Thoughts and such like.....
I seem to be talking to a lot of people about Succession Planning and it appears to me that like death and taxes, it's not something people, particularly people at the top of an organization want to think about. Why not? I've come to the conclusion it's a bit like death and taxes, we don't want to think that far ahead, for some it's frightening, a step into the unknown, others think 'why rock the boat', I'll/we'll think about it when we have to.
Who should think about Succession?
I believe that both the Board and the CEO should be responsible for, and worry about Succession and yes, it should begin with a capital, it is that important. There should be both an Emergency plan, for three months or less, and a plan for when it's time for goodbye.
One of the reasons I believe that these conversations are happening now, is the number of changes taking place at the top of many organizations - some have been somewhat clumsy, with games of musical chairs at the top, others seem to have got it right, but have they, how many organizations do you know that after the long tenure of a CEO, there seem to be a number of individuals rotating through the CEO's office over a short period of time. A succession plan can help smooth the transition from one leader to another.
When should we think about Succession planning?
As soon as possible, it's easy to put it off when things are going well, however that's probably the best time to develop your plan? If you're in the middle of transition, or you are playing musical chairs - it is not too late, however you need to start straight away, don't go blindly into picking another leader without being absolutely sure of what/who you are looking for. Some of the questions that should be asked include:
What are the attributes that we are looking for in our next CEO?
How will we go about the search for a new CEO - by ourselves/using a search firm?
What is our timeline?
Time must be spent reviewing who we are and what we are looking for. Each Board orientation/annual review
must include a review of the Succession plan to ensure that it follows the current needs of the organization.
Succession planning is not a once in a while operation, it must be part of Board work and should be part of the Board's fiscal responsibility. It is also important for the Board to have it's own Succession plan, asking who will be following us in guiding our organization? It is also the responsibility of the CEO to ensure that not only does the Board have a CEO Succession plan, but also that she/he has a plan for the organization in the same way - what happens when a key staff member decides to leave, who can carry out those responsibilities while they search for a new colleague.
So if you're serious about Succession planning and need to start, or review your plan, let's talk.
I was invited to the Survivors dinner, Dragonboat Festival, the 11th, over $2 Million raised for diagnostic and operating equipment. I sat at the front and watched as women young and old greeted each other. Some came from down the road, others from flood ridden Calgary. Each of these men and women have a story, each a survivor of Breast Cancer. Some friends from last year weren't able to come, others will never return - they lost their fight. I sat and marvelled at the courage and felt privileged that I for a few hours became part of their fight. They laughed and teased each other, dressed to the nines for the dance competition later - the songs they chose ranging from Swan lake to Stronger inspired by this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaQdwTsVtCY). And me, I was invited to say thank you and what I wanted to do was go away, hide and cry - why? These are incredibly strong women and men, who have battled and are winning their individual fight, why am I so emotional? Is it my ego, am I crying for myself and my fears? I acknowledge that some is fear but what else pushes that button that brings tears? Is it guilt that I have, to date, avoided this disease on my dance card? As I sat and watched these women and men, it occurred to me that I was avoiding the question? I skipped around it, testing, but I don't want to answer, I'm letting my fear take over. There is no big question today, no clever discussion - just a thought - when did you last look at the good in your life and give thanks and love to those around you?
So when do I learn to take my own advice. Returning to full time work this week, I work one six hour day, good; another nine hour day and the third twelve hours, consequently the fourth day I crash! This after major surgery and two months recuperating, why would I do this to myself, particularly when I would advise others to take their time, come back slowly, don't over do it...
Thanks to Jeanie, we had that and another conversation today - what is it that makes us so hard on ourselves, harder, much harder than we would on others. Why is our self talk so cruel, the things we say to ourselves, in our minds, we would never say to family and friends and/or colleagues, the stories we tell ourselves that sabotage our efforts to move forward - so what can we do to change this mindset? One way is to catch ourselves in this negative self talk, reverse it, laugh at ourselves and and ask why? Why did we say that? What was that about? Try it and let me know how you do, me I'm going to rest!
As I heal from my surgery, I'm discovering new things about myself, some I'm okay with, others have surprised me and some I need to leave behind!
I am I believe with others, patient and practical I encourage them to be realistic when setting goals, I urge them to be patient about acquiring new habits, learning new skills and I suggest to them that they practice, practice, practice. So why do I find it so difficult to follow my own advice? As I recover from my surgery I am discovering that I want to heal - NOW. That I really don't want to do my exercises every day and that I have to be patient with the healing process - some days are going to be better than others, and look where I am now compared to six weeks ago.
