Using a Successor Development Program Can Help You Select the Best Leader
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Using a Successor Development Program Can Help You Select the Best Leader

Using a Successor Development Program Can Help You Select the Best Leader

A multi-unit franchise family business can have more than one successor. However, not all successors are suited for the “leader" role. Successor competition can be a good thing or a bad thing. It is wonderful to have multiple highly qualified candidates who can fill the positions of a management and leadership dream team. However, if not managed properly, ego and entitlement-driven competition can be disruptive, divisive, and combustible.

The first rule of order with multiple successor candidates is to establish a Successor Development Program to specify the ground rules and performance criteria for becoming a confirmed successor and being considered in the running for the Successor Leader role. I strongly suggest that the first ground rule for the selection of the successor leader is the demonstration of the humility to respect and conform to the Successor Development Program; in body, mind, and spirit. Enthusiastic buy-in may not sound like the number one stipulation of a Successor Development Program, but if you think about this a moment, you’ll get it. History has confirmed that it is easy for a ‘golden boy’ or ‘princess’ to talk the talk, but it is an altogether higher challenge to walk the walk and accept the responsibility of being a role model management and leadership trainee. “What do you mean, work the full schedule, report to someone besides Dad?” What I mean is show us what you got compared to those without the magical last name!

The Successor Development Program focuses on both the annual career development tracks for gaining knowledge and experience as well as repetitive, systematic evaluations of a candidate’s performance. The combination of semiannual performance reviews and annual 360 assessments provide a metric of how a candidate is handling their job assignments and achieving the learning objectives of each progressive job. It works to ensure that these evaluations and assessments are completed, but successor development is a major undertaking.

It is very easy to skip this evaluation and coaching process because it’s a pain in the butt, and who wants to hear criticism that is based, in large part, on jealousy. You may be thinking, “I’ll just put them in strategic jobs for a year or so and assume that unless all hell breaks loose or they go MIA, they will learn how to be a manager, leader, and owner, and they will be ready to take over when the time comes. Maybe yes and maybe no, but avoiding the heartburn of evaluating the 5Cs” (collaboration, commitment, competency, capacity, and character) of your children would be the worst thing you could do for them and all of those who have a vested interest in the continued success of your business. But this is precisely how you should pick the Successor Leader of your company. You assemble a team to establish a successor development plan. You monitor, evaluate, and coach the matriculation of the candidates, let the chips fall where they may, and make the decision that should be a no-brainer. It’s not a beauty contest, an IQ test, a popularity vote, or a mascaraed to disguise brainless primogeniture. And trust me, if you duck your responsibility to pick the best candidate, you will never retire. Yes, you may quit, go home, or to the golf course, but the crap storm will never end. Declining performance, complaints from senior management, innuendo from vendors, and bickering within the family will never end.

Loyd H. Rawls, Founder and Chairman of The Rawls Group, has specialized in succession planning since 1973. Well respected in his field, Mr. Rawls is a highly requested speaker and has published numerous publications on this subject such as “Seeking Succession: How to Continue the Family Business Legacy.” “The Succession Bridge: Key Manager Succession Alternatives for Family Owned Businesses,” “Estate Planning Heartburn Relief,” and “Family Business Heartburn Relief.” For more information visit seekingsuccession.com.  

Published: December 27th, 2022

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