1. Clearly define your objectives or the intent of each interaction. Before you engage in a conversation, write an e-mail or make a phone call to clarify the purpose. Conflict often occurs because of misunderstandings and unintended conversational tangents.
2. Seek first to understand the other person’s point of view. It is easier to grasp an opposing opinion when you start from a point of commonality. When two people stand side by side, they look in the same direction; from there, it is easier to explore what’s different about their perspectives.
3. There are many roads that lead into town; be open to alternative routes. Discussions are more productive—and fun—when we remember that there is no single right way to do anything. A simple example: There are many different ways to tie shoes.
4. Acknowledge that it takes complementary qualities to create a successful operation that can stand the test of time. Misunderstanding may be based on motivations, abilities, skills or vision, all of which may serve as the balancing characteristics necessary to build a business bigger than self.
5. Know that it is OK to disagree. If two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary. This little quip is often said, yet rarely understood.
Using the five keys to good communication, you should construct a consistent communication strategy. We recommend regular family meetings scheduled at a time that is convenient for most of the participants. Meet in a location that is not home turf for anyone.
Create and distribute an agenda in advance, encouraging each participant to offer modifications, suggestions and additional concerns. Establish ground rules; Robert’s Rules of Order may be a little stiff, but mutual respect, common courtesy and avoiding personal attacks may help keep everyone on task. Always conclude with some form of action and agreement for follow-up.
Regular family meetings can help each family member consider and then share their succession goals and aspirations.
These guidelines are part of the Legacy Project Workbook.