How can coaching and mentoring be leveraged to develop family leaders?

Sharon Duguid and Wendy Ulaszek discuss coaching family businesses

Coaching employs a more objective, formal, and structured relationship that provides support and training, raising actionable awareness in individuals working to reach their personal and professional goals.

Not only do family business owners routinely juggle executive and ownership responsibilities in their enterprises, but they must also contend with demanding and continually evolving roles within their families. At LGA, we call this “ambidextrous leadership”: successfully tending to the needs and demands of both business and family. In this challenging, multifaceted environment, personal leadership growth is essential. With the support of coaching and/or mentoring, family business members can better address their leadership development and achieve success in the different levels of their professional and personal lives.

The distinction between mentoring and coaching in a family business context largely rests on the type of interaction and guidance offered. Coaching employs a more objective, formal, and structured relationship that provides support and training, raising actionable awareness in individuals working to reach their personal and professional goals. Conversely, mentors can offer informal expert guidance on specific industry related subjects in a less traditional teaching format; the obligation of acquiring knowledge is typically placed on the individual being mentored. Both are invaluable intervention tools for family business leaders navigating complexity in their personal and professional worlds.

In this episode of the LGA Lighthouse, Family Enterprise Coaches and Advisors, Sharon Duguid and Psychologist Wendy Ulaszek, discuss the benefits, techniques, and challenges of coaching and mentorship in the family business, including:

  • Signs that someone is ready to be coached or mentored, and embracing the potential value each intervention can bring to family business leaders. Maturity and an open mindset play a big part in an individual’s ability to be effectively coached or mentored, but so does the personality, experience, and the training of the chosen Coach.
  • Succession planning and generational transitions of a family business pose extra sensitive challenges to enterprising families. Coaching the next generation of leaders as they enter critical operating and governing roles grows and leverages the human social capital of the business family. Coaches often become a valuable, objective resource for emerging family business leaders, a trusted confidante to help them on their leadership development journey.
  • Why it can be challenging for owners to mentor or coach their own children. All feedback is a gift, but it can be difficult for operating owners to receive constructive feedback from family – it can be equally difficult for non-family managers to provide honest feedback to family managing owners. Coaches use online feedback tools, such as the LGA 360 for Family Business Leaders, to deliver confidential feedback about leaders’ strengths and opportunities to develop. And then the Coach works with the Coachee to turn the feedback into a growth-oriented action plan.
  • The reluctance that some have toward being coached and how they can overcome that resistance. The coaching relationship needs to be confidential to foster trust; sessions often involve private dilemmas and working through situational challenges. It is important for the Coach to maintain the right balance, to create a safe space that allows individuals to build on their strengths and to discuss their vulnerabilities, or their behaviors that need to change.
  • Generational coaching is powerful – it incorporates both personalized 1:1 coaching and peer cousin coaching; the LGA 6-month coaching programs allows 4th, 5th, and 6th generations of cousins to develop relationships with one another, to know one another in the expanding Family Assembly and family business governance rooms. They come to a better understanding of one another, and of the impact of family dynamics as they work together in their multi-generational shareholder and family business roles.
  • Identifying realistic outcomes and coaching strategies that support success. Coaching begins with a frank, rigorous conversation around goals and objectives and then builds the activities that will help individuals achieve those aspirational targets.
  • Knowing the limits of what coaching can accomplish and understanding the difference between coaching issues and mental health issues. The COVID-19 Pandemic, in particular, exposes the need for Coaches to keep a vigilant eye on their Coachees and to ensure that they have the resources and support they need.

Establishing a strong, open coaching relationship is as important as the coaching process itself. Trust, comfort level, straightforward communication, and even a sense of humor can be key considerations when selecting a Coach or an industry-related mentor. For family business members, an objective Coach who understands the challenges of the entire family enterprise system makes for a compelling choice; one should choose wisely. At its core, coaching is about leadership development and change; finding someone who can effectively challenge you to change may be the most important factor of all.

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