How To Build A Solid Succession Plan
Do you know what keeps top leaders up at night? Talent! How to find them, where to find them, how to keep them, how to develop them, and how to build a solid succession plan. (We’re in the Worst Talent Shortage Since 2007 article)
“Succession planning has always been a challenge for every business and organization, but in today’s market conditions, it seems to have hit a crisis stage.”
Succession planning has always been a challenge for every business and organization, but in today’s market conditions, it seems to have hit a crisis stage. Every boardroom you walk into, every leader you engage with, leaders are talking about the sense of urgency they feel about succession planning and leadership development
Why has it reached this crisis stage? The last ten years seemed to have created the perfect storm, the ideal case for why everyone is in desperate need of a succession plan. Think about it, ten years ago (2008) we were just feeling the beginning stages of the downturn in our economy. As 2009 and 2010 hit we were in full-blown recession, and panic had spread around the business community.
Those Baby Boomer CEOs and leaders that were beginning to think about retirement and creating their succession planning goals, had now turned their attention to just holding on and keeping their businesses going. This was not the time to think about the next generation or training them to take over. Let alone, in a time when every decision matters and every dollar was needed, this was no time to turn the reins over to the inexperienced.
Add to that this next generation, these future leaders, who were now watching their companies go through some serious struggles. They watched as costs got cut, budgets got tighter and peers and co-workers got laid off. It was not the time to ask for a promotion or extra training, It was about putting your head down and just doing what you were told.
Fast forward ten years, and the economy is doing better or we are used to the volatility. Now these leaders are ready to retire. These CEOs who were 55 or 60 when the crisis hit, are now pushing 70 and they are ready to hand over the leadership. The problem is there is little to no one ready to carry on the torch. Today many organizations struggle to take their succession planning programs beyond a static list of names.
“Today many organizations struggle to take their succession planning programs beyond a static list of names.”
Ten years of micro-management, combined with a workforce just trying not to get fired has created a void in next level leadership. To ensure successful transition during succession planning process, future leaders need time to move into the role. Taking on leadership in smaller doses, and having the room to learn on the job and fail a little as they go. Leadership is too important to go from 0 to 60, from leading a department to leading a company, or to go from having someone else make the decisions to being the one in charge. (succession planning roadmap article)
This perfect storm has created the perfect crisis. Leaders who are ready to retire combined with future leaders who are not quite ready to take over. So how do you implement a company succession plan in an environment that is anything but ideal? (How to do it right article)
4 Strategies To Build A Solid Succession Plan
- Get Realistic – you need to get real on what it is going to take to implement your succession plan. First, what skills, talents and most importantly values do your next level leaders need to have? Second, whom do you have among your ranks that have potential to achieve those? Third, what is it going to take to get them there? What training do they need, what coaching, what support, and what are the steps to get them prepared, educated and in shape to lead? (8 steps for effective succession planning article)
- Create The Culture – once you understand where you are going and you have created your succession planning roadmap; and you have identified your high potential future workers to develop, the next agenda is to create the culture to support it. If you want to achieve your succession planning goals, then, you, the CEO, need to make it your job and your number one priority. As the leader, you create the culture, and your actions determine the level of value people place on it. As the leader you need to develop the vision, the communication strategy and the systems and processes you want to support succession planning. Then most importantly commit to the actions it takes to value it and reward it.
- Get Out Of The Way – if you want others to lead your organization, then you need to get out of the way and let them lead. In other words, you have to learn to lead through the power of the questions. While leaders want to lead, making decisions can be scary business. What if you make the wrong one, or what if someone else has a better idea? These are all things future leaders struggle with, and rather than solve those problems for them, you need to get out of the way. One of the most important parts of succession planning is helping leaders develop critical thinking and decision-making skills they need to eventually lead your company. The more you let them figure things out on their own, the sooner you will be able to retire.
- Ensure Ownership At Every Level – with your next level leaders well on their way, then it is time to ensure your business or organization is never without a succession plan. To do that, you need to instill ownership at every executive level. You need to ensure the steps created above are happening throughout the ranks of your company so that every leader from frontline to executive level has their succession planning process in place. (7 tenets of a good ceo succession process article)