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Helping Family Businesses
Prosper Across Generations®

Supporting the Successor

By John L. Ward, Ph.D.

For many successors, the first few years as a new CEO can be uneasy. It's a whole new experience; it's a big responsibility. Here are some ways that independent directors can help.

  • Meet privately with the new CEO twice per year to establish new objectives and review existing objectives.
  • Help the new CEO focus on developmental opportunities and offer ideas about educational experiences, visits to other companies, and mentors to help in areas of need.
  • Write post-board meeting letters with feedback on the board meeting and supportive suggestions and observations.
  • Meet personally, for lunch for example, with the CEO and tell of the foibles and lessons of your first year as CEO.
  • Encourage the new CEO not to over-commit in time, goals, promises.
  • Go on a field visit or business trip with the successor to allow lots of informal chat time.
  • Most importantly, expect that he or she is ready and will do a very fine job.
  • But allow for and welcome mistakes.

At a recent board meeting, Independent Directors were offering gentle advice to an over-eager successor:

  • People don't care what you know until they know that you care.
  • Keep your powder dry.
  • Build relationships with people so you know how they think.
 

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