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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5 Ways to Bake Transparency Into Your People Strategy

As the proverb goes, honesty is the best policy. In mid-market or larger firms, embracing honesty translates to a culture of transparency at every level of the organization.

Baking transparency into your people strategy has deep and lasting benefits; some financial, some legal, and some cultural, all of which manifest into positive PR. However, I would never say that embracing transparency is a simple process—it is harder than you think. It requires rigorous reforms in every area of the business.

With that said, there’s a growing expectation that today’s companies are making an effort to be more transparent, and we can all start somewhere. Here are five key ways you can build transparency into your corporate culture.

Stop Hiding Negative Truths

Imagine you’re taking a drive to another state with a group of colleagues. You’re driving, and as everyone chats around you, you notice something is going wrong with the car’s steering. You have a choice to make in this moment. Would you keep the problem to yourself and carry on, or would you say something to the others in the car?

If you continue driving, you’re excluding the only people who can help you from decisions that affect them. What if someone else noticed, but assumed you had it under control? What if someone else knows how to diagnose the issue? What if another passenger knows where the nearest mechanic is?

When we keep bad news and unfortunate truths hidden, we’re telling our teams they can’t help us. Ironically, they’re the only ones who can. Provided we frame these issues as business-wide objectives, rather than admissions of defeat, negative truths are capable of sparking innovative thinking and a productive sense of urgency. We must never underestimate our team’s ability to find solutions to big problems, as long as they understand the scope.

Give People the Tools to Decide for Themselves

If the line managers need to approve or request everything their department does, you’re designing bottlenecks into your processes. You’re also sending a message to other team members that they can’t be trusted to act in good faith.

Instead, have leaders create a scope of approval by defining what their teams can do without direct permission or instruction. This scope should also be specific about what is out of bounds, and at what point a project does need to pass through an approval process. Teams with more agency are able to get more done, and empowering them creates a healthier dynamic with their reporting manager.

This also applies to professional development. If leaders have a plan for a talented individual, and that person is not involved in the planning, the organization is setting themselves up to collide with their star talent’s interests. Engage top talent in conversations about where they hope to see themselves develop. Putting talented people where you want them, rather than where they want to be, will make their job offers from competitors seem all the more appealing.

Develop your people strategy and click here to get your copy of Emotional Intelligence and Smart Leadership. Inside, you’ll find actionable advice for a people-first leadership approach.

Re-define Sensitive Information

There’s a difference between transparency and reckless exposure—a window still needs glass panes. However, the line between an organization’s confidential and public information needs to be thoughtfully defined.

When it comes to which pieces of information are kept confidential and which are not, the reasons behind your choices matter. Some are obvious; there is no appropriate time to share your people’s social security numbers.

However, there may be certain information that is riskier to keep confidential than to make public, particularly as the political climate changes around us. For instance, with hot topics like pay equity gaining momentum, you may want to think carefully about whether pay transparency is a more strategic move in the long term. Of course, the answer will depend entirely on the complex circumstances of your business. 

Encourage Candid Conversations

Candor is a cornerstone of people strategy in firms throughout NYC and across the globe, not to mention the subject of umpteen leadership books. Steve Jobs had such a belief in candid honesty that the concept of “fearless feedback” is a pillar of Apple’s culture that lives on to this day. Whether you use Jobs’ term, or you call it “radical candor”, or something else, it comes back to offering constructive, honest,  feedback—100% of the time.

There’s a reason people write so much about candor—it’s hard. Few people enter the workforce with the confidence to tell other people they could have done better. Of those who do, a smaller percentage have the emotional intelligence to deliver their feedback tactfully.

The benefits of candor are well-documented, but it’s not enough to hold a Lunch & Learn and call it a day. Every level of leadership must be committed to modeling the candor you want to see in your organization. That commitment must be ongoing, and it must work both ways. Furthermore, while tough conversations should be held in private, their benefits should be celebrated. Using a few morning standup minutes to share an example of how internal feedback leads to a positive outcome will show your team the value of these conversations.

Create Channels for Honest Communication

By now, most organizations use some form of internal messaging platform, like Slack. Fast and easy communication throughout the organization is key to breaking down silos and encouraging collaboration.

However, as a leader, ask yourself whether your organization has channels in place for communicating about sensitive topics without the perceived risk of political interference. What procedures exist for reporting unfair or harmful management practices? How should someone communicate their need for accommodation for an invisible disability? In a transparent organization, the onus is on you to build these channels of communication and ensure your team knows about them.

Committing to a culture of transparency is not easy, and in the beginning, there are bound to be uncomfortable choices to make. For guidance on integrating transparency into your people strategy, contact my team and me at East Tenth Group today.

