Linking education for business leaders and families


What can business leaders learn from family education programs? What can families learn from business best practices? A partnership between two Truist thought-leadership centers explores the connections.

Your work family. The business of family. For many business owners, these are two sides of the same coin. On one side, they form close bonds with employees; some of them might be family members. On the other side, they’re adopting best practices in the family’s operations so that they can live their purpose and help the next generations maintain and grow the family’s wealth.

This common ground between business and family is at the center of a partnership between Truist Leadership Institute (TLI) and Truist Wealth’s Center for Family Legacy (CFL). The two advisory groups began exploring how they could work together shortly after the merger to create Truist.

“I was fortunate enough to go through the Mastering Leadership Dynamics program, which is Truist Leadership Institute’s flagship program,” says David Herritt, head of the Center for Family Legacy. “That was probably the most impactful program I’ve ever attended in my life.

“And in going through that program, I saw so many of the things that we’re working with our clients on. I felt like there was a real opportunity to leverage their expertise in a way that we had not done previously.”

Preparing the next generation of business leaders

One collaboration focuses on providing skills and knowledge to company executives who are taking over the business after a transition. More and more baby boomers are passing their businesses on to the next generation, explains Jeremy Spidell, director of client engagement at TLI.

“Let’s say that I’ve been running the family business for 30 years and now I’m going to pass this down to my daughter to run in three years,” he says. “She probably knows the business really well, but does she know leadership at the scope and scale that she’s about to need to know it? We can help her polish some of those edges and be ready for what’s next.”

These future business leaders don’t have to go through the transition alone. TLI is identifying cohorts of eight to 12 colleagues who will go through the program together with the hope they’ll form lifelong bonds, Spidell says.

“Instead of just going through a leadership program where the binder sits on the shelf afterward,” Spidell says, “it’s going to be an experience where every six months they’re coming to our campus.”

In this 12- to 15-month program, participants will attend three sessions at TLI’s campus in Greensboro, North Carolina, supplemented by live online meetings with their cohort and one-on-one executive coaching. The experience, which is set to begin rolling out this year with the first program scheduled for early 2024, includes:

  • Mastering Leadership Dynamics, which helps leaders with resilience, self-awareness, and communication
  • Online conversations aimed at fostering growth for both individuals and the cohort
  • Sessions to help leaders understand how to guide an organization through change and nurture a high-performance culture
  • Education about executive strategic thinking for making effective decisions and solving complex problems
  • Individual coaching from a leadership expert who will create a customized development strategy

For the experience, the Center for Family Legacy brings its three decades of experience preparing future generations to lead their families. CFL also is consulting on the program’s curriculum.

Future chief executives forming these cohorts want to put their own fingerprint on the business, yet they want to honor the founder’s legacy. “There’s a lot going on there that requires very high levels of leadership to pull off,” Spidell says.

Wealth education at the CFL

Identifying and bringing together these future leaders will be an organic way to introduce cohort members to the Center for Family Legacy and help them continue their journey through the decades. The CFL offers wealth education, which can provide well-rounded, basic knowledge for business executives.

Next-generation leaders in the family business, for example, will need to understand what stocks and bonds are, says Drew Egan, director of family education for the CFL. “We’re really here to find out the knowledge that they currently have and fill in the gaps,” he says. Instead of providing this education solely via video presentations or lesson plans, “it’s really hands on, high touch: It’s like personal finance coaching.”

Some of the education is purely financial, covering personal money management, wealth preservation, and investing. Other topics are broader, discussing personal professional development, social impact/philanthropy, and family wealth.

“Personal professional development is probably the space we play in the most, and there’s a lot we can do there,” Spidell says. “Even in family wealth, when you get into conflict management and family communication, there are topics that fit us really well.”

Adding layers to conflict management

Truist Leadership Institute’s education on conflict management is central to the second program in development. It will extend the impact of a four-hour CFL session that explores how to communicate through conflict and offers tools and methods for making discussions more productive, Spidell says.

“Our version of that may take more like a day and a half and use a little deeper tool for an assessment,” he says. “For some of those families that are interested in taking things a little further, CFL could leverage what the Leadership Institute is doing.”

In this program, TLI is refining the general process it uses to train leadership teams on interpersonal dynamics for a family setting. The aim is to help families gain insights not only about their personalities and preferences but also about how they can communicate and connect better.

Families that want to take it beyond the day-and-a-half session can continue with periodic sessions. “We can help them continue their journey into functional conversation and connection with their relationships,” Spidell says.

Leadership translates

Other future partnerships between the Center for Family Legacy and Truist Leadership Institute will draw on the best thinking of both advisory centers. That’s because many of the same qualities in leading businesses can translate to leading families. As Herritt says, “As you think about transitioning wealth across multiple generations within families, you need strong family leadership—whether it’s within your family business or your family enterprise.”

For more information about these programs, talk to your advisor.