Succession Planning & Business Transformation Coaching

Succession Planning & Business Transformation Coaching

I wish to explore the correlation between Succession Planning and Business Transformation Coaching, the latter seen as an enabler for developing a high performing team and achieving a commercially successful organization. 

In this article, I will argue that there’s nothing more important than creating and implementing an intelligent succession planning strategy, and using coaching to facilitate this vital business objective. It all starts from the principle that it is people who make or break your Company. Yes, talented, quality individuals you as a leader carefully curate and bring into the organization from the outside through successful recruitment and head-hunting efforts, but also talent that you already have within your organization. Either way, make no mistake: talent acquisition costs money and is an investment.

It is talented people – not your Office, not your equipment, not the size of your business bank account – that are your main asset. People represent the collective intellectual property that your Company is blessed with and the pillars upon which your Brand stands strong.  Defined as: “What people say about you [or your Business] when you are not in the room”, your Brand is the result of how your people act, behave and ultimately “own” your company and the way in which they represent your Business. A set of critical traits that are often externalized through the competence and the attitude that your people exhibit when dealing with one another and when interfacing with customers or suppliers. A basket of traits that are ultimately measured by the commercial success of your business.

Talent must be found first and then must be nurtured once it has been found and brought in. It is not without a good reason that talent has actually made it into the list of the so-called LEAN 7-Wastes, thus adding itself as the eighth waste to that list. Talent must not go unnoticed nor must it be taken for granted at any time, especially during periods of “great resignation”, a trend that has recent been accompanying the new norm of the post-COVID era.

As CEOs and CHROs, we must study and carefully analyze the pool of talented and high-performing people that we are blessed with in our midst. There are of course well-known human resources methodologies, tools, and techniques that will help us structure the feedback-gathering process, thus aiding us to form an opinion. These are tools ranging from 360-degree feedback to performance appraisals, forced distribution principles, and everything else in between. Yet, we must not forget the simple power of observation to be added to the above said empirical mix; observations which we usually practice when interacting with our teams on a daily basis noticing as we do how people are adept at navigating through the meander and labyrinth that makes the corporate world, how they react to challenging situations and how they go about their decision-making process.

With the exception of determining the % of a pay rise to award staff, or deciding which member(s) of the team is/are destined to leave the organization based on performance (forced distribution tool), one of the most important activities that must be led by CHROs and CEOs alike is succession planning. In simple terms, this is the strategy of identifying individuals who are to be prepared and made ready to take up higher levels of responsibilities within the organization in the medium to long term. Whether it be due to the creation of a new Department or to the foresight that a C-level vacancy will become available in the next months or years, or simply because a specific job function is too business-critical to be left without competent leadership should the current incumbent unexpectedly leave the company, it is our responsibility and our duty to think and act ahead.

In fact, Succession Planning is often considered as one of the major corporate risks, a risk which – if it materializes with a high likelihood – the impact on business could be severe and in some cases also deadly.

So what might we do to mitigate this risk?

Without wishing to oversimplify things, we must link succession planning to an equally intelligent business coaching strategy.  We identify talented people at various levels of the organization throughout the year and enroll them on a journey of self-discovery by the beginning of the new financial year, ready to embark on a 6-9-12 months period of leadership readiness. For nothing else, as CEO and CHRO you will be known and recognized for creating a business Investor in People wherein your employee brand will automatically gain credit and social currency, leading up to lower attrition levels, a happier workforce, employer-of-choice status, and to higher productivity.

Look at the most outstanding entrepreneurs – Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and such likes. What do they all have in common?

They all have passion, determination, a strong focus, a bird’s-eye view, and an impressive level of readiness to take on new opportunities. More importantly, they have a crystal-clear understanding of who they are and what they want in life.

So, how do we get there?

Business Coaching should be distinguished between “functional” (e.g. managerial) and “behavioral” (e.g. leadership).  If for example the role in question (e.g. that for which we are planning for succession) is Director of Sales & Marketing, and if we believe that the current Head of Finance is the person to take up the Director’s role, then it is critical that the former is equipped with the know-how required to execute the Director of Sales and Marketing job.  In this context, we must cover the functional or managerial aspects of the Sales & Marketing Department.  In other words, we have to ensure that the Head of Finance knows what is critical to business in the capacity of Director of Sales & Marketing and as such s/he is competent in executing those activities. Once we’ve got this covered, the second highly critical aspect of coaching is the leadership side of the role. Here is where I wish to introduce a more in-depth conversation about the importance of the Business Transformation Coach.

Whereas the functional can often be fulfilled from within the Organization, the business transformation coach turns out to be more effective if s/he is not part of the organizational staffing, but an outsider to it. It is a delicate role that relies on discretion, confidentiality, and trust. In my experience, this role works better if a neutral person (one out of the current organizational environment) is assigned to this job.

As my friend coaching consultant and leadership expert Maryia Oayda have stated:

“Business Transformation Coach helps senior executives and business owners achieve personal and professional transformation, enabling them to create high-performing teams and fast-growing companies.  Each individual possesses a remarkable set of traits and potential”.  What’s needed is a proven hybrid model that infuses clients’ personal traits with their professional expertise in a powerful mix capable of achieving radical business transformation and bottom-line results.

See Maryia’s Human Q-Method 4-part approach wheel at foot of this article.

During the business transformation coaching program, the first part must be dedicated to discovering our hidden inhibitions, those negative traits that are often capable of sabotaging our potential and hindering our growth. These inhibitions can be generated from our physical dimension (e.g. how our biology and our body can influence us in the way we are, and in the way we are perceived by the outer world). This is followed by the all-important emotional and spiritual dimensions, basically, our level of EQ and our personal value system that tend to heavily influence our behavior.

Once we have recognized and dealt with these physical, emotional, and spiritual growth inhibitors, the next chapter of the coaching program must move on to creating our “personal brand”, e.g. building a personal reputation based on our strengths, shaping our self-image of a rational, calm and positive attitude person. This is also where our persona is completely aligned with our future business role – the one we wish to take up in the future (link here to succession planning), with our Business ethics, or simply to our own personal development plan.

In the third chapter, crucial for both leaders and their followers, we will shift into discovering non-linear ways of thinking and developing lean mission plan. In other contexts, I have often referred to this phase as “Heart, Mind, and Guts” space. The heart represents our empathetic side, empathy both towards our colleagues and our customers; empathy towards our product and services. The mind consists of our intentional transformational plan with a clearly outlined roadmap. And finally, guts represent our perceived direction, which is neither the result of our emotional or rational self; but rather generated by our gut feel for a non-linear direction of travel in the midst of the business VUCA environment.

Once we’ve gone through these 3 phases, the business coach will help us kick start our professional transformation by initiating a pragmatic shift towards a tailor-made entrepreneurial mindset designed with you and for you as a person, bearing in mind the work environment you operate within.

A transformation is achieved through heart-to-heart persuasion, C-level negotiation, and activation of commercial growt


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