10 Succession Failures And How To Avoid Them

1. Lack of direction from the Board

The ultimate accountability for succession lies with the HR Committee of the Board, but it is no less a fiduciary responsibility for the CEO and the top team. Indeed, anyone privileged enough to hold down a leadership role has an ongoing responsibility to develop a successor.

The need? A far more rigorous approach to Board selection. A periodic assessment of Board "fitness for purpose". A regular review of governance provisions. Appointing adjunct Board members with specialised experience and know-how – for example, organisation culture, technology, the succession process.

2. A broken or incomplete process

A flawed process has one defining characteristic – it's not going to take you where you need to be. Conversely, a meaningful process displays all the attributes of a good map. It allows you to identify where the beginning of the journey is, where you need to get to and the key steps along the way.

The need? A rigorous and transparent succession process that allows the Board to understand the thinking and methodology behind "the names on the charts". A succession process that delivers a distinct and sustainable competitive advantage.

3. Confusing 'succession' with 'replacement'

'Succession' and 'replacement' planning build on very different assumptions. Replacement is essentially tactical - a contingency plan to put into effect should a mission-critical role unexpectedly become open. Succession is strategic - it's about tomorrow's leadership.

The need? Recognise the inherent value of both replacement and succession but don't confuse the two. Leaving a mission-critical role unfilled for an extended period of time can be horrendously expensive. It may even put the very future of the business at risk.

4. Casting too wide a net

The shorthand for focus is "less is more". This is especially the case when it comes to succession. The challenge? To identify mission-critical roles.

The need? Restrict the work on succession at the top of the organisation to mission-critical roles – the roles that really matter; the roles that, if filled poorly, can sink the ship.

5. Confusing 'high performance' with 'high potential'

Like riding a rocking horse, not everyone who 'rocks' is going places. It's a mistake to assume that outstanding performance translates into high potential.

The need? Define the specific competencies that describe future success in both the mission-critical role and the generic competencies that capture what it means to be 'high potential'. Selection isn't an exercise in abstract thinking. Make both succession decisions and identifying high potential candidates evidence based.

6. Poorly defined leadership competencies

A leadership competency describes future success in the role. It also captures the behaviours that separate an outstanding performer from one who is merely middle of the road. Three common pitfalls: falling back on generic terms; a myopic focus; relying too heavily on the manager in the role to capture the characteristic of future success.

The need? A comprehensive, up-to-date library of future-looking, thought-leadership-based, context-oriented, role-specific leadership competencies that embrace leadership balance.

7. Future culture is a "best guess"

Your culture is your brand. Succession based on wishful thinking is to place a blind bet on the future without any understanding of what you are actually betting on and without appreciating the damage you are doing to the brand.

The need? Responsibility for culture lies directly with the top team. What you don't measure, you can't manage. It is essential to (really) know: 1) where your organisation culture is today, and 2) where your culture needs to be to compete successfully in the future.

8. Coaching is "something we need to get to"

You can't grow the organisation unless you grow the people in the organisation. At the heart of 'growing' people lies coaching. Coaching isn't a 'sometime skill'. It's a systemic way to think about what it means to be a leader.

The need? As the business environment evolves, new knowledge, skills and capability are demanded. Without coaching, succession is an engine of future performance that is not firing on all cylinders. Those at the top must strive to become masterful in the art of coaching.

9. Misunderstanding what it means to be a team

It is little short of managerial incompetence to enter into the succession conversation without the key decision-makers stepping back to assess the future nature, needs and norms that shape the behaviour of the team(s) involved. And it matters … because tomorrow's organisation will be a team of teams.

The need? Factoring in the makeup and working approach of tomorrow's team(s) is a business imperative. As is uncovering meaningful ways to assess the team.

10. Succession candidates are poorly integrated into the new role

Derailment, no matter what form it takes, destroys value. If they don't land, they won't stay. It's not just a matter of fulfilling all of the requirements of the new role. The challenge is to do so as quickly as possible.

The need? A comprehensive executive induction process supported by both an internal mentor and an external coach. Assessment tools, access to supportive materials and the full support of both the hiring manager and HR are clearly essential. We have also found that a well designed and easy to access workbook is invaluable.

What next?

There are a good many issues that can derail a successful business. None, however, contain the potency for failure as having the wrong leader in the wrong role at the wrong time. Succession is a critical investment that you cannot afford to get wrong.

Why is succession so often adjudged a failure? Limited strategic awareness is the start of it. Being overwhelmed by the problems of the day is clearly part of it. But, more often than not, lack of practical intelligence is at the heart of it. To speak to a TRANSEARCH consultant about shaping tomorrow's leadership success today, please get in touch.