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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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Succession Planning in Public and Private Companies

Part 2 of ETG’s Leadership Transition Series

Public and private companies have very different structures, but in both cases, succession planning is a vital priority. The longevity of any organization rests on the ability of today’s leadership to prepare for future changes.

In my experience with both organizational structures, there are different reasons why companies have or haven’t pursued succession plans. However, change is inevitable, and a lack of planning leads to a lack of control when it matters most.

Let’s put in perspective what it looks like for private and public businesses to plan for the future—and what is at risk if they don’t.

Challenges of Succession Planning in Private Companies

In privately-owned companies, company politics and underestimation of the transition process are key obstacles to smooth succession.

It’s not uncommon for owners to gloss over the details of handing over leadership of the business. Planning to sell the business, without a detailed agenda for how to do it, puts owners at risk for a big surprise when the time draws near. Even if there are no immediate plans to sell the business, the business takes on a lot of risk by neglecting to plan for an abrupt change in leadership.

In family-owned businesses, family politics may also put the brakes on timely succession planning. Different expectations within the family can cause friction when succession planning does come up. A desire to “keep the peace” may tempt these families to put off these conversations. Unfortunately, this sets the scene for a much worse scenario should the company abruptly need a new leadership structure.

Ultimately, failure to properly prepare for leadership transition will affect the value of the business.

How Private Companies Can Prepare for Leadership Transition

There are uncomfortable truths behind succession plans in the context of private businesses, so it makes sense why so few owners feel compelled to pursue them. As difficult as it may be, it’s crucial for private companies to look around the room and think rationally about what, and who, succession planning protects.

Once owners can adopt the right mindset, it’s important to keep that momentum going. Start by:

Prepare Successors

Evaluate and determine the best fits to advance through the leadership pipeline. Invest in structured leadership development for each advancing individual as soon as possible. Ideally, these individuals should be prepared whether or not there are immediate plans for shifts in the leadership team.

Develop a Plan for Deployment

Roles might change in five years, or they might change in six months. When the day comes, having a solid plan for a seamless leadership transition will be invaluable. Consult with advisors like attorneys and wealth management professionals when developing your plan. Their insights can help you anticipate what to expect during the process.

Align Leaders and Communicate Intent

It’s important that the existing leadership team has a clear understanding and consensus on the plans for the company’s future. A united front is important for keeping consistent messaging to all stakeholders. 

Establish a Timeline

By communicating a specific timeframe for all stages of the succession plan, the company can better align their efforts to proceed. 

Make Financial Arrangements

Allow yourself time early on to learn the current market value of the company and develop any necessary buy/sell agreements. 

If a crisis happened tomorrow, would your business’ next generation of leaders be prepared to step up? East Tenth Group’s Leadership Transition Coaching supports your HR team by preparing future executives to succeed. Learn more now.

Succession Planning in Publicly Traded Companies

When the business is beholden to shareholders, the stakes are much higher. The many moving parts of a publicly held business make succession planning more complex, but exponentially more important.

Succession planning in public corporations is about lining up positions strategically. The objective is to develop new leaders while managing risk and preparing to stabilize growth quickly following a change.

Why Public Companies Need to Take Succession Seriously

The board of directors should be principally focused on succession planning, but that doesn’t always end up being the reality. According to a global study by KPMG, only 14% of corporate boards had a succession plan in place.

However, failing to have a plan for leadership transition is costly, to say the least. Companies who appoint a new CEO in a state of panic lose an average of $1.8 million in shareholder value. 

Smart Leadership Transition Tactics for Public Companies

In a publicly-held company, succession planning must be an ongoing component of governance. Every corporation is different, and each will have different priorities when planning for the future. In general, public companies should:

Consider How Change Will Impact Culture

The culture of a public organization is a major asset. While a change in leadership is sure to have some effects on culture, those changes should not be seismic shifts. Beware of placing external hires in high-level positions. Not only can this invite unpredictable unknowns into the culture, but it can be demoralizing down the leadership chain.

Develop a Selection Criteria for Successors

For each key role, there should be criteria for success that candidates must meet. To generate these criteria, the leadership team should consider the competencies the candidates will need in order to meet the top challenges facing the organization.

Communicate Transparently with Key Stakeholders

Shareholders must be kept abreast of any plans for the organization’s future. Ensure the succession plan, criteria for new leaders and intended timelines are all clearly communicated.

Seek External Consultation

Succession planning is not a time to take any gambles. No two public companies are the same, so no two corporate succession plans should be, either. My team specializes in supporting mid-market and large firms through leadership transition planning and execution. By working directly with leaders and HR teams, we offer a personalized approach grounded in concrete experience.

