Playing With Contextual Complexity: RelationalConsultation With Family Businesses (Part II)

Playing With Contextual Complexity:
Relational Consultation With
Family Businesses (Part II)

by Douglas G. Flemons, Ph.D. and Patricia M. Cole,Ph.D.
Nova Southeastern University

Mistaken Premise 1: Roles Exist With Individuals

Roles can be considered shorthand descriptions of interactions, for they define positions taken in complementary relationships. A child needs a parent to be a child; to be a boss one needs employees. To help in not losing such a relational understanding of clients’ roles, a consultant would do well to attend primarily to the interactions to which roles refer, to the patterns of behavior that characterize the family context, the patterns that exemplify the business context, and the patterns that emerge as a function of the family-business interface.

Such an orientation brings forth a number of interesting context-sensitive ideas to explore. In reference to the father/son relationship described above, one might ask some of the following questions:Are there aspects of the men’s familial tie that are important to preserve in their business discussions? Is the son trying too hard not to be his father’s son, thereby impelling dad to “put him in his place?” Where do they have their business meetings? Are the two of them relating at work as they did when the son was growing up? If so, is it helpful? If not, why not? Who pays for lunch? What do they call each other at work? More…

Connecting and Separating Family and Business (Part II)

Connecting and Separating
Family and Business (Part II)

Connecting and Separating Contexts

Such contextual notions can provide a port of entry into the unique complexities of family businesses. It should be clear at this juncture that there are no simple, objective containers (contexts) called “family”and “business” within which people behave and make meaning. To reiterate the points made above, contexts:

  • are critical in the creation and determination of meaning;  
  • are constructed relationally and interpretedindividually;  
  • often cannot be “pinned down” unambiguously;  
  • are themselves contextualized (thus making paradox possible); and  
  • are consistencies or stabilities in a world of flux, a kind of relational “constant” woven of ephemeral strands (and thus are themselves subject toalteration when the changing of one or more of the strands changes). More…