When does fantasy trump reality?

Business Leader Post, November 26, 2013

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

We all have histories, and I am confident in saying that each of us has had moments or events that could be classified as traumatic. Those events are seared into our memories and can surface when an event with similar dynamics occur.

The process of succession is one in which all the unresolved issues between the generations and between members of the same generation bubble up to the surface.  Succession involves many factors, including the transfer of authority and power.  The issue of perception and consequently, the reality of power begin to shift almost immediately after the process begins.

The family issues begin to leak out and, in some cases, can take on their own momentum. There are some members of the family who are relieved that those issues which they believe have inhibited progress in the business and in the family are finally on the table. There are other family members who become scared at the surfacing of those issues because the pain/history associated with those issues is frightening. They are not being selfish or self-centered. Their fear overwhelms their ability to deal with present realities and to see that absent change, things can only get worse. Their fantasies of what might occur are fueled by those painful memories, and they try to stop/undermine the process.

Succession is a counter–intuitive process. Unfortunately, the cure for the person who is afraid of heights is to climb a tree. (As in, stay with the process.) The family members have to empathize and support the family member who is blocking the process and creating immense frustration. Hang on. It is like a roller coaster ride: the pleasure is experienced when it is over.