Last week I had the honor of speaking before several hundred leading entrepreneurs from around the world at a conference organized by Ernst & Young. It was held in Monaco, in the beautiful city of Monte Carlo. I talked about the role of philanthropy in keeping families together. This subject may not appear to be as universally germane as most of my posts, but I will argue otherwise by turning the subject around, from philanthropy to family.
First, family is our earliest mirror, even if it is inaccurate. It cultivates the patterns of behavior for how we learn to show up in the world.
Second, family is the training ground for social and emotional skills. Most of us have been challenged at one time or another by feeling different from within our family. It can feel lonely. If we learn to become aware of, and own, our own reactions, listen respectfully to each other, and act inclusively, we bring valuable life-skills to other parts of our lives.
Third, family is the seedbed for learning collaboration and service. Working together makes the tasks easier, and maximizes creativity and problem solving. Service is about giving without expectation. It’s similar to unconditional love. When we do something as simple as setting tables at a food shelf, or planting trees, we are doing service. It doesn’t require money to make a difference.
Fourth, one of the ways a family can learn to work together is by giving of their time or money. We don’t need large amounts of money to make a difference. But if we pool our resources, we can make a bigger difference than on our own, and the process of deciding what to give to surfaces our collective values.
Fifth, by following or creating rituals that bring our family closer, we cultivate sustainability. This applies either to a family or its business.
There were probably 400 entrepreneurs from all around the world at the conference in Monaco. Each of them is working to make a difference in their family businesses. Some were first or second-generation leaders. Others were members of the 13th generation. It was truly awe-inspiring to know that from as far spread as the United Arab Emirates and Oman, to South Africa, Kenya, Norway, Germany, India, and Brazil, to name a few, there are people helping to improve the world through business and philanthropy. And it all began with family!