Leading Your Team Through a Major Change in Your Family Business

As a family business leader, you’ll face times when you need to lead your team through a major change – whether it’s a transition of leadership, implementation of a new software platform, expanding into new markets, products or services or something you can’t even imagine today.

Your moment will come, and you should be ready for it.

Change is never easy, but it can move your business ever closer to the prosperity zone.

Here are some ideas that will help.

Let’s begin by considering your culture.

How culture affects change management

Culture is essential for change management.

Companies that build a culture of innovation and experimentation will be most successful when it comes to implementing meaningful change.

In this type of culture, the organization is constantly stretching and developing its change muscles.

In a culture that supports change, experimentation and trying to do the work better are the norm.

Team members know how to ask questions.

They know to expect hiccups with new initiatives.

They’re emotionally equipped to deal with any barriers that arise.

They also tend to be more patient with the change process and dedicated to getting it right.

So, you serve your family business well by creating and supporting an overall culture that’s accepting of change. This creates a strong foundation to work with when you need to initiate major change projects.

Tips for effectively managing a major change

As you begin a major change initiative, you may find the following steps helpful:

  • Start with a gut check
  • Prepare your team
  • Involve your team in implementation
  • Accentuate the WHY
  • Listen
  • Plan for regression
  • Walk the talk

Let’s take a closer look at how each one of these practices can play out in your business.

Start with a gut check

First and foremost, do a gut check.

Think about past change initiatives. How did they go?

Be honest with yourself.

Remember, you won’t do yourself any favors by ignoring issues from the very beginning.

Prepare your team

The only thing that’s harder for a team to accept than a major change is a major change that’s also a surprise.

Ideally, well in advance of any major change, you’ll discuss options and gather feedback from all levels of your team.

The more time your team has to get their heads around a coming change, the better they’ll be able to help.

This phase might even include doing a trial run of a small change initiative as a test to see how your team responds.

This can help you identify challenges in areas like communication, teamwork and problem solving.

Fixing any culture issues with a smaller project can help you big-time with a much larger one.

Create as much clarity as possible. Often, resistance to change comes from fear of the unknown.

Lay out the path as far and as clearly as you can to reduce false assumptions. Make sure people know what to expect.

Involve your team in implementation

No one likes to have change handed down to them.

When you’ve identified the need for change, involve your team in shaping the best way to make it happen.

As much as you can, get insight from those who are closest to the day-to-day work so you can understand what the coming change means for them.

Accentuate the WHY

It’s easy for people to get mired in the disruption that accompanies any major change.

But if you help them understand the WHY behind the change, it may be easier to accept.

Paint a vivid picture for your team of what your success can look like once the change is made.

Focus on the positive effects your family business will enjoy.

In some cases, it might be just as valuable to paint a vivid portrait of what your business will miss out on if you don’t implement a proposed change.

Above all, as you are talking and preparing the team for change, take time to acknowledge the challenges the organization faces and WHY the CHANGE can be GOOD!


Don’t ask your team for feedback and then ignore their feedback.

You have to meet your team where they are.

Simply telling them to get better with change is not going to make them better with change.

Instead, you need to really listen to their concerns if things aren’t going well and course-correct wherever you can.

Remember – they could very well have a valid point that you haven’t considered!

Make sure your team feels comfortable raising concerns and that they know where to take them when they have them. And then reward them when they bring issues forward.

Plan for regression

Remember that there will be regression for all your progression.

Your team will go back to where they feel comfortable – and at least some of them may actively resist.

It will be important for you to be patient and consistent to keep them on track.

Walk the talk

As the leader, it is 1000 times more important that you live the change you want to see.

The second you are seen as not following the new order is the second it becomes irrelevant.

Remember, change management is all about PEOPLE.

People create change, people feel change, and people effect change.

Have the tough conversations, work through the challenges of change, and your family business will be stronger on the other side of it!

And if you’d like some help, we’re here for you.

Reach out and set up a consultation call today with one of our trusted family business advisors: book a call

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