What is a Positive Culture? And how do we bring it about?

As we established in a previous article (see http://www.drdarryl.com/announcements/what-is-culture ), organisational or corporate culture is all about the values and practices shared by the group. It’s about “the way we do things around here.”

This is not something to be taken lightly.

As we saw from the Global Human Capital Trends survey in 2015 conducted by Deloitte which taken was across 3,300 business in 106 countries, the number one issue globally for businesses was “Culture and Engagement.”

“Organisations are recognising the need to focus on culture and dramatically improve employee engagement as they face a looming crisis in engagement and retention” (p 3).

Because companies and businesses are now “naked,” meaning that social media and internet access is now exposing exactly what is going on inside all these places, culture is becoming much more exposed and relevant. It always has been relevant, but it’s just that now everyone can see it, not just those who happen to be working inside it.

Of course, this means that the leadership hierarchy are suddenly interested in culture too. It’s not just their products or services that are exposed to public scrutiny, it is now also their culture.

What is a Positive Culture?

We talk about a positive culture, but what is it exactly?

Well, we all certainly know what it’s not simply because we’ve either heard about it or worse still, painfully experienced it. Typically, there are individuals whose egos run rampant (and they are often the leaders) and they are often self-centred or are authoritarian or dictatorial and who engage in sarcasm, put-downs, criticisms and who are demanding, unreasonable, blunt and rude.

If they are not openly abrupt, then perhaps they are more sinister engaging in laying blame, being inconsistent and then taking all the credit for any good work conducted.

Consequently, individuals around them survive by forming clichés, engaging in gossip, innuendo and may, in fact, get on-side with the bully or ego to form an alliance of sorts in order to prevent themselves being knifed. The general atmosphere is tense, negative, oppressive and destructive. Productivity falls and morale is poor indeed and individual staff members are only concerned about watching their back, keeping their heads down and just trying to survive. How on earth the business actually gets done is a mystery.

On the other hand, a positive culture is one where the leadership is generally open, genuine and transparent where the intent is to be supportive and nurturing to allow individuals to feel free to make comment and have discussions where contributions are welcomed and where professional and personal development is encouraged. A positive culture is one that tends to be flexible to change and therefore adapts to meet the needs of its members in a dynamic and constantly changing world. With the combined energy of all its members, a positive culture can actively pursue the challenges of the future as well as make improved profit and increase productivity.

How do you create a positive culture?

Slowly.  As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is culture.

Culture change in my experience is somewhere around a 2 to 5 year program. That is of course, if the CEO or MD or leadership doesn’t change mid-stream and the company has to start all over again. What a waste. But we see it all the time. And does that blow culture out of the water? — you bet it does.

Irrespective, there are some critical steps to bringing about a positive culture.

1. Authentic Leadership

You may well have heard the saying that “The fish rots from the head.” Apparently, this proverb dates back to 1674 when it appeared in a treatise called “An Account of the Voyage to New England.” The proverb is based on the fact that fish do begin to spoil at the head first. Hence, as a figure of speech, any problem or issue in an organisation (including culture), can be traced back to the boss.

Now when it comes to culture, a colleague of mine reports that up to 60% of a company or organisation’s culture is determined by the leadership[1]

So, rotten or positive, the leadership is a critical factor in any organisation. Leaders therefore who are persons of integrity and who are regarded as persons of character are having a significant impact on any business. This means that they walk the talk, they practice what they preach, their actions speak louder than their words, they do what they say they are going to do and they follow up. As Dr Stephen Covey has said, “Credibility is the foundation of leadership. If we don’t believe in the messenger, we won’t believe the message.”

They are also open and honest in their communications. Kouzes and Poser[2] researched over two decades and across six continents and asked the key question “What values (personal traits or characteristics) do you look for and admire in your leader?” Respondents identified 225 different values, traits and characteristics. From 1987 through to 2002, the number one characteristic most admired characteristic was “honest;” consistently, 83% to 88% of people endorsed it as the foremost characteristic. Says something doesn’t it.

2. Clear Set of Values

Values are like lighthouses. They show the way. They guide the path. They provide the boundaries about what is permitted and what isn’t.