Whether you represent a private or publicly-held organization, I encourage you to take the first steps in your succession planning process by contacting my team and me at East Tenth Group today.

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Your Succession Plan Checklist

Part 1 of ETG’s Leadership Transition Series

It’s every business owner and corporate leader’s hope that their organization will outlive them. Yet, the numbers show that most businesses are woefully unprepared for the day it does.

According to a 2016 research report by the National Center for the Middle Market, only 50% of middle-market enterprises have a succession plan. More recent figures from Forbes state that the amount of business owners who don’t have a succession plan is closer to 58%.

As an owner myself, I’m all too familiar with the reasons why succession planning tends to live on the backburner. However, having worked with many leaders at mid-market and larger firms, I’ve heard how a lack of succession planning is a growing source of anxiety.

I hope this checklist helps to put in perspective how planning for leadership transition is not only possible, but can play a supporting role in other areas of the business as well. With a committed leadership team, you can implement a strong succession plan that will start benefiting the business today.

Get Key Leaders Involved

At the top, no two organizations look the same. Everyone on the executive team understands their role in the unique context of the company. Therefore, succession planning must be a group effort with the participation of everyone in the C-suite.

No one understands what qualities will be needed for effective leadership transition better than the CEO, COO, CFO, and CHRO themselves. Input from each officer helps to ensure the needs of each area of the organization are reflected in its future leaders. 

Participation from each key player also helps to maintain a level of objectivity when evaluating potential successors.

Evaluate Your Bench Strength

In most cases, all or most of the talent the organization needs is already in-house. A strong performance evaluation system is key to identifying your “star players”. This requires sound data, so everyone in the organization should be evaluated at least bi-annually.

The industry standard for evaluating a team member’s potential for advancement is the 9 Box Grid method, but you can use any technique that helps you grade and compare performance and potential between your people.

The key is to use a consistent methodology. A combination of quantitative and qualitative performance data will lead to confident decisions about succession.

Do you have the bench strength, but not the resources for effective leadership development? East Tenth Group’s Leadership Transition Coaching helps HR teams develop better systems for a smooth succession. Learn more now.

Assess Readiness for Advancement

With a clear picture of who on the team has unrealized potential, you can start planning for the organization’s key roles. This requires both short- and long-term thinking.

Of your top talent pool, consider who is ready for advancement now, who will be ready in one year, in three years, and if you can predict it, in five years.

The goal at this time is not to fast-track advancement—it’s to consider who could be next in line should the successor leave the role sooner than expected. Meanwhile, you’ll be building a roadmap for long-term leadership development. 

This long-term approach will come in handy when something doesn’t go as planned. Let’s face it—not all your superstar players will be here two years from now.

Identify Talent Gaps

By now, you may have a better grasp on which roles your organization may struggle to fill. Consider this a good thing! It’s much better to identify the need for external talent now than to make panicked decisions later. 

Pay attention to patterns in your bench depth. If readiness for advancement is lacking in multiple departments, it could indicate an opportunity to improve leadership development processes.

Determine which talent gaps could be closed with development tactics, like mentoring or lateral moves, and which call for external hiring.

Create a Timeline for Execution

Planning for a smooth leadership transition typically takes years, not months, of intentional preparation. It’s easy to bring up succession planning from time to time and think you’re doing it. Unfortunately, when the other shoe drops, nothing can stand in for preparation.

A realistic timeline is a critical part of your succession plan. Without holding yourself accountable to benchmarks, it’s all too easy to veer off-course. Executing a smooth leadership transition should be neither rushed nor lackadaisical. It should allow time for successors to develop, but proceed with a sense of urgency. You really never know when you’ll need to replace a key player

Keep Key Stakeholders Up-to-Date

One of the key reasons a succession plan is important is to minimize the impact of transitions between key executives. Inevitably, a major shift in leadership will have some effect on the business. A succession plan prevents a loss of control in these situations.

The last thing you want to do is surprise stakeholders or appear reactive when a leadership transition is needed. Keeping the board in the loop about succession-related efforts lays the groundwork for trust during times of change. It also serves to keep leadership accountable to their roles in the succession plan.

By highlighting the developmental efforts and long-term planning you’re doing today, you’re offering reassurance to the board that the company is taking steps to secure its future.

If you’re ready to take the first steps in your organization’s succession plan, I encourage you to contact my team and me at East Tenth Group today.

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leadership development NYC, leadership development, succession planning

Leadership Development Tactics for Effective Succession Planning

From the junior to the executive level, it’s natural for our teams to be thinking about “what’s next” for their career. While it’s great to have ambition about your personal goals, there seems to be a disconnect when we think about how the future looks for our companies.

