Succession Planning: What are your Future Leadership Needs?

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with an executive team of a large non-profit, to design a process for succession planning and leadership development. This is an organization that has its eye on the future. They wanted to go beyond generating simple replacement lists and instead, take a closer look at defining the type of leadership they will need going forward. Naturally, this led to looking at their strategic goals, business plans, and shifts they expect to make over the next three to five years. Below is an outline of a 5-step process that we used. The questions guided our discussions, and we created worksheets to capture the answers.

  1. Define future leaderships needs
    a. What strategic shifts do you expect to make over the next three years?
    b. What must be done differently to make those shifts and accomplish your goals?
    c. What changes in day-to-day leadership behavior are needed? What skills, knowledge, expertise are required?

  2. Assess current leadership capacity
    a. Based on the new capabilities required by your strategy, assess the leadership potential and performance of your current leaders.

  3. Formulate a 3-year projection
    a. What changes are likely to occur in your current leadership team over the next 1-3 years?
    b. Which positions, functions, roles need strengthened and/or redefined?
    c. Is there a need for any new or expanded roles, functions, or positions?
    d. For which positions or functions will you likely need to look externally?

  4. Create a succession list
    a. Who are your rising stars?
    b. Identify potential candidates for each leadership position

  5. Co-create individual development plans
    a. Create plans with current leaders; tying their development goals to business strategy
    b. Create individual plans for candidates and make use of assessment instruments to help enlighten their development needs.

This process and questions were not all of my creation, so credits go out to Kirk Kramer and Preeta Nayak of the Bridgespan Group.

Tom Sullivan is an executive leadership and organizational development consultant with ProGrowth Associates.

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