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Episode 42: How Conflict Can Be Catalyst For Good In The Family Business

In this episode of "The Family Biz Show," Michael Palumbos, from Family Wealth and Legacy in Rochester, New York, dives into the nuanced challenges of managing conflict within family businesses. With guests Kathy Holub, an expert in negotiation skills and conflict resolution, and Greg McCann, a seasoned family business consultant, the conversation unpacks the dynamics of family interaction and its impact on business operations.

Kathy Holub shares her journey from journalism to becoming a specialist in conflict resolution, emphasizing the transformative power of understanding and addressing disputes. Her anecdote about coaching a woman struggling with her mother's will highlights the importance of effective communication and empathetic listening in resolving family conflicts.

Greg McCann recounts his experience with a family business where sibling rivalry and differing communication styles led to a decade-long succession planning stalemate. Through a year of focused team development, emphasizing trust, commitment, and accountability, the family was able to overcome their obstacles, illustrating the profound effect of addressing underlying family dynamics on business success.

The episode underscores a universal truth in family businesses: conflict, when approached constructively, can be a catalyst for growth and improved relationships. Both Holub and McCann advocate for a patient, empathetic approach to conflict resolution, emphasizing the long-term benefits of building trust and fostering open communication within family enterprises.

Episode 42 Transcript


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Michael Palumbos: All right.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Well, welcome everybody to the family biz show my name is Michael Columbus with family wealth and legacy here in Rochester New York, where we actually have our one out of seven a lot of days of sunshine today.

 

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Michael Palumbos: i'm so glad everybody's with us, we are going to be talking about how conflict can be a catalyst for good in the family business, and we are joined today by Cathy lube and Greg McCann love having you both here welcome welcome thanks for joining us.

 

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Kathy Holub: Thanks for inviting me.

 

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Michael Palumbos: So, as we often do we like people to kind of tell us their journey, how they ended up doing what they're doing today and Kathy if you don't mind would you kick us off.

 

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Kathy Holub: Sure, and Michael if you don't mind I will tell you how to pronounce my last name.

 

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Michael Palumbos: is going to happen sorry.

 

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Kathy Holub: No you're you're at the end of a long list it's Kathy hollow.

 

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Michael Palumbos: hollow got it.

 

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Kathy Holub: hello, and nobody can pronounce it right so that's all right, I specialize in negotiation skills and conflict resolution and, like most of your guests Michael I got to this career by a winding route not direct at all.

 

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Kathy Holub: straight out of college, I was a newspaper reporter, and I had a good long career as.

 

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Kathy Holub: A journalist, and when I look back from where I am now, what about that part of my life sort of prefigured what I do now, first of all, I was negotiating all the time, as I realized now.

 

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Kathy Holub: Because I had to persuade people to trust me and give me information which they didn't always want to do um and I had to I had to learn how to.

 

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Kathy Holub: How to really help people get to the.

 

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Kathy Holub: The the heart of the matter, and so I love that career, I had lots of adventures, I worked in Mississippi and in California both places where I did not grow up I grew up on the east coast and then I had a huge career crisis and realized, I was in the wrong field.

 

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Kathy Holub: So, then, I had to decide well what am I going to do about this by luck i've got a fellowship that's only for journalists.

 

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Kathy Holub: Where you get to study at Stanford for a year and just be a dilettante you get to take any courses you want, with no exams.

 

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Kathy Holub: And this was heaven for me I didn't realize until I got to Stanford for this year, how much I missed being at school and by sheer luck, I fell into a negotiation course at Stanford law school and it changed my life.

 

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Kathy Holub: Interesting yeah it absolutely changed my life, and the reason I change my life, I think, is because, first of all I didn't know that dispute resolution and negotiation were things that could be studied and learned.

 

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Kathy Holub: And so, that was a big revelation also just as a student in the class I learned a lot about myself.

 

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Kathy Holub: And why I was afraid of conflict and why most other people are afraid of conflict, and it was just it was just a huge a huge thing in my life so after that I decided to go to law school.

 

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Kathy Holub: At the ripe age of 38 I went to Yale law school and after that I always knew I wanted to get into dispute resolution, but I sort of did for a couple of years what most people do I clerked for a federal judge.

 

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Kathy Holub: um and I clerked for Sonia sotomayor which was one of the best experiences of my life, and then I practiced for a couple of years in New York City practice law big corporate law, and that was not my thing at all, so I basically start practicing as soon as I could.

 

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Kathy Holub: If the truth be told, but i'm very glad that I did it because it was great training and then I went into teaching and I was just very lucky that.

 

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Kathy Holub: During my fellowship here, I had met the right people who were able to steer me to the right places, so I started teaching at Columbia law school.

 

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Kathy Holub: And I learned by doing I was teaching negotiation, from the beginning, so i've been teaching negotiation and Colombia for about 20 years now soon after I.

 

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Kathy Holub: started doing that my original mentor from Stanford ended up at Harvard law school he invited me to start teaching there, so those are still my two academic homes.

 

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Kathy Holub: And I teach negotiation at both of them.

 

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Kathy Holub: And along the way I developed also a practice where i've done a whole bunch of things i've done corporate training in negotiation skills and i've done other kinds of dispute resolution.

 

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Kathy Holub: But more recently i've moved into an area that I think has been is the most satisfying of all, I know that Greg who's going to tell his story in a minute I think Greg you call it psychic income or something.

 

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Greg McCann: yeah yeah.

 

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Kathy Holub: Is that it yeah.

 

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Greg McCann: Oh yeah.

 

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Kathy Holub: I get tremendous psychic income from working with families and so now I work with families, helping them resolve conflict often conflict that has been simmering for many years and which the family very, very much wants to move past.

 

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Michael Palumbos: love it thank Kathy.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Greg tell us how did you end up in the wonderful field of working with families family businesses.

 

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Greg McCann: Sure, and Michael, thank you for the opportunity has been great Kathleen i've had some communication and to get to know Kathleen are amazing background my story may be proof that God has a sense of humor.

 

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Greg McCann: I grew up in a family that has a business my dad is a serial entrepreneur and an 88 is still chairman of our company, so I was an employee and still i'm an owner in my family business.

