A Family That Works Well

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When a family is not working well, we call it “dysfunctional”. Let’s explore what this means and how to have a family that works well!

Learn here what a dysfunction in a family actually is and how to handle it.

What is Dysfunction?

 What is a dysfunction when it comes to the normal workings of an organization (or a family)? 

First, let’s define dysfunction. Dan Little defines it in the following way:

“A dysfunction might be defined as an outcome for an organization or institution that runs significantly contrary to the purpose of the organization.”

The family is set up to ensure that all the members are well cared for, nurtured, and safe so that they encourage one another to develop and grow.

What happens when the purpose of the organization comes at a cross purpose with the family? Either the work or the family has got to give, or something innovative needs to happen. 

Dysfunction in Crises

As a coach during the pandemic, I have had multiple conversations with clients about exactly this.

Both parents are working, the kids are at home. They can´t both get their 40 in and watch the kids, what are they to do? Bring in help? That ups the risk of bringing in the virus. Quite a quandary!

I’ve also talked to business owners who are frustrated that their people are either using communication to talk about non-work things, interrupting the workflow or that their people are not communicating enough to duplicate efforts. 

Functional in Crises

Families that thrive in crises have traditions and structures in place that guide them through unexpected change. They have structures that help them become a family that works well in any situation. These allow them to think through how they are going to manage the kids and work. 

How To Fix It

Whether you are in the box, out of it, or just finding your way, taking ownership of where you are is the first step. Someone has to own where we are, where we want to be, and what’s between us and that. Ultimately, like everything in any group, dysfunction comes about simply because no one is willing to take responsibility:  

“One intriguing hypothesis is that correction of dysfunctions requires observation, diagnosis, and incentive alignment. It is necessary that some influential actor or group should be able to observe the failure”

– Dan Little

ALL organizations and families either have some dysfunction or the potential for it depending on how forward-thinking they are. What makes the difference is that SOMEONE is willing to notice the dysfunction. Someone is looking forward and recognizing potential dysfunction, exploring it in-depth, and creating buy-in for action.

Break It Down

  You’re at home with your family and your struggling, here is your action plan:

  1. Be willing to take the lead whether in creating consensus or just plain doing it yourself.
  2. Identify the breakdown- don’t accept the first answer. The breakdown happens 5 layers below whatever comes to the top first (which is usually blame)
  3. Look at where it is you want to get in relation to the breakdown, what’s the end goal here? Long term? Short term?
  4.  Be clear that this is a place that all the players want to go with you. For example “I want my 40 hours so you take the kids” is going to get less of a win for others than “How can we balance your 40, mine, and the kids’ needs?”
  5. Take action, observe, and go back to step one because there will be course corrections.

Punch Line

The conclusions we can draw from this are dysfunction is due in large part to fractures in leadership. Fractures in the perception of the now and in their anticipation of the future. Families are particularly vulnerable to this as power is often shared between two parents. A work-through on this is to give each parent authority over specific areas. This works especially well if areas align with strengths. Like any partnership, this requires regular communication and checking in. Keeping on track is built on minimal overlap and elimination of things slipping between the cracks of areas of responsibility.

Most families need a lot of help with this. Feel free to contact us so that we can help you to have a family that works well.

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