Oct 17, 2022

Succession planning for business prosperity

If you don’t plan for the future, the chances are your business won’t survive to see it. Instead, the future is something we build. Succession planning is a strategic tool to create the teams your future needs. Without it, people can’t see the way forward and you risk losing your top talent.

Optimizing succession planning

Succession planning is the process of establishing critical roles for your business, both for today and the future. Leaders are then responsible for facilitating career development plans for high-potential employees highlighted for those roles. 

Common pitfalls include not being clear about what’s expected for each role. Talent discussion then becomes overly subjective, and employees are left in the dark. Not only is this demotivating but it also doesn’t set people up for success. Moreover, as this article on poor planning shows, it costs the S&P 1500 companies almost $1 trillion annually. 

Effective succession planning aligns the process with the business strategy and long-term goals. Leaders are fully engaged and committed to supporting succession planning both as a strategy and a framework.

Leaders collaborate with human resources to promote a transparent process. They work together to counteract individual biases and they prioritize employee development. Rather than panicking when a critical employee leaves, they have someone ready to step up. That person has already been exposed to the critical role in question and is aware of the transition. They now have the support they need to make it happen. All this takes a certain awareness along with coaching skills for managers.

Coaching upskills managers and leaders for success in succession planning with the following outcomes:

  • Learn to let go: Not only do leaders owe it to themselves to let go of their roles so that they can keep moving forward. They need to focus on what’s best for the overall good of the business. And change is always beneficial. At some point, we all outstay our welcome and our roles need fresh insight and energy. A coach can support leaders through this sometimes, emotional process. 
  • Increase self-awareness: Leaders sometimes over-worry about their legacy so they surround themselves with clones. On the other hand, mature leaders promote diversity despite their biases and fears.  
  • Develop emotional intelligence: With insight, top leaders unlock something in people when they tap into their teams’ intrinsic motivation. In general, employees want to deliver interesting work with autonomy and recognition, amongst other things, according to this study on employee engagement motivators. Emotionally intelligent leaders don’t let themselves get overwhelmed with bottom-line pressures but focus on creating a motivating environment. 
  • Adapt to talent scarcity: With creativity and adaptability, leaders can flex their thinking and promote transferable skills. Self-aware leaders are more interested in what’s possible rather than fitting roles and people into boxes. They’re more open to different styles and ways of thinking which further builds a growth mindset culture. 

Developing the skills to build your succession plan

The term succession planning covers more than just filling key positions. To make it strategic, rather than a tick-in-the-box exercise, you need a change in mindset within your leadership roles. As explained above, those in a higher position who support the succession planning strategy need certain skill sets. These include building trust, motivating others, strategic thinking and emotional intelligence as the foundation for the most in-demand leadership skills

A leadership coach can support this change in mindset. Coaches work with managers and leaders to move away from thinking they have all the answers to appreciating the complementary value in others. By letting go of the need to be in control, leaders not only spot high potential more easily. They also allow a range of different types of people to step up. 

It takes courage to promote those who are different from us. Leaders need to step away from their immediate pressures momentarily to look at the big picture and the longer-term view.  They also need to see things for the benefit of the business and not just their own. 

Such change in mindset takes reflecting on one’s behaviors as well as language. For instance, how do leaders communicate the succession plan? How can they motivate the best people to want those critical roles? What can they say to engage employees? A language coach can further empower leaders to embrace humility and put others forward. 

With succession planning skills leaders can: 

  • Map competencies with behaviors and performance: With competencies, leaders can define “what good looks like” for key roles. This removes the mystery behind performance reviews and succession plans. Moreover, with HR, they can analyze data points and assess the competency benchmarks to better spot hidden potential. 
  • Match employees’ personal goals with business needs: Development plans need metrics that align both personally and with the company. With active listening, leaders can connect the dots and enable them to see their future within the company. 
  • Promote a growth mindset: Any potential successor needs to believe in themselves. The company can invest in upskilling and reskilling while also supporting a key employee with metrics that promote learning rather than just outputs. 
  • Furthermore, a growth mindset is a journey and strategic leaders can coach all their people to become high-potential employees. Current high potentials don’t have to be the be-all and end-all of succession.  

Build your business for the future

Succession planning ensures continuity. Without it, businesses stagnate. They lose knowledge and the ability to adapt while wasting time and effort hiring externally. Leaders need to prepare their successors with a strategic mindset and coaching approach. Only then can they instill the behaviors needed for people to be ready to fill the talent gaps and keep abreast of ever-changing markets. 

A coach is a valuable partner for succession planning to enable leaders to step back and promote others. With increased self-awareness and emotional intelligence, those leaders know how to support high-potential people through the talent pipeline. In turn, people are motivated, engaged and driven. The future of your business is in good hands for the long term. 


Coaching, Company Culture, L&D, Leadership, People, Skills-Based Coaching

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