Since Sept. 11, 2001, senior leaders are considering how to ensure leadership continuity and build leadership talent from within. This can be done through succession planning.
Take a structured approach by identifying the core competencies that make a successful leader at your company. After identifying these competencies with your current leadership team, you should appraise their direct reports and include any people with high potential.
Through this process, you'll be able to differentiate your next senior leader from your "steady-state" manager, and where the gaps are in terms of people, skills, and experience.
(By "steady state," I mean someone who either does not have aspirations to climb the corporate ladder or has professionally "peaked," meaning they do not have the skills to move to the next level. Every organization needs "steady-state" managers as well as "high potential" managers. If there were too many of the latter, the organization would not function at its maximum effectiveness.)
Because every company has limited resources, you should determine your priorities and where you want to spend your time and money. Perhaps you will focus on the areas you see as the biggest risk/gaps, or on your top performers and most promising future leaders. This isn't to say you won't develop the remaining group; you just have limited resources available right now.
Before you begin developing a plan of attack, you should speak with every individual you've identified as a future leader. The only way to discover their motivations is to ask. While you want to conduct succession planning confidentially, you should share the results when they're positive for an individual. Identifying and communicating this information can really motivate someone. Another reason to communicate: you're about to invest substantial resources in someone, and you want make sure she's committed. Of course, you don't want to penalize those who aren't interested. After all, you've identified them as top performers and don't want to lose the value they provide. There is always a need for "steady-state" managers to preserve continuity as management changes are made.
Once you've achieved commitment from your target population and approval from your current senior leadership team, you'll find the implementation process of your plan difficult but rewarding. Just remember, you are substantially affecting the organization's longevity and continuity in one of the most strategic ways possible.
SOURCE: Don Gaile, principal, DMG Consulting Co., New York City, New York, Feb. 18, 2003.
LEARN MORE: ReadFive Keys to Successful Succession Planning.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.