The Crux of the Matter
It is becoming undeniably evident that the world as it used to be a few decades, or even centuries ago, is many light-years from the world we face today. The world is becoming more conscious of issues that were otherwise swept under the carpet, and more and more of the current generation is looking to answer the question of why. Why being pertinent in their decision making and their finding more fulfilling endeavors. The companies being built are making more money, but equally so, they are being made accountable to the communities they serve, and the families that head these companies are coming under the spotlight at every turn.
And ultimately so, governance is becoming more than just systems and procedures. I once read an epitaph at a national archive; it aptly said, "We learn the past so that we may live better today and plan for the future." Three main things came to my mind,
1. Learning is always based on what has happened. The past seeks to be a benchmark and a point of reference, a fact we can be certain of. Even in law, precedence is set by learning of the past. Facts are proven based on the learnings of the past. It has to happen for us to learn.
2. Living today is based on the learnings of what has happened before, but it is very much based on experimenting and taking the good from the past and repeating it for better results or challenging the wrong and correcting it to make a better outcome a worthy possibility. But this moment is guaranteed. We cannot learn when we live, but we can experiment.
3. Tomorrow is not promised, but what we have learned and what we are doing is geared on the future being a more conscious one filled with more successes based on the corrected mistakes and the making sure we win again and again.
What does this mean in the space of Family Governance, especially in families of wealth and enterprise? It means that each generation has its part to play in the family's story, and each generation will choose differently. Some choices will be anchored by the success of the previous generations, some will be on the shoulders of the current generations, and some will be on wings of hope that is the future generations. Each having a piece of the puzzle or, more aptly put, a key that will unlock the next door.
What governance merely does is it allows each generation to have a measure of control when it comes to exploring what lies behind the door they have access to.
Communication is the most difficult of the tools that families have to use to guide the next generation from their seats. Imagine a game of charades. For those who may not know, Charades is a word guessing game. Originally, the game was a dramatic form of literary charades: a single person would act out each syllable of a word or phrase in order, followed by the whole phrase together, while the rest of the group guessed. A variant was to have teams who acted scenes out together while the others guessed. Today, it is common to require the actors to mime their hints without using any spoken words, which requires some conventional gestures. Puns and visual puns were and remain common.
Often communication in families is a game of charades more so because we have a minefield of emotions and relationships to protect and preserve as well as a hierarchy to observe. Mis-communication, lack of communication, and inadequate communication leads to conflicts and distorted dialogue. This is all unnecessary, but it is a truth we have all experienced. And like the telephone exchanges of old where so many wires had to be manually connected. Sometimes bad connections and wrong connections are made. How do we correct this? We must trace back to the beginning at times, and in other instances, we must start with where we are. And as in charades, every player has to give a clue and hope the other players understand. Where wealth and business is involved, this can be very risky and can cause tenseness, and a systems shut down with each player being misunderstood.
In all of this, the family must come up with a clear and acceptable way to ensure the rules and regulations it put in place for its interaction is acceptable and respected by all.
This is not always the case, especially in the world where the generations as they overlap, are vastly different, and their agendas and thought processes are worlds apart. Families may have to look at bridging the gap by
1. Identifying the different generations in the family
2. Identifying the similarities the generations have with each other. Finding commonality brings about unity.
3. Respecting the differences that each generation harbors.
4. Remembering the past that has molded the family and what the values hold from this past are and why they are still relevant.
5. Observing and acknowledging the challenges the family currently faces. As well as celebrating the successes they have managed to achieve.
6. Looking towards the future. What is the perfect vision of the future, and what are the opportunities that are being overlooked by this vision that need to be addressed.
7. Allow every generation the opportunity to champion their track. The ones who share the history and protect it so that the teachings strengthen the future. The ones running the moment and building today and the ones poised to lead the future and also step into the shoes of the previous two when their time comes.