Nothing can blow up your family business’s future faster than poor leadership or no leadership.
Behind every sustainable successful family business are good leaders. The question most families need to ask themselves is, “What is the best way to develop leadership skills in our next generation?”
My answer: OUTSIDE your business. Here’s another real-life story (the names have been changed to protect the innocent).
In 1985 in Dallas, Sam was a young up-and-comer in his family’s 200 employee retail furniture business. He thought he had the right personality and presence to be a leader in the business. The problem was that Dad kept saying he didn’t think Sam was “ready” to lead. Sam was very frustrated and felt like he was dying on the vine.
Then something happened. Sam got invited to join one of the Rotary clubs in town. He joined and got very involved in the club. Within a relatively short time he was noticed for his energy and leadership and was invited to become part of the club’s leadership team. Within a few years he was named President of the Club.
In the meantime two things were happening. Sam was given a chance to “be” the leader he knew he could be and Dad couldn’t help but take notice that a group of successful business owners his age were being lead by Sam. Sam’s pent up leadership energy had found a place to blossom and Dad’s preconceived notions of Sam began to dissipate.
What’s even more important for the family and the business is that they got outside, unbiased validation that Sam was a leader. That outside validation made a huge difference in Sam’s own personal confidence.
Most families don’t push their next-generation to forge their own path.
Somewhere deep in their psyche they think either:
- I’d like them to benefit from my hard work
- Or – I’m afraid they might fail if they go out on their own
Ironically, you are doing a huge disservice to your next-gen and your business! You need them both to really know if they can lead. The best way to find out – is just by going out!
When I work with families I strongly encourage them to make a requirement for the next-gen to pursue an active leadership role in:
- Their industry association
- A local nonprofit
- A local service club
Of course we all know if you have the right last name and stay around long enough you will probably get elevated to a leadership role within the family business. Think about how great it will feel for everyone to see you become a leader outside the business first!
Coach’s Insight & Challenge
The leaders I work with who have earned the respect and following of others outside the business are some of most effective leaders I’ve seen. The challenge — make leadership outside the business a requirement of the next-gens’ development plan. Everyone will benefit from the expanded leadership role!
Pete Walsh is a demanding, courageous and playful Master Certified Coach in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the founder of Peak Workout Business Coaching and the Family Business Performance Center. Check out Coach Pete’s free tools: the Family Business Landmine Detection Map and the Family Business Survival Kit. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.