Although finding the right industry experience and expertise is important when selecting a successor, they are relatively easy to find. The real challenge is finding someone with that background who also meshes well with your existing culture.
When a recruited successor fails, it’s generally because of one of two reasons. Either their leadership skills were poor (interpersonal skills, strategic thinking, business savvy) or they clashed with the culture of the company. Rarely – if ever – do they fail for lack of knowledge. (After all, smart people learn things quickly.)
Leadership skills can be objectively assessed fairly easily, and weak competencies can be addressed and improved. But cultural fit is a whole other matter. Fitting in with a company’s culture is a matter of personality and personal values, rather than skillset. Personality and values are innate to a person and can’t be learned or developed.
An organization’s culture is defined by the values and behaviors it lives by.
Here are some examples of the values and behaviors a company might live by:
Care About People
Integrity and Honesty
Appreciation and Recognition
A Safe Environment
Before you can go about finding a candidate who is a close cultural fit, you must first have a clear picture of that culture. While all the values and behaviors above are admirable and positive, a well-defined culture usually consists of 5-7 traits. By selecting a handful of traits and focusing on them, it becomes much easier to live by them.
Once the pillars of a company’s culture are defined, it becomes much easier to screen potential candidates. (This is true for recruiting successors and also for recruiting any employees.)
Screening a potential successor for cultural fit is more of an art than a science. It’s like trying to determine whether someone is honest. You can’t simply ask them if they’re honest. You’ll always get the answer they know you want to hear.
Instead, you have to take an approach that indirectly reveals their personality and their values. That’s usually accomplished by a combination of asking good questions, being observant, and posing hypothetical examples. In truth, it takes years of practice to master the art.
If you’d like help finding and screening a successor for your business, please give us a call. It’s one of our specialties.