Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How to Foster Leadership Development in a Family Business

By. Dr. Denise Federer

The statistics regarding the longevity of family businesses are sobering to say the least; very few of them make it past the second generation and even less are still around for the third generation. Speculation as to why this occurs is all over the map, but as a family business advisor, it centers on leadership development, something that’s often overlooked in family businesses.

Leadership Skills Vs Technical Skills

In the corporate world, training programs abound that prepare future leaders to assume the mantle of responsibility. That’s usually not the case in a family business, where “training” may consist solely of gaining technical expertise, i.e., how to make widgets, failing to address the critical skill set required to engage and lead others in making widgets.

It’s not uncommon for owners to begin introducing their children to the family business at a young age, providing them with technical nuts and bolts and assuming they’ll be ready to lead at some point in the future. As a family business advisor, I always recommend that next-generation leaders of a family business begin their careers elsewhere, to gain education about leadership that will be invaluable down the line, but that doesn’t always happen.

A Leadership Development Plan

A great way for family businesses to support the leadership development needs of their future leaders is to hire a business executive coach. This external resource — someone who has significant experience working with family businesses — can be invaluable in ensuring that the members of the next generation have the strong voices that are necessary to get people to follow them.

Unlike coaches in the sports world, who help athletes be their best by teaching them on- and off-field skills, business executive coaches focus solely on ensuring that future leaders have the non-technical skills they need to be successful. These are often called “soft skills,” but there’s nothing warm and fuzzy about them. Since many people aren’t born leaders, and putting someone without leadership skills in charge can jeopardize a family business, the knowledge imparted by an expert coach is worth its weight in gold.

Identify Your Leadership Style

One of the most important things any leader must do is identify the type of leadership style that best suits them, but many people don’t have the ability to do that alone. Working with a business executive coach, future family business leaders can determine whether they want to be a leader who is:
·      Autocratic or authoritative
·      Delegative or laissez-faire
·      Participative or democratic leader

Once the decision about leadership style is made, it becomes clearer how to create a vision, determine values, and successfully influence others. It’s all about being intentional about leadership style, rather than following someone else’s lead or floundering to find the right voice.

Find the Right Business Executive Coach

How do you find the right business executive coach? It’s important that the person’s experience matches the needs of the family business and he/she is able to quickly develop rapport with family members. The best bet is to ask owners of other family businesses if they’ve had someone help them who they would recommend.

With the right coach on board, amazing progress in the area of leadership development is possible — and family businesses stand a better chance of surviving for the long term.

About Dr. Denise Federer:

Clinical psychologist and executive coach Dr. Denise P. Federer is the founder and principal of Federer Performance Management Group, LLC. As a family business advisor, Dr. Federer has extensive experience providing guidance to leading U.S. firms and their executives and in private practice as a psychotherapist to couples, families and individuals—an intense focus that has led to her interest and expertise in peak performance coaching and in the unique dynamics of closely held and family-owned businesses.

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