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Sep 3, 2019

Families come to our Center for many reasons including succession, transition, estate planning, wanting to communicate better and the list goes on. Often, as the Stewardship Development process continues we end up doing the bulk of the work with sibling and other groups. Why? Long story short—it works.

We’ve seen from our 30-plus years of work with families who own businesses that those who create success do so after creating cohesive family groups that range from family councils, family assemblies, sibling teams, cousin consortiums and all of the above. We have taken our interdisciplinary approach and combined the latest research in making and sustaining change so that our families can be self-sufficient. How do the families we work with achieve those results? By working on effective group communication.

The Harvard Business Review wrote: “Why Self Improvement Should be a Group Activity,” which agrees with our tried-and-true methodology. The article suggests the following five areas to make change in life and business. Here is our family business take on these tips:

  1. Assessment – Objectively knowing your starting point will help you know what may need to change. This can be determined informally via poll or through more formal mechanisms such as a 360-degree or descriptive/predictive assessment. We have used valid and reliable assessment with families over the years to help them bridge the gap from present state to desired state.
  2. Create accountability for change – Accountability is important for making change. Accountability is relational and a partnering between you and whomever you choose to be accountable with. We think of accountability as front loaded and about helping you to get where you’re going, not so much of one partner “calling out” the other.
  3. Join others on similar journeys – Many other family business members may be having the same struggles and be on the same journey as you. For instance, being a prepared heir and steward is on the mind of many next generation family business members. You can create a similar journey in your sibling group or through organizations at your local family business center, Vistage, or YPO.
  4. Create a safe space in which to practice – Creating change or a new habit takes time. Research says at least 45% of waking behavior is habitual. You are going to make mistakes. Being able to have a space where you can experiment or try new things without fear of reprisal is essential. When you’re on this journey with your sibling team, your sibling family meetings and/or Stewardship Development meetings are often the safest space with ground rules and a code of conduct to ensure such structure and safety.
  5. Family coach – Although not a requirement for development as a group or individual, it may be helpful to bring in a family coach. A family coach can model and help your family create the safe space in which to practice as well as administer assessments. He or she can provide insight that you and those in your sibling group might not see.

If you’re wondering why making these changes with your family may work better than without them? One study explains that personal transformation cannot happen apart from social transformation. Who better to bring in than those who love you and with whom you have a family legacy in common?

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Natalie M. McVeigh

Natalie McVeigh is a Managing Director in the Center for Individual and Organizational Performance and the Center for Family Business Excellence Group within the Private Client Services Group and has more than 10 years of experience as a consultant and coach.

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