coaching executives challenge

How Your C-Suite (And Yes, Even the CEO) Can Benefit from Coaching

One positive that has emerged from the pandemic is a focus on the leadership skills needed to navigate challenging situations. Organizations everywhere are taking a hard look into the how they do business in this ever-changing environment – and along with that comes a new perspective in how we train and prepare our people for the next level.

When we think of professional coaching, we often think of focusing on our emerging leaders – those high-performers who we have slated on our succession plans. We want to continue to provide these achievers with all the opportunities and resources they need to excel. But what about those who have already ascended to the top? Our C-Suite? Even our CEOs? Does the need for professional coaching just end once you reach the pinnacle of your career?

The short answer is NO. Learning should be a lifelong habit – one in which we never complete. Regardless if you are the fresh grad right out of college or the seasoned executive with countless successes under your belt, the ability to grow – mentally, emotionally and physically – is always with you.

So, how do organizations offer the caliber of coaching needed at the C-suite level? What could these accomplished individuals possibly need to learn? Well, you’d be surprised. Ascending to the C-suite takes grit, sound decision making, and depth of experience. However, as your climb that proverbial ladder, the skills and abilities needed to keep succeeding personally and for the benefit of your organization evolve. When selecting a coaching strategy for our C-suite, what you look for will differ than the program you design for those high-performers mentioned above. For your CEOs and other C-suite members, consider the following:

Coaching Cultivates New Perspective

Sometimes the 10,000-foot view creates blind spots. Things may look good overall, but when you change your perspective and really look into the working pieces, you often find areas for improvement – some of which can have a significant impact on profit and people. This is where executive coaching can take a C-suite member to the next level. Giving them greateradaptability and a new perspective into the business.

Improved Conflict Resolution

As a leader, often your role is to mediate conflict and find solutions when things are not working. Conflict resolution skills are needed at every stage of your career; however, at the C-suite level, the conflicts become bigger and more costly. Not to mention navigating these unprecedented times we are living in. Having the ability to succeed through crisis has become a central skill for leaders. When a CEO avoids conflict, that poor decision trickles down into the ranks – leading to a culture that is not adept at facing big challenges. When your C-suite models sound conflict resolution, it positively impacts your people, your culture, and your bottom line.

The CEO Sets the Tone

When you were first starting out in your career, you were part of the pack – following along while learning the ropes. As you progressed and took on leadership roles, your influence and example began to matter more and more. And now that you have earned a spot at the C-suite table, your influence and example could not be more important. In fact, when it comes to the culture and tone of an organization, it all starts with the CEO. That is a lot of responsibility to have on one’s shoulders. Fortunately, executive coaching not only helps you learn how to shoulder that great responsibility but teaches you how to define the type of organization you want to lead.

Looking to equip your C-suite with the tools and resources to keep providing real value to your organization? Head on over to our website to learn more about our Executive Coaching Services for CEOs & Business Owners – East Tenth Group. If your organization is looking for a new perspective, I encourage you to contact my team and I at East Tenth Group today.

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Executive Coaching

How To Be Liked AND Respected As a Leader – And Why Both Matter

As humans, we have an instinctual need to belong and be accepted among our peers. As communal beings, there is a survival need to belong to a group, something bigger than ourselves. And this desire is stronger than ever in these uncertain times. However, being liked and respected as a leader right now may be one of the toughest challenges leaders have faced in recent years. With the critical need to balance employee and customer health against the vitality of the business, many leaders today find themselves stuck finding the right balance.

When thinking of your own journey of becoming a leader, I’m sure you can recount a time or two where someone didn’t like you or didn’t respect you, making your primal need for acceptance a bit of a challenge. To be liked and to be respected do not necessarily come hand in hand. In fact, you can often have one without the other. To be the most effective leader you can be, having a degree of both from your peers can certainly give you an edge…and a following. One in which others rally behind your message – which ultimately, is what a leader strives to achieve.

