By Greg Wolf
Several years ago, Kennedy and Coe, LLC leaders documented in the firm's mission statement the words "to enhance the well-being of our people and the clients we serve." I say they were documented rather than developed because the essence of that mission had been alive throughout prior years, but it had never been captured in words in quite that way before. The heart of our firm's mission therefore is reaching and enhancing the "well-being" of people. I think the mention of both "our people" and "clients" signifies that our success and well-being is interwoven in the success and well-being of our clients. But what exactly does "well-being" mean?
My father-in-law has always had a unique and special way of expressing how he was doing when people would ask--he usually says "we are well." The word is often associated with physical health, and I think it was in the last month or two that I wrote about our firm's "wellness" initiative, which is oriented more toward physical health, though not entirely. But the essence of well-being goes both deeper and broader. I think I'll go to a dictionary myself to help get a grip on what the term actually means. Merriam-Webster defines well-being as "the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous," and notes that the first known use of it was in 1582.
Recently in a business meeting we had a discussion that reminded me that the well-being of clients goes far beyond finances, or health, although both usually have some bearing on our circumstance and attitude. I thought it might be a good subject as well for readers of this column during this holiday season. I asked my good friend and colleague Dr. Hubert Brown for some thoughts about what well-being means, and as I expected he had some good thoughts that delve much more deeply and meaningfully than dollars:
I work as a family business consultant to family-owned businesses and it is my mission to promote the well-being of families. Some might ask what you mean by the well-being of families. I am glad you asked! For me, in my line of work, it means strengthening relationships between couples, parents and children, sibling ties, and connections with extended family members. The goal is to encourage family harmony and to inspire healthy interpersonal behaviors.
I realize some folks can view the family well-being from a financial point view. Here the concern is that the family is operating at a fiscally responsible level. Another can view family well-being from a technical standpoint, seeing the family as a system or as machinery where each part of family needs to properly fit in with another part to produce a well-oiled machine. Still, another view of the this term, family well-being may be based in a political dimension and this would be illustrated by the need for equality between all members, and each person having a say in what happens, and each person contributing to the decision-making process.
I choose to view this term family well-being from the standpoint of shared understanding and enriched communication between family members where harmony, respect, and work-life balance are the values that are both articulated and lived out by all members of the family. Family well-being should include social, spiritual, physical and social well-being where good family relationships, friendships, work, leisure and finances are all in good shape.
During this holiday season here are some specific steps that can aid families in both appreciating what they have as well as cultivating a greater sense of family well-being.
Genuine care for each other in a family is not always intuitive or even recognized. And sometimes we are not even aware of our own care for each other until something changes or is lost. Last evening we had some dear friends down for supper before they made a move out of state. We have a lot of special memories together going back over a number of years, and knew that we cared very much for them. But nothing brought it into focus quite like the prospect of their moving several states away. So the suggestion here is to be more reflective and also more deliberate about how we care for other members of our family.
Care for one another can too often remain anonymous; communication involves letting others know. Communication includes expression of love and affirmation, but also a willingness to approach potential barriers or concerns in a relationship--even something relating to an entire family atmosphere or culture. It is not easy to approach difficult relationship areas but when done so carefully there is potential to make strides forward in family harmony. As Hubert likes to say, "not everything that is addressed can be resolved, but nothing can be resolved without being addressed."
Work in improving family harmony and well-being is hard work, but not the kind that can bring a satisfyingly good sweat. It is a different kind of work, on a different level. It does have its own challenges and risks, but at the same time it can lead to rich benefits and rewards. Like any other work, it requires a commitment, motivated by care and coupled with communication, that takes time, energy and perseverance. This is a wonder time of year to consider a greater commitment to your family well-being.
Editor's note: Greg Wolf is a consultant with Kennedy and Coe, LLC (www.kcoe.com) and works to help clients of the firm navigate toward better returns in all areas of their businesses. He is based in the firm's Pratt, Kan., office and can be reached at 620-672-7476.