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  • Writer's pictureMark Olivito

The Myth of a “Functional” Family or Business

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

Fact: When humans are involved, rarely will a textbook rule the day. People will often

  • Act irrationally

  • Not do their homework, and shoot from the hip

  • Fail to look in the mirror for the cause of a problem or its solution

  • Not play well in the sandbox

  • Throw a fit, inwardly or outwardly.

  • Work great in isolation, terrible in teams.

In other words, the PEOPLE part of a business (or families) is often the hardest part to get right. And it’s also the most important. They will also do the opposite of the above if you create the right culture.

Easier said than done.

Here’s one thing I remember growing up. A term came to light, usually around divorce or family issues: “Dysfunctional family.”

It’s a hard label to get your brain around, especially if you might consider your’s dysfunctional, but lets save that for another day. Here’s something worth pondering:

Do you know ANY business (or family) without some challenges? Struggles? Drama?

I do not. In fact, it seems that DYS-functional is the norm, not the exception.

If you believe that, why don’t we just accept the fact that dysfunction, or people problems…..

  1. Exist. Whether we like it or not.

  2. Are manageable, but they won’t manage themselves by accident. Business is a CONTACT sport.

  3. Can actually be a positive catalyst for change, if they are embraced vs. run from.

There’s a reason why Reality TV has found a niche and is not going away: Human Behavior is fascinating, somewhat unpredicatble, and is downright entertaining.

Some of the worst spent “energy dollars” in business is put towards CURBING dysfunction rather than embracing it. Wearing it like a badge of honor.

Many may be thinking “sounds like chaos!” Maybe.

Or maybe, Leaders should think about….

  • The Human spirit, aspirations of the individual, and all the perils it creates, and how best to deal with it.

  • Emotion really isn’t a 4 letter word.

  • Conflict is not a bad thing.

  • Blow-ups happen. Sometimes they are ugly. Public. Ever see the real housewives of NJ?

  • Sometimes houses get knocked down intentionally and re-built with a new design, open floor plans and new fixtures. But rarely, will a person knock down their own house and re-build it. Sometimes, but rarely. New owners are usually the re-builders.

If you accept the fact that a degree of “dysfunction” driven by natural human behavior exists, than leaders have clear choices to make.

  1. Embrace a Dys-functional reality. Create a culture that celebrates “natural behavior”, in it’s rawest form vs. punishing it, as long as the values and forward momentum continue…..

  2. Spend significant time, money and energy trying to “mandate” or encourage what acceptable behavior is. Reward it when you see it.

I’m not one for false choices and this isn’t meant to be an either or.

Time, money, and great talent are in rare supply at most businesses. Spending any of the three going against the grain of the human spirit is like swimming against the tide.

Want an “animalistic” sports analogy?

I wrote “When Teams have Each Other’s Back” in May ’13. You can watch the video below as well. Any die hard Yankee Fan will tell you that the teams of the late ’90’s were very different than the team’s since. In many ways, their talent was LESS. But they had each other’s back like no other, and their results have never approached this teams achievements since. This brawl illustrates it. The boss (owner George Steinbrenner) had to be smiling seeing his players come to the aid of each other, in a fierce way. Simply put, they wouldn’t stand for one of their own being put in jeopardy. That’s what a team is all about.

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