To be liked and respected by peers and subordinates is a real balancing act – and at the end of day, you will never please everyone and (gasp)…some people will just not like you. And that’s OK! If you spend your time trying to get everyone to like you, chances are you will lose respect along the way. And ultimately, garnering respect  and trust as a professional is key to your continued professional advancement.

Our behaviors and actions inside and outside the workplace have a real impact on how those around us view our capability to lead – especially if you have recently been promoted to oversee others who were once your peer group. When ushering your high potentials through leadership development opportunities, it is critical to address their need to be liked AND respected – and how to strive for both. Here are a few ideas to incorporate in your next leadership development activity:

Garner Respect Without Turning Off The Masses

Often times, people equate getting respect through acting tough, often with intimidation tactics or just being too direct (or rude). More often than not, this will have the opposite reaction. Your team may do what is asked of them, but they will lose respect for you along the way – ultimately eroding the ability to lead effectively. Instead, encourage your leaders of tomorrow to try a balanced and blended approach where they:

  • Set clear expectations up front – no surprises!
  • Give praise and recognition when it is earned – both publicly and privately.
  • Hold their team accountable – give a sense of ownership or giving to the greater good.
  • Promote autonomy (show, don’t tell!) – after all, your company hired these super smart people, give them a chance to shine!

Lead With Authenticity

The pandemic has changed just about every aspect of how we go about our daily lives – from the smallest of tasks to our most important choices. With mounting uncertainty, one thing people are craving is truth and a sense of control. More than ever, leaders must be authentic. They must communicate what is going on in real time. Even if it is not the best news, people deserve to know what is going on. When your team feels your authenticity, they know you too are human. The camaraderie that results will build trust and keep your culture strong through this ever-changing situation.

Balance Is Your Goal

As with many things in life, the best formula is a little of both – likeability and respect. Too much of either can derail even the best intentions. When you’re too likeable or friendly, you lose a level of respect – not getting the attention and discipline needed at times. Yet on the flipside, if you are so focused on getting respect that people are fearful or intimidated by you, this can often make you unlikeable. In short, a balance of the two is key.

Extremes usually do not equal effective leadership. Veering too far in one direction or the other is not advised. Working to find balance takes a high-level of self-awareness and deliberate action – understanding how your behaviors impact the perception others have of you.

Looking to give your leaders of tomorrow the leadership skills they need to succeed? Head on over to our website to learn more about our Leadership Development Programs for Teams. If your organization is looking for a new perspective during these unprecedented times, I encourage you to contact my team and I at East Tenth Group today.


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3 Leadership Skills That Inspire Teams to Reach Their Potential

We’re all in this together. This is a phrase we have heard countless times throughout 2020 as we manage through the Covid-19 pandemic. There is something inspiring about these words – especially when it seems daily, we are faced with uncertainty everywhere we turn. In these times, it is good to know someone has your back.

In the workplace, teams are where brilliant ideas emerge and solutions that revolutionize a business or even the world are made a reality. When you have a high-functioning, well-oiled team – one that is full of diversity and drive to succeed – great things happen. As the leader, your team looks to you for support and opportunities to grow. Leadership developmentprograms are not only critical for your organization to create dynamic succession plans for the future, but they are often the fuel your teams need in order to synergize. When identifying what leadership experiences and skills to offer your team, give a few of these a try:

Learn To Building REAL Relationships

You can have the brightest, smartest people on your team, but if they only have surface-level relationships or lack the ability to build strong relationships, your team is doomed before they begin. Relationships are the foundation. The work is important, but people really need to know each other – strengths, challenges, who they are outside of work, and why they are wired the way the are today. In addition, learning to support one another emotionally is key right now as we have all been impacted by the pandemic, and that impact bleeds into our ability to produce. When we take the time to get to know each other and build those relationships, our teams can only grow stronger together. And you can do this virtually.

