10.7 Moving On So Others May Step Up: Succession Planning Tips

GIFT welcomes guest blogger, Mary Morten, Morten Group

The best way to prepare for your organization’s leadership succession is to imagine both the best and worst that could happen to your company after you are no longer at the helm. Instead of waiting for the “right” moment to develop your succession plan, take a proactive approach and begin planning now so that the transition for new leadership is thoughtful and productive. Here are several tips for successful succession planning.

1. Look for the best and the brightest—hire for the future! A nonprofit’s future depends on its strong leadership. You will need to determine, for example, if the next leader will be someone inside the organization or an individual brought in from outside. Look for employees who have strong talents, skills that will help the organization grow, and individuals who are creative and enthusiastic about their work.

2. Align your succession plan with the company’s core values. Even though your succession plan is a separate entity from your organization’s overall strategic plan, it must incorporate the core values of your organization. That should include key competencies and positions, required skills and a careful examination of future goals.

3. Let your succession plan help fill the gaps and develop bench strength. Different people bring different skills and talents to leadership. Expecting one person to be strong in all areas in not only unrealistic, but potentially damaging to the organization’s future. While a succession plan is primarily a tool for the future, it also can help you fill current gaps. Creating a succession plan requires a close and careful examination of how the organization is being run. If you detect gaps—such as a lack of strong financial skills in a key department—now is the time to take care of those holes.

4. Determine your role as the current CEO. How involved do you want to be during the transition phase when your role will be assumed by the new leadership? How do you want to be compensated? What about after the transition has been completed? Don’t wait for these milestones to occur without some knowledge of your level of involvement. Compensation issues, for instance, are directly linked to the organization’s ability to survive financially. If you are to be paid a salary, how will that impact other employees’ compensation?

5. Review, review, review. It would be great if a template were available for succession planning, but the best plans are really the ones that are custom designed. Your organization is like no other, and therefore your succession plan should not look like another plan. Consider your succession plan as a process that must be carefully and regularly reviewed.

Mary F. Morten is the president of Morten Group, a national consulting firm in Chicago that focuses on organizational development and video/film production, www.mortengroup.com.