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  • ZISK

Set Your Successors Up For Success

Families often delay succession planning because they are concerned family dynamics will shift when a senior leader begins to transition. Postponing the decision to address the dynamics between your heirs creates a high-pressure environment for all.

As timelines get shorter, successors can become more frustrated and the behaviors that are minor irritants today will become major issues that are harder to resolve.

It is never too early to begin to establish guidelines for how your team will work together, resolve issues, make decisions and assign accountability.


Leaders thrive with structure, good communication and clarity regarding the future. Begin by mapping your organization. Identify each business unit and create an organizational chart with roles, major tasks and who is accountable for them. Be specific. If someone is the manager but does not make decisions regarding budgets or wages, make sure that is clearly defined on the chart.

By breaking your organization down in this way, you might find the root of communication breakdowns or operational inefficiencies.


Next, realign the team. To the extent you can, position people to do the things they enjoy and are adequately trained to do. When a team is misaligned, it will cause

discontent. An aligned team correctly performing the right tasks will function at a higher level and be more productive.

When working through a realignment exercise, be cautious of territorialism. Focus on what is best for the organization. Letting go of something can be hard. Allow open discussion, debate and disagreement.

Listen carefully to all opinions to make the correct adjustments. If you have written job descriptions, update them to reflect any changes that are made.

When your organization is mapped and the team is realigned, you are ready to determine how the team will function going forward. Begin with a group exercise to identify what is working well and what the team would like to improve.


As you work through this exercise, a code of conduct agreement will begin to emerge. When documented, this agreement will create clarity regarding expectations, accountability and allow for early intervention when the agreement is violated.

A code of conduct agreement can address any situation where your successors must work together — from how the group approaches disagreements to how they work through transition. It can also be used in conjunction with other documents such as a family employment policy.

The key to these activities is to be consistent. Once agreements are made, document and adhere to them. Keep your code of conduct front and center and schedule time to review and update it with the team on a regular basis to ensure it stays relevant.


September 28, 2021



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