So what kind of values do companies adopt as being lighthouses? For example, they might include, “Excellence” (Striving for operational excellence and mastery), “Relentless” (We’re driven, motivated and dynamic), “Passionate” (We work with great people and together we’re playing to win), and “Authentic” (We’re the real deal – honest, genuine and respectful).

These values however, just don’t sit on a wall in the reception area or on a banner in the staff room. Importantly, there are two further steps for values.

Firstly, they must be translated into behaviours that everyone can see and observe. This makes them real and clearly draws the line in the sand as it were. Such behaviours are easily identified by people and not open to individual interpretation. They are clear and concise.  They can be measured. They can be witnessed and observed.

For instance, being authentic in a company could mean the following:

  • Frank and respectful conversations – honest in self-disclosure and owning up
  • Taking responsibility and owning up for behaviour and actions
  • Making decisions that are in the interests of the team and not self
  • Being consistent
  • Not putting off or missing opportunities
  • Having the courage to speak and act and not always taking the easy route
  • Do what you say, be reliable and follow up
  • Support each other and watch each other’s back

On the other hand, being the opposite and inauthentic could mean:

  • Keeping things to themselves
  • Laying blame, criticising, fault-finding, gossiping
  • Delaying or avoiding frank conversations with the right people
  • Acting with bias or with an agenda
  • Not following through
  • Being inconsistent
  • Being self-centred and not collaborative
  • Not taking feedback or ignoring feedback
  • Formation of silos, clichés and favourites

Secondly, these values and their associated behaviours need to be constantly reinforced right from the beginning with recruitment and staff induction processes. They need to be upheld in various meetings as well as in terms of the individual’s KPI’s and their staff appraisals. It is not good enough for a company or business to advertise their values in a blaze of colour and ceremony and then simply forget about the continual implementation and integration of those values.

Failure to effectively implement and embed the values in the organisation means that it blatantly sends a message that it’s all talk and no real action. I’ve certainly heard staff refer to such companies, and the head office in particular, as “bullshit castle.” Doesn’t do much for morale does it?

3. Recruit Well & Induct Well

I remember someone once telling me that it is easier to recruit “nice” people rather than trying to train “niceness.” In fact, I’d go further and assert that “niceness” can’t be taught. Yes, if individuals are keen to improve and grow, it is always probable that they can alter their attitude and behaviour and become “nicer.”

However, if people aren’t nice in the first place, then don’t expect that they are going to take your cue and your advice and suddenly become less “high maintenance,” less difficult and less self-centred.

Of course, individuals are always on their best behaviour at the selection interview, so referee reports are vital in this regard (although I’ve know some previous employers to lie, for various reasons), but there is also the probation period for three or six months to allow you to take a closer look at them and how they interact.

If they happen to slip through this net, then unfortunately, we have to performance their behaviour and have weekly conversations until they either change or leave. However, clear sets of behaviours makes these conversations easier.

Remember, that one rotten apple will spoil the barrel. Make no mistake about it.

Once the individual has been recruited, it’s critical to follow-up what has been said in the interview with a strong induction process that elaborates on the culture as well as the values and behaviours being espoused. There needs to be a clear message about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable and how culture is very much the lifeblood of the organisation and that detours will not be tolerated.

4. Reward and Recognition

I remember reading in a doctor’s surgery years ago an article titled “The Power of Praise.”  It doesn’t really matter whether we are talking about child rearing, coaching a sports team, leading a band of volunteers, or running a company, a basic human need according to the psychologist William James is that of recognition; “The deepest human desire is to be appreciated.”

 If we want good behaviour to continue, we need to reward it. Basic, but simple. But it isn’t it interesting how so often we forget the basics?

There are a number of ways that I have seen businesses reward the upholding of the values and behaviours that they espouse to be critical within their culture.

For example, one company I visited has a wall with a large screen mounted in the middle showing various photos of staff dinners, socials and get-togethers, but more importantly, staff place large coloured post-its on the wall and around the screen to highlight any positive behaviours and actions that they have experienced by other staff. At the end of the month, the senior leadership team collect all of these post-its and select the employee of the month who is deemed to have upheld the company culture. They are rewarded with vouchers, movie tickets, dinners and the like. There are other staff who are highly commended and who receive other rewards. Interestingly, probably the most powerful reward is the actual certificate that staff receive that they can proudly display around their desk or work area.

