The Transformational Value of Family Meetings

In order for a family to manage the complex challenges of family wealth, it is critical that a family learn how to conduct successful family meetings and to have them on a regular basis.  A good family meeting has a beginning, a middle and an end, while being comfortable, productive and stimulating.

However, convening a good family meeting is a lot harder than it at first seems.  Families often make the mistake of assuming that all that’s necessary is to get everyone in the same room and start talking.  But most of us can relate to what its like to attend meetings that waste everyone’s time or result in confusion or misunderstandings.  Patrick Lencioni’s recent book “Death by Meeting” struck a chord with readers about our mutual frustration with face-to-face meetings that don’t go well.

The truth is that a good family meeting has to be planned carefully.  It won’t just happen by itself; good intentions are not enough.  One of the keys to conducting an effective family meeting is to employ an outside advisor to act as the meeting facilitator.

Here are some other useful guidelines when setting up a family meeting:

  • Get everyone’s agreement to hold the meeting
  • Have a clear purpose and goal in mind
  • Design the meeting collaboratively
  • Create clear expectations
  • Clarity the format and expectations
  • Invite participants and gather information
  • Create a safe environment

The idea is that productive family meetings should be interactive.  

Another good rule of thumb is that family members should know, understand and agree to the meeting and its focus – in advance – and that there are no surprises.  It’s also important that everyone understand that a family meeting is likely to raise as many questions as it answers.  Therefore, a family meeting should not be thought of as an end in itself.  The meeting will often end by setting the stage for the next meeting.

A family cannot be taken care of with legal documents alone.  In order for a family enterprise to survive, the family must share information, values, expectations, responsibility and planning across generations.  The best way to achieve this is through the careful process of holding family meetings on a regular basis.
Chatting over a cuppa

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