Some clients appreciate what I offer more than others. In many cases this occurs when a very social child follows a task master parent into the CEO position of a business without appropriate experience, effective accountability, mentoring or coaching.

In the absence of working for another business, successors lack the understanding or empathy of an employee. If a successor has never been a common law employee, it is very difficult for them to effectively lead or manage employees. Furthermore, if a successor is never provided employment performance guidelines and held accountable to those metrics, it is very difficult for them to manage and lead those who are aspiring to make their mark on the business world, gain status and gain security.

The ultimate double-edged sword of succession is that enabled family member employees serve as role models for complacency as well as being the targets for resentment of the managers they ultimately are going to be asked to lead and manage.

I have agreed to serve on the Board of Directors for several family businesses that found themselves with the frightening need to transfer business ownership and management responsibility to a successor who was not adequately prepared. In an attempt to put a band aide on the situation, , the parents search for someone who will provide the accountability, mentoring and coaching that they were unwilling to  provide. These Boards are usually very interesting frustrating because I am forced to be an advocate for common succession planning and business management practices that are perceived as counter cultural.

Recently, I had a difficult meeting when I learned that the successor and now CEO had made some decisions in regards to employees, profits and family that were from a succession planner’s perspective, nonsense. Allow me to share in this and the next two blogs my follow up letter to a newly installed successor CEO expressing to him my thoughts and frustrations regarding his leadership style; with the names changed to protect the guilty.

Dear Successor,

Thanks for the comments on your six month performance review memo I sent to your dad. I personally regret that the report was not more favorable. However, I am pleased that you sense that there are changes with respect to senior manager attitudes. Since you have heard them express that they are running the business, this is where I will begin with my advice as their attitudes are very important to the culture and success of the company…

With regards to senior management, what’s happening with John? As a 30 year, key manager who has stepped back versus forward, he’s the one I am currently thinking can make the biggest difference. I feel very fortunate that my meeting with him to “call him out” on his regression went well. Apparently he is very sensitive and no doubt my straight talk can offend some. I suggest that you continue to encourage him (he needs attention) with “Thanks for stepping up; you are going to make a big difference.” I also suggest that you step back and let him run with the Business Development Center while giving him your full endorsement. Let him train, evaluate and coach Susan. Let him develop and deploy the processes that he will then press his fellow managers to accept and promote.

Check back next week for the second part of the letter that addresses Successor’s desire to be liked by all.

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