August 21, 2019
Succession Planning 01 July 2019
Getting Leaders on Board in Succession Planning
Britta Howlett

Leadership is needed in any work environment but there tends to be a lack of it. A strong succession planning process should focus on developing candidates with adaptable and leadership skills who are ready to lead when called upon. But, why is there a lack of motivation to lead successors? How are we supposed to our leaders on board?

While most leaders see the benefits of succession planning, there are many obstacles stopping them from implementing a plan. There are 5 key practices that can help organizations get their leaders on board and start implementing a successful succession plan:

1. Make Succession Planning Worthwhile for the Leaders

One of the biggest barriers for implementing a succession plan is addressing the ‘what's in it for me?’ thought. Leaders might not want to implement anything if they are not getting anything out of it. They will find it a waste of time. Companies can manage and fix these issue by simply offering bigger and better opportunities to current leaders so that they can focus on the succession. When succession planning us used effectively, both the leaders and employees will find more purpose in their work and the company as a whole will be more successful. In order to motivate leaders, it’s important for them to take an active role in developing the successors. If the leaders are just on the sideline and not involved in the process then there is no motivation for them to implement the plan. 

We sometimes think that future leaders will learn what they need to learn on their own but that is often not the case. Employees need management to help them develop leadership skills so that when the time comes they will be ready to carry on the company. Instead of asking yourself ‘are they ready’ you should ask yourself, ‘what can I do to help them be ready?’

If your company focuses on developing a hand on succession planning, career opportunities increase and both the leaders and employees are engaged in the process. 


2. Establish Accountability

Even though leaders might know that succession planning is the right thing to do, they are not properly incentified or held accountable. There is a lack of clarity of who should be accountable during succession planning. Is it the CEO, the CHRO, or the direct managers? study done by Deloitte Insights found that it didn't matter who was accountable for implementing succession planning as long as everyone was on the same page and that there was a specific person accountable for. If leaders don’t know that they are accountable then they are less likely motivated to implement the plan. 

It is important for upper management to be on the same page with succession planning. Coordinate your company roles so that everyone knows who they are reporting to about their progress with succession plans along career pathways.

3. Focus on the Future 

Succession planning is all about preparing for the future but some leaders may feel that focusing on the future is scary. Why would they want to train a successor to take over their job? The reality is that the demands of leadership are greater than ever. That being said, leaders that focus on the future are rewarded.Why? Because one of the biggest obstacles of progression is not being able to move up in your job because there is a lack of effort in developing successors for their position. If there was a successful succession planning then not only would the leaders have a successor, but the leaders can focus on innovative ways to develop and grow the company instead of worrying about menial day-to-day tasks.

The trick is getting the leaders to understand that and make sure it’s clear from the beginning so that they are excited and ready to implement succession planning. 

4. Create Short-Term Goals to Support Long-Term Goals

It takes time to give employees experience, strong mentoring and proper development. It's not a short term process. Succession planning is a long-term goal but in such a short term goal world, its hard for leaders to be motivated. Succession planning gets pushed off to the side because there are so many deadlines that leaders have to do for their own work. 

There are so many different goals leaders want to achieve that they find themselves too busy for long term goals. Instead, the focus is on achieving goals that provide immediate results. Succession planning only pays off in the long-term, therefore it does not become a priority. 

One strategy to overcome this barrier is simply setting shorter-term goals for your long term results. Break each big task into smaller tasks. Have a goal for each task that you complete. It might be complete these three tasks in 3 months. By having smaller goals, leaders will feel that they can get the job done and implement a successful succession plan.

5. Open and Honest Communication

Another barrier leaders have to face is that they can feel alone in the work that they have to do to implement a succession plan. They need to have someone to talk to if problems arise or if the training isn't working.  By having open communication, leaders will feel less stressed and motivated to implement the plan. 

Simply letting leaders know beforehand that your door is always open, will help them be more successful. Encourage them to talk about their honest opinions and give you feedback about the challenges that they are facing. 

Take away

Succession planning is not the easiest thing to do. In fact, one of the hardest parts is encouraging current leaders to get on board. Whether it’s motivating them to train potential successors, helping them to look to the future, or earning their trust through open communication, how well an organization handles these factors will have an impact in finding and developing its next generation of leaders. But by following these tips, it can be done!