Business coach reveals why you should run your family like a business

Mother reveals she runs her family like a ‘blue-chip corporation’ with quarterly meetings, annual goals for her children and ‘one-to-one reviews’ (and explains why YOU should do it too)

  • Ex-teacher Rita Chowdhry, 57, of Surrey, runs her family-of-five like a business
  • Believes stressed-out parents should adopt the structure and processes applied in day-to-day operations at the world’s most successful firms
  • Began introducing elements of her coaching framework into family life eight years ago, taking on the informal role of ‘HR director’ in her own household 

A mother-of-three who works as a top business coach has claimed families should be run like blue-chip corporations, complete with annual goals for parents and children, quarterly meetings and even one-to-one ‘reviews’.

Ex-teacher Rita Chowdhry, 57, of Surrey, believes stressed-out parents should adopt the structure and processes applied in day-to-day operations at the world’s most successful firms.

She began introducing elements of her coaching framework into family life eight years ago, taking on the informal role of ‘HR director’ in her own household.

The first step was to carry out a 10-minute online psychometric test to identify the personality-types of herself, her husband Jeff and their children so they understand what makes everyone ‘tick’ and to help them become more ‘self-aware’. 

Ex-teacher Rita Chowdhry, 57, of Surrey, believes stressed-out parents should adopt the structure and processes applied in day-to-day operations at the world’s most successful firms, like she has with her family (pictured: husband Jeff, daughters Leah and Anya, and son Reece)

Rita, founder of London-based consultancy Savran, then created a family charter featuring 12 core values, including the importance of always having open conversations, which forms the basis of day-to-life and takes pride of place in her kitchen.

Her family hold an ‘annual goals’ get-together every January, as well as weekly meetings with an agenda everyone has input into.

Quarterly catch-ups help the family check on the status of their aims for that year and successes are celebrated at meetings.

Rita told FEMAIL: ‘This is all about our family values, collaborating and creating a forum for children to have a voice, no matter what age, and to agree clear principles we should live by so we can all work together, stay aligned, and be supportive of each other.

‘Blue chip companies want teams to work well together. They want them to have a strong bond like a family, where there is trust, commitment and accountability.

Quarterly catch-ups help the family check on the status of their aims for that year and successes are celebrated at meetings

‘The family is the most important team you will ever be a part of, so we need to work hard at creating a powerful bond between family members. Why leave to chance what values each child might develop?

‘Get the values written down in a family charter, get everybody involved, and get their buy-in.

‘These are not house rules, they are principles that guide every decision we make, and they act as a compass to navigate us in the right direction.

‘The charter holds everyone in the family accountable. We all make time for one-to-ones with each other.’

Rita and former fund manager Jeff stuck to the ‘honest conversations’ mantra when they called a special family meeting in 2014 to tell their children he had been diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukemia.

Rita created a family charter featuring 12 core values, including the importance of always having open conversations, which forms the basis of day-to-life and takes pride of place in her kitchen

She explained: ‘Jeff wasn’t keen to tell the children, but it was the principles on the family charter that guided us on what to do and whether to tell them or not.

The Chowdhry Family Values 

• Having a loving, clean, and welcoming home

• Fun, laughter, togetherness and celebrating each other’s success

• Sharing and supporting each other to fulfill life’s goals

• Living with integrity, loyalty, and humility

• Loving each other unconditionally

• Building, respecting, and reciprocating friendships and relationships

• Having a positive mindset and being grateful and thankful

• Openly giving and receiving communication with good intention

• Helping and serving others in need

• Leading a healthy life through exercise and nutrition

• Continuous personal development and growth

• Spiritual principles and karma

‘We couldn’t ignore the charter while expecting them to abide by it. So we called a special meeting and Jeff told them. It’s easy to make decisions when you know what your values are.’

Rita first came up with the idea in 2013 after she lost both her mum and mother-in-law within the space of three months.

She started thinking about the positive life lessons that her parents had instilled into her so that she could pass these on to her own children and create a legacy.

Her role coaching CEOs and executives through her own company made Rita realise how some of the tools in business practice can be used in family life.

She bases her sessions on her SAVVI framework: Self-awareness, Achiever’s mindset, Values and beliefs, Verbal communication, Inspire and motivate. 

