I see it happen time and time again: a senior-level executive strolls in on a Monday morning and announces that in three months, they are retiring. The company immediately goes into a defensive stance; telling everyone that they have known about this for weeks and are consulting the Strategic Succession Plan to identify a replacement. Time passes, but no successor is named.
Why? Because the truth is, the company never thought that the exiting individual was thinking about moving on.
So now, leadership begins talking internally about this candidate and that candidate. More time passes. The exiting executive has set the bar higher than any internal candidate can reach. Outsiders interview, but none quite fits the bill.
As desperation begins to set in, leadership, in their infinite wisdom, decides that maybe a certain internal candidate might be okay for the job. Over the next month, the internal candidate goes through a disjointed round of interviews until finally, an offer is made and accepted, and a congratulatory email is distributed.
- The company has had to pay several thousands of dollars more for orientation.
- Due to lack of experience, there is now a brittle link in the chain of command. Things don’t get done the way they used to and productivity suffers.
- Morale in the departed executive’s sphere of influence suffers because the successor doesn’t know what they are doing—and their credibility suffers as well—to say nothing of the stress they feel due to their inadequacy.
No wonder the CEO keeps complaining that we just can’t find good people to work here!
No, we found the people.
We just did not set up a six-month transfer system where all pertinent job knowledge gets transferred from the about-to-be-departed to the anointed successor or new hire. Why?
Because the company did not want to have an embarrassing conversation with the executive relative to their thoughts and plans about retirement. After all, that kind of talk may put ideas in the executive’s head and they may bolt, or worse: take revenge on the company for wrongful termination!!
So, do nothing, and things will work out? I guess we know the answer to that question!!
What smart succession planners know
Succession planning can be an arduous task if it is looked upon as a transactional exercise rather than a relational opportunity to help the company manage its workforce maturely. Some have referred to this concept as phased retirement. Done correctly, the final piece of succession planning can have very positive results for all as it:
- Helps the transitioning executive: it provides coaching support so they can successfully prepare themselves, and their families, for the next chapter in their lives.
- Helps the successor and the company: it facilitates the “knowledge transfer” so the successor is prepared for the transition and gives their new sphere of influence confidence in their ability to lead.
- Helps the transitioning executive: it begins a process, exploring with the transitioning executive, a new role for them within the company that keeps them employed, engaged and purposeful. They go from a boss role to a teammate role. They go from being a hierarchical mainstay to a utility executive using their wisdom and experience to make any team stronger. They fill a gap caused by various business challenges and become a DeFacto internal coach as they interact with their new teammates.
- Helps the company: it retains a knowledgeable and experienced asset to fill in where needed, as needed and paid at the rate the need warrants. The needs include filling in for a peer going out on medical or personal leave. Being the start-up associate of a new department helping to build its purpose and organize its team. Sealing a gap that occurs when an executive quits unexpectedly until a replacement is found or sometimes the company talks to the transitioning executive about handling the role for a specific period of time. Finally, joining a team that is about to be disbanded to keep the business output steady while being the one who shuts the lights out when they are done.
We spend an awful lot of time, money, and focus on the onboarding process. If we did the same with the transition process by reassigning Talent or, if you will an asset of the company, to help the company overcome some of its business challenges (lack of an available workforce) we just might see a more tranquil and better managed company emerge.
If you are considering retirement…
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Bob Foley is your Retirement Lifestyle Coach and you can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or simply by scheduling time on his calendar here.