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How Non-Family NEDs Are Resolving Conflict in Family Firms


Family businesses are often hailed for their tight-knit culture and shared values, but they are not immune to conflict. In fact, conflicts within family firms can be particularly complex, as they often intertwine personal and professional dynamics. However, non-executive directors (NEDs) can serve as invaluable resources in alleviating and resolving these conflicts, offering fresh perspectives, impartiality, and strategic guidance.


Understanding Conflict In Family Firms

Conflict within family businesses can arise from a variety of sources, including:


  1. Succession Planning: Disagreements over who will lead the business in the future.

  2. Role Ambiguity: Tensions stemming from unclear roles and responsibilities, especially between family and non-family members.

  3. Communication Breakdowns: Differences in communication styles and preferences leading to misunderstandings.

  4. Sibling Rivalry: Personal dynamics and historical rivalries among family members spilling into the business environment.


Dealing With Conflict

Addressing conflict in family firms requires a proactive and strategic approach. Some effective strategies include:


  1. Open Communication: Encouraging transparent and respectful communication channels to address issues as they arise.

  2. Conflict Resolution Processes: Implementing formal conflict resolution mechanisms, such as mediation or facilitated discussions.

  3. Clarifying Roles and Expectations: Establishing clear roles, responsibilities, and decision-making processes to minimize ambiguity.

  4. Seeking External Expertise: Bringing in outside consultants or advisors with expertise in family business dynamics.


The Role Of Non-Family Directors And NEDs

Non-family directors and NEDs bring a unique set of skills and perspectives that can help mitigate and resolve conflicts within family firms:


  1. Impartiality: Non-family directors and NEDs are not emotionally invested in family dynamics, allowing them to provide impartial advice and mediation.

  2. Strategic Insight: With experience in diverse industries and corporate environments, non-family board members can offer strategic guidance and fresh perspectives on resolving conflicts.

  3. Mediation and Facilitation: Non-family directors and NEDs can act as mediators or facilitators during conflict resolution processes, helping to navigate tensions and find common ground.

  4. Governance Oversight: NEDs can play a crucial role in establishing governance structures and processes that mitigate the risks associated with family conflict, ensuring accountability and transparency.


Conflict As A Catalyst For Growth

While conflict within family firms is often viewed negatively, it can also serve as a catalyst for growth and innovation. Healthy conflict encourages constructive dialogue, challenges the status quo, and fosters creativity. Non-family directors and NEDs can help reframe conflict as an opportunity for learning and improvement, encouraging family members to embrace differences and leverage diverse perspectives for the benefit of the business.


Conflict is an inherent part of any business, but in family firms, it can be particularly challenging due to the intertwining of personal and professional dynamics.


Non-family directors and NEDs play a crucial role in alleviating and resolving these conflicts, offering impartiality, strategic insight, and governance oversight.


By harnessing the expertise and perspectives of non-family members, family businesses can navigate conflicts more effectively and emerge stronger and more resilient than before.

About the Author - David Twiddle is the founder and Managing Partner of TWYD & Co, an Executive Search and Advisory firm built differently for thriving business families, entrepreneurs and ultra-high net worth individuals, around the world. Find out more at www.twyd.co


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