The lack of a strong succession plan is a growing issue among American companies. I suspect it’s because we don’t like to think about, or talk about, the reasons we might need successors.

Let’s take succession out of the equation for a moment. Ultimately, leadership development is the foundation of a healthy business. These tactics for preparing your future leaders can make a difference in the performance of your team—starting today. 

Make Development Part of Your Culture

It’s a mistake to treat succession planning as a “future issue”. It’s impossible to know what the future holds. Retirement is only one of many reasons you may need to replace someone in a leadership role. Many of those reasons could become a reality very suddenly.

As such, it’s important to make succession an ongoing part of your leadership strategy. A natural way to facilitate this is to ask the right questions during performance reviews and one-on-ones, with every single person on the team. Where someone is now isn’t always an indicator of how far they could go.

Standardize questions like, “which skills would you like to develop?”, “what do you see as your biggest contributions to the team?”, and “how can we help you take your job to the next level?”

These are questions some people on your team may need some time to think about, but it’s important to hear their answers. Encourage managers to follow up with teammates as needed.

Map Out Your Talent Pool

The beauty of working in the corporate world is that we’re always surrounded by a diverse range of skill sets. Yet, what good are our people’s talents if we don’t know what they are?

Documenting the strengths, achievements, and skills of each team member allows us to see what our teams can offer. By creating an inventory of the resources on your team, you can get a bird’s eye view of your talent “bench strength”.

Not only can this inform the leadership trajectory of your people, but it can also help you assemble more strategic teams and assign the right project leaders.

Are you ready to take the next steps toward building an unstoppable team? Our complimentary ebook, “Leading the Business”, part of our four-part Balanced Leadership™ Framework, contains key insights for aligning culture with strategy. Download your copy today

Identify Talent Gaps Early

If you’ve taken the time to map out your talent pool, you’ll notice an important by-product of the process. By taking stock of the skills your business has, you’ll also be better equipped to identify the competencies your team needs more of.

From there, you have a few options. You can develop internal personnel to broaden their existing skill sets, thereby closing those skill gaps. However, you may find some gaps are too large to fill with internal development initiatives alone. The other option, then, is to hire people who embody the skill sets your team needs. 

While you’re at it, it’s wise to predict the talent gaps you can expect in the near future. If your best performer in a certain department is being developed for an executive role, it’s wise to start developing someone else to follow in their stead.

Invest in Development Opportunities for High Performers

Obviously, developing successors requires opportunities for development. Leadership development courses are one way of providing that, but internal development opportunities are much more effective at helping future leaders understand the business, develop critical skills for their next role, and develop relationships with key players. Consider offering mentorships, job shadowing, or even asking your future leader to stand in for the incumbent during vacations or sabbaticals.

High-potential people should be aware of their contributions and rewarded with ongoing development opportunities like this. 

A perceived lack of upward mobility can cause leaks in your talent pipeline. Retain these valuable people by offering them frequent opportunities to train for the next big thing.

Establish Accountability for the Talent Pipeline

Don’t assume all managers know that succession planning is one of their responsibilities. Developing people to become tomorrow’s leaders is a critical business objective, and should be communicated as such.

That also means managers will need to be held accountable for succession planning goals. This can only happen if you’ve made it a priority to establish a realistic succession plan, along with action items and benchmarks for the leaders on your team.

Since succession is easy to file away as “tomorrow’s problem”, it’ll also be up to you to maintain momentum toward these goals. Check in frequently with leaders to ensure they’re on track. If the conversations aren’t happening, it’s likely that the work isn’t either.

Leadership succession is a crucial phase of our organizations’ life cycle. Intentional leadership development permits us to have a hand in the future of our businesses and prepare for a smoother transition when the time comes.

If you’re ready to start getting serious about succession planning, I encourage you to contact my team and I at East Tenth Group today.

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succession planning NYC, succession planning, leadership succession planning, leadership, organizational change

6 Smart People Strategies to Manage Leadership Transition During Succession

As the American workforce ages, succession planning has become a very real challenge for organizations of all sizes. Succession is a major event with exceptionally high stakes. There is far more involved in a successful transition than handing over the keys—and yet most organizations do not have a strong onboarding process for successors.

I’ve encountered a number of leaders who have recently transitioned to new executive roles, and many of them share the same struggles. They describe a situation akin to walking into another family’s apartment and being told they’re head of the house. The dynamics of the organization are unfamiliar, and the pressure is high to function as both sustainer and guide.

If you are in this situation, the truth is that you may not be able to rely on your new organization to know how to onboard you effectively. These strategies can help you transition into a new executive leadership role and set you up for long-term success.

