The Importance of Gratitude in Business Transitions

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Several weeks ago, a business owner (let’s call her “Pam”) updated me on the status of her business transition plan, specifically on the progress her chosen successor was making toward becoming the one-day owner.

The two conversations were a perfect illustration of the gain and gap concepts that Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy describe in The Gap and The Gain: The High Achievers’ Guide to Happiness, Confidence, and Success.

At its most basic, we operate in The Gain when we measure progress against a point in the past. We operate in The Gap when we measure progress against a future ideal. The point in the past is fixed, but our ideal moves every time we approach it.

Pam was firmly in The Gap when talking about her successor. She was discouraged and used words that typically exaggerate a situation (e.g., never and always). If she continued to lose confidence in both her successor and her transition plan, the odds of that plan succeeding would decline quickly.

Tyler was in a much better place. He recognized both shortcomings and accomplishments and was grateful for the progress his successor was making. He was optimistic about the future, and I’m sure his successor picked up on Tyler’s optimism and confidence.

The Importance of Gratitude in Business Transitions

If you find yourself operating in The Gap in your relationship with your successor—or in any relationship—I recommend several actions that will make everyone involved happier.

  1. When you think “They aren’t doing it right,” or “This isn’t moving fast enough,” add the word “yet.” It’s a small word that makes a huge difference.
  1. Measure against a fixed point in the past rather than a constantly moving future target. When you measure against an ideal, nothing is ever good or fast enough. Worse, no one is ever good enough.
  1. Practice gratitude. Make a mental or written list—every day—of people or conditions you are grateful for. On days when you have trouble finding items for your list, recall that only owners running successful companies have the privilege of transitioning them to new leadership.

Business transitions are never carefree, but they are miserable without an attitude of gratitude. When you operate in The Gain you make your successor and everyone around you happier, and you significantly improve the odds of a successful business transition.

Reach out if you’d like to know more:

Elizabeth Ledoux is a co-author of the award-winning It’s A Journey: The MUST-HAVE Roadmap to Successful Succession Planning,  as well as Accelerate Your Entrepreneurial Flight and Understanding the Growth of the Entrepreneur. She frequently speaks to organizations and business owners about challenges and opportunities in private and family business transitions, business and individual growth, and the business succession journey.


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