The next CEO is just one aspect of effective succession planning


Although most senior leaders and board members recognize the strategic importance of succession planning, very few are able to execute it successfully. Unfortunately, the cost of poor, or worse, no succession planning in an organization is high. At the same time, the fruits of a well-balanced process are sweet. Succession planning, like any other type of planning, is an ongoing, yet complex process. It is a room with several moving parts and each of these parts must be synchronized for it to be successful. Identifying and locking in the next CEO is only part of the puzzle. The ultimate goal is not just to find someone to take on a certain C-level role, but to create the right environment to identify, develop and retain potential leaders.

While many believe succession planning is for large organizations, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Every organization has an interest in preparing for the future, preparing for the unexpected, regularly reviewing and adapting its succession plans based on changing industry dynamics, as well as the needs of employees and the organization.

It’s not just about who, it’s also about how

A succession plan does not exist in a vacuum. It should be aligned with a company’s vision, goals, and values. The successor must be chosen taking into account the company’s track record. This roadmap becomes the foundation upon which the entire succession planning process rests.

Once board members, business leaders, and HR leaders have all agreed on what they need from their next leader, it’s time to prepare and plan. assess the person identified for the role. Coaching and transversal training have an irreplaceable role to play in the process. Stepping into a leadership position can be a difficult transition for many. This is where coaching becomes invaluable. It helps identify the goals, priorities, and values ​​needed to step into a CEO’s shoes. Coaching is essential in determining the readiness of the future leader. Cross-functional training, on the other hand, allows the individual to test the waters and build on the core skills required to meet the demands of the role. During this period of coaching and training, the current CEO must also play his part by providing information and advice to the future candidate. This helps ensure that the potential candidate is aligned with long-term business goals, company aspirations, as well as nuanced employee demands. Coaching combined with cross-functional training also gives key stakeholders a clearer picture of the prospect’s commitment to personal and professional development – ​​a vital trait for C-level leaders.

Creating a pipeline of leaders means ensuring that a line of senior management succession, not just the CEO, is ready to step in and take responsibility when needed. This means that HR teams and CXOs must work together to build a culture of identifying and developing future leaders. Every organization should have a comprehensive and transparent growth plan for each of these individuals. Prioritizing succession planning in boardrooms means investing in the right people within the organization. Once a line of succession is identified, each individual must also undergo training and coaching that helps them become effective leaders. It’s also helpful to remember that the type of coaching and training that works for one may not work for another. Therefore, senior managers and HR teams should spend time reviewing successors, identifying their key strengths, noting areas for improvement, and then developing a tailored coaching plan. This can only be achieved through open and honest dialogue between everyone involved.

The transition and how to achieve it

The transition process is essential to succession planning. Transitioning to a new role is a challenge. So one can only imagine the complexities of taking over as the next CEO. To ensure the transition process is transparent to the new leader and stakeholders, communication is arguably the most important tool. This is the period when the successor has the opportunity to familiarize himself with his new role and his new responsibilities. Keeping an open communication channel with the outgoing CEO, board members and HR teams is of the highest value at this stage. This allows the new CEO to build independent relationships and build their brand within the organization. Even if one wishes to rush straight into action, it is essential to ensure that the transition period is gradual. It’s up to senior management to give their new CEO enough time to realign themselves with their organization’s people, processes, and practices. Support from other C-suite members can give a successor valuable insight.

A change in leadership can disrupt an organization’s environment in multiple ways. It is important to recognize that change causes many people to feel unwell. A slow and steady transition allows everyone affected by the designated change to become familiar with the vision and the person behind it.

— The author, Mainak Maheshwari, is Director, Talent Advisory, at PeopleAsset. The opinions expressed here are personal.


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