The Critical Factor in Succession That No One Thinks About

One leader's journey and adventure - Part 3

Mike Sipple Sr.

There are many factors that contribute to the ongoing success of your organization, but there is a big one that is often pushed off until it’s too late.  To ensure sustainability, you need to take a hard look at what happens to your organization when you’re no longer there. You need to continually think about succession….not only 10 years from now, but what happens if you are no longer here tomorrow?

You may not plan on leaving anytime soon, but for the sake of the next generation, succession needs to be on your radar.  Actually, it needs to be more than that. Succession needs to be an intentional part of your long-term strategy.

10 years is the right amount of time for a succession plan

When I was originally told a successful succession plan takes 10 years to complete, I was dumbfounded.  Now that I’ve walked through it, I know why 10 years is a wise timeline.  After reading all that is involved, I think you’ll agree too.

The succession process has 3 big steps

  1. Choosing a Successor
  2. Preparing a Successor
  3. The Hand Off

Choosing a Successor

There are many traits to look for in a successor but I feel some traits are more critical than others. Most importantly, the successor needs to be committed to the business.  Are they willing to take on the responsibility of the organization and all the benefits, challenges and hassles that comes with it?  They can’t look at the position as an ego boost.  It’s a huge commitment.

The successor also needs to be teachable, competent and adaptable.  They need to have proven leadership abilities, and part of that is being teachable.  The successor will need to learn a lot as they assume their new leadership role.  They need to be open to learning and adapting.

It’s also important that the successor shares your same values.  Be sure you are handing off your organization to someone who will continue to promote those values.

Training a Successor

Once you’ve identified your successor and he or she has agreed, it’s time to start training and coaching.  You will want to thoroughly develop him or her.  You want to set them up for success, so it’s critical that they are well prepared.

Connect your successor with outside sources that can mentor them.  You want them to be well versed in all aspects of the business: operations, business development, finance, culture, etc. This may require the successor to step outside his or her comfort zone and learn things that do not naturally appeal to them.

successionThe Hand Off

At this point it’s time for the incumbent to release control.  Know in advance that this is challenging. It’s hard to turn over the reins.  Not every decision the new leader makes is the same one you would make.  Some decisions may even have poor results.  Allow the new leader to make mistakes and learn from them…just as you did.

Your successor may want to rush this step.  He or she is eager to assume control and show what he or she has to offer.  There are many layers to the learning process and it’s essential that the total power doesn’t shift until the successor is truly ready.

Support the Successor

When the candidate is vetted and chosen, it’s critical that the message is clearly and positively conveyed to the organization. This is another choice that may not be met with 100% enthusiasm.  Not everyone will agree with your choice.  Your loyalty and support of the successor should never waver.

Your public support will help the hand-off to be smooth.  Any doubt you convey will only cause dissension. Any doubts or concerns should be handled one-on-one with your successor or with the two of you and a trusted advisor in private.

Start Making Succession Plans Today

Each organization and succession plan will look a little different. However, the key to making it successful is allowing plenty of time to plan for it and execute it.

If you start making plans two years before you hope to leave, you may have started too late.  A short timeline creates stress and may cause you to make unwise decisions because you’re in a rush.  A wise leader will take action before it’s too late.  Start today to begin making plans for succession.

A great first step is to call us for more information about our succession consulting services (888-366-3760).  An open dialogue can help outline the next steps in your succession plan.

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