Engaging Your Team in the Family Business Succession Process

Succession planning and the smooth transition of leadership are necessary for any prosperous family business over the long term.

And it’s important to remember that changes in leadership can feel intimidating and daunting to your team.

This includes both the non-family members of your organization, plus the new generation of family leaders.

That’s why it’s so important to lead with empathy during leadership succession, and to follow a clear and transparent process that brings the whole team along with you.

As family business consultants, we help a lot of family businesses with succession planning, so we’ve picked up some important insights along the way.

Here are some of our best tips for approaching succession planning in a way that’s engaging and productive for your team:

• Take your time.

• Talk to the right people.

• Empower your team.

• Play the long game.

Let’s take a closer look at how each of these strategies can smooth the path toward long-term prosperity.

Take Your Time

Chances are, you’ve been thinking – and talking – about leadership succession for quite some time. You may even have included your executive team in those thoughts. But not everyone on your team has been involved in the discussion.

It’s going to take everyone else some time to wrap their minds around that information. They need time to understand it – and even more time before they know what to do with it.

This means they need to hear about your succession planning efforts – a lot.

When you’re sick of talking about the plan, you are probably getting close to sharing it enough with your full team!

And you might get a different, more enthusiastic, response during that third or fourth discussion than you did during the initial presentation.

Be patient and give people time to settle with new information.

Just give it time.

Talk to the right people

When we initially think about succession planning, it’s easy to think only about the executive team or the people within the family who are planning next steps within the business.

It can be easy to overlook the other players in your organization that you should be having conversations with.

Your organization is full of people who want to see it succeed – and they probably have some really great ideas.

You might be wildly surprised about what kind of input you get, the perspectives you’ll hear, and the solutions your team will share.

Don’t be surprised if you get some solutions you have not been able to develop on your own!

Empower Your Team

Get your team involved in fully understanding not only your immediate succession planning efforts, but also your comprehensive, long-term vision for the organization.

Making them aware of your plans will encourage them to think about how they can be a part of that long-term vision.

For example, maybe they need to get some more education – or maybe they need to develop some new skills to help bring your vision to life. Or – maybe they already have some important, yet under-utilized, skills that you don’t even know about.

Chances are that your employees aren’t going to tell you about these things unless they understand where the organization is going and how they can be part of it.

We encourage you to, as much as you can, share your vision with the full organization and see what you get back. We think you’ll be impressed.

Play the Long Game

Good leadership succession isn’t just about the immediate future – it sets you up for multiple generations of prosperity.

When you’re thinking about building up your bench, who are you moving around? What new players are you putting into the game?

Make sure you know the level of engagement and commitment of new leadership and new players. Think about whether they’re willing and able to stay with you to carry out your long-term strategic goals, and not just satisfy your current needs.

If you’re not sure, the succession planning process gives you a framework for asking them.

Leadership succession can be challenging – but it also presents a prime opportunity to excite and engage your team about where your family business is heading.

As you begin a leadership transition, you’ll guide your team through the change process – which can be challenging – both for you and your team.

So, make the process count.

You don’t want to take your team through it, and then have to guide them through it again in the near future because you didn’t think far enough ahead.

We believe that if you take the time to bring your team along with you, in a spirit of clarity and transparency, you’ll see amazing results and a smooth leadership transition.

As a bonus, inviting your team to participate will give them a sense of ownership and help create loyalty and engagement.

If you’d like a partner in your succession planning process, our team at Ferguson Alliance would love to help.

Book a call with one of our family business advisors to discuss positioning your family business for long-term success.

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