While working in a family business brings its own difficulties, the women who make up the various roles within each enterprise face unique daily challenges that require practical championing.

There are many aspects within the workplace that women cannot control. However, they can proactively create an inclusive community to combat this lack of control by inviting their allies and friends into a personal network of mutual support. The quality of this team can transform sadness into joy, enhance a woman’s sense of identity, remedy negative beliefs and elevate stories of victory.

Below are four questions that women should consider to find the value of their personal support system.

1. Where is your nurturing support system?

In today’s social and business climate, everything can feel like a battle – from personal relationships with extended family, partners, parents and children to facilitating negotiations in formal meetings, managing product launches or regulating fees. And that is before mediations, arbitrations or interventions.

With every conflict we face, we have two choices: we can get lost in the day-to-day combat of putting on our armour to survive, or we can take a broader view to see where patterns emerge and determine how we will engage and react.

As the professional world becomes more accustomed to women taking charge of their family’s business, there are critical elements to consider as to who will surround and influence these female leaders. Who will offer training and knowledge around topics such as conflict or stress management? What technical skills or language will be taught? How will her conscious competence be sharpened and honed to effectively work with her business team – her first support system?

We can admire a single owner or executive for their presence or results, but it requires a whole team to create and maintain a healthy atmosphere and environment for long-term success. What does or should the group provide? Support. It is much easier to exercise bold moves when collaborative associates care about and are aligned with their leader’s visions, insights and input.

In addition to the positive energy from external associates, it is critical to plan for internal balance. Consistent sleep, nutritious food and regular exercise for full-spectrum consciousness form the foundation of a teammate who is ready to collaborate. 

2. What happens emotionally when you don’t maintain the status quo of the system?

When women take charge in a family business, they can sometimes feel deep isolation, depression or anxiety and wonder if it’s all worth it. While they may exceed expectations in their talent, they can also face envious co-workers who may ask, “Who is she to do that?” This gossip and negativity may cause her to sabotage her success or worth, and she risks becoming easier prey for a rival family member or competitor.

To move past these obstacles, women can lean into their support networks to feel connected rather than separated from those around them. When women are faced with self-doubt, bias or adversity, one great solution is to intentionally find members of her support team with whom she can talk, centre herself in her heart space and determine what is most important. Does she continue down the obvious, pre-planned path, or does she forge an alternative path to stay true to her values?
If she cannot find her “tribe”, she can construct her own so that recognition and acknowledgement of her successes do not fall only to her family members. It might require extra work to bring together a new support team in a space of feminine energy and encouragement. Male-oriented circles may not be fully ready in 2020 to welcome or commend her progress, and she may find herself feeling happier in the camaraderie and celebration of local and global achievements and advancements of women.

3. How can women handle being overlooked by family members?

Family businesses typically focus on ownership of shares or assets, but they rarely discuss taking full ownership of one’s feelings, consciousness and identity. Being overlooked by one’s family can hurt tremendously unless a woman has enough self-esteem and confidence in what she knows and does.

Authentic self-worth, as well as the competency of valuable skills, are intangible resources that can open doors of opportunity. The danger of rejection is becoming imprinted with shame, and women must strive to build the emotional muscles to bounce back from that exclusion.

The culture and geographic region may determine how members of a family enterprise define the normalcy of what a woman should or should not contribute to the company. If she speaks too far outside of her perceived role, will she upset others in the hierarchy? The details of the local dynamics will determine which steps she can take to find success in her role. However, all breakthroughs start with self-awareness and confidence in one’s abilities.

4. How can you strengthen your individual voice to provoke change?

Practice! Learning how to play a musical instrument requires application, time set aside to perfect your skill and guidance from trusted advisors. In the same way, strengthening your voice to speak up requires a routine, as well as a strong support system. Just like musicians must rehearse for a concert performance in front of an audience, gaining the confidence necessary to be a successful leader comes from the knowledge of the landscape, repetition and custom feedback.

Positive mirroring is essential. However, just because one has access to the best education does not mean that one trusted advisor can instruct their client on all topics. Advisors can only cover the principles to avoid injury, liability or accidents; they can bring their best to ensure that their client has the necessary practical skills.

They can provide inspiration so that a woman can demonstrate confidence in her internal self-talk, courage and sustainable practices. Mentors and advisors are knowledgeable resources to fully hear their client’s needs and conflicts, scenario by scenario, and a woman’s responsibility is put to the test when the time comes to execute what she’s learnt.

Our support is as near or as far as our willingness to connect with others. Luckily, women are naturally great at bonding and cooperating in these fearless conversations.

Angelina Carleton
Image courtesy of Angelina Carleton

Angelina Carleton is the Founder of Legacy Planning©, an advisory firm specific to helping entrepreneurs and family business members design their legacies. She is the hostess of the “Design Your Legacy” podcast which ranks in the top 10% of all podcasts globally. She domiciles in Beverly Hills, California with her husband Deryl and their dog, Darla.