How mentoring can help make succession planning successful

How mentoring can help make succession planning successful

23 November 2020
Veerle Seymus
Veerle Seymus
  • Succession planning vs succession development

  • Traditionally conceived and executed succession planning, limited to a static list of names positioned for a few top spots, can derail even the most promising young executives. Organizations should implement robust succession development programs to identify potential successors and start the grooming process early enough.

    Succession development of future leaders is a long-term process for managing the talent roster across the organizations and as such, paramount to the success of most organizations.

  • The long-term success of an organization depends on consistently having the right people in leadership roles

  • In a time when baby-boomers are en masse moving out of their executive positions, there is a tremendous need to quickly and efficiently develop new leaders who can take the helm of these executives. Organizations that fail to develop strong future leaders will inevitably be confronted with decidedly sought after high-potential talent heading elsewhere.

  • Effective succession development

  • You don’t want to see your new leaders been thrown in the deep end of the pool with no life preserver and drown. The importance of supplementing the leadership track with a mentorship program is difficult to overstate.

    Most successful executives, when asked about their success, talk about influential individuals who taught them, guided them, provided insights, shared their wisdom, and kept on challenging them.

  • Benefits of incorporating mentoring into succession planning

  • The most powerful leadership development programs are ones that include a variety of developmental experiences. Classroom learning, 360-degree feedback, job rotation, stretch assignments, coaching, action learning, and mentoring are examples of developmental practices that can be adopted.

    Research shows that leaders find informal mentoring programs to be more effective than formal programs.

    What are the benefits of mentoring as a learning practice in leadership development?

    1. Bridging the gap across generations: overcome generational differences, and develop closer working relationships with individuals from other generations
    2. Easily applicable hands-on advice: a mentor focuses on real-world knowledge based on hard-earned experience
    3. Increases retention in succession risk areas of the business: the intensity and longevity of a mentoring engenders loyalty
    4. Broadening of the perspective: an outside mentor helps a mentee see the organization from a different perspective and improves leadership capabilities
    5. Encouraging a culture of learning and development: investing in mentoring signals to others that continuous professional development is valuable to the organization
  • Some leaders are born. Many are made

  • While we were discussing this topic, Gerrit told us about his son of 9 being so interested in Ambits. That's how we came up with the idea of asking Maxime about his ambitions and his plans for the future.

    This video interview of Maxime (in Dutch) was not rehearsed or set in stage. His only preparation was in thinking about our questions a few days before the interview.

  • Ambits Maxime Sarens still
  • Future leaders who go through a succession development program are better equipped to fill strategic positions within the company to achieve mission-critical goals, better mirror the diversity of the employees, and have broad, cross-organizational knowledge.

    Mentoring has proved valuable to the overall stability and health of an organization and plays a vital role in future organizational leadership.

    Contact us to discuss this further.

Struggles of a manager

Managers are

  • not or inadequately trained in this role


    • lack self-confidence
    • don’t know how to go from being a colleague to being a boss
    • need to loosen up on the command & control leadership style
    • must let go of the (technical) expert status
    • cannot give or accept constructive feedback
    • feel pressure to perform as manager
    • have difficulty building relationships
    • want to be liked by everyone or want to be the ‘bad boss’
    • play the hero
  • are struggling


    • stay too involved in operations
    • have trouble prioritizing
    • cannot delegate
    • fear conflict situations
    • disconnect from the team
    • deal with flawed strategic thinking
    • do not relate to higher management
    • lack clear communication skills
    • remain not self-aware
    • avoid difficult conversations
    • miss political antennas
    • ...
  • capable of more


    • need mental preparation as successor
    • need to be able to lead big changes ahead
    • need to learn to be emotionally resilient and in control
    • need to learn to make big decisions fast without all the information
    • must become persuasive presenters
    • need to learn how to cultivate their own personal brand
    • need to learn how to lead by example
    • manage by trust, not by fear
    • need to overly develop empathy
    • ...
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