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Succession

Why do so many companies often encounter serious problems related to the succession of their leader? According to us, this question is not being asked often enough. Still, the reasons for this are well known in corporate life. As it happens, most leaders don’t like to consider resigning.

The real reasons are often the same:

  • Leaders are enjoying their number 1 status
  • None of the candidates is considered sufficiently suitable
  • Leaders are afraid of falling into a sort of limbo after having been replaced

To put it briefly: leaders tend to keep postponing their succession, until it has become too late to orchestrate a decent take-over with a suitable candidate.

Usually, in larger companies quoted on the stock exchange, this process is better organized than in smaller private companies and family businesses. In most of the large concerns, there is usually something like succession commissions and leaders often plan their career more actively. Very often, we even see the opposite over there: rotations taking place too fast and easily leading to a lack of continuity.

However, as we mentioned before, many companies really need a sound succession planning. Usually, leaders consider the financial aspects such as succession rights in time, even though the latter are not always guaranteed. Just look at what has recently happened to the Beaulieu group in Belgium. But succession is not just a process consisting in deselecting the ‘ to do’s '. Feelings are also involved. Usually, the deepest of human emotions play a role in this process. You need to consider the hard as well as the soft side in order to achieve a successful succession.

Based on our own experiences, all of Ten Company’s consultants have had the opportunity to develop some expertise during the past decade. This enabled us to effectively help several companies to plan the succession of their leader and of their management in general.

Leaders can only be considered really successful if they start ensuring their succession in time. This is crucial since they often don’t have control of the transfer date. Indeed, they can leave the company earlier than expected due to an accident, to illness or for personal reasons. At such a moment, improvising about such an important topic would be really irresponsible towards all stakeholders, especially towards the employees and customers.

Therefore, four steps are required. We discuss them in our program.

  • As from the moment of appointment, you need to draw up a succession plan in case of crisis.
  • Draw up a succession list of the internal and (ideally) external candidates selected according to clear criteria including functional experience as well as leadership style. This list can undergo a dynamic evolution throughout the years as long as it stays up-to-date and real.
  • Make a planning including the take-over period. Make sure there will be enough time available to coach the new leader and to enable him/her to settle in.
  • The resigning leader should draw up a personal plan including his/her new interesting activities for the next stage in his/her life after having left the company. Don’t underestimate this last item, because a lack of attractive plans is often the reason why leaders stick to their role for too long and run the risk of falling into a sort of limbo.

This is why we recommend you to leave a healthy heritage to your company and your people. Or, like sports(wo)men often say: save the best for last! After all, there are so many things you can do in the next stage of your life. Just look at people such as Bill Gates.

Bear in mind that cemeteries are full of leaders who thought they were indispensable! ‘Letting go’ might seem hard and difficult, but ‘Moving on’ opens the doors towards the next happy stage of your life.

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