1. Engage with Purpose

Every organization is unique, so there is no mathematical formula for transitioning leadership. Your best resources to understand the job are the people close to it. Do what you can to get face-time with the outgoing leader—understanding them is the key to understanding the current business. Ask them about their views on the politics in the company, their take on the challenges you’ll face, and the things they wish they’d accomplished.

Then, engage with your new team. As early as possible, make time to get to know highly-valued and respected people throughout the organization. Meet with them often and cross-reference their insights with those of the outgoing leader. 

2. Hit the Ground Running

Based on your interactions with your team, compile a snapshot of your five key areas of responsibility: your team, yourself, your function in the business, the corporate culture, and stakeholder affairs. Look for patterns in what you’ve heard from team members to identify and organize priorities. 

Assemble a strategy team to measure and record data that can support or debunk your assessments and use it as a baseline for defining your goals. Work with the team to determine benchmarks for reaching those goals.

Once you have a strategy for how you plan to steer the proverbial ship, communicate your intentions to the rest of the organization. As an outsider, it’s important that you acknowledge their concerns have been heard

What kind of leader do you want to be to your new organization? Download a copy of our free ebook, “Managing Others”, part of our four-part Balanced Leadership Framework™, for actionable advice on leading through change.

3.  Dismantle Organizational Politics

Several studies have shown that between 27 and 46 percent of executive transitions are considered unsuccessful two years after the change. The main challenge, according to leaders, is organizational politics. If you’ve asked the right questions to the outgoing leader, you may have an idea of what to expect.

It’s a mistake to treat political issues as white noise outside of the business’ daily operations. The politics in the organization are as much a part of the company as the org chart.

Instead, challenge politics with courage and empathy. Focus on any political friction that is working to the detriment of the team. Determine why it exists, the motivations that keep these dynamics alive, and what positive change could look like.

4. Define the New Culture

Changing the culture of an organization is a harrowing task. There’s no doubt that changing the “way things are” means swimming against a strong current. Yet, it’s vitally important for a new leader. Studies show that, two years succession, 67 percent of new leaders wished they’d worked harder and faster to change the culture

A crucial idea is that, following succession, a company’s culture will never be the same. Simply put; the leader sets the tone for the culture, and a new leader means a new tone. If the culture is going to change—and it will!—it should be for the better.

Communicate your intentions to your team. Acknowledge what you admire about the organization that you intend to maintain. However, you must be very clear about what you will do differently—and what you won’t do at all.

5. Focus on Impact, Not Business Days

The old ideas that succession should be complete, with full productivity restored, in 90-100 days isn’t always realistic. It can even be harmful. In no other area so critical to our success would we rush to meet this kind of deadline.

In leadership succession, there are no absolutes, ample ambiguity, and the ever-present variables of real people. How can you put a deadline on changing others’ minds?

Work diligently towards benchmarks based on results, not days or quarters. Forcing leadership in the name of changing quickly will have adverse, and dramatic, effects on morale and output.

6. Invest in Customized Support

Part of the challenge of smooth succession is that the leadership of an organization at any given time is not likely to have much experience with the process. Studies have shown executive coaching and assimilation plans by external professionals can double the chances the transition will be successful. Yet, just 32 percent of organizations invest in them.

Our team has years of experience assisting growth enterprises and middle market organizations through these changes. We’ve seen it all, and we’re prepared to make recommendations based on the successes of our portfolio of clients.

To learn how our services can facilitate a smooth long-term leadership transition, contact my team and I at East Tenth Group today.

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2018 HR predictions

The 2018 HR Predictions You Need to Know

As a business leader who is constantly taking calculated risks to implement innovative change within an organization, 2018 is the year to align your goals with the streamlined processes that will optimize professional endeavors.

The most successful leaders are those who choose to strategically venture forward and take calculated risks that maximize technological potentials, enabling their teams to reach their professional goals.

To move your team forward as a best-in-class HR department, agile leaders must take action now to align teams with actionable steps inspired by the 2018 HR insights from Josh Bersin that will continue to change the face of the industry as we know it.

Over the past two years, the East Tenth Group Team has looked towards the HR Predictions from Josh Bersin, Principal and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte. After analyzing these predictions, we’ve compiled Bersin’s findings into the Top 10 HR Predictions for 2016, 2017, and now, the Top 12 HR Predictions for 2018 in an accessible and shareable format.

These resources have been expertly developed by Bersin and his team, and enable both our team and HR industry professionals to get a glimpse into the future of HR technologies, strategies, and processes which align organizational structures with future-forward changes needed to create best-in-class businesses.

