Succession Planning: 5 Things the CEO Wants you to Know

Al Schnur
by Al Schnur

Al has personally conducted more than 5,000 high-level evaluations during his career, and is particularly proud that more than 250,000 candidates have participated in assessment programs he designed. At present, Al focuses on C-level succession planning and assessment in support of CEOs, Boards and other high-level stakeholders.

How would you feel about riding as a passenger on a plane with a pilot who had never flown before? What would go through your mind if a doctor who had never performed an operation masked up to do a surgery on you?

Experience matters in all areas of life, yet many organizations approach succession planning as if all they need to do to successfully replace a leader is parachute in a new one. (This, despite the fact that he or she had never set foot in the building or experienced even a day of their organizational culture.)

A good CEO can tell you that preparing the next leader in line takes long-term thinking. Here’s what yours wants you to know about succession planning.

1. Cultivate a talent pipeline to make succession planning easier

If you want to flawlessly execute a succession plan, your CEO might say, start by building leaders from the ground up. Because despite the fact that your organization will perform better if your executives have filled multiple roles, building a talent pipeline is still somewhat of a lost art.

It goes without saying that when leaders have a working knowledge of several areas of your company, they’ll provide more effective leadership. Give your talent a chance to test themselves in a variety of roles.

2. Promote talent mobility

Make a point of giving new employees a chance to grow and prosper within your company. It can be tempting to look outside to strengthen your succession plan, but your CEO will tell you that’s not always the best strategy.

Always focusing on external recruiting over internal recruiting can lead to higher turnover, reduced employee engagement and unnecessary costs when bad hires don’t work out.

3. Cast a wider net

Nothing can derail your succession planning faster than narrow vision.

Evaluate and assess talent across your entire organization (for example, using the 9-Box). Identify skills and areas of strength, and offer your most promising performers a chance to work with mentors who can help them progress into larger roles.

Remember, your CEO and the C-suite are counting on you to get rid of poor performers and replace them with high-potential employees.

4. Mentor your future stars

Succession planning is not about the here and now. It’s about meeting head-on—with high-potential talent—what your company faces down the road. If asked, your CEO would likely want you to identify future stars and mentor them through creating development plans that would help them to meet their potential.

You don’t need a crystal ball to predict what lies ahead for your company—a systemized approach to developing your future stars should adequately prepare you for anything.

5. Adjust your succession plan as needed

Succession plans need to stay flexible. Circumstances change and what works now may not work ten, five or even two years into the future.

In a world where an industry, or even the whole market, can shift on a dime, timing is everything. Companies are often forced to reevaluate their strategic direction (and subsequently their talent needs) on a yearly basis.

Effective succession planning zeroes in on developing future leaders who are 100 percent engaged in building a company and fully committed to making whatever changes are needed.

Any CEO worth their salt—most likely including yours—would agree.


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