For many organizations, there’s certainly no denying the risks associated with poor succession planning when passing the so-called “business
baton” from one executive to another:
profit loss, clashes in agenda, service failures, just to name a few. But there are
strategies and approaches that can be
used to avoid, or at the very least alleviate,
these tremendous risks.
The objective of every succession plan is
to facilitate a smooth and successful transition of management responsibilities to
Smart Business sat down with Dave
Buss, Vice President of Global Operations
for AIT Worldwide Logistics Inc., to find
out how to implement a smooth transition
How would you define succession planning
as it applies to leadership?
Because there’s no set formula, matrix,
policy or procedure that is universally utilized, succession planning can’t be clearly
defined in objective terms. Oftentimes, it’s
a bit ambiguous. On some level, each succession plan must be customized according to the particular job candidate and the
skill sets required for his or her new role
within the company.
When designing a business succession
plan with an emphasis on leadership, the
command and control of upward mobility
does not belong solely to high-level executives; rather, a certain level of accountability and decision-making power also
falls on the successor. The succession
plan then becomes a reciprocal process
— employees have the freedom to determine and define the specific initiatives,
tasks and demands that their new position
requires rather than merely relying on the
‘top dogs’ to dictate those initiatives for
them. Some of the best ideas and strategies come from employees, after all.
Instead of simply asking their superiors,
‘What’s next, boss?’ they become proactive enough to suggest, ‘Here’s what
should happen next, boss.’
From a service standpoint, customers
are more likely to buy from forward
thinkers. It becomes only logical and strategic that employers are more inclined to hire and promote those forward
When you have identified leaders within
your organization using this approach,
you will see the entrepreneurial aspect of
succession planning come into play.
Once the succession plan is executed, how
do you determine whether or not the candidate is a leader rather than just a hard
There are several questions you must
ask yourself as the new candidate acclimates to the job: How well does he or she
understand the dynamics of those he or
she is managing, how fairly are responsibilities being delegated and how much
respect is the new leader earning from his
or her subordinates?
Over time, you are more likely to gauge
whether or not these employees can handle their newfound job demands. Essentially, you can distinguish the leaders
from the hard workers based on how they
work when they don’t know all the
Another good test is discovering whether or not they have a positive and strong
sense of self-awareness. They may have
demonstrated they’ve got the skill sets
required for the job, but have they tackled
the self-examination concept that is so
critical to the succession planning
process? Self-mastery is necessary — not
only to align themselves with their personal career goals but also with the overall visions of the organization.
Communication skills must also be
taken into heavy consideration. A lot of
people stress the importance of not personalizing business because it could lead
to favoritism and/or hostility in the work-place. I couldn’t disagree more, particularly when devising succession management
strategies. Personalizing your business
approach lends itself to better communication, especially when you are in the
service industry — even if it’s delivering
bad news to an employee or telling a customer that there’s been a service failure.
How do you train leaders to contend with
shifts in the economy and swings in business?
Businesses go through cycles in the
economy, cycles in success and cycles in
profitability. It’s a natural progression that
is literally unavoidable — it seems that
companies these days increasingly need
to do more with less from a people
When you lead by example and groom a
staff of diversely qualified candidates,
you’re positioning the company to implement innovative and effective ways not
only of surviving but of developing new
business in the face of a down economy.
A healthy competitive work environment emerges, where employees are
more willing to give back to the company.
They maintain the quiet confidence of
knowing there are always going to be new
opportunities for them on the horizon so
that today’s loss is tomorrow’s gain.
DAVE BUSS is the Vice President of Global Operations for AIT Worldwide Logistics Inc., headquartered in Itasca, Ill. Spanning numerous nationwide locations and an ever-increasing network of international partnerships, the global transportation and logistics provider
delivers tailored solutions for a wide variety of vertical markets and industries. Reach him at www.aitworldwide.com or (800) 669-4AIT.