Discover the previous key insights from Josh Bersin that have helped propel the HR industry forward to create versatile and thriving teams, and the 2018 predictions from Bersin that will allow HR leaders to further enhance their capabilities. We’ve taken note of Bersin’s previous predictions to align ourselves with where the HR industry stands today, and to better understand where we’re headed.

Digital HR Is Here to Stay

Whether businesses are ready or not, a digitally-enhanced HR industry is here to stay. Although leaders realize that digital HR changes are necessary for organizational growth, applying these tools and technologies into streamlined processes can be a challenge.


2018 is the year of digital transformation and utilization, according to Bersin. He predicts that it will be up to leaders to identify their organization’s “Digital DNA”, meaning that they have to “be” digital businesses, rather than just “do” digital.

However, he also states that HR departments must maintain their “human” qualities, finding ways to build a human touch and connection into digital solutions.


As we transitioned into 2017, Bersin noted that the shift towards digital processes was amplified, with HR implementing digital HR and L&D tools that helped organizations not simply utilize technology, but be digitally-enabled organizations that use digital tools to deliver superior solutions. For example, new digital learning solutions were developed that made L&D experiences more streamlined and captivating.

Additionally, it was predicted that self-directed learning opportunities would become an HR norm through the creation of accessible digital resources to help individuals learn and develop their capabilities when it best suited them. We wrote about these types of resources in our blog “How to Use Technology to Meaningfully Enhance Your Leadership.”


In the 2016 HR projections, Bersin noted a major HR trend that was leaning towards a design-centric digital focus within HR. As leaders, this shift allowed us to begin focusing on how we support and serve our employees, creating better experiences rather than simply requiring participation in development programs.

That year, the HR industry was overtaken by apps and the cloud, while traditional software was less relevant.

New Leaders are Taking Charge

Young leaders provide countless assets to departments and organizations alike, but it takes future-forward current leaders to provide them with the tools they need to thrive. HR teams have made strides in the last couple years by placing a focus on developing technological processes and leadership models that provide opportunities for young leaders.


Enabling young leaders to find success in your organization in 2018 involves the seamless integration of work and learning, according to Bersin. Thanks to advanced technologies, high-potential employees can learn as they work with instant access to content libraries, experience platforms, and other digital learning offerings.


Moving into 2017, Bersin saw that strong HR teams were beginning to provide young people with the support, tools, and mentorship needed to help them improve their skills and grow into bold leaders.

To maintain this trend, current leaders must continue to push for leadership models that focus on team-centric performance, continuous learning, and creating agile team members. At East Tenth Group, we believe that innovative coaching for millennial leaders is key to organizational success.


2016 was the year of HR reinvention. With a technological focus on people analytics, Bersin predicted that the alignment of HR and business capabilities allowed younger HR leaders to emerge and create future-forward organizations.

Diverse Workplaces Will Make Their Mark

It’s 2018, and we’re still talking about diversity in the workplace. However, many HR leaders are striving to cultivate all-encompassing workplace diversity with the help of technology and policy changes that place value on differences.


Josh Bersin predicts that 2018 will be the year that agile organization models go mainstream, with thriving and diverse organizations sharing a culture, values, and transparent goals for a fully aligned business model.


Gone are the days of inclusion and diversity being an HR program. Rather, they’ve become a top priority, with digital tools being harnessed to measure issues of inclusion and sharing findings to develop policies and programs that cultivate equal opportunities from the start.

From focusing on bringing more women to the table to driving diverse teams in which no one category dominates a sample, enabling diverse workplaces starts with creating an open dialogue and implementing future-forward strategies to hold organizations accountable.

Exceptional organizations provide the tools, pathways, and opportunities that create inclusive and diverse workplace cultures and environments that develop strong, bold leaders.


Bersin noted that the merging of diversity and inclusion of key business and HR strategies began in 2016, as it was brought to the forefront of the organizations with C-Suite executives taking it on as a strategic issue.

Employee Engagement and Culture

Although most HR leaders are aware that high employee engagement leads to superior results, measuring the impact of your work culture and engagement endeavors can be a challenge that is difficult to overcome without the right technological assistance.


This year, Bersin encourages leaders to start treating employees like customers, recognizing that “people are the product.” In both on and offline methods, it’s time to cultivate an environment that enables engagement through meaningful work, performance check-ins, and growth opportunities for employees at all levels.


Driving employee engagement and workplace culture continued to thrive in 2017, with many organizations setting out to define their culture and how they could measure it.

Along with Bersin’s notes that leaders should focus on utilizing HR tech and tools that boost departmental and organizational processes with a measurable impact, he encouraged that attention be given to the heart of your business: your employees. Leaders should create work environments that encourage mental well-being to drive organizational success.

