In 2003, Tom Hubler, a family business coach, told me “Pride and stubbornness” are barriers to a successful transition. This winter Beth Moore’s teaching has encouraged me to explore the aspects of pride that impact family harmony.
Let’s dissect this touchy topic.
1. Heart. I am convinced the emotional factors affecting planning are keeping well-meaning families stuck. Pride comes from the heart. Ask yourself, “What is my true desire?” Hopefully it is to be rich in relationship, yet judging by the yelling, door-slamming and walking-away scenarios, this is not your current experience. Many folks can have a good heart, yet don’t have the courage to ask for what they need, or be aware of what their spouse truly needs as they age.
2. Past. Pride refuses to look back. We need to be free from the hindrances in our past, yet be willing to change how we look at our history. I often ask the founder to tell me the story about how they got the farm. You can say, “That was then, this is now.” You can choose to learn from the past mistakes and hurt caused by a painful transition and create a new story for the current reality.
3. Instruct. Pride doesn’t like to be told what to do. Yup. This is the block when you hear comments like, “I don’t want to talk about succession, it’s all taken care of in my will, just trust me.” “I don’t need to pay for any high-priced advice, we can figure this out on our own.” “I don’t care what you think, this is my farm and this is the way we are going to do things around here as long as I am in charge.”
4. Trapped. “Pride thinks he’s free enough,” says Beth Moore. I believe that my faith in God sets me completely free. As a coach I empower families to embrace the fact that every day they wake up to new choices and what Leadershift’s Kelly Dobson calls a “growth mindset.” You are not trapped even though you may feel like it at the moment. You have choices, options, and directions to go that are life giving. Someone has to open the trap. It’s time to bring people to the table to find what each person wants for their life, their family and their farm business.
5. Secrets. Pride says secrets or the family’s “dirty laundry” are nobody’s business. Emotionally healthy, strong, resilient families are connected to each other and community. Conflict issues need to see the light of day to be resolved creatively and respectfully, not closets of uncertainty. The Irish proverb, “Every front door looks beautiful,” is a favourite of mine. Even families who grace the covers of farm magazines have issues that need resolution. No more family secrets; it is time to attack the problem, not the person, and create new ways of being on your farm.
6. Denial. Pride denies there is a problem. “Things were just fine on this farm until you, (or they) showed up!” We all need to take personal responsibility for what we contribute or withhold from healthy communication. Gifted advisers and facilitators can help your farm team audit the key challenges, work towards understanding by encouraging people to put themselves in the other person’s perspective or shoes. Naming the issue is a first step to busting out of denial. Facebook relates the sad story of a couple selling out farm assets and ending the marriage when one spouse mentioned they could no longer deny the long-standing unresolved issues were killing them.
7. Weakness. Pride won’t admit to weakness. Many men think crying is a sign of weakness, but I think it is a healthy conflict resolution strategy to freely express emotions. Sharing emotions is not weak. It helps us understand what is going on for the people we love and work with. Saying “I think it is time to get help. I am feeling anxious and overwhelmed. I need to get more certainty for our future on this farm, and I want to know what the plan is,” is healthy. (I have just given you a script to share with your family.)
Pitch the pride and get more traction with these questions:
What are your true motives and hopes for our family, and our farm? Show us your true heart’s desires. Ask for what you really need.
We can learn from the past, but we don’t need to hold on to it. Let’s start looking ahead. What do you truly want for your life personally, in your marriage, and your role in this business going forward?
Wise people listen to instruction. Would you be willing to invite me to sit in on our next accounting meeting? We need to develop stronger adviser relationships.
Are you sure you are not feeling trapped or frustrated? I sense your anxiety and overwhelm are keeping us all stuck! What is it that you need from us to show you we are a team in making this transition journey work for all of us?
In the interest of open, honest, respectful communication we are hiring a third-party facilitator to run our next family business meeting. We no longer can hide behind the secret keeping. We need transparency, as we cannot read each other’s minds. We need to create solutions.
Let’s admit to ourselves and to one another that we do have a problem with pride, procrastination and conflict avoidance. Owning our stuff is the first step to taking responsibility for sorting things out. We can do this when we understand that we are not alone. Many farm families are wondering the same things we are.
It’s OK to fail and make mistakes. Admitting to failure is not a weakness, but pride won’t admit mistakes. Let’s build a better culture on our farm of learning from our mistakes, and committing to making repair with each other.