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.


Overcoming Overwhelm

Optimizing Succession: 7 Strategies for Seamless Transition

Succession planning is the next big crisis for business owners in the US.

Some family-owned businesses hope that someone in the family is going to take over when the founder/owner steps down, but the numbers are not encouraging.

Only 30% of family businesses survive into the second generation. Only 13% survive into the third generation. A mere 3% survive into the fourth generation.

What do you do if your kids are not interested in taking over the business? Someone asked me that question last week at an event in Phoenix. Statistics notwithstanding, limiting your succession planning to just family members is not the best idea anyway, so thinking NOW about who is going to take over is important now.

Succession planning is crucial for the long-term success of any organization, but simply having a plan in place is not enough. The following seven strategies can help ensure that your organization’s succession planning efforts are successful.

1. Prioritize the Process – To effectively implement a succession plan, it must be a top priority for the Owner/President/CEO and entire C-Suite. They must take on the responsibility of building and executing a focused and effective succession strategy. By prioritizing this process, the organization can ensure that it has the leadership talent it needs to succeed long term.

2. Define the Ideal People for Future Positions – Developing future leaders takes time and effort. You need to find the right people and define what they need to make them a successful leader in the current position, as well as in the future position. The job responsibilities will change and evolve, and you will need people who have the skills needed to adapt successfully. This requires a clear understanding of the skills, competencies, and characteristics that are essential for success in each position, both now and in the future. By defining the ideal people for each role, the organization can better identify potential leaders and develop them accordingly.

3. Communicate More Than You Think You Need To – Communication is critical when it comes to succession planning. Everyone in the organization needs to understand the organization’s focus on succession planning, how they can participate, and who the organization is looking for in the future. Employees need to know how they can advance in the hierarchy and how to be successful. By communicating clearly and frequently, the organization can ensure that everyone is on the same page and working toward the same goals.

4. Involve the Team – Succession planning should not be limited to just the top positions. In a hybrid working environment, employees need transparency. Ask current employees for their perspective as you look for candidates, identify the qualities you need for your future leaders, and create ways for employees to develop their own skills. By involving the team in the process, the organization can create a more engaged and motivated workforce.

5. Use Projects to Develop Human Capital – To develop future leaders, you need to provide them with opportunities to build leadership and functional skills. One way to do this is by creating projects and initiatives that allow employees to engage with other team members and learn from other leaders. By involving more people in these projects, the organization can create a pipeline of future leaders who are ready to step into key roles when needed.

6. Find the Right People – Finding the right people for key positions is crucial to the success of any succession plan. The HR team should be involved in the recruitment process, and the organization should look beyond the usual online job boards to find top talent. By getting creative with recruiting, the organization can identify potential leaders who might otherwise be overlooked.

7. Be Agile – Every succession plan must be flexible. The workplace is constantly changing, and the organization’s succession plan must change with it. Regularly review the plan and adjust ensure that it remains a relevant tool in meeting the organization’s evolving needs.

Successful succession planning requires a strategic and focused effort that involves the entire organization. By prioritizing the process, defining the ideal people for each position, communicating frequently, involving the team, using projects to develop human capital, finding the right people, and remaining agile, organizations can build a strong pipeline of future leaders and ensure long-term success.

1 Comment

  1. Rick Chess

    Mary Kelly (once again) takes the complex and makes it into a useful checklist. When the ball is handed to the next generation, it can be a painful (yet necessary) process to reshuffle and replace leaders to build the right team for a new set of challenges. Over communication of the new mountain top goal, and how behaviors need be changed to fit the opportunities ahead, help (slowly) move everyone into a more appropriate direction. What you do (in projects) is far more important than what you say! Much like dealing with a teenager, your team believes more what they see (and collectively do), than anything they read or hear. Good job Mary!


Submit a Comment

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