Loyola University Chicago

Loyola Business Leadership Hub

Housed in the Quinlan School of Business


Listening to understand

Listening to understand

As we close the week, I’m reflecting on the past three months. Writing to you has been like journaling—tracking events for our family business community through the pandemic and the shutdown of the economy. The events of this past week, in the wake of the George Floyd killing, have rocked individuals, families, and business communities across the country. We hope you will find support here for the leadership decisions you will make in the week ahead.

A complex stew

“As business owners, we have to have our game face on while also hurting. I still have to run a 130-employee organization. I have to be positive, strategic, and forward-thinking while also hurting inside.”

Zawadi Bryant

Does this feel familiar? Our instinct is to keep working, to keep muscling through. Family businesses especially know that survival is dependent on a willingness to keep at it, to get on with it no matter what is happening in homes and communities. But this week, the public protests and civil unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, left many of you feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about how to feel and act as individuals, citizens, employers, and owners.

Now more than ever, it is important to look closely at our values and what we’ve learned through our history to guide our decisions looking forward. I found one story that sums up a business owner’s experience and the stew of conflicting and difficult emotions, both personal and professional, playing out this week. 

Read one owner’s experience here.

Listen to understand

“It’s very easy when you’re not engaged with someone to invent a story about who they are and what they believe.” 

Andrew Keyt 

The conscious decision to listen, instead of defending our own positions and/or attacking the others’, takes courage, vulnerability, maturity, and intention. Andrew Keyt, our Clinical Professor in Family Business, has devoted his career to listening and encouraging individuals to be become aware and check their own emotions and biases when in conflict with others. This practice becomes a means to repair broken relationships that can tear apart a family and family business.

Ten weeks ago, Andrew started a video blog—In a Crisis: Family Matters—to support the homebound, artists, families, and first responders during the pandemic. His prescient decision to interview Jamal Cole, Founder of My Block, My Hood, My City, preceded the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent protests and civil unrest that followed. Cole’s organization supports and serves families and youth in African American Communities. Please take a moment to listen to this important conversation here.

How should my family business respond?

Family Businesses are committed to all their stakeholders—employees, suppliers, customers, family members and local communities. When uncertain, we might freeze rather than making a public statement for fear that we might alienate our customers. Here’s another view on why and how businesses should communicate to demonstrate leadership and integrity in the face of injustice.


"Only a person at peace with himself can calm others."

Lao Tzu

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Self-awareness combined with a willingness to listen to another’s viewpoint and experience creates empathy, and empathy can transform relationships. In times like these we need to exhibit self-care so that we can be grounded and present in making decisions moving forward.

Reflecting on the past week and the week ahead, every person has an opportunity to make a small change and a commitment to listen and learn.  A good place to start is practicing empathy. Reset that story you are telling yourself about what is happening in the world by watching this two-minute video about what empathy is—and what it is not.

Nothing to pitch or sell here. Just a request that you reach out and let us know what you need. Hang in there—we see you—we know you’re in it. Loyola is here to help. Please call or write. We’d love to hear from you.