Another company I’m involved with and that I consult to, ask staff to fill out a sheet highlighting the nature of the positive behaviour or good deed that has been done and that is then sent to the HR manager so that similar awards can be given out at the end of the month at a staff social drinks and gathering.

This kind of continuing activity sends a clear and constant message that a positive culture is valued.

By the way, be prepared to ensure that these values and the accompanying behaviours are also part of the Performance Appraisal system for the company. Yes, you might rate staff on their job performance, but you must also rate them on their “cultural performance.”

5. A Training Academy

All of your staff have had training in their respective technical skills and knowledge typically called “hard skills,” whether that be formally at a university, training college or via a combination of in-service, on-the-job or apprenticeship training. They excel at being accountants, engineers, designers, carpenters, maintenance men or women, receptionists, sales persons, human resource officers and so on.

However, these hard skills though, don’t make for a positive culture.

Instead, it’s the so-called “soft skills” that help create a positive culture. Courses on listening skills, the art of communication, emotional intelligence, how to deal with conflict, how to deal with difficult people, how to delegate, and how to be assertive are all courses that help produce a cultural change.

I find it ironical that we spend so much time training people in the hard skills, but we completely disregard the soft skills (which are actually hard!).

Somehow, we’re all supposed to have great listening skills and high emotional intelligence. So where are we supposed to have gotten these skills exactly? If we didn’t get it from our parents and family life, where are we supposed to learn them?

Of course, some companies believe that it is not their responsibility to be training in these areas. Others say that there’s no point in training in soft skills because staff only end up leaving anyway.

What short-sightedness.

If you want a positive culture be prepared to train in it. Then hold people accountable.

Don’t make the mistake too of simply providing training and then somehow “hoping” that the training sticks! Who follows up on the training? Are there refresher courses? Is there a development plan for individuals which holds them accountable? Failure to follow up training is simply wasting the corporate’s dollar.

6. 360 Assessments

Is your leadership and management group prepared to be open to feedback? Remember that “feedback is the breakfast of champions.” There is nothing like feedback to the leadership group to assist them to grow and become more effective leaders who are bringing about a positive culture.

Are the leadership group prepared to be open and vulnerable? It says volumes about any organisation which is prepared to look at itself including it’s top management.

Not only is it about individual 360 assessments (perhaps on a 12 or 24 month rotational basis), but it is about the whole organisation having the courage to undertake climate surveys with all staff. How do staff overall see the company or business? Where are the areas for improvement? What do they need to keep doing? What do they need to stop doing?

In summary, there you have it.

However, one last thing. There needs to be a driver for this cultural change or indeed, if the culture is already present, then who is the watch-keeper who ensures that it all keeps on track?  Without a driver or a champion, the cultural shift will not happen or else will fall away.

[1] Dr John Wood, “Culture and Coaching,” presentation to the Australian Psychological Society, Interest Group on Coaching Psychology, 22 November, 2006

[2] J.M. Kouzes & B.Z. Posner (2002), “Leadership Challenge.” Jossey-Bass

Letting Go of Worry

I’ve often had people come into my office and describe themselves as a “worry wart.” On questioning, they also admit that both or one of their parents were the same. As they say, the apple never falls far from the tree!

However, there are no born worriers. People might think they are, but they’re not. As I’ve said to many people, I’ve never seen a baby born a worrier. Worry is something you learn.

However, worry is unreasonable for a couple of reasons.

First, worry exaggerates the problem. Have you ever noticed that if you start to worry about a future event coming up, the more you think about it, the bigger it gets?

Second, worry doesn’t work. I once heard someone argue that to worry about something you can’t change is useless. If you can’t change it what’s the point of worrying? Further, if you worry about something that you can, in fact, change, then that’s not smart. Simply just go and change it!

Your body wasn’t designed to handle worry. When people say, “I’m worried sick,” they’re probably telling the truth. Doctors typically say that the greater percentage of the physical ailments that patients present with are associated with mental health problems such as worry, anxiety, guilt and resentment.

As Proverbs 14:30 says, “A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body” (NLT).

Worry is unhelpful. Worry cannot change the past, and worry cannot control the future. All it does is mess up today. So, stay in the present.

