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Discharging Your Loyal Soldiers Part II

By Chuck Violand

June 19, 2017

In situations that involve warring countries, it’s hard to imagine how difficult it must be to discharge loyal soldiers once the peace treaty has been signed. Buildings and infrastructures can be rebuilt, just like in a business. But it’s the emotional scars—the anger, mistrust, and fears that can carry on for decades.

In business, we’re not usually confronted with life-or-death struggles for survival, and we’re not usually trying to kill our competitors. But, just as with soldiers returning from war, the emotional scars we accumulate in our struggles to succeed can leave lasting impressions on our businesses…and on our lives.

While there are an unlimited number of areas where we may need to discharge, or at least evaluate the need to discharge, some loyal soldiers, there are two that stand out: family businesses and business succession.

Consider the substantial challenges of discharging loyal soldiers in a family business. Among the most difficult faced by family members working together in a business may be the beliefs they developed about each other as they were growing up.

Parents often struggle to view their children as competent business people who are capable of making sound business decisions. Many may talk about empowering their children to take ownership of business responsibilities, but when it comes to check-writing authority or high-level decision making, it’s a different story. In many cases, parents see their children through the views they developed while raising them: the difficult child, the unmotivated child, or the late-developing child. It’s these perceptions that can influence a parent’s willingness to delegate authority to the next generation.

Children can love and respect their parents, yet consider them outdated when it comes to contemporary business practices, feel they are slow to embrace change, or resistant to relinquish authority within the company.

When businesses involve siblings, their birth order and the relationship they developed growing up plays out when it comes to job descriptions, authority, and decision rights within the organization. These differences, and the unwillingness of the siblings to discharge some loyal soldiers who were developed over their entire lives, can have tragic consequences when it comes to family harmony as well as the business.

The second area involves company founders who struggle with discharging long-held beliefs about business as they near the end of their working careers. Some of their soldiers have been loyal for years, and many contributed to their success. Deciding which ones to discharge and which to keep isn’t always easy. Here, I’m especially talking about the business lessons learned, their work habits, and even their professional identities. This can become an even greater struggle as an owner matures and tries to find meaning in their work and purpose in their lives as they face the complicated issues of transitioning out of the business they founded.

When you consider that Japan is now the United States’ strongest Pacific ally, it seems there has been a lot of discharging that’s taken place on both sides over the past seventy-two years. This should provide hope for us and our own needed discharging