Keep The Boss Relevant
“I work with an aging patriarch of the business who wants to stay involved and stay relevant, but is slowly fading bit by bit. I’m trying to keep him involved, but without having to watch over him and his responsibilities, and argue with him over most of the desired/required upgrades to the business. I’d appreciate any advice.”
I have both first-hand experience of an identical situation in a rapidly-growing LBM business, as well as a belief that within our industry this issue is being faced by hundreds of family-owned businesses. This said, my answer may not be what you want to hear. As many of your staff are also aware of this situation, I believe you will be significantly defined within your company as a manager and a person by your display of sensitivity and business acumen in dealing with this issue.
You mentioned relevance and I can’t agree more. Especially for a business (or a family) that you helped create, it has to be tough letting go and/or seeing your role diminished. Your challenge as a person and leader within your company is for you and a few key members of your staff to identify those roles that will provide both value to the company and relevance for the aging patriarch. An example could include an expanded mentorship position. How about key account relations? In my own personal experience our patriarch was an outstanding businessman who was respected, if not loved, by many of our customers. Like ours, might your patriarch be a huge weapon in differentiating your company from the competition by personally visiting your best customers? Remember, we as managers are only limited by our own creativity and effort—or lack thereof.
Once identified, I recommend sitting down with the boss and sharing the roles available, along with supporting relevance and importance to the company. My hunch is that not only will you both exit the meeting with good feelings going forward, but you and your management team will have earned greater respect and enhanced loyalty from your staff.