 

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Greg McCann: I started on the Faculty at stetson university when I was about 30 and at 38 the Dean came to me and said, would you like to start a family business Center and I had no idea what that really meant.

 

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Greg McCann: But it turned out to be fascinating given both my history and kind of interdisciplinary approach to things so we developed the first major and family business.

 

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Greg McCann: In the country, and we think the world we helped co create the transitions conference with family business magazine.

 

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Greg McCann: That very quickly led to some consulting and I found a brilliant mentor to help me with that 2122 years ago and some coaching.

 

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Greg McCann: Now I do a little bit of writing and speaking, but I know I think and we've talked about this in our preparation that the number one skill in a family.

 

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Greg McCann: That can be correlated through research and certainly my experience to show what helps a family business be successful and deal with succession.

 

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Greg McCann: Is the ability to have that difficult conversation get those bumps under the carpet that we keep tripping over out.

 

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Greg McCann: And to help families do that safely and effectively is just so important and often so difficult that that's, the key to I think families that make it versus families that don't make it great.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Well, again, thank you both for joining us.

 

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Michael Palumbos: let's die then it's I think Greg you just started to lay the groundwork for what what we're going to be discussing and when we were together.

 

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Michael Palumbos: We had talked about you know, the fact that there's three different components to a thriving family enterprise, do you want to walk us through and talk about that for a second.

 

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Greg McCann: john may need you to help me remember our conversation it's been a while yeah.

 

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Michael Palumbos: um I guess when you when you're looking at a family and the family owned business, you know, one of the components, is the ability to have those difficult conversations when you know what are the other skills, the family needs to develop to work on to.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Ensure that they stay a thriving family enterprise free for generations or years to come, I guess what would be the question.

 

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Greg McCann: Oh, my God I think tracking that the what the research shows, and what I often recommend to my clients is three things can be shown to correlate one is the difficult conversation, and I think that's going to be the big focus today.

 

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Greg McCann: The other one was the business having effective strategic plan and other words do we know where we're going and how we're going to get there, and what are the resources, going to be.

 

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Greg McCann: And then the one that I find, maybe even more rare than the difficult conversation is is there an effective board of directors.

 

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Greg McCann: there's management answer to somebody is somebody looking beyond the industry to take us from blockbuster to netflix.

 

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Greg McCann: Because if it is just family members who are in management holding family members who are management accountable that's like me, giving myself a job review i'm probably going to say I did great this year.

 

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Greg McCann: So I think having separating ownership and management is a big transition for a lot of families.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Okay i'm going to ask you, I know we spend the vast majority of our time on conflict, but I do want to make sure that we hit those other two real quick.

 

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Michael Palumbos: and define them get them, you know in front of people, because for the vast majority of family businesses that I run into.

 

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Michael Palumbos: A lot of times what I see is they have yet to make that transition, and so you know it is super important the the board doesn't necessarily have to be a fiduciary board of directors, it could be an advisory board.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And what i've seen and Greg tell me if you know if you would agree, or you know, or you have some other thoughts around this as when you do add that board it's not.

 

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Michael Palumbos: it's not just to hold yourself accountable, but it's also there are people that you can bring in that may know things and just your speed to market in different areas, and your speed to.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Adding core processes and systems and all the things that are necessary, like use, you know you talked about going from blockbuster netflix it may not be that big putting could be lots of little things that can really speed them up and help them to be more profitable.

 

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Greg McCann: yeah Michael so the term we use is often professionals, the founder is usually highly entrepreneurial jack of all trades does everything able to pivot one point my dad pivoted.

 

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Greg McCann: From donut stores, at least, considering open opening up the last dutchman's gold mine to my mother threatened to shoot them.

 

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Greg McCann: that's much harder to do, and you have seven siblings and they all have 20% ownership and so on, so on the strategic plan I think it's getting out of that reactive mindset, you know if you feel like indiana Jones running a habit that boulder you probably feel like you suffered a.

 

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Greg McCann: lot today, but I don't know if you're leading.

 

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Greg McCann: You know the the research shows most family businesses are over managed and under lead leadership is creating that vision and you need some space and time to think.

 

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Greg McCann: So this strategic planning process is as important as anything else on the board I love what you said, I think so many of my clients see it as a threat or loss of control.

 

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Greg McCann: I think the advisory board that has no power beyond the merit of their opinions, is often a great way to start.

 

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Greg McCann: But it's also you can get somebody who is sold a business or somebody who's been through succession or somebody who is you know, whatever it's like free consulting.

 

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Greg McCann: And if you get the right people at the right point in their career they're more than happy to help to mentor so it's a giant resource and it managed rightly i've never seen it be a threat.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Agreed, I like what you said about the strategic planning as well, then other piece.

 

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Michael Palumbos: it's I I say it, as you need time to not just work in the business, you have to work on the business.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And it's that time of shutting the doors and emptying your mind getting out of the office and doing the SWOT analysis and looking at the industry in the trends and getting your leadership group all aligned and rowing in the same direction.

 

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Greg McCann: You Michael just a quick comment on that I do a lot of coaching people running family businesses and family offices every one of my coaching clients has finding and creating more white space to do deep thinking is one of their top priorities.

 

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Michael Palumbos: love it love it Kathy as we talked about those things is there anything that comes to your mind in your experience of dealing with families, and you know family run businesses that you know you would add to this.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Or is that fit your you know what you've seen as well, in terms of just the What helps a family to thrive and I know we're gonna you know the The next step is we're gonna have lots to talk about, but just wanted to see if there was anything else that you wanted to add.

 

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Kathy Holub: To those three important pieces that Greg just mentioned.

 

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Kathy Holub: Where where I focus on is the ability to have difficult conversations great, and I would add nothing to that because I know that's going to open up into our next our next section.

 

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Michael Palumbos: So, so why don't we talk about you know let's dive right in there.

 

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Michael Palumbos: there's a cost to not dealing with these things, and as you've dealt with families, through the years what would you say, are some of the cost of not dealing with conflict and not.

 

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Michael Palumbos: maturing our ability, because that's really what it is it's a maturation cycle right to help us to.

