It’s 8 am, Monday morning. Your adult child comes into your office with a couple cups of coffee, passes you one and sits down.
“Dad, (or Mom) it’s time we had a frank discussion about succession. I’ve been working here for the past ten years, and I think I’ve shown I can take on responsibilities and even run things well when you’re away. You’re now 63 and there’s no question that you are still in charge; but frankly, I’m concerned. You are slower to make decisions; you don’t have much insight or interest in social media or new technologies that have been introduced in recent years. And honestly, that’s creating some frustrating bottlenecks for me and others in the company. A number of people have asked me what the succession plan is and I haven’t been able to answer. Can we talk about this now or do you want to schedule a time later this week?”
How would you respond if you’ve just heard this feedback from your daughter or son? It depends on your perspective:
- If you have a relationship that includes mutual respect, openness, and love, you might think, “At last! I’ve been waiting for you to step up and declare your interest in taking over! Let’s strike while the iron is hot and get to work.”
- If this child has been a bit of a disappointment, perhaps lacking your energy, drive and commitment, you might think, “Here we go again! The entitled child who knows nothing about running a business wants me to get out of the way so they can spend the family fortune! I can’t let that happen to my employees and my customers. I love my child but I just don’t see it ending well.”
- If you believe they are well intentioned but still not ready, you might think, “This is a great opening to discuss what needs to change before I’ll be ready to let go of the reins. If they’re ready to have the discussion, then we can talk about specific competencies that are required and what training, coaching or mentoring they need to bridge the gap. I’m glad they opened the conversation.”
The feedback from your child is simply a statement of interest and intent. It’s not good or bad. But your perspective will tilt your response in a positive or negative direction. Rather than getting defensive, upset or angry, pause and think about the goals and outcomes you are moving toward. How can you steer the discussion towards a win-win outcome for both of you? You may not like to hear you are getting old, but be heartened by the courage it took to start the discussion.