At East Tenth Group, we strongly believe that emotionally intelligent leaders are smarter leaders.


2016 was the year of increasing team-wide engagement, retention, and culture with newly-developed feedback and analytics systems.

Designed to help companies understand how they could change their management styles and organizational culture, Bersin saw an increase in tools like culture assessment models, anonymous social networking tools, and pulse survey tools that were introduced into the HR industry.

Talent and Performance Management

Next-generation talent and performance management platforms continue to make their mark in the HR industry, as was first predicted in 2016.


In 2018, Bersin predicts that it’s time for talent acquisition strategies to tap into the power of enabling employees to experience internal mobility, with the ability to move job to job every 2-3 years. By being able to shift attention to different positions, high-potential talent can find where they thrive, while innovative thinking is encouraged throughout an organization.


The shift to a more agile toolbox of performance and talent management platforms continued on from Bersin’s 2016 HR predictions, as HR tools were integrated into talent management and performance management processes. However, a more feedback-based approach has led to new vendors developing performance management systems with unprecedented capabilities, such as capturing feedback to plan for next roles based on data from previous goal discussions.


In his 2016 HR predictions, Bersin stated that tools such as recruitment platforms could help to enable departments to streamline their hiring process, with interview management, candidate relationship management, smart sourcing, and applicant tracking all in one platform.

What Should HR Teams Do in 2018?

Every year, the HR predictions from Josh Bersin allow the HR industry to imagine the future of their industry and take actionable steps towards enhancing their strategies, processes, and policies that take HR teams and organizations to the next level. The key actionable steps from the 2018 Top 12 HR Predictions from Josh Bersin that should be implemented by best-in-class HR leaders include:

Align your processes with digital tools: Becoming “digital” is a crucial step for HR success in 2018. From your systems, to employee services, to L&D, a future-forward HR team will optimize their digital capabilities for organizational success.

Reconsider your current jobs and organization model: This year, HR leaders should take time to rethink the current operating models surrounding leadership, mobility, and performance management.

Unite and empower your HR staff: Redefining your identity as a department and creating streamlined processes that align with your organization’s mission and values enables your HR team to “act as one.”

Focus on the employee experience: When you shift your attention away from programs and processes for performance management towards feedback and design thinking, your employees will engage more and develop trust with team leaders.

At East Tenth Group, we believe that accessible and action-driven resources and support help leaders generate best-in-class HR professionals, while boldly cultivating their executive presence. Staying on top of the current trends can help make you a future-forward group to drive your organization forward.

We’re excited to learn about the progress that you and your teams are making. What strategic changes are in store for your HR department in 2018? Our team is always ready to help you implement the wide-reaching change that will help drive the bottom line of your company. For more information on our actionable and innovative services, take action now and subscribe to our newsletter, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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HR Talent Management Tools

Integrating HR Tools for Talent Management

The HR department is much more than the administrative powerhouse in an organization. As an industry, HR is traditionally viewed as the area of a company where salaries are decided, safety presentations are developed, and where new hires go through the onboarding process. However, enterprise-level leaders are quickly realizing how critical this department is in retaining high-potential employees and creating future-forward strategies for a balanced scorecard throughout the company.

The modern HR department is also responsible for Talent Management strategies and processes, dictating the development and increasing the retirement of high-potential employees for business success. According to Workable, this vital function of HR operations ensures that:

  • High-potential employees are coached to real professional goals
  • Succession and hiring plans are developed to sustain growth
  • New hires and current employees experience comprehensive employee training programs
  • Existing employees are engaged, motivated, and rewarded for positive action and results

Talent Management is key for effective employee engagement and reducing overall employee turnover. Gallup found that businesses are only maximizing 5% of their current high-performance workforce, which are those employees who are talented, engaged, and have been in the organization for 10+ years.

Talent Management within HR helps companies to coach and engage employees, guiding them to reach individual goals and reach their full professional potential. Superior Talent Management can only be achieved with an effective and well-organized HR department.

“We know that better quality talent – in key roles – delivers better business results. This implies that there’s potential value in activities that improve talent quality,” says Marc Effron, President of The Talent Strategy Group. Marc, as many know, is the go-to expert in the talent management space, especially over these past 5 years. He aims to help HR leaders in creating effective Talent Management processes with an approach that highlights Simplicity, Accountability, and Transparency. We at ETG are big proponents of Marc and his teams work.

Best-in-class HR groups realize that these principles are essential for creating future-forward company strategies and aligning employees with a professional culture and environment that allows them to thrive.

