No two words seem to generate more fear in business circles than “succession plan.”
Why? Succession planning is like the proverbial elephant in the room—everyone wants to pretend isn’t really there, even as it looms over all of them.
Yet your succession plan cannot and should not be ignored. No one holds the same position forever—your company’s future health hinges on who will pass through the leadership passages to assume key leadership positions.
And though a succession plan is obviously about more than simply drawing a name out of a hat and naming a new CEO, some companies act as if it were that simple.
Anatomy of a succession plan
Any plan must encompass a broader vision of where your organization is right now—and where you want it to go in the future. A good succession plan will address scenarios that are likely to arise, and build in plans to keep the organization moving forward under any circumstances.
Your company should put together a plan that touches on emergency transitions, advance planning and onboarding new leadership. Doing these things will help the organization deal with everything from mitigating the consequences of an unexpected departure to supporting a new leader through their passage to a new role.
When building your succession plan, identify holes or gaps that exist in your organization’s talent pool and assess the strength of your leadership pool. Determine who needs to be developed and what roles will need to be filled now and later. Doing so will give you time to react to what lies ahead, letting you grow more leaders who can overcome potential challenges or adapt to industry changes.
Succession planning is a team sport
Creating a succession plan requires taking an active and assertive approach with your leadership team. Discussing the future openly and honestly—thinking about what you’ll need in one year, five years, ten years and so on—can help you identify and raise up leaders who match the vision and values of your organization long before the need arises.
As you’re surely aware, it can take quite some time to nurture and develop talented employees into leaders, but working as a team to develop a plan for doing so can make all the difference.
Building a leadership development system through succession planning
A company achieves true staying power when it can survive in the absence of the visionary leader that helped construct it.
But preparing new leaders to fill those gaps is much easier if you address the elephant in the room and take on your succession plan in a mature, pragmatic fashion.
Once you determine what you need to do to thrive and not just survive, you’ll be better able to build leadership within the ranks and smooth times of transition going forward.