Family business

I’ve just spent 5 days travelling to and from a family wedding – last cab off the rank. (Last niece to get married, born the month I left South Africa, many moons ago.) Being with family reminded me about what families and businesses have in common. Not ‘family businesses’ – all organisations across the whole private/public/not-for-profit spectrum. These are those dynamics that play out at work and that occur around the dinner table at home, too.

At your next work meeting, notice the following then observe similar dynamics at your next family get together.  (As we approach the festive season, there’ll be plenty of those!)

Typical (and habitual) behaviours include:

  • Making a mark/dominating proceedings
  • Basking in the reflected glory of others
  • Putting others first and themselves second, then realising they are losing out (and reacting in a number of ways)
  • Getting excited over little things
  • Making jokes to relieve tension
  • Telling entertaining stories
  • Speaking their mind without much thought about the consequences
  • Circling around an elephant in the room – changing the subject if it’s raised
  • Keeping the peace at all costs
  • Saying one thing but actually meaning another
  • Enjoying a lively (heated?) debate and if there isn’t one, creating one
  • Doing their own thing – whatever that is, it is what everyone knows them for so they prefer not to disappoint.

Coincidence that this occurs at both home and work? Of course not. Put people in groups and behaviours are extremely consistent and predictable. Given that there are personality patterns and group behaviour patterns, these are bound to recur where you find people in groups. What many don’t realise is that people can react to a trigger at work, responding to an internalised family dialogue that neither party is aware of. This can be confusing for onlookers.

I was reminded of another common element when running a workshop yesterday. A participant said: “The last time we brainstormed to create new ideas as a business was when we were under an imminent threat.”  This is true of families, too.  In times of crisis, people demonstrate qualities not usually on display. (But maybe they could be.)

When the chips are down, you realise what is most important…that:

  • You’re in this together
  • You have strength in numbers,  relieving stress during tough times
  • You can create something special and significant as a tight unit
  • When you keep focused on what counts most, you can achieve more as a collective.

For success, satisfaction, happiness……whatever you aspire to, align priorities when together. If you do this, then the whole really is more than the sum of the parts.


About Cherri Holland

Fascinated with business, brains and how to use the brains on the payroll to make business buzz.
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