There are basically three ways organizations go about succession planning:
No. 1: Mayday! Mayday!
The first, the emergency approach, is the response to an unforeseen departure where no planning has been done and the human resource department is asked to find a replacement as soon as possible. While this approach may surface an ideal candidate, the chance of that happening is very unpredictable, to say the least.
No. 2: Hire a search firm
We’re pretty familiar with this option, since The Reid Group offers leadership search services to parishes, dioceses, colleges & universities and health care organizations. But you have to find the right firm that understands your organization’s needs and can tap the appropriate talent pool. Even after competent people are hired, the learning curve may be steep as the new hire needs to “learn” the culture of the organization in order to do the job.
No. 3: Develop your leaders from within
For this strategy to be successful it must be part of the broader leadership culture of the organization. In this approach, high performing employees are recruited and given opportunities to develop their skills, knowledge and abilities to be organizational leaders.
If you want to be successful with option no. 3, you need five elements:
- Define what you’re looking for in the new leader. Financial skills? Leadership experience? Interpersonal skills? Identify clear criteria related to the competencies required to be a successful leader.
- Help your potential leaders develop the skills you’re looking for. Provide excellent and person-centered development experiences related to the competency criteria.
- Check up on their progress. Integrate initial and on-going assessment and consider assigning a mentor. Mentoring is key to successful leadership development. Mentoring is most effective when it is part of the process before the person is hired for the leadership position, and then continues for at least three years after the person begins in the position.
- Know the culture of your organization and be aware of the more elusive abilities and qualities needed to be effective leaders. Are you a “warm and fuzzy” type organization or more “button-down?” Process-oriented or more hierarchical? Do you need an entrepreneur or a team-builder? Though the abilities and qualities related to these questions aren’t easily measured, they can be as important as those that can.
- Be able to change as the landscape changes. What you’re looking for in a leader today may not be the same a year from now. One of the hallmarks of leadership is the way it has evolved over the last thirty years as the organizational landscape has changed and new challenges have arisen. Today’s leaders need to be adept at helping organizations change to deal with today’s critical issues in a way which strengthens the organization.
This kind of comprehensive and inclusive leadership development is needed today if organizations are going to sustain themselves into the future. How does your organization stack up?
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