Dealing with loss is something that everyone has to face at some point in their personal lives. As is the case with losing a loved one, businesses must also deal with loss and figure out how to move on afterwards. For a company such as Interface Inc., these are questions that they have dealt with for the past month following the passing of their founder and chairman Ray Anderson. Anderson created Interface in 1973 and through his leadership and vision; it soon became one of the largest manufacturers of modular carpet in the world and a leader in sustainability. Throughout his life and career, Ray was able to continue to grow Interface by following the values and principles that he laid out from the beginning. To many employees of Interface, they have not only had to deal with the loss of a leader, but also a friend.
The reality of the situation is that all successful and withstanding companies will be faced with a situation such as what Interface is dealing with now at some point. When this happens, how do you continue the legacy that they have set? How can a company sustain the level of guidance and leadership that they have grown accustomed to for decades when the person leading this charge is no longer able to? There is no perfect answer to these questions but the following tips can help any company cope and sustain.
For starters, you must recognize and remember the impact that your leader had on the company and its employees. Since Ray’s passing, Interface has created a blog forum on their website allowing employees to share their thoughts and memories of him. Not only does this allow the company to properly recognize Ray for everything he did but it also provides a level of therapy for those he was close to. Sharing stories about how Ray impacted their individual lives – both personally and professionally – is a great way for employees to come together and look at an otherwise dark situation in a positive light.
Provide clear and consistent communication. Employees will likely have a lot of questions with the majority of them likely being focused around what’s next and how the change will impact them personally. While paying upmost respect to the deceased and their family, try to be as open and honest with them as possible. Addressing any questions and concerns head-on reduces rumor mill talk and reinforces that the goals and objectives remain the same.
Recognize that the values and principles are inherent and can always be passed on. Any successful company has a set of values and principles that will guide them through everything they do. Typically these values and principles were created when the company was first founded and even if they are decades or even centuries old, can withstand the test of time if properly communicated and executed. Following the loss of a leader, they are as important as ever to carry on the vision that has guided the company throughout.
Continue to carry the torch through new leadership. Create a succession plan identifying key personnel from within that will be able to sustain the level of success that the company is used to. Talented people typically attract other talented people so for a successful company such as Interface, there is likely no shortage of able and willing employees to lead the company moving forward. Having a plan in place allows for successors to step in immediately without having to take a large step back.
Filling the shoes of an iconic leader is never an easy task but identifying the right personnel for the job is the first step to carrying on their legacy.
In the end, this is a situation that no company looks forward to but may face at some point. It will never be easy but if handled appropriately, each company can maintain and even build upon the success that their leader helped establish.