This post is the final installment of a five-part series on best practices in CEO succession. The purpose of the series is to share some of the insights I’ve gained while helping companies manage the messy, sometimes confusing terrain of CEO succession.
Question 5: When Should Planning Begin, and What Time Horizon Should Be Considered?
As I mentioned before, succession planning should be an ongoing process. For firms that don’t have a planning process in place, starting tomorrow is not too soon. A CEO transition is among the most significant, broad-reaching changes for any organization. This sort of change has an effect on every constituent (customers, employees, board members, shareholders, etc.). As such, the potential for error is large and the consequences can be significant. So get out your scout hat and be prepared. Start NOW.
But what time horizon makes sense?
This post is the fourth of a five-part series on best practices in CEO succession. The purpose of the series is to share some of the insights I’ve gained while helping companies manage the messy, sometimes confusing terrain of CEO succession.
Question 4: How Transparent is the Succession Process?
With CEO succession—as in most aspects of life—transparency is very important. The tricky part is how soon to be transparent about which information. For example, I am working with a client whose board members found out their CEO was leaving one hour before a shareholder meeting. Technically, this is information the shareholders should know, but one hour was clearly not enough time to communicate with the entire board, make all the decisions necessary, and then craft a clear, confident message.
The responsible course of action was to wait, formulate a plan, and then share it publicly. In this case it took almost a week, in some cases it could be faster.
100% real time transparency is not needed, but it is important to be as transparent as possible. What kinds of things should be transparent?
This post is the third of a five-part series on best practices in CEO succession. The purpose of the series is to share some of the insights I’ve gained while helping companies manage the messy, sometimes confusing terrain of CEO succession.
Question 3: What Criteria Should Be Used to Select a CEO?
If you could create a list of the top 10 CEOs in the last decade, my guess is they would seem to have very little in common. There is no magic list of competencies, personality traits, or characteristics that can be used to separate the winners from the losers. (But you know me, I like a challenge. I made a list anyway.)
Should she stay or should she go? Transitioning from one CEO to another is a task few companies do well and yet it is a decision for which the stakes could not be higher.
Chief Executive Officer is one of the few jobs that can make or break a company. Recent examples at Netflix, Hewlett Packard, and Apple illustrate the challenges and the consequences of good and bad transitions at the top. Should the Netflix board have replaced Reed Hastings when his pricing change blunders caused the stock to drop 75%? How could the HP board have made a better choice when replacing Carly Fiorina (or Mark Hurd for that matter)? Will Apple’s careful planning for the replacement of Steve Jobs pay off? Continue reading
At varying points in time, all leaders are required to inspire, motivate, and challenge employees, colleagues, customers and stakeholders. At other times, leaders need to monitor performance, hold people accountable for results, and negotiate areas of conflict.
In all of these situations, leaders rely on feedback from other people to gauge their effectiveness. In particular, leaders need employee feedback. Without it they have little hope of inspiring or motivating.
Imagine, for example, you are speaking to a room of 200 people on a topic they should all be highly engaged in. Continue reading
It’s fascinating how many assumptions there are about leadership.
Even more fascinating is how many of them are flat-out wrong.
Consider the image of the leader as dictatorial hero—the executive, general, or visionary who grabs the wheel and saves the day. The central assumption in this narrative is that a strong leader takes over a group and willfully exerts power over its members.
That idea of leadership is pure fiction. The only way for a leader to hold power over group members is for those members to give her power.
Sure, you can point to dictators who rocket to power and terrorize a citizenry into toeing the party line. But without exception, there comes a point when enough people are fed up and they change the power dynamic and choose a new leader. Continue reading
“My boss is crazy.” “My employees are lazy!” We’ve all found ourselves expressing some form of those sentiments at one time or another. It’s funny: these conclusions can be reached, quite legitimately, about the same exact event, at the same exact time. It all depends on which chair you occupy.
Take this example: A leader knows that to be on time with a critical software patch, her team will have to work through the weekend. From her perspective, this isn’t optional if the team is going to get the job done for the release Monday morning. When her programmers moan about having to sacrifice their weekend, the leader says, “This isn’t how I want to spend my weekend either, but we have to get this done and whining about it won’t help.” The seemingly obvious conclusion she has reached in response to their complaints is, “My employees are lazy.”