“It’s mine, it’s mine”, I recall one of the members of my organization, The Family Business Council of Greater   New  York tell me about an argument she had with her brother.  They were fighting over a stapler.  The stapler represented a toy they fought over when they were kids.  Power vs control?

This is one of many stories that typify conflicts in a family business.  Conflicts between siblings, conflicts between a husband and wife, conflicts between father’ and son, father and daughter – it doesn’t matter as it all comes down to the same thing; power vs control.

I recall my husband, Arty, my son and my first visit to the family therapist.  Her office was stark with four chairs in a circle around a glass top coffee table. There were 3 small grey herring bone patterned swivel chairs and one high backed leather chair.  As we entered the office I observed Arty and my son both race for the high back leather chair.  Power vs control?

During our sessions I learned power gives you the capacity to do something and control restrains or limits what you can do.  When you have the power you are open to negotiation, you have the power to walk away. Whereas control is about winning or losing, it’s fear based.

Working in my family business for 20 years, I learned to exercise my power.   It enabled me to accomplish my goals, whether it was attending a trade show, a chamber event or purchase marketing materials to attract new business.  I learned how to respect boundaries, listen carefully during meetings, and communicate my feelings.  I learned to use my power to empower and allowed myself to relinquish control when I couldn’t get my way.

Working with family members can be rewarding, yet difficult.  Control is a big issue and learning how to deal with those who try to control everything is a must.  It is very important to communicate, listen, respect boundaries and if nothing works, I suggest bringing in a mediator, family therapist, or family biz consultant to resolve the conflict.

Till next time…..

Keep on dancin’!