How Do Next Gen Leaders Flourish in Your Family Business? Part 2 in a 3-Part Series

by Doug Gray | Sep 15, 2023 | Growing the Business

A group of enthusiastic millennials stand in the forefront of an office
8 Exercises to Reward Employees and Provide Feedback

In the first part of this series, we identified the two most important behaviors for leaders to practice in a family enterprise, based on our research, and the four assumptions we used in order to reach this finding.

Yes, you can learn to create a better organization!

Just as children learn to crawl, then walk, then run, you can learn to create a flourishing family enterprise.

The most important behavior is for family business leaders to reward employees and provide feedback. 

Here is a quick review of our four assumptions for learning behaviors:

  1. Your curiosity is innate and can be nurtured
  2. Practicing personal mastery is the cornerstone of your learning organization
  3. Your mental models are like videos of your potential
  4. Great leaders co-create a shared vision of a better future

So, how do you develop each of these four assumptions?  Here are some examples of new, desired behaviors that can help you and your team reward employees and provide feedback.

  1. Your curiosity is innate and can be nurtured

Exercise 1: Practice curiosity.   Ask open-ended questions that start with “what” and “how” so that you open doors, rather than “why” questions that often close doors.   Use all five of your senses, so that you are attentive and capable of exploring more options broadly.  Model curiosity by saying, “I wonder…” and let others complete the sentence.  Start a new hobby, or travel, so that you improve your observational skills.

Exercise 2:  Solicit perspectives from others, especially your customers or clients.  Ask for performance feedback from new customers, returning customers, and all prospects.  Use focus groups.  Use surveys.  Notice how many organizations use the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to ask, “Would you recommend this product or service to your friends and family?”  Ask others, “What else can we do to improve our product or service?”  Then let them know when you implement their suggestions.

  1. Practicing personal mastery is the cornerstone of your learning organization

A learning organization is broadly defined as any team that transforms itself to gain a competitive advantage.  The most prolific researcher, Peter Senge, describes five aspects of a learning organization:  systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, and team learning.   All five are necessary.  In our work with family business leaders, we know that building personal mastery is the cornerstone.

Exercise 3:  Assess individual strengths and weaknesses.  We recommend validated personality assessments like DISC, Big 5, or Hogan to provide the vocabulary words for strengths, weaknesses, blind spots and hidden talents.  Some organizations use competency-based assessments, like Caliper or Skillsoft, to determine skill levels.  These self-rater assessments are limited by individual biases, but they provide a baseline for individual learning.  For example, I often use the DISC assessment to look at natural and adapted behavioral styles.  When 5-10 family business leaders compare their natural style (when stressed or in private) with their adapted style (when in public) they learn how to match their behavioral styles with others, to be more effective.  We know that 360s are the most valid form of assessments, because they include multiple raters from different rater groups (owners or friends).  That’s why we created the Assess Next GenTM Leadership 360 assessment process at www.AssessNextGen.com.

Exercise 4: Model active learning.  Adults rarely benefit from formal training programs that tell us what to do.  Adults do benefit from informal learning.  We know that informal learning requires us to interact, explore, get messy with ideas and new behaviors.  So, we need to design opportunities for informal learning.  Before meetings, always send agendas, encourage note-taking, spend the last 10% of the meeting time determining actin plans and takeaways.  Schedule after-action or report-outs after people attend conferences or complete a digital course.  Encourage new hires to create a learning journal with 3-5 new questions each day, and their answers, with any digital resources, so that they create an onboarding manual that gets posted on a shared drive within 60 days.

  1. Your mental models are like videos of your potential

Exercise 5:  Create better videos.  Over 60% of the human brain supports visual image perception, memory, and retention.  We literally think what we imagine seeing.  You know that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  We know that “a video is worth a thousand pictures.”  Look at the impact of Instagram, TicTok, YouTube or Netflix on behavior.  Our mental models typically describe the past scripts that enabled you to read this paragraph.  Or react to that provocative social media post.  We know that your mental models of your future self will describe your potential.  Athletes and actors rehearse their future desired behaviors.  Why not you?  When you record a selfie video declaring your intentions for the day or the week, you are voicing your potential.  When you imagine your future self, three years from now, your brain cannot separate that mental model of your future self from reality.  That’s why hope (the will and the way) and optimism (for a better future) are so critical when we learn new behaviors.  When we practice mental models that describe us “at our best” then we are more likely to experience those better mental models.

