Succession Planning is a Dirty Word

In many organizations, the term “succession planning” is so loaded that it prevents people from engaging in effective dialog about the future needs of the business and the talent available to meet those needs.

Among current executives, succession planning invokes fear that their skills and experiences are no longer relevant to the business. On a deeper level, succession planning may also trigger feelings of mortality as leaders ponder their longevity and identity post retirement.

Among employees hungry for more development and mobility, succession planning can be associated with inequitable and subjective leadership practices. Employees assume that “favorites” will get slotted for desirable roles, while the most deserving candidates go overlooked. Succession planning may also reinforce organizational beliefs that senior management lacks transparency since most succession planning practices are perceived by employees as “black holes.”

Let’s be honest. Succession planning is a dirty word. It’s met with skepticism, cynicism, avoidance and even sabotage in some instances. If this is the case in your company, consider removing the term all together from your vocabulary and replacing it with positive language and positioning that describes what you are really striving for, which is to build strong and deep leadership pipelines and develop careers.

Embedding this positive positioning within your culture can avoid the negative emotions and implications associated with succession planning and can enable your organization to achieve its talent management objectives.

A company’s success and legacy across future generations depend on new approaches to and language for succession planning. For more insight and practical solutions to planning for the development and succession of leaders in your organization, visit my website or contact me directly.