Clear role expectations allow individuals to prepare for and ensure that they are acting in alignment with the defined competencies. They are useful both to those who are currently in a leadership position or those who would like to be considered for a future position. They can also be used to nominate a candidate for a position and then measure performance once they are in the role.
When developing expectations, the family council should ensure that the expectations align with the family strategy. This will help when defining a curriculum for an individual or group (like the family council or family assembly). For example, the expectations for a family council member require a certain level of financial understanding. The curriculum can be defined to help the family council meet this expectation.
The family council should consider appointing a Development and Education Committee to help deliver the curriculum and assist individuals in meeting their expectations. Often, individuals aspiring to leadership positions in the family will need additional assistance from a mentor or coach. They might need encouragement to attend conferences, and support in gaining general family business experience. The Development and Education committee can also help plan and coordinate the education of the family council and family assembly, and make sure training programs are aligned with the family strategy.
The expectations for individuals in different roles can be considered both objective and subjective. Many families provide objective expectations for roles, such as: “the individual must attend all meetings and attend at least two conferences a year”. When evaluating an individual, it is fairly easy to assess whether or not an individual met the objective expectations. All of the opportunities available to family members can be documented and tracked in an experience spreadsheet. These can be simple things like attending board meetings and board debrief conference calls, attending family council and family assembly meetings, taking advantage of educational webinars and conferences, etc.
Subjective expectations can be much more difficult to assess. An example of a subjective expectation might be, “the individual must have the trust of the family”, or “the individual must represent the whole family’s interests, not just those of a family branch or individual”. These expectations are very clear, but determining how to evaluate an individual is far more difficult. Subjective expectations are those on which the family will need to provide input.
One way to do evaluate family members, either to assess readiness or to determine performance based on subjective expectations, is to conduct 360-style evaluations. Because this is not a formal work situation, the 360 evaluation can be modified to best meet the needs of the family.
In a 360-evalution, an individual is assessed not only by those in more senior leadership positions, but by those at the same level and even by those in more junior positions than the person being evaluated. In a family business, individuals can be evaluated by the family and outside directors, family council members, family assembly members, etc. The participants of the 360 can be determined by the assessed individual’s role. For example, a family director will receive feedback from fellow directors, the Chairman, CEO, Family Council and Family Assembly. The family director may also receive feedback from senior HR, and Finance. This will be determined by their role and exposure on the board and in the business.
An individual should only be considered for a role if he or she has met both the subjective and objective expectations. Families often vote on a slate of candidates. A family may consider a vetting process in order to ensure that they family is presented with a slate of qualified individuals. A family may consider instituting a committee to conduct the evaluations, and then implement a nominating process to ensure that only qualified individuals are presented in the slate. There are some families, however, who don’t like voting on individuals. If this is the case, then a committee can be formed to select the best qualified individuals based on the subjective and objective qualifications.
Many families have undefined expectations of individuals in different roles. Taking these expectations and turning them into well-defined role descriptions with measureable expectations can be a great next step as a family works towards accountability and measuring performance.