The Importance of Succession Planning And How You Can Start

A collage of executives with the word "foros" on their faces.
Members of Forbes Coaches Council share their insight.ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF FORBES COUNCILS MEMBERS.

Post Written By: Forbes Coaches Council

When entrepreneurs start a company, they don’t necessarily think about the day they might leave it. The same goes for executives who have been key players in the same organization for decades.

Just because it’s your livelihood today doesn’t mean it isn’t important to think about the future. Creating a solid succession plan now will ensure your legacy remains long after you are gone.

So, we asked 10 members of Forbes Coaches Council for their best tips and practices on planning your own succession. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Define Your Legacy

It would be a shame to do all of this work and to have it die with you. Many leaders don’t think of the legacy that they will leave after they have left a position or organization. Mentoring is the best practice for creating a legacy and ensuring your work will continue after you have transitioned. Your mentee should understand the “how” of what you do as well as the “why” in your decision making. – LaKesha WomackWomack Consulting Group

2. Plan In Phases

In my experience, succession planning does not hit the top three to five business imperatives. It’s rarely urgent, but it is important. Get started (Phase I) with questions like “If X person wins the lottery, then what?” Begin putting names behind incumbents. In Phase II, determine who is ready now or ready later. In Phase III, create plans to close gaps to make it real. – Evan RothRoth Consultancy International, LLC.

3. Aim For Continuity

Succession planning becomes easier and more actionable when the organization focuses on the bigger arena of continuity. Leadership succession is only one element of good continuity thinking. Leaders can benefit from asking the bigger question: “What events could stop or impede the flow of good business, and how do we prepare for these events?” It’s less about a person and more about a structure. – Patrick JinksThe Jinks Perspective

4. Begin With The End In Mind

What’s your end game, your vision for the future, your legacy? How do you want to dance in the end zone? When you know this, you will be better equipped to surround yourself with the right people who can help you achieve your vision. And one or more of them will be on your succession team. – Clark VitulliMusic City Chief Executives

5. Be Intentional And Supportive

Many leaders fail in succession planning due to insecurity and ego. Successful planning involves letting go of these and becoming intentional about supporting another’s growth into your position. First, find your ideal candidate(s) and invest in their growth. Establish a focused developmental program for your replacement to ensure their success by coaching your way out of a job.  – Erin UrbanUPPSolutions, LLC

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

6. Create A Visible Career Path

If you don’t have career paths that run through your organization, start some. Employees need to envision themselves in the future of your organization. Invite your executives to identify competencies for each job on the career path and make it visible to employees. Then, encourage executives and future leaders to meet to discuss career objectives and ongoing skill development. Leaders develop other leaders. Establish this as a norm and watch your organization flourish. – Lisa ZigarmiThe Consciousness Project, LLC

7. Identify Successors

Leaders should identify and prepare successors for their roles in an effort to support business continuity and their own career growth. Your supervisor is much less likely to discourage you from seeking out and applying for internal promotions if you’ve been preparing one or two people to take your place and your departure won’t leave a talent gap. – Dr. Kimberly JarvisAll Career Matters, Inc.

8. Retain Your Talent With Future Possibilities

“The only thing we can promise is change,” is the mantra of most organizations these days. Keep high-potential performers engaged by highlighting the opportunity to grow within. Be transparent about your process and retain your team through succession planning. Each leader can recommend training, mentorship and share expectations to fulfill future roles. – Meredith Moore CrosbyLeverette Weekes

9. Be A Conduit To Key Relationships 

In succession planning, it is one thing to pass along critical information and knowledge. It is another thing entirely to help that person or the succession team build the relationships they need for the future. These relationships could be with a myriad of key people: vendors, advisors, internal staff, association group connectors, and more. Help the new team build bonds that will last long after you have gone.  – John M. O’ConnorCareer Pro Inc.

10. Create An Exit Strategy

Succession planning ensures leadership continuity. It retains and develops intellectual capital for the future. To start the process, first create an exit strategy, one that’s based on your business running smoothly and profitably without you. Consider your succession plan a type of insurance, which in fact, helps your business prosper both during and after setting a plan in place for the future. – Rick Itzkowich501 Connections Inc.

Clark Vitulli is a Certified Exit Planning Consultant. He is a CEO with hands-on leadership experience with large OEM corporations and retail businesses. He has valuable qualifications from his vast background in turn-arounds, brand building, manufacturing and product launches. Importantly, he has executed successful start-ups, acquisitions and exits. If you’re looking for vistage, executive coaching or leadership coaching, contact Music City CEOs today.

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