As the Nigerian musician and author Babatunde Olatunji said:

Yesterday is history.

Tomorrow is a mystery.

And today? Today is a gift.

That’s why we call it the present.

Economic Recovery

Thanks Prof Blandy for some straight-forward common sense. Sadly though, common sense doesn’t seem to be that common any more.

The essence here is to understand that governments traditionally never “lead” the people. They simply wait until there is a momentum or a ground swell and then they tend to jump on board. Hence, they are not in a position to “lead” a jobs recovery or an economic turn-around.

However, what they can do is cut the red tape and bureaucracy and make it easier for both start-ups and established businesses to do business and then simply stand back and get out of the way to allow commercial enterprises to make it all happen.

Businesses are built by entrepreneurs and innovators willing to have a crack and those willing to persist and stay the course — something governments find difficult to do.

We have a wonderful example as to what can happen just across both waters; east to New Zealand and more recently, south to Tasmania which is now starting to leave SA behind. Just what more evidence do we need?

If success leaves clues, what’s so hard for the SA government to to replicate the NZ & Tas story and get out of the way?


It’s a “sin” most everyone has been guilty of at one time or another. Studying for examinations, project deadlines, losing weight; you name it, we have all put off doing something at some time.

We put doing something off because we don’t want to do it, or maybe we have a lot of things on our plate at the moment. Maybe we’re not interested. Maybe we’re just lazy, too. There are plenty of reasons why people procrastinate, but the most common reason is fear.

People are afraid of making a mistake or not getting it right or somehow failing along the way. If you are afraid that a particular task could possibly not turn out well, it’s easier to avoid working on it in order to avoid feeling the fear. The chances of failure are then eliminated.

There’s also the fear of success. You would think that wanting to succeed would actually propel a person to work, and work hard. On the contrary, to some people, success can be seen as a tradeoff for human relationships or a social life: if they start working on a project, and eventually succeed, this may lead them to doing more projects, which in turn would eventually put a damper on their social lives and relationships.

People also procrastinate because they want everything to be perfect. It’s no surprise that procrastination and perfectionism go hand in hand. Perfectionists are extremely insecure people. More than their expectation that everyone and everything around them be perfect, they expect themselves to be perfect all the time. Hence, they’d rather put off doing a project, than to start it and then see it not meet those high standards they set for themselves. It appears to be a mind thing. Procrastinators sometimes think that it is better to give a half-hearted effort and maintain the belief that they could have done an awesome job, than to give a full effort and risk criticism from other people. Procrastinating guarantees failure, but it helps perfectionists maintain their belief that they could have excelled if they had tried harder.

What these people need to realize is that no one pleases everyone all the time. No one EVER gets it right every single time. At best, we need to aim for 80-90% precision, because we are human, after all, and are bound to make mistakes, even accidentally. Regardless, even if we did get it 100% right in our own eyes, there would always be someone who would certainly see it as less than presentable and be critical about it!

How, then, can procrastination be avoided?

We need to know exactly why we procrastinate. Is it really because we’re lazy? Or is it any of the other reasons mentioned above?

How and when do we procrastinate? Do we do it when we have examinations, when we need to pay the bills, when we need to hit the gym? Do we suddenly feel physical pains that we didn’t feel ten minutes ago? Do we totally ignore the task we’re supposed to be doing, hoping it will go away? Do we do something else that we also deem important, in lieu of the immediate task at hand? Do we take longer breaks than necessary? Figuring out exactly when and how we procrastinate can help us stop the behavior. Too often, we don’t even realize that we are procrastinating—until it’s too late.

It’s important that we create an environment that’s conducive to working and completing the task we’re supposed to do. This means a place where there are no distractions (no internet or WiFi connection, for example).

Consider your peak times as well, meaning the time when your body and mind are at their optimum. Schedule your task within that time, when you are most alert and productive.

If the task seems insurmountable, break it down in little, doable parts. This makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. And the feeling of actually having accomplished something can get you pumped up for the next little, doable part.

Never hesitate to ask for help. This is where your family and friends come in, as you will need their support.

Give yourself a break. You can’t expect to kick the habit of procrastination overnight. The habit developed and evolved over time, undoing it would also take time. Congratulate and reward yourself for every little hump you’ve managed to overcome, but don’t beat yourself up too much if you fell off the wagon. Just get up and pick up where you left off.

