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Own Succession Planning & Delegation - What to Ask the Person in the Mirror

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Jul 8, 2024

You face a myriad of responsibilities as CEO. That’s why I feel if you’re a struggling CEO, Harvard Professor Robert Steven Kaplan’s What to Ask the Person in the Mirror: Critical Questions for Becoming a More Effective Leader and Reaching Your Potential is a great read for YOU!

Succession Planning may not be on the horizon as a responsibility if you’re new or struggling.CEO.  You might feel delegation is more important. If you don’t understand and address successors to you, and critical positions in your organization, how do you know who you should delegate to, and who should be responsible for delegated tasks?

Are You Ready? card isolated on white backgroundTo achieve your vision and top priorities, you need to delegate tasks. The succession-planning process helps inform your thinking about the individuals to whom you should be delegating. Make sure delegated tasks get completed by identifying your best talent, then match key assignments with the capabilities and development aspirations of your talented individuals.

Owning the Challenge of Developing Successors in Your Organization

Let’s start with the questions to ask:

  • Do you have a succession-planning process for key positions?
  • Have you identified potential successors for your job?
  • If not, what is stopping you?
  • Do you delegate sufficiently?
  • Have you become a decision-making bottleneck?

“We Just Don’t Have Enough Talented People!”

This is an indictment of your leadership capabilities. If you’re in this position, Kaplan suggests one of two things are true:

  1. Your perception is correct. Attract A Players talent-virtuous-cycle-diagramThere is a talent deficit in your organization.
  2. Your perception is incorrect. There’s no lack of talent in your organization, but you aren’t using it effectively.

If the first case, address it immediately! Interview and hire key talent. Determine why your organization is not developing better-quality talent within. Ask yourself:

  • Is there a problem with entry-level recruiting?
  • Are you losing talented recruits before they get seasoned enough to become leaders?
  • Is there a problem with the career development and skill development processes in your company?
  • Are you and your senior leaders failing to track the best talent in the organization or failing to attend to their job assignments, career trajectory, and coaching needs?

Do consider the second explanation may also be correct.

Look in the mirror. Are simply not recognizing and valuing resident talent. Is it sitting right under your nose?

Usually, there is a nucleus of talent in the organization. You may not have fully tapped into it.

Here are several very constructive questions: “Is there someone here who can take my place” WHAT TO ASK THE PERSON IN THE MIRROR

How to Develop a Succession-Planning Culture

A clear succession process helps teach executives how to think about developing talent. Kaplan advises:

  • Create a Depth Chart – This is similar to hiring and recruiting outlined in Building a Virtual Bench
  • Devise a Career Development Plan - Come up with a career development plan for each potential successor to a key job in the organization as recommended in Scaling Up Compensation: 5 Design Principles for Turning Your Largest Expense into a Strategic Advantage
  • Review and Follow-Up - Hold succession planning meetings with your key business unit leaders on a semi-annual or annual basis.
  • Be a Role Model for Talent Development - As the role model for this activity, a significant portion of your time should be spent on identifying talent, coaching key people, and crafting thoughtful job assignments for your direct reports.

Leadership Is a Team Sport

5 Signs your Leadership Style isnt Working (Remote Workers)I-1Whenever a leader is overworked and feels their organization is not reaching its potential, he or she is likely spending excessive amounts of time on various noncritical tasks and not spending enough time on his or her highest priorities.

As CEO, you must assemble a group with the requisite skills and delegate appropriate responsibilities to accomplish key tasks and priorities. Kaplan offers this analogy: If you have the mindset of a professional golfer as you step out onto a football field, you are very likely to get clobbered. Why in the world would you lead your organization in a manner that is going to get you clobbered?

Pick Your Spots

If you agree to take on tasks you’ve already delegated—or second-guess your subordinates excessively— it will turn you into a bottleneck. You’ll take away from doing the tasks that should constitute your real job. To delegate effectively, back up your key executives to whom you delegate responsibility. Intervene only when the task at hand is of sufficient importance to merit your involvement. When you are inclined to intervene, make sure you discuss and decide in advance with the executive involved.

If you need help delegating, download this practical guide I wrote as an E-Myth coach on Effective Delegation.

Watch Kaplan explain why succession planning and delegation are critical to your leadership effectiveness and potential. What To Ask The Person In The Mirror - Succession Planning & Delegation 

How long is your shadow?

If you started your firm and are the patriarch or matriarch, be aware you may need to take key steps to shorten that shadow.

A confident young elegant salesman with briefcase facing a wall, looking at his strong, weight lifting shadow conceptRecognizing your subordinates may not do tasks as well as you or the same way you would—but that does not mean that they won’t do them quite effectively.

Allowing them will train them, build your bench, and free you to focus on those tasks the organization desperately needs you to attend to.

Succession planning is a critical part of the process of identifying and then developing critical talent. Strong companies develop firm-wide succession-planning processes to effectively identify and nurture key talent at all levels.

To create an environment where everyone is inspired to give their best, contact Positioning Systems to schedule a free exploratory meeting.

Let’s help you to turn your business into a growth organization!  

Growth demands Strategic Discipline.

What to Ask the Person in the MirrorGreat leaders continually explore the boundaries of their company and their leadership abilities. Next blog we explore Evaluation and Alignment, what questions you need to ask from What to Ask the Person in the Mirror.

Building an enduring great organization requires disciplined people, disciplined thought, disciplined action, superior results, producing a distinctive impact on the world.

4Dx Cadence of AccountabilityDiscipline sustains momentum, over a long period of time, laying the foundations for lasting endurance.

A winning habit starts with 3 Strategic DisciplinesPriorityMetrics, and Meeting Rhythms.   Forecasting, accountability, individual, and team performance improve dramatically.

Meeting Rhythms achieve a disciplined focus on performance metrics to drive growth.

Let Positioning Systems help your business achieve these outcomes on the Four most Important Decisions your business faces:












Positioning Systems helps mid-sized ($5M - $500M+) businesses Scale-UP. We align your business to focus on Your One Thing! Contact to Scale Up your business! Take our Four Decisions Needs Assessment to discover how your business measures against other Scaled Up companies. We’ll contact you.

NEXT BLOG – Evaluation and Alignment - What to Ask the Person in the MirrorEvaluation and Alignment - What to Ask the Person in the Mirror


Topics: effective delegation, Talent Review, Succession Planning, What to Ask the Person in the Mirror, Robert Steven Kaplan

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

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