At a recent conference, a prominent East Coast trust and estate attorney stated that he has mixed feelings about family meetings. He went on to explain that in his experience, attempts to conduct productive family meetings often dissolve into acrimony and bitter attempts by older, more powerful family members to dictate the thoughts and actions of the rest of the family.
The conversation then shifted to Family Mission Statements and “Constitutions” – that is, documents that layout ideal visions, sets of core values, and ironclad rules for the family to follow at the risk of dire consequences for non-compliance. Fortuitously, this discussion gave David Quinn and me an opportunity to shift the focus of the conference from external ways to control the future behavior of family members to more intrinsic ways that families might navigate towards a prosperous and sustainable future.
If you’ve participated in any of our events, you know that we emphasize gratitude, “True Wealth (a holistic view of wealth and wellbeing), and family leadership as the primary drivers for people as they seek happiness, fulfillment, and meaning for themselves and their families. It is our belief that we lead primarily through our character and that we are the stewards of our family’s culture. Finally, a family culture that lives gratitude, “True Wealth”, and leadership, we believe, gives a family the best chance of thriving for multiple generations.
Family meetings are part – but not the only part – of building family culture. These meetings and the estate and trust planning process often overlook the powerful role that intentional leadership and the thoughtful building of an optimal family culture play in sustaining a family. Elevating family culture is what we hope to cultivate through our community-building efforts, as well the work we do with our clients.
Building family culture is an art. Guiding and mentoring family members as they become leaders can be challenging. It is our intention to support family leaders as they fulfill these noble and rewarding responsibilities.