“Respect is earned. Honesty is appreciated. Trust is gained. Loyalty is returned.”
As human beings we seek those who are authentic, operate with integrity, and hold us accountable so we can be more responsible to ourselves and others. Yet very few of us are courageous enough to speak the truth to those we serve, for fear of loss.
I recall meeting with a patriarch and presenting a report with some very direct truths about himself and his family. He took his time — what felt like an eternity to me — reading the report with great focus. At the end, he turned to me and said: “Thank you for being so honest with me about the current state of affairs of myself and the family; I have never been addressed with such integrity.”
After that meeting, I realized that most wealthy, powerful families are surrounded by a number of “yes men and women” — all in a place to acquiesce to their clients’/employer’s wishes and requests. Very few of these advisors have the courage to put the relationship/employment on the line in order to hold their client/employer accountable and to act with more responsibility.
The powerful irony is — the more truthful and straight I have been with families, the stronger our bond, more valuable the work, and in light of results, the deeper the loyalty.
We all say we have certain values and guiding principles, yet most of those are just empty words which are rarely executed, let alone lived out. Values and guiding principles only get tested when there is a challenge or possible disagreement.
I believe one of my key roles in serving the families I serve is to hold the individuals — senior generational and next-gen equally — in said families, accountable to what they have stated matters to them, their guiding principles. This is what creates trust and loyalty in the relationship.
By holding the families accountable we are teaching them to be loyal to their own guiding principles and in turn, they will have an increased sense of loyalty to us, as we have guided them by accountability, teaching them to operate through Governance in Action.
This is not a smooth and easy task at the start. We are challenging the families to take a look at past behaviours and change them. The role we play is to create an environment where they can start to hold themselves accountable and be responsible to an agreed-upon set of behaviours (the guiding principles). Far beyond the work at the onset, the journey is foundationally rewarding for the families we serve.
By a family having in place their Family Wealth Constitution with their unique guiding principles listed out, as their advisor, you are in a position to remind them what matters to them and how to behave with each other. The truth is, people of worldly means and wealth have NO problem finding others to tell them how great they are, when in fact, it is those who help any of us grow, and give us the space to improve, who become most tethered.
This has and will establish you as one of their most trusted advisors. They may not like what you say, but far greater will respect you for your willingness to have integrity with them—calling them up to a greater degree of personal and familial responsibility.