Home (from the office) for the holidays...
- Set a Timer: The Johnsons had a mother and sister who each lead their own branch of the business, and with so little time to see each other, family dinners were often one of the only opportunities they had to meet face-to-face. When meals eventually turned into work meetings at the expense of other family members, the mother came up with a solution: they would be allowed 15 minutes of business discussion at the start of dinner, and then they had to drop it. The mom knew that when her partner asked “so how about the MN Twins?” she knew it was time to turn away from her daughter and engage others in non-work-related conversation.
- “No company talk at the table”: The Harriet family all worked in different parts their business, and to be honest, they didn’t mind talking shop. With so many different areas covered, getting together gave them a chance to all see how the other parts of the company were doing, catch up on each others’ projects, and learn more about the business. But they also knew that this couldn’t be the only topic of discussion, so they banned it from the dinner table. The business was fair game when they were noshing before dinner or finishing the night with a round of cocktails, but they all knew that the minute they sat down to eat, this was the time to catch up about their lives outside the office.
- Talk to someone “new”: The McGregors had a family with only a few members in the business, and this often led to them cloistering and ignoring other family members during family get-togethers. Like a teacher breaking up a middle school clique, they adopted a “sit at different tables” approach, making a conscious effort to spend time talking with family members unrelated to the business so they could integrate with the entire group.
There are, of course, many other ways to help keep work talk away from family gatherings. Whether it’s proactively asking others about their lives, breaking out board games as a distraction, or even getting really into making a new recipe, all business families can and should find ways to strive to find moments of family bonding completely outside the business. For more about family rituals, look into The Soul of the Family Business by Tom Hubler. Through personal anecdotes, real-world case studies, useful tools and frameworks, and more, Hubler offers an in-depth look at how business families work to maintain healthy personal relationships. For all of this, pick up The Soul of the Family Business, available in hardcover form on Amazon.com, directly through Itasca Books, or at a bookstore near you. And of course, you can always contact Hubler for Business Families today to set up a free orientation meeting with Thomas Hubler, the expert on family business planning.