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Coaching for Effective Succession – by Anita Stadler, PhD

Jan 21st, 2014 | By | Category: Business Coaching

Succession planning is a topic that is difficult for many leaders but which can be made easier with the assistance of an executive coach.  I have managed the succession planning process within a large corporation and have seen transitions that have been smooth and transitions that have been painful.  As you coach senior leaders, it is critical to broach the subject of succession.  What will happen when the time is right for that leader to move on, whether the leader is moving on to retirement or to a new role in the organization?  Most large organizations have formal succession planning processes, but those processes seldom support the personal experience of the leader who is moving out of a key role and the leader moving in.  An executive coach can provide the space for a confidential conversation that can enable a smooth transition; one that will enable the new leader to thrive while not diminishing the value provided by the former leader.

Bring Up The Topic:

The major mistake that most leaders make is to avoid the conversation of succession.  For many leaders in an organization, the topic can be sensitive.  As an executive coach, you can enable healthy conversations.  Begin with a conversation about legacy.  What is important for the leader to create that will last beyond his or her time in the role?  If you are coaching a Christian leader, a reference to Moses and Joshua’s transition can provide an instructive perspective.

Identify Potential Issues:

Help a senior leader identify the nagging concerns that may not have surfaced yet regarding succession.  What are the fears that creep in when the topic is mentioned?  What excitement is there as well?  Has the leader considered the very real issues that will possibly occur?

Create a Plan:

Your client will function more effectively with a picture of what successful succession will look like.  Then he or she must put a plan in place that addresses not only who, but how.  Who are the constituents who must be involved?  How long should the transition timeframe be?  How should it be communicated?  Who could take over temporarily in an emergency?  Your executive coaching can foster valuable introspection for a leader who wants to succeed at succession.


Anita Stadler, PhD is the owner of Horizon Executive Coaching.  She coaches Christian leaders and business executives who want to connect their career and their calling more intentionally.  She is also a full-time executive coach and leadership development advisor for a Fortune 100 corporation.  She can be reached at (714) 952-0995 or  For more information, see


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