droplets on Leaf006

The Experience that Connected the Family Beyond the Photos Was Worth So Much

Knowing she was dying, Anne wanted to make sure her children knew who all the people in the pictures were. So, together, they went through five albums and hundreds of loose photos that reminded Anne of her past, her heritage, the things she did, and the people to whom she was connected by blood, but knew little about.

 

The first time I stopped by, I was shown where the photo albums and most of the loose pictures were located but Anna did not open the albums.  The second time I came over, Anne instructed two of her adult children to show me the pictures on the guest room wall and explain who everyone was in those photos. But her children were unsure of who these people were. Yes, they had listened as their Mom went over the pictures with them, but they quickly forgot the information as these people did not mean anything to them. The photos were merely pictures of the past without anything more to connect with them.

 

So when I returned to the room where Anne had set up her daily life, I asked her to step back, in her mind, to a time of her life, when she was a little girl, 10 or younger, I could see her expression change as she remembered that time in her life. I then asked her to conjure up someone, perhaps a school teacher, a religious teacher, a sports coach, a friend’s parent, an after school organizational leader, someone who had a tremendous positive impact on her. Without hesitation, she exclaimed that she was thinking of her friend, Lisa. I asked Anne to describe Lisa which Anne did, a smile growing on her face, her eyes sparkling with joy and contentment. I then asked what one stood out as being a powerful trait that Lisa had. Again, without hesitation, Anne gazed into my eyes and boldly stated: “Acceptance. Lisa showed me then, as she always has, the power and possibility of acceptance.” Delving into the importance of acceptance to Anne became a powerful point of Anne’s story. Tears welled up in her eyes as she talked about the power and beauty acceptance has had in her own life.

 

I, who has known Anne for ten years, felt a shock wave confirming my own experience of how important acceptance has been to Anne. Anne confirmed this by saying acceptance is one of the most important principles and traits to her. She smiled. I looked over at her adult children, who had witnessed this conversation and their eyes expressed a sense of shock as they just learned something about their mother they had never known. It was a profound moment of great bonding.

 

As her children witnessed a greater sense of their Mother, tears came to their eyes. They said: “We have gotten to know our mother more powerfully in this conversation and in ways we will never forget and in ways that we can carry forward and nurture. We wish we knew the people in the photographs like that. This is where the connection is, not in the scene they are in or the pose they have struck.”

The Time Has Come and Yes, I Do Feel Different

I have experienced discrimination. I remember being an early longshore woman in the Midwest, before woman were able to join the union. I was the woman who could last long enough to make it into the union, but the union kept its doors closed to me.

 

I remember being ridiculed for driving a truck, for being intelligent, for wearing pants in college, and for running for office in organizations that had not yet nurtured or cultivated women leaders. I did these things, not to prove a point, but simply because I could.

 

So, today, I have to admit, it does feel different now that a woman will be the official nominee of a major political party in the U.S.  I feel that I and women in general must be taken seriously when we step out of “traditional roles” and contribute talents, skills, perspectives and brain to the fabric of society.

 

This is a great moment, a legacy moment that will carry us, with more grace and confidence and acceptance into the world we shape.

 

We asked for this. We got it. Now we have to take responsibility for what we have created. This is big. It is a legacy moment.

 

Let me know how it feels to you to have a woman candidate of a major party here in the United States. I would love to read your comment.