Monthly Musings – Aug. 2018

hand drawing the word "learning"

I’m jumping back into blogging through a new monthly series reflecting on things I’ve recently read, seen, or worked on. I’ll identify the primary audience for each post. And, I’ll continue to write on other topics in between the monthly posts.

Family Chief Learning Officer (CLO)

Primary audience – staff and advisors to philanthropic families and their foundations and funds

At the Purposeful Planning Institute’s 2018 Rendezvous, speakers Jay Hughes and Ian McDermott described the role of Chief Learning Officer for a family. They believe the role is emerging as an essential capability for advisors and staff to family foundations and family enterprises.

Family CLOs assess capabilities and competencies in family members and their staff, develop their knowledge and skills, coach in leadership styles, and facilitate organizational change. In a blog post, PPI member Jennifer Muntz, Founder of FamilyCLO, said the CLO is “a champion of human capital and helps families develop and deploy their human capital to achieve individual and family goals in regard to leadership development, succession, strategic planning, governance and cohesiveness.”

Later at the Rendezvous, staff from Merrill Lynch’s Center for Family Wealth Dynamics and Governance discussed Learning Families. They wrote in a draft white paper that “Increasingly we find that what separates families that thrive from generation to generation from those that fall apart, is this capacity to learn.” Those successful families adopt practices that allow them to adapt and respond to complex issues over time. Those practices include a willingness to continually experiment, a tolerance for complexity and ambiguity, and an ability to identify and close gaps “between intentions and actions, beliefs and behaviors, positional power and actual power, mental models and reality as it is and what is said and what is heard.”

When I was at the Roy A. Hunt Foundation, my staff and I hadn’t encountered the CLO term, but we strived to be creative in how we brought new information to family members. Some things worked, some didn’t, but happily, the family gave us the space to experiment. Two of the family members and I discussed family learning with another foundation on an Oct. 2013 webinar for the National Center for Family Philanthropy. The recording is only available to NCFP subscribers, but you can see my slide deck here.

If you’re a staff member or advisor to a generous family, you might ask yourself:

  • Who is playing, or could play, the CLO role? Is it something you have the time and skills to perform internally or do you need a trusted partner?
  • Are you an “asset seeker” – someone who recognizes the unique talents and knowledge of each family and staff member (their human and intellectual capitals)? Do you help find new ways for members to offer those assets to the family and community?
  • How can you empower peer learning and mentoring, helping family members see each other as resources, maybe even in a new light?
  • Are you delivering passive education through traditional methods (meetings, classes, webinars)? Or are you facilitating interactive learning experiences and delivering just-in-time learning through short videos and coaching on mobile phones?

Additional Resources