 

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Michael Palumbos: be able to have these conversations.

 

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Michael Palumbos: effect effectively, but what are some of the costs that you know, two families for not dealing with this.

 

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Kathy Holub: that's a great question and my mind, is now going crazy thinking of lots of ideas, I would say one major cost is when you don't deal with conflict, you are experiencing a lot of pain.

 

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Kathy Holub: Whether you are conscious of it or not.

 

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Kathy Holub: A lot of anxiety tension stress pain, whatever you want to call it, and it's affecting you.

 

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Kathy Holub: Sometimes physically and certainly in your ability to just navigate everything else that's on your plate.

 

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Kathy Holub: Because the unresolved.

 

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Kathy Holub: conflict is creating a lot of static in your in your your head your psyche your heart whatever you want to call it another big cost, I would say is closeness.

 

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Kathy Holub: If you are avoiding something.

 

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Kathy Holub: If you're avoiding dealing with a conflict, you are going to be.

 

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Kathy Holub: Somewhat distant.

 

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Kathy Holub: From the people that you're interacting with.

 

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Kathy Holub: And this is the flip side of something you said before, Michael, which is, I really believe that conflict.

 

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Kathy Holub: can be great for relationships it's dealt with skillfully and productively it can make people so much closer, and so the the the opposite of that is if you're not having conflict and you're sweeping it under the rug you are going to be not close.

 

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Kathy Holub: And that's going to be creating some some issues, probably, especially if you have to see each other every day.

 

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Kathy Holub: Exactly it's costing you intimacy in a way.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Okay Greg specifically specifically for family businesses where would you say that you know those costs come up.

 

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Greg McCann: So so Michael I become I think more aggressive on my opinions on this, because every one of my emails close with the caption the age of casual family businesses over.

 

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Greg McCann: I think there's too much change going on there's too much chaos in the world that you can't just wait till something and react.

 

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Greg McCann: So you know, a colleague of mine, Richard novices any family can get along with their family members for two days of thanksgiving it takes real courage to put your time, money and resources together.

 

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Greg McCann: And so the research shows that the families that have made it over 100 years have in my way of thinking, two things different people use different frameworks its capacity.

 

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Greg McCann: and its agility capacity is, can I deal with conflict can I listen to somebody else do I have greater self awareness, all these emotional things that we talked about.

 

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Greg McCann: Then agility is what gear Should I be in for this conversation is this an analytical tax from I should be solving is this an emotional problem I should be coaching someone on.

 

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Greg McCann: You know I think when you look at the research family businesses that manage their family business involvement well that developers capacity.

 

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Greg McCann: The family involvement in their business and most families, I work with have multiple businesses their family office different lancer P, the family involvement becomes a strategic advantage.

 

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Greg McCann: it's more values based decision.

 

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Greg McCann: it's more longer term thinking it's greater trust and cohesion for quicker decision making, but that doesn't come for free.

 

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Greg McCann: I use the analogy where like fitness coaches, you can wait till you have your first heart attack and say I should get to the gym or you can say i'm going to be proactive.

 

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Greg McCann: I think more and more families have decided they're going to be proactive and invest in this because look at how much time you invest in your business i'm going to report you get how many advisors, you have for it.

 

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Greg McCann: Are you doing equally as much for the family, because it's in that family, at least as important.

 

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Michael Palumbos: 100% I love that that's you know, one of the things that I say to to families, all the time, is that we don't go to a Hollywood blockbuster that has zero conflict in it.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And would be boring we don't we want conflict within the business and within the family, we just want to be able to deal with it and, like you said Greg the capacity and Kathy, you know as you're talking about we we don't want, we want to be able to.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Do that it's a tough word I think sometimes to say, but we want the intimacy that into intimacy and the ability to say, I want to be able to look in the eyes and.

 

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Michael Palumbos: feel what you're feeling and respect what you're saying and understand it, and then tell you be able to handle that and tell you how i'm feeling, so that we can respectfully move to the next level.

 

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Michael Palumbos: love it love love love it the other one I is a favorite quote from a guy that coaches entrepreneurs entrepreneurs.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Dan Sullivan, with the strategic coach program and he says, all those things that seem to oppose our goals conflict.

 

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Michael Palumbos: are actually the raw materials for achieving them and I just think that that fits in what we're doing, because it really is, you know it all fits right inside of there, so I from here, I guess what I want to talk about is you know some of the other costs.

 

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Michael Palumbos: I think is growth of the business I don't know if you would agree with that or not.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Absolutely yeah if you're constantly fighting family fires if you're constantly dealing with the conflicts, then you're never having the time to be strategic.

 

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Greg McCann: Michael that good Kathy.

 

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Kathy Holub: I was just gonna say a conflict that it has not been dealt with successfully and maybe keeping the entire both the family and the business stuck.

 

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Greg McCann: yeah yeah a friend of mine Tom everson it says, we are all professional boss watchers and that's probably why true in a family business.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Can you more time.

 

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Greg McCann: yeah we are all professional boss watchers everybody notices that if Greg has a second cup of coffee or he wears that tie or whatever the little signals are.

 

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Greg McCann: So it's amazing to me the blind spots my clients have that they don't think the employees pick up when there's tension.

 

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Greg McCann: Right yeah my experience they pick up 100% of the time it may not know the details, but they can always tell when mom or dad or the siblings are having conflict so this idea that it doesn't impact the business is absolutely wrong.

 

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Michael Palumbos: 100% you know which that leads right to that other thing where as human beings, one of our natures is to close the loop.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And whether it's true or untrue, when we see conflict or you know around the family we're going to make up a story of.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know what's going on and why is that happening and we could be totally wrong and off base but that's just what we do is you know we'd like to finish the story absolutely yes.

 

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Kathy Holub: yeah that's that's so true and that's that's part of the problem if we're avoiding actually talking to the other person or the other people.

 

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Kathy Holub: Because we're afraid of having the conflict come out into the open, we are making up a story we're making a whole slew of assumptions about what's going on with the other person who tends.

 

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Kathy Holub: And usually we're wrong yeah because we usually This is just one of the odd things about human nature is when.

 

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Kathy Holub: We.

