Family Meetings - the Importance of Having Structured Time for Communication
Listen to BFF Co-Chair Nan-b de Gaspé Beaubien explain why family meetings are so important to entrepreneurial families and how all family members can invest in improving their communication skills. The more time a family spends in organized time together, the better off that family will be, and the more effective their communication will be.
I wish I had known to start a family meeting before we did, I would have started them as soon as I got married because I realized that often times a couple do not talk about a lot of the issues that they should talk about before they have children. We started family meetings when our eldest was ten years old and the only reason that I did was because I was part of a family business, otherwise I do not think I would have taken the time that it takes to do that.
Because we had not had family meetings, I grew up seeing misunderstandings amongst the five children. We were very close but yet there were misunderstandings and there was no place to get together to put that out on the table, and to clear it up before it became bigger, so little issues become bigger and bigger if we do not talk about them.
Also being part of a family business we had to learn how to negotiate differences of opinion, some people would say, you know, conflict. I think it is really differences of opinion that grows into conflict, major conflict when we cannot talk about it. So once again it is being able to talk about it and it is having the tools to be able to talk about it.
I said to the children “Ok, you know what, we are pretty good at discussing, but we could be a lot better because sometimes we cut each other off, and sometimes, we are all very passionate people, we get excited, we interrupt. Why do we not do some communication skills workshop?” And I remember my youngest son said, “Mom this is the craziest idea of all the ideas you have had and you have had a lot of crazy ideas.” He said, “I am going along with this but I am not sure that you have got it right this time.” We would do role playing between members of the family, have it recorded and then you would bring it back and you look at it. And you see the things that you do with each other, how you treat each other, your mannerisms, how your body language gives very important communication signals, even though the person does not realize that they are doing it. So this was a great learning experience for all the members of the family. And I remember my son saying to me after, “Mom this was the best thing you ever did.” So sometimes as a mother you have to take a bit of a risk and you have to go out on a limb, but I knew it would help us.
I think that if there is one thing that I have learned, it is the more time that a family can spend in organized time together, the better off that family will be, they will learn to communicate better.