Why Plan for Succession?

 In recent months the headlines have been filled with speculation as to whether the world economies are headed for full blown recession or a ‘slow down’. Whatever the conclusion signals of a financial crisis are here with oil and food prices rising in the US, Europe and in Barbados; also there have been significant Fed rate cuts, seven since September 07 when the rate was 5.25%, bringing the rate to a record low of 2.00%.

Economic movements like this make shareholders nervous as they opt for a ‘wait and see’ approach before determining their next move. In addition, it can trigger a slow down in consumer spending at best or consumer panic at worst. For businesses cost containment and cost management strategies start to come into play, re-defining and re-classifying ‘critical spend’, there are even those who opt for a more drastic approach reviewing headcount numbers.

In uncertain times if a leader is seen to leave an organisation unexpectedly the backlash from a PR perspective alone can be unforgiving, fuelling further uncertainty amongst current and future shareholders and subsequent calls for action. Furthermore it is not altogether unusual to see leaders abandoning ship or even switching allegiances and heading for the competition. But the damage doesn’t end there, invariably what transpires is they convince their star players to join them and they do so with valuable networks and business in tow!

The ability then to be able to smoothly transition another leader into a role recently vacated will do much to quell fears, whilst demonstrating vision and more importantly will likely reduce the overall negative impact to productivity. In essence it is those organisations with an effective succession plan in place that will be able to withstand the rigours of an ever-changing economic landscape.

So what is succession planning and how does it benefit organisations?

Succession planning can be broadly defined as identifying future potential leaders to fill key positions (Source: CIPD).

Succession planning is a critical strategic tool in the fight to attract and retain talent. The benefits are numerous including:

– ensuring the right people are moving into the right roles at the right time
– sending a strong message to employees that the organization prefers to look within to fill critical roles that become vacant
– enabling organisations to identify talented individuals and provide opportunities to develop them for future higher level and/ or broader responsibilities
– promoting greater transparency, openness, fairness and objectivity with respect to discussions centred around performance

Succession planning is not a quick fix to the leadership ails of an organisation. It takes a leader with long-term vision to recognise the benefits of an effective succession planning programme. Great leaders do not just turn up at the doorstep on demand, and, whilst some of your current employees may show a natural aptitude for leading and inspiring others, the development of their leadership potential is just as crucial as the development needs of other employee within the organisation.

Our regional market consists predominantly of small – medium sized enterprises; (SME’s); many of these being small family-run businesses. Succession planning for SME’s is challenging because frequently ‘the Board’, if there is one, consists of family members and there is usually an inherent assumption that someone in the family will take up the reins once the incumbent leader has retired their post. With increased flexibility in the labour market, both international and regional opportunities abound, and these are often more attractive to the potential family successor than inheriting the family business. In such cases organisations are often vulnerable to stagnation as the incumbent leader, perhaps a father hoping his son/ daughter will succeed, often has unrealistic expectations that they may still change their mind so fails to plan for the inevitable.

Even where there is willingness on the part of family members to be considered as a successor the question is ‘are these individuals equipped with the skills necessary for creating and sustaining success’ in what is now a very competitive environment?

So what are the consequences of failure to plan for SME’s? They are left with the dilemma of either: entrusting the running of the business to a General Manager, and subsequently risking the possibility of causing offence to the ‘family’, or acquiescing to family and leaving the organisations in the hands of an ill-equipped family member to satisfy tradition. The remedy to all this is taking a long-term approach to leadership and planning the development of the prospective successors over time. These individuals need to have their skills and understanding of the business, and its history, honed over time, being gradually exposed to all aspects of the business.



istock_000000796578xsmallp.JPGWe’ve had a few calls for coaching recently. Have you noticed how coaching’s never really gone away? It’s somehow managed to survive being relegated as a ‘fad’ when ‘Life Coaches’ became popular. So why is that?

Well perhaps it’s because coaching seems to have been around in some form since before time itself…well not really, but it’s definitely been around for a while. According to Performance Coaching Int’l http://www.performancecoachinginternational.com/ we can trace the roots of coaching right from days of yore when the more experienced and skilled elders would teach the young how to hunt, cook, paint pictures on cave walls and to contribute effectively to their communities in general.

