May 2018: Elements of Successful Succession Planning

In this Issue

Opening Remarks

May 2018 
In this edition of Transforming Challenges, Senior Consultant John Reid offers insights in to successful planning his article, “Elements of Successful Succession Planning “

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The Reid Group News

  • Maureen Gallagher and John Reid are now conducting a Search for the new Director of Mission Integration for the Corporation for Sponsored Ministries of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. 
  • Maureen Gallagher is facilitating the June Community Days for the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross in Merrill, Wisconsin.
  • Maureen Gallagher has been hired to work with the leadership of the National Shrine of St. Frances Cabrini to assist in the transition and implementation of their strategic plan.
  • Tom Reid is working as a coach with the Hope Central Board in Seattle with a focus on pediatric and behavioral health services to underserved populations.
  • John Reid and Tom Reid submitted their final report with recommended candidates to the Bishops in California as they seek a new Executive Director for the California Catholic Conference replacing Ned Dolejsi.
  • The Reid Group is a strategic partner with Tryon Clear View Group, a cost reduction company that specializes in Purchase Services Audits where they identify, verify and recover billing errors, vendor overcharges which are refundable to organizations.  They then secure these reimbursements from the vendors.  In addition to telecommunication, copiers, waste management and utilities charges, they also audit postal services and credit card processing. The only fee paid by the client is a percentage of the actual savings.  The first two contracts secured by this strategic partnership are a college and a Catholic parish; we have received the first report of savings for one of these contracts which showed savings of $60,000 over the next five years in telecommunications alone.   If you are interested in this service, contact us at
  • Our Strategic Partner Joe Sankovich has developed an important resource for dioceses and parishes with cemeteries called TOOLBOX FOR PARISH CEMETERIES. For more information go to: Joe Sankovich, former director of cemeteries in the Archdiocese of Seattle, and owner of Sankovich & Associates since 1990, has developed an educational tool for parishes with their own Catholic cemeteries.  Directed to pastors, parish business managers, cemetery managers/sextons/superintendents, parish cemetery advisory board members and parish finance council members, the six hard copy manuals are formatted in the same fashion as the early diocesan teaching documents for the Second Vatican Council.  Sankovich waited until he had worked with/in more than 1,200 parish cemeteries in different areas of the United States, and conducted more than 100 seminars with pastors, parish and cemetery employees/volunteers, to organize and format these manuals.
  • The Reid Group is also a strategic partner with The Steier Group. The Steier Group is a national, capital campaign fundraising firm based in Omaha, Nebraska, with offices in Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas. They provide nonprofits with customized campaign planning studies, guidance from a team of expert project managers and strategic insight designed to help our clients reach their fundraising goals. Contact Nic Prenger, Steier Group president, for more information about the firm’s services.

So as you look at your individual or organizational future, what are your challenges? Could you benefit from skilled support? Give us a call at 206-432-3565 or send us an e-mail to start transforming those challenges into opportunities.

  Elements of Successful Succession Planning

John Reid, Senior Consultant
Succession planning is one way to be proactive in forming new leaders. It involves a process whereby organizations identify and develop the capacity of employees to be promoted to more and more responsible leadership roles. 
The primary goal of succession planning is sustainable and effective leadership. There are three common approaches to assuring sustainable leadership. 
  • The first, the emergency approach, is the response to an unforeseen departure where no planning has been done and the human resource department or designated leader is asked to find a replacement as soon as possible.  While this approach may surface an ideal candidate, the chance of that happening is very unpredictable.  
  • The second approach is to hire a search firm to find competent candidates. This can be successful, if the company employed is knowledgeable about the competencies needed for the position and has the ability to tap the market for capable people. Even after competent people are hired, the learning curve may be steep as the new hire needs to “learn” the culture of the organization in order to do the job. 
  • The third approach, and the one which we will explore here, is succession planning, where internal candidates are identified and developed to fill leader positions. For this strategy to be successful it must be part of the broader leadership culture of the organization. In this approach, high performing employees are recruited and given opportunities to develop their skills, knowledge and abilities to be organizational leaders. 
There are five key steps involved in succession planning:
1.      Identify clear criteria related to the competencies required to be a successful leader . To initially screen for potential candidates, one might consider first the personal qualifications and leadership competencies. Having a collaborative style, living a values-centered life and the ability to inspire and motivate others are all essential parts of “the right stuff” inherent in effective leaders.
Experience in leadership is also a critical factor as one begins to screen for potential leaders. In order to be credible, leaders need to be able to establish meaningful relationships within the leadership or executive team and demonstrate an understanding of leadership in the reality of organizational operations day to day. 
2.      Provide excellent and person-centered development experiences related to the competency criteria . It is important to consider the learner’s needs and potential when setting up succession development programs.  The opportunities themselves may include in-house classes, college or university work, a certificate or degree program, observations and “shadowing” as well as mentoring.
What is important is that leadership within the organization supports the development of potential leaders, whether or not there is a specific opening or job description at the moment. Supporting on-going development will help retention of valued employees and create a more sustainable future.
3.      Integrate initial and on-going assessment in the leadership development process . One size does not fit all in the area of leadership development.   For instance, people who have had successful experience managing a department may not need more development in that program area but might very well benefit from enhanced knowledge of business and management practices.   
On the other hand a person who has had a very successful human resources management experience and is interested in program leadership might need program-specific training, rather than business and organizational development training. 
Mentoring is key to successful leadership development.  Mentoring is most effective when it is part of the process before the person is hired for the leadership position, and then continues for at least three years after the person begins in the positon.
4.      Be aware of the more elusive abilities and qualities needed to be effective leaders.  The skills, knowledge and abilities which describe strong leaders include those behaviors and knowledge bases that can be measured, as well as some that are less measurable, such as: the ability to engage and inspire others to embrace the organization’s mission; the well-honed intuition to know when to push for a change or when to “let it go;”  the knowledge and confidence to be able to contribute to a conversation about potential new streams of revenue and a wide variety of business and organizational ethical issues, etc.
5.      Be able to change as the landscape changes.  One of the hallmarks of leadership is the way it has evolved over the last thirty years as the organizational landscape has changed and new challenges have arisen. Today’s leaders need to be adept at helping organizations change to deal with today’s critical issues in a way which strengthens the organization. 
The kind of succession planning described above is comprehensive and inclusive. It builds upon and is integrated into the culture of the organization. It prepares future leaders for the many challenges and changing landscape they will face in the 21 st century. Quality holistic leadership development will empower leaders to sustain the vitality and integrity of organizations and assure their future.

John Reid is a Senior Partner with The Reid Group, a national consulting firm helping leaders and organizations transform challenges into opportunities to create a better world in the areas of Strategic Planning, Leadership Formation, Leadership Search, Fund Development, Conflict Resolution and Meeting Design and Facilitation.  For more information about The Reid Group, its programs and services, visit our website:

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The Art of Change: Faith, Vision and Prophetic Planning

Think about what your organization could do if the process of planning met the inevitability of change head-on—and it resulted in significant success.

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