Building a Strong Bench: 6 Tips for Leadership Succession Planning

For sports teams, it’s understood that building a strong bench is a key factor for success. Through coaching and individualized training, reserve players are prepared to assume starting roles when needed. For organizations to enjoy long-term success, they must also build strong benches. Here are 6 leadership succession planning tips:


1 Understand Strategy & Structure.

As a first step, review current processes and practices. Conduct leadership and board interviews on organizational strategy and structure: current thoughts/feelings on succession; existing organizational situation, including internal and external challenges; desired talent profile; and importance of candidates’ competency ratings (using 12-factor Worthy Leadership Model). Armed with this information, identify your talent needs that fit both the structure and strategy.

2 Look to Future.

It’s said the only constant is change. To ensure long-term sustainability, envision what will be needed 5-10+ years out – in terms of talent, strategy, and structure – rather than only trying to replicate the current personnel and infrastructure. Blend a desire for continuity with the need for innovation and change.

3 Identify “Multiple Good” Options.

Keep your possibilities open by not narrowing selections too soon. For internal candidates, review recent job performance and recommendations from leadership. Evaluate possible internal successors ready now or those who could be ready after professional development. If finding or developing strong internal candidates is unlikely, formulate a plan for looking outside using description of talent needs outlined earlier.

4 Create a Process.

Beginning with initial assessments, understand you will need to revisit the leadership succession planning process many times, not just a single event or once-a-year examination. Key aspects of the process include: aligning, defining, assessing, developing, and measuring.

5 Consider the Team.

Looking at the whole organization, think about what skills/competencies will be needed across all team members to both complement and sharpen each other – now and into the future. When evaluating team members, utilize comprehensive assessment data through “multiple data sources – involving external assessments, past performance, and impact data like 360-degree feedback.

6 Develop for Success.

Minor-league athletes work hard in the hope of earning a call-up to the majors. In businesses and other organizations, employees’ commitment to their individual development plans demonstrates to management their level of dedication in preparing for their next opportunity. Going forward, quarterly reviews are a powerful benchmarking tool to track progress and to gauge commitment and readiness to rise to next opportunity.

It’s never too soon to start developing your talent bench. For more information about LWF’s services around leadership succession planning, please contact us.