Diablo Views: Families need a rallying cry | September 26, 2008 | Danville Express | DanvilleSanRamon.com |


Danville Express

Column - September 26, 2008

Diablo Views: Families need a rallying cry

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Is your family life frantic? You can get it organized using the same principles as you would with a company, says Patrick Lencioni, author, business consultant - and the father of four boys under the age of 10. He travels the country giving inspirational speeches on getting organized but did this one for free to benefit the San Ramon Valley YMCA.

"Virtually every CEO says his family is more important than his business," Lencioni told the crowd at the San Ramon Marriott on Monday morning. But although they carefully evaluate every plan for their company, they don't at home. "At work, they have planning sessions. At home most of us just wing it," Lencioni noted.

He said he never found parenting books to be helpful, admitting, "I get five pages into it, say, 'I suck,' and put it down." So he wrote his own book - "The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family" - to teach moms and dads how to apply business principles to their homes. "We take the family for granted," he said.

Families, like businesses, need the basics. For families this is good schools, a safe neighborhood, financial stability, Internet access. And, like companies, families need to be healthy, with self-esteem, common values, spending time together, parents present. And they need to have a sense of purpose.

The first big question is: What makes your family unique? We all have to figure this out for ourselves and it cannot be based on what we like about another family. What are your family's core values? Not the values of honesty, integrity, work-life balance, etc. - those are a minimum standard of behavior. But what is truly important to your individual family? What makes it different? What Lencioni liked about his wife Laura when he met her in college was that she stood up for what she believed in, and she admired this quality in him. It is now one of their family's values. Another is creativity, so when his son wanted to quit an activity and take up the guitar, they knew their priorities and said, "Go for it."

The second question is: What is your top priority right now? Lencioni tells parents to define their rallying cry - a single, agreed-upon top priority for the family during the next two to six months. Then define objectives to accomplish this priority.

The third question is how to talk about these questions. Lencioni and his wife have a date night each Friday to discuss their objectives, and they meet with their sons each Sunday afternoon and together they score how the family is succeeding toward its goal. He reported that his sons love their family meetings, which only last 10 minutes or so.

Lencioni, who lives in Alamo, was a funny, dynamic speaker. His presentation made me want to call my kids to return home so our family of four could define our uniqueness and settle on a rallying cry. As it is, I'll have to discuss it with my husband. It will be interesting to see what each of us thinks defines us as a family. Right now it's football. And of course my husband's gourmet meals. (And a sense of humor.)

Lencioni is founder of the Table Group, a specialized management-consulting firm and has written seven books. My favorite of his titles is "Death by Meeting," although he spoke to the breakfast crowd on the "Three Signs of a Miserable Job."

First of all, many employees are unhappy because they are anonymous, he said, with employers not knowing or caring about them as people.

Also, employees have to understand the relevance of their job. He mimicked listless servers at a food counter at an airport who barely have the energy to move their lips to ask for an order. Their manager needs to impart to them the importance of their job: They can cheer up people who are already in a stressful situation - flying - and send them onto the airplane feeling upbeat.

And third, employees are unhappy if they can't assess how they're doing. "All people need to know how they did - give them some way to measure," he said. That's why salespeople are happy - they can see their results quite clearly.

About 200 people were at the breakfast, said Kathy Chiverton, executive director of the San Ramon Valley YMCA. She also reported that construction began this week on the bridge to the 12-acre property on the Alamo/Danville border where the new multigenerational community center will be built. "It's not a 'bridge to nowhere,'" she quipped. "It's an important bridge."

-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.