It was many years ago that I discovered the business world uses much better tools for helping people work together than what families are generally offered.
Back then my husband was a barman and coming home drunk most nights, long after our children were asleep. I was left at home—usually with no money— with three kids under 10, that I somehow had to feed and entertain.
I started to look online for help on how to deal with a husband who lacked empathy.
I was soon told point blank by professionals, many of whom had never even met Steve, that ‘no empathy’ meant he had a Cluster B personality disorder for which there was no cure or even treatment.
‘Change the locks’ was the only advice anyone had for me.
Yet when I looked at advice from the corporate arena, hey wow, what a different story!
Empathy in those circles was deemed the easiest emotional intelligence skill to teach staff, with training usually consisting of a two-hour workshop.
Thankfully I didn’t listen to the advice I received back then to leave Steve.
∞ We recently celebrated our 25th wedding! ∞
In the years since, I have discovered that on just about every level, the business world has far better advice than what is generally offered to families.
. . . . .
‘Every man is a king’ was the catch-phrase of a famous radio broadcast known as the Share Our Wealth Speech delivered during the Great Depression—a time when financially life was even harder on families than it is today.
That address was a challenge to men to organise and defend themselves, and to push back against the same financial powers that are again crushing down on many of us.
Economically, the average family right now is under more stress than at any time since the Great Depression.
But the threats to families are now far broader than financial…
So, how do we organise ourselves now?
Families are under threat
Most of us feel the pressure, but end up running in circles, pointing a finger at each other while arguing about the cause:
- men blame feminism
- women blame narcissism
- children of all ages blame their parents
Families lack structure
If you search the internet on how to set up a business or corporation, you will find links to many thousands of libraries full of highly detailed and extremely professional advice.
Search for how to set up a functional family, on the other hand, and you will be inundated with a deluge of vague and unstructured platitudes, like:
‘Make sure you spend time together’
‘Communication is key’
It all sounds warm and inviting, but what does it really mean? Spend time together communicating by swearing at each other? Be flexible in allowing your own plans for the day to be ignored?
In reality this advice is worthless.
The most common reason families fight is that they have not agreed on a fair decision-making process.
Governing a family successfully requires as many structures, standards, policies and procedures as running any professional group or organisation.
Consider… if there is conflict between employees, the first thing a good manager will check is that:
a. each person’s roles are well-defined, and
b. a clearly defined hierarchy is in place for who reports to whom in the company’s organisational chart, defining how work is assigned and reviewed.
If management doesn’t solve the dispute, unions may become involved in what is known as a demarcation dispute.
By contrast, if family members are in dispute, the member with the problem is usually told they need to ‘set a boundary’.
‘Boundaries’ is what demarcation is called in families.
It is highly unlikely that anyone will offer to talk to family members about defining their roles and responsibilities, let alone reviewing the family’s organisational chart.
Setting boundaries in a family usually amounts to the person with the problem being pressed to ask someone else to change their behaviour.
This will usually create conflict rather than resolve it.
Imagine if employees were given this type of vague advice on how to deal with problems with a coworker?
“Don’t tell me what to do, you are not my boss!” or “Don’t tell me how to do my job!”
Does this sound familiar?
Surely it is obvious that if there is conflict in a family, one of the first things that should be defined is the family’s roles and responsibilities.
. . . . .
Okay, so if we continue the comparison, next let’s consider what families produce.
I think most would agree…
Families are meant to produce physical, emotional and financial stability and security.
What families produce is important
Stability and security are not fashions or gimmicks, and society cannot afford to consider them luxury items.
These are precious commodities and families are unique in their ability to produce them.
Institutions, community housing, or even share housing, cannot produce the same kind of stability and security a well-organised family can.
Family day care centres, hospitals, prisons, and aged care facilities have a place in our society, certainly—but most are still dependent on families taking a large share of the responsibility for the decision-making and emotional care of their clients.
Institutions are generally set up as places where people work shifts, not live in permanently. They are a necessity in many situations but given a choice, hardly anyone genuinely wants to live in one.
Share houses face many of the same organisational conflicts that families do. People living in share houses are usually also less motivated to look out for each other to the same degree a family does.
So if we agree that stability and security are important, and families unique in their ability to provide these, it only makes sense that just like any other primary producers—what families produce needs protecting.
Yet more people than ever are walking out on their partners. More people than ever are emotionally and physically injuring their partners, and more people than ever are choosing to not enter a relationship at all.
Should I be CEO of my family?
Corporate titles don’t sit well in a family setting… so we have dug deep into history and come up with the Good King and Queen as better roles for family governance.
This metaphor adds depth to the work ahead, as does the notion of it being a game.
Setting up your family structure professionally will certainly be a tough challenge, but not nearly as tough as allowing all the bad ideas out there (of how families should be managed) to drag your life in circles.
Just as you wouldn’t invest in an organisation that had no idea what it produced, with no defined roles or standards and no policies or procedures in place, why would you risk your family’s collective stability and security on vague, conflicting and sometimes horrifying notions of what constitutes good family governance?
Is Steve’s and my home life now a perfectly run corporation?
This insanely big idea of how to produce more physical, emotional and financial stability and security in our lives, certainly is a work still in progress.
Families Need Structure, Not Stress!
It has taken nearly three years’ work getting these ideas in place in our own family while also developing them as a programme.
In that time, I have encountered many roadblocks (more on them in Part 2) and also come to see that I am being too hard on myself, thinking we should be able to do this all on our own.
So, today I am going to offer your family the opportunity to join us in becoming an early adopter of our (soon-to-be released) online programme:
The Good King and Queen (Click for an overview)
Early adopters will help us shape the end result and bring this idea to a wider audience.
Or perhaps you can offer help with any of the following:
Help We Need
– Families to play the game as early adopters, while also helping us shape and polish it to be ready to launch before Thanksgiving.
– Developing and producing charts, checklists and other resources for families playing The Good King and Queen.
– Video post-production.
– An experienced crowdfunding project manager with fund-raising ideas to assist with getting our message out.
– Promotional opportunities
– Your ideas
If you are interested and can help with any of these, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know briefly…
a. who you are
b. how you can help
c. why you want to help, and
d. what you hope we might offer in return
Someone will get back to you within 24 hours to let you know if your abilities and needs match the team we are putting together.