Please note that the new website reflecting the brand Hamza Shayk will be live in September.

Succession Planning: A Tale of Two Futures

Dear Leaders,

Picture this. Your star employee, the one who knows your company like the back of their hand, suddenly hands in a two-week notice. There’s a gasp in the boardroom, a sinking feeling in your stomach.

Or consider this. After decades at the helm, a charismatic CEO is ready to retire, but there’s no heir apparent. What happens next?

Succession Planning is a critical and often neglected topic. Through this lens, we’ll explore not only the mechanics of “who’s next” but also the soulful art of nurturing future leaders.

The Importance: Foresight is 20/20

At its core, succession planning isn’t just about replacement. It’s about vision; seeing the world as it could be, not merely as it is.

It’s a proactive embrace of the inevitable changes in leadership that every organization will face. Think of it as crafting a roadmap for stability and continuity.

Without a succession plan, companies may resort to a hasty, reactionary scramble when a key leader departs. Remember when Steve Jobs initially left Apple in the 1980s? The company floundered because, in many ways, there was no ‘next Steve Jobs’ in line.

The How: Cultivating Leaders, Not Just Picking Them

The secret sauce? Don’t make succession planning an event. Make it a process. A culture, even. Identify and nurture potential leaders long before the need arises.

Step One: Identify
Start by spotting the potential leaders within your ranks. Who shows initiative, curiosity, and resilience? Who steps up when the going gets tough?

Step Two: Develop
This is where mentorship and training come into play. Create environments where future leaders can grow through challenges, not in spite of them.

Step Three: Evaluate
Give your potential successors real projects, and see how they navigate.

Step Four: Refine
Based on this ‘real world’ experience, offer feedback, coaching, and, most importantly, opportunities for them to learn and improve.

Real-Life Chronicles: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Let’s talk about Disney. In 2005, after a period of turbulence under CEO Michael Eisner, Bob Iger took the reins as a well-groomed successor. Iger, having been with ABC and Disney for years, wasn’t a random choice. He was a calculated decision rooted in a deep understanding of the company’s needs and his capabilities. The result? More than a decade of stability and growth for Disney.

On the flip side, remember Yahoo? In the 2000s and 2010s, Yahoo went through a revolving door of CEOs, each with a different ‘vision’ for the company. The result was a turbulent period with a lack of coherent strategy, eventually leading to its decline as a tech giant.

And then there’s the bittersweet lesson of Apple. After Jobs’ initial exit, the company struggled to maintain its innovative edge under a succession of leaders who didn’t quite fit the mold. But when Jobs returned, he didn’t just bring innovation; he brought Tim Cook into the leadership fold, grooming him as a successor who deeply understood Apple’s ethos. The result? A seamless transition when Jobs sadly passed, and a continuing era of growth and innovation for Apple under Cook’s leadership.

Making Succession a Story, not a Crisis

Think of succession planning as storytelling. Create a narrative for your organization that extends beyond the current chapter, beyond the current cast of characters. It’s a story that, if crafted with care, can turn the page smoothly when the time comes.

In this story, the stakes are high. Without foresight, the departure of a key player can become a crisis, a cliffhanger with the future of the company hanging in the balance. Thoughtful succession planning, however, becomes an exciting new chapter, a testament to the organization’s resilience and vision.

So, as you ponder the future of your organization, ask yourself: Are we simply hoping for a happy ending, or are we actively writing that future, one potential leader at a time?

The pen, as they say, is in your hands.

More Insights

Got Time?

Dear Leaders, Time management in an organizational setting isn’t just about personal efficiency or productivity. It’s about how an entire enterprise aligns its resources, meets its goals, and creates a culture that values every minute. In essence, time management isn’t about managing time, it’s about managing choices, situations, and people. You must master your time …


The Art of Curating a Balanced C-Suite Team

Dear Leaders, In the orchestral world, a conductor handpicks musicians not just for their individual talents, but for how they harmonize as a collective. Similarly, in the corporate realm, building a balanced and effective C-suite team requires a discerning eye and a strategic approach. It’s not just about gathering expertise; it’s about orchestrating harmony, synchronization, …


The Allure and Illusion of Vanity Metrics

Dear Leaders, In a world increasingly driven by numbers, it’s easy to get swept up in the allure of vanity metrics. These data points sparkle and shine; they look good in a presentation, give our ego a nice little boost, and seemingly declare to the world, “We’ve arrived!” But beneath the sheen, vanity metrics are …


Leadership and Character

Dear Leaders, Pop quiz: What’s the most underrated component in leadership today? It’s not charisma. It’s not strategy. And no, it’s not even about being a “thought leader” (whatever that means). It’s Character. Character is that silent pulse beneath every decision, every interaction, and every pivotal moment in leadership. It’s the unsung hero behind every …


