Developing the Next Generation of Leaders



One of the most provocative questions I ask clients is“would you enthusiastically rehire everyone on your leadership team?”

Typically once they’ve processed what I’ve truly asked them, their eyes widen and I get an immediate “NO.” Or I get a long pause, sometimes an eye roll… and you can immediately feel the tension fill the room like a thick fog.

So...what do we do when the same question is asked, but itapplies to a family member working in the business?

This creates an even more uncomfortable tension when the realization for that owner or CEO is they wouldn’t rehire their brother, sister, daughter, son, or even spouse. 

Because I’m a planner and derive joy in structure, there is always a plan to have an initial conversation about each player on the leadership team in a way to make an initial assessment as objective as possible and done while wearing the business hat – not the family hat. 

It’s important to be able to think and work differently. Family members working in a business together require a different perspective, because many times they find themselves having conversations with one another without recognizing what “hat” they are wearing. 

For instance, is the conversation between a father and his daughter or is it a conversation between the VP of Sales (father) and the underperforming Regional Sales Manager (daughter) about the business? When we need to wear our business hat, we must find a way to take our familial relationship out of the conversation as much as possible. We still recognize that the VP of Sales and the Regional Manager are family, but their personal relationship should not have any bearing on the business decision they need to make. 

So now we know which hat we need to wear when having these talent conversations...what’s next?

How do you know you’re working with the right people on your leadership team?  One thing you can do is assess whether each leadership team member is an ideal player.  The Ideal Team Player is a concept developed by Pat Lencioni who, in his book by the same name, lays out three key virtues of an Ideal Team Player as part of their character:

●      Being Hungry - self-motivated yet diligent hunger, having a desire for increased responsibility, driven to succeed, and a life-long learner
●      Being Humble - confident but not arrogant humility, no excessive ego, quick to share credit, and will always emphasize the team over him/herself.
●      Being (People) Smart - self-aware with good judgement, working effectively with others, and self-aware of one’s words and actions and how they impact others.

When you have an intersection of these three virtues you have defined an Ideal Team Player. This is where great teams and companies are built.



*Note that these traits can occur from one’s upbringing, but they also can be developed through learning, awareness and coaching. 

As you can see in this image, we may find that we have leadership team members who aren’t fully balanced in one-or-more of the three virtues.  When a team member has great people “smarts”, but is lacking in hunger or drive, they would be referred to as the “loveable slacker”.  Alternately, If you have a teammate that has the drive, but lacks humility, he or she would be considered a “skillful politician”. 

What do we do once we know where each of our leadership team members fall in the Ideal Team Player system?

I recommend selecting a manager to assess your leadership team members using the Ideal Team Player concept.  There are 3 possible outcomes:

a) Confirming that the employee is an Ideal Team Player
b) Helping develop the employee in any or all of the virtues of hungry, humble and smart
c) Deciding to move the employee out of the organization

Team members with a weakness in any one of the three virtues, can develop with awareness, learning and coaching. The key is consistent reinforcement coaching by their direct leader/manager.

Building an Ideal Team Player culture.

When a company embraces the hungry, humble, and smart philosophy, management should be quick to recognize those team members who live the Ideal Team Player virtues; providing positive reinforcement either publicly or privately (depending on how they best receive affirmation).

Equally important, is how leaders handle a violation of one of the three virtues. This private conversation is an opportunity for self-awareness and coaching for growth.

Don’t get me wrong, I work with some clients that have truly built a high-performing leadership team. However, I would say there’s always room for growth and development of a team – even A-players.

Regardless of whether your leadership team is made up entirely of your immediate family members, distant cousins, or non-relatives, it is imperative that they are the right team members, with virtues including humility, hunger, and people smarts. 

It makes for better business – and happier family gatherings.


Cheryl Doll is a Senior Business Advisor / Gravitas Coach at Compass Point Consulting and provides hands-on consulting & coaching to help family businesses close performance gaps; give owners practical, actionable tools that drive growth; deliver training to develop leaders and position the business for successful ownership transition - all on their terms.

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