When I work with families, I like to view them as a small business. Family is a business that has a top-down culture, meaning the founders of the business have the majority say in its values and missions, but are also tasked with the clarity of these values and missions.
We can identify the parental roles as the founder/CEO/CFO/COO and it can be helpful to evaluate the strengths that different parents may bring to the organization. We rarely expect someone to be good at all organizational roles, and often we are happiest when we have roles that match our unique skillsets.
Let’s take a look at some key business concepts that can help with household structure.
How to Run Your Household Like a Business:
1. Family Mission Statements
One of the characteristics that drew me into being interested in working for Southeast Psych was the consistency with which they emphasize being true to our mission, “Psychology for All.”
This mission is upheld by four key values: fun, innovation, relationship, and excellence.
Whenever we discuss changes to the business, large or small, we look at the degree to which this particular change will uphold the mission and its core values. It is best to start with a few key values and try to discern what the major theme of these values might be.
When the values are defined, it can be good to pull them together into a cohesive picture.
“Each business has needs and appropriate staff to meet those needs.”
In working on my own process, I found out that my last name, Daley, is Irish for “gather together.” There is so much to this concept that is key to our mission and created a great framework for expanding our values.
2. Each Family Member Has Key Roles
Each business has needs and appropriate staff to meet those needs. Basics would include the financial manager, human resources director, chef, housekeeper, social organizer, wellness coordinator, handyperson, and groundskeeper.
Through the 16 years of our household, we actually have shifted roles at various times in our lives. I was the CFO for many years until I began to be too overwhelmed and asked Jeff for help. Jeff started off as the groundskeeper, but the role is now shared between us and our oldest child.
“Family is a business that has a top-down culture.”
Housekeeping remains my primary duty, but also one that I am happy to expect support from internal members and to hire external contractors. I have seen some couples assign “chores” to each other, but it feels more authentic to me to allow for role distribution based upon innate skill, availability, and desire.
Our process of distributing roles has always been pretty organic, but it can be good to formalize this process if it is a greater source of conflict.
3. Your Family Should Have Regular Meetings
No one really enjoys a business meeting, but I have found that regular family meetings make it easier for us to communicate about important issues and have an open forum to discuss problems.
I have found that a scheduled meeting can also improve communication between leadership- we recently finished a large remodel on our house, and found that regular morning business meetings between Jeff and I made sure that we both were up to date on the remodel related tasks.
“Regular family meetings make it easier for us to communicate about important issues.”
Holding these meetings in the morning (after the kids had left for school) gave us a solid start to the day and saved us from late nights obsessing about tile selections (there were a FEW of those).
For our family meetings, held on Sunday nights, we discussing weekly highs and lows, upcoming events, and any concerns of the house.
Even though my higher strung daughter may feel anxious about upcoming events, and my tweenager gets irritated when he will have to attend to undesirable tasks, we are able to roll with these emotions and get everyone on the same page.
4. Establish Deadlines and Reward Completion
I have yet to meet anyone who enjoys being micro-managed, but many parents find themselves taking on this management style within the walls of their own home. Another troubling issue can be unexpected job duties and unreasonable timeframes.
I cannot even count the number of times that I have expected something to be done right away, even though the doer had no idea the task was required and no desire to do it “right away.” It is way more effective to establish reasonable deadlines for tasks, and then have possible rewards for early task completion.
“Family communication and internal security can stem from essential tasks.”
For example, I love to throw dinner parties, and yet also need the assistance of my family to get the house ready. I have learned that it is more effective to let them know in our business meeting on Sunday, that certain spaces will need to be cleaned by Thursday.
We have a reward for early task completion (extra time playing), but they also know the hard deadline and consequences for missing it.
It is pretty common for me to assign families to watch one of my favorite TED Talks, Bruce Feiler’s Agile Programming for your Family. He emphasizes that a core concept of good family communication and internal security can stem from these essential tasks, and puts into a really accessible format.