 

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Kathy Holub: When a situation is affecting us in a negative way and we're trying to figure out what the other person or people intend will usually assume they intend to have that bad effect on us, so we impute negative intentions to them, which rarely are accurate.

 

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Michael Palumbos: gotcha so let's i'm going to ask you to stretch, and if this doesn't work for you, let me know.

 

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Michael Palumbos: But i'd like.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You to each come up with a family that you've dealt with were there, they were in conflict.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And if you don't want you know, without giving names and you know details, you know that are pertinent to them, but maybe set up and talk about.

 

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Michael Palumbos: What types is just so people can hear two different families what types of conflict where they dealing with who are the players.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And then we'll figure out how you know what you did to help unwind those things as we went through so Kathy would you can does a family come to mind, for you that you could kind of set up and TEE it up for us.

 

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Kathy Holub: I can think of several families, but they were not family businesses.

 

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Greg McCann: can start.

 

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Michael Palumbos: anyone else worse.

 

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Kathy Holub: yeah yeah.

 

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Kathy Holub: i'll tell you about one, where I was actually coaching one member of the family.

 

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Kathy Holub: But, in doing so I helped her unravel the whole problem.

 

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Kathy Holub: She was having this is i'm a woman middle in middle age who's elderly mother.

 

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Kathy Holub: had recently changed her will.

 

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Kathy Holub: and did not want to discuss it with the daughter.

 

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Kathy Holub: And the mother, after years of having.

 

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Kathy Holub: Divided her estate equally in her will between the daughter, and her son had recently made the decision to rewrite the wills, so that it was more in favor of the son, who had some health issues that she was worried about and.

 

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Kathy Holub: She didn't want to discuss it so she did it she didn't tell the daughter, and it slipped out in a conversation one day.

 

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Kathy Holub: And when the daughter got upset and asked questions the mom clammed up and said it's none of your business I wouldn't talk about it.

 

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Kathy Holub: Great so.

 

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Michael Palumbos: I did perfectly teed up, I have, I want to come back to you again i'm going to go back and forth on this i've never done before so i'm going to juggle and try to juggle it here.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Greg grab a family business that comes to your mind and kind of tell us a little bit about the players and what was the issue that we're dealing with.

 

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Greg McCann: It was consulting with this family, so it was four brothers who are all owner operators and there were two other non families and the management team one brother who was it the first among equals that was running the company tended to advocate very aggressively.

 

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Greg McCann: And the other brothers basically got worn down and everybody would sort of capitulate, but it was sort of half buying in.

 

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Greg McCann: They didn't feel heard they didn't agree with his decisions, he he interpreted that you know as Kathy said we put stories to things.

 

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Greg McCann: He thought his brothers and the two other managers were just not good people that they wouldn't follow through on commitments they just felt like they were being beaten into submission.

 

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Greg McCann: When he saw this that he was sort of stuck in one gear of sort of turbo advocating I can use that phrase, he said about two months after he had time to digest it it changed his life.

 

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Greg McCann: It certainly changed the team dynamic.

 

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Kathy Holub: And Greg I have a question.

 

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Kathy Holub: Michael if that's okay.

 

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Michael Palumbos: course right.

 

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Kathy Holub: Do the the brother who was the.

 

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Kathy Holub: The relentless advocate.

 

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Kathy Holub: Did he when he was in that gear did he think well the others just aren't getting it so i'm just going to say it again, but stronger.

 

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Greg McCann: yeah I don't think he was thinking, he was dominating that you shutting down, I think he just that was a very comfortable gear for him to begin.

 

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Greg McCann: And he used it and his his brothers, he was the oldest brother's you might have gaps.

 

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Greg McCann: The other brothers.

 

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Greg McCann: Just weren't willing to push constantly.

 

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Greg McCann: So it was for lack of awareness than some evil intent.

 

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Michael Palumbos: How to Kathy one of the things that you brought up that I want to make sure that people capture and I think Greg would you would agree with this is, you are dealing with conflict, but you only dealt with one of the parties.

 

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Kathy Holub: Yes.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know it's you know there's three people involved in that conflict.

 

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Michael Palumbos: But only one was willing to do something about it, and it was still solved.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And I think that that's really important for people to capture is that you may not be able to bring all parties to the table that doesn't mean that you shouldn't get some.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Consulting or some you know do some work yourself to try to to unravel these things, because the only person, you can control is yourself.

 

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Kathy Holub: Thank you so much for pointing that out you're absolutely right, there are some in this family and their many families one person is in pain.

 

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Kathy Holub: In terms of the other people wild horses would not get them in.

 

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Kathy Holub: Right right to a facilitated family meeting or a series of whatever's and wild horses wouldn't get them in because a they don't they're happy with the status quo, they don't see a problem.

 

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Kathy Holub: And or, be they are conflict avoiders mostly they prefer to avoid and therefore they would think you know over my dead body would I want to go into something like that.

 

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Kathy Holub: Right, but the daughter came in, because she had been in pain over this situation for five years by the time she came to me, and you want me to go ahead with the story down.

 

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Michael Palumbos: yeah as a matter of fact, so let's let's think about this just a second what i'd like to do is.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You probably have a process for helping people to start to think through these things would be my assumption why don't you why don't you walk us through you know what your process was and then.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know we'll come back to me, you know depending how long that takes I wanted to find out how the daughter went through that process, and what her you know.

 

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Michael Palumbos: What her thought process was and how it was able to help her yes, and maybe we won't get to how she helped the family figure it all out yet.

 

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Kathy Holub: yeah yeah well.

 

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Kathy Holub: i'm not going to lay out a process in terms of step one step two step three because there are a lot of things that have to happen.

 

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Kathy Holub: And they're not linear it's sort of a they're almost together.

 

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Kathy Holub: Fair analytically we may be able to think of them as separate but first of all, you have to define the problem.

 

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Kathy Holub: up for each person when when when and Greg i'm sure when you're working with a group certainly when i'm working with a group each person has to define what are their goals what's the problem and where are we going.

 

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Kathy Holub: and different people may have different views on that and that's fine so for this particular client I had to help her define what are the issues and what were her goals and then she, of course, had to fill me in on the background, which was quite complicated.

