The Evaporating Pool of 'Officer-Ready' Talent

NOV 9, 2017

How The Board Can Ensure An Incoming CEO's Success

(Originally appeared in the November 9, 2017 'Across the Board' publication, a Board Director, Board Advisor and Business Newsletter reaching 23,000+ thought-leaders and visionaries in over 65 countries with articles focused on leadership, strategy and governance topics - sign up here)

Where have all the leaders gone? Or at the very least, where are they going? The quest for experienced and effective leadership is getting harder... and it is not only the executive search and placement companies taking notice. Companies of all sizes are increasingly finding it difficult to successfully fill their vacant Board and C-Level positions, including the all-important CEO seat. The 'officer-ready' talent pool is evaporating.

There are many reasons for this accelerating talent gap including the shunning of formal corporate structure by the younger generations as well as the extremely large generational population gap between the Baby Boomers and Generation X. Baby Boomers are typically counted at 76 million while Generation X is accepted at a count of roughly 52-54 million. Add to this the currently accelerating retirement of the Baby Boomers and you have an increasing vacuum of talent at many levels - especially noticeable at the executive level. I wrote about this accelerating trend years ago in the article, 'Boards and the Baby Boomer Retirement Effect,' where it could be strongly argued that "not enough strategic consideration has been given to the significant business leadership experience, expertise and clout that will exit U.S. business organizations, and their Boards, during [a] relatively short retirement transition." The implications are massive. This topic is a personal favorite of mine due to the fact that when it comes to 'architecting' Boards, the extremely dynamic and often overlooked aspect of succession planning is a topic requiring coaxing along with diplomacy.

Even with these inherent challenges, finding the talent is only the first hurdle. Taking proactive steps to ensure the success of recently-hired executive, C-level or Board Director positions is an important factor in the equation. Some studies show failure rates of new-to-role executives at 40-60% - percentages that demand attention. With failure rates that high, once you have decided on your perfect candidate and they are now in the position, you will likely want to make an effort to ensure their success. Your 'insurance policy' can be an approach that starts with the Board.

When it comes to a new CEO, the Board has the responsibility for that new CEO's success, whether they are a seasoned leader or one being promoted up the ranks. "A good executive coach with significant experience in executive assimilations is an excellent resource; acting as a sounding board, the coach provides a safe place to manage the stress and anxiety associated with any major career move," states Emily Bermes of Emily Bermes + Associates, an executive coaching firm with a service offering focused on coaching new-to-role executives. Further in the article 'Bombproofing Officer Level Transitions,' Emily mentions, "A coach can help the new leader navigate their learning curve, adapt their style culturally and assess talent more quickly. Essentially a coach helps the executive grow into the new role. Executives know how to show up with the presence and never let their worries, uncertainty and doubt show, but they certainly have them! If left unmanaged, the impact on their own performance can be quite negative." Emily rightfully believes that "you need a leader doing their best thinking and making the most strategic decisions - executives experiencing high stress rarely do that in a support vacuum."

Front-loading your executive support for the transitional and assimilation aspects can pay huge long-term rewards for not only the executive, but also for the overall organization. Additionally, It will put the Board on the correct side of the CEO appointment success curve - a place every Board wants to be.

What will you consider to ensure your CEO's success?

Reach out directly to Mark A. Pfister to discuss your Board's executive support strategy.


About the Author: In addition to sitting on numerous Boards, Mark A. Pfister is a certified Board Director and advises public, private and nonprofit boards in efficient and effective operations. He is the inventor of the 'Board as a Service' (BaaS) engagement model and an expert project/program manager frequently consulting on strategic global initiatives in their initiation and operational phases....... << Read full bio here >>

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