Near Death or Out-Of-Body Experiences

For decades now, we have heard and read about individuals who have had what we call “near-death” or “out-of-body” experiences. In other words, they have theoretically died.  This has generally been associated with a tragedy or crisis such as a heart attack, a motor accident, events unfolding badly in the operating theatre, and work-related accidents.

Typically, what these individuals report is that they floated up above their bodies and they looked down on the scene below. If it happens to be a motor vehicle accident, they look down on the carnage and wreckage, the paramedics working feverishly on their body, red and blue lights flashing, perhaps individuals nearby crying or hysterical, perhaps a fire engine in attendance as well as certainly the police. If it happens to be an operating theatre, they often report floating to the ceiling of the theatre itself above the bright lights and look down at the doctors and nurses again working feverishly on their body lying on the operating table where there is a sense of urgency, haste and intensity.

Often these individuals report being drawn toward a white light or passing through a tunnel of light, but who, for various reasons decide not to proceed into the light or down the tunnel, and instead, return back into their bodies. Sometimes, these people feel that they cannot leave their loved ones behind especially if there are children or they feel that their work is not yet completed. Irrespective, they return back into their bodies.

Well, science now seems to be catching up with the pile of anecdotal evidence that has been well documented over decades.

In a newspaper report just out of London (4th November 2012), the following was reported:

“A near-death experience occurs when quantum substances that form the soul leave the nervous system and enter the universe at large, according to a theory proposed by two eminent scientists. According to this idea, consciousness is a program for a quantum computer in the brain that can persist in the universe even after death, explaining the perceptions of those who have near-death experiences. Dr Stuart Hameroff, professor emeritus at the Department of Anaesthesiology and Psychology, and the director of the Centre of Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona, have advanced the quasi-religious theory” (The Sunday Mail, 4.11.12, Page 27).

Needless to say, those who have had such near-death experiences probably don’t need an academic to provide a framework or theory for what happened to them because their experiences were real. Very real.

In many cases, this kind of near-death experience is life changing to such an extent that the individual’s life is transformed where they set new priorities and goals that are much more altruistic and purpose-driven than self-centered and materialistic. Their lives turn around.

It was about 10 years ago now that I vividly recall a new client coming into my office hobbling on two walking sticks. He was a male in his early 50s. He sat down and began to recite his story. He had largely been a manual worker including a forklift driver and he said that on this particular day, he was walking alongside a factory wall against which were piled high scores of wooden pallets. For reasons that are not clear, the pile high of pallets fell on him and he was crashed underneath. He said that his workmates frantically tried to pull off all the palates and release him and an ambulance rushed him to the Royal Adelaide Hospital. He said that he recalled apparently “dying” several times as the ambulance weaved its way through traffic up North Terrace towards the hospital. He said he recalled looking down on the ambulance as he floated above it and he saw it on the wrong side of the road charging along North Terrace. He said it was weaving in and out of the traffic and often on the wrong side of the road. Once he arrived at the hospital, he said he was placed into an emergency bay where the staff continued to work on him and he said several times he again apparently “died” because he said he floated to the ceiling of the emergency ward and he said he could see into all the other cubicles where patients were receiving emergency help. He stated though, that in one particular cubicle, there was a little boy who was in grave distress. My client of course, lived and went back to the hospital to receive outpatient medical care for well over a 12 month period. He said that on one of his visits he found it necessary to go back into the emergency ward and locate the key nurse who attended to him on that occasion. He asked her what had happened to the little boy that he had seen in the third cubicle down from where he was located. She was utterly surprised he said. “How did you know that?” she enquired. He simply told her that he had floated to the ceiling and he could see the little boy being worked on. She was not quite sure how to respond, but she did assure him that little boy recovered.

I’ve also had other clients who have reported similar, but different experiences.

There is a sense though, that none of this comes as a surprise to those of us who have spiritual beliefs and in this case, being a Christian means that there is a belief of a heavenly afterlife. This life is not just about bricks and mortar, dollars and cents.