 

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Kathy Holub: And then we have to, then we get into a phase where we have to understand the problem really deeply and that was really where we started to get some real action, which was.

 

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Kathy Holub: In this phase, I try to understand what is preventing the family members from understanding each other.

 

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Kathy Holub: it's fine if they disagree, but so you know, for example, like, I had to figure out So why was why was the mom refusing to talk to the daughter.

 

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Kathy Holub: And the more I heard, I mean really the single most important insight that I had in this case was that the mother and daughter had very different ways of dealing with conflict and each of them had a style when it came to conflict that was like oil and water with the other person style.

 

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Kathy Holub: And once I realized this, I was able to tell the daughter.

 

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Kathy Holub: I was able to teach her how to speak to her mother differently.

 

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Kathy Holub: So her mother would open up and what I realized was that the daughter was a very straightforward person, she was not afraid of conflict.

 

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Kathy Holub: And if she was upset she let you know it right away, you always know where she stood, but you know at high volume.

 

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Kathy Holub: If she was upset the mother was a conflict avoider to the nth degree and the minute she anyone it minute anyone was upset she would shut down, she would just close close down completely.

 

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Kathy Holub: And so once I realized that I was able to explain to the daughter okay your mother is very afraid of conflict and when you behave in your natural way you are scaring your mother.

 

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Kathy Holub: And that's why she won't talk so in order to get her to open up, we need to practice different ways for you to talk to her.

 

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Kathy Holub: And it needs to be gradual so she'll gradually feel safe and open up more Greg i'm sure we'll talk about making people feel safe as a key ingredient to opening things up, so that you can have a really productive conversation.

 

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Kathy Holub: So once I realized this this key I was able to teach the daughter, the skills that she needed.

 

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Kathy Holub: And by the way, most people have no conflict skills, because they don't learn them anywhere and it's not their fault.

 

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Michael Palumbos: that's great i'm going to stop you right there because I want to come back to find out what those keys of you know, dealing with the conflict are the.

 

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Kathy Holub: mirror.

 

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Michael Palumbos: With that'd be great so Greg is we're talking about the the brothers and the management team and.

 

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Michael Palumbos: walk us through in take us through the next steps here where where did where did you get involved, how did it help you know where did you start to go with them in terms of coaching you know this team.

 

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Greg McCann: yeah so, and you know, similar to what Kathy doesn't I love this the story she shared We often say you know they're stuck because they're avoiding conflict.

 

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Greg McCann: They want to be in this case, it was generally ownership succession issue which they've been stuck on for over a decade.

 

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Greg McCann: But i'm always that fitness coach saying how do we develop the capacity of this team.

 

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Greg McCann: So, from a different perspective, but the same kind of thing Kathy was talking about self awareness so you advocate very effectively very well, but.

 

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Greg McCann: Just like a car with five years if you drive around in second gear all the time, something goes wrong.

 

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Greg McCann: empathy, what are the other people in the room care about what's their style if they want to be drawn out and heard and listened to you're not affording that.

 

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Greg McCann: And then framing it as Kathy said, with the goal what's the real issue here that we Is this a family issue or a tax issue you know, at one point with this client one of their advisors was trying to mediate a business solution and it was a sibling rivalry issue.

 

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Greg McCann: And I think he was doing this with good intent, but it was his way to deal with the stress and we had to politely asked him to sort of shift into neutral and let us deal with a sibling tension.

 

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Greg McCann: So those three agility self awareness, who am I how am I perceived apathy what other people really care about I don't meet them more effectively and then framing of those three I find framing to be the one people spend the least time on.

 

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Greg McCann: you're in a meeting with four people and you're having three different discussions.

 

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Greg McCann: So after we were able to get the leader to sort of see this the team decided they need to do some work on trust and commitment and some other basic teamwork skills, so we spent over a year on just team don't.

 

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Michael Palumbos: love it in a one of the one of my go to for this just to open the door on this conversation is Patrick latency on these five dysfunctions of a team.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And you're just defining that trust issue you've got these brothers in this management team who you know are afraid that if I talk.

 

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Michael Palumbos: he's just gonna you know plow over me and i'm never going to be heard and trust isn't that that the trust of like the trust fall thing and it's right and it's it's it's being heard and listen to an empathy and you know, putting all those pieces together so good, thank you that's why.

 

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Greg McCann: I can just respond so that's exactly the model we used, and I think two of my colleagues and I are trying to pioneer that with families.

 

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Greg McCann: And he calls it vulnerability based trust which it is, and one of the just the anecdotal signs that it isn't working is when the meeting always happens outside of the meeting.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Right right right did you see did you listen, did you see did you hear that you know absolutely I love it um so you spent a year going through.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know and and talking about trust and conflict being able to disagree and commit I would imagine, and you know all of those you know types of pieces and it wasn't it wasn't a you know it's not a pull off the band aid, and we take a magic pill and it's fixed this is practice right.

 

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Michael Palumbos: But it's worth it, we just out of curiosity, if you I mean with again we're not disclosing companies, but what would you say you know what kind of revenues is this company dealing with.

 

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Greg McCann: Oh i'd say about 150.

 

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Michael Palumbos: So, so if we go deal with these things where do we go, what is the you know the digit there's a financial effect that's happening as well.

 

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Greg McCann: I think families need a practice again then go to the analogy working out nobody says, I went to the gym back in 2018 for one whole weekend.

 

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Michael Palumbos: yeah it's it.

 

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Greg McCann: So I often say what is your family business practice, and if you don't have one I think you're putting the most important relationships and assets in your life at risk unnecessarily.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Agreed agreed I love it so Kathy let's let's come back to your story for a second and you said that there were some remind.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You that you taught some different characteristics net characteristics, it was you taught some different skills.

 

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Kathy Holub: Yes, yes, I had to teach.

 

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Kathy Holub: I had to teach some communication skills to the daughter that we're not that she had never learned.

 

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Kathy Holub: And, like most people she just.

 

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Kathy Holub: You know I think I think most of us learn.

 

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Kathy Holub: Our our our.

 

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Kathy Holub: Our skills of dealing with conflict we we learn a few things to do when we're children and by the time we're about six we've got our repertoire down.