Rita said: ‘Parents too often complain that there isn’t a manual to parenting, or anything fixed to work by. 

‘To avoid all that and to run the family smoothly, as well as handling every crisis quickly and effectively, you have to have systems in place, like businesses do.

‘Taking that on board, I thought the SAVVI framework which I created for executives could work equally well for parents and children.

‘The whole point is that you’re creating a team, like a board of directors.’

Her daughter Anya used the family charter to help her stave off unwelcome peer pressure.

Anya explained: ‘I found that if my friends didn’t have the same values as me, such as hard work or family, we ended up clashing. So having the values there helped me to decide who I wanted to be my friends.

‘This helped me when there were issues around drinking and trying to be less influenced by social media.’

Rita added: ‘If you like, you can have joint CEOs, i.e. mum and dad, when the kids are young.

‘The children can still have responsibilities based on their strengths and then as they get older they can take on more responsibility.’

Rita bases her sessions on her SAVVI framework: Self-awareness, Achiever’s mindset, Values and beliefs, Verbal communication, Inspire and motivate

The charter holds everyone in the family accountable. Rita said: ‘We all make time for one-to-ones with each other’

Rita, who was a business studies teacher for 27 years, added: ‘Parents can also still be held accountable at meetings, for example, if they haven’t achieved their goals.

‘Having clear roles, responsibilities and goals teaches children how to plan, prioritise, get results and learn the importance of persistence.’

At the time she first introduced the new structure, in 2013, her daughter Anya was 13, her daughter Leah was 21, and her son Reece was 24.

Rita added: ‘It was hard when I first formalised it. Telling teenagers and people in their twenties that we were going to be having four family meetings a month from now on didn’t go down well. But they quickly came to see the benefit of it, and embraced it.

‘We are a very close family as a result. We all have our roles and our children have great careers and fulfilling lives, while bonding at a deep level. As a result, Anya, Leah, and Reece know who they are and what they stand for.’

Rita’s guide to running your family like a business 

PSYCHOMETRIC TESTING TO INCREASE SELF AWARENESS

Rita says that while a psychometric test to identify personality type is not necessarily for children, it should certainly be taken by parents as it will enable them to understand who they are and how they present to their family. This provides self-awareness, the first part of the SAVVI framework.

‘We need to consider the following: What are your strengths? Who is likely to conflict? Whose strengths can you use if you yourself, are missing a particular strength? It gives you an understanding of strengths and weaknesses,’ she said.

‘It’s a good foundation and will help you when you create a functional, loving and supportive family.

‘In the business world it’s used for recruitment, leadership development, and to understand how teams work well together. That’s what we are replicating to help parents understand their parenting style and how best support their children.’

ANNUAL GOALS

Rita says that setting annual goals every January are important as they both underpin and drive achievement and success. This develops an Achiever’s mindset, the second step on the SAVVI framework, and crystalises the third step, Values and beliefs.

‘By setting and writing goals research suggests you are seven times more likely to achieve them. And whether they achieve goals or not they learn to take responsibility. The purpose of this is to achieve an “I can” attitude and this is just as important as their academic ability.

‘Start from your family charter and set eight to 10 goals each in various areas,’ she advised. ‘Each family member should share his or her goals with the rest, so that you can all go through your own goals, agree areas you want to focus on, and set them in place for the coming year.

‘Goals can be work, health, wellbeing, relationship or finance-based. These are totally up to you and your children, but some common ones are to lose weight, to build muscle and general fitness levels, to learn a new subject or skill that interest you, and to address your finances.

‘If you have younger children, perhaps focus on having healthy teeth, such as making sure to brush them twice a day.

‘There is no need to reward your children materially. The reward is recognition from you, not anything else. Your role is to support and acknowledge them.’

QUARTERLY CATCH-UPS

Progress towards annual goals are supported throughout the year with a catch-up meeting every three months, akin to a performance review in the workplace.

‘These meetings are to check on how well you’re doing on your goals for the year, and this is the opportunity to support your child if they are not meeting their goals and help them get back on track,’ Rita said.

‘These catch ups also teach your children the importance of persistence. If the kids are young, the parents can role model the behaviour so that the children understand it.’

