Preparing a successor to take over a company is serious business. You’ll be putting the business you’ve built into someone else’s hands and trusting them to maintain and grow it. No doubt, you’ve anticipated the need to groom someone and have started their development in plenty of time to be ready to take over when the time to retire arrives.
But what if, as your timeline for retirement approaches, he or she isn’t ready? Does it mean they really aren’t capable of taking over? Does it mean you should consider selling your company to an outsider? Maybe. But before you make that decision, consider these three factors that may be hampering their progress…
You may not be allowing them sufficient opportunity to make decisions and make mistakes.
Let’s face it, you’ve been in charge of your company from its inception. You’ve made all the major decisions, you’ve made your share of mistakes, and you’ve learned from the mistakes you’ve made. It’s not easy – nor is it natural – to relinquish that decision-making role.
But if you don’t allow your successor to start making decisions they won’t build their self-confidence and it won’t help build your confidence in them. Additionally, without gaining experience making important decisions (and possibly making mistakes) they won’t improve their judgment. And finally, it’s better that they make mistakes while you’re there to correct them rather than making those mistakes in your absence.
If you want to accelerate your successor’s competence, have them start making the less critical decisions. Then have them make more critical decisions collaboratively with you in order to learn from you as soon as possible.
As the owner/parent/relative, you can’t or aren’t free to say what needs to be said.
Often, because of family dynamics and/or company politics, even when you know what needs to be said, you can’t. You can’t because you and the successor have history, and with history comes “baggage”. Also, if you’re related, you often can’t say what needs to be said because of all the family dynamics that exist – parent/child issues or issues with siblings (yours or theirs).
Even if you decide to speak your mind, you run the very real risk of worsening a situation or alienating your successor.
The most effective means of helping them improve and changing their perspective is to have someone work with them who doesn’t have history, baggage, or an agenda. Having someone offering outside perspective – like an experienced executive coach – is a smart solution to the problem.
You and your successor have blind spots, which limit your ability to help them.
Regardless of how much experience a person has, how intelligent they are, or how much education they’ve had, we all have blind spots. We can’t see what we’re not getting. Not only do we have those blind spots, but our years of experience often cause us to approach problems in familiar ways, preventing us from seeing alternative solutions.
That being the case, trying even harder will only produce modest, incremental changes at best. Typically, the only way past our blind spots is to have someone point them out to us. It calls for a fresh set of eyes and some new perspectives.
Consider working with an executive coach and/or having your successor work with one so blind spots can be revealed and new perspectives can be adopted.