Develop Cognitive Diversity to Achieve Innovation

One of the top focus areas for leaders today is ensuring their teams are diverse in more ways than one. Having a good mix of genders, races, religions, and perspectives can really challenge people to see the world differently. The leaders of tomorrow will need to be strong leaders of diverse work populations. Offering this experience within your team is perfect on-the-job training. And bonus – diverse teams tend to be more creative and innovative than those teams lacking diversity.

Hone in on Problem Solving Ability

One could argue that the most pervasive skill all organizations need is strong problem solving. They need smart, creative people to solve their business’s toughest problems. When in the trenches, teams take on a life of their own during the grueling hours of creative thinking and trial and error it takes to get the final answer. Providing opportunities to problem solve is one of the best ways to foster leadership skills and strong comradery among your team. Don’t throw them to the wolves. Instead, set boundaries, offer support, and cut out the complexity when you can so they can focus on the problem at hand.

Solid teams bring solid results – every time. And in the uncertain world we are living in today, you can find some level of certainty that the strong team you put together and continue to develop, will lead you and your organization down the right path.

Looking to take your team up a notch? Head on over to our website to learn more about our Leadership Development Programs for Teams. If your organization is looking for a new perspective during these uncertain times, I encourage you to contact my team and I at East Tenth Group today.



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Diversity in Leadership

Diversity in Leadership Leads to Innovation

When it comes to a team, the greater the diversity – the greater the innovation. By nature, we tend to gravitate to those who look and think like us – usually from the same racial or socioeconomic background. Unfortunately, the more we surround ourselves with those just like us, the greater the chance we fail to innovate, think outside of our own box, and miss out on new learnings and perspectives.

Diversity in the workplace is not a new concept; however, it is one that organizations are still trying to get right. Worse yet, those organizations that do not have a pulse on diversity are hurting, or at least not growing, because of it. Especially when it comes to lack of diversity in leadership within an organization. Whether we are talking about gender or race, the issue of diversity among leaders needs our attention.

Diversity is not just the right thing to do, there is a strong business case for it as well. Consider this – A 2019 study by McKinsey & Company showed that organizations ranking in the top quartile for racial/ethnic and gender diversity were respectively 35% and 15% more likely to have financial returns above their industry medians. Furthermore, in the U.S., for every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity amongst leadership, earnings rose 0.8%. So, if you think diversity does not impact your bottom line, think again.

However, getting diversity right is not rushing out to make a few hires so your team looks the part. It must be a deeper, more entrenched effort. Consider the following strategies as you assess where your company’s diversity is today and where you want to take it tomorrow:

Where Are You Now?

Before you know where you want to go, it is important to know where you have been. Conducting an internal audit of your diversity practices is a great place to start. Look into the ratios for gender, racial and ethnic groups of your current staff. Like many companies, you may find your teams are diverse on the frontlines, but not so much at the top. Also, take stock of the programs and initiatives you currently have in place that support or deter diversity.

Talk the Talk

Senior leaders must steer the ship. Without genuine support from the top, all the diversity practices put into place will be for nothing. Including a diversity statement into your existing organizational mission or values statement is a great place to begin. These statements are your foundation – it is what you come back to when making decisions on who to hire, who to promote and how you want your organization to lead into the future.

Break Down Unconscious Bias

A diverse team leads to improved group thinking and more creative results. So, where do you find your people? Whether you know it or not, the sources you use may be inherently biased – leading to biased decision-making. To expand your network (and your thinking), identify additional talent resources that are inherently more diverse. Implementing objective measures in your hiring and succession planning process is key. Battling our own unconscious bias takes work. Our biases are often so ingrained within us, we don’t even realize when they are in play. Working in objective rating forms, blind resumes, and manager training on unconscious bias and diversity will help to transform your organization.

Leading with diversity in mind will enable your organization to grow in ways you never could have imagined. When people of different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives come together for the greater good, great things can happen. And as the leader of your organization, you are perfectly poised to lead this initiative. What are you waiting for?

