I arrived at their farm site…family business members gathered around the table waiting for me to begin…I asked, “Did you decide to work together just to make each other miserable?” My preparation work for this consultation had shown they’d clearly lost their “good will.” “Good will” in a family business is the heartfelt desire followed by consistent behaviors to: work together toward the common goals of the business; help each other succeed; and work through challenges to all get along.
Consulting phone calls rarely start with the facts like: who is calling; a description of the family business structure and the farming operation; or information on the people involved and their roles. Instead I hear, "Jolene, two years ago, I heard you speak at a conference. Kept the handout and found your phone number. You know, when I first started working on this farm, I knew I had a lot to learn, so I kept my mouth shut and did as I was told. But I’ve been here now for 7 years and nothing has changed. Oh, we rent a lot more ground and I bust my butt to get the work done. But, I’m still ignored, dumped on and ‘stupid.’ I’m just plain angry, frustrated, discouraged, and exhausted. I’ve tried everything I know, but nothing changes. They just don’t care. Can you help me?”
Further conversation includes specific descriptions of the behaviors of other key members of the farm family work team. Underlying the problem is that those “other key players” have more power….either by ownership, birth order, gender, accepted dominant behavior or “anointment of the golden child.” Saddest of realities is that there is no longer “good will” between family members. They’ve lost the commitment toward a common goal of positively and productively working together in the business.
In almost all of my workshops on family business, I ask attendees to carefully read my statement…"If the achievement of your goal depends on the power or assets someone else has and they don't have your same goal, they don't have a problem."
When those with power no longer want to invest effort in: positive leadership and communication; trying to understand and include team members; helping others succeed; demonstrating appreciation; resolving conflict; encouraging; accommodating; or seeking outside leadership and management help when needed….there is no longer “good will.”
The result is those who joined the farm team expecting to be included, valued and coached, earning the right for advancement in the management or ownership of the business, are now the “outsiders.” Repeated interactions finally make them realize, there may be no way “inside.”
“Good will” derives from a clear common mission – one that says we will work together to meet the goals of the business; work together to help each other succeed; and work together through challenges to get along. Believe me, after consulting with many, many family businesses, this work is real work. “Good will” doesn't happen innately or genetically. It is a choice, backed by work on and in the business.
I’ve learned the very best way for “good will” to take root and grow deep is to operate the business as a “business-first family”™, not a family-first business. This means we honor the family so much, we will use experience, new insight and tested management tools to do the business right. Then synergy of the will of the people involved will then be good, because a “business-first family” isn’t going to settle for anything less.
In an upcoming article, I will highlight specific work needed to maintain or renew “good will.”
Questions for Column #36- When “Good Will” is Gone
- What is your responsibility in creating “good will” in your family business?
- Observe carefully. Is there someone on your farm team that is on the “outside?” What might you do to be inclusive, inviting them “inside?”
- If you’ve found yourself beating your head against a brick wall of “no good will” multiple times in multiple ways during multiple years and there is no “good will”….why do you stay?
Copyright © 2012 Jolene Brown, LLC. All Rights Reserved
Reproduction granted for AgStar by Jolene Brown
Jolene Brown, CSP
Jolene Brown is a farmer, professional speaker, author and champion for the family owned business. She's from West Branch, Iowa, USA, and travels worldwide sharing leading-edge best practices that have the power to increase productivity, profitability and peace of mind. Her passion combined with her fun-filled spirit and valuable information brings humor, hope and helpful ideas to the people of agriculture. For more information and to check out her speaking availability, contact her at Jolene@JoleneBrown.com, www.JoleneBrown.com