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Beyond succession planning: Will your priority initiatives outlast you?

September 12, 2008
by Ann Borders
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Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were to just walk out of your office one afternoon, never to return? (Let’s assume in this scenario that your sudden departure is not due to a calamity, but something like winning a lottery or being tapped as a vice presidential candidate.) Would your pet projects and key initiatives be sustained?

Even though you go through the processes of establishing a shared vision, values, and organizational goals, do you really think that all of your most valued priorities would be carried out if you suddenly left? Here’s a confession from this CEO: not at my organization. And it’s not a reflection on what I view to be a spectacular staff and board of directors here.

It’s just that after 32 years in this business, my observation is that when the CEO packs it up, you can expect that many of his priority projects will depart with him. I’ve polled CEO colleagues on the subject, and the common response theme has been, “As much as I hate to admit it, I believe that some essential initiatives would go by the wayside when I leave. Even though everyone agreed on the direction, I’m realist enough to know that some things are driven by the weight of the CEO.”

So what really keeps initiatives alive? Is it a shared vision, or in some circumstances is it simply CEO oompf?

I asked Tim Miller, owner of MTM Associates, an organizational development consulting firm near TampaFlorida, what he thought. Miller was reminded of Jim Collins’ research on “good-to-great” companies. He cited Collins’ belief that leaders with personal humility and professional will are more likely to leave an enduring legacy than those with gargantuan egos.

Miller also believes that a CEO’s priorities stand a greater chance of sustainability when there is a high degree of amicability in the separation and when the successor comes from within.

For my part, I’m focusing on developing leadership throughout our organization and matching key initiatives with the people who have the greatest passion for them. Not that I plan on leaving any time soon. I have these pet projects I want to get going…

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Comments

I enjoyed reading Ann's comments on leaving a legacy and Tim Miler's thoughts on humility. I am often interested in what motivates one of Coleman's donors to want their name on one of the buildings or how name our Endowments after the generous donors supporting behavioral health. Yea Gads, Batman, my name would never look good on a building!

Many of us do our job because of the passion! When you move on don't we want change to continue?

Very interesting but how do I view the rest of the original blog? Sorry, am a new user here. Thanks!

A very thought-provoking piece! Behavioral Healthcare magazine is very interested in spotlighting "up and comers" if your organization has a leader waiting in the wings, please e-mail me (dedwards@vendomegrp.com).

Charles The original blog should appear at the top of this page. If not, here it is again:
Beyond succession planning: Will your priority initiatives outlast you?
Posted on: 9.12.2008 3:18:02 PM Posted by Ann Borders

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were to just walk out of your office one afternoon, never to return? (Let's assume in this scenario that your sudden departure is not due to a calamity, but something like winning a lottery or being tapped as a vice presidential candidate.) Would your pet projects and key initiatives be sustained?

Even though you go through the processes of establishing a shared vision, values, and organizational goals, do you really think that all of your most valued priorities would be carried out if you suddenly left? Here's a confession from this CEO: not at my organization. And it's not a reflection on what I view to be a spectacular staff and board of directors here.

It's just that after 32 years in this business, my observation is that when the CEO packs it up, you can expect that many of his priority projects will depart with him. I've polled CEO colleagues on the subject, and the common response theme has been, "As much as I hate to admit it, I believe that some essential initiatives would go by the wayside when I leave. Even though everyone agreed on the direction, I'm realist enough to know that some things are driven by the weight of the CEO."

So what really keeps initiatives alive? Is it a shared vision, or in some circumstances is it simply CEO oompf?

I asked Tim Miller, owner of MTM Associates, an organizational development consulting firm near Tampa Florida, what he thought. Miller was reminded of Jim Collins' research on "good-to-great" companies. He cited Collins' belief that leaders with personal humility and professional will are more likely to leave an enduring legacy than those with gargantuan egos.

Miller also believes that a CEO's priorities stand a greater chance of sustainability when there is a high degree of amicability in the separation and when the successor comes from within.

For my part, I'm focusing on developing leadership throughout our organization and matching key initiatives with the people who have the greatest passion for them. Not that I plan on leaving any time soon. I have these pet projects I want to get going...

Ann Borders

President and CEO, Cummins Behavioral Health Systems, Inc

http://cumminsbhs.org/

Ann Borders is president and CEO of Cummins Behavioral Health Systems, Inc., serving eight...