I am getting a new appreciation of the hurdles clients face when they approach challenges in their lives. So what is it about us, that makes us so impatient, unforgiving and unrealistic about ourselves in ways that we would not be to our friends? What is it that is so difficult in change, and changing habits? One thing I'm realizing is that for me, changing one thing at a time is easier than trying to change a whole load of things at once. For others I know they feel better if they can just make a whole load at once. So each day I practice up and down the stairs, sometimes if I'm feeling good, I'll go on my stationary bike and/or add another exercise and later on every second day I work on my arms, continuing with my weight training. I'm changing my diet, I have time to review what I eat - more protein and lots of vegetables and fruit all aiding my internal recovery.
I can look at the positives in my life, and I can continue working acknowledging and honouring my limits. What are you challenged by, and how are you working to overcome, acknowledge and honouring these challenges?
I'm confined to my home, a new knee in place and the journey back to wellness - I believe the health is there, the wellness is getting the new knee to straighten and bend. So what is my goal - by next March 2014 I want to sit cross legged again! And to achieve this I must work at the exercises that I have been given by my healthcare team - it's going to be challenging and there will be good days and bad days, but I have a clear goal in front of me - now to break it down into smaller steps. I'm treating this like many other goals, small steps that move me forward.
One amazing discovery I have made since I arrived at home is that I am so lucky, I live on my own for the most part, I have no family close by, there are no nurses coming to visit, just the incredible generosity of friends who have put their lives aside to ensure that my journey to wellness is as easy as it can be. I am overwhelmed and inspired by the number of people, who when I put my pride aside and asked for help, have been so giving. Checking in with me each day, popping in with ice, food and company. Ensuring that I can get to the appointments that have been made for me by my healthcare team. It appears so simple, ask for help and friends willingly show up, however that first step is amazingly difficult to take, for me anyway. What was it that made it so difficult - pride? the unwillingness to 'burden' others; the difficultly of showing others, good friends though they might be, the me underneath the paint and make up? It interests me that it was such a big step for me, me who values my privacy, me who could do anything - I had to. How much of my life journey may have been different if I had asked for help during those years on my own with my boys? What is it that holds us back. I spoke to one women some time ago about a difficult period in her life and why she hadn't done things in a different way - her response was that she didn't want anyone to know her business. I asked why not - she wouldn't/couldn't answer. She is stuck and unwilling to become unstuck - I can show her how, but she must make the decision.
I'm interested in my reaction, what was it in my life that stopped me opening to others? Was there a time when I was more open, what happened that changed things - sure I can blame it on my childhood, but it was my choice. Why did I make that choice, and how am I going to change my way of being when another challenge comes? What about you, can you think back to a moment in time when you made a choice, and another when you changed that choice? For now I'm thankful that I made that decision to ask for help, what a wonderful gift I allowed myself, my thanks to others is in allowing them to see me - who I am, warts and all!
So during the last few months, and particularly in recent weeks, I'm learning new things about myself. I've always thought that I was fairly easy going, moving along life's path riding the waves and with a few exceptions coming out the other side intact.
Over the years I have spent time learning more about me, doing some self examination and have a better understanding of who I am. I've become much more self aware. So it comes as some surprise to me now, when I find myself fretting. I'm about to have surgery, a knee replacement, not a small thing I know, however what I have learned so far about myself is that despite the easy going exterior I show to the world, I really like to control the environment I live in and how I show up! With this surgery I have to let go, I have no control around what is going to happen to me, other than say no, and believe me at this time it is not an option if I want to have a better quality of life as I age. I have done everything I have been told, shown up at the pre-rehab information session, worked on the exercises given and more, re-organized in my mind not only that session but also the whole pre-admit process in BC hospitals! Sent out a spreadsheet to friends to organize my life after surgery, reorganized my bedroom and home to accommodate me during that time of learning to walk again. Ensured that friends and family are contacted after surgery letting loved ones especially know that I'm out and fine. And yet.... I still fret!
And so it's a time of learning, I'm amazed at the generosity of friends, of others who have gone through this operation and are willing to share their learnings. I'm also interested to listen to others who rather than encourage and applaud the decision to move forward with this operation, are negative. Quite frankly if another person tells me it is going to hurt like hell I think I'll scream - those that do for the most part haven't had the operation themselves, but they know. They continue about how difficult recovery will be, and how I'll not be able to do certain things! I find myself curious, why are they so negative? What is driving them to make such comments? It has made me conscious that I should be more mindful of comments I make when speaking with someone who is facing a hard decision, or who has made one about moving forward - what assumptions am I making about their decision, is it my life I'm basing those assumptions on, or theirs? Why be so negative when someone has obviously thought things through?
