I am currently working with a family on a succession plan. One ingredient was missing in our plan, which, after much investigation turned out to be open communication.
We have gotten through the technical aspects related to the succession plan. We are planning to put in place an estate freeze. However, based on the feedback from family members in our meetings with all of the family members, there appeared to be some impediment. This was not clear in what was being said verbally….however, it did come through loud and clear in the body language. One of them did not like the plan.
We had to have 3 further meetings before we were able to conclude that the issue was all around control and ownership, which had little to do with the actual tax and business plan. It seemed that all family members were conceptually in agreement with the plan but the issues around voting control and ownership had not really been raised nor addressed.
Once we were able to separate out this issue, then through a series of discussions, we were able to frame a concept that would work for all of the parties around ownership and control, to their satisfaction.
What do the communication experts say??!? communication = 80% non-verbal (tone and body language) and 20% verbal (actual words). If we had not picked up the subtle resistance through body language, we may have plowed on through executing the estate plan and all parties may not have then been satisfied with the result. More importantly, the actual post execution implementation may have been difficult if not impossible to succeed.
So when meeting, truly listen, as much more is being said than just the words.
Learn, think, apply!