Tino’s Corner: Succession Planning

Tino's CornerMy Personal Succession Planning Journey

By Tino Mantella CEO & President Turknett Leadership Group

To fulfill my responsibility of writing an article for our monthly newsletter I began researching family succession. Did you know that only 30% of family businesses succeed to the second generation and less than 10% successfully handoff to the third?

In addition to my exploration I was going to relay some of the stories shared with me, years ago, by members of my YPO (Young President’s Organization) forum. Several of my group’s members were the sons of dads who were “turning over” the business to them.

After my first round of investigation I had an epiphany. Why would I provide you with a research paper on succession when Bob and Lyn Turknett and the TLG team have successfully contributed to hundreds of family and company succession planning processes?

My epiphany was that I would tell my own story. Often, I run into family members friends and associates who, during topical conversation, think they don’t have anything to contribute. They are almost always wrong.

Initially, I was in the camp of not having enough succession experience to contribute to this topic. Upon further self-assessment, I realized that I have had the privilege of captaining several sports teams through grade school, high-school and college. I have also, like many of you reading this article, been given multiple opportunities to chair clubs and boards. And, I have served as President of two YMCAs, a national health charity, a technology organization, a for-profit technology service organization, and now TLG.

At the basic level succession, to me, means taking over a leadership role from another person or the process of someone taking over from the leader.

Below, are some of my learnings regarding stepping into a leadership role, following another leader. I would go as far as to say that these are universal truths. I hope you find my thoughts helpful as you proceed with your own leadership journey:

  1. Never, never disparage your predecessor. You will be tested by stakeholders or what I would call imposter-stakeholders (e.g. it’s none of their business really). Don’t prop yourself up by tearing down your immediate predecessor or any past leader. Why? It’s the right thing to do and you will be followed by someone someday and I am sure you would expect the same respect.
  2. There is nothing wrong with making changes to what you believe will enhance vision, mission and goals. Yet, don’t move so fast that you discount the work that’s been done before. Read the documents provided for you. Meet with your forerunner(s) and other stakeholders to learn why they did what they did. You will often be surprised and even change course based on your findings.

  3. Give sincere and deserved credit to past leaders any chance that you can.

  4. You may decide that you will need to bring in “your team” and terminate loyalists to the “old regime”. Yet, don’t move so fast as to miss the diamonds. In past generations you/I might have felt that the incumbents must earn your loyalty. Today, the leader will want to earn their loyalty. It’s normal for people reporting to the leader to be nervous about what’s going to change and is there a role for them.

  5. Where appropriate, if your predecessor(s) is interested, invite them back to key events and other important activities.

Of course, every circumstance is different and there may be some circumstances where it’s not advised to pursue a relationship with a predecessor but, generally speaking, it’s nice to be nice.