Doug Gray’s Next Gen Peer Groups: Empowering Future Leaders

Doug Gray's Next Gen Peer Groups: Empowering Future Leaders

By: Maria Williams

Family businesses represent a cornerstone of economies worldwide, yet navigating their intricacies often proves more challenging than non-family enterprises. This complexity largely stems from such organizations’ intertwined personal and professional relationships. Recognizing the unique challenges faced by the next generation tasked with carrying forward family legacies, experts Doug Gray, Ph.D., and Kent Rhodes, Ed.D., have pioneered significant resources tailored for these leaders.

In 2020, the duo introduced the Leadership 360 Assessment Process for Family Businesses, a unique framework designed to guide family business leaders through succession planning. This innovative methodology, crafted from over 250 behavioral items, distills into 50 critical components based on globally validated data. At its core, the process focuses on five pivotal systems, with the individual at the center. It challenges each leader to redefine their relationship with the four surrounding systems: family, business, ownership, and learning, offering a comprehensive approach to leadership development.

The introduction of the 360 Process sparked a broader conversation about the need for a supportive and confidential environment for family business leaders. This feedback led to the creation of the Next Gen Peer Groups, a 12-month hybrid program that aims to equip emerging leaders with the tools to minimize conflict and enhance clarity in their professional paths. Participants engage with a cohort of committed peers who share similar challenges, providing a safe and fertile ground for individual and collective growth. A digital platform supports this interaction, offering access to tailored learning plans and Community Circles—a safe space for discussing sensitive issues and sharing valuable resources like succession planning templates.

Doug Gray's Next Gen Peer Groups: Empowering Future Leaders
Photo Courtesy: / The Assess Next GenTM Model

The structure of the Next Gen Peer Groups is intentionally designed to foster deep connections and continuous learning. Each group consists of at least six members and is guided by two expert facilitators. The format includes a mix of in-person and virtual meetings, with ample opportunity for private dialogue and mentorship through the program’s dedicated digital platform. The first groups, launched in January 2024, convene in Nashville, TN, and Denver, CO, reflecting the program’s hands-on approach and commitment to providing a diverse and inclusive learning environment.

A central theme of the 360 Assessment and the Next Gen Peer Groups is managing conflict within family systems. Dr. Gray highlights that many families struggle with passive-aggressive behavior, a byproduct of poor communication skills and a reluctance to confront issues directly. He differentiates between task conflict, which can drive innovation, and relationship conflict, which tends to be destructive. Through these programs, participants learn to identify and navigate these dynamics effectively, turning potential discord into opportunities for innovation.

Dr. Gray’s initiatives have been met with enthusiastic responses from participants. Many have expressed that the peer groups have significantly impacted their professional development and personal growth. For instance, one participant valued the group so much that he withdrew from another executive forum, favoring the tailored support and camaraderie of the Next Gen group. Another participant praised the program for boosting their confidence through practical advice and forming meaningful connections.

Looking ahead, Dr. Gray is committed to expanding these offerings. Plans are underway to introduce fully online groups to accommodate those unable to attend in-person sessions and to develop specialized groups that cater to particular demographics within the family business community, such as women and non-family executives. These initiatives are part of a broader strategy to address the diverse needs of family business leaders across various sectors.

Dr. Gray’s work is a testament to the critical role that tailored, knowledgeable support plays in the continuity and health of family businesses. As these enterprises continue to shape global economies, resources like the Next Gen Peer Groups and the Leadership 360 Assessment Process will ensure that the next generation of leaders is well-equipped to uphold and enhance their family legacies. The forthcoming expansions of these programs promise further to enrich the landscape of family business leadership development.

Responding to the demands of participants in the Next Gen peer groups, Dr. Gray recently released “The Success Playbook for Next Gen Family Business Leaders“. This comprehensive guide is now accessible across various book-selling platforms in multiple formats, designed to cater to the diverse preferences of its readers.

Doug Gray's Next Gen Peer Groups: Empowering Future Leaders
Photo Courtesy: Doug Gray PhD

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Name: Doug Gray, PhD


Published By: Aize Perez


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