Last week we began a discussion of the ten things that are the most frequent barriers to real succession planning. Failure to plan this important event is an invitation to disappointment frustration and alienation among family and staff. This week continues that discussion with #7.

7. Entitlement

Often referred to as the “lucky sperm club” the next generation often sees advancement and eventual ownership as a “right-by-birth” as opposed to an opportunity based on merit.  At a minimum, this creates low morale among regular staff members and, maybe, siblings. At its worst, it leads to disastrous events that can either break up the family or ruin the business. A business needs leadership and it is the duty of the current generation to ensure successors are capable of carrying on the business into the future.

But their is an other side to entitlement and that is when the senior generation views themselves as entitled to continue in a leadership role long after that role should have been assumed by the younger generation. I am amused to see my cohort group of Boomer owners so resistant to passing the baton to their children. Amused because I so clearly remember their vows 30 years ago not to repeat their parent’s behavior. We cannot let our personality be so inextricably connected to our business that we cannot let go when we it is time.

6. Scarcity

There is an abiding assumption among the funeral profession that there is not enough business. Of course in some markets (especially in the NorthEast) that is true. But this natural predisposition becomes truly problematic within the family busyness as parents, children and siblings worry that there isn’t enough business to support them all.  It eventually becomes the Elephant – In – The – Room.

I use a tool developed by the Center for Creative Leadership called Visual Explorer to unemotionally surface these issues so families and staff can talk about them. It is especially helpful in creating an environment where people feel safe talking about what they expect of each other. Once people face the unspoken issues they can move toward solving them collaboratively

5. History

Past experiences, conflicts, assumptions and events shape our ability to work with each other.  People have the ability to forgive. Apparently they find it harder to forget. “oh, you have always been this way!” is a statement I hear too frequently. “What way?” “Always?” Often this is an aggressive attempt to shortstop a conversation that would be healthy but risky to the parties. Here again, Visual Explorer is an excellent tool for discussion and exploration.