Technology is a major facet of any modern business, and new tech tools are allowing HR departments to transform how they operate through the automation of key HR functions and the enhancement of Talent Management endeavors.

How HR Tech is Changing the Industry

The current state of the HR industry is undergoing a massive shift, thanks in part to this enhanced HR technology. New HR tech is allowing for greater organizational Talent Management, providing HR leaders with a seat at the decision-making table of their company.

According to TechTarget, the new generation Software as a service (SaaS) Talent Management tools are leading the way in the rise of HR tech. With minimal investment and frequent automated updates, cloud-based software is allowing HR leaders to make proactive decisions and generate sustainable analytical data about current employees.

With platforms and tools like the cloud, analytic tracking, and social media channels changing the way that organizations are using Talent Management software, HR leaders are enhancing their processes and creating strategies help increase employee engagement. Integrating these HR tools for Talent Management is helping HR managers on multiple business levels, including:

Learning and Development

Technology and online tools are assisting executives meaningfully enhance their leadership in innovative ways, and the same goes for creating meaningful employee learning and development (L&D). Tech like the cloud and mobile-based software is altering how employees interact with their daily workload and how HR professionals reinforce their L&D experiences in the organization.

When paired with effective customizable, in person, one-on-one professional development, accessible online L&D information helps to drive employee engagement and skills both on and offline.

Enhanced Company Culture and Increased Engagement

As Ian Davies describes in Forbes, HR managers are leaving annual employee surveys behind and instead utilizing feedback apps for regular and relevant feedback from their employees. When HR is equipped with real-time feedback on an employee’s daily experience, strategies and tools can be modified to enhance their engagement. Feedback applications also allow HR to gain insights into how employees view an organization and the overall workplace culture to help leaders restructure and align ongoing training and the work environment to retain high-potential talent in the long run.

Human-Centric Analytics

Your employees are the heart of your organization, and integrating HR tools for better Talent Management includes utilizing big data to your advantage. Compiling human-centric analytics helps organizations understand:

  • How they can keep employees engaged
  • Why they choose to stay in a position or at a job
  • How they can increase professional skills for individual and business success

Josh Bersin notes that it’s important HR managers keep in mind that human-centric analytics spans far beyond simply measuring KPIs and retention rates. Ideally, these analytics provide measurable insights into topics like employee experience, productivity rates, and human capital.

In 2018, companies will learn to separate the meaningful from the possible in the HR analytics eld. That reckoning will show that HR analytics will provide incremental information but won’t fundamentally in uence HR’s practices, mission or focus.

Companies will move forward with more caution in this area in 2018. They’ll clarify the exact value they expect from analytics and better structure its work.

Integrating HR tools for Talent Management through human-centric analytics and data collection helps organizations create proactive solutions for employee engagement. With the help of tools like email pattern tracking and text analytics, HR managers and other C-Suite executives can access a deeper level of insights to create real-world employee solutions.

HR experts like Bill Kutik are predicting a surge of AI in HR tech to increase the functionality of existing technology, so HR managers should keep an eye out for these innovative platforms and services.

The Benefits of Utilizing HR Tech for Talent Management

For HR modernization to be truly effective, the HR tools selected are vital. HR tech allows businesses to operate as a collective of departments rather than separated teams who work independently of the other.

This shift from individual to collective has been generated in part thanks to HR tech based in the cloud. Cloud and mobile-based HR solutions provide accessible insights for both leaders and organizational employees to become aligned with their professional development and workplace culture.

With effective cloud technology, employees can view the information they need when they need it most. This information can range from professional development webinars to ongoing employee L&D and can be accessed on their preferred platform and device.

Another benefit of integrating HR tech for Talent Management is that cloud and mobile-based solutions provide a high ROI for the organization itself, with little upkeep costs or expensive updates. SaaS platforms and tools are continuously updating their software for peak efficiency and top-notch security enhancements to keep employee information safe while increasing the user experience.

With the right technology and software, HR managers can create actionable, flexible employee experiences for the modern workplace. Integrating HR tools for Talent Management provides the base for high-performing HR functions that can boast business-wide positive effects.

Leaders can leverage their HR tech with our future-forward Talent Management and people strategies. At East Tenth Group, we work hard to address your real issues, identify HR grey areas, and provide mindful expert assessments and support for all essential HR functions. Whether you’re looking for Talent Management or strategic people management insights, our expert team is ready to partner with you to help your business thrive.

Do you have an HR tool that helps you run your business successfully? Let us know your experiences with integrating HR tools for enhanced Talent Management in the comments. For more information on partnering with East Tenth Group, take action now take action now and subscribe to our newsletter for actionable insights, and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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