The 7 Questions Every CEO Should Ask About Culture

1. Does your team regularly have a vibrant culture conversation?

Culture is the often overlooked, all­-pervasive, enterprise­-wide, organisational DNA that dictates whether your strategy lands or if your brand sustains. It's "a way to be" shaped by the past but continuously honed by the emerging business, social, economic, political and customer context.

2. Do you spend as much (quality time) on culture as you do on strategy?

It's become popular to use the expression "culture eats strategy for breakfast." It's colourful, catchy, engaging, provocative … and wrong!

In a world of uncertainty the only thing that is predictable is that your strategy will be "subject to correction". Long after the strategy has been shredded, what will endure is the culture.

The new reality … culture enables strategy.

3. Is there clarity around what has made – and makes – the business successful?

A business exists primarily to create tomorrow's customer. Profit is obviously important but it's ultimately the outcome of doing the former well.

The organisation's culture delivers both the outward looking (why buy from us?) and the inward facing (why work for us?) value propositions. Of the two, the latter is more important. If the brand promise doesn't live inside the organisation it can't live in the marketplace.

4. Are middle managers fully in the game?

No organisation of more than 150 or so people has one single and unified culture. The challenge becomes one of tight­loose leadership: allow local differences to flourish while, at the same time, develop an overarching 'meta' culture that ensurescommon values, consistency, connection, collaboration, caring for the customer and an unrelenting commitment to the whole.

And the group that binds everything together is the "middle managers". Moreover, they are the only group that can!

5. Do you measure culture?

If you don't know where you're going … don't be surprised if you don't get there. What we don't know we can't address. It's difficult to raise the bar if you don't know how high it is. It's essential, however, that the culture measurement express, in business terms, where the organisation's culture is (roots) and where the organisation's culture needs to be (wings).

If you don't measure culture, you can't manage it. No less important, culture is strategic. We need to understand both where we are and where we need to be.

6. Are all of the communication channels fully brought into play?

Today is the slowest things will ever be! Culture and change serve and support each other. In the midst of this ongoing tumult the question becomes "Who owns the culture?"

The obvious answer is "everyone". A more considered answer might refer to the Board, the CEO or even the top team. However, perpetuated through a need for inclusion, self-protection and loyalty to one's immediate group, it is the fluid and highly adaptable informal networks. And who "feeds" the informal organisation? Middle managers.

7. Do you hire/promote with "tomorrow's" culture in mind?

The world of work is changing and the very definition of "a job" is, perhaps, changing most of all. Into this maelstrom rides talent management. The metaphorical quarterback of talent management … who and how we hire.

Getting culture on the right track means identifying the right candidate. Not every now and then … but every time. Who you hire determines what's possible.

Insights from "CEO Culture".

Creating An Environment For Innovation

Charles Darwin is long remembered for informing us, based on years of study as a naturalist and biologist, that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, but rather, the one most adaptable to change.

At least partly for this reason, business owners and global executive leaders rather predictably call for significant innovation when crafting their annual business growth plans.

Be this innovation grounded in expected technological advances, market research, organisational restructuring or hefty financial investment, the linkage between better results and doing something new or perhaps even bold has never been stronger.

There are, after all, a great many examples of people and enterprises taking small ideas and changing the world, along the way enriching themselves and their stakeholders. That's the kind of result the Chief Executive Officer wants to realise, and no doubt, you and your teams as well.

And there are likewise many business tales about the cost of standing still, of watching customers and markets change around them, and ultimately, realising it's simply too late to save the company.

So, if your company's greatest potential for innovation hasn't yet been realised, what's been holding it back?

That is a serious question worth asking and worth exploring until one can gain some answers particularly if you and your team have been tasked with ideating the next big thing for your enterprise.

For in order to innovate, one must operate in an environment where such exploration and risk is encouraged and rewarded. Further, one must find the time and resources to commit intense study and focus to just one pursuit at a time when the pressure to multitask and deliver results on multiple projects remains.

If one were to ask Darwin, today, about what to expect on the road to a true breakthrough, it may well be that setting up the dynamics and environment for innovation must indeed come before the great success. That is, there may be bureaucracy, internal politics and/or stubborn managers stuck in their old ways standing in the way of agility and change.

Darwin himself is also credited with this quote:

To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact!

Especially true in these times. The implication for today's global executive is that one must study whether the organisation has the ingredients, the environment, the culture and also the true resolve to innovate. Much like a scientist studying the natural world, one must assess whether the pre-conditions for life, or, in this case, for breakthrough discoveries that can revolutionise or accelerate the business are present or not.

