What is the Biggest Obstacle to Inter-Generational Dialogue About Succession?

Business Leader Post, March 20, 2012

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

Actually, there are two obstacles – starting the dialogue and then sustaining it.

Starting the dialogue: The question is: where do you begin? There is so much information and so many issues that need to be shared and talked about. Each one of those issues is riddled with emotionality. The tension that can exist between the two generations can make it very easy for everybody to misunderstand what the other person is saying.

It is so easy to take offense at the issues that have to be discussed. Consequently, it makes it very difficult to find the common ground on which to base your dialogue. You have to have a topic that both generations can agree is an important and one that needs to be addressed.

For example: future of the family – future of the business

Sustaining the dialogue -The first step is an important step and has to be done with graciousness and the acknowledgment that you both have a lot of common interest and you want to make that you have common goals/succession. If the answer is yes to the common goal then the next step is sustaining the dialogue.

This is very difficult. Executing succession successfully has emotional issues and it also has estate planning and financial planning as a part of the process. You need outside experts to guide you and make sure that it is done right. Most people have a trusted advisor such as an accountant, an attorney or another professional. Bring him/her into the process as the next step.

They are not expected to help you with your relationship but they will help you by asking critical questions that neither one of you have ever thought about. This will save you hours and hours of your time and ultimately lots of money. It is a good investment.