The employees you have today may be gone tomorrow. Look no further than the seasoned professionals who retired during the pandemic, or the trucking industry’s aging workforce.
It means leaders and owners should introduce succession planning to their agendas sooner than later.
Choosing the next generation of leaders can help prepare for smooth transitions or unexpected personnel losses, like a fleet owner’s untimely death. This is why succession planning should start years ahead of a planned transition, and involve company-wide transparency, preparation, and time, panellists said during a Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) webinar.
They shared 4 steps to effective succession planning.
1. Prepare to let go
Marilyn Surber, head of industry relations at Tenstreet, said some leaders are not truly prepared to let go of their role. This is why she says senior leaders should begin acknowledging if they are ready to step aside, and how — if at all — they will continue to support the company as a board member, advisor, or in another capacity.
Once the new company leader is identified, it is important to support them and ensure they are allowed to be recognized, Surber adds.
“You have to let them have the role,” she says. “Back them up. If they are in charge, do not let other people come to you and disengage the system, because that can cause some problems.”
2. Address concerns of future leaders
Some of the successors might have their own concerns, especially if the company is passed from one generation to the other. And Surber says these concerns should be foreseen and addressed.
Ashley Kordish, CEO of Ralph Moyle, said that before taking over the transportation and warehousing business she wanted to make sure she could succeed without her family name alone.
Her way to achieve that was to get her hands wet in every sector of the company’s operations, from fixing trucks and driving forklifts to getting a CDL. “I gained that credibility,” she said.
Surber says this approach would be useful for companies bringing in leaders from outside the business. They can start as managers at different departments.
Eventually, Kordish stepped aside to work outside of the company for three years to prove her capabilities without relying on the family name.
3. Communicate early and often
However, not everyone can – or wants – to step aside temporarily. For that reason, it is important to communicate with staff early and frequently, not just on “big” occasions.
Kordish says keeping employees in the loop will help them understand why someone is a successor and relate to the new leader.
Tim Chrulski, COO of Garner Trucking agrees, and adds that people won’t follow new leaders if they do not understand what is happening and why.
Additionally, communication becomes increasingly important for publicly traded companies, as they have a limited say in changes. Therefore, efficient and continuous communication over time becomes vital, Surber adds.
4. Identify and train future leaders
When asked for advice in a situation where internal candidates don’t want to take on the leading role in a company, but bringing someone from outside is also not the right decision, Kordish says it is important to observe how some candidates perform the task and identify their uncertainties.
“Maybe, they do not think they are capable of doing the job,” she suggests, adding that this is when training becomes a priority.
Kordish also says observing is the best way to identify potential leaders. And Surber says this is a great opportunity to take advantage of mentorship programs and see who is willing to “walk to walk.”
She adds that it’s best if current leaders get to train and mentor their successors. Identifying past and current keys to success, and passing them on, will build these qualities and retain corporate values, Surbers says.
Chrulski’s secret to finding a strong leader involves evaluating how well they follow others. He says the ability to follow orders from superiors and execute them in a timely manner is a valuable quality.
“If you can follow, hopefully, one day you can lead.”
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