Last week, during my stint as a teacher, a question that was asked made me think. The students were curious about how to start the conversation on succession/transition planning. I thought it strange that the younger generation would ask that as I had assumed that, under normal circumstances, it would be the older generation that would start the conversation.
But as I thought about that I realized that the whole concept of succession can be daunting for most anyone. There is so much at stake. The process seems so complicated. Am I ready for this? Will this work out? Is the younger generation ready for this? What about the next generation that is not interested? What is fair? What is equitable? Where do I start? The list of questions can appear endless and overwhelming.
The younger generation has a different approach. They are filled with energy. They are excited about new opportunities. They want to move ahead. To them it often seems rather simple. Something that needs to be done so let’s do it.
There are certain issues within the planning process that will be a challenge. Often times they are what I call “soft” issues. Issues that deal with feelings and emotions. Issues that involve wants, fears, needs and desires. Issues that require honest and forthright communication. These issues are often more difficult to deal with than the “hard” issues. Issues such as taxation or land values or equipment needs.
To be involved in these conversations requires that participants are keenly aware of their communication styles and conflict management abilities. Through assertive communication techniques participants must have the ability to listen and gain understanding. Often these issues have been left untouched, sometimes they have festered, sometimes they have caused hard feelings. They need to be dealt with or they have the potential to derail the best made plans. Speak clearly and listen closely.
Conflict management styles play a significant role. When an eager, energetic younger generation meets the cautious, experienced older generation conflict can and will happen. That invites a number of different responses. Varying degrees of commitment to goals and commitment to relationships can significantly influence the outcome. With low commitments to goals and relationships one party or the other will avoid and walk away. With low commitment to goals but high commitment to relationships suggests that one or the other will accommodate to keep the peace. With some commitment to goals and relationships there is compromise meaning both parties concede and neither one gets what they would like. With a high commitment to goals and low commitment to relationships there is a tendency to compete which leaves one party a potential loser. To discover a healthy balance with a strong commitment to goals and relationships requires a healthy dose of effective communication and collaboration to achieve a win-win scenario.
At times the process can make the participants feel like they are swimming against the current. It has the potential to be exhausting with no perceived progress. However there is too much at stake to procrastinate or do nothing. Fortunately there are professionals out there that can assist. Often times it is beneficial to have a third party involved. Someone who can facilitate the conversation by being neutral and being able to flesh out the wants, needs, fears, and desires of the participants. So the challenge is to arise to the challenge. Make it a good one.
“If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t, you will see obstacles.” Wayne Dyer