The Courage to Make Sound Succession Decisions: A Watershed Moment in Your Organization
A time will come when an organization will have to deal with leadership transition and succession. These complex processes will require much preparation and moving parts to succeed. Succession is similar to two runners in a sprint relay passing the baton; it’s a key moment in the race. A dropped baton might cost the team the race, but a successful pass keeps the team on track towards the finish line.
Knowing WHEN a leader should step down from leading and choosing the ideal successor to drive the organization’s growth are two of the most important decisions you can make as a leader. You should have the ability to pass the baton successfully because it will determine the organization’s long-term performance and your legacy.
Part 1: The Right Time to Pass the Baton
Many executives looking at transitioning their role in an organization in the near future due to retirement or health reasons need preparation and planning to guarantee a smooth transition of power.
Succession planning is embedded with many processes, one of these processes is proper succession time planning. A leader’s foresight of when to step down from leadership is key to proper succession time planning. As the years roll by and aging has made retirement inevitable, leaders should already be in position preparing their organization’s future by actively planning their next step. This next step will be crucial in the overall transition of the organization.
We will review in this article a leader’s steps to identify the appropriate timeline to relinquish executive control and allow their successor the opportunity to move into that Executive role.
The million dollar question facing executives and leaders today on the bubble of retiring, “when is the right time to step down and have I successfully prepared for my exit?”
First, a leader knowing when to actually step down is the greatest example of leadership. The humility of a leader to know his or her mortality and selflessly for the sake of the overall success of the organization starts to plan for their successor is key in the timing of succession planning that will impact the organization’s future. However, for some executives the selfless decision to leave when their health and sharpness of their business acumen is lagging may be difficult, especially if they hold the view point that they have invested their best years in that organization.
Another viewpoint some executives may hold is due to the investment of their entire life in an organization therefore they opt to remain enthusiastic about their position, seldom consider retiring, and seek alternate ways to stay connected to the e organization. The result here is that failing to plan for retirement only creates uncertainty for their potential successors and the organization’s future.
For some leaders, the decision to stay with an organization for an inordinately long period of time when they should have already retired is because of the fear that the organization lacks a viable successor with the same level of knowledge, skill set, and experience comparable to them to take on the leadership role. In such scenarios it is crucial for that leader to start planning for the future leaders by identifying talent years in advance that is teachable and willing to be cross trained in several areas of the organization. Once a leader identifies that right individual to succeed them that is when he or she will know their time to step down has come.
When a potential candidate is identified to be the successor the outgoing leader must now arrange for a precise time to exit. The hand off of the organization’s day-to-day operations to the successor must be placed on a definite timetable. The transition time table also allows for the preparation of the employees to prepare for a transition in leadership.
As the time table for the transition approaches it’s appropriate for the departing leader to gradually become less involved in the organization as their successor assumes control. In order to not become a nuisance.
Although stepping down will be one of the most difficult and most important decisions and act an leader has to make, it is truly only the strong leader who understands and is able to identify when the time has come to exit. The courage to step aside at the right time, knowing that the organization is in the right hands, is the greatest satisfaction for a great leader. Whether there some personal cost to that leader. In addition, a great leader should desire to see his legacy at an organization left in the hands of people who will look after what he or she has spent the better half of their lifetime building. So that all that investment of their blood, sweat and tears is not for naught or gone to waste.
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