Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

Mary’s Weekly Articles and Valuable Tools

Subscribe below and get Dr. Mary Kelly’s
weekly newsletter in your inbox.


 Leadership Succession Made Easy?
4 Strategies To Get Your Succession Planning Strategy Moving

With more than 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching retirement age every day throughout this decade, talent – finding it, retaining it, and developing the next generation of leaders remains one of the biggest challenges facing organizations today.

The war on talent is here, and the leaders who recognize how critical talent depth is to the success of their organizations are going to be those with winning organizations.   More than 62% of employees report that they would be more engaged and more motivated if their company had a clear succession plan. In addition, in the younger population, aged 18 to 34, who are harder to engage, that number jumps to over 90%.

Yet, even with all the statistics, companies still struggle to focus on and execute a clear plan for their leadership succession at all levels. According to  ATD’s research report Succession Planning: Ensuring Continued Excellence  less than 35 percent of organizations have a formalized succession planning process.

Why? Well, let’s look at some of the challenges facing leaders today as they relate to succession planning.

  1. Time. Finding and creating the necessary time is a constant challenge. Leaders are busy running the day-to-day operations of the business, managing change, dealing with competitors, and handling the constant shifts in the marketplace. Making the time to identify, invest in, and develop talent is rarely a top priority. In addition, most leaders feel they have time before they have to deal with finding replacements for themselves of their leaders. Succession is not often thought of as an “on-fire” issue, and is more often than not something that leaders determine can take a back seat to more pressing issues.
  2. Resources. Even in a good economy, it takes commitment. Devoting the resources toward succession planning is not as appealing as buying new equipment or investing in developing new products. Succession planning just isn’t considered urgent or sexy. Committing resources to developing leaders is often the first thing that is cut when the budget gets tight, and the last thing added when there is a budget surplus.
  3. Identifying Talent. How do you choose, how do you know who would be a good leader, and what happens to the morale of those employees who are not chosen for leadership development? These are questions that stop leaders in their tracks, and prevent them from creating a formal succession plan.
  4. Avoiding Reality.  And last but not least, avoiding the reality that current leaders will leave, and that they themselves will someday retire. Succession planning can be an uncomfortable subject for leaders, whether they are talking about retirement, illness, or if the inevitable were to happen. Few people like to discuss who will replace them, or think about how the company will survive after they are gone.

While all of these challenges are both valid and understandable reasons to avoid succession planning, the fact still remains that without a succession plan, leaders are putting their company, their team, and their customers at risk.

Succession planning is one of the most powerful ways you can impact the success of your organization, both today and for the long-term.  Succession planning ensures sustainability, and a clear path forward no matter who stays, who leaves, and who is running the company.

How do you build your succession plan and where do you start?

4 Strategies To Get Your Succession Planning Strategy Moving

  1. Mindset.  Shifting your mindset is where it all begins. Do your homework, read the statistics, and embrace the facts of just how vital your talent pool and a succession plan are to the success of your organization. Succession planning and talent development are some of the highest and best uses of your time and resources as a leader. Once you wrap your head around how critical succession planning is, the rest of the process will flow more smoothly. You, as the leader, have to commit.
  2. Avatar.  Before you can build a succession plan, you have to know who you are looking for, and what skills and talents they must have. Some of the biggest fears around succession planning is choosing the wrong leader, or promoting someone who is not able to succeed in the role. Before you even start thinking about designing the succession program, you need to clearly identify the type of leader you are looking for. You need to create your leadership avatar. This is the perfect model of the type of leader who would successfully lead your organization in the future. Make a list of the ideal skills, talents, and personality traits that would make them excel. This avatar becomes your guide and your litmus test as to who you choose for succession, and more importantly, who you don’t.
  3. Focused Plan.  Succession planning can be overwhelming as you ultimately want a plan for every leader throughout your company. So, start small, get focused, and to begin, just create succession for the most critical areas of your company and the most critical leaders.
  4. Engage the Successor. And last, but not least, get the successor involved in developing the training program, and designing how succession planning should be developed. By engaging the successor, you not only save time and resources, but you get a much more motivated employee and dramatically increase your success rate.

These are challenging economic times. We external factors moving and changing in the marketplace today. It is tough to decide where to focus. In addition, there is little you as a leader can control, but if you recognize the impact of talent and leadership development on the success of your organization, you will be that much further ahead of your competitors. Put these strategies into place, and watch as leadership succession planning is made easy.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *