succession rolesSeveral of you are thinking about succession for roles that will be vacant in a few years because of retirement — whatever that looks like these days. Just like so many other things boomers are redefining that, too. That’s another topic for another day.

The fact on the ground today is that there are targeted senior positions within organizations that are being impacted by the impending wave of retirement. And, those retirements are happening in organizations undergoing significant change. I saw it a couple of years ago in a client company where I was doing an organization design and workforce/succession planning engagement. One of the top 5 people in the company was planning on retirement in the next few years. He had grown with the company from it’s very early days some 25+ years ago and was an executive leader for most of that time. Identifying his successor wasn’t just about who could fill the job. There were two other key factors. The first impacted identifying the successor. The business was undergoing a significant shift in business strategy and the executive’s role and organization were going to be significantly different in the future. The second had to do with development. How do you transfer key knowledge without stifling the need for next generation thinking? How could the successor break through quickly on the executive team and as leader of the new organization? Here are 3 key steps anyone in this situation should take.

  • Define the future.  Don’t just fill the present. Too often succession planning uses a snapshot of the role today to identify its incumbent of tomorrow. Just as the business strategy drives budgeting and company financials, it should also drive the identification of successors.
  • Make change leadership a key assessment point for successors.  If a successor will be taking on the new role during significant change, make it a priority to assess his/her change and influence capabilities and if they’re lacking, build them. Sounds obvious.  Often overlooked.
  • Establish relationships as part of the development plan. The executive team will all be familiar with the successor but that won’t necessarily prevent real obstacles when he or she joins them and comes to the table with a different way of thinking.  Building those relationships prior to succession will help him or her develop strong partners among the executive team and allow the successor to begin to position him/herself as an equal
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