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Succession: Best or Worst of Times?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ——

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities



We English majors often look to great works of literature for metaphors and Dickens’ first sentence from A Tale of Two Cities is a perfect fit when thinking about a succession planning. Each change brings with it both opportunity and risk, and few situations bring that as sharply into view as when you fill a position with a new hire. It begs the question – are you ready to leverage the opportunity?

While succession planning has emerged as a key strategy for maintaining an organization’s health and energizing the culture, many organizations fall short when creating a succession plan. They cross their fingers and hope for the best. Some put all their hopes into recruiting efforts or an enticing posting on Linked In or Monster. And when there is an unplanned or emergency opportunity, it can create more havoc and stress than good fortune an opportunity.

With the shifting demographics sees the easing of Baby Boomers offstage into their retirement or encore careers, a significant increase in turnover in senior level leadership positions is on the horizon. Several national studies indicate that the turnover rate in the next five years could be as high as 90%! Moreover, while more than 60% of executives are over 50 in the non-profit arena, those who would be likely candidates for the top slot don’t want it!

Make Actionable Steps
Filling a new position at a senior level can provide your organization with a chance y to assess the current needs of the organization and create a position that more accurately reflects the needs it has now. This could be the time to make a strategic hire that can bring a renewed sense of energy to the leadership team. Replacing someone who is leaving does not have to immobilizing, and while it can seem to be an overwhelming task, it is actually a series of actionable steps:

·         Assess the organization to determine leadership priorities.

·         Determine what you have and what might be missing that you want and need.

·         Create a Transition Team that guides the search process.

·         Determine milestones to track progress and timeframes.

·         Create and post a job description and review applicants. Screen and determine the top candidates.

·         If necessary, name an Interim person to handle the responsibilities and insure that you don’t lose any ground, and support their efforts while making the transition.

·         Create an accelerated on-ramp for the new hire’s engagement.

While many organizations want to minimize, eliminate, or avoid the stress that comes with transition, it is actually a great time to leverage the talent and creativity that exists within your organization. You can do that by:

Create an Interim LeaderSomeone who has no stake in the search for a new position can fill a leadership role and allow everyone to catch their breath between the departure of the old and the arrival of the new. The goal is to maintain progress made and not lose ground.  This can take the pressure off to force a choice that isn’t a good fit.

Assess Your OrganizationDetermine the needs of your organization. Create a list of the things that need to get done so that when you create a job description and interview, you are dealing with how things really are, not how they used to be or how you wish they were. Identify the skills that are required and when interviewing ask for examples of outcomes that requires those skills. You will want to probe areas of suspected weakness and verify stated strengths.  

Spruce Up Focus the division/department/team on taking care of all the things that haven’t gotten done so that when the new person starts, the focus is on moving everyone forward.

Toss the Old– Now is the time to get rid of the out dated software, old job descriptions, and anything else that looks dated and worn. Think of it as moving on and up. It’s as if the new hire is moving into a new home and making it their own – they will want set the tone of their tenure. Do everything you can to make sure the beginning starts of on the best foot possible.  While there may be things that need to be fixed or revamped, it may not be the best use of a new hire to review what is already known to be obsolete.

Communicate and Over – Communicate– Communicate in a variety of ways with every stakeholder (staff, clients, supporters, stakeholders, vendors, consultants, volunteers, board members) regularly so they know that things are moving along and being handled. Don’t wait until everything is over and completed. People like to know that things are being handled well.


I’m Busy!

Don’t’ have time to consider creating a Succession Plan or craft an Emergency Succession Plan? No problem! No plan or a bad plan can result in an interruption of services, a loss of existing and potential programs and initiatives, and a disruption for your staff, coworkers and clients. Stakeholders may be unprepared, unwilling, or unable to manage the challenge (and extra time) that a transition creates. Missteps in hiring a new person can cost you staff, services, profit, and the reputation that your organization has worked so hard to attain. So why worry about it, right?!

An effective Succession Plan allows an organization to seize the day and take advantage of a small but critical moment in its history. An organization that has a professional approach to succession has a better chance of attracting great candidates and the best candidates can create a renewed sense of energy and excitement for the future.  Upping your game and planning for a great new hire is no accident.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 at 6:59 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.