There are No Short Cuts for Transition Planning, but the Long Way Is Fun
Before Tom could transition his business to his son, Mark, a crucial step was necessary: backfilling Mark’s position as head of operations. The plan was for Tom to move to chairman, and for Mark to ascend to CEO. They knew the main complexity for this plan was their distinctly different management styles: Tom was a benevolent leader who walked the shop floor, and knew the details about his employees’ lives; Mark was a driven leader who asked lots of questions, and knew people by the quality of their work. They wanted someone approachable and also able to push for accountability.
The first question was could someone within the organization fill the operations role? Two years into the five-year transition plan, Tom and Mark determined that none of the division vice presidents would fit the VP operations job that Mark was being promoted out of. They decided to conduct a search with an executive recruiting firm—and the effort led to two false starts; actually both candidates left the company within 18 months of being hired. Tom and Mark were frustrated, confused and, quite frankly, embarrassed. The hiring missteps had negative consequences on morale and their credibility. A friend of Tom’s suggested coaching and Strategic Talent Management and despite their initial reluctance, we took a different approach.
We began by analyzing the situation: Did they hire the wrong recruiting firm? Were they seeking a leader who was too good to be true? Were the division heads setting new hires up to fail? Mark speculated that his team was looking for a candidate who would maintain the status quo. This discovery process sparked the reinvention of the company’s talent acquisition process. They needed a better way to identify, select and onboard a new VP of Operations. The team realized they each had vastly different views and expectations for the position and their competing agendas undermined their efforts. They also found that as a group they were not engaged in the process and were unprepared for the interviews and level of effort required — which had inadvertently discouraged top candidates.
Ultimately, the team came to consensus on the job profile of the VP operations, the interviewing process, the division of labor for the hiring team, and the performance expectations that each interviewer diligently collect relevant data to compare with each other after their interviews. The team took ownership and accountability for the success of filling the VP operations role. And, they were proud of the new system for selecting a candidate. With this process, a “best fit” for the VP operations was identified and ushered through the interview and selection processes. And, with attention to the Onboarding process in the Strategic Talent Management process, they successfully integrated the new VP into the company culture. Needless to say, the success put the family business transition on the right course.