Why do Fire Drills?

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Enterprising families and their advisors need clearly defined and implemented decision making process and leadership development programs to manage transitions. Fire Drill Books and the Fire Drill they enable you to conduct, provide a road map to guide you and your family as you create appropriate governance structures and processes to allow your family to become change entrepreneurs and create effective multi-generational team.

Our clients and their advisors use Fire Drills to build strategically supportive contingency plans for managing significant change: sudden death or catastrophic illness of a loved one, unexpected loss (or gain) of wealth, and career uncertainties.

Are you an advisor who wants to learn how to use Fire Drills in your own practice and with your clients? Here is a free download of a Fire Drill for Financial Advisors.

Fire Drills incorporate Information Tracking with brainstorming, both of which help you meet the unknown.

Enterprising business and financial families are not by definition teams. Often family members need to address unarticulated assumptions about their own multiple roles in the family and the business. Both the family and the business need to learn how to nurture a vision and a sense of purpose that can be understood and supported by all stakeholders. Additionally, business and financial families need clearly defined and implemented leadership development programs to manage transitions, and they need a road map to guide them as they create appropriate governance structures and processes to allow them to grow into effective multi-generational teams.

For a list of Trigger events in business families click here 

The Money, Power, Love Bermuda Triangle

By Bonnie Hartley, Ph.D.

My use of Fire Drills with clients and seminar audiences has evolved over the last few years. As I work with business and financial families struggling with issues around ownership and management succession, I search for points of entry into multi- generational systems that allow people to shift attitudes, beliefs, and expectations about three core elements of change: money, power and love – what I call the family business Bermuda Triangle. Paradoxically, the way we blend them either strengthens or destroys our relationships, families and businesses.

Many of our attitudes, beliefs and expectations seem to grow out of unspoken (and often unrecognized) assumptions about those core elements of money, power and love – whether at home, at school, at work or in our communities. The first two Fire Drills – Know Yourself and Know Your Family Team – grew as I continually encouraged audiences and clients to challenge their assumptions about their Money, Power, Love Bermuda triangle.

As assumptions surface, so do conflicts and patterns of behavior directly related to an individual, family or organization’s resistance to change. Much of the resistance to change I have encountered in business and financial families lies in the family system.

How do people get into families?

To make my point, I often ask my audiences how people get into families. In today’s world, many families have become blended families when parents remarry after a divorce or death of a spouse. As adults, we join new families when we marry. Getting into a blended family as a child can be painful and usually seems out of our control. Even as adults, getting comfortable with new in-laws can be challenging. (But, at least when we’re getting into a family, there is usually some cause for celebration.) Getting out of families is no easier. My audiences come up with options like divorce, disinheritance and, ultimately, death. No wonder there’s so much resistance to letting go of money, power and love!

So, in crises or times of intense change, when you combine unspoken assumptions with pain and resistance to death, it’s no wonder that tempers flare, fears abound and power struggles bubble to the surface. How well do you know yourself? The death of a loved one, a life-threatening illness or an unexpected job loss can trigger unimagined changes in every aspect of your life. Many of those changes relate directly to money, power and love. But most of us don’t sit around thinking, “What if my spouse dropped dead tomorrow?” “What if I lost my job tomorrow?” “What if I went in for a routine physical and the doctor found a lump in my breast?” Most of us don’t want many chances to “practice dying”.

“What if” questions often engender anxiety so we avoid asking them unless prompted. However, I’ve found that after people get over their initial shock that I would prompt them to imagine such a thing, they find those questions compelling. That’s when they understand the urgency for contingency planning that takes into account not only the individual’s need for careful financial and legal preparation, but also the underlying need for mental, emotional, physical and spiritual support systems for managing change. I believe that the first step to creating those support systems is to know yourself inside and out.

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