Leadership in Succession Planning

The Wilson Organization (TWO) was asked how leadership training at all levels – and particularly “soft skills” – facilitates the design of a visionary Succession Plan?

Background: This is a professional services company that invests in periodic training of front-line, mid-level and senior management staff, training comes from a variety of resources beginning with internal training by its “resident experts”. It leaves regulatory requirements, re-certification programs and technical skills training to industry experts. That said, the firm is not satisfied with what little expertise and value these experts may have in soft skill development.

The next generation of leaders in a healthy organization will be determined based upon their soft skills, their fit and contribution to a visionary corporate culture, and their technical abilities – in that order!

Consider TWO’s approach.

Recognizing the interdependence between a dynamic, innovative succession plan, and the soft skills and technical abilities of the firm’s best talent, TWO was particularly sensitive to the “landscape” as the company identified it.  They illuminated the following skill challenges among their personnel:

  • Risk Aversion (consistent within the industry);
  • Conflict Aversion – avoidance of healthy discourse;
  • Time Management/Procrastination at various levels of management;
  • Lack of Adherence to Business Controls and Procedures, which sometimes manifests itself in a lack of proper vetting of prospective clients;
  • Billing Accuracy/Efficiencies, which sometimes ignores indirect costs;
  • Casual, “approachable” culture that can become somewhat hazardous as controls are sometimes ignored; and
  • Insufficient intergenerational cohesion and collaboration due to some talent having limited comfort, interest and understanding in the soft skills/emotional intelligence required.


There were, of course, significant attributes reflected in the firm’s culture. Among them are:

  • 95% of their talent recognized opportunities for advancement within the company;
  • 95% of their talent intends to remain at the firm for at least two more years;
  • The firm’s turnover is less than 5% annually;
  • Their talent pool is technically very strong; and
  • Their talent displays leadership and managerial skills on the technical side.

To develop a Succession Plan that reflects an organization’s commitment to provide an exemplary client experience, company coworkers must be in touch with their own soft skills first. Doing so ensures that they are in sync with the values and desires of the customer.

Through our series of seminars, we engage authentic discussion that illuminated the soft skills of the widely diverse colleagues in the room. This firm’s leadership gained insight into who their coworkers really are, and who in the long run are the “rising stars” to lead the company in its next generation.  More immediately, this talent could be relied upon to:

  • Improve time and project management efficiencies to be (1) more accurately reflected in billable hours; and (2) more exacting in identifying the additional resources required;
  • Demonstrate the value the firm’s culture places on the millennial generation through improved dialog and multigenerational understanding (common ground); and finally
  • Raise the “bar” for various skill sets at the C-Suite, Mid-Management, and Front-Line levels, including communication and presentation abilities, entrepreneurial thinking, conflict and risk management and collaborative team dynamics.