The Crucial Role of Succession Planning to Progress Your Career

When we think about succession planning, it can evoke a range of emotions. The subject is often glamorised and linked to the story of a highly successful corporate CEO planning to retire into the sunset. It can also be a source of anxiety for others, worried they may end up being replaced by the very individual they have developed landing themselves out of work.

However, the significance of succession planning cannot be underestimated and extends far beyond the confines of a company strategy. For ambitious individuals eyeing personal career growth, understanding, and actively participating in succession planning can be a game-changer.

Research suggests that only 35% of boards have succession plans in place for executives within their organisations. This creates significant challenges, but also opportunities for ambitious individuals.

I recently put together an article that discussed the topic ‘Are Technology Leaders the CEOs of tomorrow?’, and it raised an interesting discussion around succession planning and its importance, which shouldn’t be underestimated for those individuals wanting to progress their careers.

Succession planning starts with you. Having a plan for where you want your career to go and what position you want to be in, will only help you drive key decisions surrounding succession planning – ensuring you are ready if an opportunity arises. This forms the fundamental key to any succession planning, as being prepared and perceived to have the ability to take on additional responsibility when required, is fundamental to progression.

If the CEO of your current employer were to leave their post, you may feel you are well-placed to step into that role, but you need to take a wider view of your department. If you were moved up, how well can that function perform without you and can someone step into your previous post seamlessly? Never assume you will be replaced externally.

Businesses can be naturally very risk-averse and may not like the idea of having an internal candidate take on the CEO position if they cannot see a suitable solution for succession to your role. Hiring an external candidate can take months – which places pressure on potentially two key positions (As a new CEO, you will be learning your new role, whilst the search for an external CTO replacement will also take time, hindering your ability to purely focus on the job at hand and may see you pulled back to support in your previous role). A well-executed succession plan showcases your ability to plan for the future and can negate any concerns about your ability to take on additional responsibility.

Whether you are an IT Director looking to become a CTO or a CTO looking to become a CEO. Taking to time to succession plan can be the difference between progression or being pinned into your current role.

However, there are some key areas to consider when succession planning that shouldn’t be ignored.

Continuously Adapt and Review

Succession planning is not a one-time event but a continuous process. Regularly revisit and update the plan based on changes in your business environment, company goals, and the development of potential successors. Flexibility is key to adapting to unforeseen circumstances. Never pin all your hopes on one person, people are unpredictable, and they may not be ready or want to take the step up when you need them to.

Communication and Transparency

Effective communication is crucial in managing expectations and ensuring a smooth transition. Keep key stakeholders, including your team, informed about the succession planning process. This transparency builds trust and helps create a positive organisational culture. People like to feel they are being developed and supported. This in turn keeps engagement high and retention strong, whilst your seniors will want to know you are planning for the future should they want to call upon you to take on more responsibility.

Diversity and Inclusion

A successful succession plan should promote diversity and inclusion. Ensure that the talent pool considered for leadership roles is representative of different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. This not only strengthens the organisation but also fosters innovation and adaptability. When succession planning, you have the ability to impact the change you want to see in your industry. It’s a big responsibility, and its important equity is considered to set up individuals for success.

It’s clear succession planning is not a spectator sport; it’s a dynamic arena where personal career growth can flourish. By actively participating in the process, you can align yourself with a company’s future, identify opportunities, and proactively develop the skills needed for your next role. Succession planning isn’t just about a company’s future; it’s about nurturing the growth and success of individuals who are poised to become those leaders. Embrace succession planning as a personal catalyst for career growth.


Callum Runnegar-Mundy

Principal Consultant