I am often asked how it is to lead Hoffer Plastics with my two sisters. My response is that while our relationships are healthy, there are challenges. I then often ask back, “how would running a business be with your sibling or siblings?” This often gets an awkward chuckle.
Leading the business with my siblings has given me the opportunity to learn, and practice, healthy relationship skills. This starts with learning to navigate difficult conversations with each sibling. To date, the three of us have succession planned, navigated COVID, and dealt with almost every issue in-between. While our relationships are not perfect, nor is perfection attainable, I can say that our relationships are deeper today than when we started working here. Further, we have vacationed and done many holidays together.
Having relational skills, however, is only half the battle. The other half is intentionally engaging. To that end, we made a pact to meet weekly this year so that we prioritize time to connect. Otherwise, it is too easy to go on auto-pilot and only connect when it is absolutely necessary. This runs the risk of issues getting buried and possibly grudges being formed.
So, with what is left in this post, I am going to share the format we use when we meet weekly. You probably do not work with siblings, but this format can still be used with other leaders that you work closely with. As the format we use indicates, the point is to intentionally connect.
Weekly Meeting (my explanation in parentheses):
Goal: To maintain strong, loving, family relationships while becoming better leaders.
- Consistency trumps duration
- Phones on airplane mode.
- Longer explorations of specific topics reserved for other meeting.
- Stick to the agenda below
Part 1: 15 minutes (5 per person): The Personal Side
(As siblings, we have learned to start with the personal side because our family relationship takes priority over our working relationship).
- What support do I need from the other members personally?
- Is there anything the other two should know about my family situation this week (between us there are 7 kids with ages ranging from 15 to 5. Further, life always comes with everyone to work which is why it is important to get any personal issues on the table. Obviously, this will look different if the meeting was between non-family members. Still, I would recommend that those relationships aim for mutual support).
- Accountability: This week I was in the Bible _____ days. (Our faith is paramount, so, we use this meeting for spiritual accountability as well).
Part 2: 15 Minutes (5 per person): The Business Side
(My temptation is to always start here. But, the personal side is critical. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!)
- What is the biggest challenge with my direct reports, if any? (This question leads to an overview of what is going on. Most weeks there is not a major issue to discuss).
- What am I doing about this issue? (We aim to be accountable, not people that blame others).
- Optional: Something I would like feedback on is ________? (When used, this question leads to good information about your own leadership).
Part 3: Wrap Up
- Based on what has been shared, is there any action the group needs to take (i.e., schedule a meeting to discuss a topic in greater detail)?
- Are there any other questions needed for clarity?
Part 4: Prayer
(I close the time praying for our business, customers, and suppliers. This may not be for everyone, but it is for us).
Leaders can customize the agenda to fit the needs of their team. The point is to take action and be intentional about your personal and working relationships.
Doing so won’t necessarily be easy, but, as I have learned, growth happens when you do what is uncomfortable in the moment!