helping organizations, teams, and individuals take their work to new levels of success by identifying, languaging, and leveraging their strengths


call when your hair is perfect

My hairstylist is fantastic. Unfortunately, this means that appointments need to be scheduled a month or more in advance, and I never know when my hair is going to need to be cut. 

Her advice? “Call when your hair is perfect. A month later you’ll need a cut.”

I think about this when I talk about succession planning and executive transition. I talk with nonprofit executive directors and CEOs, and when I ask what their thoughts and dreams are beyond the current job, they often talk about how difficult it’s been to get the organization to the great or good or at least stable place it’s in. 

But that is the perfect time to talk about succession. And more than talk about it -- PLAN for it. Don’t just think about getting your hair cut when it looks great -- call the salon, lock in the date. 

Powerful succession planning doesn’t require a definitive end date for the current leader, but it needs to go beyond an emergency plan and vague looking around at who might want the job. 

Powerful succession planning involves:

  • candid conversation with the current leader about their timing horizon
  • meaningful discussions around what characteristics, skills, and qualities will be needed in a new leader -- and how much a leader with those will expect to be paid
  • examination of internal systems, processes, and structures -- what’s working, what needs to be improved
  • exploration of the talent pipeline -- are there viable candidates within the organization or its connections, and what can be done to support their development

Of course you, leader, don’t want to leave. Of course you, Board member, don’t want the leader to leave. But eventually, retirement will happen. Or a job that can’t be refused will come along. Or the organization will suffer for the need of a fresh perspective. 

Get succession on your agenda. Schedule the haircut now.