CEO Succession – Advice from the Harvard Business Review

Posted on October 27, 2011

   A CEO who retired shares his thoughts about how to make a smooth and productive transition in an article I recently read in the October issue of the Harvard Business Review.  The six things he learned can help any CEO looking to step down and can be useful as well to any program coordinator of a non-profit organization.  Stepping down from any position can be difficult for many people in the organization and the following 6 thoughts are very helpful for everyone to cultivate the experience making it a learning and growing time for the members of the company:

1) “It’s a horse race.” – The author, A.G.L, explains that the more candidates interviewing for the CEO position the better giving you “more choices, more breadth and depth of leadership…and more leaders to take on more business opportunities.

2) “It’s not personal.” – The company and its future are the top priority and this should be kept in mind when interacting with potential candidates, keeping your personal feelings and relationships out of the picture.

3) “It’s hard to let go.” – Leaving can be difficult and since one is so familiar with the company it can be easy to stay on as CEO even if it’s only to ride out a difficult time for the company.  The sooner the new CEO gets experience with the company and can apply his expertise to tough situation that arise, the better.

4) “The process will never be perfect.” – “By its very nature it is messy and imprecise,” A.G.L. writes, and it is useful to remember this when the transition is daunting.  A.G.L mentions that the company “adapted [its] business strategy and tested the final CEO candidates against more-uncertain and volatile scenarios before making a final decision” which helped the process to be as productive and positive as possible.

5) “Move over, move out, move on.” – A.G.L writes about having moved out of the CEO office and onto another floor, until when the year was over and the CEO transition criteria had been met, he could retire as chairman and move on having paved a good path for the current CEO he had the privilege of working with.

6) “CEO Succession forces the board to up its game.” – The decisions that take place when a CEO is retiring, enables a board to work together and foster strong relationships between the board and the management team.  This can be a great learning opportunity for everyone involved in the company, not just the incoming and outgoing CEO.

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