Business Leadership

Choosing a Successor

Being a leader can get tiresome. When it's time to choose a successor, here's a useful tool to help pick the best person for the job.

Tired of being the boss?

Choosing a Successor

That's not unusual. Many business owners hit a point at which they just feel overwhelmed.

There can be a variety of reasons for wanting out.

Maybe you are too hands-on and hate to delegate, and the business is growing to the point where the workload is just killing you.

Maybe you are simply working way too hard for too little money.

On the other hand, maybe business is doing so well that you feel you finally have earned and deserve a break.

Whatever your reason for wanting a change, it's OK to feel good about your decision to get out.

Changing leadership every so often is a good thing for most businesses. New leaders bring in fresh perspective, fresh ideas and fresh energy.

So who should replace you? That's a tough decision. The best way to find your replacement is to list out potential candidates and evaluate each of them on attributes that are important to you.

Build a spreadsheet with these attributes in the rows and then create a column for each succession candidate. For each attribute (i.e. row), rank each succession candidate on a scale of one to five with five being high and one being low.

Here are some sample succession candidate evaluation criteria that you might consider using:

  • Do you trust them?
  • What's their relevant experience?
  • What's their level of commitment to the firm?
  • Do they have an effective management style?
  • How good are their communications skills?
  • Will they run the business profitably?
  • Do they show signs of creativity that might help to grow the business?
  • Are guts and ambition part of their makeup?
  • How well do their values align with your values?
  • What's their education?
  • How well-connected are they?

Once you've filled in your spreadsheet, add up the numbers for each candidate. The total for each candidate is your assessment of how capable he or she would be as a successor. The candidate with the most points may be the best person for the job.

Is this a foolproof method for choosing your own replacement? Absolutely not. It's just a useful tool to help in your evaluation of succession candidates. You'll want to use a variety of other methods in your selection process.

You may also decide that none of your existing candidates is good enough for the job, in which case you may need to hire an executive search firm to find a new CEO to replace yourself.

Using the spreadsheet discussed above, it's also a good idea to total the scores for each selection criteria across all attributes. The total column will show you those leadership qualities that are plentiful within your group and those that may be lacking.

For example, if you find that "How good are their communications skills?" doesn't have many points, it may be time to offer communications training to your employees or it may be time to improve your HR screening processes to ensure that future hires have better communication skills.

Good luck to you in your efforts to get the leadership monkey off your back and bring in a successor. It is never easy, but in the end it usually works out for the best.

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