Every week I read another article in Forbes, Harvard Business Review or Inc. about the importance of succession planning. Most discuss how vital succession planning is for organizations. Although I couldn’t agree more, we often see clients struggle in one particular area, following through with development. It is fairly easy to outline the ideal structure of an organization—who the top leaders should be, what their profile and competencies will look like, and then identifying potential successors.
The hard part, however, is the development plan for those high-potential leaders. Development can be broken down into three areas and following through on each of these is where we usually see organizations fall short.
1. Technical Skills
If a particular person is being considered for an executive level position, it is important to know they possess the necessary technical skills. Does the potential CFO really have the strategic, financial and decision-making knowledge needed for that role? What about the successor of the CEO—do they fully understand all of the operations and business models in the organization? These are all very important questions to consider.
2. Soft Skills
If your organization is looking to put someone in an externally-facing role, such as the CEO mentioned above, and they’ve always been in an internally-facing role, do they have the soft skills they need to influence, inspire and motivate people? Can they work well and form relationships with the board? When a person is in an executive position, they need to not only have the technical skills, but be likeable and a good cultural fit.
3. Key Relationships
Relationship building is a necessary part of the business, and the successor must be positioned well with not only the rest of the executive team and the board or directors, but also with current peers, clients and key community leaders.
Often times we’ll see organizations focus primarily on only technical skills and neglect soft skills, or only look at the politics of key relationships. Not following through on each of these when formulating the development plan will make the learning curve a lot steeper for the successor and there will be a much higher likelihood of failure.
If you have any thoughts or questions on succession planning and following through, feel free to comment below.
Aaron Fulkerson is the EVP and CAO of STF and an expert in management consulting practices. He has executed succession plans for a variety of clients nationally, including corporations, universities, nonprofits and faith-based organizations.