Four Common Mistakes in Leadership Succession Planning

On November 15, 2018 Natalie Ackerman, president of Cornerstone Consulting, presented at our Succession Roadmapping training. This training shared the importance of making sure every person in your organization is prepared to transition to a place of greater leadership and responsibility when a leader is replaced.

Four Common Mistakes in Leadership Succession Planning:

  • Making your top performers your succession plan.

“Just because someone is an outstanding performer in their current role, does not necessarily predict they’ll be a high potential in the next level. In fact, the research tells us that high performers are not always high potentials,” said Ackerman.

“In trying to keep talented people, especially young women who are starting families, we’ve organically tried to create childcare at our church, so they can have their kids at church while they’re working. We want to do anything possible to make their home life and their professional life work, it’s very important to keep talented leaders,” said Rev. Anne Vining, Senior Pastor, First Covenant Church of St. Paul.

  • Relying on subjective assessments of leadership potential.

“We ask a manager for their recommendation is a part of the process, but that’s a very subjective assessment. There are assessments and tools on the market that you can use, they’re probably a little bit costly,” said Ackerman.

Look at one or two leaders in your organization, and identify what top five qualities and attributes make them an outstanding leaders. Use them as measures for future leaders in your organization. You have a vision, values, a mission, and your future strategic imperative, and all of this needs to align with that.

  • You’re only planning for the C-Suite.

“In ministries that would mean planning to replace the executive pastor and the senior pastor. But rather than only planning for those positions, you should be planning at every level in the organization, even with individual contributors,” said Ackerman.”

“What’s at stake if a critical leader leaves a church? The spiritual health of the flock. If a leader leaves unexpectedly, the whole thing could crumble,” said Sam, a participant.

  • Once you’ve identified your potential successors, that your work is done. That’s just the beginning.

“Putting your plan together is just the beginning. Now you actually have to develop the people. Creating individual development plans for people is critical,” said Ackerman. “I think one of our failures is we tend to delegate but not empower. We don’t do a very good job of giving individuals the opportunity to lead something and to succeed or fail. We don’t release really well, we delegate, but we don’t release someone to be in charge,” said Jeff Groen, Evergreen Church, Oversees the Marriage & Parenting & Children’s Ministries.

Creating individual development plans for people is critical

6 Important Questions to Ask Yourself about Your Organization’s Succession Plan

  1. What are your organizations top strategic initiatives over the next 5-10 years?
  2. Which positions in your organization are most critical in achieving current and future goals?
  3. Which positions if vacant, could cause harm to the organization?
  4. Which positions require specialized skills and/or knowledge?
  5. Which positions have been hard to recruit for?
  6. Do projected labor shortages exist for skills that you need in the future?

8 “Who Questions” to ask when looking at leadership potential:

  • Who asks great questions that push us beyond the status quo?
  • Who is always learning more and connecting new ideas to our overarching goals?
  • Who has the influence (even without formal authority) to advance ideas for making things work better?
  • Who has a knack for seeing what other people do well and positioning those people to succeed in the process of achieving bigger picture team goals?
  • Who do people naturally turn to for answers, advice or a listening ear?
  • Who do you implicitly trust?
  • Who elevates the game and the intensity of every other player when he or she walks onto the field?
  • Who manages change and conflict in ways that keep people focused on achievement?

December 10, 2018
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