It's just over a week before I go into hospital and I find myself working to still my mind of worries, fears about the what ifs? What if something goes wrong? What if I don't make it? Have I got my papers in order (of course not!). What if ? Minds are funny things, we can't control what passes through but we can control our reaction to them. So what if something goes wrong - I can't control that, but I have trust in my surgeon, I know that the team working on me are on my side, that they will do everything in their power to make sure nothing goes wrong, the admit process that I am so critical of is just one of the check points to ensure that I am ready and able to undergo this surgery - I need to accept this and not stress out about what I can't control, rather focus on what I can - ensuring I eat well and am as prepared as I can be both before and after surgery - I follow instructions rather than knowing better than the experts. Again it makes me think about how much energy we put into focusing on our fears, usually fears of the unknown. So now I'm focusing on 'So I'm out of surgery, all is well, how can I ensure my recovery is the best it can be?' What do I look like three months from now, six months? What am I doing? Walking with friends, hiking maybe in a year I'll be snow shoeing up that same mountain that was the location of the accident that was the start of this three year journey - life will be good, because I will make it so - I'll be back in the driving seat, in control!
ps. A friend sent this link to a TED talk about how our body language shapes who you are! Enjoy
Changes, like death and taxes, are inevitable! Sometimes we are the ones that drive changes, other times it feels like we have no choice, rather changes are happening to us. How we deal with changes often says a lot about us.
Change can make us act like stubborn children, no we're not going to move from our comfort zone, even when we drive the change we can find ourselves resisting moving forward. Often we blame external forces when really the resistance is internal. I often talk about how much I love change, how exciting it is and yet being honest I know there is a part of me that is running in the opposite direction, running scared! How I manage the process of moving forward is by taking time out, thinking about what it is that is stopping me and what I can do to get over my resistance. Sometimes I ask myself the question and let it sit for a while in the back of my head, where my unconscious mind takes over and the answer comes, other times I talk with friends and ask for their help or I ask for help from my coach! I need that push to help me overcome my resistance and instead of trying to do it all at once, I break it down into chucks? What will it look like when the change occurs? What is the first step in moving forward? Sounds easy and sometimes it can be, other times - oh boy it's like climbing up hill, backwards!
Do you remember a time you made a change? What did it feel like? Is there something in your life right now that you want to change? Try imaging what you will feel like when that change happens?
Often when mistakes occur we tend to lose our ability to think coherently and wander aimlessly trying to assign blame rather than taking responsibility for our actions
I was going to write about change and how we deal or try to deal with change, however recently I have come into contact with a number of people who appear unwilling or unable to take responsibility for their actions.
Re-spon-si-bil-i-ty = the state of being the person who caused something to happen (Merriam Webster)
Maybe one of the most difficult things we can do is admit we goofed, however I am always surprised when I work with or come across someone who is resistant to admitting that maybe they are infallible. Is it a fear of embarrassment or reprisal, from boss or other? For me when a mistake/error, call it what you will, occurs, my first reaction is have I learned anything? The same question arises when a colleague finds that they have goofed, what have they learned? How will those learnings impact their future decisions? Now I have to be honest its taken a long time for me to come to this reaction, but it is now my reaction of choice and it makes life so much easier! Of course, no major disasters have occurred in my life because of a mistake I made! What about you, how do you react to mistakes? Have you tried to view it in this light? What would it take to change your current reaction to one of review and non blame?
I wonder when we learn to deny our responsibility, is it as children when our siblings or friends tell us how much trouble we'll be in? Is it later when we do something we know our parents would disapprove, or when our friends egg us on, or we don't think and the consequences are bad and we're afraid of the reaction from family, friends or worse? Think about it, how different the World could be if we all admitted to our mistakes and shouldered the responsibilities that came with admitting those errors!
Today, finally an indication that the sun has not forgotten us on the West Coast. The sun shone in time for the Dragonboat Festival, a testament to Women and their families perseverance in times of fierce challenge and frightening times - breast cancer. Teams arrive today and tomorrow and begin their competition early Saturday, tomorrow we celebrate the opening ceremony of dotting the eye of the dragon, remember those who did not survive their battle, and toast those who continue to survive and thrive in this new life. The weekend honours lives lost and celebrates those who continue to survive and thrive, it moves us to recognize that as Steve Jobs said in his famous graduation speech 'no one has yet escaped death', so if you were told you had only a few days to live, what would you want to do?
As I look back over the years, particularly when my kids were small, there were times where I was so caught in the worries of the day, I forgot to enjoy the moment. Today, I have learned to 'unknot' my neck and shoulders, but first I need to recognize that I am falling into that trap, seizing up with the 'what ifs'. It is so much easier to fall into the net of worry, it allows us not to move forward, we don't have to make a decision. I often said to my kids so what? What is the worst thing that could happen? It was so easy to ask the question, not so to answer it myself - it continues to be a work in progress. What about you, can you recognize the cozy blanket of worry that allows you the excuse of not taking steps to move forward?
Maeve O'Byrne's Blog