The Hand Off – Organizational Succession
This past week I had an opportunity to watch something that is a fairly uncommon phenomenon anywhere. When you check the history of faith based organizations, Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, educational institutions, government entities,and the list could go on and on, SUCCESSIONS doesn’t happen well. It just doesn’t!
There is normally a critical need that drives succession like death, sickness, or an individual or organizational challenge that has arisen (insert here moral failure, politics, unmet expectations, and so on). Whatever the “reason” the conversation around succession is mostly awkward, uneasy, and hard to even broach.
A number of years ago, I was personally involved in a succession gone awry. And I can speak first hand and up close that it’s one of the most painful and life disruptive life events that can happen to someone (and their families). When leaders don’t handle succession well it NEVER just impacts them, but impacts scores of people who are personally invested in the organization and connected to the vision of those leaders. Beyond those connected in the present, a bad succession impacts those who may venture around in the future of the organization. And even more so, it impacts those who will hear about or read the history of the organization. I’ll write more about these two ideas later. The big idea here is that the collateral damage is huge! Strike that, it’s epically colossal (this may not be an appropriate phrasing, but it explains how big of an impact it makes).
BUT this week, I was able to watch one leader who founded an organization DECIDE on his own accord that it was time for a baton pass. As a high level leader within the organization, I had one of the front row seats to see this succession behind the scenes. While there are a lot of questions, and moments to pause, I saw Bishop Paul Morton unselfishly say that his vision was bigger than he is and needed another set of legs now to run the next leg of the race.
For five years I have seen this organization set up a transition team, work through hard questions, do a short term and long term organizational assessment, ignore those matters that were really insignificant (some wanted to make mountains out of molehills), and even acknowledge the elephants in the room. Make no mistake, while I don’t know every aspect of it, I know enough to know it hasn’t been a cakewalk. But nonetheless, it was happening! That alone is commendable! Dog on it, it’s admirable.
I believe that it establishes a major precedent of how things should be done. It isn’t the first one to ever be done, but it is one of the most visible for a reformation of this nature.
It proves that transitions don’t have to be messy or dishonorable to individuals involved.
It proves that individuals can reinvent themselves and organizations can make a shift.
It proves that character and humility and character win every time! Every time!
It proves that reinventing relationships doesn’t have to be dishonorable.
It proves that you can leave well and start well.
It proves that serving and leading go together.
I am not writing because there haven’t been a few frustrating moments with the transition. I AM writing because I have a heart to see transition and succession happen well.
Right after my personal life event of seeing transition go bad, God opened the door for me to serve at a place where a succession had happened eleven years before I joined the organization. That too was a successful transition, not without its challenges.
Today, I want to raise the idea that a successful succession IS possible. It’s possible!
Speaker and consultant, Dr. Sam Chand, has long spoke about a “tsunami of successions” that will happen over the next few decades.
I believe if sitting leaders don’t have the courage, selflessness, financial preparation, and long term vision, we will continue to see bad baton hand offs. Indeed the majority of the responsibility of succession is in the court of the sitting leader, but there’s a role to play for the incoming leadership and the leadership of the organization.
When these three entities find synergy, the organization and ultimately the vision of the organization, can win.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll share:
1) What I learned from my personal experience;
2) What I see when succession works well;
3) Questions organizations need to answer regarding succession; and finally,
4) how succession impacts the present and future of the organization
This series of blog posts will be some of the most transparent posts that I’ve shared as I’m now a number of years removed and healed from one of the most difficult moments in my life.
If I can help you or your organization with questions around succession, I’d love to connect with you.
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Hey Family –
There are times that you hear a sermon and then there are times that you can sense God through a sermon. Someone sent me a link to this sermon and I could feel God’s revelation through it. It is one of those messages that I wished we could broadcast on CNN, CSPAN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and every major network and channel that exists. As a preacher, I have had the opportunity preach messages that even astounded me, so I have no problem sharing when other’s messages are powerful, impactful, and revolutionary!
Enjoy this message and PLEASE share with everyone that you can!
It’s been interesting, over the past few months I have been asked multiple times about my hobbies. At the same time, I have been in settings where I’ve been able to meet lots of new people and learn about their lives, how their lives are structures and how they are able to manage it all. I love learning from other people!
In the meantime, one of the things that I really started thinking about is, can parents really have hobbies?
I think the answer is Yes and No.
Yes, parents MUST lead balanced lives. As as a parent, I have come to understand how much our children observe what we do. They are sponges! They soak up everything and are extremely impressionable. It is amazing what simple behaviors we dismiss or minimize, becomes long-lasting constructs for them. Long days are the gone, do as I say and not as I do. It is a reality that we are in the “See it, do it” generation.
Parents must have social lives so that children are able to see that modeled in a healthy way. Parents must prioritize their health. Parents must find room to laugh. After all, laughter is medicine. Parents must have healthy friendships. Parents must maintain healthy marriages. All of this matters!
While at the same time, while children are growing, I believe the most important thing that they need is our time! Among investing in hobbies that involve dancing, running marathons, date nights, cooking classes, sporting events, networking events, and travel, it must absolutely be a non-negotiable that one of our hobbies as parents be our children.
Picture that – investing time in our children that builds the relationship, creates memories, and inherently provides them with a picture of what healthy fun looks like.
Honestly, I see too many parents who are working so hard to provide “stuff” for their children that they never spend quality time with them. And based on my experience and exposure, children spell love T.I.M.E.!
So, no – if you are limited on time and are trying to maximize the YOLO theme in your life or feel like you’re not ‘fun’ enough with your personal hobby list, as a parent, delay your own personal gratification and pour your hobby time into your children.
The impact that you’ll be making into the next generation and your own legacy gets magnified and there’s a price that becomes unmatched.
Let’s start a revolution! Let’s join millions of other parents in listing our children as one of our hobbies. Our children will appreciate it and our world will too! I’ve got to go now…my wife and kids are waiting on me to play monopoly.
The conversation around race and racism is not an easy conversation. I remember while a Graduate Student at the University of South Carolina, I had the privilege of serving as a Diversity Trainer with S.E.E.D. (Students Empowering and Educating about Diversity). Among all of the training sessions, conversations, one thing that absolutely stands out in my mind were the raw emotions involved in every single conversation. Without fail, the presentation would start, the statistics would be quoted, the breakout groups would commence, the questions would get debriefed…and almost without fail, a question would be asked, a follow-up question to that question, and then a turning point. Working hard to follow the “dialogue rules”, you could feel the temperature of the room change. The tension would thicken and the emotions would intensify. Before we’d end, there would be folks who would shut down, others who would cry, and even at some point some who would leave the room. No matter how you cut it, these were raw emotions.
I thought about these experiences when I read that USA Today and Starbucks had teamed together to create a nationwide discussion around race.
Some debate whether this is effective or not. I won’t get into that, but I will at least commend them for having the discussion. Make no mistake about it this was a risky business decision on behalf of both companies. Very risky! In light of all that’s taking place over the past twenty four months in our country, it is absolutely a relevant topic and a highly emotional topic. Simply, I commend them for having it.
I hope you’ll join the conversation. I hope you’ll think about your own biases and thoughts. I hope you’ll discover your own raw emotions. I hope you’ll challenge yourselves and invite others to the table. Most importantly, I hope you will have the conversation. It’s worth it.