Succession Series | Coaching

The importance of shared values in choosing a successor

By Timea Kristof, Hult EF Coach

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Performance coaching

When it comes to successful succession planning, one crucial aspect that often goes unnoticed is the alignment of values between the founder, successor, and their business. In this blog post, we will explore why values alignment plays a vital role in the seamless transition of leadership.

During my research interviews, I delved into the founding stories of various companies and the circumstances that led to their inception. What stood out was how founders described their motivations for creating their initiatives. They all emphasized the alignment of their own needs and those of their customers, which propelled them to seek solutions and embark on their entrepreneurial journey. By creating businesses that catered to these aligned needs, founders fulfilled their own desires while addressing market demands.

Take Anna, for instance, a young mother who had recently relocated to a new city in Germany. She found herself without a network and had a strong urge to reconnect and meet people. Recognizing the lack of support for mothers wanting to start their own businesses, Anna saw an opportunity to create a network for entrepreneurial mothers. This endeavour allowed her to merge her personal and professional needs, creating a community where she could connect with others while supporting mothers in business. As Anna considered passing on her initiative, finding a successor who shared her values, needs, and vision became paramount. When she did find her successor, she commented on their shared vision:

"The values and the vision were the same. She was the perfect person to be the successor. With the same values and the same direction."

In other examples in my research – those founders and successors who developed strong relationships characterized by love, care, and friendship were ultimately the ones to succeed. Take Regina, who took over her father's logistics company, who expressed her deep appreciation and admiration for her father, highlighting the fantastic relationship they shared. Or Pedro, the founder of a Christian faith charity, who emphasized the importance of a close relationship with his successor, Nigel, as they both shared a vision and values for the initiative. Their trust and mutual respect paved the way for a successful handover.

What about unsuccessful transitions?

Conversely, an examination of unsuccessful successions revealed intriguing insights into the impact of founder values. In the case of Ervin's grandfather, Louis, who served in World War I, values based on fear emerged as constraining factors. Louis employed divisive leadership strategies, which led to discord within the family and ultimately hindered the succession process. Founder behaviors rooted in fear, control, manipulation, and lack of trust created blockages in energy exchange between the founder and potential successors, impeding the flow of love necessary for a smooth transition.

Recognizing the importance of values alignment and the detrimental effects of fear-based values, I recommend that founders work with coaches or mentors to enhance their self-awareness and social understanding. By addressing their own values and fostering a positive organizational culture, founders can better prepare for succession and ensure a smooth transfer of leadership.

In conclusion, shared values between founders, successors, and their businesses are vital for successful succession planning. By acknowledging the significance of values alignment and addressing any fear-based values, organizations can pave the way for seamless transitions and a thriving future.

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