Leave a Legacy
Kevin Spafford is Farm Journal’s succession planning expert for the Farm Journal Legacy Project. He hosts the nationally-televised ‘Leave a Legacy’ TV, facilitates an ongoing series of workshops for farm families across the U.S., and is the author of Legacy by Design: Succession Planning for Agribusiness Owners.
Feb 28, 2012
From Legacy Moment (02/24/2012).
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Like any other game, sport or challenging endeavor, succession planning is more than physical techniques and drafted documents. Done properly, it’s a mental undertaking that will test even the most committed business leader. In preparing for a recent presentation, I created the following list of Legacy Minders---things to be mindful of as you contemplate the psychological aspects of the succession planning process.
1. It’s up to you to initiate the process. Exercise your responsibility as a leader and commit to engage.
2. Or, if someone else initiates the process, support their efforts and agree to action.
3. Create a safe environment for others to express their ideas, thoughts and/or desires.
4. Listen to learn. Learning is the basis for all growth, and a large part of succession is growing the operation forward.
5. Appreciate differences. Other perspectives and differing points of view are not "being wrong."
6. Grow your relationships. The transition from parent/child to working colleague is an all-the-time effort.
7. Lead by example. Model the behaviors you hope to teach the next generation.
8. Don’t impose preconceived ideas on others. Our best intentions are not always welcome and/orcorrect. Children must be allowed to respond to their interests.
9. Follow a defined succession planning model and process. Using proven methods and trusted techniques is the most efficient way to achieve your goals.
10. Confront conflict. Don’t allow the possibility of dissent to impede your progress. Most of the things people worry about never happen.
11. Employ formal business structures and tools. The right systems encourage objectivity and eliminate subjective decisions.
12. Mentor someone not related to you. Mentoring is an excellent exercise to learn how to better communicate, teach others and learn from a younger generation.
13. Make succession a priority. Most people really only focus on three or fewer objectives; if succession isn’t a priority, it simply won’t happen.
14. Don’t stereotype. This is especially shortsighted when assuming gender is an occupational qualifier.
15. Be available. Your tuition of years of experience is a wealth of wisdom that may be the difference between success and failure.
16. Act responsible; be accountable. A business leader intuitively lives this creed as it relates to money matters. Just as much effort must be directed to succession planning and the transition to a well-prepared next generation.
17. Be mindful, there are many methods to achieve success.
18. Don’t act as the organization’s succession planning facilitator. A leader cannot both participate in the process and objectively facilitate the discussions.
19. Leave the past there; it serves no purpose to recall it now. History is an excellent scorecard to measure accomplishment and gain wisdom from mistakes. Like falling when we learn to run, missteps are bruises of experience.
20. Do it now. It’s never too early to engage in succession planning. Long term goals will inform management decisions and help everyone to focus on their most heartfelt dreams.
21. Take decisive action.
22. Get help where necessary. If it sounds expensive, calculate the cost of a mistake.
23. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Like most other endeavors, there is a risk – reward tradeoff in succession.
24. Don’t be above reproach. No one is infallible.
25. Commit. People respond appropriately to commitment.
Handled appropriately, succession becomes an all-consuming commitment. It informs our decisions. It helps us to focus on the important, rather than the urgent. Planning for an eventual transition ensures that the operation encourages professional development and a gradual (and necessary) progression in management responsibilities. It is the achievement of legacy.
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Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.