#7 Tips How Not to Ruin Family Meetings

#7 Tips How Not to Ruin Family Meetings

Why it Matters Strengthening the family bond can prove to be challenging even for the most dedicated.  Family Meetings are a useful tool that str

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Why it Matters

Strengthening the family bond can prove to be challenging even for the most dedicated. 

Family Meetings are a useful tool that strengthen the family bond, and is one of the most powerful tools available to the management of a family. However, it also presents a unique and challenging opportunity.  Especially, and when, families have to sit and confront one of their deepest yardsticks for ensuring success in family dynamics: a formalized family interaction.

This conversation makes me flash back to a blog from June 2018, about family meetings.

Anyway, back to our recent retreat during which, this was one of the key themes.  A retreat we facilitated, for a business owning multi-generation family, with Paul Ouma, Principal Consultant, at Institute For Family Business (IFFB) – Kenya.

Paul highlighted the importance of family meetings during the session:

“Family Meetings can be useful, but we’ve all been in a family [and of course other] meetings that have been ruined by some bad habits. Whether it’s cutting people off mid-sentence, people twiddling their thumbs with their eyes on the clock, or a family member noisily clearing a meal while the meeting is in progress, these habits ~ if left unchecked ~ can turn a progressive family [or any other] meeting into a less productive one.”

While in the good graces of full disclosure, I must add, that whereas Paul and I train together, each bringing ingredients to the training menu from our unique professional backgrounds, we are also family – we are brothers.

So during the weekend retreat with the multi-generation business owning family, we shared some challenges that ruin progressive family meetings, and also furnished tips that, I trust, may support you a great deal in managing your next family meeting.

#1  The Late Arrival

Family meetings - !#1 key tool for families and businesses consultants oumamuga.com IFFB_Kenya

While arriving “fashionably late” might work brilliantly for parties, in the world of family [or business] meetings, your delayed entrance will only frustrate everyone involved. Late arrivers are a creation of habit, and ~ like the proverbial hare ~ they chronically underestimate how long it will take to get from A to B.

In dealing with a late arriver, do: Do a quick recap for their behalf of whats’ happened up to that point. However, after the meeting is over, take a minute or two, to privately ask your late arriver why they’re late. If their excuse isn’t legitimate, challenge them on improving their punctuality so it doesn’t impact others.

Don’t: Do not start discussing their late arrival, more so, if they are habitual late arrivers – focus on the results you want from your meeting.

#2 The Phone Checker

Recent research suggests we touch our phones 2,617 times a day; and the phone checkers increase this average. During family meetings, the checkers often barely meet the minimum eye-contact quota, and will slowly drift to the world [of the phone] in their pocket.  Before you know it, they are pushing SMSs, are on their mail or on social media and perhaps even checking the Jumia Anniversary for mega deals on the up to 1.5 million products on Jumia.

When dealing with a phone checker, do: Politely request them to put their phone away. If their habit is particularly extreme, you my need – by consensus –  implement a “no phones policy” during family meetings.

Don’t: Do not confiscate the phone or complain about “kids these days.” That’s why though I still give Mr. Omondi “Nyundo” #1 for basketball coach, his liking in school was not unanimous. If you’re reading this, Mr. Omondi, my friend and basketball coach, I want my Nokia 3310 back! Oh yaah! 

#3 The Skeptic

The Skeptic or “Doubting Thomas” are ever present, whether in our workplace or in the family. They usually have a flare for crushing ideas underfoot, while failing to provide any viable alternatives. These Skeptics often discourage others from speaking up for fear of being made to look stupid. Which means: they need to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

When dealing with a skeptic, doCirculate the agenda before the meeting, and ask everyone to bring at least some ideas to the meeting in preparation. This will help ensure Skeptics have to contribute something to the meeting, and it encourages the Skeptic to suspend judgement.

Don’t: ..oohhhh there you go once again! or put on a silly voice and mimic the Skeptic whenever they criticise anything.

#4 The Font-of-All-Knowledge

This family member has often done their research. They’re passionate about what’s being discussed. And while on the surface, the font-of-all-knowledge is the person you want at every single meeting you have, however, Fonts don’t see the need for letting others add anything to the conversation. They often believe they’ve already thought of everything themselves.

