“It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It’s that they can’t see the problem."
— G.K. Chesterton
Family Business Mediator
Family Business Conflict
Conflict is a clash between two or more individuals.
Family Business Conflict is inevitable, because : Family + Business... makes no sense. They each represent totally incompatible systems that should never be brought together. At best, conflicts are managed; at worst, they rip the family and/or the business to pieces.
Mediation is a great process for resolving most types of dispute and conflict. It relies on skilfully managed negotiations to help produce voluntary agreements between parties.
The good thing about it is that participation is entirely voluntary. Everybody can feel safe, and in control.
The bad thing about it is that participation is entirely voluntary, so nobody is required to stay in the process, or to stick with it until resolution is achieved.
Family Business Mediator
Family Business Mediators work with family members, and others, to facilitate conversations, build understanding and trust, develop willing consensus, and produce voluntary agreements between parties.
BUT ……. where parties to a conventional mediation usually abide by their agreements, some family members seem to think it’s their right to ignore whatever hard-won agreements have been reached, and to do so with apparent impunity.
We often find a “protected species” within a family, usually under Mum’s or Dad’s wing. They suffer no serious consequences for wreaking havoc on the rest of the family through breaking promises, poor performance and bad behaviours.
Sometimes the family lacks the will and/or the discipline to enforce the terms of their agreement. Without implementation and enforcement, the whole point of the exercise is lost, and what’s worse is that any residual hope and trust left in the family may be permanently eliminated.
Also, because Mediation is voluntary, anyone can bail out at any time. If a family member isn’t there to agree to something, they’re not bound by any agreements made by the rest of the family. Sadly, many family mediations are blocked, or otherwise held to ransom, by individuals who can’t, or won’t play nicely - in complete disregard for everybody else’s needs.
Conclusion: conventional Mediation (which is great for many other types of dispute), is not ideal for family business disputes and conflicts.
Family Business Conflict Resolution
Family Business Conflict Resolution should guarantee that the conflict will be resolved. To do this reliably, once started the process must be:
(a) Able to proceed to a conclusion, irrespective of individual attempts to bail or block and,
(b) Capable of enforcement, through the family. Real consequences must be a reality.
SODR, for Families (Solution-Oriented Dispute Resolution)
20 years ago there were few, if any Family Business Mediators. Even today, most Mediators prefer to specialise on either commercial, or family/personal disputes - few cover both. Family Business disputes require both skill sets.
When we used normal mediation processes to resolve Family Business Disputes and Conflicts, we quickly learnt that standard processes were sub-optimal, because they couldn’t produce lasting results, even when issues were resolved with apparent finality.
We replaced Mediation with Solution-Oriented Dispute Resolution (SODR) - diving deeper into histories, personalities and hidden dynamics to identify causes of family problems, before dealing with the presenting symptoms (which often evaporated during the process).