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Conflict & Leadership Strategy

A Dilbert cartoon about succession planning was in last week’s newspaper. The big-haired Vice President said to her balding boss, “So, this means if something horrible happens to you, I’d get a promotion!” Next frame: a this-was-a-bad-idea thought bubble appears above his head. He never sits with his back to his office door again.

Succession planning began to show up on our clients’ strategic plans back in 2003. It is still listed on most of those plans today, because it hasn’t been addressed. At the mention of the S word, an image of impending personal conflict is often conjured up. As you know, conflict can either be avoided or managed. One effective conflict management technique is to offer several viable options for consideration, instead of declaring one right answer. Succession planning offers the opportunity to apply this approach since is consists of three parts.

1. Emergency Succession planning ensures that key leadership and administrative functions can continue without disruption in the event of an unplanned, temporary absence of a key executive.
2. Departure-Defined Succession planning is recommended when a long-term leader has announced their departure date two or more years in advance. It includes identifying the key goals going forward, determining the tools and skill set a successor will need to achieve those goals, and building the capacity of the board, managers, and systems beyond the current executive’s tenure.
3. Leadership Strategy Succession Planning is the ongoing practice of identifying the characteristics and skills necessary to carry out an organization’s vision and putting in place a process that attracts and retains an abundance of talented individuals who have or who can develop those talents and attributes.

So next time succession planning pops up, have your team look over the three parts above and determine which would be the best place to begin. Making part 1 the starting place, as Dilbert illustrated, is laden with high conflict potential. However, if part 3 is implemented first, the other two parts are often more easily resolved. Of course, there are no guarantees, but if your Leadership Strategy is facilitated effectively, you may experience a benefit or two, like: a few less bad-idea bubbles and a lot more time with your chair facing the window.

Journal Entry: Which succession step would make sense for you to take so the managers in your organization can move forward with more confidence in their leadership and life?

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