A natural byproduct of interacting with many family businesses / offices is that you begin to hear common threads of inquiry / concern. Almost unanimously, every conversation includes something along the lines of, our family is really wrestling with our rising generation and how to bring them up/ into the family enterprise.
There is of course the natural reality that every rising generation experiences life in different ways from prior generations. This difference makes translation of experience from generation to generation challenging. Though that is not always the case – see Neil Howe in The Fourth Turning, and his insight that there are generational patterns that do seem to repeat.
But more over, in some of the questioning about rising generations, I sense an overall level of confusion about what lies at the core of the critical task of bringing a new generation of the family along. It is hard to consider the place / path of future generations without having considered what it means to live life well.
To that end, I’d like to suggests the following model as a starting place.
- Identity – No person can expect to get far without understanding who they are. This identity must be robust and able to tolerate change, growth, and suffering
- Character – A person who is clear on who they are can begin to build Character. Character or virtues are the types of behavior that are most aligned with human flourishing in the long-run
- Abilities – What are the things that we are naturally good at?
- Specific Skills – Where have we aligned our natural abilities and cultivated them further to develop specific skills
- Actions – Where all of the above can be brought to bear
For rising generations, there is a criticality to building out each of these levels for becoming an independent, self-actualized adult. Only as the young person builds from level to level will they be able to consider the broader family and where they might fit within it.