Today, The Delfi Group wants to step back slightly from our normal blog focused primarily on business issues – and turn our camera lens to the most important organization in most of our lives – our family.
Spring is an exceptionally busy time of the year as we try our best to shake off the sleepiness of winter. Family life, especially at this time of the year, is often best described with the adjectives stressed, frantic, scattered, chaotic, as we struggle with too much to do, too little time, yard work, cottage work, garden work , school responsibilities, sports schedules, committee meetings and the stresses of making vacation plans.
As consultants, it is easy to conclude that if our clients ran their businesses the way that we often run our families, then their business lives would be painful and short. So let’s look at what we can learn and apply from successful business leadership that might restore some needed sense of sanity and clarity for the family that we live in.
Successful businesses and their leaders are able to answer and act upon three critical questions:
(i) What makes this business unique, that differentiates us from other businesses in our area of product or service ?
(ii) What is the single most important priority for our business over the next 4-6 months – the ‘rallying cry’ around which we must all focus our efforts?
(iii) How do we talk about and use the answers to these two question to guide our actions and decisions as we move through our daily routines?
Important questions in business – but even more important questions for families who want to reduce stress, tension, and frantic activity and replace these with an increased sense of sanity and clarity. And if employees are the audience in front of which business leaders perform – then at home our audience is even more as it includes children and others that we love above all else in the world.
Question 1: What makes our family unique and different from others in our community? Our challenge is to identify two or three core value statements that we hold to be critical as family – things about our family that would be hard to hide from others, even if we wanted to. These are often more visible to others around us – so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Try real hard to keep your list at 2 or 3 values that really set your family apart from others. These statements should then lead into our core strategies as a family – actions that we try to follow every day that help us to keep these values real and alive in our family. This answer to our question establishes the context for our family – the information and framework that we need to make the most informed and intentional decisions as we lead our lives together.
Question 2: What is our family’s top priority or ‘rallying cry’ right now and for the next few months? Another way to ask this question would be: “If we accomplish just one thing as a family before the end of summer, it would be….?” This is not a ‘to-do’ list – it is one item that is the most critical for the family that all can buy into. It must be seen as achievable with effort – a bit of a stretch in the right direction – and not something that you can wrap up in a week or two. Once this ‘rallying cry’ is agreed to, then mentally move ahead to the end of the identified time period and imagine complete success on this desired outcome. Make a short list of the 5 or 6 key things that you had to complete or resolve in order to reach this point of success. This is your family path to achieving your critical priority, or the component objectives that should be guiding much of your family behaviors over these next 4 months. After all – you said it was your most important priority!
Question 3. How will our family talk about and use the answers to the first two questions ? Another shorter version of this question is “So what – now what?” We now have an understanding of our family context (core values and strategies) and our top priority, including the path to its success. Now it is time to deliver on actions required – to meet on a weekly basis as a family to check on our progress, identify pending decisions, and to monitor that we are on the best path forward to get to the desired outcome, within the family context that we have identified and agreed to. A small whiteboard or bulletin board is the best way to track progress and identify areas of success as well as areas where more attention is required. Having it somewhere close to the family calendar is also helpful when trying to assert more control over the multitude of daily decisions related to scheduling and activities. Ultimately, this is where the decisions are made that can make our lives frantic and stressful.
As business consultants, we work with our clients to answer the above three questions, document, and then create a tracking mechanism and scorecard to guide behaviors. Businesses that succeed are able to answer and manage their affairs and activities with these questions in mind. Inevitably, businesses that are not able to do so flounder and fail.
There is a lesson here for all of us and how we manage within our families. We can all make improvements in the organization that matters most. The audience is watching – and our loved ones learn by watching what we do, not always by listening to what we say. Best of success with tackling these three questions at home .