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Strengthening Relationships- The Master Key Introduction

Members of Family Businesses call it the “Ego to Wisdom Master Key”. The process of moving from Ego to Wisdom is difficult, however those business families which have worked on this key aspect, have emerged stronger. It has made a magical difference in their relationships and has had an exponential impact on their business growth.

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The recent feud in the Munjal family around the rights of use of ‘Hero’, the brand name for electric two wheelers, is potentially an issue which could create stress amongst the concerned family members. We are surrounded by incidents such as this in family businesses. Issues flare up to such an extent because relationships in family and business are not given due time and attention.

In today’s competitive and time constrained world, maximum energy and effort is invested in material pursuits. Families have become smaller and less time is invested in nurturing deeper values of life. As a consequence, we have weakened our ability to nurture relationships. In family businesses particularly, most of us experience challenges in relationships as one plays various roles such as that of owner, manager, family member and interacts with family members simultaneously in those roles.

When relationships are good, they open doors to greater individual happiness and result in sustainable long-lasting family businesses. This ultimately gets translated into prosperous and peaceful societies.

Costs of Stressed Relationships “My husband’s heart lies in just doing business and I have no importance in his life.”

“Bhaiya undermines my decisions in front of other colleagues.”

“Even after giving my whole life to this company, I don’t matter.”

These statements signify negative feelings with huge costs to individuals and families and have a direct negative impact on business growth. Since family businesses constitute around 80 percent of national GDP annually, this has a major impact on our economy as well.

Reasons for not working on strained relationships

It is not that we do not know the value of relationships. What then are the underlying reasons for not investing enough in relationships? In our experience, there are two major barriers.

First, we are reluctant to express our hurt in a relationship for the fear that the other person instead of understanding our feelings may hurt them further. When the wife expresses her hurt that “I have no importance in your life” - the husband may respond by saying “you are always complaining.” This creates further hurt and reluctance to work on the relationship.

Secondly, we are hesitant to seek help from friends and family to get mental clarity on how to deal with challenges in our relationships. In this example, the wife would be hesitant to share with other important people in her life about being hurt with the husband. The barriers could be that the other person may misunderstand (think she is experiencing marital discord) and/or give superficial advice (like be more assertive).

Most importantly, our Ego stops us from investing time and energy into our relationships. In this state, we have expectations from others, we want to control, hold on to the baggage of the past, get angry and fearful. Our Ego is on the quest for ‘who is right’? The answer to this question most of the time is “I am right, and the other person is wrong.” This creates arrogance. At other times the answer to this question is “Others are right, and I am good for nothing”. This emanates from guilt and shame within.

How to Rebuild & Strengthen Relationships Is there a simple approach to preserve relationships and repair stressed relationships? The answer to this question is a clear “YES”. It is learning the knowledge and skill of moving from an Ego State to Wisdom State. Let’s get into the details of this.

Without exception, all human beings have “ego” and “wisdom”. The relationship between ego and wisdom is like the relationship between darkness and light. More the light, less is the darkness and vice-versa. Similarly, more is the wisdom, less is the ego and vice versa. All of us fluctuate between these two states and keep transitioning from one state into another.

In the wisdom state, our quest is not “who is right?” but “what is right?”. If the brothers are having an argument where the younger brother says “Bhaiya undermines my decisions in front of other colleagues”, in the wisdom state, the conversation will quickly move to find out a way to address the need of support of the younger brother.

In the wisdom state, we have commitment towards others, we empower, forgive, have faith and acceptance.

Moving from the state of Ego to Wisdom is the master key to rebuilding and strengthening relationships. This is a two-step process - awareness and alignment. Awareness begins with identifying our State in the moment - Ego or Wisdom. In Ego State our heart is at war (we are disturbed) and we will argue that “I am in Wisdom”. In the Wisdom State our heart is at peace and one will not be sure that “I am in Wisdom”. For example, two brothers with an age gap of 10 years are working together in the family business. Elder brother wants the younger brother to reach out to him wherever he needs help while the younger brother complains that he doesn't get support and guidance from the elder brother. In the state of Ego, the elder brother could say “My intentions are noble, and I have made it clear that I am ready to help, I can’t make it more clear.” However, in the state of wisdom the elder brother would be ready to connect with the pain of the younger brother and understand that the fact is that the younger brother isn’t feeling supported. He would be open and willing to discover the solution with his brother. After identifying the State (Ego or Wisdom), the awareness needs to identify and document thoughts. Thoughts are often jumbled and need to be segregated into facts, feelings and needs. In the thought of an employee - “Even after giving my whole life to this company, I don’t matter”, the underlying feelings could be hurt and anger. And these feelings were getting generated because the need for respect and understanding wasn’t being met.

Having classified one’s thoughts into feelings and needs, the awareness needs to move towards understanding the thoughts, feelings and needs of the other person. Since the example of the husband and wife mentioned before is a real example, let me share with you the perspective of the husband. His business was in turbulence, he was stressed and wanted understanding and support from his wife. He thought she was blaming him.

Emotional connect gets established when any one person understands the underlying feelings and needs of oneself and the other person. Once the other person also understands the needs and feelings of both, the emotional connection in the moment gets strengthened.

This brings us to the second step of the process - forging alignment. Here the awareness of both people work together to find specific actions that can fulfil the needs of both. In this example, amongst other things, the wife happily agreed that two hours of family time, twice a week is enough for her. The husband’s need of understanding and support and wife’s need of understanding and love were met in this conversation.

This process of communication has emerged after decades of experience of working with various business families. Members of Family Businesses call it the “Ego to Wisdom Master Key”. The process of moving from Ego to Wisdom is difficult, however those business families which have worked on this key aspect, have emerged stronger. It has made a magical difference in their relationships and has had an exponential impact on their business growth.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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family business business magazine 2 Aug 2021

Anil Sainani

The author is Managing Partner, Business And Family Consultants (BAF Consultants)

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Simran Senani

The author is Senior Consultant, BAF Consultants

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