May 7, 2023

A Lesson From Sir Elton

Josh Gentine

I stepped into my platform shoes, adjusted my feather boa, and slipped on my bedazzled glasses. I was ready. I could hear the crowd out front as the MC announced that the next contestant would be singing Elton John’s I’m Still Standing. It was time. I paraded around from behind the stage and took the microphone as the band started playing the opening notes of Elton’s iconic song...

You could never know what it’s like, your blood like winter freezes just like ice…

No, this is not my usual weekend gig, but when someone asks me to sing for charity, I struggle to say no. Last fall when I was asked to sing for this event, I happened to be reading Elton John’s autobiography; clearly, the stars aligned.

Why do I mention this performance? Because it’s about being vulnerable. It’s about being secure enough in who you are to (in the most extreme example) stand on stage dressed as Elton or (in the humblest of ways) simply speak your truth to others, including your family members.

My work with family businesses is often less about their business and more about their family. Certainly, a significant part of my job is helping families navigate complex transitions, develop strategy, align interests, build governance, and execute a multigenerational vision. However, none of this work is possible if the family isn’t, what I will call, healthy.

The definition of “healthy” is far too complex for a single post, so for now, let’s assume a healthy family is one whose members have robust, meaningful dialogue, respect one another, and can be vulnerable with one another without fear of reprisal or rejection. Unhealthy is simply the opposite. To be a healthy family, you need to be vulnerable with one another, and when a family member gets vulnerable it must be treated with the tenderest of care. For some families, healthy comes easy. For most others, however, it needs to be cultivated intentionally.

So, let me ask you: when was the last time you were truly vulnerable with your family members? And, how have you reacted when others have been vulnerable?

Based on my lived experience and my work with clients, most of us are not all that vulnerable with our loved ones. Going deep and being real can be hard and time-consuming, so we settle for the status quo. Additionally, we often take our most intimate relationships for granted. Because we are with each other every day, we are not intentional in crafting the type of relationships we desire, and we don’t put forth the work to build a stronger family. But the fact is, great families aren’t born, they’re built.

Here's my challenge to you: if you have a family, get vulnerable. Being vulnerable - and respecting other family members when they are - is one of the surest paths to building a healthy family.

If you’re interested in building a stronger family and family business, be vulnerable and send me an email. You won’t have to wear a feather boa, I promise.


Share This


Bench believes in the innate potential of all people and the power of organizations to make a profound impact in the world. We coach, consult and advise individuals, leaders, entrepreneurs, and teams.