 

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Kathy Holub: And we kind of use that, for the rest of our lives that's my personal theory.

 

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Michael Palumbos: I don't.

 

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Michael Palumbos: I don't disagree with that I can see that maybe even through middle school with some with some people, but I can I went back, and I have some formative things that happened.

 

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Michael Palumbos: yeah child that I didn't then as an adult parent myself.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You know they mean to make those changes and it took me some time and i'm okay sharing this with the with the audience, it took me some time working with the therapist working with somebody that could help me download some new skills.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And how I communicated.

 

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Kathy Holub: Yes.

 

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Michael Palumbos: But what were some of the things you know attributes that that you worked on with.

 

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Michael Palumbos: This woman, do you.

 

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Kathy Holub: Well, this woman had no problem asserting her own point of view, so what I had to teach him was the, the other side of that piece, which is listening.

 

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Kathy Holub: And being very gentle in re listening and that's very challenging for most people.

 

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Michael Palumbos: which goes back to what Greg was saying earlier about empathy right and be her and she wasn't allowing that space keep going This is great.

 

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Kathy Holub: It requires and certainly for this for this grant it requires a lot of self discipline, a lot of self control because you're you're inviting the person to open up and tell you.

 

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Kathy Holub: Where their what's important to them and where they're coming from on some issue and it's quite likely they're going to say things that you don't want to hear.

 

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Kathy Holub: and your instinct is going to be.

 

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Kathy Holub: To stop listening at that point and in your head you're going to be listening to your own voice forming your rebuttal.

 

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Kathy Holub: Instead of hearing what the other person is saying, and you might even jump in and start arguing or defending yourself, or whatever your habit might be and that's all very natural.

 

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Kathy Holub: So it's unnatural to learn the skill of just being quiet and allowing the person to say whatever it is the fair answer is, and then inviting them to say more it's very challenging.

 

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Kathy Holub: Especially if you're if they're saying something you don't want to hear Oh, please do stay more that's, the last thing you want to do.

 

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Kathy Holub: Right, and so the way I taught her was and the way I teach my students and clients is we practiced.

 

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Kathy Holub: I practice being the mother she practiced being the daughter.

 

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Kathy Holub: She taught me how to be the mother in a realistic way, so I could be somewhat difficult but realistic, then we switched she was the mom and I was the skillful daughter.

 

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Kathy Holub: And that almost taught her more because she saw that when she was trying to be her own difficult her mother in a realistically difficult way she realized, it was harder and harder to be difficult, when I was being really nice and really listening and not arguing.

 

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Kathy Holub: And so, basically, where I got her was ready.

 

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Kathy Holub: For wherever the conversation went she knew how to keep it productive and not go into a place where she would escalate.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Perfect Greg I saw that some expressions on your face before do you want it, you want to add add to this.

 

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Greg McCann: Well, I mean I love the story, and you can see how skillfully Kathy works with people yeah I think you know people are stuck, especially in families, and you know they're frustrated there's a fear it's going to blow up and damage the relationship.

 

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Greg McCann: So.

 

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Greg McCann: The preparation time of deconstructing this helping them see different options different ways to show up practicing it.

 

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Greg McCann: And then even facilitating the discussion so when things get heated is slow down, you know one point I want to emphasize Cathy made.

 

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Greg McCann: Is I work with a lot of families and especially during conflict people generally don't feel heard i'm sorry people don't listen until they feel heard.

 

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Greg McCann: You know, in my career i've worked with to therapist with families and they were just brilliant at saying.

 

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Greg McCann: You know, whatever Kathy I see you feel very strong about this so validation doesn't mean you agree with the person's decision, but it means you sense what they're going through, and you can watch people's shoulders drop their jaws relax.

 

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Greg McCann: And their intake valve opens up.

 

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Greg McCann: As Kathy said when you're just sitting there waiting to make your PowerPoint.

 

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Greg McCann: You know i've stopped with families and said Ralph what did your brother just say, and he has no idea.

 

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Kathy Holub: yeah.

 

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Greg McCann: He could have said, you get it all, and you know i'll give you 20,000 more but they just don't hear.

 

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Greg McCann: Nothing people slow down show up differently and listening to with each other, because I think the one thing you know my mentor said what makes this consulting process work.

 

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Greg McCann: Is the commitment to family, so I want mom and dad to be happy that I want my kids to get along with my sister's kids.

 

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Greg McCann: it's amazing the difficult conversations that families will sit there and have and find a solution, because it's a permanent relationship, you know that the biggest or truest failure, I think i've had in 23 years.

 

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Greg McCann: Was somebody who said, my partners and I are like family and I turned him down three times I finally said Okay, which was a mistake we went in the second day of meetings they quit.

 

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Greg McCann: And it was a lesson learned, at least for me that I do pretty good work with families, because of that commitment, if they're not families that I don't the magic sauce is in there right.

 

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Michael Palumbos: yeah when its family you don't have a choice you are and just our love it.

 

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Kathy Holub: You know when there's no exit from you know there's no easy out you're willing, I think, to.

 

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Kathy Holub: hang in there may be a little bit longer through the really tough parts.

 

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Michael Palumbos: agreed.

 

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Michael Palumbos: So bring us up to speed on the family that you're that you were serving Greg and just talk about the brothers, maybe a little bit more about.

 

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Michael Palumbos: What were some of the resolutions what how did it start to unfold, you know what was different from when you met them to how they started to communicate later.

 

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Greg McCann: But, so I think a couple key takeaways from a lot of hard work on their part and my colleagues wonderful work to.

 

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Greg McCann: was one the ownership succession, which had them stuck for over a decade got resolved in a much more meaningful way.

 

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Greg McCann: To the relationship with the brothers and the hands, because that constant grinding was just.

 

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Greg McCann: The the older brother decided to pull back, which I think was wise, given his life stage and some other issues, he was struggling with and then to non family managers felt like they weren't navigating the bumps in the family carpet constantly.

 

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Greg McCann: The next generation stepped up more some family meetings went a little more effectively, because again everybody was watching these four brothers and you could just see the constant frustration.

