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3 Steps to Developing Your Family Culture

Guidance for taking an intentional approach to family interactions.

multigenerational family

Podcast Transcript

Host: Dave Specht, National Development Manager for Family Dynamics, Wells Fargo Private Bank

Guest: Suzanne Mansell, Family Dynamics Consultant, Wells Fargo Private Bank


Every family wants to have healthy inter-family relationships and find success and happiness personally and as a family unit. So how can a family develop a culture to help achieve those outcomes?

I’m Dave Specht, the Family Dynamics National Development Manager for Wells Fargo Private Bank, and I’m your host for “Your Financial Journey,” a podcast series that explores questions families of wealth commonly face.

Today, I’m joined by my friend and colleague, Suzanne Mansell, Family Dynamics Consultant with Wells Fargo Private Bank. Suzanne, what exactly is family culture?


Well, Dave, a family’s culture is the way in which family members engage with each other and with the world around them. A family’s culture arises from its history and traditions and it reflects the family’s values. A family’s culture essentially reveals what is truly important to them.


So why might it be valuable for a family to take an intentional focus on the development of that culture?


Well, families that are most successful in helping family members to flourish are ones that are purposeful in building their culture. These families also become best positioned to sustain the family’s legacy across the generations.


Suzanne, tell me more about what you mean by the word purposeful.


By purposeful, I mean taking opportunities to infuse everyday gestures with meaning; so it’s about being creative and strategic in preserving the family’s history and sharing the family’s values.

For example: Many parents write a check to their children to take advantage of the annual gift exclusion for tax purposes. A purposeful approach would be if the parents recorded a video or wrote a handwritten note sharing their hopes and dreams for their child along with the check.


That sounds like a meaningful suggestion. So how many of us, particularly those whose parents are no longer with us, wouldn’t treasure such an heirloom as a parent’s voice or handwritten note? How does a family’s culture influence how they communicate and deal with conflict, Suzanne?


How a family communicates and how it deals with conflict both define its culture. These are two of the defining factors in how well families navigate generational transitions. In some families, family members are encouraged to “speak their mind”—to say what they want and how they feel. In other families that’s not OK. Often people are taught to put on an air of “everything is fine”—even when it isn’t. Miscommunication can often lead to the biggest family conflicts. So, a big part of our work with families is helping them navigate difficult conversations and deal with conflict in ways that are healthy and constructive.


We all certainly have conflicts in our families and ways that we deal with those. What steps would you suggest for a family that wants to be more purposeful in designing a healthy family culture?


One thing a family can do is to create a family code of conduct.

And another is to share family stories or histories and traditions, and not just share them, but record them. Families can create wonderful projects interviewing each other and videotaping their interviews, tracing the family’s genealogy, and learning about the source of the family’s wealth and how it was built. These are all great ways to pass on the family’s core values.

Also, working together to identify and define their shared values is another important step.

And, lastly, the most important thing is that the family must live their values, their vision, their mission—using them as a guide when having difficult conversations and making those tough decisions.


Those are great tips, Suzanne. So, just to recap your recommended actions:

  1. Be purposeful and strategic with sharing what you’re doing—and why you’re doing it.
  2. Take stock of how your family communicates and make the necessary adjustments to accomplish your long-term relationship objectives.
  3. Be intentional in developing patterns that allow your family to preserve those relationships and perpetuate your legacies.

To learn more about how Wells Fargo Private Bank’s Family Dynamics Team can help, contact your Relationship Manager.

Thank you, Suzanne, for sharing your expertise, and thank you, listeners, for joining this podcast.

Image created from iStock

What can Wells Fargo do for you?

Creating a plan for every generation of your family can be a challenge. Schedule time with your team to get started.

Wells Fargo Wealth Planning Center, part of Wells Fargo Private Bank, provides wealth and financial planning services through Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., and its various affiliates and subsidiaries.

Wells Fargo & Company and its affiliates do not provide legal advice. Wells Fargo Advisors is not a legal or tax advisor. Please consult your tax and legal advisors to determine how this information may apply to your own situation. Whether any planned tax result is realized by you depends on the specific facts of your own situation at the time your taxes are prepared.


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