For executive boards in South Africa and around the world, the future and fortunes of a firm will ultimately be decided by succession planning. It’s important enough to require a much higher level of concern than it has now.
With succession planning firms can lay out a trajectory for the overall makeup of a business’s board, encouraging a diverse leadership aligned with the diverse needs of a modern marketplace. As we’ve explored previously, board diversity is key to spurring innovation and remaining competitive.
How, then, can a board go about ensuring that their succession plan will help them be as successful as possible?
Affirming diversity in your succession plan
First, it’s important to identify and affirm diversity as an explicit priority, and indeed a top priority.
Some executives are inclined to view the promotion of diversity as a secondary concern, but in fact this is a way you keep your business relevant – a component of finding the best people for the job. It means ensuring that your leadership does not become a group-thinking monolith, and it reflects and leverages the spectrum of skill and perspective that makes up the marketplace. If your leadership isn’t open to new ideas from new people – even unconsciously – then other firms will be, and their succession planning will reflect that.
With the importance of fostering diversity as a priority, members of a board should examine themselves for potential biases: this exercise in self-awareness can be difficult, even painful, but it is an important step in ensuring that a board’s most important decisions are made as clearly and openly as possible.
Consider the opportunities related to diversity: different backgrounds of people who contribute to your future needs or plans. This may mean aligning with an emerging market, drawing on a type of experience that is not well-reflected in your current board makeup, identifying young leaders in tune with the thought of younger consumers, or something else entirely: a rising concern or area of expertise that could determine the fate of your business.
With your individual needs and a thoughtful commitment to diversity in place, a board may then undertake to identify the best future leaders. If the process has been conducted with mindfulness and an eye toward the changing marketplace, these decisions can ensure a company’s ability to not only compete, but to prosper.
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By Paul Butterworth MNI, Global Head of the Maritime & Shipping Practice at Odgers Berndtson