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Succession Management Considerations for Grooming Successors

Human Resources

Succession management doesn't always come easily to small business owners. One initial question frequently arises: Is promoting a leader from within or reaching out externally the better decision? Every business must assess the pros and cons of each approach and move forward from there.

The worst strategy is to do nothing and wait until leaders are about to step down before beginning the search for successors. There are some key reasons to plan:

  • The best results generally occur when an individual who's been in a leadership position can actively "pass the torch" to his or her successor.
  • The business landscape these days has become so intricate that a leader must have a broad range of skills and experience to tackle the job.
  • The value of the business itself could depend on choosing the right successors.

Assuming you have taken a proactive approach toward succession management and have new leaders prepared to take the reins, consider some of the following steps to most effectively prepare the successor to take control.

1. Recognize the next leader may make mistakes and encourage them to use it as a learning opportunity. As a successor starts to get involved in daily operational matters, it's possible that he or she will make the wrong call – or simply try something new that doesn't work. Be patient and help the individual through this process. Although you may quickly see the error of their ways, there’s value in not interfering but rather using the situation as a learning opportunity and being there for support.

2. Strengthen the successor's leadership skills. An incoming leader may have strong professional credentials and a keen understanding of how the business works. But leadership often involves much more. Pay attention to the individual's soft skills — his or her ability to communicate, listen, empathize with others, and handle uncomfortable situations. These skills could make the difference between employees getting behind a new leader or feeling estranged when the new leader takes over.

3. Be present, but don't get in the way. Difficulties can sometimes arise when a departing owner or other leader is asked to stick around while the new person gets comfortable in a leadership role. The succession process may run more smoothly if it is clear to everyone within the organization that the real decision-making powers belong to the incoming leader. Anything less than a transparent process of succession could result in unnecessary confusion among employees.

4. Introduce the new leader to key vendors and customers. A transition in leadership may affect people beyond the employees. For instance, key vendors and customers may be accustomed to dealing with a leader in a certain way which may change with new leadership. In any case, introducing successors can make a positive impact.

When the time comes to prepare new leaders for your business, take a deliberate and proactive approach to help ensure the best results for new leaders and the health of your business.

This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.