Strong succession planning is critical to leadership success
As a rising number of companies get swept up in what a December 2014 article in the Harvard Business Review termed the “tsunami of baby boomer retirements,” executives need to think seriously about succession planning. After all, if most of the people who make up the board and C-suite have been there for years, chances are good that change will be on the horizon – and that this potential for upheaval is likely to come sooner rather than later.
That being said, baby boomers approaching retirement age do not have a monopoly on C-suite shakeups or boardroom restructuring. In fact, these can occur any time and for any number of reasons, ranging from lackluster leadership performance to personal and professional indiscretions. Just recently, there was the case of McDonald”s President and CEO Don Thompson, who announced that he is stepping down in the wake of five consecutive quarters of decline, as well as the corruption scandal that prompted the resignation of several senior managers at Brazilian energy corporation Petrobras – including the CEO.
“What would happen if one or more of your board members or C-suite executives resigned today?”
Planning for tomorrow, today
What would happen if one or more of your board members or C-suite executives resigned today, your CEO announced his or her intention to step down within the next couple of months or your COO got poached by a competitor and defected immediately? Long before such hypothetical wrenches in the works become reality, firms need to have plans in place to not only deftly handle these adverse situations but to forge forward without missing a beat.
Building a robust executive leadership succession plan requires the following:
- The identification of potential leaders within the ranks who can step up and deliver, bringing strong skill sets, a wealth of experience, and deep business savvy.
- The establishment of a leadership development framework, including the identification of high-potentials and the development of innovation, creativity, strategy, and business transformation skills.
- The cultivation of a pool of external candidates, building relationships with the best talent out there from which to choose when an opportunity for advancement presents itself.
- Opportunistic hiring of top talent, which is increasingly scarce and in high demand. Move away from a traditional recruiting model, where you hire only when a position becomes open, and hire whenever top talent is available to your company. Further, shift your attention from just skills and experience toward key leadership characteristics such as motivation, intellectual curiosity, agility, insight, engagement, and determination.
The importance of personalized leadership recruiting
Now that top talent and high-impact leadership is in high demand once again, and the best candidates have multiple options, best-in-class organizations will look to dramatically increase hiring speed, deliver a great candidate experience, recalibrate compensation expectations with aggressive packages, and reignite their recruiting focus on “selling candidates.”
There is no denying that leadership change can be unsettling for companies, but periods of flux do not have to result in operational disruption. Provided they have robust talent management, including deep candidate pipelines and proactive recruiting practices, strong leadership assessment and development programs, and realistic succession plans in place, firms will be well-positioned to weather any storms that come their way.
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