A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to participate in a family business conference. I was struck by the number of sessions devoted to the topic of education – educating the next generation of owners, educating the next generation of leaders, educating responsible stewards of wealth. The audience was clearly attuned to the importance educating the next generation to ensure they are prepared to carry on the family business… Yet, they didn’t seem to think much about what they, the current generation, may need to be doing themselves to ensure they were doing the best possible job as owners and leaders.
One of the experts leading a session raised the point that the words training and development, often inter-changeably, are actually not the same. Training refers to a set of exercises or activities that are designed to lead to mastery of a topic. Many of the conference attendees were seeking advice on how to train their next generation members, so they would be well-prepared owners and leaders.
Development, on the other hand, is an ongoing pursuit, with no end point. While one may work on development of leadership skills, leadership will never be fully mastered. There are always opportunities to learn ways to become a better leader. So, while preparing the next generation is important to the perpetuation of a family enterprise, we shouldn’t forget the importance of the ongoing development of the current generation.
We know that the best way to perpetuate a desired behavior in a younger person is to model that behavior. The old adage “Do as I say, not as I do”, is NOT a recipe for success.
If you are a member of the current generation of family business leaders and owners are concerned about the next generation, consider what you can be doing to develop yourself. Ask yourself the question – “What could I work on that would help me be a better mentor and teacher for the next generation?” “How could I model the behavior that I hope to see in them?” By expanding the focus of your education programs beyond those that come after you to include yourself, you are setting the best example of what you hope for – owners who are constantly thinking about how to develop themselves.