Communications should be easy, right? There are three simple elements: a sender, a message, and a receiver. We have the ability to quickly send texts, emails, phone messages, and even letters to get our message across. Much of the advice about good communication is basic and common sense — be clear, repeat the main point, keep it concise and simple. It’s easy!
Yet, when problems emerge in a family business, poor communication practices are often at the heart of the problem. In fact, Williams and Pressier have found that 60% of family business failure is due to a lack of communication and trust within the family around group decision-making and governance. How do we improve communications skills and bring better health and strength to our family and business?
Here are a few ideas to consider:
What Are Your Preferred Communications Styles?
We all have them. Are you more reserved or social? Do you prefer direct, fast-paced conversation or thoughtful, slow-paced dialogue? Are you more analytic or expressive when you hear new ideas? How do you respond when you are stressed? Even within close family systems, differences in communications styles can result in misunderstanding and conflict. At DVFBC, we use several assessment tools including StrengthsFinder and Interpersonal Leadership Styles to help family business leaders develop stronger communications skills, resulting in healthier families and organizations.
How Well Do You Listen?
Many times we focus so much on the “message” element that we forget that communication doesn’t flow in just one direction. Even if we are able to stop talking, it can be hard to focus on the speaker and set aside the distractions of our noisy world. Within family businesses, long-established family patterns can prevent us from really hearing the other person. Listening with empathy, patience, and an open mind can be difficult, but structured conversations can be used to practice and build the family skill set.
Be Whole-Hearted and Authentic
One of the best ways to build trust in communication is to be authentic and open-hearted. Approach difficult situations of conflict with calm and clarity about who you are. As you acknowledge your own strengths and weaknesses, you open your heart and mind to new ideas and outcomes. Others will quickly pick up your desire to be open and accountable and will respond in the same way. Within family businesses, the element of trust is especially important.
In conclusion, if you’d like to learn more about communications, get in touch with us. We have resources ready to help build families, enterprises and individuals that flourish!
By Bronwyn Histand, Education Consultant, Delaware Valley Family Business Center