Strawmanning Our Brilliance

Dear Leaders, Last week, I wrote about how the Steelman technique is useful in conflict resolution, decision-making, and building consensus. This note is about situations in which Strawmanning is essential to, well, conflict resolution, decision-making, and building consensus. It’s also highly useful in keeping our egos in check, bulletproofing the strategic planning process, and simplifying …


Steelmanning: Understand Deeper and Win More

Dear Leaders, As C-suite executives, the ability to present your arguments concisely is crucial. But the ability to understand others’ arguments and craft an articulate response that’s well-suited for a given situation is pivotal to your effectiveness as a leader. Your role entails making high-quality decisions – and fast, resolving conflicts in a way all …


Integrating Thoughtfulness into Leadership

Dear Leaders, Almost by definition, an executive is responsible for serving a group of people. Whether it’s identifying opportunities, problem-solving, decision-making, conflict resolution, collaboration, delegation, etc. – all involve people. And the higher the quality of your relationships, the more effective you are as an executive. Technology makes organizing oneself easier, tasks more automated, reminder …


The Magnetic Power of Executive Presence

Dear Leaders, In a world where leadership is often misunderstood, there exists a rare quality that sets exceptional leaders apart: the undeniable allure of executive presence. Picture a leader who walks into a room, and without uttering a word, captivates everyone’s attention. This enigmatic power is not merely about looking the part or playing the …


Leadership and Power

Dear Leaders, In your current position, it’s how you manage the delicate dynamic of leadership and power that determines your overall effectiveness, especially when dealing with subordinates. By definition, leaders always have a measure of power. But many power holders have no trace of leadership. Leadership humanizes you, while exercise of power, although often necessary, …


Executive Behavior: Challenges and Solutions

Dear Leaders, In the fast-paced realm of C-suite leadership, the battle to navigate behavioral challenges is one that separates the exceptional from the ordinary. Decision-making dilemmas, communication hurdles, delegation quandaries, work-life imbalances, and the imperative of adaptability pose formidable obstacles for executives. Yet, with strategic awareness and purposeful action, these challenges can be transformed into …


Bulletproof Problem Solving

Given today’s fast changing business environment, the Future of Jobs report placed complex problem solving at #1 in its top 10 skills for 2020 and beyond. An effective twenty-first century executive is quick on their feet, possesses learning agility, and attacks emerging problems with confidence. While there are plenty of problem-solving methodologies, one of the …


Don’t Lose Customers, Forge Elite Teams Instead

I’ve been a loyal Starbucks customer for 20+ years, mainly because of the consistency in their service and product. However, one of the locations close to me nowadays is a true test of patience; horrible attitude towards customers, lack of consistency in drinks and, worst of all, employees backbiting about each other, their superiors, and …


Email Etiquette: Taming the Beast

“Because the mail never stops, Jerry! It just keeps coming and coming and coming, there’s never a let-up. It’s relentless. Every day it piles up more and more and more, and you gotta get it out but the more you get it out the more it keeps coming in!” -Newman, Seinfeld Most executives I know …


Benefits Administration

Benefits Administration A company’s benefits package can be a very significant part of its total expenses, but in many companies, benefits are not really viewed as expenses. Instead, because of the need to hire and retain top-quality employees, the benefits package is considered a key asset that must be maintained if not increased. While a …


Cost Leadership

Strong leadership is a prerequisite for good cost management. Cost leadership starts with the CEO or business unit head and cascades down through the top management team. They need to build a tough cost culture and be good role models in their personal behavior. They need two key staff functions to be very active supporters …


Zero-Based Budgeting

“If the company’s problem did not lie in revenues, it could only stem from expenses.” -Carlos Brito, AB InBev Simply put, Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB) is a radical cost-control program that foresees a complete annual revision of all the company’s spending. In zero-based budgeting, managers are responsible for creating their budget from “zero costs” every year, …


Hiring and Firing

People Cost The cost of people is the most difficult cost to manage. Because it is so tricky it is usually left until last in any cost-cutting program and any discussion of cost management. Why is people cost so problematic? First, people cost is very sticky. Once people are on the payroll it’s hard to …


Supplier Management

Negotiating with Suppliers The approach to negotiating with your suppliers is simple: treat them as your partners, be tough but fair, and don’t lock yourself in a situation that is impossible to walk away from. 1. Understand the balance of power: Understanding and playing the balance of power between buyer and supplier is a key …


Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ Compensation Insurance There are a number of techniques for bringing about modest reductions in the cost of workers’ compensation insurance. Job Classifications: One of the key determinants of the cost of workers’ compensation insurance is the job classifications into which all employees are slotted. An employee designated in a high-risk classification will cost far …