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Who is my successor?

It’s remarkable how many companies I observe that hire reactively.

Of course, a focus on the present to meet revenue, profit and broader operational goals is imperative. But carving out time for longer-term planning, especially future leadership is imperative.

In this Scaling Success newsletter, as we approach the calendar year end, I thought it would be useful to reflect on succession planning for our own roles and by posing a number of questions.

1: Succession planning needs to be an ongoing process with clear objectives. It’s not a reactive plan when someone senior leaves or retires. Ensuring your plan covers all levels ensures there are no significant gaps in your talent pipeline and demonstrates a high priority towards existing leadership and potential hires.

Q: How can you instil a greater focus on succession planning? Where have you been caught by surprise in the past and what did you learn from this?

2: Have you stress-tested your plan? Do you know what impact a sudden departure at a senior level might have on your organisation and the team around them?  Don’t assume succession planning is solely the responsibility of the HR team. This should be a shared and collaborative effort. Understanding the current and future needs and goals of the business as well as the critical competencies required in your leaders will help to create that essential talent pipeline for your business.

Q: How can you empower your HR team as a partner in your succession planning to leverage their skills and experience?

3: Short-term vs divergent thinking

All too often I see organisations rushing to recruit to fill a gap without proper assessment of what they really need long term. When a senior leader leaves a role they may have been in for a while, it’s a great opportunity to reassess what the next phase of that role needs to bring to the organisation rather than rush to replace it with more of the same.

Involving an external assessments can help you forward plan the behaviours, qualities and critical thinking your new leader will need to drive the growth needed in this role. Assessing the readiness and potential of those existing and emerging leaders is vital to ensuring an organisation has a solid bench, ready to absorb any potential unplanned departures.

Q: What resources and investment have you allocated to ensuring you have complete clarity over what you need to ensure the future development of your critical roles?

4:  Poorly handled discussions, overlooking internal candidates leads to resentment and weak retention

Do you only succession plan for those senior roles in your organisation? Ensuring you have a top-down or bottom-up, comprehensive strategy for development ensures individuals feel valued and prepared for the challenges a future role may offer.  One company I worked for had a long-term strategy where they profiled all their key executives and mapped their capabilities and gaps. They knew exactly where each executive was destined to progress for their next two to three moves. This gave them longevity and consistency in their approach and ensured their team felt appreciated.

Q: How much talent planning are you doing with your existing people? Where are the gaps and what development needs are you investing in to create a more viable succession plan?

For more help and advice on building a strong succession plan into your growth strategy contact me at BartonRock.

About BartonRock: BartonRock is the executive search partner for high-growth consumer and retail businesses

We manage the careers of executives whose know-how and commercial acumen steer the strategic direction for companies to thrive.

Our assignments search for executives who understand how to operate in dynamic and entrepreneurial environments.

For more information visit: or contact or call +44 (0) 20 8092 6048.

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