Making the decision to step away from your small business can be hard not just for you, but for the employees who are used to working under your leadership. They may fear that the company they love working for may change and leave them lost in the shuffle. Once you’ve identified a successor to lead your company into the future, the next major step of your succession plan is to get the rest of your team on board with a smooth transition. It’s important to note that a transfer commonly will last several years and this will make for a smoother transition, as the successor will continue to be mentored by the selling owner and thus the remaining employees will also become more at ease with the switch in power as the owner slowly works less and less. If that seems like an intimidating challenge, here are five steps you can take to empower your employees to succeed after you retire:
1. Create a culture of trust and accountability.
The best way to ensure your company succeeds after you leave is to make sure it’s already successful before you leave. It’s rare that a potential successor would be excited about stepping in to lead a business with a toxic or dysfunctional culture. Making trust, accountability, and communication a major part of your company’s core values will provide your employees with the most powerful tools they’ll need to handle the transition.
2. Encourage your successor to communicate his/her vision:
The arrival of a new boss usually puts one major question in every employee’s head: how will this affect me? As soon as your successor has been chosen, encourage him/her to get to work on communicating their vision for the company’s short- and long-term future to your staff. Employees will feel more comfortable with the change once they’re confident they know if/how their role will change under new leadership.
3. Take the time to answer questions before you go:
Many employees will have questions about the transition, and they may not feel comfortable going to the new boss with them yet. In your final days at work, be there to listen to these concerns, brainstorm solutions, and help ensure that communication continues to flow through the appropriate channels.
4. Deal with the doubters:
Some people just don’t like change. You may have employees who are disappointed to see you go, don’t yet trust your successor, or feel they should’ve been the one to get the job. Letting these situations sit and fester will only create bigger problems down the line. Try to manage these conflicts swiftly before you leave so there will be a strong team dynamic in place for your successor on day one.
5. Find leadership opportunities for trusted employees:
While some employees may not be looking forward to the transition, others will be eager to make a good impression on their new leader or see this as a chance to rise in the company’s ranks. Identify these employees early and find opportunities for them to lead projects during the transition or help acclimate your successor. The new leader will be grateful for their help, and you may help them create relationships that will keep your business thriving into the next generation.