Fast-forward a few hundred centuries and Performance Coaching Int’l attribute a noticeable increase in interest in coaching, to the transition of society from a collective to an ‘individual’ focus. This aligns with the changes in development –interventions which moved from the sheep-dip approach, prevalent in the 1990’s, to tailored and individualized solutions that are common today.

A major breakthrough in coaching came in the guise of the published work of a former motor racing champion, Sir John Whitmore. His publication ‘Coaching for Performance’ (2002) gave the world the now famous GROW model (Goal, Reality, Options, Will). His simple approach helped to open the floodgates for what has become a billion dollar industry in both the US and UK markets.

Over the last 15 years numerous other coaching approaches have emerged with some attempting to make it more ‘sophisticated’, and in our opinion overcomplicating it! Whichever approach you favour the underlying ethos remains the same. Coaching is essentially:

an intuitive developmental tool that facilitates the individual arriving at their own solution with learning being the ultimate outcome’.
(Monique Straughan & Felicia Linch 2008)

“But” we hear you say – “this doesn’t fit our definition of a coach”. Perhaps you are more familiar with the ‘sports coach’ who gives more instruction and there is less input from the individual, or the ‘mentor’. These classifications are used interchangeably at times and often without being defined so instead of bringing clarity to the Coaching debate they muddy the waters. So we have designed a useful model which is our attempt at distinguishing and understanding these different classifications, and the respective value of each:


The Listener: this is where instruction from the manager is low and input from the employee is low. This could be considered the most ineffectual of all the classifications as basically the employee is given the opportunity to vent but no problem solving/guidance is forthcoming.

The Sports Coach: this is where there is high instruction from the manager and low input from the employee. This relationship may be of value but we suggest is more suited to employees with limited/no work experience, or in a non-work environment such as youth clubs, educational institutions.

The Mentor: this is where there is high instruction from the manager, but also high in put from the employee. This relationship also has some value and may be the initial stages of a ‘Coaching’ relationship as the employee gains confidence and realises that they have the answers within them. Another distinguishing factor with a mentor is that their scope often extends beyond job-development and therefore it is recommended that a mentor be someone other than the direct line manager.

The Coach: this is where there is low instruction from the manager, and high input from the employee. Here the coach questions and challenges, rather than ‘tells’ the employee what to do. We believe the learning is much more effective when the employee has arrived at the answer themselves verses having it handed to them, not to mention the fact that if it all goes horribly wrong the employee has to take some responsibility rather than just pointing the finger at the coach!

So there you have it – Coaching and the classifications defined. Next week we take a look at the basic coaching process, and more importantly the value, or not, that it delivers to businesses.


Employee Engagement … A Moving Target

istock_000000340142xsmall.jpgWelcome to the first of 12 weeks of blurb from the desk of Monique and Felicia. We’d firstly like to thank Francis for giving us the opportunity to contribute to this blog and we shall certainly do our best to keep the topics provocative and interesting ‘a la’ the brief we’ve been provided!

This week we decided to look at that area of Human Resources that has become a hot topic on the lips of many …..Employee Engagement.

What is employee engagement? Is it another fad? Is it the perfect marriage between employer and employee?

As with many other areas within our field, mention employee engagement to the average worker and you will see a blank face, eyes glazing over, a shift to the left then right and well….you know the rest.

So we take a stab at defining employee engagement so that at a minimum we provide you with our frame of reference. But why reinvent the wheel, we liked the definition provided by the customer experience consultants McDaniels and Partners. You make up your own mind:

Employee engagement:

is commitment to the organization; job ownership and pride; passion and excitement; and commitment to execution and the bottom line”.

Source: http://employeefactor.com/2007/10/employee_engagement_starts_wit.html

Sounds simple enough but is in fact easier said than done, let’s break it down, there seems to be 4 key themes here:
Continue reading “Employee Engagement … A Moving Target”