Last week, I was speaking with a CEO client who is currently leading an iconic multinational company from the home he shares with his wife and four kids, also all working and studying from home. He joked that managing the new family dynamic was definitely the more complicated challenge of the two. “That should be your next blog!” he suggested. As I shared this story with others, every single one of them chuckled knowingly. So, here we are.

I should say, right off the bat, that nothing in this blog is theoretical for me. In fact, all of it has been endorsed by my wonderful lawyer/accountant “don’t do that coaching stuff with me” wife, Kara, as well as our precocious 14-year old “whatever, dad” daughter, Isabella.

Of course, a family is not a corporation or an executive team, but it is a group of independent thinkers trying to cooperate in pursuit of what they most value; individually and collectively. This is not easy on a good day, let alone under the enormous pressure and strain many families are experiencing right now.
The three practices below are designed to help you and your family survive this challenging time and, who knows, maybe even thrive.

Agree your family values

Whether you realize it or not, most conflicts in life are a conflict of values. And just for fun, these values are typically unspoken and even unconscious. It’s difficult enough to be clear on your own values, let alone those of others. Throw in the daily fight for food, workspace and Wi-Fi, never mind peace and quiet, and you have a melting pot of mayhem in the making.

The pathway to something more productive is to define shared family values. Shared values answer the question “how do we want to be on this journey together?” Not what do we want to accomplish, or where are we headed, but how. Below is a simple, step by step process to define your family values, should you wish to do so;

  • Set aside some time when you can all be fully present and in a good headspace. Ask someone else in your family to ‘hold the pen’, which will reduce any tendency to be the boss at home; something I’ve learned the hard way.
  • Answer the question “howdo we want to be on this journey together, right now?” “Right now,” is critical because it focuses everyone on the immediate challenge of surviving your new reality. In my house, consideration, flexibility and patience have become very important to daily life.
  • Consolidate your answers into no more than 3-5 values. As they become normal behaviour in your home, replace them with something more aspirational.
  • Turn your values into standards, which are just the rules for your values. For each value, answer the question “how would we know/what would we see if we were living this value?” Ideally, you will have two or three observable standards for each value.
  • Capture your family values and standards on one page. Put it on the fridge and give everyone a copy. We’ll come back to this a little later.

Develop your ‘ideal week’ together

The currency we have for getting anything done is our time; something every busy professional understands. This is why many of us manage our calendars with ruthless discipline. Like me, however, you’re probably facing three new diary challenges right now; you likely have more discretion over how you spend your time; you have no physical boundary between home and work; and your calendar exists alongside the calendars of those you live with.

I’ll aim to deal with the first two challenges in a future blog, but it’s the third one that will have a disproportionate impact on the harmony in your household right now. The answer is to design your ‘ideal week’ together, every week, and here’s how you can do it in three steps;

  • Start by asking each family member what they most need in the week ahead. After a week together in our house, Kara needed space, Isabella wanted exercise, and for me it was peace and quiet. Agree how you will work together to get each person what they most need. On top of the practical benefits, it makes every family member feel valued and understood.
  • Share what each of you must do this week, in two buckets; those things that are timebound (such as scheduled appointments) and those things that are flexible (such as grocery shopping). Pay attention to areas of potential conflict, such as if you and your partner have important meetings at the same time, and negotiate solutions up front.
  • Identify opportunities in your shared calendar where you can do things together; whether it be a family meal, a coffee break with your partner or exercising with one of your kids. Many of us have said that we wish we could spend more quality time with our families; this is our chance.

Adopt some helpful routines and rituals

Jim Rohn once said; “We must all suffer from one of two pains; the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” Personally, I prefer to suffer from the first and encourage you to do the same, at least until we’re through this crisis.

Right now, you have an opportunity to establish some helpful routines and rituals that will guide your family through this period, and maybe even bring you closer. Routines help us to create order, rhythm and a sense of control. Rituals help us to bring a little magic and joy to our lives. Both are critical right now, and here some suggestions;

  • Once a week, maybe on a Sunday evening, have a family meeting to discuss your values and plan your week ahead. For your values, reflect on how well you have lived them in the week past, individually and collectively. Call out examples of excellence and make some commitments for the week ahead.
  • It’s not possible to feel fear and gratitude at the same time, so create some routines around the latter. Each keep a journal, make some notes before bed, share what you are each grateful for in your family meeting.
  • Schedule a family night in. Maybe it’s monopoly, cards, a puzzle or a movie; whatever will give you a shared sense of connection and immersion. On second thoughts, if your family is competitive, maybe go with the movie.
  • Cook something new together, or in teams if there’s enough of you. Those of us who eat out a lot can rediscover the joy of cooking something interesting from scratch.
  • Make sure everyone in the house has a project to do, besides work or study, that gives them a sense of achievement or creativity, and a space to be on their own

I hope these processes will help you and your family to navigate through this challenging period; to not just survive but even thrive. As always, please feel free to share this blog with whomever you like.

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about PETER

For two decades, Dr. Peter Fuda has been a Sherpa to leaders, teams and organizations across the globe. He’s coached more than 200 CEOs to measurably higher levels of performance. His consulting company has delivered some 50 cases of business transformation and more than 1,000 cases of leadership transformation, at a success rate of greater than 90%.

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