Looking to strengthen your diversity initiatives? Head on over to our website to download your copy of Emotional Intelligence and Balanced Leadership. If your organization could benefit from a new perspective during this challenging time, I encourage you to contact my team and I at East Tenth Group today.

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The After: Will Your Team Emerge Stronger After COVID-19?

For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has made time stand still – the world as we knew it came to a screeching halt and everywhere you turn, talk is about the coronavirus. While the situation remains uncertain, it is important to keep a level of normalcy in our lives. Connecting with loved ones, taking walks to clear our minds, picking up a new hobby or two – all of these actions help keep our minds positive and focused on the good. And there is so much good out there to be had.

Professionally, one activity that tends to energize us is focusing on our own professional development. Many leaders have progressed successfully through their careers thanks to their love of learning – always finding new ways to hone their craft and even re-invent themselves.

COVID-19 may have forced us to hit the breaks on certain aspects of our daily lives; however, it cannot take away our innate thirst for knowledge. And bonus – focusing on your team’s professional development right now just might be the positive distraction we all need.

But in this odd new normal, how do you progress your skills? While the usual methods of development may not be available, the rise of virtual work offers another avenue. Whether you are mentoring your leaders of tomorrow or simply looking to build a high-performing team, consider the following strategies to keep professional development during COVID-19 top of mind:

Virtual lunch-n-learns

Looking for a way to boost both socio-emotional and cognitive learning at the same time within your team? Take your lunch-n-learns virtual! There is nothing stopping you from transitioning this fan-favorite learning style to online. Have everyone brown bag it to your weekly video call and invite an SME to speak to the group. A fun way to keep your team engaged, connected and learning.

Be Social

This sounds great, right?! Especially in an era of “social distancing”. We are social creatures who crave connection. And although we may not be able to get the face-to-face interaction we love right now, virtual is the next best thing. When was the last time you updated your LinkedIn profile? Or researched alternatives to LinkedIn to build your online professional community. Take this time to beef up your online presence and connect with new people in your field.

Read, listen, repeat

Encourage your team to read up on topics that will help them develop personally and professionally. Prefer podcasts instead? Check out these 7 inspiring podcasts on leadership.

Times may remain uncertain, however adding in some normalcy to our daily lives can help us push forward during even the darkest of times. We must remember there will be an “after” – how do you want your leaders and teams to emerge?

black businesswoman addressing colleagues at a corporate business meeting, close up

Looking to boost your leadership or professional development efforts? Head on over to our website to download your free copy of Leading the Business for insightful strategies on leading a successful organization. If your organization could benefit from a new perspective during this challenging time, I encourage you to contact my team and I at East Tenth Group today.


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The Power of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership in Times of Crisis

Stand Out as a Leader

Uncertain times. You probably hear this phrase several times a day. The impact of COVID19 continues to be felt around the globe. It is impacting just about every aspect of our lives. As we emerge on the other side of “the curve”, our nation is in a heated debate on the how and the when in terms of what comes next. People are struggling to decipher fact from fiction. This is exactly where emotionally intelligent leadership rises to the top.

As a leader, people naturally look to you for guidance. Usually, this is a role you are comfortable with. However, leading during this health crisis is different. What we know (or think we know) changes every minute. How do you lead with certainty and calm?

One thing I have learned over the last 2 months is this situation affects everyone differently. Your family dynamic, your age, your beliefs, your physical and mental health, your economic situation, and even your geographic location can influence how you view this crisis. With that, the need for emotionally intelligent leadership is more important than ever to ensure those who look to you for guidance feel valued, heard, and safe.

Emotional intelligence is not new – quite the opposite. It is a concept that has been around for decades. And times like the present remind us just how truly valuable this type of leadership capability can be. All five of the components of emotional intelligence – self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills – are important. However, two of these stand out as critical in times like these to level-up your emotionally intelligent leadership:


To help others cope in times of crisis, you must be mindful of how YOU feel first. Your beliefs and fears, whether you like or not, influence how you interact with others. Having a sense of self-awareness gives you perspective – inside and out.


