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Creating Good Stewards

“If your plan is for one year, plant rice. If your plan is for ten years, plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years, educate children. ”


When I am asked, "when is the right time to tell my children about _______?", my answer is always..."it depends".

While this may sound flip, it is not my intention. The fact is, each child reaches various landmarks of maturity at different times. Therefore, there is no static answer to a very dynamic question.

However, if we explore how to educate the subsequent generations, then there is some commonality which we should examine.

“Have you spoken with your heirs about your estate plan?”

Best Practices

When we consider the practices of families who have triumphed against the "shirtsleeves-to-shirtsleeves in three generations" phenomenon, then we can start to draw some powerful conclusions.

  • Complete Family Involvement This does not mean that everyone has the same authority. But it does ensure that all voices are heard and that relevant shared values can be determined.

  • Collaboration Sharing information, resources and knowledge.

  • A Culture of Continuous Improvement Here we develop the skills required to bring the family together.

The continuous improvement skills in which we have seen the most benefit are:

  • Trust in one another

  • Openness to engage

  • Accountability to yourself and your family

  • Communication skills

  • Consensus building

To develop children, grandchildren, etc. into good stewards -- not just of money, but of the culture, history and enduring legacy of a family -- is a venture that is not accomplished by accident. It requires a concentrated effort with steadfast commitment. It also is easier accomplished when facilitated by an independent party.

Important in this process is to establish and operate under a prescribed governing document. These documents typically use as their source material other documents such as a Family Mission Statement, which often is crafted from a Family Vision Statement, which in turn comes from a compilation of shared values within the family. So these articles need to occur in the reverse order to be truly meaningful. The problem is, families rarely know how/where to start. Research, furthermore, tells us that values, as an abstract concept, are rooted in the subconscious mind, making it nearly impossible for someone to accurately articulate their true values. As a result, practitioners in the field have developed sophisticated assessments that, through an iterative process, can serve to uncover those values that individuals hold most important which, in turn, drives behavior.

So, when to tell the kids becomes far less important than creating a culture that allows each to learn what and how.

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