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.

Cultivating Diversity And Inclusivity In The Workplace

The pressure to increase diversity in the workplace continues to rise across sectors and is a prime focus for business leaders around the globe.

What is the difference between diversity and inclusion?

Diversity in the workplace encompasses many dimensions, including race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, disability and sexual orientation; it can also include differing personality characteristics, thinking styles, experiences and education levels.

Inclusion means that the organisational culture and practices make employees of diverse backgrounds feel welcome, accepted and treated equally.

Numerous studies have shown that cultivating diversity and inclusivity in the workplace makes good business sense. For example, McKinsey’s workplace diversity study, "Delivering Through Diversity", found that companies whose executive teams rank in the top 25% of racial and ethnic diversity are 33% more likely to reap financial returns above the national median for their industry. Diversity has also been shown to be a key driver of innovation, creativity and productivity.

Attracting and retaining top talent

Most importantly for HR professionals and recruiters, a diverse and inclusive workplace is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent. Candidates are drawn to diverse organisations because it signals that the employer values people's differences and treats their staff equally. When it comes to retention, a culture of inclusion will make top talent feel valued, heard and understood.

Diversity is particularly important to younger employees. A 2019 survey by U.S. consultancy John Zogby Strategies found that 51% of millennials and generation Z agree that a "fair representation of race, ethnicity and religion is paramount to creating the ideal workplace." Forty-eight percent of generation X (40-54) and 42% of baby boomers agree with that statement.

The path to diversity and inclusion

Companies that have invested in diversity and inclusion over the years are reaping the rewards. The path to diversity and inclusion starts with moving it from an HR initiative to a business strategy. While this strategy may look different at every company, the key elements are:

  • C-suite support.
  • Employee commitment and collaboration.
  • Improving diversity in recruitment.
  • Fostering inclusiveness in the workplace.

Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace is no easy feat but it's clear that this is the way forward. How you screen and source talent, conduct interviews and onboard new employees are all opportunities to integrate diversity into your processes. Put simply, the companies that do this well will outperform others as recognised workplaces of choice among top talent.

Adapted from "Leading the Charge for Diversity and Inclusion" by Frank Galati.

Are You Suffering From Job Application And Burnout Syndrome?

It may sometimes be challenging to distinguish between being on a fool-hardy mission-impossible job search or a righteously tenacious fight against the odds in pursuit of an awesome executive opportunity.

Are you continuously spinning the job application wheel until you reach job search fatigue without getting anywhere? If so, you may be suffering from what Rainer Morita calls Job Application Burnout Syndrome (JABS).

This article sheds light on what it is and how to avoid or overcome JABS.

Read "Are You Suffering From Job Application And Burnout Syndrome?" leadership insights

It's All About Culture

Culture is only real for as long as those involved believe that it's real. And it's meaningful and sustainable only for as long as those in key leadership roles reinforce that reality through their day-to-day behaviour. What a leader does is far more important than anything they might say!

Without effective processes that support a customer-centric, quality-driven, end-to-end value chain, confusion, conflict and lost capacity are inevitable. Without measurement, organisation culture is destined to remain of secondary importance; overwhelmed by the operational emergencies that all too often dominate decision-making. To lead, to inspire, to take people where they otherwise would not go is to be both artisan and artist. Think of these capabilities as the bricks and mortar (glue) of culture. To instill something that goes deep, to build something that lasts … both are essential.

Culture isn't "out there". It's not of secondary importance. And it's not a project, a by-product of the engagement survey, the exclusive domain of the HR department, a silent drumbeat that echoes from the past, a change management program, and/or "something we need to get to".

Culture is the here and now, it's practical and it's the very essence - one might call it "the soul" – of the organisation.

The organisation's strategy, be it one page or an overly complex plan, contains within it deep-rooted cultural assumptions. All projects and/or strategic initiatives are imprinted by, intended or, more often than not, unintentional "messaging" that shape how those charged with delivering the strategy define success.

In an organisation with a strong and agile culture (StrAgility), the signals that shape culture are deliberate, overt and consistent - that is, aligned with the culture the organisation needs to create. In organisations that have fallen into "culture drift" - we might not invest much time on culture but there is an overall feeling that we are on the right track - the absence of the deliberate cultural intent carries its own message - "the status quo rules."

