Unless you have been in a cave for the last few days, you would have noticed the worldwide media going a bit ballistic over the “predicted” successor to the CEO of Microsoft. What is ironic is that it is a serious change in the leadership of an organization, and yet it feels like it feels like we have seen so many acrobats in the ring, and we wait (with bated breath) for one to land safely!
With over 20 years of working in Talent and Organisation Development, being a partner to the business leaders for senior level succession planning, I can’t but help reflect on this process and why we need the world to watch this like an act.
Lets go back to some basics
· Everyone has an Expiry Date: We all have an expiry date – in a role, in an organization and of course in this world. As leaders we need to have a decent estimate of when that (role) expiry is. This date needs to be in alignment with business goals, requirements for the job and also in order to grow talent in the organisation. People who do not believe in a role expiry date are considered “blockers”. They block growth for others. Not having an expiry date or announcing an expiry date before it was expected causes havoc and trepidation
· The groomer of the CEO successor is the CEO: There is no two ways about this. As a leader one of your key performance indicator is how you groom your successor. Your successor has to have been set up for success. Have you ensured that your successor has imbibed all sets of possible experiences that are needed for the job? Be it Government Relations, Investor Relations or Managing an acquisition. Have you spent enough time coaching your successor to understand the success inhibitors that may become roadblocks?
· Gauge stakeholder perceptions early on – not after the decision is made. Putting the news out early to gauge investor and market perceptions only gets all the people in the world who need their opinions known on the front page. Headlines that say “Mr Nice guy – can he do the job” or “He actually doesn’t have “x” experience only puts self doubt in the system and also in the person who may end up being in the role.
So, in summary, succession planning cannot be a process that is followed annually. It has to be one that involves a deep understanding of nuances that drive people and organisations to build an individual as a leader with high stakes. It is requires deep investment in building capability and I have certainly seen several situations where the investment has paid off very well.
Kalpana Sinha is a Leadership and Organisation Professional. Her blog has reflections from her work experiences of over 20 years.