Passing the Baton – Tips for Succession Planning


Effective leaders are the lynchpin of their organization, but nothing lasts forever, and sooner or later, you are going to have to hand over the reins to someone else. The transition into retirement is often difficult for leaders and their organization. If handled badly, the retirement or stepping back of a leader or senior individual can cause untold stress for everyone, so having an effective succession plan in place is essential.

Here are some useful succession planning tips to help you avoid a car crash transition period.

Developing Future Leaders

It is very important that you don’t leave succession planning until the last minute. Announcing your retirement and then hoping someone comes forward to step into your shoes is not a good idea.

It takes time and effort to find the right candidates to take over from a strong leader. If you work within the education sector, look for suitable internal candidates and enroll them in educational leadership programs. Or, if you are in the business sector, mentor promising younger candidates and put them through leadership training.

Communication and Collaboration

Leadership development takes time. Senior members of staff need to be on board with a succession planning strategy. If the management team doesn’t prioritize succession planning, nothing will happen.

Devise an assessment strategy to monitor, mentor and develop younger talent. A candidate’s performance will need to be continually measured to ensure they are on track.

Be realistic with your succession planning and communicate it to all relevant parties. If someone is on track to succeed a senior team member, let them know, but don’t promise a leadership role to someone who clearly isn’t cut out for the job. It is also unwise to push someone into a senior role before they have enough experience.

Look for Outside Talent

Whilst it is always preferable to promote from within, there will always be times when there is nobody suitable to take over from a senior team member or the next generation in a family company just isn’t interested in taking the baton. In this instance, it will be necessary look outside the organization for a suitable candidate.

Explore all options, and if it becomes apparent that there are no suitable internal candidates, begin a carefully targeted recruitment campaign.

Be Flexible

Be flexible. Things don’t always work out as planned and a rising star may not turn into the future leader you hoped for. Always have more than one candidate tipped for a leadership role, just in case things go wrong or the senior role becomes vacant sooner than expected.

Letting Go

Managing a smooth succession is not always easy and things can and do go wrong. Often, experienced leaders find it hard to let go of a role they made their own. This is understandable, but younger team members won’t learn unless they are given responsibilities and the space to make key decisions under the watchful eye of a more experienced leader.

External consultants can be extremely useful when succession planning, but the real key to success is time. This is not a process you should rush, so put the wheels into motion long before you actually need to step away from the organization.

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