By carefully considering the opportunities as well as the obstacles to innovation, one should be able to see the potential for great success more clearly. This improved vision could translate into a defined set of actions required to nurture experimentation.

If your mandate is to innovate, or to drive innovation, you would be well served to understand whether you have the people and the will to fight through organisational barriers. Otherwise, you might only realise that despite the rhetoric about change, your company only wants to keep spinning its old wheels.

Finding Your Real Allies In The Organisation

There are lots of different personality archetypes within today's modern, global corporations. Just be careful not to judge a book by its cover. Seasoned executives are continually being surprised, and in some cases, utterly humbled, by experiences that shattered their spot judgments and biases.

To accelerate the pace of change in any organisation, savvy global executives already know they must earn and enlist the support and trust of business colleagues and confidants whose internal influence is critical to moving in the direction of something new.

These are the people to whom others go for insight, guidance and support in good times and in bad. These are, very much, the unsung heroes of the organisation. They are the employees who go the extra mile, consistently, to ensure the trains run on time, that leaders project their best image to the rest of the organisation, and who work until the job is done.

They are the people who care most not only about what gets done, but how it gets done. They understand how the organisation defines right and wrong, and they challenge problems when they see them.

Odds are you already know who we're talking about here. You already know someone - a person on your team, or with whom you interact on business affairs from time to time - who qualifies as a real all-star. Someone who exhibits true example, work ethic, attitude and consistent commitment to excellence makes them memorable and admirable and must rank among your very best employees.

The people who define the culture of your organisation and who already wield the most social capital, because of who they are and how they treat others, are your best possible allies. Find a way to tap and align with their credibility, and you will be capable of realising the change you want to make.

Navigating To The Boardroom. Thriving When You Get There

For many global executives, an appointment to the corporate boardroom as a non-executive director marks the pinnacle, defining moment of their business careers. The call to serve in such a critical governance position is an invitation many accomplished leaders deserve, but few actually get to savour. It is, most often, the result of exceptional business performance, purposeful relationship building and career planning, and a reputation forged by hard work, commitment and a superb reputation.

Yet, the historic profile of a compelling board candidate - and a successful non-executive director - continues to morph into a far more complex and time-consuming role than ever before. The non-executive director's role is the subject of growing scrutiny by activist investors, the media and politicians alike. If getting to the boardroom isn't enough, thriving once you get there is a challenge only the most accomplished and determined global executives will realise.

The potentially existential threats to today's corporate boards - and the historic view of effective corporate governance - come in a variety of forms these days. These include:

  1. Bids by activist investors to gain access to the corporate proxy, essentially using it as a vehicle to nominate their own director candidates
  2. Mounting threats posed by cyber-security breaches, often targeting corporate records of customers' credit card and personal data, and exposing companies and their directors to damaging media headlines and extensive data recovery and other costs
  3. The increasingly complex nature of corporate finance, including the shell game of classifying corporate revenue under a variety of labels, leading to the obfuscation of the facts and confusion among directors
  4. Challenges related to effective CEO succession and compensation, which can turn from highly politicised, somewhat "untouchable" topics for sitting boards to an organisational crisis faster than most directors realise
  5. Being seen as disconnected from stakeholders.

Calls for reforms in corporate governance have moved some governments to legislate the composition of today's non-executive boards, reserving a required quota for female directors. Further, calls to diversify today's boards continue to mount and put those boards built purely on "the good 'ole boys club" under increasing pressure to seat new members who reflect the company's consumer base.

A stellar reputation, superb business acumen and experience, and exceptional relationships are still very much the same things that can take your executive career to the non-executive board. But the job description is changing. The non-executive's role has become a time-consuming responsibility, and one that requires an increasing amount of homework, independence and due diligence just to keep up with the pace of change and reform.

The human, interpersonal dynamics that shape the very function of today's boards remain critical to success in the boardroom. So, too, does the open-mindedness that moves that silent voice inside to remind you - either as a new director or a veteran of the boardroom - that the rules of the game are changing and those best able to adapt are the ones most likely to thrive in the future.

The Importance Of Trust

Trust is an incredibly valuable business currency for today's global leaders. If you don't have it, you better get it - fast - because it can really slow your organisation down. If you do have it, the trust of employees in particular is something every manager should seek to deepen.

In today's global corporate environments, trust fosters employee engagement. Trust helps to create and solidify company culture. It gives everyone a reason to believe what they are doing really matters and who they are doing it for really does, too. A trusting bond between managers and their direct reports helps fuel effective communication. It helps both parties clear up ambiguity and get to the heart of important business matters.

