Monday, March 16, 2009

Passing the torch in business

A friend of mine recently told me that the Chinese encourage the younger generations to run the businesses. However, the young managers seek out their elders for constant advice and suggestions.

I couldn't help but think of this as I watch several family-owned and closely-held companies struggle with succession. The "next" generation is available to help lead, but the current generation is not ready to let go. At the same time, in some cases, the younger generation wants the older generation to "just go away."

Perhaps our senior leaders need to learn some techniques of the Socratic method to learn how to give advice in the form of questions without controlling or suggesting criticism. At the same time, can new young managers be confident enough to ask for advice without fearing that it makes them look inadequate? Can the torch be passed while the elders are still a source of knowledge and looked upon with respect? Or is that just something the Chinese can do?

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