“The secret to getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” – Mark Twain
I’m sure it would not come as a surprise to anyone reading this that succession planning is a critical issue facing a huge number of the businesses we work with. That’s true virtually everywhere. In the U.S. alone somewhere over 50% of privately owned companies will change ownership in the next 10 years.
And yet, there is a huge number of those companies that have not done anything to plan for that change. When you talk to leaders of those businesses they all acknowledge there’s a problem. They all acknowledge they should do something about it. But time continues to roll on by and they do nothing.
There are a lot of reasons why people don’t address key issues they’re facing, but I think one consistent factor is that they don’t know where to start. That’s true whether you’re talking about succession planning or anything else. People are faced with complex issues that have a lot of moving parts and they feel overwhelmed and uncertain about what to do – so they don’t do anything.
Unfortunately (and obviously), that doesn’t work. Not only do those issues not go away, but there are more and more complex issues every day. We live in an increasingly complex & unpredictable world, and if we can’t handle those kinds of things, we’ll soon drown.
So start small. Break down your complex issue into all its parts. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking time alone or with a few key people and brainstorming everything. Write it down and look at it. Chances are, your urge to feel overwhelmed will start kicking in again – “I can’t do all of this!” And you’re right, you can’t do all of this – right now.
What you can do is think about those pieces and ask: Which of these have the biggest impact on dealing with this issue? What would be the very first step? Then do that one thing. Then do the next thing. And the next. Maybe you start with things you think are easy, just to build some confidence. Whatever the case, start with something. One thing at a time. And go from there.
We all tend to feel inadequate when faced with certain issues. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Failure only happens when you stop trying (or don’t start trying) to address the issues anyway. And the best way to address them is one piece at a time. Start now.