Published in CUInsight
By Deedee Myers

Once the baton is dropped in the leadership race . . . your credit union is at risk. Strategic Succession Planning is a critical step to serving that purpose and mitigating unnecessary risk. If for any reason your CEO departs and you have not identified or groomed a “step in” or “drop in” candidate, your members are not being served. You have not adequately mitigated risk. This is not a gray area; but very black and white.

There are many reasons why a CEO may no longer be available for work. Regardless of the reason; the board has a responsibility to have potential successors ready to serve. A strategic succession plan covers all the bases for CEO departure for any reason:

  • Incapacitating illness
  • Sudden demise
  • Surprise departure
  • Under performing
  • Normal retirement
  • Organization restructure

Succession Planning is a process to ensure that the right people are in the right places at the right time. It is not a ‘Drive By’ event that leaves leadership to chance and risks the purpose of the credit union. The board of directors is responsible for hiring the CEO and, consequently, that future potential successors are identified and available when needed. The CEO is responsible for the development of potential successors. Ensuring proper succession to the CEO desk is a responsibility with an outcome that materially impacts the members, employees, community, and the future of the credit union. It should be taken seriously as it is could be the most important decision the board will make. This article describes a systematic process for the board to ensure that the right people are ready at the right time so they can be in the right place.

Creating a robust and fail safe Succession Plan requires a structured and systematic process. It is the boards’ responsibility to decide what competencies are required to meet present and future needs of the credit union. Use the strategic plan as a beacon for developing a list of competencies, both hard and measurable skills, and soft, personal mastery skills. Competencies need to be defined so there is no misunderstanding of how to measure performance of that competency. A Succession Plan needs to be updated every time there is an update in the strategic plan. The CEO Position description needs to be reviewed and updated on an annual basis. A written position description should include measurable work habits and personal skills required to achieve a work objective.

Using a qualified facilitator for your first time through a systematic process will provide a foundation for moving forward and updating your Succession Plan every year. There are certified coaches with specific disciplines in Succession Planning and online templates to document and create performance yardsticks for competencies. This is deep and serious work that will strengthen the organizational competencies and capabilities. As a member of a board that creates a robust Succession Plan, you will be adding value that will positively impact your credit union for years to come. . . . the baton will be passed in the Leadership race.