Change Behaviors, Retain Values
Dear Advisor: I recently succeeded my father and have already developed a clear vision and goals for our family business. But I’ve encountered an unexpected problem: The values that I (and our employees)have always viewed as important hallmarks of our company are limiting our ability to move forward. I’m not comfortable sacrificing long-held beliefs on the altar of success, but I don’t want this company to fail, either. I don’t know what to do.
One of the most important and difficult roles for successor leadership is to find ways to adopt the applications of the family’s business values to be appropriate to new strategic requirements while remaining comforting to the organization’s employees. Recently we met a very successful third generation leader of a family business facing lots of strategic change and challenge. He noted that one of the most important things he learned on his job was that you can and need to “change behaviors, yet retain the values.” He provided two examples from his own experience:
Loyalty. In the past, loyalty in his company was tied to subservience or acquiescence. If employees followed well, they were rewarded with tenure in their jobs. The successor redefined the behavioral expectations. Loyalty is now demonstrated through performance and is returned by the company’s commitment to excellent training and fair and current compensation methods.
Care. Previously, care was paternalistic – it was taking care of employees. He repositioned the value to mean empathizing or caring for employees who have personal difficulties.
We find similar examples in many family businesses as they attempt to adapt to the changing times and retain their tradition of core values. We think this approach might provide you with a way to resolve your dilemma in a way that respects the old while opening the door to the future.
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