Ken Kaye

Kenneth Kaye's publications on Family Business Dynamics

Book: Workplace Wars and How to End Them: Turning Personal Conflicts into Productive Teamwork (1994)

Book: The Dynamics of Family Business: Building Trust and Resolving Conflict (2005)

Book: Trust Me: Helping Our Young Adults Financially (2009)


Paying Fair (1989) Family Business magazine, January 1989. At the time, I had worked with fewer than ten business-owning families, so most of what I said here was based on interviews and what I had learned from pioneers in the field such as fellow Chicagoans Ed Crego and Bernie Liebowitz. Twenty years later, after hundreds of clients, I wouldn't change a word of this advice about salaries in a family firm. (Reprint available from Family Business)

Why Can't Family Life Be More Like a Business Lunch? (1990) Family Business magazine, February 1990. (Reprint available from Family Business.) The more important a relationship is to us, paradoxically, the more we tend to take the other person for granted and shortcut the basic communication skills (such as active listening) that most people employ well in dealing with customers or strangers.

Can You Keep a Secret? Maybe You Shouldn't (1990) Family Business magazine, April 1990. (Reprint available from Family Business.) Family secrets are always risky; even more so when they affect business succession, estate planning, or chronic family/business conflicts.

Resolving Conflict (1991) Family Business magazine, January 1991. (Reprinted in The Dynamics of Family Business.) Summarizes how a family systems therapist looks at the repeating cycle of conflict in a family firm.

Penetrating the Cycle of Sustained Conflict (1991) Family Business Review, 1991, Vol. IV, pp. 21-44. (Reprinted in The Dynamics of Family Business.) The first of my academic articles for FBR discussed the "problem maintenance cycle," a central concept in the work of William Pinsof at Northwestern University, which I found to be as valuable in addressing family business conflict as it is in family therapy generally.

The Kid Brother (1992)< Family Business Review, 1992, Vol. V, pp. 237-256. (Reprinted in The Dynamics of Family Business.) Patterns occur across families, transcending regions, cultures, wealth and other variables. One of the first such patterns I noticed in family firms was the situation I call "prisoners of the family business." The "kid brother syndrome" is a subcategory of that.

El Hermano Más Joven (Spanish translation of the above article, thanks to Francisco Javier Macias)

Prisoner of his Family's Business (1992) This short summary of "The Kid Brother" was one of a set of columns I syndicated to a number of trade associations.

Who's the Client? (1992) (Short article in the Family Firm Institute Newsletter, reprinted in The Dynamics of Family Business.) Advisors to family business come from widely divergent professional backgrounds. We learn about one another's perspectives through organizations like the Family Firm Institute. In FFI's newsletter, I discussed fundamental differences in who or what we see as our client, and our ethical responsibilities. How do we serve multiple family members' contradictory and sometimes secret agendas? The same issues were still on my mind 12 years later when Sara Hamilton and I wrote "Roles of Trust in Consulting to Financial Families."

On Speaking Terms: Boardroom Communication (1994). The Journal of Corporate Governance, Vol. XV, No. 89. Boardroom conflict can be positive and creative.

When Faith Comes First (1995) Family Business magazine, Spring 1995. (Reprinted in The Dynamics of Family Business.) Other contributors on the same topic listed only the advantages in strong religious faith for a business family. But there are some disadvantages as well.

How to Rebuild Business Trust (1995) Family Business magazine, Summer 1995. (Reprinted in The Dynamics of Family Business.) Trust is an interaction process, not a static quality. I had discussed this in Family Rules (1984) as well as in Workplace Wars (1994). Here I noticed something simple and remarkably useful about trust and mistrust: It helps if family members clarify whether their statement "I don't trust X" is about the person's honesty, or about his or her motives, or about particular abilities.

The Bottom Line on Loans to Relatives (1995) Family Business magazine, Autumn 1995. (Reprint available from Family Business.) Most important is to make it clear, in writing, when this is a genuine loan with expectations of repayment, so that expectations of both parties are the same.

Psychologists or Sycophants? (1995) (Opinion column in the Family Firm Institute Newsletter, Winter 1995. "High and mighty rhetoric about the virtuousness of our work and of our clients ... seems to ignore some of those clients' antisocial activities."

Terms of Entitlement (1996) Corporate Detroit, March 1996. (Reprinted in The Dynamics of Family Business Two problems of "entitlement" come up frequently in our work: too much or too little.

Equal Isn't Always Fair (1996) Family Business magazine, Spring 1996. By Catherine McCarthy and Kenneth Kaye. (Reprint available from Family Business.)

Healthy Disagreements (1996) Family Business magazine, Autumn 1996. By Kenneth Kaye and Catherine McCarthy. (Reprint available from Family Business.)

When the Family Business is a Sickness (1996) Family Business Review, 1996, Vol. IX, pp. 347-368. (Reprinted in The Dynamics of Family Business.) My most controversial and, I think, most important contribution to this field: " ... in many cases the family business is not the patient but an illness afflicting the family. These are cases in which keeping it going means keeping the family sick. These owners use their business to retard the normal development of their children and themselves. Their health as a family business cannot be 'restored' because it isn't healthy for them to be a family business."