As a psychologist, my experiences tell me that we are much more than mind and body and indeed, we have a soul. In the same way that it is important to exercise own mind and definitely to exercise our bodies, it is imperative that we exercise our souls. For some of us that means prayer and meditation, for others it might mean other things.

Yes, science may now have a theory for what happens beyond this life, but various religious groups will tell you that this has been a truism since life began.

The real issue therefore, is if there is something beyond the white light or the bright tunnel, are we prepared for it and are we exercising our spiritual muscles because as far as I’m aware, except for a rare few who have near-death experiences, we don’t get a second chance at this current life.

From The Customer’s Viewpoint?

Note the words below; they are a sobering reminder of the importance of what our customers expect of us and how excellent customer service means greater profits.

“I’m the customer. I have lots of money to spend, and I’m going to spend it with someone.  I’m going to spend it on cars and clothes, services and symphonies, food and fun, books and burgers, groceries and gadgets, baubles, bangles, and beads.”

“Treat me right and make me happy and I’ll gladly spend my money with you.  Yes, I’ll see to it that you are well paid, and that your firm prospers.”

“Take me for granted, or treat me rudely, and I’ll take my money elsewhere.  Show me you don’t care and I’ll quietly seek out someone who does care about me and who makes me feel important.  You may never miss me, but I’ll still be history.”

“I’m discovering that I have lots of choices where I can buy my clothes, get my sunglasses, buy my books, eat lunch or dinner, have my teeth examined, get my car serviced, buy new shoes, and have my health-care needs met.”

“Hey, all I want is for the people where I go or call to:

  • Greet me and make me feel comfortable
  • Value me and let me know that they think I’m important
  • Ask how they can help me
  • Help me get what I want or solve my problem
  • Invite me back and let me know that I’m welcome there anytime.”

“This is all I want. That’s it. Just notice me and make me feel important. Try to understand me and conscientiously attempt to solve my problems.”

“That’s all I want!”

“You take care of me and I’ll take care of you.  I’ll spend my hard-earned money with you. I’ll encourage my friends to come to see you.  I’ll willingly come back when I need more of what you sell or offer.”

“I’ll help you enjoy more money, more success, and greater career satisfaction.”

“All you’ve got to do is satisfy me!”

Taken from “Hey, I’m the Customer” by Ron Willingham, 1992

Provided below are some very compelling words from a very famous person – sure the language might be out-dated, but the message is clear.

“A customer is the most important person on our premises.

He is not dependent on us,

We are dependent on him.

He is not an interruption to our work,

He is the purpose of it.

He is not an outsider on our business,

He is part of it.

We are not doing him a favour by serving him,

 He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

quote from Mahatma Gandhi

What would happen to our business, our community, our nation, our world if these sentiments were actually acted upon and implemented?  How would our business be different? 

How would it impact on our customers? 

How would our world be different? 

Family Charter

What is a Family Charter?

A Family Charter (sometimes referred to as a family constitution) is a document that is a key element in setting out the relationship between the business and the family.   A Charter therefore sets up the parameters and boundaries so that it’s clear how to operate and move.  Otherwise, it can become personal with the potential for conflict.  A Charter is implemented therefore to head off any potential conflict and to ensure harmonious relations.

In a nutshell, it is the rules and policies of the family or a kind of written contract between family members. It is based initially on the family values and what the family stands for.

As is generally the case though, the whole process behind its development is often more important than the actual document itself and this certainly seems to apply to the Family Charter.

When to use

A Family Charter is often not required until a business reaches the 2nd or 3rd generation. However, experience shows that it can be very important to introduce the concept when transition from 1st to 2nd generation is being contemplated.

General Hint

Developing this charter is a lengthy process that is often initiated at a family retreat and then updated at regular intervals. The family need to set aside time (eg., a full day) and be prepared to do so at regular intervals (eg., quarterly or every six months) until the Charter is finalized. Of course, it is not a static document and needs to be updated as necessary.

Why have a Family Charter?

The Charter provides a process that is important for the family to go through. In other words, the family has to communicate with each other, listen to each other and then finally agree.

It provides clarity and certainty where the family is clear on what the rules and policies are in the same way that the business ought to be clear about its procedures and policies.

It is a powerful tool in managing people’s expectations and because it provides some certainty, it also provides for proper planning.

