In a family business power and authority is so centralized that professional managers who are direct reports to family members never ever give authentic feedback. It is just not done. Senior professionals don’t want to stick their neck out and take the risk of giving feedback because it may well boomerang. And more often than not it does bounce back. So why should they?
But everyone has blind spots, biases, fears and deeply ingrained beliefs – more so successful self-made founders who often develop over confidence bordering on arrogance. Given their rock star social status among their extended family and friends and the unbridled power they wield there is no one in the organisation who can give them authentic corrective feedback. But in a changing and growing organisation the founder has to continuously evolve because the next leg of the journey needs different leadership skills – you can’t spoon-feed your teenage daughter can you?
So what should the founder do?
Tell your direct reports in one on one meetings that you need their help to improve yourself and that you value authentic feedback. Repeat and reinforce this message such that it becomes embedded in the company culture and your direct reports also learn to take feedback from their teams. And train yourself not to react negatively to unpalatable feedback.
Most founders are uncomfortable taking feedback which they view as criticism – they either deny, counterattack, pass the buck or laugh it off. Sometimes they feel offended and voice their displeasure.
But authentic feedback is a gift you have to learn to accept gracefully and gratefully. Not everyone has the humility, foresight and courage to do this. The few that do make it to the big league.
Family Business Advisor