"A prearranged and agreed upon way in which information, ideas, opinions and decisions are shared among the various stakeholders in your family business.”
Again....and why did I start that discussion?
A Code of Expected Behavior (aka Code of Conduct or aka A Communications Pledge) is a starting point on how everyone wishes the team would communicate with one another, what is expected and what is acceptable and what is not. This is not written in stone and can be edited as time marches on. As with the foundational vision and mission statements, a large benefit to creating this agreed upon Communication Platform is the time spent working with one another, learning more about your partners and future successors and helping keep each other accountable for what everyone states they want to accomplish (vision), how it will be accomplished (mission) and under what philosophical belief system (core values).
Understanding Behavioral Styles is extremely helpful for enhancing good communication in a team environment. Everyone is different. We all view the world differently based on our experience, values and beliefs. Some people are shy; others like numbers and quiet environments; while others are the life of the party and could care less about the details. There are no right and wrong behavioral styles....They just are! Spending a little time understanding each other’s differences can help reduce the number of conflicts in your family business. Chapters and books can and have been written on this subject alone. Let’s just suffice it to say that at the core of this idea is the notion that to become more effective at communicating with members of your family farm team, you cannot expect people to change their natural behaviors…it is more effective for YOU to adapt YOUR approach to the unique differences of each member of team.
A Conflict Resolution Policy is certainly helpful to…, well, ummm…resolve conflicts! This is an predetermined and agreed upon process or procedure by which disagreements and conflict will be remedied. The end results will not always leave everyone happy and satisfied, but the fact that your team had all discussed the process ahead of time, before the need, should help make the person(s) that feel most jilted be able to accept the outcome because the policy was created before the conflict arose.
"Our experience strongly, strongly reveals that when policies are created before the actual need arises, that partners and teammates feel more fairness in outcomes."
and it ends up getting sidetracked on a discussion about Johnny’s wages and benefits or this weekend's parade. Thinking about the various decisions that are made during a year and then scheduling a series of the necessary daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual meetings, with preset agendas and purposes, helps make things more productive, more systematic and less chaotic. This also helps eliminate things falling through the cracks and actually results in less overall meetings or discussions as things have a “time and place”. It takes a while, but when momentum is built, these things become second nature and a regular part of your family business management system. For example, meetings to plan today's activities should be done in 10-15 minutes, standing up. Don't allow anyone to get comfortable. No donuts or muffins. Get it done and get busy!
What specifically get discussed and what decisions get made at your meetings depend on you and your business. As we dive further into some communication components of your farm management system we will explore this area further.
For an investment of 4-5 hours of time, not necessarily all at once, a lot of progress toward better communication can be made and key stakeholders (partners, successors, senior management) and your business both benefit from the positive feelings from being heard and having a voice in how communication takes place in your family business. It’s probably a worthwhile investment in time, especially if you are one of the many family business leaders that indicate that “communication” is a concern.