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5 Ways Leaders Must Build a Family Environment to Achieve Excellence

This article was published in Forbes.com and was written by Glenn Llopis, a contributor for Forbes.com. 

At a time when organizations are looking for new ways to build high-performance teams, perhaps they should be considering a family approach to business that emphasizes trust and values.  A team work environment where camaraderie means having each other’s back and not judging one another.   A workplace culture that celebrates opportunities, transparency, and  the opinions of all to enrich conversations and diversity of thought.

According to a McKinsey report, one-third of all companies in the S&P 500 index are family-controlled, and many are outperforming their competitors.    A study at Texas A&M further reveals that family-owned businesses beat other firms in revenue and employment growth and have a longer-term view of investment; they’re more stable, and inspire more trust and commitment in their employees.  In fact, the top 10 family-owned businesses – including MARS, Ford, Walmart, Cargill and Koch Industries – collectively generate annual revenues of one trillion dollars.

The success of family-owned businesses runs much deeper during turbulent times.  Because family-owned companies tend to take a much more conservative approach to debt, leverage becomes an advantage.  As noted in the McKinsey report, average family businesses in the U.S. and Western Europe had a debt-to-equity ratio of only 25 percent going into the financial crisis of 2008, compared with 40 percent for non-family firms.

There is clearly something to say about running a business with a family approach.   Not all of them are perfect, but that is not the point. Taking a family approach means establishing a foundation of trust and a cultural promise to unite as one; to perform with purpose and the healthier whole in mind.   In the end, it’s about leadership and the ability to manage the moving parts and sustain momentum.

Here are five ways a leader can build a family environment to achieve excellence in the workplace:

1.     Give Your Team a Sense of Ownership

Too many times, leaders demand that their employees just “do” what they say – and thus don’t give them a sense of belonging to a team.   At a time when employees want to be a part of something meaningful, leaders need to spread the wealth of ownership and with it the responsibility – i.e., apply more accountability to performance.

To build a family environment, make everyone on the team feel as if they are a “board member” in your department.  Establish boundaries, but elevate their sense of purpose.

2.     Everyone Must Protect One Another

Lead with kindness and intention.  Leadership by fear limits the growth of your employees and the opportunities for achievement. Treat your employees like family.   Have each other’s back and always help one another improve; talent discovered and used in the right situations can seize opportunities rightly.

3.     Instill Values to Enable a Trusted Culture

When you can define the standards of performance based on  an understanding of what you, the department and / or the company stands for – it is much easier to establish expectations.   These expectations should be based on a set of core values that everyone can embrace in order to build a trusted culture that is fair with no surprises.   Your team  will operate most efficiently with a clean state of mind knowing that their momentum will not be disrupted with “political road-blocks.” An uninterrupted game plan  means they can focus on results.

4.     Encourage People to Speak-up

Enable people to express their voice and allow their perspectives to be heard.   People shouldn’t feel that they require permission to express their opinions.   The goal is to activate the team, not restrict their participation.   The more people you get involved in the conversation, the more you can benefit from a family environment that embraces differences.    This builds loyalty, grows confidence and solidifies a foundation of trust.    Additionally, the expression of multiple voices allows for the discovery of opportunities previously unseen.

5.     Develop a Succession Plan 

Everyone on the team should be aware of their succession plan.  Be clear in establishing a road-map to get employees excited about the next stage of their careers.  Be transparent with everyone’s plan and allow others to participate in the plan.  With everyone pulling for one another’s success in this family environment, it eliminates traps and cultivates a culture of winning.

Leaders require maturity and trust in themselves to build a family environment.  Those businesses that fail typically are a result of envy, lack of trust and /or  an inability to work together.   Those leaders who can successfully build a family environment in their department will not only achieve more in the short term, but will build a foundation of hard work, determination and perseverance for the long run.

This article was published in Forbes.com and was written by Glenn Llopis, a contributor for Forbes.com. Email or follow-him on Twitter @GlennLlopis.  Join their LinkedIn Group.

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