How To Replace A Legend

Finding a replacement for any key employee can be difficult, so how do you go about finding successors for those iconic, one-of-a-kind leaders who represent the guiding force behind your institution?

 
 

This conundrum is nothing new in the sports world, where even former championship-winning teams may falter after losing a legendary manager.

As the following examples show, a successful transition from one era's leader to the next is possible in any industry, but accomplishing this handoff smoothly and without lasting repercussions involves proactive investment, planning, and even a willingness to take some calculated risks.

Consider deploying some of the proven succession best practices profiled below, and you too may find that your institution's glory days are yet to come.

THE CONCEPT

Create A CEO-In-Waiting
Designating an heir apparent early on allows this individual to learn best practices directly from the source and ensures a smooth continuation of strategies, values, and leadership style — at least until the new leader finds stable footing and begins to develop an individual approach.

THE EXECUTION

Bobby Bowden was the most successful coach in Division 1 college football history and won two national champions. He coached the Florida State University Seminoles from 1976 to 2009. In 2007, two years before his retirement, Bowden hired Jimbo Fisher as an offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting. Within three years of taking over, Fisher led the Seminoles to an undefeated season and a national championship.
 

THE CONCEPT

Keep A Mentor In The Wings
Though not a fit for all incoming CEOs and leadership styles, it's sometimes helpful to have the former face of the credit union stay on in a more reserved advisory role, possibly on the board. Fully leveraged, this individual can act as both a sounding board and a safety net regarding issues and situations that the new CEO may not be familiar with.

THE EXECUTION

Pat Riley became team president of the Miami Heat in 1995 and in that role served as head coach for two stints. He won the 2006 NBA Finals with the Heat and is considered one of the greatest NBA coaches of all time.

In 2008, Riley picked an assistant named Eric Spoelstra as his successor for head coach. However, Riley himself stayed on as the team president and together, the pair has guided the Heat to NBA Finals twice in the years since.
 

THE CONCEPT

Build A Bench
Great leaders foster more of the same, so make sure all employees — from tellers to senior executives — have access to influential and inspiring CEOs. Some rookies may not be qualified to step up to the plate just yet, but with the right nudge they'll likely prove influential to both your institution and the industry in the years to come.

THE EXECUTION

Bill Parcells won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants in 1986 and 1990. He has coached all over the NFL and, in February 2013, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Six out of the last 14 Super Bowls have been won by three head coaches — Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin, and Sean Payton — all of whom once coached under Parcells.
 

THE CONCEPT

To Let Them Grow, Let Them Go
When top talent hits a ceiling in their current role, it will often seek out other opportunities. Sometimes, this can be addressed via training sabbaticals or leadership exchanges. But if it's something more permanent, stay on good terms. That individual may return much sooner than you think — likely with new skills and insights to boot.

THE EXECUTION

Bobby Cox managed the Atlanta Braves from 1978 to 1981 and then again from 1990 until his retirement in 2010. He led the Braves to a World Series championship in 1995 and ranks fourth on the all-time managerial wins list.

Fredi Gonzalez served as third base coach for the Braves under Cox from 2003 until 2007 when he left to become a successful manager for the Florida Marlins. In 2008, he was even named the sporting news manager of the year. When Cox finally retired in 2010, Gonzalez — now with three years of head coaching experience — returned to take his place as manager of the Braves.
 

 

 

 

July 9, 2014


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