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Bruzzese: Use business models to gain control over your home life

By most people’s estimations, Patrick Lencioni is very successful. He runs his own company and his business advice books are bestsellers. His ideas often are sought by clients seeking to improve their organizations, and he is a popular speaker and consultant.

But what many may not know is that Lencioni, author of the popular “Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” used to be confronted every day by a problem that has plagued business leaders for years: a chaotic home life.

As the father of four children, he and his wife were besieged by a schedule that had them running, exhausted, from activity to activity, often feeling like their home life was disorganized, stressful and out of control.

One day, Lencioni looked at his wife and said, “If my clients ran their companies the way we run this family, they’d be out of business.”

That’s when Lencioni decided that the business practices he applied at work could be employed at home. The result, he says, is a home life that isn’t “perfect”, but is “better.”

“There is a greater sense of peace,” he says. “There’s less guilt, less reactivity. We have a more thoughtful … family.”

His decision to put his business smarts to work at home has prompted a new book, “The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family,” (Jossey-Bass, $24.95).

As the father of four boys (10-year-old twins, a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old) Lencioni says his discussion with friends and colleagues found that he and his wife were not alone in their frustration over their home life.

“I would be at work, convincing clients to be purposeful and clear, and then I’d go home and my wife and I were just winging it. The difference was so stark. I thought: ‘How can I be so contradictory?’ ” he says. “But the more I started looking at it all, the more I realized that it’s the same at work or at home: It’s about how groups of people are working together with a common purpose.”

The book, written in fable form, surrounds a family very similar to Lencioni’s. It cites the frustrations of parents shuttling children to various activities, trying to meet volunteer obligations while finding time to bond with friends and family. The parents finally agree that there’s got to be a better solution, and that’s when they start using business models to gain control over their home life.

Lencioni says the business experience he’s put to work in his own home can work for other families. He says parents can gain better control over their family life by looking at:

- What makes your family unique? In order to make any decisions about your family or business, you need to know what makes you different from everyone else. It’s not possible to be all things to all people.

- What is your family’s top priority – rallying cry – right now? As in business, you must identify the single most important objective over the next two to six months. Without a top priority, everything becomes important and you end up reacting to whatever seems urgent on that specific day.

- How do you talk about and use the answers to these questions? The answers you get from the first two questions must be put into action daily, weekly and monthly in order for a business – or family – to be successful.

Lencioni, founder and president of The Table Group, says that he believes the frantic family is a product of our modern times, where children have numerous extracurricular activities and parents are overwhelmed trying to keep up with those activities, school and work.

“I just think that kids have no time to themselves any more,” he says. “The rallying cry has to be that we’re going to take our families back. Just as businesses have to be who they are, families have to be who they are.”

Anita Bruzzese is author of “45 Things You Do That Drive Your Boss Crazy…and How to Avoid Them” (www.45things.com). Write to her c/o: Business Editor, Gannett News Service, 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22107. For a reply, include a SASE.

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