When the meeting is over, and everyone is looking at their watches … ready to move to the next item after the meeting…. and oh gosh it’s the familys’ monthly lunch / dinner, perhaps. Otile will still be talking of that one agenda item from the meeting.

How to deal with a font-of-all-knowledge, doThank them for their idea during the meeting [they’ll usually be the first to share] AND quickly direct a question at another participant in the meeting.

Don’t: Yell “LET OTHERS SPEAK” or show faces like that is “BORING!” while they’re mid-sentence.

#5 The Conversationalist

Family meetings - #7 key tool for families and businesses consultants oumamuga.com IFFB_Kenya

We too, have a Conversationalist in the larger family. I won’t say much – you know why!

These are nice people who suffer from one fatal flaw: they OFTEN talk much more than they listen. They’ll dip between their own conversation, and the wider one, when it suits them. Ohh yessss…… yes, they may even fail to observe the required decorum for a family meeting – formal and friendly. They would probably bring along refreshments and want to kick-start the merry making even during the meeting ….. with even a few beers …..if it were socially acceptable to do so.

When dealing with a conversationalist, do: Set the tone by going around the room and asking for the input of each person one-by-one. By so doing, and having just one person speak at a time, conversationalists are more exposed and they get policed by their peers.

Don’t: Ask them if they would like to run the meeting thinking that it’s a punishment for them. It’s not – they’ll probably take you up on it.

#6 The interrupter

The Interrupters aren’t malicious: more often, they simply lack the self-awareness needed to tactfully handle people issues. They will bluntly interrupt conversation [at times even in a off-putting tone] saying …. “And what do you mean by that, exactly?”

Unlike Skeptics, the Interrupters often bring good ideas along with them.  Besides, they also tend to challenge ideas in order to improve them rather than to assert their authority unlike the Skeptics. However, all the interruptions usually breaks the flow of the conversation, and doesn’t allow other participants to reach the end of their thoughts before they blurt out —

….“I’m just trying to get to understand what you’re saying, here.”

… and cutting them cut off.

When dealing with an interrupter, do: Orchestrate the meeting, provide for regular intervals during which questions about a thought or a proposal can be raised. For instance, let one person in the meeting communicate a thought, and then ask “Does anyone have any questions about that?” Interrupters will jump right in there, allowing them to use their critiquing ability for good – and supporting the conversation.

Don’t: Deliberately interrupt them when they’re speaking. They’ll probably just interrupt you back [and it will get louder] as you shout over each other to save face  – now that’s just awkward, isn’t it?

#7 The Gastronomist

Its a Friday meeting, and the family member who knows all the spanking eateries has just had Jumia Food Riders deliver a Friday Thrill offer of buy one pizza, get one free from Debonairs.  The meaty something, is complete, hot and fresh with the unique Hot or Not Dot. . . and arrives in the meeting room accompanied with a delightful aroma that you’d love to catch a whiff of in your favourite restaurant –  and not in the meeting room

This gets more distracting, when the persons teeth land on the pizza like the first karate kick on plywood.

When the gastronomists brings along their little gourmet lunch boxes and proceed to noisily devour their meal, while the participants in the meeting try to explain matters that require undivided attention in the meeting – it dilutes the focus in the meeting.

When dealing with a gastronomist, doCheck their schedule. If they physically have no time during their day to schedule a bunch of stuff, you should work with them to clear their diaries and secure time for the meeting, and clearly demarcate the “me time” for them to enjoy their tupperware-of pan-fried Chili lemon garlic tilapia made from Kaluhi’s Kitchen recipe.

Don’t: Try to one-up them with  Fogo Gaucho style skewered  juicy, tender meat cuts and even grilled cinnamon covered pineapple or roast-bone on steak from Njugunas’ ……… your meeting may not end crisply with clear deliverables and follow-up

Are there any Meeting Ruiners we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.





  • comment-avatar
    Boaz WARUKU 2 years ago

    Family meetings help sustain unity of purpose and enhance bonding. Skeptics are best contained by giving account of progress of ideas generated in the past such meetings

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