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Starbucks has become renowned for their atmosphere of impeccable customer service. In fact, just go online and you will find a wealth of books written about business principles that made Starbucks such a success. But if you have been to a Starbucks lately, you know that not all stores are created equal.

You know what I am talking about.

Most of the time it lives up to its reputation, but occasionally my drink takes way too long, it’s the wrong drink, or they forget my order altogether and seem irritated when I remind them!

What is the difference between a great Starbucks and a poor one?


Everything rises and falls on leadership

Among numerous other awards, in 2014 John Maxwell was named by Inc. Magazine as the top leadership expert in the world. He has published more than 100 books on the subject—and even way back in 2005, he was listed as one of the top 25 best-selling authors on Amazon.

For decades Maxwell has had the following quote on his wall, which has served as a guiding principle for his life:

“Everything rises and falls on leadership.” –John Maxwell

And everything includes families.

Many leaders are accustomed to applying solid business principles at work, but don’t implement them as purposefully at home. This is sad because family is the most important enterprise we will ever lead.

If you aren’t sure how to begin or your kids are out of the house, I’m certain some of these principles will still apply.

Here are some ways you can take action now:

  1. If you are a two-parent household, get buy-in from your partner first. Nearly all parenting experts would agree that if both parents are not united, it will be very difficult to implement your vision. If you are not aligned or can’t seem to get on the same page, some marriage counseling might be the first step you take toward leading at home.
  2. Clarify your family values. Start a discussion with your partner about what your core values are and the key things you want to instill in your children. What makes you glad, mad, or sad? Aim for a list of about 5 to 7 core family values. This will help clarify how to write your family vision.
  3. Write a family vision statement. Nearly every great company has a clear vision/mission statement. The shorter the better—because simple is easy to internalize. Aim for 3-5 sentences max that really capture the essence of what your family is all about. In what way is your family unique? What are you trying to accomplish? What is supremely important?
  4. Hold regular family meetings. Have you ever heard of a great company that holds absolutely no meetings? Of course not. Your family won’t stay on track without them either. My wife and I have used these for years now to review our budget, stay on track with our goals, and plan upcoming vacations. As soon as possible, give your children a voice in the meeting or even assign them to lead one so they begin to take ownership.
  5. Place people in their strength zones and clarify role expectations. The Gallup organization has done more research on employee strengths than any other entity in the world, and their research demonstrates that great companies place people in their strength zones. When people love what they do and are good at it, they are much more motivated. Not surprisingly, this also works well in families. I heard some great marriage advice several years ago that recommended that parents begin to identify what they do best in the family and set clear expectations about who does what. Divide and conquer. This tiny bit of advice has worked wonders for my wife and I to do what we are naturally gifted at and stop trying to do what we don’t do well. For example, my wife is great with spreadsheets, she is more frugal than I am, and she is also more generous. Therefore, we naturally assigned her the role of family CFO. Although we both look at the budget together.
  6. Do a household budget. A speaker at a conference once said, “We can immediately tell the health of any company by looking at its financial books, it’s the first thing we ask for.” The same could be said of your family. Most recent research shows that people are not saving nearly enough for retirement, household debt hit a record high, and a 2019 CNBC story showed that 40% of Americans cannot cover a $400 emergency. For most people, you will never make financial headway without knowing what is coming in and going out every month. Financial expert Dave Ramsey often jokes—”If you managed your company’s money the way you manage your personal finances, would you hire you?”
  7. Decide how to handle discipline. Good companies have clear ways to discipline team members when needed. And it is extremely important for parents to be united in their philosophy of discipline. My wife and I have found the Love and Logic books and classes to be extremely helpful. (I have no financial relationship with Love and Logic).
  8. Have fun and focus on relationships. Workplaces without any fun often don’t retain the best team members. The same can be said of families. Leadership author and pastor of the largest church in North America—Andy Stanley—suggests that if you want your kids to come visit after they leave home, lots of family fun and memories is the best way to ensure that happens! Also, one of the factors that best predicts whether people stay at a company is whether they have a close friend at work (according to Gallup). We must continually invest in and build family relationships for them to stay strong. Those with the strongest families I know are people who intentionally carve out marriage dates or spend one-on-one quality time with their children, along with structured times of the week for family activities like dinner or family movie night.
  9. How to handle conflict and emotions. In many families, conflict and strong emotions are handled one of two ways—they are swept under the rug or stored up until they explode. Without a healthy way to have conflict and express strong emotions, massive problems can boil just beneath the surface. Leadership expert Patrick Lencioni calls this false harmony—which he explains is the most toxic thing possible for teams. He argues that all health teams need something called productive conflict—a way to openly debate things and have everyone’s opinion heard. Without the ability to share opinions and vent emotions, gossip and alliances form—in teams and in families. The most classic example from psychology is when one of the parents stops being honest with their partner and begins to confide in a child instead.

Have a great weekend!


Suggested Resources

  1. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership—John Maxwell
  2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families—Stephen Covey
  3. The 3 Big Questions for the Frantic Family—Patrick Lencioni
Dr. Parker Houston

Parker Houston

Dr. Parker Houston is a licensed clinical psychologist and board-certified in organizational psychology. He is also certified in personal and executive coaching. Parker's personal mission is to share science-based principles of psychology and timeless spiritual practices, to help people improve the way they lead themselves, their families, and their organizations. *Opinions expressed are the author's own.
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