Approach Succession Planning Like You are In the Premier League

With 98% of your managerial staff open to new opportunities, your company needs to have a deep roster of potential talent both inside and outside of your organization ready to step into leadership roles.

Seems obvious, right? After all, that’s just basic succession planning.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the way most companies approach succession planning. Too often organizations wait until a vacancy occurs before coming up with a plan to fill that position.

In the meantime:

  • Your company still needs to serve customers and clients;
  • Your company still has strategic goals that need to be achieved;
  • Your team needs to remain motivated;
  • Your external partners need to see you still have a strategy in place;
  • Important decisions still need to be made.

The world doesn’t stop just because you lose a key manager.

Because business still needs to get done, all too often the succession plan comes down to hiring a candidate who meets the basic qualification and can quickly fill an immediate need. Strategic hiring is pushed aside in favor of necessity.

That approach to succession planning is like a football club waiting until their goalkeeper is injured and then replacing him with the first person available, with little evidence that the player is actually the right choice.

No serious football team approaches succession planning this way. Instead, successful football clubs:

  • Understand that their current players may retire, become injured, or become less effective with little warning;
  • Understand the entire competitive landscape, including not only their own talent pool, but the talent pool of other clubs;
  • Understand the need for “scouts” who can help evaluate the entire spectrum of potential replacements;
  • Understand the need to invest in developing and assessing the leadership skills of their future stars. 

Successful football clubs employ a systematic, data-driven approach to succession planning and talent development that ensures their teams remain competitive despite inevitable changes in personnel.

And that’s exactly the approach your company should take to succession planning, because companies that succeed over the long-term understand both the importance and risk of hiring exceptionally talented managers. The top-level talent your company needs to remain competitive is also highly desired by other employers.

Because of this simple reality it is critically important to have a strategic succession plan to fill vacancies when they occur.

However, many companies still approach succession planning like they were playing with friends on the neighborhood pitch rather than leading serious, Premier League clubs.

It is virtually impossible for in-house HR departments and staff to have this type of comprehensive data on the skill and availability of employees at other firms. However, executive search consultants can identify and engage in discussions with potential future managers currently on another team’s roster. 

Robertson Associates is currently partnering with a brand name, best-in-class consumer products company to create this type of innovative, strategic approach to succession planning. Rather than waiting until their Directors and Vice Presidents leave, this global market leader has asked our firm to assess and evaluate one in-house talent and build a “roster” of three talents currently working at other companies to fill future vacancies.

This “roster” of potential future talent Robertson maintains includes individual profiles, assessments, and rankings. As high-potential candidates develop they are added to the list, and our interaction with talent at other firms gives our clients invaluable “back-market” intelligence.

As a result, the international Partners at Robertson Associates serve a similar role to the talent scouts employed by football clubs.

Start succession planning like you are worthy of the Premier League!

Pierre Collowald is a Senior Partner at Robertson Associates, a European Executive Search and Leadership Solutions boutique. Pierre is working out of Brussels, Paris and Zurich.

Announcement : our new Partner for the Maghreb region

Robertson Associates is thrilled to announce a new Partnership with the Eumatech group in Morocco, Casablanca. Eumatech is the leading Executive Search boutique in the region, recruiting for international manufacturers and service providers to the manufacturers for decades.

Robertson Associates now offers a solid solution to its clients establishing sites in the Maghreb region. Vice versa, we support Moroccan based companies expanding to Europe.

For more inquiries., contact our Partner ,


A Harvard psychologist says people judge you based on 2 criteria when they first meet you

People size you up in seconds, but what exactly are they evaluating?

Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy has been studying first impressions for more than 15 years, and has discovered patterns in these interactions.

  • Can I trust this person?
  • Can I respect this person?

Psychologists refer to these dimensions as warmth and competence respectively, and ideally you want to be perceived as having both.

Interestingly, Cuddy says that most people, especially in a professional context, believe that competence is the more important factor. After all, they want to prove that they are smart and talented enough to handle your business.

But in fact warmth, or trustworthiness, is the most important factor in how people evaluate you. "From an evolutionary perspective," Cuddy says, "it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust." It makes sense when you consider that in cavemen days it was more important to figure out if your fellow man was going to kill you and steal all your possessions than if he was competent enough to build a good fire.

While competence is highly valued, Cuddy says it is evaluated only after trust is established. And focusing too much on displaying your strength can backfire.

Cuddy says MBA interns are often so concerned about coming across as smart and competent that it can lead them to skip social events, not ask for help, and generally come off as unapproachable

These overachievers are in for a rude awakening when they don't get the job offer because nobody got to know and trust them as people.

"If someone you're trying to influence doesn't trust you, you're not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative," she says.

"A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you've established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat."

3 powerful tips for recruiting the best senior Strategy Consultants

Let’s start with a cold, hard fact: the only way to recruit a senior top consultant with more than 5 years of experience is to offer him or her a meaningful career step forward. These talented individuals don’t change jobs often, or without a compelling reason to do so.

This is bad news for many of you, because in the competitive world of elite strategy consultants, we are seeing a very real war for talent. This is because the main factor that limits the growth of top consulting firms is often talent. To grow, you need more smart and expert consultants, but most of these people are content where they are.

After all, why should the senior top players move? For the most part, they know they are performing well after many years of hard work, they get healthy bonuses, and they feel respected.

Consultants beneath this top tier tend to move out of the service or manufacturing industries. At some point, they recognize they will never be a star and decide to move out. But the stars remain not only in their consulting world, but most likely with their current employer.


Given that, here are a 3 critical tips to convince a star to look at a new opportunity:

Tip 1: Have a compelling value proposition for each open position. Companies use value propositions on the marketing side of their business, but not many understand the power of creating a unique value proposition for a particular job opening. Doing so gives a satisfied star player a reason to consider a new opportunity. This can’t be a superficial or minor element; it has to be highly attractive and meaningful. For example, before I pursue a talented candidate, I always have a future success story to share.

Consulting companies can be risk averse when recruiting, but I recommend offering the candidate a more senior position, rather than a lateral hiring offer. Such a move has the added benefit of significantly impacting the salary package.

Understand what matters most to a candidate. A top candidate may be tired of working three years running for a string of utility industry clients, or dislike working for a manager he considers to be less insightful than he is. Another might profess to be happy, but in reality is frustrated not to have the next title yet.

Recognize that consulting work can be tough on spouses and children. I’ve had clients who have attracted top talent by offering more flexibility and/or support. Such benefits might include funding for a nanny or the opportunity to work remotely.

If you understand what a candidate wants “in a perfect world”, then you have an opportunity to create such a world for them.

Tip 2: Look outside the consulting ranks. In many cases, the best consultants are professionals who have been highly successful in industry roles. It’s possible to take a VP, CIO or even CEO and transform them into a highly credible and capable consultant. As before, doing this successfully requires the ability to understand what matters most to this person, at this moment in his or her career. For example, you might want to look at what McKinsey Operations is doing.

Tip 3: Move fast, very fast. Once I identify an ideal candidate, my clients work hard to waste no time. In many cases, just a few week elapses between our first discussion and the signing of a contract. This minimizes consultants employer’s ability to make an effective counter-offer ; and current employers always try to retain their top stars.

It’s no small feat to lure another star onto your team. The best way to do this is to find something they badly want, and give it to them.