You may not feel a strong risk when going to the grocery store right now, but another person could be living a completely different reality. Resist the urge to tell others how they should think and feel. Instead, leading with an empathic mind and heart is sure to build trust.

Right now, people want answers, they want to know things will be okay. Unfortunately, we as leaders may not have all the answers just yet – but what we can do is listen, empathize, and create a safe space for our people. Keep in mind – there will be an after. Your people will remember how you responded as a leader during these uncertain times…make it a great memory. Make it emotionally intelligent.

Looking to strengthen your emotional intelligence? Head on over to our website to download your copy of Emotional Intelligence and Balanced Leadership. If your organization could benefit from a new perspective during this challenging time, I encourage you to contact my team and I at East Tenth Group today.


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6 Examples of Leadership Development That Get Real Results

6 Examples of Leadership Development That Get Real Results

Leadership is an art. An excellent CEO conducting their business looks like a person masterfully crossing a tightrope. There are pitfalls on either side of the rope, but with coordination and confidence, they can walk forward without falling. Contrarily, a lackluster CEO can’t stand up straight, much less walk forward: Every obstacle and wind gust throws them off balance.

Whether you’re a seasoned CEO or a new manager, leadership is a difficult task to perfect. Identifying potential candidates to develop into leaders can be especially tricky. That’s why I’m sharing these six examples of leadership development that help you identify new leaders and get results quickly and effectively.

1) Performance Management

You should set clear, realistic goals that your employees can accomplish. By setting goals and checking in on results, you’re creating a conversation and a litmus test for potential leaders. A potential leader will reach their goals and motivate their team to achieve theirs, too.

2) Career Planning

Leadership aspirations rarely lie dormant—they’re as clear as day in an employee’s demeanor and performance. But, sometimes you’re responsible for so many people and tasks that you ignore the obvious. Create a space where employees can talk to you about their goals, expectations, and ambitions. There, you’ll find leaders floating to the surface.

3) Individual Coaching

Working one-on-one with leaders is the best way to tackle complex problems, create expectations, and impart your knowledge to others. What are your goals? What are your leaders’ goals? How can the two of you work together in the most productive, fruitful way? Individual coaching is crucial to create personal and company-wide success.

4) Executive Education Programs

Never underestimate the ability and influence of external executive coaches. You may know your business model and its nuanced philosophy better than anyone else, but executive coaches have seen the bigger picture. Ideally, they also bring their extensive experience to the table, identifying common problems and prescribing solutions to create influential leaders and organizations.

5) Exposure to Other Leaders

Host conferences or lectures that feature prominent leaders outside of your organization. There are many ways to fail as a leader and as many ways to succeed. You don’t hold the key to all those methods, but by inviting external experts, you’re allowing aspiring leaders within your organization to learn how companies flourish through strong leadership.

6) Build Resilience

A good leader shines whether business conditions are excellent or disastrous. In the best moments, an outstanding leader furthers their team; in the worst moments, they keep their head up high, emanating their optimism to their team members. By building personal and organizational resilience, you’re increasing your organization’s odds of overcoming crises.

Leadership development is a difficult task. But, with the right methods and a healthy attitude, you can create rock-solid leaders and organizations. Make leadership development a priority for your organization and contact us at East Tenth Group today to learn how we can help.


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Leadership Development Strategies for Building High-Performing Teams in 2020

High-performing teams are invaluable to the success of your organization. They are central to exceeding projections, building a healthy work environment, and attracting best in class talent and investors if needed.  It is interesting to note that 90 percent of investors, for example, consider the quality of the leadership team to be the most important non-financial component when evaluating an investment opportunity. While the capacity of each member of your team is important, your ability to ensure they work together towards a common goal is crucial.

Henry Ford famously said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

What Does a High Performing Team Look Like?