 

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Greg McCann: So again, the notion that the family conflict doesn't impact the business is in, in my opinion, just naive.

 

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Kathy Holub: I have a question for Greg which is i'm wondering, you said, one of the key issues.

 

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Kathy Holub: That was not recognized until you started working with the four brothers was sibling rivalry, was it sibling rivalry between the oldest brother and another brother or was it between two of the non oldest.

 

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Greg McCann: Oh that's a good point.

 

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Greg McCann: I would say there was a dash in between all four brothers, but one of the brothers and the one in charge, you know what to talk about agility.

 

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Greg McCann: One of the brothers would say I play devil's advocate and again that's a great gear, at a certain point, but.

 

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Greg McCann: He intended to be stuck in that gear and it made people not want to invite him to meetings, because you'd have a brilliant idea i'm excited about and he sort of pull out the gun and start shooting skeet as we called it.

 

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Greg McCann: So again, most gears aren't good or bad, but helping people see as far as like the metaphor of a car, nobody would say, Michael third gears terrible don't use third year right, but if you drove your car around third gear all day something bad would probably happen.

 

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Greg McCann: Now, helping people be mindful and Kathy you and I talked about this of patterning patterns into choices checking out assumptions, you know there's some pretty standard sort of skills that we.

 

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Greg McCann: Sometimes you know, an assumption can be clear up in five minutes, and it can be life changing sometimes it is a gut wrenching difficult conversation yes.

 

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Kathy Holub: And I think that what kind of ties these things together, is when people don't feel heard they feel disrespected.

 

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Kathy Holub: And sometimes they make the mistake of thinking that the person who's not hearing is disrespect.

 

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Kathy Holub: is just respecting them on purpose.

 

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Kathy Holub: Whether it feels like on purpose or not on purpose it feels equally bad.

 

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Kathy Holub: Right.

 

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Greg McCann: We actually said it our families can push our buttons so well because they installed them.

 

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Kathy Holub: Because why.

 

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Greg McCann: Because they installed them, you know I mean we're so close to the family members that it's you know, whenever you can see a mother raised eyebrow and the sister or daughter goes ballistic our families have such intimacy with us that they have such power.

 

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Greg McCann: yeah another truism, especially for your audience is, in my experience, most families will accept most decisions at the processes fair.

 

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Greg McCann: Yes, they feel heard so not everybody gets what they want family businesses are not democracies, but if people don't feel heard they don't feel engaged that they don't feel validated, they will almost always disagree yeah.

 

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Kathy Holub: Yes, one of my favorite sayings is and I heard this from someone else can take credit for it is it's more than most people it's more important to them to be heard than to be agreed with.

 

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Michael Palumbos: That was in percent.

 

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Kathy Holub: Once you hear someone, and you, you show them that you get it, you can disagree and they usually will be fine yeah the fact that you don't agree.

 

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Michael Palumbos: i'm going to bring back.

 

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Kathy Holub: The two.

 

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Michael Palumbos: No that's great i'm going to bring back the five dysfunctions because I think I want to I want people to hear them real quick, because I think you know.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Greg what you did was you just took this family right through you know, so that they could they could recognize these five dysfunctions so that they could.

 

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Michael Palumbos: function going forward, and you know it's again it's that trust they needed to be able to have the vulnerability, with one another to know that they were going to be able to say something without being squashed they needed to allow that conflict to happen, so that they could you know.

 

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Michael Palumbos: not have any artificial harmony they didn't weren't just walking around the room and having the meeting someplace else they were allowing the conflict to happen within the room.

 

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Michael Palumbos: But because they trusted because they allow the conflict to happen now.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And they've been heard, and they feel empathized with, and you know, have been given empathy they're able to commit to a path going forward that they may not agree 1,000% 100% with.

 

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Michael Palumbos: But they're going to you know that we're going to decide and commit to move forward.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Which leads them to accountability being able to make sure everybody's doing what they're supposed to be doing, and finally, you know in muncie owns my what's the you know talking about the results, but you a decade.

 

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Michael Palumbos: of no succession plan really Could you imagine Had that been settled a year into talking about the succession plan or three years into it, what the potential results of the business might have then if they weren't focused on that.

 

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Greg McCann: amen no and you walk through that really well Michael and you know you can see where once the conflict, of the one brother over advocating there were other issues, but you needed that trust first you need to deal with conflict and then people were actually committing in meetings.

 

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Greg McCann: Well, that that was a giant change.

 

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Greg McCann: Go ahead sorry another family office we work with again 18 months of work with this model, the leader said, work is now fun again.

 

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Michael Palumbos: wow that's great that's.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You Tony.

 

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Michael Palumbos: So Kathy did you talk to your client after she met with mom and went through this process and how many conversations did she have with mom to get from point A to Point B, was it multiple conversations.

 

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Michael Palumbos: That included that talk about that a little bit if you don't mind.

 

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Kathy Holub: Sure well.

 

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Kathy Holub: The first thing we had to do was to figure out how many different things were she negotiating for and to negotiate for them one, at a time.

 

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Kathy Holub: Because the mom needed a very gentle process to trust that the daughter wasn't going to blow up again and get upset so I I told the client your first negotiation is with your mom is for her permission to read the will, because the daughter didn't even know what was in the will.

 

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Kathy Holub: And so, of course, the daughter was imagining.

 

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Kathy Holub: That.

 

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Kathy Holub: Everything was going to the brother or she didn't know how much, and she was make she was imagining because she needed to tell a story to herself and fill in the blank she was imagining things that were possibly worse.

 

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Kathy Holub: than what was accurate, so the first negotiation with the mom was simply for permission to read the will and no more.

 

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Kathy Holub: And so we practice that conversation in different ways that she might lead into it in a very gentle and loving way and in one conversation the mom said sure you can read the will.

 

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Kathy Holub: So that was really exciting the daughter read the will she got the information she needed it was about what she thought not quite as bad as she feared in terms of the inequality between the brother who genuinely needed more financial help.

 

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Kathy Holub: and her, and then the next negotiation was more challenging because the next negotiation was for the daughter to negotiate with the mother.

 

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Kathy Holub: Well, the way the daughter framed this is about framing again the way the daughter frame the second negotiation was.

