Stop Mass Exits With Purposeful Succession Planning

This month is the ending of an incredible leadership journey I reluctantly agreed to. Two and a half years ago, I was approached to help a nonprofit gain its footing with their leadership pipeline. Even before the pandemic hit, this organization was struggling to build up its leadership bench. It seemed as if there was little commitment on the part of the board which resulted in yearly turnover and major disruptions. It felt as if the organization was on a road with no real leadership and no clear direction. There were some major changes happening and the leaders were unable to gain the trust of the community. It truly was a “hot mess”.

After agreeing to step in to take a hard look at what had transpired, I was definitely unsure of how this would all turn out. I knew this organization well but did not recognize it. Looking around and listening to everything that had unraveled, I was in total shock.

How would I be able to rebuild this crumbling organization?

Where should I begin?

What else besides the leadership pipeline needed fixing?

Who else could help me and who did I trust?

How would I stop the continual mass leadership exists?

Stop Mass Exists With Succession Planning

1. Establish A Group of Trusted Advisers

When an organization is developing its leadership pipeline, it is important for leaders to create a group of colleagues who have a deep understanding of the institution. This council will be a place to share thoughts about potential future leaders and how to move them forward. These trustworthy leaders will always speak their truths and keep the best interests of an organization in the forefront.

2. Conduct A Listening Campaign

A healthy starting point to decide what a leadership pipeline should look like is to conduct a listening campaign throughout the organization. A listening campaign can provide vital insights into what’s important to the community. Some questions that can be asked may include:

  • What is our vision and mission?
  • What should be our priorities to focus on?
  • What changes do we want to make?
  • What do we want to continue doing?

3. Interview Possible New Leaders

The next action to building a leadership pipeline is designing an interviewing process where you get to know the potential leaders. Don’t limit the number of interviewees but ask consistent questions. Develop the questions with the trusted advisers and leave out bias and judgment. Make sure to elicit how the candidates feel about their role on the team and where they are interested in growing. It’s a two-sided story in figuring out if someone is a good fit and has future growth potential.

4. Form A New Team

Now the fun takes over with the formation of a new leadership team and pipeline. When putting together all the different leaders consider diversity and the needs of the organization.

  • What backgrounds, skills and experience would add to a high performing team?
  • Which leaders will carry out the vision and mission with impact?
  • Are there different leadership styles represented?
  • Does the team reflect an inclusive community?

5. Create A Code Of Ethics Together

A final piece of building a team is making sure that all the members understand and accept the team values. One way to be successful is by empowering all the new leaders to create a code of ethics. This can be such a powerful experience as I witnessed with the team I created. We used this code to guide us how we would interact and connect with each other.

As this leadership journey and experience ends I am proud of the leadership pipeline I helped build for the future.

What other ways have you impacted your organization’s succession planning?