Succession Planning in Just Three Steps

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A recent article on Forbes stated that approximately 17% of organizations will replace their CEO in the year. This is a staggering number when you consider how many organizations exist here in the United States. Good news is, there are some steps that any organization can take to ensure that whoever fills their next leadership position will stick. The key is in the planning.

Succession planning is a very broad term. What we’re talking about here are the steps which an organization can take to foster existing employees to fill leadership positions later in their careers. 

These steps are not exhaustive, but they are ones that I’ve found consistently utilized amongst the most successful organizations that I’ve worked with.

Step 1: Look into the Future

I’ve seen plenty of organizations bring in new hires to fill leadership positions, but generally speaking, you’re better off looking at your existing employees.

These are individuals who know the company, and if they are on your radar, that likely means that they work well with the company culture and processes.

The best individuals to look at are the ones who are going to be in a career position for leadership 5+ years from now. These are the people who you, the current leadership, should be molding and fostering for success.

Your net should also be broad here. Identify many different individuals who have this same kind of potential across divisions or departments. If you don’t have very many individuals within your organization, I would suggest challenging those few individuals who you’ve identified by shifting their responsibilities around to give them a taste of other departments and the gears of your organization.

This allows those individuals to get a very broad sense of the organization’s inner workings, and those experiences will make for great leaders with many novel solutions to bring to the table.

Step 2: Measure Progress

What gets measured, gets done.

And the organizations that get the most done, know what factors they need to measure and track to keep things running smoothly and efficiently. 

Part of creating any kind of succession plan is to figure out which metrics matter most in your leadership positions. Existing leadership should then push their teams towards meeting these metrics.

The purpose for this is two-fold: Not only are you pushing your individual teams towards success for your company, but you’re also fostering and identifying potential leaders from those groups.

The important thing to remind your existing department heads and leaders to not feel threatened by identifying these up-and-comers. Create incentives towards building meaningful relationships, and establish a clear line of succession.

By having your existing leaders train future leaders within the company, you can ensure the same level of quality or higher from the next generation.

These two steps combined bring us to our third and final.

Step 3: Strengthen Relationships Across the Organization

This is another big umbrella term, but what I mean is to have all those individuals who you’ve identified as potential leaders to have good relationships across the organization. 

The best way I’ve seen this implemented is by involving those individuals in conversations with departments other than their own. This can be as simple as inter-departmental meetings. The key is to give them exposure to those other departments, and giving them the opportunity to be known throughout the organization.

This is useful for a few reasons. The first is that it fosters a leadership mentality in those individuals. They become generally familiar with all of the working parts of your organization.

Secondly, it allows them the opportunity to network and build relationships– a key factor in their future as a leader. This can help lessen the shock when they step into a new leadership position.

Lastly, it shows them that the existing leadership is invested in their growth and development. Oftentimes they will become more involved in the company’s vision, and return your investment with innovations and fresh ideas for the future.

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