 

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Kathy Holub: I need to persuade mom to change the wheel back to 5050.

 

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Kathy Holub: And I thought that was.

 

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Kathy Holub: The frame was a little bit too strong.

 

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Kathy Holub: I thought that what she should negotiate for was for her mom to be willing to to hear the daughters input.

 

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Kathy Holub: Because I thought that.

 

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Kathy Holub: Where the daughter need to start was to assure the mom that she the daughter understood that it was moms money and mom gets to do whatever she wants with it.

 

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Kathy Holub: She needed to give mom the respect of saying mom I understand that you have autonomy over this decision now, would you be willing to hear how I feel about it.

 

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Kathy Holub: And so that's what we practiced and I think she had a couple maybe two conversations.

 

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Kathy Holub: And then.

 

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Kathy Holub: I have, I encourage the daughter, just to wait and let the good effects of each conversation just kind of percolate.

 

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Kathy Holub: In the moms brain not i'm just just wait and let time do its work and, in fact, that happened about two months later, the daughter informed me that the mom had changed the will back to 5050.

 

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Kathy Holub: But the mom had to do it in her own way, because she had the mom had to feel like she was saying, you are not the boss of me I am the boss.

 

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Michael Palumbos: love it thank Kathy Greg in regards to the family, you know anything else that you want to share with us that anything pop up that as we're as we're talking that.

 

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Michael Palumbos: You think is important for this finalizing the story.

 

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Greg McCann: i'd say two things for the business people listening and they they're echoed in kathy's statements day is one.

 

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Greg McCann: The process if the relationship matters, the process may be more important than a specific outcome.

 

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Greg McCann: I think in business we're so driven by outcomes that sometimes we miss the value of the process, so it's hard to be intimate and hyper efficient so families and relationships move at a different pace, I think the other thing I love the phrase Kathy used percolate.

 

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Greg McCann: Good yeah these emotional things take time to digest so like we often meet one afternoon the next morning you're you give people a week.

 

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Greg McCann: And so, shifting gears from the business Problem Solving mode, you can solve a tax issue in an hour, you probably can't have a difficult conversation in an hour, you can start it.

 

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Greg McCann: But shifting your mindset to say this to intimacy takes time vulnerability takes time i'm going to have to slow down in this one.

 

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Michael Palumbos: love it when when we we've developed a process that we utilize internally with family businesses.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And what we did we had interviewed 20 different family businesses, and then I went and interviewed 25 different family business coaches or advisors and you know the data came back then the hardest thing for the family was alignment.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And it's if the if the family wasn't in alignment if they weren't all rowing in the same direction, which is the source of the conflict right is that lack of alignment.

 

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Michael Palumbos: The it caused an awful lot of problems, so we you know utilize a process to help people focus on the results and the goals first just like you're talking about.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And then we come back and say now what are all the obstacles.

 

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Michael Palumbos: To getting those things, and it just changes the framework, a little bit, because we can talk about those things, and we have each family member fill them out separately.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And so that they can see these things and it's facilitated that way, and now everybody gets a chance and everybody has to get hurt so it's it's kind of neat how you're talking about your process and.

 

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Michael Palumbos: I will tell you about you know if I have you know done this, a handful of times now, we did the process just was done this year, but each time that we've done it thus far it's just opened up a door.

 

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Michael Palumbos: And a possibility to allow percolating and to allow empathy to start to happen now i've had some you know families that were not in.

 

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Michael Palumbos: The heat of the moment conflict I don't think that you know, a family that's at that level at the bursting of the seams level.

 

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Michael Palumbos: This is going to help, but I think it's you know it's a nice process a little by little, so you to Greg and Kathy if somebody wanted to reach out to you how do they reach you know Greg McCann how do they reach you Kathy.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Kathy are you on linkedin do you have a website.

 

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Kathy Holub: Yes, I am on linkedin Cathy Holloway is all you need to know and my website is Cathy Holloway COM, so the key is knowing how to spell my last name ah oh LUV and Greg I think you, you have show notes, where we can put this information right.

 

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Greg McCann: yeah yeah.

 

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Kathy Holub: I mean Michael yes.

 

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Michael Palumbos: love it, I appreciate it and Greg How do people reach reach you.

 

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Greg McCann: Usually i'm in the Atlanta airport so just go to terminal B.

 

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Greg McCann: My my email and website my website is Greg dash McCann.

 

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Greg McCann: calm and my email is Greg dash McCann and.

 

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Greg McCann: i'm embarrassed that she slipped my mind, but i'm sure you'll have the information but yeah i'm more than happy to talk to any family or any advisor about anything that's percolating with them.

 

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Greg McCann: I really think you know, the more we can do to help families deal with this to develop this capacity there's just too much at stake, not to do it.

 

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Michael Palumbos: love it, I really, really appreciate both of your time today, this was productive, there was a lot of good conversation here, and this is, you know these are the things that people need to be focusing on like you said Greg.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Because family is just too important, the business, you know is secondary to being able to sit at the holiday table together, you know and.

 

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Kathy Holub: Not just frame that the conflict is an opportunity.

 

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Kathy Holub: yeah right to fix something that's not working and get to something better it's it can be very positive.

 

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Michael Palumbos: So again, thank you both for joining me today.

 

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Kathy Holub: My life.

 

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Michael Palumbos: One this, this has been the family business show on with family wealth and legacy in Rochester New York, and if you loved what you listen to today, please make sure you subscribe, so that you can.

 

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Michael Palumbos: hear the rest of the wonderful guests, that we have coming up, and we are mixed between advisors and consultants or family business and actual family businesses themselves who have.

 

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Michael Palumbos: gone through and navigated a lot of these conversations already and so it's great to hear both sides of the story Thank you everyone and have a great day.

 

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Michael Palumbos: Stop.

If you’re a family business or a family business consultant and want to be on the show, share your story and help other family businesses, send us an email to producer@thefamilybizshow.com or fill out a contact form here!

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Michael Palumbos is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (member SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. Family Wealth & Legacy, LLC is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. and its representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. You may want to consult a legal or tax advisor regarding any legal or tax information as it relates to your personal circumstances.

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