Are You Succession Ready, Willing and Able?

ready willing and ableAre You Succession Ready, Willing and Able?

Founders and senior shareholders are waking up ready, now more than ever, for succession planning as the challenges of 2020 mount without a predictable end in sight.  Yet, on closer inspection, what many are finding is they are not so sure about the “willing and able” part of the question.  From my experience, successfully navigating both the planning and implementation of a succession plan requires leaders AND their teams to be ready, willing, and able.

Succession readiness starts with heart-centered leadership

The pandemic is shining a bright light on how founders and shareholders are perceived as leaders.  The quality of leadership is not determined by ownership, title, or financial success, rather it is the result of how team members, including successors, experience these important relationships.

  • Do they feel valued?
  • Is their input welcomed?
  • Is there a sense of connection to a compelling vision and mission?

Every interaction either contributes to or detracts from the quality of these important relationships and perceived levels of trust.  It is my belief that trust is at the heart of successful leadership and getting the entire team ready for succession.  In my work as a succession coach, I’m seeing up close how leaders amp up feelings of uncertainty or distrust with their patterns of behavior while in conversation with others.

Researcher Judith E. Glaser, Chairman of Creating We Institute and creator of Conversational Intelligence, reported her findings on managers’ positive and negative “conversational behaviors” in a Harvard Business Review article, The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations.  This research highlights the impact our “biochemistry” has on the quality of our communication and, no surprise, our relationships!


managers positive and negative conversational behaviors


These results reflect managers’ self-reported frequency of engaging in positive or negative conversational behaviors.  85% of respondents, “… admitted to sometimes acting in ways that could derail not only specific interactions but also future relationships.”  These behaviors are often familiar patterns in organizations where mixed messages frequently contribute greatly to undercurrents of uncertainty or negative feelings that trigger an emotional response.  When it comes to conversations perceived to be of great consequence, like succession planning, this is particularly true.

Succession ready teams require high-trust relationships

Heart-centered leaders inspire their people to engage fully.  They enjoy higher levels of loyalty because people trust them, feel valued and—no surprise again—the firm’s culture is more fun!  My thinking about the power of trust is supported by a lot of research conducted in the past decade as companies of all sizes wrestle with how best to increase employee engagement.

Paul J. Zak, researcher and founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, published some important findings in the January-February 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review:

Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report:

  • 74% less stress
  • 106% more energy at work
  • 50% higher productivity
  • 76% more engagement
  • 40% less burnout

So, what is required to cultivate a high-trust culture?



Leaders who are candid and transparent in their communication—and who welcome candid input from others.



Value is placed on frequent, consistent communication with the intention of cultivating relationship and rapport.  The payoff for good rapport is a healthy balance in your relationship “bank account” with each team member.  Happy, engaged team members who enjoy each other are also more likely to be committed to their work and care greatly about client service.

Is this the right time for you to focus on getting succession ready, willing and able?  Clients hire me to guide and support them in having productive conversations with all stakeholders on their journey to successful succession.

I would love to help so that, you too, have a clear path forward: a success plan for today and a succession plan for tomorrow.  To learn more, schedule a call!

Click here to download our complimentary report- “5 Questions Business Owners Never Ask and Should, to Create a Succession Plan that Works ”