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How to Move Succession Planning Toward the Top of the Agenda

A little planning can make the conversation easier

The urge to change jobs these days is no different in the top spot as it is elsewhere in an organization. According to a March report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, CEO exits jumped 29 percent from 2021, in keeping with an elevated rate of Great Resignations exits. That underscores the importance of succession planning, something organizations don’t enjoy thinking about. CEOs don’t necessarily want to discuss their departure, and boards that already spent a lot of energy on their last CEO hire may be inclined to back-burner the conversation. But to be realistic about their organization’s futures, it’s worth the investment in time.

In an MIT Sloan Management Review article, “The CEO Is Leaving. Now What?,” a pair of UK consultants map out some of the preparation that executives and boards can do to ease the succession-planning process. Assuming that the CEO’s departure isn’t a firing or otherwise abrupt, it’s crucial for the CEO and board to work in tandem. “While the CEO might prefer to personally announce their departure at a time of their choosing, it risks making the company board look weak, given that the departing leader is preempting one of its most important prerogatives: the power to decide who is chief executive,” they wrote.

Agreeing that the departure is going to happen—and even the timing of it—doesn’t ensure the process will go smoothly. A certain amount of awkwardness is to be expected, but CEOs can help by doing some prep work. In 2018, association leadership coach and strategist Cynthia Mills, FASAE, CAE, recommended that CEOs assemble a “transition document” that “literally outlines everything that’s in your head that you just know, and that you’ve forgotten you just know.”

Please select this link to read the complete article from ASAE’s Center for Association Leadership. 

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