Lencioni’s Highly Anticipated Family Book
By
August 2008

Most leaders I know have multiple jobs, even if they are only paid to do one of them. For instance, I am a leader of a small company, but I have leadership roles in my church, on my sons’ soccer, baseball and basketball teams, and of course, in my family. However, when I think about all of those roles, and the constituencies who are impacted by them, I cannot help but conclude that my wife and kids have received short shrift when it comes to my leadership time and energy.

After all, I’ve spent hours and days and weeks thinking, reading and meeting about how to better run my company. I’ve worked with my team to identify our core values and to clarify our strategy. And I’ve worked to ensure that those values and strategies have been implemented consistently over time so that our firm can maximize its potential.

Within my church, I’ve spent many hours in long meetings developing plans to ensure that we’re utilizing our resources in the best possible way. And I regularly spend time preparing for each soccer or basketball practice I lead, and on multiple occasions I’ve attended two-day classes to make me a better soccer coach. I’ve even read a stack of books on soccer to give me an added edge.

And then there is my family, the most important organization in my life. How many books have I read about running an effective family? Zero. How many family management classes have I attended? None. And how many off-sites have my wife and I had to improve the way we organize and lead our children? You know the answer.

As common as this is for many family leaders who also work in the ‘real’ world, it just doesn’t make any sense. When we fail to be purposeful and proactive about the way we plan and run our home lives, our families become reactive, unfulfilled and frantic. And though we might not see a direct, short-term connection between this and downstream difficulties like divorce and childhood stress, it is hard to deny such a connection. Ongoing frustration and disillusionment among parents, even when it is minor, cannot help but have an impact on family members.

So what is a family to do? Something. Anything is better than sitting back and reacting to the next request or opportunity that comes along without any context. And that word—context—is key. It is what is missing from most frantic organizations, especially families.

Context provides leaders with a framework and a perspective that they need so that every opportunity that arises doesn’t create a stressful dilemma. In the business world, a leader deciding to acquire a company or pursue a client or hire a candidate for a job, can often fall back on a clear set of values, strategic priorities or goals that will allow him to make consistently good decisions and retain a measure of sanity in the process.

The same is true at home. Without clear context, our lives become reactionary and stressful and often a guilt-driven act of daily survival rather than the joyful, intentional experience that it is meant to be. Should we sign Johnny up for lacrosse? Go on vacation with the Martins? Remodel our home like the Jones’ or buy a summer cabin like the Johnsons? If there is nothing clear to fall back on, each decision will create unnecessary anxiety, not to mention months or years of potential regret.

So what exactly can families do to get some relief? They need to create a sense of context by answering a few simple questions, and then use those answers to guide their decisions. The questions have to do with a family’s core values, strategic priorities and near-term goals. And once those answers are set, the family needs to keep them alive and use them on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Of course, it’s key to keep all of this simple and practical, and avoid overly structured or bureaucratic approaches, because families have even less time and tolerance for bureaucracy and protocol than companies do.

More detailed information about the questions a family must answer and the methods for using those answers on a regular basis are included in my new book, The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family. But for those of you who receive this newsletter and would like to get more information including a free downloadable tool, click here»

I hope this short article, and possibly the book and simple tool that go with it, help your family to become a little less frantic and a lot more purposeful and peaceful.

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