Succession Planning: Creating a Legacy


PassingBatonI recently had the opportunity to work with a client on a succession planning project for the organization’s executive team. The members of the this team have been with the organization for quite a long time and are nearing retirement. As a result, they are working on a five-year plan that includes both identifying and training a successor for each role. In essence, they are making their “if I get hit by or bus or just decide to play golf instead of work plan.” This conversation spurred a number of ideas and thoughts around leaving a legacy in an organization, but also about life. Basically, it got me thinking about my own “what if I get hit by a bus plan.”

Nearly a year ago, my husband and I welcomed our son, Logan, into our lives and this experience has caused me to reflect on the lessons I want to teach him, the values I hope to instill, as well as, more broadly, the mark I want to leave on the world and the legacy I hope to create. Reflecting on these personal goals brings me back to my conversations with my client because our legacy goes beyond our home life. Let’s face it, we spend most of our adult lives at work. This notion brings me back to the conversation with my client because much of what goes into identifying a successor in an organization relates to our own personal legacies in terms of the reputation or brand we’ve created and, as a result, the shoes we hope will fill it in our absence.

From an organizational perspective, the leaders create the culture and ultimately the values for the organization. It is the people at the top who define and influence the mission of the organization whether that’s done on paper or just by example. Therefore, during a succession planning process, leaders are challenged with not only thinking about filling their own shoes, but the culture they want to leave behind and create with a new leadership team.

From an assessment standpoint, leaders are challenged with thinking about the values, drivers, and behavioral characteristics that will result in the next generation of leaders doing it just as well and hopefully better than they did. That being said, succession planning should be about bringing the right people in, but also creating and allowing for opportunities for them to do it differently and better than it has been done in the past. Leaving a legacy is not only about continuing previous successes, but also transcending them.

The birth of my son made the previous statement real for me in many ways. My goal is to teach him, to provide him a framework and stable ground for success, and then to get out of his way so he can find his own path.