For CEO’s: A Succession Plan Isn’t the End of Succession Planning

Hands Passing Baton at Sporting EventThere are many reasons why organizations need to be thinking about succession planning. The most important reason, of course, is that our patients rely on our directors and staff to carry out our missions, provide services and meet our community’s need. It is important, albeit uncomfortable, to think about what would happen to those services or the ability to fulfill our mission if a key staff member left.

What would your organization do if a key employee resigned, fell ill or had to be fired tomorrow? Would you be prepared?

Recently Lillian LeBlanc and Susan Servais both of ZurickDavis, a Massachusetts-based national executive search firm, explored the complicated issue in their article: A Succession Plan Isn’t the End of Succession Planning, which appears in this month’s New England Society of Association Executive’s eNews newsletter.

The impending retirement of the baby boomers is expected to have a major impact on workforce capacity. Teresa Howe in “Succession Planning and Management” identified other emerging realities about the workforce:

  • Vacancies in senior or key positions are occurring in numerous organizations simultaneously and demographics indicate there are statistically fewer people available to fill them
  • Baby boomer retirements are on the rise just at the time when the economy is growing and increasing the demand for senior management expertise
  • There is no emerging group of potential employees on the horizon as in past generations (i.e. baby boomers, women entering the workforce, large waves of immigration)
  • Many organizations eliminated middle manager positions during restructuring in the 1980s and 90s and no longer have this group as a source to fill senior level vacancies
  • Younger managers interested in moving up do not have the skills and experience required because they have not been adequately mentored. This is because middle managers, who would normally perform this type of coaching role, were eliminated
With careful planning and preparation, organizations can manage the changes that result from a generational transfer of leadership as well as the ongoing changes that occur regularly when key employees leave an organization.

Although the type and extent of planning will be different, organizations both large and small need to have some sort of succession plan. Effective succession planning supports organizational stability and sustainability by ensuring there is an established process to meet staffing requirements. Boards and executive directors can demonstrate leadership by having the strategies and processes in place to ensure that these transitions occur smoothly, with little disruption to the organization.

About the Authors:

Lillian LeBlanc is a principal and professional coach for Ibis Coaching, LLC, and regularly collaborates with ZurickDavis, a Massachusetts-based national executive search firm. She is credentialed as a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation and has more than 30 years of experience as a human resources professional. Susan Servais, CAE, is a senior vice president at ZurickDavis, which places C-level and VP-level leaders in both permanent and interim positions. She is a member of NE/SAE.