The Enemy of Stewardship: Part 2

Jason ShrenskyFamily Wealth, Stewardship

In part one of this series, we established that the stewardship of complex family wealth a) is important, b) is a job that requires some work, and c) like many important endeavors falls victim to procrastination.

We further identified that fear (of a death in the family or of mismanaging an asset) is a necessary and effective motivator to cause stewardship to rise to the top of the list of family priorities.

But even as a top priority, stewardship can still seem amorphous, like an ambition or lofty goal. This type of thinking is a mistake. It is vital to recast stewardship as something concrete. Stewardship must be seen as a deliverable.

The Deliverable

Complex family wealth is often dynamic and subject to constant change. This condition may make one think that it’s “impossible” to ever “get out ahead of” all the details that need to be cataloged and managed as part of a stewardship endeavor. Not only is this defeatist thinking; it is untrue. On any given day, it is completely achievable for a steward of complex family wealth to have the fullest picture possible of every legal and financial relationship that impacts the family. This picture may include a list of loose ends, e.g., missing documentation of a will, trust, or transaction that the family knows or has a murky memory about. But, A) a list of everything that is known + B) a list of everything that still needs to be clarified =┬áthe fullest picture possible at any particular moment. This picture is the deliverable.

Accountability

There’s a great bumper sticker that says “Don’t exercise. Train.” This concept resonates with a project like stewardship. “Exercise” is a good endeavor without accountability. How many people start exercising and then give it up? In contrast, “training” implies accountability: a particular achievement is expected by a particular date. To be successful, stewardship must understood as “training” and not “exercise.”

The head of the family or family office must establish a date by which the stewardship deliverable is due. Using the training metaphor, this is the date that the marathon will be run. This date may be 6 months from now, and it may be appropriate to set more digestible achievements along the way. For example, a full understanding of the family’s estate plan is the 5K run that is due in a month. An inventory of the family’s real estate investments is the 10K that is run in the second month, and so on.

The key takeaway here is that a stewardship project is no different than any other project in that it requires the rigor of deadlines, milestones, and accountability in order to increase the odds of success.

Conclusion

This two-part series started with the premises that procrastination is the enemy of stewardship. It then explained that to overcome this procrastination it is necessary to 1) create urgency through the use of fear, 2) frame stewardship as an achievable deliverable, and 3) leverage accountability to create a framework that demands focus on the production of the deliverable.

The specialists at Complex Interests have significant experience with this process. Feel free to reach out to them if you have any questions.