Learn How to Avoid Doing Succession Wrong

I have met with CEOs and corporate executives many times during my coaching career. Many I have met with recently have shared how they are planning to retire in the next couple of years, and their executive team plans to follow shortly afterward. I always make it a point to ask about the amount of knowledge, skill and experience that will be walking out of the door when the executive team leaves. What surprises me is the managers frequently agrees with me, and they don’t have a plan to prepare.

I would be inclined to believe that if a C-level executive knows there will be a gap when they leave, shouldn’t the executive begin preparation to close it. Shouldn’t the executive do more than just make a selection of who will be succeeding him/her and the members of the team? A strategic leader would bridge the gap by putting the successors in leadership development training. I am often told the successors are mentored by the individuals they are replacing, but that will not be enough.

The successors will be dealing with a workforce comprised of millennials who have a very different approach to work. Chances are the organization will be changing the way it does things due to innovation, so only a portion of what the mentor offers will be useful. The other dynamic to consider is that employees only stay around for two or three years so chances are the successor will have to develop skills to engage a new employee they do not know.

I agree that the mentoring time with the current executive in the position is needed to close the technical gaps of the position. However, there are still the people skills that are required to ensure successors have the talent to inspire their team to move in the strategic direction developed for the organization. Being fit to execute is crucial when a strategic plan has been developed to keep the company relevant over the next year or so.

An assessment can be used to ensure there is a managerial fit based on the skills needed for the position. The assessment may give insight that the successor may be a better fit in another part of the organization. The assessment will reveal where development is needed for the position. An assessment will also tell you things about the successor you will not be able to detect through daily interaction. One area you will not be able to detect managerial fit is their top three priorities when it comes to working in an organization.

Leadership development is needed to ensure the successor is equipped to execute their portion of the strategic plan. Being fit to execute means that the successor has the skills to be flexible in their leadership. Most leaders fall short in communication. Understanding that one size does not fit all when it comes to communicating with each member of the team can prove to be valuable. There are seven ways to communicate when leading the team. There is a particular situation that dictates when to use each method when addressing a member of the team.

Employee engagement is crucial. The successor should be looking for opportunities to know the new team members and their career aspirations. The new leader must be clear with communicating expectations and what success in the role looks like for supporting the strategic direction. The most important question a leader can ask when attempting to increase employee engagement is, “What help do you need from me?” This question is a game changer.

When succession planning is done right, selections are made based on a personality and skills match which can only be conveyed by an assessment. The successors are going to need to grow their leadership in areas where the assessment indicates where the executive is lacking, so leadership development training will be necessary. If you have a strategic plan in place, the leadership training will also help if new members come on the team. The leadership training will teach the successors how to build relationships as quickly as possible, so there aren’t any gaps when it is time for the old guard to retire.

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