April 25, 2014
On April 3rd, Letterman broadcast his plans to retire from the show he created. CBS announced just one week later that Colbert, host of the Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report,” would be Letterman’s replacement. While Letterman won’t actually be leaving until next year, the speed and decisiveness of the transition to the public eye was no funny business. With Colbert quickly given the nod, the network has avoided a prolonged period of speculation for fans, endless scrutiny from Hollywood news outlets, and possible in-fighting among internal candidates and stakeholders.
Was it a surprise to executives that Letterman would retire one day? It shouldn’t have been. Yet networks and other businesses are often ill-prepared for similar contingency plans-whether an exit arises from retirement, illness, burnout, or simply the desire to move on to other projects.
Microsoft would have benefited from CBS’s approach when its former CEO Steve Ballmer stepped down. Instead, the corporate giant took months to announce Satya Nadella as successor, jeopardizing shareholder confidence, employee productivity and company profits.
Particularly for entrepreneurs, it’s all too easy to buy into the myth of being irreplaceable. While no one would suggest Letterman’s comedic style could be duplicated, the show is still preparing to go on, albeit in different form. If you don’t believe it can work, consider that “The Tonight Show”is enjoying a 60-year legacy despite former one-of-a-kind hosts Johnny Carson and Jay Leno.
Best known for playing a satirical political character, Colbert acknowledged his takeover of “The Late Show” by jesting, “I do not envy who they try to put in that chair,” because “Those are some really big shoes to fill-and some really big pants.”
We bet your shoes are just as big. Still, it’s important to consider how in your absence they might be filled, used or bought. The same goes for active partners and key employees. Starting the planning process years ahead will ensure you get the most from all you’ve invested into your company and that it continues to have a profitable future.
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February 14, 2014
After announcing the departure of 33-year company veteran and CEO Steve Ballmer last August, Microsoft has only just declared his successor – Satya Nadella. While tech news insiders agree with the internal Bill Gates-like choice, the lack of a clear succession plan from the start, has left an indelible mark.
Ballmer held his position as CEO for the last 14 years, giving Microsoft more than a decade to develop a succession plan. Yet when the announcement was made that he would step down, not only was a successor not named but the timeline and process for finding his replacement was vague. This left the company open to commentary from all sides for potential candidates, and it created damaging uncertainty with investors. Months without a clear, singular vision for any company can also create political minefields, with people unsure of whose approval to attain due to divergent visions and others jockeying for positions in the senior ranks.
If all that alone wasn’t enough to create confusion, only two weeks after Ballmer’s noted departure Microsoft announced that it would be acquiring Nokia for $7.2 billion, the second-largest acquisition from the company behind Skype.
As we can see, even a large corporation with plenty of visionary leaders on its Board of Directors, including Bill Gates, can fumble on a succession plan. While the situation is unfortunate, it is far from uncommon. The reality is, and perhaps understandably so, planning your exit isn’t usually the most exciting task for a leader, but it is essential.
In what can be a harrowing process, many business leaders who doattempt to make a plan take on too many tasks by themselves. Others simply don’t start early enough to identify and prepare the right people for future roles. With so much at stake – both emotionally, financially and professionally – the key is simply to bite the bullet, start early, and be thorough. Doing so can create a smooth transition that keeps confidence strong among customers, investors, and employees. This confidence can play a major role in ensuring the success of your company’s future and enhancing your own personal legacy.