Succession Planning: Getting it Right

by Erin Mahoney on June 19, 2017

in Leadership


Though most of us associate succession planning with only the highest levels of leadership, identifying and developing new leaders is paramount at all levels of the organization. That said, the more essential the role, the more critical it becomes to ensure that a plan is in place in case a key player leaves – either expectedly or unexpectedly.

Unfortunately, there are several large psychological obstacles in the way of finding a successor. First, few people, if any, like to think of themselves as replaceable and even those that understand the importance of a solid succession plan will often drag their feet at the thought of implementing one. Another obstacle presents itself in the form of the “Similar to Me Bias” – we’re more attracted to candidates that look and lead like we do, leading us to be drawn to people who share the same qualities.

Similarly, the organizations that are keeping an eye out for emerging leaders are doing so by looking for very narrow traits, such as being assertive, driven and charismatic. However, there is no one-size-fits-all leadership and the qualities necessary for a given position are almost as varied as there are people who can fill it. Yet, despite these obstacles, there are some basic guidelines to getting succession planning right:

  1. Always keep an eye out for high-potential performers you can develop and promote from within, and also
  2. Broaden your perspective on what kind of leadership style is the best fit for the role, and most importantly
  3. Remember that the needs of organizations and departments change over time and that the kinds of leadership styles that will best serve them will change over time too.

Tall order? You bet. Luckily, the rising tide of people analytics is lifting all boats, from recruitment and hiring, to team development and succession planning. Cascade Employers Association is proud to be in partnership with the Predictive Index, which can identify the drives, motivations and behaviors of a potential leader and demystify what traits are necessary for a particular position that needs a succession plan.

By embedding people analytics, such as the Predictive Index, within the fabric of an organization identifying and developing talent becomes second-nature and makes it easier to overcome the psychological obstacles to succession planning. However, even organizations that are not yet using people analytics can benefit from reflecting on the questions above.

It is certainly an investment in time and energy to do so, but the benefits, in the form of higher engagement, increased productivity, stronger commitment and higher retention make it one of the wisest investments in your organization’s future you can make.

For more about the Predictive Index, visit For 10 Tips for Filling Your Talent Pool, click here.

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