A high-performing team can take many forms in different contexts, but the key attributes of an effective and cohesive team are almost always the same. A high-performing team will:

  • Communicate effectively. Team members should engage with one another, whether or not the team leader is around.
  • Have a clearly stated goal. Your team should strive for a goal that is inspiring and attainable.
  • Be united. A high-performing team will celebrate their accomplishments together and work together to overcome challenges and frustrations.
  • Take time off. Your team members will be more productive and cohesive with an appropriate amount of time off.

Powerful Leadership Strategies to Create a High-Performing Team

As leaders, we drive and inspire our team. We seek to create a work environment in which our team and organization will flourish.

The following are proven leadership strategies for creating high-performing teams. They work to build confidence in you as a leader and faith in your organization as a whole.

  • Create a tangible vision for the team. The vision should be understood by each member of your team. Without the full confidence of each team member in the vision, objectives, and goals of your organization, you will never be able to build a high-performing team or an exceptional organization. You must exemplify the vision and team spirit that you seek to create.
  • Appreciate your team. As a leader, you must acknowledge the hard work of your team members. You should offer your team congratulatory remarks when they accomplish a goal and acknowledge the difficulties of their work when they feel challenged or frustrated. The words “thank you” are perhaps the simplest and most cost-effective way to motivate your team members to keep working hard.
  • Solve problems as a team. Few things are more demotivating for team members than to see their leader single-handedly try to solve a problem that the team would be more capable of solving together. It makes your team members feel unappreciated and ineffective. The more minds that are in a room and able to speak freely, the quicker a problem will be solved and the closer your organization will be to its goals.
  • Create a fun and genuine work environment. Nobody wants to feel like a cog in a machine. Be yourself and allow your team members to be who they truly are. Organize events and break up all-day meetings with an activity. Don’t feel afraid to make jokes, but always be careful to use tasteful and appropriate humor.
  • Deal with low-performing team members. Everybody knows the adage “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” A low-performing team member will drag down and demotivate the team. Effectively communicate to low-performing team members that they can do better, and deal with them accordingly if they ignore the chance that you give them.
  • Strive for perfection. Leaders should seek out and expect the best from their team members and themselves. You should encourage your team to strive for the best possible results and to be error-free in their work. While the goals you set should never be higher than the capabilities of your team members, you should set goals that require excellent and error-free work from your team. High goals, high results.

Building high-performing teams isn’t an easy task. Understanding where you are as a leader and where you need to go is a crucial first step to honing the leadership qualities and skills needed to develop, manage and direct teams to deliver the business results you require in 2020 and beyond.

Grounded in East Tenth Group’s Balanced Leadership™ framework for success, our customized Building and Leading High-Performing Teams™ programs have helped growth enterprises and mid-market businesses achieve exceptional results. You can find out more and schedule your free consultation by visiting our Leadership Development For Your Teams page.


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Roles for succession

Leadership Transition Series Part 4: Who’s On First: Defining Roles for Succession

Part 4 of ETG’s Leadership Transition Series

Succession planning is a joint effort between multiple layers of leadership. Even though the objectives are relatively concrete in theory, the planning process often seems abstract. 

While private and public companies may encounter their own challenges when it comes to succession planning, both rely on key actors to take ownership of the process.

While these roles may look different from one company to the next, each play a necessary part in moving your organization’s succession plan forward.

The Board as Criteria Setters

In a publicly traded company, the board has a great deal of skin in the game. Failure to plan for leadership transition is a risk no board would knowingly take. Therefore, the board should be involved in all aspects of succession planning.

Ideally, a selection or nomination committee should exist at the board level. Their mandate must be to define the criteria for the successors to critical roles. They should also communicate perceived risks, assist in assessing talent, and hold the CEO accountable for their role in executing succession planning within the organization.

In order to be effective, these committees should have a strong ability to make objective decisions. Furthermore, the processes by which succession management decisions are made should be transparent and clearly defined.