The dilemma with a philosophy of "more of the same" is that culture changes whether you want it to or not. In an organisation that "manages culture", the signals that emphasise "team" are integral to the organisation's very DNA. To that end, consider the questions below:

  • Is the strategic direction being driven into the organisation a single, linear, unidimensional plan … or is "managing uncertainty" supported by a series of well thought through strategic scenarios?
  • In team review meetings, coaching sessions, business development approaches and all things to do with performance management, is the culture the organisation needs to create: (1) aligned with what tomorrow's customers want to buy; (2) drawn out of sound measurement; and (3) fully supported by middle managers?
  • Are the organisation's values clear? Do those values reinforce the importance of teamwork?
  • The real challenge with strategy is implementation. Meanwhile, turning direction into delivery rests, in no small measure, on buy-in from the middle kingdom. Is the strategy presented as a series of numbers and charts or has it been translated into a compelling story? Information, as the term implies, "informs." The right story inspires.
  • Do the stories that dominate celebrate the lone hero/heroine … or do they recognise that no one makes it on their own?
  • Do the hiring, promotion, high potential and success processes emphasise team fit? As we move to more flexible organisation forms - as the team becomes the basic building block of organisation performance - success as both a team leader and a team player becomes the difference that makes a difference.
  • Does the definition of "diversity" include not just gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and the like but cognitive diversity? The latter recognising the need for teams to be made up of members who not only come from different backgrounds but who "think differently".
  • Is it recognised that, without support and exemplary teamwork from those in the middle of the organisation, the direction the organisation needs to take is likely to remain little more than "what might have been?"
  • Does the organisation's design support or work against a strong team culture? Even a simple carpenter recognises how problematic it is to work against the grain.

"The way I think about culture is that modern humans have radically changed the way that they work and the way that they live. Companies need to change the way they manage and lead to match the way that modern humans actually work and live."

Brian Halligan, CEO, HubSpot

If the competition is managing its culture and you are trapped by culture drift, no matter how good your product, you don't have a future … you have a problem.

A Vital Message For Emerging, High-Potential Leaders

Put a group of ambitious, first-time business leaders in a room together today and the discussion will likely turn on top-line revenue growth, the challenges of entering new markets, risk management and what politicians should do to stimulate economies.

Each of those deserves attention in this especially volatile global business environment, but perhaps none as much as the cross-functional performance lever that is 'talent management'.

No matter one's experience, education, functional expertise or industry, the ability to inspire and lead talented individuals and teams to higher levels of business performance is central to enterprise success, and will be for years to come.

Now more than ever before, talent management is everyone's business. It is the lever of human potential that can most influence organisational results. Yet it is one so often overlooked, or contained within the Human Resources Department or given only lip service by chief executives who talk about "people as our greatest asset" yet who have, at the same time, allowed archaic HR practices to tamp down progress.

If you're a business leader, you are indeed a talent manager, and must see yourself as such. This is especially vital for emerging, high-potential leaders who are the next generation of business leadership.

Ours is the epoch when talent, innovation and intellectual property are becoming the prime competitive resources through which business goals and growth are achieved.

Great people most often leave their bosses because those top managers aren't connecting the needs of superior talent with organisational priorities. Leading companies excel with progressive talent management practices and policies.

It's time for every manager to commit to talent management as a continuous cycle for renewal and repositioning in a business world whose tectonic plates are shifting faster and with more risk and opportunity at stake than ever before.

Six Key Challenges Identified By C-Level Leaders

A recent TRANSEARCH survey among C-Level leaders regarding their experiences and priorities in a shift to the "new normal" identified six key challenges:

  1. Improving organisational agility and flexibility is seen as the major challenge during and after the pandemic.
  2. Keeping up motivation, engagement & team spirit as well as inspiring trust are most critical for high efficiency.
  3. Major HR challenges are to maintain efficiency despite remote work and to find top talents for transforming the company.
  4. The current situation requires a strong focus on change processes, entrepreneurial spirit and emotional intelligence.
  5. Companies most urgently need digitalisation experts, transformation managers and digital marketing experts.
  6. Keeping sales performance & service levels high and the supply chain running are the major operative challenges.

TRANSEARCH provides a platform to its network of C-Level leaders for discussions on how to come out of the crisis stronger. For further information about the survey or discussion platform please get in touch with Dr. Carlo Mackrodt or Dr. Stefan Schwaenzl.

