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Submitted by jletman on


I posted this as a comment in another thread and someone suggested that I post it as a new topic. The original thread is here.

I changed the question to reflect that this is a new topic:

I recently bought out my family's small real estate consulting practice. I have two reports, my sister, who is our assistant/office manager, and my dad, who works for me as a consultant. I used to report to my father and now he reports to me.

I think I would benefit by formalizing my management practices, in particular rolling out O3s. (And later feedback and coaching).

Are there any changes that you'd make because the O3s are with family? Are there any issues with the role reversal my dad and I have had? Any other major pitfalls I should look out for?

I know eventually we will add an employee or two, so it would be great to have a process in place before I do that. I'd love the input.

Thanks for your responses.


mattpalmer's picture

(A re-post of my answer to the previous installation of this question)

Personally, I prefer to avoid ever working with family (and friends), because I like to avoid interpersonal drama in all its forms. However, were I ever to be in that position, or be in line of command to someone in that position, the rule that I would ensure was followed was "at work, they're not family".

You don't have to be a tyrant about it, banning the mention of anything family-related between the hours of 8 and 6. To keep things professional, though, if you ever start thinking to yourself, "is it any different because they're family?" the answer has to be a window-rattling "NO". If anyone asks for, expects, or accepts special treatment because they're family, make sure that gets dealt with quickly and professionally, also. Never, ever, consciously treat anyone different because of a familial (or friendship) bond.

Given that we don't know how things ran when your father was in charge, it's hard to give specific advice about how to put this into practice with everyone.  However, assuming this is a managerial change of some sort, you should announce it up-front.  Sit down with both your sister and father together, and explain that you feel that it would be best if the company was run on a completely professional footing, and that you believe that nobody should be treated differently because they're family.  Explain your reasoning that you would like to expand the business over time and that integrating other people will be easier if they can come into an organisation that is professional and free of family dramas right from the beginning.  Cover your desire to roll out O3s and the rest of the trinity as part of that professionalism, also.  If there are any issues that come up over time due to being family, you need to immediately have a frank conversation that addresses the behaviour and your expectations.  It is likely to be a bit of an awkward conversation, but nowhere near as awkward as the results of not dealing with the problem immediately.

jletman's picture
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Thanks, Matt, for your response.

I think there is going to be resistance because my dad was always relaxed and is generally against structure. I know it will make a big difference, so I may have to sell it a little differently than to non-family directs.




GlennR's picture

The key variable here is your familial relationships. This might require creating a hybrid of the 03 model for it to work for you. For example, I might consider disguising the few few to look more like informal meetings over lunch or coffee at a neutral location (as opposed to your office). The success of 03's is based upon how well you communicate with each other and the behaviors that result. Focus on the best way to communicate with each of your "directs" rather than worrying about whether you allocated 10 minutes for him or 10 minutes for you. You can still steer the conversation that way.

Most people like to be asked for advice. Therefore, be prepared to do more listening than talking in a more informal manner. Just make it clear that, while you may accept the advice, you're not obligated to follow it. But it would be helpful if you could, in the beginning as a way to encourage more communication in these situations.

Also, at the risk of sounding like a heretic here, 03's may not be as important in your environment as in ours, due to your close proximity with your directs because you can put more emphasis on management by walking around. (Which means that feedback plays a larger role.) Or, if they remain important, perhaps they are less formal.

Good luck!


mattpalmer's picture

There's no reason in the world why you have to be stiff-necked about the one-on-ones.  They will be as relaxed as you make them.  Keep them scheduled, but keep the scheduling "loose" -- don't get your nose out of joint if they don't happen when they're supposed to.  Don't hold them in an office -- go sit on a couch or take a walk together.

If you think that even explaining them will get your dad annoyed, you could relax some of the explanation.  I wouldn't do this, because I prefer clarity, but then I'd just tell my dad to suck it up, I run things now, because I'm not a people person.  You could, for instance, avoid calling them "one-on-ones" (which, now that Dilbert has covered them, means they're well-and-truly mainstream).  Don't explain the agenda in advance -- just start off each one-on-one with a nice open question, like "What's new in your world?" and see where it goes.  Don't talk about "building relationships leading to better performance".  Just say that you'd like to have a weekly catchup to make sure that there's sufficient communication happening and that you don't inadvertantly miss anything important.

And, of course, always say it with a smile on your face and a chuckle in your voice.

jletman's picture
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Great input.

Based on some of your input, I'm going to start having a one on one with my dad, who offices at home. As for my sister, we actually take a walk around our business park 2-3 times per week. I'm going to treat one of those as if they are one on ones, introducing the agenda informally. If it needs more formality, I'll change it.



