The 3 Ingredients for Successful C-Suite Hand-offs

17 Nov 2021

The 3 Ingredients for Successful C-Suite Hand-offs

Two major factors are driving transformation of the workforce and the workplace, ultimately resulting in the shorter tenure and higher turnover trends we’re seeing in the C-suite.

To begin with, the digital economy has increased the pace of change in every sector and industry, resulting in shorter business cycles. This means that boards and CEOs are increasingly looking for leaders who demonstrate agility—those who can formulate and activate transformation at scale in response to changes in their ecosystems. 

Contributing to this trend is the rapid overnight move to flexible work arrangements and hybrid working, driven by the pandemic. Businesses now need leaders who can navigate and direct teams in virtual and networked environments, work through ambiguity and manage and inspire others, despite limited in-person interaction.

As our data shows, this accelerated pattern of change at the executive level is not likely to slow down. The question is, can CEOs manage these transitions and hand-offs well, reducing the risk of disruption and discontinuity?

At Odgers Berndtson, we believe there are three ingredients that will smooth CEO or executive leader transitions, to make sure your organization doesn’t miss a beat: 

Ingredient 1: Succession planning as an ongoing discipline

In this environment, succession planning becomes a more critical program, and one that needs to be ongoing rather than episodic. Establish a “rolling” process for talent reviews, in the same way that CFOs run rolling financial forecasts. In addition, when undertaking succession planning, organizations should go at least three, and in most cases five, levels below the C-suite to generate meaningful organizational readiness.

Ingredient 2: Seek cultural agility in your leaders

Across most organizations, the role of senior leaders has been expanded in the new work environment to include cultural advocacy and connectedness. Pre-Covid, culture was experienced in the workplace. Now, it has to be distributed virtually—not an easy undertaking!

Ingredient 3: Keep one foot in the present, and one in the future

Finally, when compiling position briefs, CEOs and CHROs should be writing two different versions: first, the leadership job profile needed to manage the current state, and then the leadership profile needed to innovate and transform that function or business unit.

CXO hand-offs are delicate transitions, but they can be executed gracefully if your talent leadership is prepared, while having an eye on the future of the company. In fact, performing these transitions well are one of the key steps you can take to set your new leader up for success. 

If you are ready to look at your strategies around succession, transitions or onboarding, we are here to help. Reach out anytime.