Board Savvy December 26, 2019

Salon Highlights: Succession Planning

By The Athena Alliance

When a crisis happens, the board is in the hot seat. But what happens when a company loses its CEO? Who can immediately step into the role, and how does the need to be prepared affect other processes, such as the board director interview process? Athena Pioneer Michelle Lewis learned this the hard way, when she was a board director and her company’s CEO had a bicycle accident that left him paralyzed.

Learn our key takeaways from Michelle’s tips shared in an exclusive members-one salon to prepare a CEO succession plan. Members can listen to the full recording in the Resource Library.

  1. Have the discussion at the board level. What is your emergency plan? Are we ready for an emergency? What will our first reaction be? How will we communicate to employees? How we will respond to the media? Do we have an interim identified? Can (and should) anyone from the board step in? What are the board’s expectations of its directors during this time?
  2. Get to know the team and players in the organization. You need to know who can be fast-tracked into an interim leadership position. For a large organization, that might mean traveling to meet them. If it’s a small organization, bring them into your board meetings.
  3. Know who could potentially move into the role. Does someone exist on your board or in your C-suite who has the talent and capacity to serve as an interim? If not, think about this as you’re interviewing for board directors and key C-suite positions.
  4. How do you get the CEO on board with succession planning? Different CEOs will respond differently. Your CEO may have a long-term succession plan but not a “hit by a bus” plan. Gauge their comfort level and ask them to develop an emergency succession plan for everyone on the executive team (including the CEO).

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