PS I'm stealing your line: I'd like to have a weekly catchup to make sure that there's sufficient communication happening and that you don't inadvertantly miss anything important.

mattpalmer's picture

I feel honoured that you'd steal my line.  If you make a million dollars selling T-shirts, though, I'd appreciate a freebie.  I'm a 2XL.  (grin)

mhoej's picture

 JLETMAN, I'm keen to know how it has panned out so far?

mhoej's picture


Even though this thread is 6 months old, I would still like to comment on it, also comments for people searching for advise in the archives. 

I have found that communication in family owned and run companies are often much WORSE than in other "regular" companies.

Having found myself in a rather similar situation as the original poster (family owned - dad/son relationship), I have found that the scheduled structure is important - also to family-directs, and to make the relationship-building actually happen.

I do agree with Matt's advise on most if not all parts. 

Some aspects of communication are much better in a family business, those that are high context and understood. High-context communication is our force, but it is also our downfall.

We expect and rely on high context communication, which even amongst family members is dangerous. Look at how many married couples have issues communicating - because both parties assume what the the other person knows, thinks and feels. Most of the time it is quite the contrary, and misunderstandings and all the bad domino effects from misunderstandings occur.

If you add external non-family members in the mix of a family-run business and then also "assume" the external people are "in" on "it" (When your own family-member probably even isn't) you have got yourself one hell of a cocktail. 

I have found that the dire need for MT tools in a family owned company is often much much larger. Especially the trinity, effective meetings and staff-meetings. Not to mention performance management, how to hire/introduce a new employee and creating a sense of urgency. 

The bigger challenge here is, yes, to implement it. 

ashdenver's picture

Yep, leave it to me - I am a master at dredging up old topics.

Anyway, I have NOT worked in the family workplace as described above. (I've worked in my dad's store when I was a teenager but that's not what we're talking about here. I'm currently working in a small-ish family-owned company but it's not my family so again, not what we're talking about here.)

My random two cents on this is that there is a LOT of family history that comes along with family members. Those relationships have been around for lifetimes and it's understandable there's baggage attached. That said, the O3's can be über-important in establishing, defining, and nurturing a non-familial-based relationship ... a working relationship that's focused on the business, its needs, growth, development, etc. that has virtually nothing to do with how the kids interacted with each other thirty years ago or that time when Little Timmy took the neighbor's car for a joyride when he was ten. Without O3's, I can't imagine how family members would begin to navigate those waters.

Again, just my two cents to a topic that's been dormant for 8 mos.


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jletman's picture
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Hello all,

I haven't been back to this topic in a while, but I thought I would give an update on how it's going.

I started doing O3's with my father and treated one of the walks around the business park as an O3 with my sister.

My father took to O3's like a pro. Each week he has a list of what he's working on and where he is with everything. My notes help make sure that we don't miss anything. They are helpful. I feel more aware of what's going on.

The O3's by walking around with my sister is ok. I have found that I need to have at least one per month sitting down with a pad and paper. I can usually make some quick notes after our walks about what we talked about. There is still no substitute to having it as a sit down meeting.

I have introduced feedback very slowly. I focus on mostly positive, with occasional negative. I struggle with negative because I think there are more emotions behind it in a family business. I can only rarely say it without being a bit upset. That's why I say it's occasional.

I was thankful for the recent "Feedback Doesn't Preclude" cast. I often have given feedback by just saying "thank you for x". I was glad to hear that just saying thank you is a powerful form of feedback.

I'm still working on delegation and coaching. I feel a little nervous about bringing up coaching with my sister.

So that's the update. I'm open to comments, suggestions, and feedback.





Ajoban's picture

I work in a family business (Mom - President, Son/Me - software Director).  I was relieved to read the post that family businesses have more communication problems.  I would like my boss/mom to have O3's with me, (I have very little oversight or guidance), but she's pretty strong and experienced at the business.  How do I request she introduce O3s without undermining her experience and management style?

mattpalmer's picture

Thanks for the update, Jason -- it's always good to see when MT guidance has a good outcome.

When it comes to starting coaching, it's valuable to approach it from the perspective that nobody's perfect, we can all improve on something, as well as the fact that this improvement isn't ultimately about the individual being coached, it's about improving the firm by improving the people within it.  The MT style of coaching, where it isn't a "lecture series" so much as a guided self-discovery, also helps to take a bit of the "sting" out of it.

AJoban, for trying to get your boss (mom or otherwise) to start O3s, I was pretty sure there's a cast for that, but I can't seem to find it.  In short, though, you can ask your boss to have a brief weekly "catch-up" meeting to make sure that your boss is aware of what you're doing, and that you're kept in the loop about things are going on outside your own little bubble that might impact you.  Then you go into it like you would any other O3, and see how things flow from there.