Succession Planning – Who’s Your #2?

January 24, 2019

Succession Planning – Who’s Your #2?

Succession Planning is a hot topic right now in the New Orleans education realm – and from networking conversations, seems to be a topic of concern for organizations in multiple industries and cities.  It’s one of those things that almost always gets pushed aside for more urgent priorities – but when a leader leaves, expectedly or even worse, unexpectedly, it becomes a fire drill of what is the plan to replace her or him?  

When it comes to preparing for the inevitable – as all leaders are humans and at some point in their career, will leave their roles – succession planning boils down to 2 P’s:  People and Process.

I recently led a succession planning working session and the organization really wanted to focus on the process aspect of succession planning and we answered the following questions:

  • What needs to happen and at what time for a smooth succession?  
  • What resources can we use to conduct an external search?
  • How do we select an interim replacement and what are the parameters for their approval, tenure, etc.?
  • What is the interview process? Who is involved?
  • What is the selection process?
  • What is the approval process and what if there is a disagreement amongst the deciding body? (For many non-profits, your board will need to be involved to approve executive positions)

We worked through these questions and codified the processes needed for a smooth succession.  As we wrapped up our work, I remarked how much easier the path would be if leaders had a clearly identified replacement – a #2 that could be groomed, trained and nurtured from day 1 to become the ultimate replacement.  By investing in internal candidates that are already committed and vetted for organizational fit, succession planning could be as simple as gaining approval from your board to promote your #2 at the necessary time.  

Use the key steps below as a guide develop the right people to be a clearly identified, ready and willing #2s:

  • Identify key roles for succession or replacement planning
  • Define the competencies and motivational profile required to undertake those roles
  • Assess people against these criteria 
  • Identify pools of talent that could potentially fill and perform highly in key roles
  • Develop employees to be ready for advancement into key roles – thinking about the right set of experiences that they need in order to become ready
  • Implement a yearlong process that incorporates these key steps, so that succession planning is woven into daily tasks and actions – and not ignored until the timing is too late

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