O P I N I O N
W hen you have been working with A/E firms as long as I have, you will have seen many attempts at leadership transition for the CEO (or whatever the top person’s title is). Some of these transitions have been successful, while many have not. These are some of the common elements that are often present in the most successful leadership transitions. Making leadership transition real
Here are some of the common elements that are often present in the most successful transitions – and I will define “success” here as the company continues to grow and be profitable post- transition: 1)It starts way before the baton is actually passed. Leaders at all levels – but especially the top – need to identify those who have the best odds of becoming their successors early on. This possibility needs to be clearly expressed to the potential successor so he or she can act accordingly. Nothing is worse than having someone you thought would be your successor leave because that individual didn’t know they were going to be the successor. 2)There are no secrets. Why is the future successor often kept a secret – one that can be sprung on the employees with no warning after a business planning retreat or on the first of the year? Besides telling the successor what your thoughts are about them being the successor, share those plans with everyone else as well. Everyone needs to get used to the idea and expect the change before it happens,
as opposed to them feeling ambushed when it happens.
3)Whomever is picked is someone the other employees will respect. It helps if that successor has proved themselves as a high performer in the “business of the business.“ In other words, if the firm is a high design architectural firm, the successor has the best chances for acceptance if they are known to be a competent designer. Like it or not, this is the reality of our business. 4)The person doing the handoff spends a great deal of time with their successor. There just isn’t any substitute for lots and lots of communication with your successor. There has to be a good relationship there if you want a smooth transition. It will take time from two already busy people to make that happen. If it has to be formally scheduled to make sure this does occur, then that should be done. 5)The successor is open and willing to learn. Having some humility and respect for the predecessor is
See MARK ZWEIG, page 10
THE ZWEIG LETTER NOVEMBER 2, 2020, ISSUE 1366
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