Previously, we talked about the tendency to promote people into management positions because they are excellent performers who need advancement. Sometimes, that results in losing a high performer and not gaining a good manager/leader; so we gave you a list of ten questions to review prior to promoting someone – family member or not, into a more responsible position.

Of course, we will continue to move people into positions they sometimes have difficulty handling. Long ago, this was referred to as The Peter Principle. Today, it’s just called a bad decision. However, as we also discussed in an earlier blog, once promoted, there are some ways that you can coach people into a higher level of performance. 

Let’s talk about what happens when the person who doesn’t get it or can’t perform at a higher level happens to be a family member, especially a member of the immediate family. You know: parent, spouse, child, sibling. 

Prevention is often easier than correction, so let’s start there. Here are some recommendations that will help avoid promotion related performance difficulties:

  1. Adopt a family employment policy requiring people to have outside experience as an employee of another firm.
  2. Be honest about opportunities, prospects for growth, and personal interests.
  3. Design a Personal and Professional Development Initiative™ for each family member involved in the business.
  4. Require completion of the PPDI™ before moving a family member into a higher level position.
  5. Develop an outside Board of Advisors to make recommendations related to business performance and succession planning, especially about timing of family member entrances, exits, and promotions.
  6. Keep everyone reporting to someone. Yes, that includes the owner.
  7. Develop a succession bridge to promote management synergy and teamwork, leadership continuity, and successor development.

But if the difficult situation can’t be prevented and now must be addressed, here are some suggestions for resolving the personal conflict, stress, and business performance issues caused by the family member who doesn’t get it or who underperforms.

  1. Develop family and operating covenants among family members and key business associates. Make them very specific in terms of behavior and performance expectations.
  2. Conduct assessments to determine the GAP between the current level of performance and the desired level of performance.
  3. Bring in a business coach to assist the struggling family member.
  4. If the family member has no skills, talents, or interest in the current position, move him/her out of that role and into one better suited to skills, talents, and interests.
  5. Develop a succession bridge for the same reasons as cited above.
  6. Use empirical evidence (surveys, statistics, etc) rather than anecdotal evidence (stories, hearsay, etc.) as a basis for observations, comments, and impressions about someone else’s performance or ability “to get it.”
  7. Remember that you can’t run a family like a business; and you can’t run a business like a family. The family is based on unconditional acceptance; and business is based on conditional acceptance. 
  8. Remember that no business success is worth a family failure. 

This last one is particularly important. Some of the people regarded as “business icons” and often copied for their leadership practices have little chance of being deliberately copied as role models for knowing how to create family success. It is possible to have both, but you have to work at it. You also have to acknowledge where people are, what they want, and do what you can to help them get it.

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