Trust breaks down barriers. Trust enlists personal investment in the company's objectives. And trust makes it all worth doing, and doing well. Trust flows like a river where self-aware leaders go to quench their thirst and occasionally pour new waters into.

Yet, the reality for many global executives is that their companies may see - or continually fail to recognise - a trust deficit that prevents them and their employees from reaching their full potential. Just knowing there is a lack of trust in an organisation is a very informing starting point. Even the simplest of employee surveys on the matter of trust can uncover loads of actionable intelligence.

If you are operating in an environment where trust is running thin or present only among employees with a particularly gifted leader as their manager, it is indeed time to reflect on what workers must see to begin to believe again. Ask yourself, "What do workers need to see that will connect the promises you or the company has made to them to actual action on those same promises?". Or consider, "What would workers need to see or hear from me as a manager that would connect my own words and actions?" Or even, "What can I show them that will demonstrate a commitment to them?"

Trust isn't built overnight. And it surely isn't granted in bulk. Trust is a reflection of a worker's own experience with their manager, their colleagues, and others who collectively either represent what the company says it represents or simply fail to do that. Trust is an essential ingredient for business growth. If you can build trust among your employees, you will invariably build the resources to achieve great things. You may just be surprised, however, at just how quickly lots of little, seemingly minor interactions, promises and follow actions can get you where you want to go.

Trust in that journey, and you will probably earn more trust than you and your organisation have today.

Remote Work Brings Talent, Profits, Collaboration & Much More
linkedin.com

Remote work has proven to work well across the world. The following insights by Chris Swan explore practical ways your business can optimise virtualisation:

  • Global Pool Talent Means Greater Productivity & Profitability
  • Closing Offices = Cost Savings & Collaboration
  • Virtual-Savvy Leaders Must be Agile, Engaged, and Empathic
  • More Benefits for Businesses and Beyond

Read "Remote Work Brings Talent, Profits, Collaboration & Much More" leadership insights

The Challenge for Global Leaders and Learners

The challenge for global leaders and learners (those terms should almost be synonymous) is to learn how to adapt to changing business currents and how to selectively engage the experience and insights that have served us well in the past while embracing new knowledge and a new sense of open-mindedness for whatever comes next.

Part of this new playbook for professional and managerial growth is to make some well thought out investments in the next generation of leaders who may, sooner perhaps than you might have previously imagined, be successors to some of the most pivotal roles in your enterprise. Perhaps even yours!

You see, mentoring, encouraging and acting to promote promising younger stars in our modern-day, highly interconnected global organisations is not only part of the chemistry for future growth we need to achieve ambitious goals, but also the means through which we see business opportunities through a different lens and build the internal support for seizing them.

Insights from "Providing Opportunities for Next Generation Leaders".

The Key Challenges and Opportunities in Human Resources - A Study by TRANSEARCH Romania

"Never let a good crisis go to waste" as Winston Churchill famously said. COVID-19 and the impact on people, operations and business give us an impetus to develop fresh ideas in Human Resources and to review Leadership Skills.

During the last weeks we received valuable feedback from our clients and candidates; their approach to the ongoing changes, and how they intend to come out of this crisis even stronger!

We are delighted to share our findings with you. The original survey was conducted distributing a questionnaire; to over 300 CEOs, Managing Directors and Human Resources Managers in Romania and across Europe.

Key Findings:

  • Maintaining efficiency while working from home
  • Maintaining motivation and engagement
  • Improving organization's agility and flexibility
  • Leading through change with an entrepreneurial spirit underpinned by emotional intelligence
  • Need for profiles in Automatization/Robotics, Digitalization and Transformation/Change

For more information please visit TRANSEARCH International Romania on LinkedIn.

Allowing Yourself To See With New Perspective
transearch.com

It would be understandable, and maybe even predictable, if we begin to wonder whether what we know, what we have learned and how it all applies in today's business environment still matters in a world that has seen so much change and disruption in such a short amount of time.

While it would be easy to get lost in the business or general news headlines of our times, we should pause and consider where we have been and where we may need to go to play to our strengths as executives and as leaders of people.

Read "Allowing Yourself To See With New Perspective" leadership insights

Human Capital as an Asset
weforum.org

"The devastating labour-market impact of the pandemic and the need for governments to step in and provide extensive support have made it clear that a financially incentivized business model driven by short-term wins no longer works; public and media focus on how companies manage their human capital resources is intensifying."

This report from the World Economic Forum seeks to provide a human capital accounting framework that values talent as a key asset to contribute to an organisation's sustained value creation.

Read "Human Capital as an Asset" leadership insights