Why Leaders Are So Fearful of Succession Planning (Part 2)

Small Business

by Susan D. Lesser, Partner, nPlusOne Consulting (Reprinted with permission.)

Succession planning does not need to be the 100-pound gorilla sitting in the middle of the room. Each of the perceived obstacles described in Part 1 can be confronted and overcome.

  1. Loss of identity. Each of us is motivated, in differing amounts, by power, money or love. Honestly examine your key driving forces and determine the value of each to you. Think information will be important during #2 below. Additionally, identify the numerous roles that you hold in your life in addition to your position in the organization, father/mother, spouse/partner, son/daughter, athlete, Board member, volunteer, philanthropist etc. Notice that you are much more than your job. Several years ago, we worked with Bill who feared that his vision and the culture he worked to instill would vanish upon his departure. To assuage his concerns, we created a dynamic video of the company’s history and his role in it. This video is now shown to all new hires as part of their orientation process. And Bill is content that his legacy lives on.
  2. Uncertain future. Once having identified your roles in life and your personal hierarchy of power, money and love, take time to scrutinize your wider set of values. What is important to you? Adventure? Family? Health? Religion? Spontaneity? Community? It is essential that your next life-phase be aligned with your personal values in order to avoid falling into what famed psychologist Erik Erikson labeled “despair.” Despair arises when a review of your accomplishments and a self-assessment of the life you have led results in the decision that your life has not been productive or successful.
  3. No one but me. The pace of communication, the attributes of subsequent generations and industry advances have ensured that the company that existed years ago when the leader took charge is no longer. What got you here won’t get you there. A genuine appreciation of your business’ current and future challenges augmented by a brainstorm of what attributes are required in its key leaders to surmount these challenges will begin to prove that other people are capable of continuing to steer the enterprise.

When leaders are asked what plan was executed for them when they first attained their current position, many of them are uncertain. However, to satisfy your drive for continuity as a leader and to protect the enterprise from a cultural collapse, it is best that peoples’ inevitable departures be clearly and purposefully planned.

We have offered an overview to illustrate that Succession Planning does not need to be a painful process or, worse, discounted as unnecessary. There are a variety of techniques and tools to employ when dealing with decisions that may be commandeered by emotions. These techniques need to be customized for the individual organization along with the personality of the leader. When properly guided the Succession Planning is pain-free, manageable and welcomed.

nPlusOne Consulting partners with a wide variety of clients, across a range of industries, to strengthen their business from the core. The firm improves financial results by increasing employees’ performance through a proprietary process of diagnosing, training and benchmarking. They also guide lasting culture change and improve bottom-line results by instilling the efficiencies of a team culture, while enhancing communications throughout the organization as a whole. More information


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