Values Based Leadership isn’t just for individuals and organizations, it’s also an incredibly powerful tool for families. Many of the principles that apply to organizations and family businesses also apply to another type of community – the family unit.
Like the keel and the rudder of a sailboat, the values and culture of an organization have an impact on how it moves forward towards its’ goals and achieves success. In families, the same is true. We understand that one generation lays the groundwork for future generations, with the potential for positive legacy.
Self and others’ awareness are foundational pieces of this work. How we show up as individuals impacts the family – and how we show up as a family unit impacts the individual members of the family and the greater community. Understanding our own core values and the core values of our family members increases our awareness of self and others. It gives us insight into how and why we make decisions, what encourages us, and what causes us to become emotionally hijacked. It helps us to connect to one another with grace and empathy.
Several years ago, I facilitated a personal core values exercise with a family spanning three generations. The youngest members of the family were in their teens and the matriarch was around 80. After they completed choosing the values that were most important to them, we took some time to share and engage in conversation. The grandmother watched and listened but withheld sharing anything with her family. We surmised and later confirmed that one of her core values was privacy. Even though she was not willing to share this, her behavior reflected this core value and it had an impact on the family dynamic and discussion. Each one of us is important!
Honoring each family member’s core values is key, however, articulating a shared set of family values can be powerful. Family values serve as a filter for decision making, conflict resolution, communicating, prioritizing, and how we want our relationships to be in the generations to come. They set the standard for how the family wants to relate to each other and be known in the world.
Creating a family purpose is also a powerful part of this work. As a family, we can achieve this by looking to the past to times that the family has been very satisfied and has felt the most connected. These shared family memories serve as a great foundation for understanding purpose. We can also consider the present and when we seem to be most engaged, effective and having fun together – what makes it special? And we can look to the future – what do we want others to know about us? What do we want others to see in us? What’s the most important legacy that we can leave?
This work connects deeply with both head and heart. Families want to be known, not just superficially, but to be authentically known for something that’s important. If we want to have honoring, fully functioning, healthy families, that are more connected, committed and cohesive, then it’s important for us to identify our values and articulate our purpose.
Have you done any of this work with your family? We’d love to hear about it!