July 17, 2017

The Family Systems Practice work with advisors in family business/office

Emotional process plays itself out in a family business through the relationships between family members working in and not working in the business, between other nonfamily employees, and with clients or customers. It is a very subtle process that operates out of conscious awareness.

Assisting consultants to maximising relational systems effectiveness in family businesses/offices

“Keeping a family business alive is perhaps the toughest management job on earth. Only 13% of successful family businesses last through the third generation. Less than one third survive into the second generation.” *

Jenny brown and the consultants’ at the Family Systems Practice are highly trained relationship counselling professionals.  They are psychologists and family systems specialists with substantial post graduate training in family dynamics and psychological processes. From this platform we are able to assist coaches to family businesses to better assist their clients in the arena of flourishing family relationships.

We work from an approach that understands and attends to the complexities of families and organisations. It’s possible to craft an elegant business solution to challenging family business problems but often the keys to implementation are locked up in the complex family and non-family employee relational patterns. Our consulting approach is designed to help coaches to assist their family office clients to:

Free up the energy that gets drained in the family relational stressors so that the business can best manage its financial legacy and/or deliver its product to the marketplace.

We assist coaches/consultants to apply systems principles to the core issues that family businesses face on a relational level including:

  • Succession Planning,
  • Entry & Exit Strategy,
  • Incorporating Non-Family Executives,
  • and Conflict Management.

These processes are understood to have unique challenges when they are overlaid with the experience of being a family.

When a number of family members are involved in the family business, relationships are naturally intense, because they reflect not only the current way they work individually and together but also their life-long experience as a family.

What’s Unique about this systems approach to assisting family businesses?

  • Assists to understand the complexity of relationship patterns and their impact on workplace efficiency – especially the particular challenges of the family that also operates as a business. We help clients to disentangle family relationship issues from business effectiveness issues.
  • Identifies and assists in resolving stuck points in relational problems at work. A key to this is seeing relational triangles where problems escape their origins and emerge in other parts of the system.
  • Understanding how relational stress impacts an individual’s functioning, both behaviourally and physiologically. A systems approach assists individuals to be aware and to manage their reactively driven behaviours that can reduce their effectiveness and overall health.

The efficacy of the leadership and the operational quality of the legacy that a family leader leaves behind depends on the flow of relationships among significant family members working in the business.

As well as 1 on 1 coaching for family business consultants we can tailor more in depth training for consultants:

Becoming Family Systems Savvy

  • Small groups of 3 or max 4 participants.
  • Meeting 10 monthly online 90 min group discussions.
  • Focus on reading and discussing select chapters from J Brown Book on the family system through the life cycle.
  • Plus specific reading/case examples applying to consulting with family business/offices utilising a systems lens.
  • Sessions will also involve each consultant in using their own 3-4 generational family diagram as a research pilot project to learn about a systems lens. This is NOT therapy but a way of gathering data that give clues to the patterns of functioning in the family. This is the fastest way to learn the concepts so that they can be utilised in consulting with families. Example papers of family of origin research will also be provided

‘A person who puts effort into being responsible in their family is likely to be more mature in their balance at work. They are less likely to overwork and prop up others. They don’t get in the way of others carving out their own space in which to work efficiently and creatively. They think as much about their role as a spouse and a parent as they do about their work role; and their contribution is equally valued both at work and at home.’ P 141 J Brown Growing Yourself Up

Family systems theory was developed by Dr Murray Bowen from his research over a number of decades from the 1950s to the 1980s.  Bowen himself, while a psychiatrist and scientist, grew up in a family business that still exists today.  His natural systems theory is unique in seeing the emotional and behavioural interconnectedness of all people who work and relate together. Bowen theory tackles challenges by addressing the way people unknowingly influence each other.  It goes beyond simple cause and effect thinking or seeing the problems as residing in an individual.  Change efforts focus on understanding the to and fro of the emotional space in between people.  People are not blamed in this approach but are assisted to see how they may unwittingly be part of relational patterns that undermine their own or another’s effectiveness.  A key component of a systems approach is to locate and as sit people to operate outside of relationship triangles.  This is where tension between two parties in relieved by involving a third to be a detour or to take sides.  The ability to see this subtle process can unlock seemingly intractable difficulties in an organisation by working out how the original issue has escaped from its source relationship.

Our approach is guided by the excellent work that Bowen systems theory consultants have done in the USA for some decades to understand organisations and in particular family based organisations.  The work of these consultants has shown how family businesses that have stalled in productivity, because of the energy that is enveloped by relationship sensitivities, have been able to find a new way of ensuring survival, productivity and mutual respect amongst employees and owners.

*1= Chaponniere, C., & Ward, J. (2003) Family business through Darwin’s theory of species