THINKPIECE: If It takes a corporation to grow a CEO, why is succession planning so spotty in PR industry?

Begin with this fact: America’s corporate boards of directors are now starting to tie as much as one-third of CEO bonuses to the development of a succession plan. Then, follow with a question: if your boss now must identify the next in line, how about you?

Begin with this fact: America’s corporate boards of directors are now starting to tie as much as one-third of CEO bonuses to the development of a succession plan. Then, follow with a question: if your boss now must identify the next in line, how about you?

Begin with this fact: America’s corporate boards of directors are

now starting to tie as much as one-third of CEO bonuses to the

development of a succession plan. Then, follow with a question: if your

boss now must identify the next in line, how about you?



The answer? In the PR business, planning for succession is spotty at

best. Many vice presidents, even directors of corporate communications,

leave office or retire without giving much thought to finding and

training the new boss. Some may hire recruiters a year or so in advance

to find their successor. Others will locate internal candidates,

promoting what appear to be the most promising to higher levels of

authority and responsibility.



Yet later, the so-called stars haven’t shown the talent and temperament

for the top PR job.



The basic issue underlying succession planning, I’m convinced, is

characterized by one word: ego. It is ego that is threatened by hiring

the best and the brightest. It is ego that says, ’There’s no one good

enough to step into my shoes. Why should I be forced to hire someone

less, only to need to fire him/her later?’ Ego is also the reason that,

when succession issues must be resolved and a recruiter hired, about 20%

to 25% of those searches go unfilled. And ego is why many bright young

talents are stepping out of the field, pursuing dot-com (and other)

dreams, because their career paths have been blocked.



The solutions to succession woes are under our collective noses, at the

door of the top corporate officer. Here are just a few: CEOs are being

encouraged, fiscally and morally, to consider the world as their talent

pool. They regularly communicate with the board about candidates. Now

human benchmarking is becoming commonplace; recruiters are retained

specifically to compare outside candidates with those on the corporate

fast track.



Promising executives are given jobs intended to broaden their skills and

prompted to accept outside assignments and be exposed to media and

investors.



And the process even dips into middle management, where keeping tabs on

up-and-comers is a responsibility of senior execs, not just the HR

department.



To be truthful, few companies seem to have the time and patience to grow

CEOs. It is also just as true that a decade of downsizing has drained

the breadth of talent available. Yet there are, ultimately, no good

excuses for avoiding succession planning. After all, the Chinese

recognized its value centuries ago: ’If you are planning for one year,

grow rice. If you are planning for 20 years, grow a tree. If you are

planning for centuries, grow men.’



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