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This is part 1 of our Family Business Leadership Series, where we discover the four natures of family business leaders and explain how to unleash their highest potential. In this part, we outline the importance of recognizing the different abilities that each individual can bring to a role and how it affects the business life cycle.
The 4 Natures of Leadership
In the course of working with hundreds of unique family companies, one discovers that those who build their team utilizing the nature of each individual member are more successful and satisfied with progress than those who try to fit family members into a box hoping that things will work themselves out.
Take for instance, this case study based on real events:
The majority shareholder of a family run automotive parts company knew he had taken the company as far as he could. The company was profitable and successful, but he was a Visionary with Starter tendencies, so his nature limited his ability to take the company forward. He needed Growers. The problem was his management team was made up of Maintainers.
Visionaries? Starters? Growers? Maintainers? Everyone possesses a unique set of talents, abilities and gifts that all come together to affect how we operate in the world. A select number of us have discovered and celebrate who we are, and we translate that into satisfying work. If we have not undergone this, it leaves us open to conflict, inner doubt, and loss of confidence, which ultimately impedes progress. This is particularly important to family companies when succession becomes an issue. What is the nature of the next generation, and how will it fit into or impede the company? Like the shareholder in the case study, the answer is that it depends on where the business is in its life cycle.
Let’s break down the diagram:
At the Start–Up phase you will require people who are comfortable with change, can operate in the unknown, and have the natural tendency to move things forward. You will want to include Starters. The Starter will take the ideas generated by the Visionary and run with them. This is critical as some Visionaries can’t translate ideas into marketable entities. The challenge with Starters is knowing when to have them switch to other projects. In the early stages of a Start-up you need people who can do the detail work, create predictability so Maintainers will be important, but be selective with who this person is. Some Maintainers cannot handle change and insecurity well because they have nothing to maintain. So find someone who enjoys improving the tasks they are maintaining. Remember Maintainers are helpful, but “buy-in” to the idea is critical.
As your company Grows the need for new structures, processes and predictable systems becomes more necessary. So the makeup of the leadership may need to change as well. The Visionary loses his effectiveness and may, in fact begin to keep the company back from growth as he tries to keep his vision front and center. It may be that the Starter has become bored and is ready for new challenges so a Grower plays a more prominent role as he puts in place stronger systems, processes and structure. The Maintainer is still important, but may be found in specific roles where policy, procedures play a larger role, such as human resources, finance, administration, quality control and so on. The makeup of the leadership then becomes more rounded and full. A sole group of Growers at this stage may be counterproductive.
As the company Matures, and you are satisfied with the way things are it will be difficult to hold onto certain more aggressive Growers who encounter roadblocks at every opportunity. This includes the next generation in a family if they feel that they are not trusted or that there is no room for them. They may leave in frustration. Mature companies often attract Maintainers in senior leadership roles, creating complacency within the culture. Sometimes due to external forces like economic downturn, shifting banking priorities or competition new energy is required.
In the New Growth phase, it is imperative to bring a strong grower into the mix to shake things up and re-ignite the flame. This will cause challenges for Maintainers at all levels of the company and may lead to job transition or terminations of the more strident Maintainers. Visionaries can also play a role here, especially the younger generation who grew up in the company and have ideas. The challenge is to allow them strategic influence backed by maturity and wisdom of others and knowledge of the financial realities.
A company in Decline may need to turn itself around, a Visionary, Starter, and Growers can inject ideas to keep the company going.
To Each His Own
By creating your team with juxtaposing each individual’s natural abilities, at the right stage of the life cycle certain outcomes begin to take place:
- Cohesion with just enough creative tension to stretch people to be their best.
- Stronger communication, as each party understands the other and why they behave the way they do.
- Decrease in unproductive tension, with a better understanding of each person’s purpose within the company.
- Better able to meet challenges that arise, knowing the right team is in place.
Read the rest of the Family Business Leadership Series:
Growers – Leaders That Take Risks for the Family Business
Maintainers – The Unsung Heroes of Family Business Leadership