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10 Essential Steps for Effective Leadership Succession Planning

🕑 4 minutes read | Oct 02 2023 | By Becky Gendron
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Leadership succession planning is a critical process to identify and develop the next generation of leaders who will steer an organization toward continued success. A recent study showed that only 11% of organizations feel they have a “strong” or “very strong” leadership bench. By proactively preparing for inevitable leadership transitions, organizations can ensure they continue to operate smoothly,

Organizations that promote ongoing growth and invest in developing strong leaders are more prepared to manage challenges, able to promote innovation, and identify new possibilities. Leadership succession planning involves identifying and developing potential leaders at all levels of an organization, from supervisors to executives. It is not limited to one department or level.

Successful leadership succession planning requires a strategic and systematic approach. It goes beyond being reactive and instead embraces a proactive mindset to identify, nurture, and prepare individuals who possess the skills, knowledge, and vision to lead. In this blog, we will discuss ten essential steps to help leaders work towards effective succession planning and build a robust leadership pipeline with confidence.

10 Step for Successful Leadership Succession Planning

  • Step 1: Assessing Organizational Needs

Is crucial to understand the organization’s current and future needs when creating a succession plan. This involves analyzing key positions, identifying critical skills, and evaluating the potential impact of retirements or departures. Leaders can gain insights into the talent and skill gaps that may potentially need to be filled by assessing these factors.

  • Step 2: Identifying Potential Leaders

After understanding the organization’s needs, the next step is to find individuals who can support these needs and goals. During this process, you should consider an employee’s performance, potential, and alignment with the organization’s values and culture. It is important to have diverse candidates that come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. This allows organizations to access a wide range of talent and bring innovative ideas to leadership.

  • Step 3: Evaluating and Developing Potential Leaders

Once you have identified a pool of potential leaders, it is important to assess their skill sets and capabilities. Leaders can help potential successors by understanding their strengths and areas for improvement. They can offer specific training, coaching, job rotations, or special projects to expose them to various parts of the organization.

  • Step 4: Creating Individual Leadership Development Plans

Each potential successor should have an individualized development plan tailored to their unique strengths and areas for improvement as well as technical and soft skills development. The plans should match the goals and vision of the organization, making sure that leadership development drives the organization to succeed. Every leadership development plan should include mentorship, performance reviews, and check-ins to track progress.

  • Step 5: Mentoring and Coaching

Mentoring and coaching play a vital role in nurturing and developing future leaders. Experienced leaders can help potential successors grow and develop quickly by sharing their experience, guidance, support, and feedback. Mentoring helps new leaders learn from experienced leaders and gain insights into leadership challenges in a safe space. Coaching helps new leaders improve skills and find solutions to challenges as they progress in their leadership journey.

  • Step 6: Providing Development Opportunities

It is important to provide future leaders with developmental opportunities that challenge their abilities. evaluate their comfort zones and show what they are capable of in a complex situation. This may include leading projects, managing teams, or starting an important initiative that will affect the organization. Development opportunities allow potential successors to develop critical competencies, expand their perspectives, and demonstrate their leadership potential.

  • Step 7: Building a Leadership Pipeline

Effective succession planning goes beyond identifying and developing individual successors. It involves building a leadership pipeline that ensures a continuous flow of talented leaders at all levels of the organization. Organizations can prevent talent shortages by providing leadership development and nurturing high-potential employees through an ongoing proactive approach.

  • Step 8: Succession Planning Review and Evaluation

Regular review and evaluation of the succession planning process are crucial to ensure success. Key stakeholders, including potential successors, coaches, and senior leaders, can offer invaluable information for refining the process. Leaders can improve succession planning by gathering feedback, monitoring outcomes, and adjusting to meet organizational changes.

  • Step 9: Implementing the Transition Process

When a successor is ready to assume a leadership role, a smooth transition is crucial. This involves clear communication with stakeholders, employees, clients, and partners, about the leadership change. Additionally, organizations should offer knowledge transfer and support to the new leader to help them navigate their new role successfully. A smooth transition helps the new leader start quickly and boosts confidence in the organization during times of change.

  • Step 10: Continuously Updating and Evolving Succession Plans

It is important to regularly review, and update succession plans to match changes in organizational needs, market dynamics, and strategic priorities. Regularly reviewing the leadership succession planning enables leaders to address emerging talent needs and stay ahead of the curve.

Succession planning is an ongoing responsibility for leaders and requires careful assessment of organizational needs. This ensures that the organization has the right people with the right skills and experience in place when a new leadership opportunity arises.

Additionally, it is essential that leaders involve key stakeholders such as HR professionals, external advisors, current senior executives, board members, and others throughout the entire process of succession planning. Investing and developing future leaders benefits organizations in the short and long term, creating a strong pipeline of potential leaders.


Learn how we helped Grace when they were facing a 13% retirement cliff and needed to backfill over 40 roles over a 2-year period. They did not have an established program in place to document and transfer critical knowledge and needed to shorten their 18-month time-to-proficiency process for new hires. See the case study to learn more.

 

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