How do you decide who to groom for your role? How do you find out if they are even interested?The truth is that you can be replaced. Yikes!
It happens all the time. Employees quit, they get sick, they have new priorities. But it’s easier to replace you if you invest in preparing a right fit candidate.
Who is right fit? It’s probably someone with a mix of skills and competencies that are important for the next phase of growth in your business. It’s also someone who can lead, manage and work well with others. Most CEO’s have a mix of responsibilities, including these three focus areas: Defining strategy and vision, developing your people, and representing the external face of the company – including key sales, strategic alliances, mergers, lobbying, etc…
While these responsibilities are key for most CEO’s, it’s your job to build a profile of what you need to lead your business into the next lifecycle and then seek out candidates who can be groomed to fill that role.
If you have more than one solid contender for the top position, develop them both for strong leadership roles. Eventually you will need to assess which will be the best fit for the strategic, cultural, and systemic priorities facing your company in the time frame you expect to exit. Ideally, there is room on the team for all of your strong performers, where they will make a meaningful contribution, be compensated well and be satisfied to play that role.
You must be sensitive to the needs of the runner(s) up. Open communications are critical. Not closing the loop and letting them know that you have moved on with your search or found a better fit can be devastating. Not only does it leave the individual frustrated, disappointed or disenfranchised, but it can have ripple effects throughout the organization.
Succession planning is hard work and it’s emotional. As owner, you must have the courage to have the tough conversations. Communicating decisions, sharing progress, setting expectations, holding your managers accountable – doing those things well can go a long way toward preparing your people for succession -- and set an example for your successors to follow.
Now that’s leadership development.