Exercise 6:  Practice feed forward, instead of feedback.  When we provide feedback to others we must reflect on the past, by definition.  That feedback process is critical for learning.  We need to assess, decide, do, reflect, and learn from our interactions with others… and we always will require performance or behavioral feedback.  What about feed forward?  Feed forward occurs when we expect a better future and ask others for advice.  In workshops I often have pairs of people ask, “What are 2-3 suggestions you have for me to achieve these OKRs in the next 3 months?”  Even strangers can provide excellent advice, when asked.  Active learners ask for advice, from their mentors, board of advisors, customers, colleagues, and especially from those who disagree in some political, religious, or social perspective.  Active learners know that when they ask for advice, then they can create a vivid video of their potential.

  1. Great leaders co-create a shared vision of a better future

Exercise 7:   Practice co-creation.  By definition, great leaders have an obsessive focus on a vision of a better future.  Pick an example from business (Jack Welch, Steve Jobs) or from your family business (the founder, current majority owners, or Uncle Walt).  Those leaders expect a better future.  They probably shared that vision at family gatherings or quarterly meetings.  They are great story tellers.  And the story they are telling today is always different than they story they told whenever the family business was founded.   Stories evolve and change with market changes, and with new family members.  That’s called co-creation.  You can practice co-creation today by asking Uncle Walt or the newest employee, “How should we be serving our customers?”  Their answer will inform your answer.  Test your newest shared vision on someone this afternoon.

Exercise 8:  Reward those who provide feedback.  When you provide feedback to the Hilton or Marriott hotel chain you qualify for reward points.  When you buy airline miles from United or American you get rewarded with a better flight status.  What about your family business?  One of my clients provides a $1,000 referral reward for new hires after 3 months of employment.  Another client provides a spot bonus or PTO day for those who provide any new idea that is implemented.  We know that public recognition is a bigger motivator than cash for most employees.   Any business leader can create a reward today and solicit feedback today.  What can you do today with your family enterprise?

In conclusion, our research found that you can create a learning organization in your family business.   We know that family business leaders who reward employees who provide feedback can develop a learning organization.

The eight exercises listed above provide a starting point for anyone looking to develop a learning organization.  There’s nothing magical or difficult about these eight exercises.  Try any of them today.   Then let us know what you learned!

We can all build stronger learning organizations.

In the final part of this series, we’ll discuss the impact of learning behaviors on your family enterprise.

For a comprehensive process to help develop your own leadership skills, or those of your next generation leaders, visit www.assessnextgen.com

References

  1. Gray, D.W. & Rhodes, K.B. (2022) How Does Your Family Measure Up? Using Assessments to Develop Effective Leaders. https://www.thefbcg.com/resource/how-does-your-family-measure-up-using-assessments-to-develop-effective-leaders/
  1. The Handbook of Strategic 360 Feedback. Church, A.A., Bracken, D.W., Fleenor, J.W., & Rose, D.S.  (2019).  Oxford University Press; New York.
  1. Gray, D.W. (2021). Distributed Ownership Tips for Family Businesses.  https://www.thefbcg.com/resource/distributed-ownership-tips-for-family-businesses/

 

 

Doug Gray

Doug Gray, PhD, is a consultant with the Family Business Consulting Group, as well as an author, speaker, researcher, FFI member, and co-founder of Assess Next Gen, LLC. He has worked with over 10,000 leaders in multiple business sectors, schools and colleges, families and non-profits. He is the author of Objectives + Key Results (OKR) Leadership; How to Apply Silicon Valley’s Secret Sauce to Your Career, Team or Organization.

About the Author

Doug Gray, PhD, is a consultant with the Family Business Consulting Group, as well as an author, speaker, researcher, FFI member, and co-founder of Assess Next Gen, LLC. He has worked with over 10,000 leaders in multiple business sectors, schools and colleges, families and non-profits. He is the author of Objectives + Key Results (OKR) Leadership; How to Apply Silicon Valley’s Secret Sauce to Your Career, Team or Organization.