When I was 16 years old, I didn’t learn to drive stick shift from my father. Although I knew my father could drive a manual transmission, it was one of my friends whom I asked to teach me, whom I knew wouldn’t get upset with me for grinding the gears at first or increase the pressure with what is already a stressful experience and can be a difficult skill to learn. When I consider the many family businesses I have supported as an executive coach and family advisor over the years, it’s no different!
Successful Baby Boomer business owners don’t achieve their success simply by teaching others what to do. They achieve that success by being driven, results-oriented leaders striving to accomplish more than those before them. This strong character trait, however, often presents itself through a more dominant and autocratic leadership style – one that may work for the chief executive of a family business or the principal of a family office, but likely doesn’t work as well when you want to groom your next generation child to assume huge responsibilities as your successor. This is very likely why I’m regularly hired by NextGen children to facilitate their transitions rather than the Baby Boomers themselves.
One of the other key challenges with the father/son relationship is the long history these individuals have together. While I may have learned to drive stick shift from my friend, that doesn’t mean I was a responsible teenage driver. I earned at least a couple speeding tickets in my first year of driving, and even got into a couple minor fender benders. Now imagine if my father ran a multi-generation family business and allowed me to work for him. How do you think he would feel about his somewhat irresponsible and overly adventurous son taking the reins? My guess is he wouldn’t have given me the keys to the kingdom before I could demonstrate I had matured – and rightfully so!
To clarify, not all Baby Boomer business owners are men, and not all NextGen successors are sons. There are plenty of talented female business owners and NextGen leaders too. Mothers, however, tend not to be as autocratic or domineering as their male counterparts. Mothers tend to be more selfless wanting to show support and do what’s best overall for their NextGen children, so the inter-generational tension is significantly reduced. And any father/daughter relationships I’ve experienced tend to be less adversarial, too, where fathers – perhaps subconsciously – adapt their natural leadership styles to be more effective with their daughters.
It may be a new year, but we’re still facing many of the same challenges. Much of our workforce is still at home balancing caring for young children and virtual learning. Those who are working in person are wrestling with the reality of keeping physically distanced from their co-workers while worrying about staying healthy.
Exacerbating these COVID conditions, many businesses now exist within a volatile and uncertain world. Will demand for our products and services continue to exist? How will pricing change? How long will supply chain issues continue to impact us? What services will be in demand? On the people side, how do we keep employees engaged to meet these changing demands? How do we help employees evolve and succeed?
With questions like these keeping us up at night, how do we lead in these challenging times? The following six leadership actions can provide direction and focus for forward progress.
Be present with your emotions – If we want our teams to deliver exceptional performance, then we need to begin by managing our own emotional reactions to this uncharted territory. This doesn’t mean pretending nothing has changed or glossing over the challenges. We need to acknowledge our fears and anxieties about the uncertainty around us, and in doing so acknowledge everyone else’s concerns too.
According to recent studies as well as our own direct client experience, more and more private companies are establishing Boards. Countless CEOs and business entrepreneurs are strong-willed, talented professionals in their areas of expertise and can’t imagine reporting to a higher-level governing body. These “experts”, however, may still be interested in assembling a group of dedicated Advisors who bring complementary talents to the table. Other executive leaders, especially those in family businesses, may take it a step further by assembling a group of Directors who accept greater responsibility for the governance of the companies they serve. These Directors actually assume fiduciary responsibility for the company’s performance and thus have more of a controlling influence on their CEOs and broader businesses.
What impact would being more productive have on the results you produce? On your leadership and personal development? On your business’ bottom line?
Imagine how much more you could contribute to your organization if you could increase your productivity. Even by just a little bit. Like other skills, productivity is something you can develop. You can cultivate it. It’s possible you could be more productive than ever before!
I support a lot of family businesses and regularly hear from my clients how they pride themselves on creating positive work environments for their employees where they treat everyone like family. That’s quite admirable, and I’m sure those employees very much appreciate it. The question though is what to do with all the employees who actually are family!
Family businesses by their very nature are complex organizations. It’s not just about managing and operating a sustainable business with a family business. It’s about the leadership and governance practices required to keep any family drama and unproductive relationships away from work. In multi-generation family businesses, we’re talking 20, 40, 60 and even 100 or more years of history running the company. On the personal side, that’s generations of family members living together and growing up together who need to work together to operate that same business. That can create a lot of added stress and anxiety – something that many family business leaders are poorly equipped to handle – on an otherwise viable business.
Ever wonder how much time your employees are wasting at work? Try Googling “wasted time at work” when you aren’t otherwise being productive, and the statistics may amaze you! Between cell phones, Facebook, and simply surfing the internet, employees these days waste an inordinate amount of time not focused on work while at work being paid to work. Research over the last few years has shown that this wasted time is costing companies billions (yes, BILLIONS) of dollars every year.
Now, what if you too have fallen into this familiar time-sucker trap? And what if you are a senior executive or other functional leader at your company? The cost of your being distracted instead of focused goes well beyond your own work tasks. It likely impacts everybody on your team and around you!
I regularly facilitate Innovation Workshops with leadership teams to help them establish their visions for the future. During these sessions, leaders regularly ask me how they can keep their Mission and organizational Values alive after these highly interactive group sessions. It’s not uncommon for a Mission statement to have a very short life of inspiring others for a few months or maybe a year before quickly fading away. Just imagine if you don’t ever share your Mission or related Values with any of your new hires who come on board after the workshop how it would have less and less impact on the organization over time.
So how do you keep everyone’s attention on your Mission statement when so much time has passed? There must be a way to keep it top of mind as opposed to having it fall off the radar, right? The following are eight great ways to engage your employees in your business and keep your Mission and Values alive so they do matter to your work.
1. Road Test & Refine – Some leaders think that once they develop a Mission statement or identify some core Values that they will magically appear in their organization and positively impact employee performance overnight. Remember, when you draft your Mission statement that only a select few even know it exists. Sometimes, it might be just you! The next critical step is to road test it with other key leaders and refine it as needed based on the feedback you gather. Note I said “key leaders” not “senior executives”. While you will surely want executive buy-in, you may want to share the draft Mission and Values with your more influential employees, including select individual contributors and customer-facing staff. Most notably, wouldn’t you want your receptionist (aka, “Director of First Impressions”) to espouse your core Values and live your Mission in every one of his/her interactions every day?
2. Showcase Star Performers – Beyond having your staff acknowledge each other, it is incredibly motivating for senior leadership to recognize their star performers too. You could do this verbally during those same staff meetings. Consider how powerful it would be, though, if you distributed a message to all staff every Friday afternoon or perhaps the first day of the month to explicitly recognize those individuals who best personify what it is you and your Company stand for. Be specific about what these individuals did to live your Mission and Values as well as how they were recognized.