Pick up the newspaper any day of the week. Skim the headlines and you will see stories of leaders stepping aside or being forced out, sometimes without warning. These sudden exits stem from an array of circumstances:
- An activist investor calls for the CEO’s ouster following strategic disagreements or poor annual results.
- A leader is forced out in response to the latest company scandal.
- An illness or death in the family necessitates a prolonged leave of absence.
- An executive is lured away by a competitor with an offer he can’t turn down.
These exits are highly disruptive to the flow of business. With gaps at the top, middle, or front line, companies struggle to seize opportunities, optimize productivity, and maintain employee confidence. Collaborations are disrupted or lost. Workers become stressed and overwhelmed as they take on the work of colleagues whose seats are now empty. Clients grow concerned about the capability and sustainability of the organization.
Proactive leaders recognize they can’t predict the future, but they can plan for it. Here are four ways to create an organization that can survive sudden losses and thrive in the face of change.
1. Look at your current bench. Do you have multiple successors within your leadership team? Are you giving them the experiences, challenges, and mentoring to prepare them for the next level? If not, there’s no time like the present to prepare for the future.
2. Anticipate that you will lose good people. Some of your most valued employees will be recruited by your competitors. Some will leave to start their own ventures. Others will depart due to health concerns or family commitments. Don’t let’s these developments catch you off guard. Instead, search for untapped talent in your organization and beyond. Assess and enhance their readiness to step into openings that will inevitably arise.
3. Create a remarkable work culture. Make your organization a place where ideas are celebrated, dedication is recognized, people are treated with decency and respect, relationships are valued, and communication is open, clear, and honest. That’s the way to retain your best and brightest and attract outstanding new talent.
4. Consider current and future needs. What are the roles, skills, and experiences needed to excel today and lead the way to a remarkable future? Look beyond filling near-term gaps. Envision your company, industry, and customer base in another year, three, or ten. Develop in-house talent and scan the external environment, preparing your organization to thrive well into the future.
In today’s dynamic business environment, it can be all too easy to focus on urgent demands yet postpone the vital task of planning for the future. The most successful companies, the ones that will flourish far beyond the next quarter and year, have proactive leaders at the helm. Be that leader. Pause to reflect on the kind of team and organization you need for a truly extraordinary future. In other words, slow down to speed up!