Three Tips To Prepare For Returning To The Office

How prepared would be if you had to return to the office right now? Whether gripped by fear or thrilled with excitement, at some point sooner than later, you will need a pragmatic answer to this question as companies ask workers to transition from fully remote work to some form of a return to the office.

While most organisations plan employing a hybrid return to work model – a mix of virtual and on-site work - being ready for any and all formats is pivotal. Chris Swan and John Ryan provide practical advice from experts on how you and your organisation can prepare for it.

Read "Three Tips To Prepare For Returning To The Office" leadership insights

Ten C-Level Learnings During The Current Crisis

TRANSEARCH International organised a number of C-Level roundtable sessions and conducted personal interviews to facilitate peer-to-peer dialogue regarding their experiences and priorities in an environment of the "new normal". Here are "Ten C-Level Learnings During The Current Crisis":

General Business Impact Of The Coronavirus

  1. Culture will be the future game changer.
  2. Innovations leading to higher customer benefit are key.

Impact On Operations

  1. Leaders have to spend more time communicating with employees.
  2. The focus needs to be on team building and professional onboarding.

Impact On Processes

  1. Transparent KPIs will be more important than ever.
  2. New ways for cross-fertilisation and innovation need to be found.

Impact On Organisational Structures

  1. Organisational structures will change from hierarchies to networks.
  2. Roles will be defined by content and contribution instead of formal hierarchy levels.

Impact On Human Resources

  1. Values and expectations regarding leadership are changing.
  2. Strategic HR management will be a key enabler and needs to be positioned at C-Level.

TRANSEARCH provides a platform to its network of C-Level leaders for discussions on how to come out of the crisis stronger. For further information please get in touch with Dr. Carlo Mackrodt or Dr. Stefan Schwaenzl.

Psychedelic Medicine: The First Five Executive Roles To Hire For

Whether you're starting a venture from the ground up or pivoting to something new, the quality of the people driving that momentum will define its success. In an area as new and nuanced as Psychedelic Medicine, getting to the right leadership team needs to be a priority.

The right talent in the exciting and competitive space of Psychedelic Medicine will mark the difference between those ventures that struggle to survive and those that thrive.

Read "Psychedelic Medicine: The First Five Executive Roles To Hire For" leadership insights

Sustainable Leadership: 5 Key Recommendations

5 key recommendations from 53 Senior Executives for a successful journey towards sustainability asks:

  • What motivates small and large companies to strive for sustainable business models?
  • How do companies succeed in their sustainability journey?
  • How do leaders and Human Resources integrate sustainability in their strategy?

To explore these questions, a cross-sectional sample of 53 Senior Executives were interviewed from global companies, NGOs, and consulting firms. Drawn from the interviews are 5 key recommendations:

  • Deeply connect sustainability with your company's purpose
  • Embed sustainability in every strategic goal and boost its impact
  • Do not underestimate the whole transformation journey
  • Place collective intelligence and innovative collaboration models at the core of the transformation
  • Find the right engine to boost the transformation

Learn more about the recommendations.

Read "Sustainable Leadership: 5 Key Recommendations" leadership insights

Onboarding During A Pandemic - Are We Doing Enough?

Proactive organisations have adapted their induction and onboarding programs to online platforms using structured programs to introduce new hires to key stakeholders and introduce them to key review and decision making platforms.

But we all recognise that integrating with a new organisation is not just about identifying with the mission of the business or delivering performance. It is as much about forming bonds with your colleagues, listening to stories to build a sense of history with the organisation, water cooler / coffee machine discussions about dos and don'ts, understanding the political structure of the company etc.

Rahul Mathur questions whether we are doing enough to support onboarding during the pandemic.

Read "Onboarding During A Pandemic - Are We Doing Enough?" leadership insights

Mental Health, Virtual Integration & 'Remote' Compensation

After enjoying the comfort and cost savings of working from home, would you rule out a potential job if remote wasn't an option? Ever struggle logging into a video meeting and then face "technology bias"? How about your employees' mental health – are you seeing resilience or deepening depression?

These compelling questions and issues, impacting workforces the world over right now, were explored recently during TRANSEARCH USA's Executive Human Resources Virtual Roundtable.

The following are key themes that emerged and some useful guidance for HR professionals.

Read "Mental Health, Virtual Integration & 'Remote' Compensation" leadership insights

1 2 3 5