How to carefully choose a new CEO

The succession of a CEO is a crucial process for an organization. To achieve the best results, a wide variety of factors must be considered. “Each and every one of them is important and essential in the selection process,” says Wilko Grievink, CEO of High Touch Executive Search. “A well-executed CEO succession ensures continuity, stability and sustainable growth for the organization. An essential process, as the CEO plays a crucial role in shaping its direction and success. The right person in the right place is an essential success factor in this situation.”

Ready for the future

Searching and finding the right successor is no easy task. There is a lot to consider. At High Touch, they know all about it. Wilko: “The new CEO must have the skills, experience and vision that are indispensable to give the right direction to the company. That is why it is very important that the succession plan is aligned with the strategic long-term goals of the organization.”

Succession planning prevents conflicts

Wilko explains that you should not wait until the last minute to make a succession plan. “Develop a solid succession plan well in advance. Such a plan involves more than finding potential internal candidates. It also includes a training plan for future leaders and a contingency plan in case someone leaves unexpectedly. You really have to take action in time.”

Involvement of the board is crucial

According to Wilko, active involvement of the board of directors is also a crucial part of the succession process. “The board should not only oversee the succession plan, but also provide input on the selection of candidates and ensure a smooth transition.”

Transparency and clear communication

“Above all, remember that clear communication is key throughout this process,” Wilko continues. “Ensure transparency, communicate the plan and its progress to key stakeholders such as employees, investors, and customers. This creates trust and minimizes uncertainty.”

Define assessment criteria

According to the CEO of High Touch, setting up assessment criteria is also a part of the succession plan that should not be underestimated. “Establish clear criteria for evaluating CEO candidates,” Wilko continues.

“This includes their leadership qualities, industry knowledge, strategic thinking skills, cultural fit, and past performance. Testing against these established criteria saves you from unpleasant surprises afterwards when it turns out that a candidate does not have a sufficient command of one or more qualities or lacks them completely.”

Perform external benchmarking

Conducting external benchmarking to assess the competitiveness of internal candidates is yet another part of your succession strategy. “Take a good look at other organizations, especially within the same industry, to learn from their successes and experiences,” Wilko explains. “Compare your own strategies to the strategies and performance of the best in the business. Identify potential external candidates when the organization is considering a diverse pool of talent.”

Engage in development and training

Wilko goes on to say that you absolutely have to invest in developing and training potential CEO candidates. “You should never doubt that. Provide opportunities for leadership development, mentorship, and exposure to different aspects of the business, prepare your future leaders well for that role.”

Keep an eye on continuity

In transition periods, you need to minimize an overly severe disruption to business operations. Wilko: “That’s why you should keep a close eye on the continuity of your business. Appoint an interim CEO if necessary and have clear protocols in place for handing over responsibilities.”

Evaluate culture and values as well

When considering potential CEO candidates, it is important to evaluate their cultural fit with the organization’s values and culture. A CEO who aligns with the ethos of the organization is more likely to have the support of employees and other stakeholders. It is recommended that when selecting a CEO, you prioritize a cultural fit in addition to the other qualifications.

Feedback for informed decisions

Wilko has one last tip for succession processes. “During the follow-up process, set up feedback mechanisms to gather input from key stakeholders. Their information can influence the collaboration, they reinforce each other or inhibit each other. In any case, it ensures that their perspectives are also taken into account, and it helps to make informed decisions.”

Define and implement well

Wilko concludes his story by emphasizing that organizations increase the chance of a successful CEO transition and ensure the continuity of leadership by taking these factors into account. Implementing a well-defined succession plan then becomes a success factor within the overall transition.