Fun, Family & Wisdom
2nd July 2017 Carlos Arbesú
Not all approaches to fun in family meetings are worthwhile, but there are truly human ways to promote fun together with family members. When families understand the real value, purpose and significance of fun sharing, they can really prosper.
I have always thought that there is something particularly profound and intelligent about promoting fun in family business governance. The aim of family governance is unity, family member´s engagement and, as John Ward says, “nothing bring a family together as much as fun”.
I cannot accept that having fun in family meetings is just a question of emotions. Anthropology explain that we show ourshelves better as persons when we play, when we are having fun. When playing, people show that they are not in need, but overflowing with positive energy. They are givers not receivers. To give shows clearly that we are free beings, we have something to offer and share with others. Although we can –and we must- work with joy, when we work we are looking after something we need to live. When we play we show that we are more than beings in need.
This is indeed a profound explanation that anthropology gives us, and which is consistent with family business experience and theory. If this approach is true, promoting fun in family meetings is not merely a technique, or a tactic, not to bore family members in excess with business information etc. Fun is not something which we use merely as a break to come to work again.
There is something specially intelligent about people having fun together, something wise. Families who promote having fun in their family meetings show wisdom about governance priorities. They know that family members open their intimacy –themshelves- as people, when having fun together. And this intimacy sharing is what gives way, in a free and natural way, to unity and engagement.
Although it is easy to understand and accept from a philosophical point of view, I find that family businesses throughout the world do not give this importance and priority to promote fun in family meetings. Family businesses tend to prepare family meetings giving business information and including topics to discuss, debate and eventually decide. On occasions, family meetings include some training or education from family business experts, but fun is relegated to breaks, meals and free time.
Why is it so difficult to work on fun for family meetings?.
There are some reasonable obstacles to promote fun in family meetings, such as the following:
- families erroneously think that fun is something that we can not plan or work on in advance: fun is something that happens spontaneously. However for large family meetings it is neccesary to plan in advance.
- families tend to find difficulties in creating a budget for fun activities. Investing in promoting fun, is usually viewed as behaviour that contradicts austerity.
- time is a scarce resource in family meetings and fun is about time sparing together in adequate activities.
- family meeting agendas, perhaps erroneously, are usually fully covered with business and wealth topics, policies to adopt, education etc.
Family leaders – especially the family council or the family meetings committee-, must overcome these difficulties and find time, budget and good ideas to promote family members fun sharing. There are different ways to promote fun such as:
- travelling together to different places so family members share cultural experiences
- having out-door or in-door family activities (sports, team games etc).
- building family stories, singing, working out something together as a group
- giving information about family members, or alloting time for family members to give information about their activities
- just sharing… family memories, plans for the future, family stories.
Not all approaches to fun in family meetings are worthwhile, but there are truly human ways to promote fun together with family members. When families understand the real value, purpose and significance of fun sharing, they show a human wisdom that we could scarcely find in non family companies.
Through fun, families educate their members –personally- to participate and freely engage with each other in the activities of the family. That´s how unity is attained and that´s how family brings strength to the business in the long term.
About the Author - Carlos Arbesú is a world renowned family business consultsant and has founded, and is consultant to various Family Business Chapters or Associations in Spain, Chile and Peru, which are linked to the Family Business Network. In addition, he helped to establish Family Business chairs at the University of Oviedo (Spain), Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile (Chile) and PAD Business School (Perú). For more information he can be contacted via his website here