The CEO as Decision Maker

The CEO is ultimately the decision-maker in matters pertaining to succession planning.

Working closely with the selection committee, the CEO should synthesize their criteria and assessments into actionable tasks for internal teams. The CEO should also take ownership over whether these tasks progress at an acceptable pace.

Furthermore, the CEO should be instrumental in moderating and leading decisions around the selection, development, and recruitment of successor candidates.

The C-Suite as Team Coaches

Just as an NFL coach works to develop their teams to their full potential, executive management must be focused on developing their talent pipeline.

Executive leadership should maintain a coaching mindset with potential successors. This begins with detailed performance assessment that illuminates the strengths and development opportunities of each candidate. These assessments should form the basis of each candidates’ development programs.

These candidates should be re-assessed on a regular basis to monitor progress and performance. Executives can use these opportunities to course-correct, or further challenge leading talent.

Over time, close coaching will reveal whether the current talent pool contains suitable successors. Executives can make the call whether to double down efforts to coach in-house talent—or trade in talent from another team.

Is your leadership team equipped to prepare up-and-coming talent for their next roles? Our Leadership Transition Coaching helps future leaders cultivate the right skills for success.

HR as Development Leaders

While executive leadership is preoccupied with selecting and mentoring successors, HR plays a key role in leadership development programming.

HR must work with the executive team to identify development opportunities for high-potential candidates that will have meaningful benefits for the business. Using assessment and performance review data, HR can work with the executive branch to develop and approve enriching experiences for up-and-coming talent.

Take, for example, Eli Lilly’s bi-annual action learning program. The program is a six-week session organized by HR and Eli Lilly’s line managers. Its purpose is to focus the attention of eighteen high-performers on a strategic business issue identified by the CEO. The group is exposed to experts, thought leaders, and customers to gain immersive experience with finding high-level solutions for the business.

Line Managers as Talent Culture Ambassadors

A great succession plan isn’t simply written on a whiteboard in the executive boardroom. It permeates the culture of the entire organization.

Line managers must be trained to lead with development in mind, looking for opportunities to challenge and develop their teams’ skill sets. 

These managers can work with HR to provide input on development programming that supports the talent pipeline and motivates people in their current roles.

Make it an expectation that line managers should be always be actively seeking to enrich their teams’—and their own—ability to benefit the business. As ambassadors of a culture of ongoing development, managers influence their teams to continuously pursue the extent of their potential.

The responsibility to prepare for succession rests on the highest levels of leadership, but the effort itself is shared by many. By making leadership transition planning a clearly defined responsibility for each of these roles, it’s easier to hold ourselves and others accountable.

If your organization could benefit from a new perspective on your succession planning systems, I encourage you to contact my team and I at East Tenth Group today.

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5 roles for an effective succession plan

Leadership Transition Series Part 3: The 5 Critical Roles in an Effective Succession Plan

Part 3 of ETG’s Leadership Transition Series

Succession planning is about people. Your people are what make your business—its identity, its reputation, and all of its assets. 

At the heart of an effective succession plan, there is an undercurrent of appreciation for the team you have. The way I see it, everyone on my team plays a valuable role in making our organization what it is. To plan for their eventual departure not only ensures that I’m keeping a realistic view of the future, but also acknowledges the contributions of each key team member.

Let’s be honest; the faces you see around you this year won’t all be the same in five years—or even two years from now. By focusing succession planning on the roles of your key people, your plan will provide clarity on how to move forward while staying true to the values of the business.

These are the five role categories you must consider as you work through your plan.

Role 1: CEO

Succession planning is indisputably important for multiple roles in an organization, but preparing a successor for the CEO is essential.

As a figurehead for the organization, it is mission-critical for each organization to have a plan for who will replace the CEO in the long term, and who should step in should the CEO get “hit by the proverbial bus.”

Every stakeholder in the organization has a vested interest in the success of this candidate. Installing a successor in a state of panic can have disastrous consequences—particularly for publicly-traded companies.

