Family Harmony Is Not the Goal

Some families and advisors believe that family harmony is necessary for family governance. Counselors, therapists, and practitioners in this camp may recommend that families first work on their relationships and issues, and then, after they improve, begin work on governance.

We’ve found that most families can tackle governance even when relationships are not harmonious. Developing governance with the help of a competent facilitator puts the family’s business discussions on a business footing. Getting on that footing can minimize the effects of strained relationships on business decisions.

Businesslike behavior—a condition of participating in governance—elevates interactions to new levels of orderliness, rationality, and cooperation. This can improve family harmony as a by-product.

The “magic” of family governance is that it often improves family relationships because it usually:

  • Gives family members a chance to speak and be heard
  • Enables the family to agree on an agenda and set priorities
  • Ensures that all stakeholders are represented in governing structures
  • Helps family members make decisions about their personal, professional, and financial lives

In our experience, the discipline and teamwork fostered by family governance can promote better family relationships than actual therapy. (We are not, however, saying governance is a substitute for therapy when it’s needed.)

In developing family governance, family members learn to express their needs in business terms in an atmosphere of respect. In that environment, they often get their emotional needs met while helping other family members do the same, a satisfying experience all around.