Ensure your successor is better equipped for success than you were
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Ensure your successor is better equipped for success than you were

The future demands looking beyond the usual candidates for the new skills and ideas needed

Business leadership succession planning is looming for Thai organisations. Sixty percent of listed companies expect a senior succession to take place within three years, it is essential to prepare by understanding what the organisation will look like and what future leaders (plural) will be needed.

Even the best organisations and leaders can have a blind spot about what happens next, especially when they are riding high or in a tough spot. In my experience, the problem is not a reluctance to let go of power, a lack of open communication about succession, or the challenge of passing on knowledge and connections, though these are all factors. It is more about an ambiguous future, with no well-thought-out approach to integrating talent management and succession planning.

The answer is to examine what it will take for your successors to be capable replacements and leaders who can surpass previous achievements and lead the organisation to new heights.

The days of looking for a clone of the current leader — someone to continue business as usual — are gone. The future demands fresh perspectives, innovative thinking, looking at the organisation holistically, and looking beyond the usual candidates for the new skills and ideas that are needed.

It means accepting that ready-made replacements are few and far between, and an often-tough process of coaching potential successors and providing them with opportunities for growth and learning. It requires an investment in creating a leadership pipeline that develops leaders at all levels, not just at the top.

Where to start? Look for input from employees, customers and partners. Diverse perspectives in the decision-making process mean organisations can feel more confident that they are choosing capable successors well-suited to lead in an ever-changing business landscape.

How do we find and/or build someone better than the incumbent?

Look at the whole organisation. Where we are going and what do we need to consider when defining profiles for the future? Involve various perspectives. It is sensitive, but employees can tell you what kind of CEO they need. Your decision should involve stakeholders, including customers and partners, to ensure future leaders align with your values and goals.

Identify individuals with potential at different levels. Choose individuals who understand the future direction of the organisation. Prepare these successors at all levels so they are ready to step up. Some organisations may focus only on preparing a single successor, but it is important to have alternatives and be prepared for unexpected changes.

Consider what you need to build for the organisation (not just the successor) to succeed. If I step up, what does it mean to the people I currently work with? What disruptions will be created? If I become managing director, my right hand will take a different role. This is a blind spot in succession planning. In some organisations, the CEO is very knowledgeable about finance, but their successor comes from a marketing background. What does this mean? What do we need to build?

Ask about your high potential. The world of work and aspirations has changed a lot. For younger generations, onward and upward is not as appealing as it was to older generations. This means it’s important to talk to potential successors to understand their aspirations and readiness.

Your criteria for inclusion should consider whether someone can wait one, two or three years, depending on the organisation’s needs. Some organisations may require a preparation period of three to four years. You need to make people interested and willing to enter your succession planning process.

Monitor, adjust and top up your talent. It is crucial to continuously fill the talent pipeline, as a succession plan spanning 3 or 5 years may fail if this pipeline is not topped up. Some organisations struggle because they do not accept external hires or fail to develop a trajectory for top management, resulting in a significant gap.

Get the right people involved. Your choice of coaches and mentors is crucial, and individuals should not be limited to meeting only the CEO. Succession planning should involve multiple dimensions and perspectives to adequately prepare for the future.

Consider individuals not being selected for advancement. Some organisations overlook the importance of planning for the future of all employees, not just those selected for advancement to the top job. This can lead to challenges for the next CEO as peers being relied upon walk out the door feeling overlooked.

Remember, succession planning is preparing those who can take your organisation to new heights. Increasing the focus on development, coaching, and involving stakeholders ensures your future is in good hands.

Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer, Managing Director and Founder at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Centre. She is fascinated by the challenge of transforming education for all to create better prospects for Thais and people everywhere. Reach her email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa

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