Between the board, the current CEO, and the rest of the C-suite, it’s imperative to prioritize these conversations. The right candidates take time to select, develop, and transition. The best case scenario is planning years ahead of the current CEO’s expected departure from the role. 

While it’s nice to be optimistic, it’s safer to anticipate all scenarios when succession planning—including the worst ones. Asking difficult questions today can save precious time and reign in damage when it’s time to act.

The most common reason organizations fail to plan for the CEO’s departure is the false perception that there’s plenty of time. Leaders must act on these conversations with the same urgency they’d have for any other high-stakes threat to the business.

Role 2: The C-Suite

It should come as no surprise that anyone who occupies a corner office should also have a successor waiting in the wings.

Direct reports to the executive team are the obvious talent pool for filling these roles. The sooner the CFO, CTO, CHRO, and other high-level executives are able to nominate a successor, the sooner they can begin long-term preparations for future transitions.

Once candidates for C-suite positions are chosen and vetted by the CEO and board (if there is one), the CEO should engage HR to enroll them in leadership development programs along with additional technical knowledge to own their roles.

When it comes to developing a timeline for transition, succession planning for executive roles should look similar to that of the CEO. Each executive should use a dual-lensed approach by considering a long-term, best-case transition scenario as well as a plan of action for emergencies.

Are your future leaders ready to assume these roles? Contact us about our Leadership Transition program. We’ll help your team prepare top talent for the next stage of their careers.

Role 3: C-Suite Successors

As we prepare successors to reach the top of the corporate ladder, we must also consider who will follow behind them up the rungs.

As the talent pool grows more diffuse, the importance of maintaining a culture of leadership development grows clearer. Consistent effort to develop high-potential talent at every level of the organization helps to build bench strength as leaders move on.

While on the surface it may seem unnecessary to develop many candidates for one role, we can never predict how long any individual will stay with the organization. A larger pool of qualified candidates safeguards our ability to hire from within. The optics of external hiring at higher levels of management can be very demoralizing down the pipeline.

Role 4: Business-Critical Talent

In a sense, larger organizations are like vehicles. Each component plays a role in ensuring the driver’s commute is safe, smooth, and predictable. While a business needs leadership like a car needs a steering wheel and tires, both cannot proceed on these core components alone.

In every department of your organization, there is almost certainly someone whose knowledge and skill set is critical to maintaining smooth day-to-day operations. These people may not be line managers, but they’re just as important.

The danger in excluding these people from succession planning is not as much about transitioning leadership as it is about securing productivity. You can safely assume people like this—passionate, committed teammates—exist in your organization. Making leadership development a part of the corporate culture helps to ensure these people are identified, developed, and retained.

The other side of this is ensuring process development is a core attribute of your business. If key processes only exist in the brains of certain high-value individuals, their departure can have hazardous consequences. Ensuring the business has a defined methodology for documenting and archiving critical processes contributes to a well-rounded succession plan.

Role 5: X-Factor Talent

Let’s revisit the analogy of the car. Toyota and General Motors cars are alike in utility, functionality, and general design. Despite their similarities, the Toyota has a much higher perceived value.

‘X-factor’ talent are individuals who define the identity of an organization. Perhaps it’s a designer in marketing whose concepts have effectively changed the face of the business. Or, perhaps it’s a product developer whose innovations have been instrumental to the past year’s growth.

Consider how your business will manage to retain that competitive edge if these ‘x-factor’ individuals were to leave. You might start by asking these valuable people to become mentors for rising talent. 

I also advise building strategies for recruiting top talent that can meet or exceed the performance of your star players.

By imagining a future without the people you count on today, you have a golden opportunity to intimately understand what makes your organization ‘tick’. Honor these unique contributions by identifying how you can maintain or build on them as your business evolves.

If you need help with identifying and preparing successors for these key roles, I encourage you to contact my team and I at East Tenth Group today.


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