One of our clients is planning to step down as CEO in a couple of years and wants to appoint his successor from inside the company. What makes this tricky is that there isn’t a single, obvious candidate. Recognizing that whoever he chooses will need some time to grow into the role, he wanted to get an early start. The first step was finding out who was interested and how the rest of the team felt about them.
Rather than bury this issue in a series of secretive one-on-one conversations, he asked his team a simple question: “Who among you is interested in becoming our next CEO?” Three hands went up.
What happened next was remarkable.
The CEO asked each of the possible candidates to spend a minute or two telling the team how interested they were, how becoming CEO would fit into their future plans (professional growth, career aspirations, retirement, etc.), and how long they thought they would stay in the job if they got it.
Next he asked the team to give each candidate some direct, real-time feedback about their respective strengths and weaknesses in relation to the CEO role, and the amount of development they would need in order to be ready for it. As part of that feedback, one of the candidates was told, with love and respect, that while he’s great in his current job, he would need so much development to become CEO that he is unlikely to be considered.
With that, the CEO thanked the team for giving him the information he needed, and they moved on to other issues.
The secrecy with which issues like this are usually handled is fertile ground for rumors, gossip and politics, all of which help the water cooler but hurt the company. They also waste a ton of time. It doesn’t have to be that way.
This team is a little over a year into the EOS® process. Over that time, they’ve learned to trust each other enough to have this kind of conversation openly. That flushes out the politics, gets everyone on the same page, and saves time – the CEO got the information he needed in just 30 minutes instead of weeks or months. It makes trust even stronger, and it leads to better decisions. Instead of the CEO succession becoming divisive, it is now an open and honest dialog in which there are no secrets and everyone is fighting for the greater good of the business.
You might be thinking that this team started with a high level of openness and trust. They didn’t. In fact, one of the issues they’ve worked hardest to solve over the past year was a deep lack of trust between two members of the team – who happen to be the two remaining candidates to become the next CEO.
So ask yourself, “Would this conversation happen in my company?” It can, and we’d be happy to show you how.