As hinted at above too, it is a very effective means of resolving disputes and any conflicts.

The cost-benefit ratio is also clear in that the cost involved in meeting and setting up a Family Charter is miniscule in comparison to a legal dispute with the associated emotional turmoil, stress and damage.

What are the Steps in Building a Family Charter?

  1. The Foundation – A family business is a complex structure as the values important to a family (eg., love, caring) are not the same as those that apply in the business world (eg., profit, growth).  This often leads to confusion, tension and disruption when sensitive issues arise.  Are these issues to be dealt with under the family’s value system or those of the business world?
  2. Family Values – Each family has a set of values that are important to it. These will include concepts such as love, support for family members, respect, honesty, integrity.
  1. Business values – Though there will be some overlap, these will also include values such as a commitment to growth, continuous improvement, excellence, customer focus.
  2. Family Business – Values and Vision – These two often conflicting value sets need to be reconciled into a set of values applicable to the family business as an entity in its own right.  These values help the family to identify a uniting common vision for the family business.  It is also useful to distil these into a mission statement for the family in business.
  1. Structures – These are then developed to govern the Business System and the Family System and to control the interaction between them both.  There needs to be an effective functioning Board for the business and a Family Council which manages family issues that impact on the business.  The Charter becomes the governing document for the Family Council.

What is in The Family Charter?

Typically the Family Charter will contain a number of key elements including the following:

  • Statement of family values, mission and objectives
  • History, background, overview of the family business
  • Policies and codes of practice on issues such as –
    • Ownership (Who are the business owners?)
    • Governance (How does the family interact with the business? How is the Family Council run and who chairs it?)
    • Employment (Who works in the business? Is it based on competency or just being a family member? Do the children need to have outside experience first and if so, for how long?  Do the children need a Trade or University qualification?)
    • Compensation
    • Career Opportunities
    • Leadership
    • Succession
    • Communication and Conflict Management
  • Rules for updating and reviewing the Family Charter

How does the Family Charter Continue Over Time?

 Having developed the Charter, there are two protective mechanisms that are required to ensure that it lasts.

  • Integrate – The document itself will have little impact unless its message and the principles that underlie it are imbued into the hearts and minds of all family members.  How will you ensure this happens?  How will children and in-laws be introduced to the family’s values, principles and codes of practice?
  • Review – Invariably, not all issues will be covered in the first draft. More importantly, constant change within the family, the business environment, and society mean that constant regular update is required.  What process will you establish to ensure that the Charter remains current?

With these support structures in place the content contained in the Charter will be secured and it will become a living document that adapts to the needs of the family in business over time.

What are the Barriers to having a Family Charter?

Some families (and individuals) push against the notion of having a Family Charter. What would be some of the reasons for such, given that the Charter makes for sound business sense?

Take for example some of the following reasons:

  • Lack of Knowledge: Not being aware that there is such a thing as a Family Charter. Some business people are certainly aware of the need for clear procedures, operations and policies and clear governance, but it has never occurred to them that such could also be done within the family context.
  • Feeling insecure or inadequate: If the business owner doubts their ability to manage something like a Charter or indeed, if there is a fear of somehow losing control, then this may be a barrier to implementing a Charter.
  • Feeling of Opening Pandora’s box: Again, not being in control of what might be discussed or brought up and that individuals in the family might also talk about their feelings or emotions is enough to put some business owners off trying to undertake a Charter.

Irrespective, the real question to ask oneself is this: What might be the implications of NOT putting together a Family Charter?  What could be the possible consequences of not having a Charter with clear family rules and policies?  In essence, what could you lose by not having one?

Standards of Behaviour are Slipping

It’s slow. It’s subtle. We are on a behavioural slide in our society. But you probably haven’t noticed it because it’s been gradual. But it’s sinister….

The reporter from “The Advertiser” focused on swearing, but the same applies to all sorts of poor or inappropriate behaviour.

Of course, some would argue that it’s only a small thing, but lots of small things turn into big things. Some would argue that it really doesn’t matter because it’s no big deal, but lots of small changes can result in a major shift in direction. Others would argue that we’re old fashioned worrying about behavioural shifts – tell that to the young man or woman now addicted to drugs who thought that one puff was alright.

View the Article – Standards are Slipping