How to Lead Your Family Business Through the Dynamics of Change

If you had to sum up what we offer at the Alliance in one word, that word would be “change.”

Our clients hire us to help them overcome challenges, grow their business, or transition to new leadership – either through succession or sale of the business.

All these things create change.

While the results of change can be enormously gratifying and beneficial, the process of change can be uncomfortable for everyone involved.

The first thing to understand is this:

Change is an external event. Transition is internal.

There is nothing you can do about change.

Not one last thing.

But you can decide how you adapt to the change.

That’s the internal transition.

When faced with transition, everyone goes through four very predictable stages.

It helps to know what that process will look like so that you can know what to expect and how to navigate each phase.

  1. Denial: Denying the reality of a transition, often refusing to accept or acknowledge the need for change.
  2. Resistance: Acknowledging the need for change but feeling apprehensive or resistant towards taking action.
  3. Exploration: Exploring the possibilities and potential outcomes of the transition, often seeking out new opportunities and considering different options.
  4. Commitment: Deciding to move forward with the transition and take active steps towards implementing the change.

Transition calls for leadership

In our work with clients, the first thing we do is coach our leaders to “go first.”

They need to give themselves permission to go through each stage.

Sometimes this takes 30 minutes – other times it takes 30 days. In some cases, it may take 30 years.

The faster the leader can get through these stages, the better.

Then the real work begins.

As we always say at the Alliance, “Leaders must LEAD” – and here’s how to you can do that.

How to recognize each stage of change and lead your people through it


You’ll know that your people are in denial about the change when:

  • You see: avoidance, going through the motions, only doing routine work, exaggerated hardiness.
  • You hear: silence, everything is ok, I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t know what all the fuss is about.

As a leader, you need to ANNOUNCE the changes.

Present the changes openly and frequently. Inform everyone and confront people if necessary.


These are the signs of resistance:

  • You see: accidents, mistakes, careless or sloppy work, anger, low energy, difficulty concentrating.
  • You hear: complaining, this will never work, it’s unfair, it’s stupid, it never should have happened.

Your job in the resistance stage is to LISTEN.

Solicit responses, acknowledge what you’re hearing, inquire for understanding. Try to listen to what’s going on behind what is being said.

This is often the most difficult stage for leaders because you need to stop talking!


You’ll know you’re in the exploration stage when:

  • You see: chaos, poor time management, endless training, taking excessive risks, endless preparation.
  • You hear: enthusiasm, let’s try it another way, I’ve got another idea!

In this stage, your role is to FACILITATE.

Stimulate new thinking, challenge people, lead brainstorming, and seek new possibilities.


This is the fun stage! You’ll know you’ve got commitment when:

  • You see: independent decision making, high performance, cooperation, teamwork, future orientation.
  • You hear: cooperation, we can do this even better, let’s get together on this.

As leader, you need to RECOGNIZE.

Focus, inspire, acknowledge, and celebrate!

Change can be challenging, but the results are worth it

As a family business advisor, I work with leaders every day to help them navigate the stages of business transition.

From denial to commitment, each stage requires careful planning, strategic thinking, and a willingness to take bold action.

By identifying each phase and choosing the right leadership approach, you can overcome obstacles, leverage opportunities, and build a thriving family business for generations to come.

If you’d like an experienced guide to help you navigate the complexities of business transition, I encourage you to book a call with one of our advisors today.

We’ll bring our years of experience and deep understanding of family business dynamics to your situation to help you move through the transition as smoothly as possible.

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