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Is Your Next Generation Ready?

All businesses need to think of the future and develop their leadership.
Center for Creative Leadership, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Center for Creative Leadership, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Preparing the next generation for their role in the family business can be a constant challenge for the current leadership of the business. Production, management and leadership skills are all critical abilities that need to be passed on to assure long-term success for the business.

As I work with multi-generational families during transition out of one generation of leadership and into the next, we often find that just when the current generation is ready to take more time away from the operation—the next generation needs their mentoring—which takes more of their time…. This current generation has put in the long hours, taken great financial and personal risk, and plowed every extra dollar back into the business. As one of my dairy clients often says, “I’ve been paying this business for 30 years, it’s time it started paying me back!” Many of these owners have goals to travel, relax, take educational junkets, spend more time with friends and distant family, participate in mission trips, serve their community, or other great uses of their time.

They are torn between feeling like they should be able to take advantage of these opportunities now that they have the money and time—and feeling like they can’t leave because the next generation needs to be mentored.

Our solution is usually a combination of both goals. Here are the key strategies:

  1. Make your mentoring a very deliberate process. Have goals for mastering particular skills, covering areas of the business without oversight, and handling common challenges.
  2. Think long-term. Have a clear vision of what each family member will be doing in the business and work with them to develop a plan to groom them for that role.
  3. Measure progress and successes. Evaluate performance every 6 months to be sure you are on track and that goals are being met.
  4. Accept some setbacks. You know that your goals are challenging if some of them are hard to reach, so accept that you will occasionally have to adjust some goals to meet the ability level of everyone involved.
  5. Take extended time away. Neither you nor the Next Generation will know if they can handle the business unless you are away for two to three weeks at least once during the year—without daily phone conversations. This can be one of the best confidence builders for both generations, especially if there are unforeseen circumstances that arise and the outcomes are positive.

I once heard it said that the best test of management is how your people do when you are there, and the best test of leadership is how they do when you are gone.

If you take a very deliberate approach to mentoring the next leaders of the business, then one of the best ways to be sure that the Next Generation is prepared to lead—is for you to leave.

Don Tyler

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