Jan 17, 2012 11:53:00 PM – Mike Mack, MBA
Succession is a term that has been used for decades in the description of some of the processes of nature. Have a look at this description.
Succession (in nature) launches a new habitat. Succession may be initiated either by formation of new, unoccupied habitat (e.g., a lava flow or a severe landslide provides a totally clean slate) or by some form of lesser disturbance (e.g. fire, severe wind throw, logging) within an existing community. There is considerable devastation, even elimination, of at least some parts of the habitat that was, in order that a new habitat can form.
When speaking about succession in business the description could be, “ the orderly transfer of leadership to the benefit of the person stepping aside, the person ascending and the company as well”.
If you are considering succession, from whatever vantage point you stand at the moment, which description would you prefer to have people use after it is all done? That first description seems too often the way things seem to go, even though the second description seems to be the preferred choice when people are asked in advance. What is this about?
The Founder is, almost by definition, a powerful personality and by the time succession is an appropriate topic, has endured and overcome great hurdles. The champion has earned the throne. The landscape has changed since the Founder got things started. Succession from the top job, especially if still occupied by a Founder, can be a delicate subject, to say the least. The baby boomers are lining up to retire. There is a succession tsunami forming.
What to do?
Consider asking these questions and others like it.
What are the attributes of the perfect Leader for our company today?
What parts of the intellectual property, whether technical or marketing or…, resides solely with the incumbent leader?
What is the average age of our management staff?
What are the current directions one can notice about our industry sector and how do we rate in keeping up?
What confidence do we have in our risk management plans?
What are we losing by the way we do business right now?
What are we winning by the way we do business right now?
Where are we vulnerable?
Who, in your organization, needs to be considering these questions? Stop. Isn’t this the nexus of the entire discussion? Who indeed? And how? Yes, how does one introduce such a topic without sounding ungrateful or judgmental? Ask questions, gently, and yet relentlessly, to highlight what is true. People respond well to truth, not so well to lunchroom gossip. Trust, yes that’s it, show and be trust. From there, ask questions. Sometimes it can be helpful to have others, people not invested, to ask questions. Food for thought.
Written by: Joseph Seiler, MCC Executive Coach, X5 Management