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Siblings Discover Why Tempers Were Running High In Their Business…

November 2, 2011

Giles and Sally had inherited their business from their parents, and while both were grateful, the regular arguments and debates were wearing each of them down.

Recognising that they needed to change their approach – but unsure of the best way to go about it – had led to Sally booking an appointment with me for both her and Giles.

At first Giles was resistant, afraid that his sister was simply going to use the session to get her own way – but he grew increasingly comfortable as he began to realise that not only did I understand both their points of view, but that my focus was ultimately on what was best for their business.

But, before we could start focusing on building their company, we first needed to address the emotional issues, not least because tempers were running high.

Each admitted that at times, the other drove them mad – and it soon became apparent that this was because they both had such a different take on life. Interestingly, as with many older children, Giles – who was the eldest of the two – was used to taking responsibility and issuing orders. His naturally cautious outlook on life meant that he was good at keeping the business on track and averting any disasters.

But while Sally appreciated Giles’ attributes, she was becoming increasingly frustrated that the business wasn’t making the progress that she believed was possible. Not only was she ambitious, but she was also a “big picture” thinker – and Giles’ constant focus on the “detail” was grinding her down.

After both had aired their views, I pointed out that from their business’s perspective, it was good that they had such different approaches. “However, where it’s going wrong is that you haven’t yet agreed a vision for the company – and therefore rather than working in unison to bring the vision into reality, you’re both simply squabbling with each other.”

It’s a common problem with family owned businesses. As well as all the usual family tensions, there’s often a feeling that one should be “carrying on the family tradition”. But without a feeling of “permission” to create a vision for the future, many family owned businesses find themselves falling behind their competitors in the marketplace, as they fail to stay fresh and contemporary.

What made matters worse for Giles and Sally however, was that as the eldest, Giles was inclined to “take control” of the business – and childhood memories meant that Sally tended to let him, feeling that as the youngest, her opinion didn’t really count.

Further discussion helped them both to see that to be successful in business, each needed the other. Giles needed Sally’s creativity and insight – which coupled with her easy manner with potential clients – meant that she was the perfect person to take responsibility for growing the business. However, Sally’s attention to detail was poor and without Giles’ watchful eye, it was likely that mistakes would creep in – which would ultimately lead to unhappy customers.

As I looked at them both, I realised that the pair of them were like the traditional two “halves” of the brain. Giles was more akin to the “left” brain – logical, detailed and process driven. Sally was more like the “right” brain – creative, intuitive and flexible. “But to succeed in life,” I pointed out, “we all do best when we use ALL, rather than just a part, of our brains!”.

Both of them laughed and began to relax as they could see that between them, they had a lot to offer their business – providing they both respected each other’s opinions and recognised the value that each brought to the organisation.

And the first step? Both needed to agree to spend some time working “on” their business and not just “in” their business – with an agreed vision for the future being a top priority.

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