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How does a company prepare for the retirement of their leader?

The most successful business leaders are people who know all aspects of the companies they run. That in-depth knowledge creates challenges when the time comes for their retirement and much-needed succession planning.

The important transition involved in business succession goes beyond one person ending a career. The most proactive and effective leaders will have a successor not just for one responsibility, but all duties. At no time should the transition process isolate the leader. In addition to the successor, a neutral facilitator should help the leader plan for all aspects of the transition.

The timing of the departure is a significant part of the succession process. Advanced preparation is paramount. Leaders should communicate when they retire. Within at least two years of that critical date, the development and execution of a transition plan should begin.

Clients should not be left out of this planning. All team members should have some form of relationship with all customers, assuring them that they will continue to be important resources in the future. When the successor is ready to take control, client relations continue and grow instead of stopping and starting over.

In addition to involving people, the way the process is handled is equally vital. Successors should start with shadowing leaders. Their focus should be on learning, listening and asking questions. From there, the soon-to-be retiree should take on the shadow role with more responsibilities given to the successor until they completely take over.

A significant change involving the integration of new leaders is an important time for businesses. The stakes are high for not only the individual taking over, but also all staff and clients involved in the transition.

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