Every business leader has felt it. You head home after a fulfilling and successful day at the office only to wince when you see half a dozen texts waiting from your spouse asking you to call or telling you what one of the kids did and demanding you deal with it the minute you arrive home.
You reach for the door handle reluctantly, wishing there was a way to end the chaos at home.
I feel your pain.
When my wife, Ann, and I were married in 2011, we had both been single parents for a few years with three children apiece. Like all single parents, we had struggled to keep it all together.
Consequently, after we got married and merged our families, I thought I could take a break. Ann was, after all, extremely confident and capable as a parent. I assumed I could pass off my leadership burden to her and breathe a deep sigh of relief.
What I didn’t realize was that she was thinking the same thing. She was ready to have me step up and lead as the head of the household. At first she tried to do it all and hold things together, but it soon became obvious our approach wasn’t working.
Far from reducing the stress levels, my leadership absence had increased the chaos at home. I had unintentionally put my wife in an impossible position without regard for her own strengths and unique gifts. It left both us and our kids confused about whom to talk to when—and for what.
The key to ending the chaos lay in something so simple we almost missed it: we began defining our family leadership roles based on our natural strengths.
Think about it: as successful business leaders, we would never think of turning leaders loose in our business without clearly defining roles and responsibilities.
We would take great pains to ensure each person’s strengths aligned with the role. We would establish clear point-of-contact (POC) lists based on those roles for clear communication. We’d give personality profiles and use strength assessment tools to ensure the business got the most value from each person’s contribution.
Why wouldn’t we devote that same intentional focus to defining roles and responsibilities to create a win at home?
What Happens When You Define Family Roles
- You get the results you need. When roles are undefined, families end up fighting a lot and avoiding each other because of it. Nothing gets done. You simply start the next day more frustrated than the one before. Defining roles gives each spouse a sense of ownership over certain areas of family life. As John Maxwell says, “You cannot achieve a dream you do not own.”
- You get the clarity you want. When everyone knows the best point of contact for issues, life gets simpler. And clarity makes it more difficult for kids to play one spouse against the other. For example, if it has to do with scheduling, they know not to talk to me. My wife excels in that area, so she handles the family schedule. My first response to calls from my kids with schedule-related questions? Talk to mom. Or let Mom talk to me if she needs to do so.
- You get the confidence you desire. One of the challenges I hear often from frustrated parents who are successful in business is that they have tremendous confidence when it comes to their business endeavors but not much when it comes to life at home. But when you have clearly defined roles based on your strengths, you know the best people are in the best place to do the most good. I agree with Michael Porter when it comes to family roles: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
If you’ve never taken the time to discover your strengths and define your roles—and those of your spouse —why not make a date of it? My wife and I found StrengthsFinder and The D.I.S.C. personality profile to be good first steps to define our roles and end the chaos at home.
Question: Have you experienced chaos at home because no one knew who was responsible for what? What methods have you found helpful for defining roles in the family? You can share your thoughts by clicking here.