First of all, let’s get something on the table – all succession, particularly in family businesses, will include some emotion.
In a family business, the transition between generations brings forth similar emotions that you see with family members in their personal life transitions, e.g., first day of school, going off to college, marriage, first baby, etc. So, it’s not that much of a stretch to imagine when dad and mom are leaving the business, that it raises a tremendous sense of uncertainty and loss for those leaving the family business as well as those staying.
If you’re in a closely held business that isn’t family owned, there is still a host of emotions. Although there isn’t as strong an emotional tie as when you’re related to a co-worker, close work mates feel very much like relatives.
So, why start succession planning with a “no emotion” rule. The importance is that it’s very easy, too easy, for the parties involved to give in to the range of emotions that accompany big transitions. And fact is, succession done well calls for level heads. If you start succession with raised voices and lack of collaborative spirit, it certainly won’t get better from there.
When your business is engaged in succession, set some ground rules about how everybody is to work together to see the process through. When you get to certain issues, these goals may be more aspirational, but they will serve to ground the succession team reminding them they are a team and are trying to do something good for the business – something above their own, individual agendas. Working that way will take a lot of emotional self-control – which will be hard upfront but will pay off handsomely once the process completes and the next generation of leadership is in place.