Aspen current thinking column


Spring 2013

February 2018 Current Thinking Column

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Knowledge Transfer: Getting a Handle on Family Legacy

Editor’s Note: Donnel is sharing important research that will help facilitate succession in the family business.

by Donnel Nunes
Aspen Family Business Group

Over the last few months, I’ve been finalizing the write up for a study on mentoring relationships between family members. Based on my findings, I believe familial mentoring relationships are very similar to the act of a craftsperson twining a handle for a basket. Where the weaver skillfully interlaces the rushes and grass to create a handle, the handle created by a mentor and protégé is woven with purposeful relationships and shared learning. In each case, a handle makes a basket easier to carry. Where a wicker vessel might contain goods from the market, the basket of the family is filled with legacy. In the case of familial mentoring, the handle provides a way for next generations to carry this legacy forward.

Just as the master weaver must learn the strands, fibers, and techniques needed to craft their wares, so must a mentor learn their craft. This month, I wanted to present a few of the mentoring fibers that are part of any highly effective familial mentoring relationship.

Highly effective familial mentors…

  • Encourage thinking of mentee: As a mentor, your job is to engage mentees through thoughtful questioning, NOT providing all-knowing direction. Skilled mentors are adept at spotting and drawing out the best in others. Lessons from neuropsychology support this claim. When people take an active role in the cognitive process of solving problems, they are more likely to build the neural pathways that will facilitate future problem solving. They are also much more likely to take ownership of the decisions they make.
    • How do you do this? Next time you want to tell someone the answer, ask questions instead. Sounds simple, but this might be one of the most challenging things you will have to learn. The key is patience!
  • Focus on solutions: The family motto from one of my cases was; “We know the problem, now let’s focus on the solution.” Once they knew the issue, they immediately turned their attention to finding solutions. Overly focusing on problems can stymie growth and creative thinking. A solution-focused mindset inspires action, creativity, and the ability to see the potential in life.
    • How do you do this? Be mindful about where you place your focus. Some problems take more analysis than others, but ultimately, you shouldn’t be spending more time on problems than you are on solutions.
  • Encourage the use of networks: In Hawaii, traditional models of mentoring view the primary role of a familial mentor to be that of a connector. The mentor’s job is to help the mentee assess his or her developmental needs and to connect them to other potential mentors who possess the appropriate expertise. One of the biggest pitfalls for family member mentors is behaving in ways that isolate younger generations from non-family mentors.
    • How do you do this? When you encounter topics that are outside of your expertise, refer-out. When you practice this in mentoring you model integrity, curiosity, and the importance of connectivity to others. You also increase the likelihood that mentees will make new connections and seek out other mentors in the future.

Whether a weaver or a mentor, the act of becoming skillful begins with curiosity. Skill evolves through sustained effort as new-found knowledge becomes a part of who we are. In my experience, effective mentoring is not something that ‘just happens.’ Becoming a highly effective mentor requires practice and a commitment to personal growth that evolves across a lifetime.



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