Cuando la Empresa Familiar es una Enfermedad (Traducción en español por Francisco Javier Macias. Cuando un negocio compartido retrasa el desarollo del Ciclo Vital de ambas generaciónes, puede no ser possible para los consultores "restaurar" su sistema de salud como empresa familiar, porque ya es insalubre para estas familias estar todos juntos en la empresa. Fantasías como salvar su empresa familiar, o realizar una sucesión a la siguiente generación, son equivocadas. El autor argumenta que cuando el desarollo del ego de los padres es inadequado, la individuación normal les provoca a ellos y a sus hijos una ansiedad tal que hace que la empresa funcione como una adicción, El rol primario para el consultor será reconocer estos casos, diagnosticarlos con cuidado e intervener de forma que motive a la siguiente generación a explorer un amplio abanico de opciónes.)

Conflict as Opportunity for Change (1996) Family Business Network Newsletter No. 14, April 1996. (Reprinted in The Dynamics of Family Business.) A short summary of the systematic approach I adapted from family therapy to resolve work group conflicts. The article includes a diagram of trust as a mutual process, as experience leads a relationship to become either gradually more trusting or (sometimes abruptly) less trusting.

Comment on Mediation (1997) Family Business Review, 1997, Vol. X, pp. 131-134. (Reprinted in The Dynamics of Family Business.) FBR editor Joe Astrachan asked me to comment on an article by John Haynes and Thomas Uzdin entitled "Resolving Family Business Disputes through Mediation" (1997). I found the authors' claims for the utility of mediation far too broad, as opposed to a family systems consulting approach.

On Trying to Remake Others (1998) Family Business magazine, Winter 1998. (Reprinted in The Dynamics of Family Business.) Hoping to solve relationship prblems by convincing the other person to change is worse than a waste of time--it's a way of refusing to do the only constructive thing that might improve the situation: to try some different behavior ourselves, in hopes of getting a better reaction.

Happy Landings: the Opportunity to Fly Again (1998) Family Business Review, 1998, Vol. XI, pp. 275-280. (Reprinted in The Dynamics of Family Business.) The success of a family enterprise should be measured by the opportunities it creates for the next generation, whether they choose to go on with that business or to follow their own dreams. This was one of the essays that led my friend Joe Astrachan, editor of FBR, to dub me "the Dr. Kevorkian of the family business profession."

Brothers Who'd Rather Fight at any Cost (1998) Family Business magazine, Summer 1998. A letter to sisters whose brothers were destroying the family and their business by their battle for power.

Is Succession Such a Sweet Dream? (1999) Family Business magazine, Winter 1999. (Reprint available from Family Business.) Would-be successors sometimes don't think about the fact that the siblings or cousins they wind up with as partners may not be the sort they would have chosen.

Realism About the Dream (1999) Family Business Review, 1999, Vol. XII. Review of Succeeding Generations: Realizing the Dream of Families in Business, by Ivan Lansberg.

Mate Selection and the Family Business (1999) Family Business Review, 1999, Vol. XII, pp. 107-115. (Reprinted in The Dynamics of Family Business.) An index of a family's success is the caliber of talent it manages to attract through marriage.

Married to the Business (2000) Family Business magazine, Autumn 2000. (Reprint available from Family Business.) Family secrets are always risky; even more so when they affect business succession, estate planning, or chronic family/business conflicts.

The Big Dilemma for Wealth Creators: Delegating (2003) by Sara Hamilton and Kenneth Kaye. Trusts and Estates, May 2003. The most important gift to future generations is to create a process of trusting that can accommodate change.

Born Rich (2004) Family Office Exchange Newsletter, Spring 2004, Vol. XII. Review of Born Rich, a documentary film by Jamie Johnson.

Roles of Trust in Consulting to Financial Families (2004) by Kenneth Kaye and Sara Hamilton. Family Business Review, 2004, Vol. XVII, pp. 151-163. (Reprinted in The Dynamics of Family Business.) This article addresses the dynamics of the whole system, including inheritors, trustees, contingent beneficiaries, spouses and minor children, their full-time professional staffs, and assorted outside advisors.

Nepotism (2009) Review of a book by Adam Bellow, in Family Business Review, 2009.

Hope Springs Eternal (2009) Reflections on the 20th anniversary of Family Business magazine.

Incompatible Stories (2009) What to do when parties to a dispute are arguing about whose historical memory is true. (Article submitted for publication)

Trust in the Family Enterprise (2010) The difference between trust conflicts in family financial offices and those in ordinary family businesses is instructive with regard to the causes and resolution of human conflicts in general.

Family Conflict and Human Nature (2010) The risk involved in relying on others is greater for humans than for animals that rely on each other's instincts. Human individuals have to be prepared to doubt and verify one another's conformance to expectations. Vigilance, suspicion of betrayal, and reprisal are healthy for Homo sapiens, because trust is so vital to our survival.

Too Late for Parental Guidance (2012) When young adults get so deep in financial trouble that you have to bail them out.

Trusting Fast and Slow but not Forever (2012) We human beings necessarily and instinctively count on others' trustworthiness, but we tend to underestimate the likelihood of their developing new goals and different priorities. Then we interpret the latter as betrayal of trust.

How We Trust (2013) A presentation to an international conference on "Second Person" (how we interpret the mind and intentions of another), this talk compares assumed trust with systematic trusting and highlights the fundamental change that occurred between earlier hominid primates and Homo sapiens approximately one million years ago.

The Hardest Problems in Family Firms (2014) What conflicts are the hardest for a consultant to resolve? Those that result from dragging family unhappiness into the business.