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Methods of developing management and leadership skills consist of activities which help current and future managers and leaders to assess their current level of skills and to learn new skills. Like many businesses, family businesses can be so busy running the business that they do not take the time to carefully and systematically prepare the next generation of managers and leaders. Arranging for family members who are potential future leaders to work in and learn from businesses other than the family business helps the future leaders to gain a broader perspective, and to enter the family business with greater skills and confidence. When in the family business, the leading (senior) generation has an important role in preparing the next generation for leadership.

Difficulty getting started

The owner will always have 25 years more experience than their adult children. And, psychologically, the owner will always see their adult children as children.

This is the dilemma when it comes to preparing the next generation for leadership – the “kids” never seem quite good enough in the owner’s eyes. Nonetheless, they need to be developed for leadership, and having a structure or “game plan” for this development can help both generations feel more comfortable with this preparation.

Early management development -- away from the family business

One of the best ways to help children develop into responsible adults and capable business owners is to make sure that they spend some time in the real world of adults – away from their parents. After graduating from college (which is part of growing into adulthood for many families), it is strongly recommended that potential successors spend 3-5 years working elsewhere in positions of increasing responsibility. This builds self-confidence, and helps to overcome any feelings of entitlement or obligation. Once they have succeeded on their own, it may now be time for them to enter the family business – but only if there is a real vacancy which they can fill. Once hired, they should have clear objectives and have their performance coached and evaluated regularly – preferably by someone other than their parents. Remember – you want them to be entering the adult world of business – not coming to work for mom and dad.

Approaches to development

If adult children have reached their late 20’s or early 30’s and still look like good candidates for successor, then it’s time to create a more formal plan for leadership development. This can include:
· Rotation through various job assignments throughout the business
· Involvement in corporate activities such as strategic planning and board meetings
· Participation in outside learning activities and structured peer groups
· Being mentored by a external member of the board or other external business person
· Opportunities to run their own department or profit center
· Increasing levels of responsibility.

Coaching by the senior generation

Effective succession requires the leading generation to gradually transfer real leadership and decision-making authority to the successor. The leading generation should be asking "Where do you plan to take the company? What is your vision?", and being receptive to new ideas.

This often occurs even while the leading generation is still the majority shareholder. Often the leading generation eventually becomes an advisor or mentor to the successor – on an ‘as needed’ basis. The leading generation leader may also remain on the board of directors so they can participate in major decisions made by the family.

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Catgories: Succession of management > Developing the next generation of management and leadership