The Family with a Mission Sets a Cornerstone of Longevity

When I ask people about experiences they have had with the transition of wealth in their families, often, I get a shake of the head followed by a story of at least one person or one family branch creating an issue with the terms of distribution. This is still astounding to me, twenty years plus of asking this question.

Why, today, in our “enlightened states”, where information and coaches are ever present, do we fall into patterns that have been around for centuries? Why do we have to say: “My family is different” or “They get along. They’ll figure it out” only to find our families are right in the mix of fallen, disrupted, and broken families? I really do not get it.

What are we so afraid of uncovering that we would rather avoid, deny or hide it than seek to overcome it?

Many people think that merely preparing the assets for their eventual distribution is the answer to passing on an estate successfully. But those of you who have experienced, or, know of a family where distrust or antipathy, cloaked in polite communication, know a great mistake left  irreparable consequences.  Families are torn apart when instead they could have learned how to stay connected.

Becoming a legacy family means preparing the beneficiaries, your family members, to receive the assets. It means understanding the purpose of the wealth and the purpose of the family so the two can co-exist with agreement, understanding, and with stewardship that passes on what it has received and cultivated to the next generation.  Becoming a legacy family means looking at each other, understanding what you want to accomplish together and finding that place of agreement through shared values and inclusivity. Legacy derives from the word legate or mission. When a family has a mission, it sets a cornerstone of longevity.

I will stop here to give you an opportunity to soak in the essence of what has been conveyed here.

concrete hallway between white pillars and building

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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Wisdom from the Ages Can Be Accessed from this One Tip

I recently read a recommended book. The author, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) wrote an autobiography, which was published posthumously in 1868. I would like to share a point that resonates with me and is as relevant today as it was for him, two hundred plus years ago.

To give you a little background, Franklin believed strongly in the attributes virtues had He went so far as to define the thirteen core virtues which were cornerstones to his life.  He defined what each meant to him, and this is insightful,  because he understood that each person defined virtues, individually. His definition was not necessarily theirs and vice versa.

Rather than focus on all thirteen virtues, he isolated one at a time. He started with temperance which he described as: “eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation” and focused on it for a week. He then moved on to the next, which for him, was silence, defined for him as: “speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation”, the next week he focused on order “let all things have their places; resolution “resolve to perform what you ought, perform without fail what you resolve” and so on.

As he focused on only one virtue per week, he could gain greater understanding of it for himself and its valuable application in his life. As the years went by he became dedicated and pronounced with his virtues, refining them in his daily life.   This contributed to the respect he garnished. He took the time to live from his “virtues”, intimately.

Each day he would begin by asking himself: “What good shall I do this day.” In the evening, he would reflect on his morning question by asking: “What good have I done to-day?” using one of the thirteen virtues he was focusing on.

Now, that is Wisdom from the ages.

Oops, I Made a Mistake

Whether you are 15, 115, or somewhere in between, the life you are building is the life you will leave for others to remember you by.

I thought about this yesterday after I was adamant on making a point instead of understanding another’s point of view. When my perspective was called out, I paused to reflect on my conduct. In this particular situation, I realized that I was focusing on the wrong thing.  I was so focused on the point I wanted to make that I was not listening to the other person’s point.

I was embarrassed because it is important for me to live by the values I hold so dear and understanding is one of my top values.

But the reminder that I was insisting on my point, rather than considering the other’s point, was important to hear. After all, if I do not have the aptitude to give space for someone else’s point of view, I am living in a world of potential isolation, unnecessary conflict and separation.

Allowing someone else’s point of view does not mean I have to give mine up or that I have to agree with theirs. It merely means I am letting them be in their thoughts and feelings as I am in mine.

Stress Can Wreak Havoc in Your Life

When you face danger, your body’s alarm system stimulates the production of adrenaline and cortisol. This is “stress.” This feeling of stress can be valuable as the adrenaline gets your heart beating faster and the cortisol produces glucose to help you react both mentally and physically. Once the danger is over, the adrenaline and cortisol rushes stop.

Unfortunately, that is not the only time when stress manifests itself. You can also experience stress whenever something bothers you or throws your world out of balance. Whether it’s from money or work issues, relationship or communication tensions, or something else that’s bothering you, when stress lingers, adrenaline and cortisol continue to pump through the body.  This isn’t productive.

If you cannot turn off your body’s alarm system you can find yourself eating more, exercising less, sleeping less, becoming forgetful about where you put things, more argumentative and impatient, more irrational, with increased abdominal fat, blood sugar imbalances and more.  You react to these hormonal releases with a faster beating heart which can result in higher blood pressure and increased cholesterol.

Stress itself is a constant in life and it is necessary: it helps you overcome dangerous/annoying situations. But, prolonged stress is toxic to your body and this is what you should avoid/manage. With the proper tools and systems in place you can protect yourself from its deleterious effects. Exercise, healthy food habits, laughing, and focusing on your strengths and values are key components to maintaining wellbeing.

Live with your core strengths and values at the forefront of your life.  They matter.

There is Power in that Talking Stick

 

I was watching a movie the other day, Tanna, set in a remote Pacific Island, and acted by the Yakel Tribe members. In an intense scene between warring parties, I was struck by their communication. Even in the heat of opinions and attacks, they had a natural and respectful ability to let each person speak, fully, before another person got up to speak. They did not interrupt. They did not use escalating threats. They listened to the speaker before making their remarks. It was inspiring to watch.

This view into this tribe’s ability to communicate with an opposing tribe, when stakes and tension were high reminded me of an incident that occurred earlier this year. In a U.S. Senator’s office, during the stopgap spending bill talks were held. Senator Susan Collins used her “talking stick” as a tool to let others in the meeting know that the person holding the stick had the authority to speak. Everyone else had to wait until that person was done speaking and the talking stick was released before one of them could have their turn.

