“When you see a curve ball coming, don’t bend you knees” is what a baseball coach would tell a player who is batting against a good-breaking pitcher. Don’t bend your knees means: Don’t move when it looks like the ball is going to hit you. Watch the ball, stand firm and swing.
Lots of baby boomer CEOs and key executives are leaving the workplaces these days, which means top leadership and Boards of Directors have to take a swing at managing more complex leadership transitions. The majority of Boards and senior teams think that they have a solid leadership succession plan in place for such events. In reality most have a basic policy statement about actions to take when a senior leader announces their exit. Which is good. The problem is that there is a big difference between a policy statement and a shared strategy. Policy statements work well in simple situations, like a slow pitch down the middle, but simple doesn’t happen much in baseball or boardrooms. There are always curve balls.
Some common leadership transition curve balls:
- The apparent internal successor turns out not to be the one
- The highly qualified next-in-liner says no or accepts a better offer elsewhere
- The designated internal interim is now applying for the open position
- An outside interim is needed and this has never been done before
If a Board or top team has simply taken time before a transition to discuss and decide on specific strategies for possible scenarios, there is a good chance that operations will run smoothly and recruitment plans will happen sooner rather than later.
But if there has been no intentional preparation, hesitation sets in, decisions are changed and things start to look like a series of half swings. Stakeholders in the stands can see the curveballs coming and knees buckling.
“Strike one!” The first mismanaged decision is often forgiven, but after a couple of more wind-maker swings fail to connect, the boos will be the last and lasting word that will linger in the culture long after newly appointed leader walks up to the plate and readies his bat.
Journal Entry: What transitions are you facing? A key leadership change, making a work move into an unclear future, starting a new career, having an empty nest after the last college graduation or reversing roles as you become the parent to your parents?
Are there things you need to think about now so you can better manage the transition curve balls coming soon in your leadership and life?
Baseball is like church. Many attend, most don’t understand. – Leo Durocher
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. – Albert Einstein
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. – Mark Twain
Great leaders are almost always great simplfiers, which can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand. – Colin Powell
Ninety percent of this game is half mental. – Yogi Berra