Disney Still Looking For A Fairytale Ending

02/13/2017 02:51 pm ET Updated Feb 15, 2017

5 Strategies To Make Your Succession Plan ROCK Solid

Seems Disney is still looking for a fairy tale ending when it comes to who is next in line to run the successful theme park, movie and television network corporation. The current CEO, Robert Iger has announced his retirement, but with no real successor in site his plans to step-down as CEO may need to be delayed, again.

If Iger continues in his role past his announced retirement date, this will be the third delay in his plans to step down as CEO. Delaying yet another opportunity to turn the reigns over to someone else to take the company forward. Hard to believe that a company as large and as successful as Disney could find themselves in such a challenging situation. But honestly succession planning is hard, and Disney is not alone in their efforts to retain and develop the depth of talent it needs to make succession a smooth transition.

In a marketplace that is constantly shifting, and one that is moving at a rapid pace, making the time for succession planning seems more like a luxury than a vital strategy for success. But we only have to look to Disney to realize that the path to consistent growth and stability is through our ability, as leaders, to build rock solid succession plans. We need to create ownership at every level of our organizations.

So what exactly is succession planning and why does ownership at every level even matter? Succession planning is the art of developing leaders and their “successors” for every key position in your organization. To have a clear understanding of the talent you need to maximize your potential and the structure in place to ensure you achieve it.

5 Strategies To Make Your Succession Plan ROCK Solid

1. Nail What It Takes – Before you can even begin to develop a succession plan, you need a solid understanding of exactly what it takes to run your organization. Too often successful leaders are so strong and so comfortable in their role they do they do not even realize the depth of talent and skill it takes. If you want your successor to thrive then you need to be able to understand how much she/he is going to need to learn and develop to transcend to that leadership position. If you “Nail What It Takes” then you can better identify early on the candidates for the job. You can clearly assess what your successor needs to learn and if they have the potential to do the job.

2. Don’t Bet On One Horse – In today’s marketplace certainty is a thing of the past, and that is definitely true even when it comes to succession planning. You not only need to identify one successor you need at least two and probably more. If you “Bet On One Horse” and anything happens then you have to go all the way back to the starting line. Who has time for that! When Robert Iger’s named successor (Tom Staggs) stepped down, he not only left Iger with no Chief Operating Officer, he left Iger with a serious challenge in being able to leave Disney in good and capable hands.

3. Plug The Holes – Promoting anyone means they leave behind a position or a “hole” that needs to be filled. Succession planning is not just for the C-Suite, it is for all levels of the organization. A Rock Solid Succession plan involves understanding all the key positions in an organization, and having the depth of talent to ensure they are fully covered. Again, Iger not only lost his successor, but he lost his Chief Operating Officer when Tom Staggs stepped down.

4. Create Alternative Paths – Not everyone gets to be the CEO, and not everyone even gets to fill the positon for which he or she was being groomed. Succession planning is more art than science. You need to not only have a strategy to fill key positions, but you need a strategy to retain the talent that does not make the cut. Creating “Alternate Paths’ ensures you can provide opportunity to those talented individuals you want to continue to work with you rather than for your competition.

5. Maximize Success – Succession plans are not entitlements, so keep your options open and your bar high. If you want to get the most out of your succession plan, then you need to revisit your succession plan and your chosen successor often. It was reported that Iger’s chosen successor, Tom Staggs, left Disney after the board lost confidence in him. That begs the question, why was he the only successor in the pipeline if his ability to lead was being questioned by the board. Understanding that organizational needs change, people change and therefore succession plans need to change, By staying attune to the changes happening with your succession plan, you are able to tweak, adjust and keep your succession plan on track for maximum success.

So while it has not been confirmed, I have a feeling we will be seeing Robert Iger stay in his positon as CEO of Disney a long while past his announced retirement date. With the challenges facing not only Disney, but all of our organizations, it is important that we prioritize succession planning. Try these five strategies and let me know what you think. I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and feedback on how you make your Succession Plan Rock Solid!

Voted One Of The Top 15 Business Growth Experts To Watch, Meridith Elliott Powell is a keynote speaker and award winning author. She works to help her clients build ownership at every level to drive results at every turn!

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