WEEKLY MEETINGS

Rita argues businesses ensure that their teams have at least weekly meetings to catch up and coordinate, so families should too.

‘These meetings will have an agenda, so everyone has the opportunity to discuss anything they feel they need to,’ she explained.

‘This is a group meeting, so very much like a staff meeting. It’s a general catch-up with the floor open to anyone who wants to talk.

‘As the kids get older, they can chair the meetings. They can ask, “Mum, what do you want to talk about today?” And ask the same of Dad.

‘As a chairman of the meeting it’s your duty to stop people going off track or to guide them towards what they want to say, just as in the work environment.’

This is part of verbal communication, which is the second “V” in SAVVI.’

ONE-TO-ONES

According to Rita, having one-to-one meetings are of vital importance because they allow family members to get things off their chest or air their concerns.

‘A child may not be willing to discuss things around their siblings that they will confide in you when you are alone together,’ said Rita.

‘It’s hard for parents to create that one-to-one time for a child but I can assure you that they crave it and need it. Parents need to find time to do this and so do siblings for each other. It helps the bonding process and encourages them to support each other as they grow older.

‘You can engineer one-to-one time in many ways. Perhaps suggest going for a walk or bike ride, a coffee or spot of lunch, or just sitting together in the car, away from the rest of the family.

‘For instance, my 32-year-old son sees his sisters once every two weeks for coffee or lunch. That all comes from the family charter.’

MENTORING

This relates to Inspire and Motivate from the SAVVI framework. Mentoring is one of the many ways to inspire and motivate. It is one of the techniques where children can seek inspiration and motivation and they can recognise the importance of reaching outwards and upwards.

As well as having the family network to rely upon, it is good practice to establish mentors for your children so they have a trusted third-party to provide additional support and guidance.

Rita said: ‘Find your children a big brother/sister figure they can go to, even if only to discuss Mum not letting them sleep over at their friends, or having strict rules about phone usage.

‘Make sure, though, that this person is aligned with your family values. It’s all about finding the right character who can empathise with a child, and who has experienced what they are going through.

‘Perhaps you have a 10-year-old who is preparing to go through the 11+, or they are readying to transfer to secondary school. If so then the ideal mentor would be somebody who had made that transition well.

‘Perhaps your seven-year-old has an 11 or 12-year-old cousin or family friend they can learn from or go to if they have a question.

‘When I work with CEOs or senior executives I make sure to find a mentor who is equivalent to them but with different strengths.’

INFORMAL JOB ROLES

Rita suggests that as your children get older it makes sense to give them informal roles to further develop their independence, motivation, and drive for achievement.

‘Initially, like bosses, parents are there to empower the children and to create that vision for them,’ she explained. ‘In my family we gave ourselves loose titles, all at director level. Families can have joint CEOs but in time you really want to be aspiring to replicate a board of directors.

‘In our structure the financial director is my husband as that’s his natural strength. HR is my role while my daughter Anya is the COO (chief operations officer) as she has a brain which is good at processing things. If we give her a problem then she’ll create a plan to solve it, and how to implement it.

‘As COO in our family she is also in charge of asking us what we want to eat and creating the shopping list. It’s the day-to-day management tasks that she excels at, which is part of the verbal communication.

‘It is important to stick to your job role, though. Don’t do another family member’s duties. If they encounter an issue then they know they must bring it to the table for all the board to discuss and determine.

‘You can support them but don’t take responsibility for their duties.’

Explaining the implementation of business strategy at home, Rita added: ‘When I coach CEOs who micro-manage their teams, I ask them if they have children and whether they do the children’s homework.

‘Of course, they don’t, so I ask them why they don’t empower their teams and help them develop. In the business world people are sent on courses and trained because if you get it wrong then you have unhappy staff, and that can affect profits. The family situation isn’t much different. We need to invest in our family.

‘If there is a vacuum in children’s lives, then they are more at risk of filling it with external influences. Therefore, it is important to set principles and have clear communication streams.

‘That’s how businesses survive and thrive. They work as a unit, with each member knowing what is expected of them.

‘It’s never too late to reframe your family in a business-like structure.’

For more info and to download your own family charter go to Savran.co.uk

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