Is Your Company Threatened By This Potentially Devastating Situation?

Leadership experts predict a management vacuum to arise in the corporate world in the next few years. Read here to learn how to develop an effective succession plan.

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Does your company have an effective succession plan that has identified the next CEO and the one after that? Today’s leadership has the responsibility of hiring and training tomorrow’s leaders. Warren G. Bennis, an American leadership expert claims that “too many companies believe people are interchangeable. Truly gifted employees have unique talents that tend to be irreplaceable. Such individuals cannot be forced into roles for which they are not suited, nor should they be. Effective leaders allow talented employees to do the work they were born to do.”

A Challenging Question

Several years ago, my CEO made a challenge to his leadership team. He asked if he took the top 10% of individual performers from the organization to begin a new division, would the leaders have someone to backfill the top 10% of employee’s positions. Of course, the answer was no! Identifying and building a succession plan to train top performers is often a frightening task for executives who fear the associate will leave the organization or worse yet take over the leader’s position. In cases such as this, top performers are quite frequently hidden behind their supervisor’s work and taken for granted. A correct succession plan would identify these high performers and provide a strategy to encourage growth and retention of these future company executives.

The “Obvious” Solution

I remember a woman I hired with several years of work experience. I could tell she was a superstar right from the start. She wanted a manager role, but she just wasn’t ready for that much responsibility. I convinced her to accept a lower position after a tough negotiation. Within a year she was promoted to a manager and that same year she received a perfect employee engagement score from her staff. Two years later she was promoted to a Director. When traveling to a trade show, we ran into the CEO. I made a point of introducing her to the CEO as the future of my company. He smiled broadly and was delighted. Today, she continues to grow in her talents and is still with the company. I am grateful that I was able to assist in coaching her to the leader she is today. Whether she becomes the CEO of this company or another, I honestly believe she has the talent and fortitude to be a CEO one day. 

A Fast Approaching Deadline

Sometimes valuable leaders lurk in the shadows of an organization. These are the individuals that are in the trenches doing a tremendous amount of work but lack acknowledgment or recognition by upper management, which kills their motivation to reach their full potential. Not recognizing future leaders in a company’s succession plan is unfortunate due to the future need for engaged leaders. A vast leadership vacuum is beginning to impact corporate cultures due to the retirement of over 10,000 people per day from the baby boomer era.

If you are ready to build a real succession plan to fortify your company’s future, check back next week to learn about how to create a “bulletproof” organization with effective succession planning.


Mary Kuniski is a catalyst for business and individual change. Throughout her career, she has consistently led corporate businesses into the future, often achieving process improvement and change that others could not. Mary’s enthusiastic attitude and tenacious ability to keep moving forward is why she identifies with this quote from Dale Carnegie: “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” Passionate about problem resolution and committed to coaching and leading others, Mary is driven to ensure that everything she does provides lasting value. At a young age, her leadership and public speaking skills were recognized and nurtured through her ten-year participation in 4-H. She has also fostered change for businesses such as Parkinson Voice Project, where she directed the implementation of their website and online learning management system, and Overhead Door Corporation, where she created and launched a successful core data process improvement strategy. During her tenure with The Michaels Companies, Mary held five Director positions and three Vice President roles, and pioneered the company’s expansion into Quebec. Her efforts to lead the transformation of over 40,000 craft items to three languages resulted in Michaels becoming the first international retailer to acquire language certification from Quebec on the initial attempt. This meant Michaels successfully adherred to strict French-language laws. Mary has over 20 years in executive leadership in the retail industry and for 10 years led supply chain shipment improvement and savings and reduction efforts at Michaels. Mary is a Dale Carnegie graduate, certified trainer, and consultant for Dale Carnegie DFW's Executive Leadership training. She holds an MBA in Global Management from the University of Phoenix and a degree in Human Development, Clothing Studies from Pennsylvania State University.

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