Today's Challenge: Who's Next?

Hans Finzel is the first person I heard say, "There is no success without a successor." I've heard of leaders "trapped" in their current role because they didn't have anyone prepared to move into their position. I've also talked to my share of leaders who've been caught short when someone left unexpectedly. These scenarios all reflect Today's Challenge: How do we ensure an adequate supply of leaders for the future?

One manifestation of this challenge is known as succession planning. Honestly, this is not something we've focused on at Chick-fil-A, Inc. over the years. In part, because we're a fairly young leadership team - I've been with the company about 35 years and there have been less than a dozen senior leaders retire. However, all that will change in the next decade.
Looming leadership transition is not the only reason to focus on building a strong bench of leadership talent; it also helps an organization prepare for growth. Our assumption is that as growth accelerates, so will the need for more leaders.
Here are some of the things we're doing to help strengthen our leadership bench:
We're identifying the work experiences we want future senior leaders to have. We're striving to be intentional as we move leaders across the organization. For many future leaders, we'll want them to have exposure to multiple disciplines and types of assignments.
We've reiterated the expectation for existing leaders to deliver who's next. This is now part of our leadership competency model and leadership talent review. Every leader is expected to help other leaders grow.
We've formalized our Leadership Talent Review. We've always evaluated leaders and emerging leaders. We're working to become more calibrated in our appraisals and more conscious of our organizational gaps. (I wrote about an insight from our last LTR)
We're also continuing our long-standing practice of targeted development for all leaders. Every leader has an annual development plan (Every corporate staff member does as well). This is a plan co-created with the leader's supervisor.
We're creating common experiences for senior leaders. There's power in common experiences - even if they're not experiecned at the same time. One example - almost every year, we send a few leaders to the Harvard Advanced Management Program. I went to AMP in 2006.
We're in the process of formalizing our mentoring programs. This is something else we've done informally for many years. However, as we've grown, we see the need for a little more consistency.
We're still learning! We don't have this figured out. However, it is at the center of our radar. We know "Who's Next?" is a critical question for any growing and vibrant organization.
The items above are some of the current fixes. Long term, I believe we can actually create a leadership culture. We're not there yet, but we are on the journey![GLS_Shield]
Who are you intentionally preparing for future leadership opportunities?
Each Friday, I write a post under the title: Today's Challenge. The catalyst for these posts are questions from readers. If you've got a question you'd like me to address, please send it to Please be patient regarding a response, I do get a lot of questions. Thanks for joining the conversation!


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