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Bringing the family business community together

Coaching The Next Generation Of Family Business Leaders

20th April 2015 Roberta Fenech

Nurturing new leadership does not come natural to some family business leaders...

Top executives in family businesses always remember how much work has gone into building the organisation, especially if they have been involved since start-up. What they at times forget is that the same amount of effort is necessary to ensure business survival when it comes to passing the torch to a new group of leaders. Nurturing new leadership does not come natural to some family business leaders. Even if they hope for continuity, some business owners do not adequately address the next generation’s preparation for leadership.
 
On the other hand there are those who invest time and energy in such preparation such as by turning to executive coaching for the leadership and personal development of the next generation in a context where jobs and leadership challenges are always more complex and where feedback is required and rarely received. Coaching takes place within the context of the business’ values and business strategy, it is a safe and transitional space in which the next generation leader can address both personal and organisational issues.
 
The context of family businesses is one that generates an ever growing interest in coaching. Achievement oriented leaders are all the more hungry for opportunities to learn and renew themselves as around them pressures are all the more increasing. The way organisations are structured and the ways jobs are designed also have an impact on this growing interest in coaching. Flatter organisations, networking structures, boundary less organisations and virtual organisations put higher demands on the emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills of leaders pushing them more towards valuing coaching as a means for growth and development.  
 
Executive coaching enhances leadership for a variety of reasons. Through executive coaching the next generation leaders learn to be more reflective, effective, visionary and successful.Reflection is critical to the success of any leadership development process. The next generation are also encouraged to reflect on learning experiences as they engage in tertiary education, or other forms of training and development, in order to promote the transfer of knowledge and skills to work contexts. The next generation leaders are proactively engaged in their own development. Effective and efficient coaching also positively effects self-efficacy as the coach uses techniques that target the determinants of self-efficacy, such as setting short-term objectives that favour the experience of success.
 
The very same relationship between the coach and the next generation leader is a powerful tool in itself that also helps develop emotional intelligence. The focused nature and applied nature of coaching facilitates learning that readily impacts leadership behaviour. Another advantage is that executive coaching occurs in the context of the family business that allows for practice and development within the family, ownership and business systems. Another important characteristic is that it provides the next generation leader with critical feedback, a sounding board that helps him/her stay ahead for competitive pressures and helps overcome loneliness
 
Coaching may also take place at a team level especially since the next generation leaders in family businesses will many a times be a team or group of leaders such as in the case of sibling partnerships and cousin collaborations. Coaching contributes to the formation of a leadership culture that is interdependent and views leadership as a collective activity based on mutual inquiry and learning, this in turn helps develop the capacity to handle more complex challenges.
 
Conflict resolution is supported by executive team coaching. The family has the opportunity to come together as a whole and learn about themselves in order to unravel family conflict, to create effective boundaries between family feelings and business imperatives due to new realities, and to plan to resolve future conflict before they erupt.
 
Coaches appreciate the function of privacy within specific family businesses and uphold professional and ethical requirements by establishing boundaries and preserving confidentiality. Coaching offers a confidential setting to share fears and concerns. Next generation leaders have an opportunity to change behaviours in a non-threatening relationship.
 
Talent management is all the more gaining importance and coaching leaders is one way to retain and inspire talented family members. The family business context is experiencing a reality of people being promoted to senior positions at an earlier age. The higher one is in the organisation the more difficult it is to talk to others about personal issues and concerns. Coaching also helps reinvent and revitalise highly stressed leaders and prevent looming burnout.
 
In conclusion, coaching does not provide the whole solution to leadership transition difficulties. Promoting coaching as the only way to make leadership transitions effective would be an exaggerated claim. Next generation leadership coaching is to be seen as part of a best practice tool kit which comprises other structured transition management processes.
 
Roberta Fenech is an Associate Consultant for EMCS group and a lecturer at St. Martins Institute of Information Technology.
 

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