In this scenario, the “Talking Stick” has several key purposes. The first is to allow the speaker the platform to speak sans interruption. Second, the stick reminds others that they are to listen as their time to talk has not yet come. Third, the sticks passed from one speaker to the next. But at this meeting, an interruption did occur. Instead of holding on to the stick, the speaker hurled it towards the interrupter and missed, chipping a glass sculpture instead.

Much can be learned from the power in the “Talking Stick”. It has been used for centuries as a tool in negotiations, mediations, family meetings and sensitive facilitated discussions.  It is a powerful reminder to where the room’s attendees’ attention should be centered as well as a reminder that the person with the stick has control of the message until the stick is relinquished.

If you have not used a talking stick in a meeting, give it a shot. It is amazing how it can keep meetings on track, viewpoints respected, and keep tempers from flaring and accusations from hurling.

The Hero’s Story is Significant

 

Over the holidays, I attended the annual Seattle Business Magazine’s Family Business Awards Dinner. It was a fantastic event, honoring family businesses who deserve recognition in categories such as: Best Practices, Community Involvement and Family Business of the Year.

During the dinner, Chris Schiller, Managing Director of Cascadia Capital, gave a compelling introduction to the Family Business of the Year award.

I would like to quote Chris, as I thought his words were applicable to those of us who ork in guiding and consulting with family businesses and/or their families.

Chris began his talk by saying: “In thinking about tonight’s wonderful celebration of family business, it struck me that the eminent mythologist, writer and lecturer, Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, is much like the story of family business. All of the family businesses in this room have followed a similar path to Joseph Campbell’s hero, with you or one of your family taking the risk to start a company, then embarking on the journey of building your business, meeting tremendous challenges and personal struggles on the journey, finding various mentors (maybe including the family business advisors in this room) to help you overcome those challenges, and then crossing over into a period of transformation that leads to your ultimate success as a business and a family.

For all of you family businesses in this room, you likely have not arrived yet… rather your story continues to grow with your current generation and the next generation coming up. Often the journey is more important than the destination, as they say.

As investment bankers, my Cascadia colleagues and I live in a world of left brain… financial statements, revenue and EBITDA, numbers. Often the value of a business is ascribed largely to these numbers. However, what I have learned and what drives us, rather, is the stories of our family business clients. We are able to exercise our right brain to tell our client’s story to the market in a way that we find the optimal partner that embraces that story, and thereby sees value that others do not see in just the numbers. These stories are really what drives our passion for working with family business. “

These words were inspiring for me. Thank you, Chris, for speaking them and then letting me share them here. The story of the business is so important for families who continue their businesses across generations.

I Made a Startling Observation about Leadership

I recently noted something I want to talk about. A little while ago I attended a “town hall” meeting of a group to which I have been a member and one-time leader for well over a decade. At this meeting of about 200 people, I experienced a phenomenon that may have always been there. Let me explain.

There are members who feel comfortable in criticizing the leadership, the direction and other parts of the organization. They are vocal in their criticism, sometimes sparking controversy and sometimes adding fuel to fires already lit. But, often, something changes within them, that they do not see, when they become titled leaders of the overarching organization of the group.

Suddenly, as if a switch has been activated within them, their criticism transforms into a call for peace and understanding, for tolerance and respect. Those who criticized now call for an end to “negativity”, the negativity they had sparked or fueled, themselves, at one time.

Until recently I had not noticed anything askew about this change. But, for some reason, I now focused my attention on a question. I asked myself: “Why, as leaders, do we shut down criticism, when as followers we initiate or support criticism?” As leaders we tend to seek harmony and while as followers we tend to seek a voice. But so often, neither listens to the other. Each merely wants to shut the other down.

I find it interesting that we cannot look at both criticism and the role of “leadership” as being two sides of the same coin. Neither are inherently “better.” Neither are inherently “right.” I believe voices want to convey something even if their expression, or the words themselves, seem divisive. Leaders are not necessarily parents or moral authorities but can think they are, because they have been given implicit responsibilities or titles.

How do you view criticism? Do you try to shut it down? Do you tolerate it? Do you know how to speak to it, so it feels heard, while still maintaining your center? How do you view leadership? Does it have an implicit authority that overrules a “voice?” How do you build a bridge to listening and collaboration when criticism and harmony live together?

 

Finding My Way Back to My Core… I’m Ready

There are unexpected and unwelcomed times when I find that I am “off.” What do I mean by “being off?” It is those times that I feel off balanced, feel like I am reactionary rather than thoughtful and somehow, for some unexplained (to me) reason, cannot get back to my center, my core. I find myself mucking around in emotional states and unable to get out of them.

I try to trick myself by putting myself into another emotional state but that doesn’t bring me back to my center. It merely creates more gunk. It is so weird. Eventually, I remember what I must do. I have to say, when I first discovered this, twenty plus years ago, I was stunned by its power. I return to what is at the center of my being, my values.

Values represent the core of who we are. They represent our essence and when we lose sight of, forget or deny our core, we lose our focus. When we are adrift from our center, we take on different characteristics and find ourselves in the world of emotions with their endless judgments, pushes and pulls a circus-like universe of joy, disappointment, criticism, comparison, etc. None of it forwards the core of who we are.

I have been swimming in my emotions for the past few weeks, and only now, by writing this, am I realizing that I have abandoned the guidance my values provide and the compass they are in my life. Okay, I am ready, wisdom, go ahead, rule!

Share with me how your values lead you in your life, how you recognize when you have deviated from them, and how returning to them brings you back to the center of who you are.

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.

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?