Changing Business Needs
Given the speed and fluctuations of business, needs change. Once a particular leader has fulfilled the set of previous needs and new needs arise, it is time to look at whether another leader with different experience and strengths is required. Very few organizations manage this well.
Occasionally we hear stories of CEOs stepping aside for the growth of their business, and these move are often well received as welcome examples of where succession planning and a leader’s self-awareness can work together. It helps organizations foster the maturity of their business, realize their strategies, and manage change. Think about how painful the alternative is: leaders that won’t let go, political upheaval with boards, businesses suffering under the wrong leadership, bad PR, etc.
Managing Talent at the Top
If I had my druthers, here is how talent management at the top would happen:
1. There should be an emphasis on the right person, in the right job, in the right environment all the way to the top. It’s not about when someone is due for that promotion or appointment, but rather whether they are ready to fulfill the role in the context of the current business needs.
2. Organizations should focus on building more all around leaders, or leaders for all seasons. That means putting the right leader for the season in place and managing their development to expose them to their growth areas. They might lead in one area, but be a learner in another. Those that want to stick with their specialty or passion as leaders for one season should plan for the next role, internally or externally.
In all cases, an organization should plan ahead with their leaders what markers or achievements will indicate readiness to move on. While we’re at it, why don’t we extend this to the boards? Make board members better board members for time that they are there, partner them with the C-suite to manage true leadership development and succession planning.
Remember those three other options? They still exist. The complexities of leading companies can’t be minimized. However, this fourth option allows organizations to plan for inevitable change more purposefully, and with less drama. It is my belief that talent management of the C-suite is a green field opportunity, primed for experience design à la Design of Work Experience (DOWE) and additional research.
Reaching the pinnacle of one’s career should be recognized. It is truly an achievement to make it to the C-suite. It is this outsider’s opinion that we should treat these people not as deities or despots to depose, but as what they truly are: top talent.