Family Management 101

Thinking like an executive manager and seeing myself as the person in charge of an important organization-my family-is how I have realized my dream of a happy home. No matter what the make-up of your family, the Family Manager system can help you make your home a great place to be.

1. See yourself as a true “manager.”

Because you are! You oversee an economic institution that includes such services as meal preparation, cleaning house, transporting people, shopping, lawn maintenance, car and house repairs and banking. See the Family Manager Creed.

2. Manage by departments.

All the chores and responsibilities of running a home and family-whether they have to do with the house, clothing, children, relatives, bank accounts, pantry, schools, vacations, furniture, holidays, and so on-fall into seven distinct departments. Compartmentalizing my duties made a lot of sense. These departments are:

Home & Property: overseeing the maintenance and care of all tangible assets, including personal belongings, the house, and its surroundings.

Food: meeting the daily food and nutrition needs of the family economically and creatively.

Money: budgeting, investing, paying bills, saving, and handling a host of other monetary issues.

Family & Friends: dealing with family life and relationships, including child rearing, education, marriage, friends, neighbors, and aging parents.

Special Events: coordinating large and small projects-birthdays, holidays, vacations, garage sales, family reunions-that fall outside the normal family routine.

Time & Scheduling: acting as the facilitator so the household runs smoothly and family members get to the right places at the right time, with the right equipment.

Self Management: taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

3. Have a base of operation.

Every manager needs a “control central”-be it a desk, countertop, or office. In a company, it’s the place from which he or she calls the shots. In a home it’s the place from which the family manager organizes, tracks the family’s schedule, notes changes, responds to messages, makes lists, and keeps all those important papers in their places. By setting up your own Control Central, you can better oversee your family’s coming and goings and manage the countless tasks, responsibilities, and decisions that are made every day. If the CEO is calm and organized, everyone else is too.

4. Know your mission.Successful businesses have a mission.

They know where they are going. It’s not a big leap to see that if successful companies have a mission statement, we as Family Managers should, too. As you think about your mission for your home, also think about what you don’t want it to be: a fast-food drive-thru where family members rush in, grab a bite to eat and clean clothes, ask for money, exchange a few words, and rush out again. In large part it’s up to you and me, the Family Managers, to prevent whatever we don’t want from happening.

5. Work smarter.

A good manager is always learning from her mistakes and scheming, if you will, for a better way to do things. It’s important-no, essential-to get into the habit of thinking about how you can make your job more efficient and more enjoyable. Working smarter primarily means spending a little extra time on something now to make more time for fun later.

6. Maximize your strengths.

Good family management demands a set of skills that no one person has. There will always be jobs we hate. The trick is learning to work with our strengths, work around areas where we are not gifted, and through people who are.

7. Delegate.

A good manager delegates tasks to others, assuming responsibility for initiating projects and providing needed assistance toward completion. In a family this means sharing responsibility. If a 12-year-old girl can communicate with her friends over the Internet, she can certainly learn some basic laundry skills. Any man who can program a VCR so he won't miss game four of the World Series, can be shown how to start the washing machine. Even a preschool-age child can help dust baseboards and fold towels-and at that age, kids love to help. The home belongs to the entire family, so all of its members should contribute to its care.

8. Build a team.

Family management, like all good management, is not about autocratic rulers imposing arbitrary standards from on high. It is not about inventing and engraving in stone a family bureaucracy that will give you headaches, make your children want to join a union, and have your husband filling out forms in triplicate just to get a Friday-night movie date with you. Modern management provides peace, fun, and a sense of satisfaction-for everyone in the family. By functioning like a team, rather than a group of individuals, you’ll have more fun and increase your output (ability to get things done). Activities that aren’t particularly enjoyable, such as weekly cleaning chores, take less time and take on new meaning when everyone shares in the burden. To build your team, focus on the “in” list.

9. Know your managing style.

It’s important for every family manager to discover her unique style. To do this you need to know where your current picture of a good family manager came from. You need to know yourself, the ways you like to work and the atmosphere you work best in, so you can better develop your strengths, compensate for your weaker areas, choose your priorities, and delegate wisely.

10. Be prepared.

It’s the Scout motto but it could also be the Family Manager’s motto. If you have a shelf stocked with office and school supplies, you won’t have to run to the store at 10 p.m. in search of index cards and a folder for a report that’s due tomorrow. If you have a list of quick menus and always keep the supplies on hand, when you get a call from an out-of-town friend at dinnertime, pulling a nice meal together becomes 50 times easier. If you’re already operating by a budget you created, when you have a financial setback it will be easier to identify areas where you can cut back on expenses.

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