Last month, we addressed the importance of succession planning and related that the degree of stress associated with a leadership change is inversely proportional to the amount of planning an organization undertakes for its leadership transitions. Many organizations mitigate the uncertainty of a leadership transition by developing a mid-management executive bench of possible successors.
Recruiting high potential middle-management executives can immediately add value and long-term leadership options. Recognizing that need, The Alexander Group (TAG) partners with its sister firm Alex & Red to conduct searches for managers who are poised to climb the ladder to the C-suite and who can scale as an organization grows.
The following are Alex & Red's advice for recruiting managers with high succession potential:
1. Include members of the executive team in the search process.
Too often, senior executives delegate middle-management hiring and have little involvement in the hiring process. Participation is limited to a brief interview, often during the candidate's final round of interviews. When interviewing a candidate, it is important that senior executives take the time, free from distractions, to assess the candidate's long-term leadership potential in addition to his or her experience and credentials. Also, consider including other members of the executive team who can offer a different perspective and confirm the candidate's leadership potential.
One of Alex & Red's clients, the Chief Executive Officer of a global industrial manufacturing company, participates in the initial interview of a middle-management candidate and subsequently meets the candidate again for dinner. His time signifies to the candidate that they are high potential and a long-term hire. He believes that "you can learn a lot about a candidate, who they are, their management philosophy and what kind of leader they are" in an informal and personal setting.
2. Expand the position's responsibilities to attract up and coming senior executives.
Consider expanding the position's responsibilities by incorporating some higher level responsibilities that would attract candidates who are driven by growth opportunity and success. Discuss expanding the role with other leadership so that everyone is on board. In addition, be prepared to discuss the position's short and long-term objectives and development opportunities with the candidate.
We recently recruited the Controller for a national law firm whose Chief Financial Officer will likely replace the firm's Chief Operating Officer when she retires in two years. The Controller will be an internal candidate to succeed the CFO. With this in mind, the CFO delegated some of his key strategic responsibilities to the Controller and shares the role of presenting quarterly presentations to the partnership. This gives the Controller higher visibility, credibility and the opportunity to establish a rapport with firm leadership.
3. Look outside of the box.
Rather than narrow your focus on industry-specific experience, consider expanding your search to include different industries and geographic locations. As we blogged a few years ago, companies continue to find value and impact in recruiting from outside their industry. Depending on what the manager is being brought on board to do, cultural leadership and functional skills may be more important than direct sector or industry experience.
4. Develop a comprehensive recruitment strategy that includes passive candidates.
Many exceptional managers are challenged in their current position and are not actively looking at the job market. They are not reviewing postings on career sites, sending their resumes to search firms and are missed by conventional recruitment methods. Work with a search firm to identify passive candidates who have a track record of accomplishment and experience leading high-performing teams. As TAG Director Sarah Mitchell wrote, "The role of the recruiter is: connector and communicator who can help a client define a clear picture of the type of person and the skills required for a critical role, and then in turn identify, recruit and educate an ideal executive about our client and the opportunity."
As Ayn Rand said, "The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity" and the key to recruiting middle management executives with high potential is to create the 'rungs of opportunity' in the position.