Leadership on Point

But Who Will Make the Cookies?

Richard Levin & Associates, Meghan Vincent, executive coaching, leadership, succession planning

Recently, a good friend of mine (Allison) and I were chatting about the upcoming holiday season.  Typical to these conversations, we were commenting on how hectic this time of year can be – an endless circle of shopping, cooking, decorating and attending social gatherings.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love all the “chaos” that comes with this time of year… we were just taking note of how exhausting it all can be.

Then Allison caught me off-guard with her comment about having to learn how to bake cookies.  You see, her grandmother (the matriarch of her Italian family) was responsible for making at least a half-dozen homemade cookies from recipes that had been in the family for generations.  But, as everyone does, she is getting older and does not want the Christmas cookie tradition to stop with her.  As the oldest female grandchild, Allison was selected to carry on the tradition when it becomes necessary.  This is very important to her grandmother… and to her.

It’s funny, in a way, that Christmas cookies would prompt such careful planning for the future – but one’s business, on the other hand, does not (enough).  Thinking about all the “what ifs” of succession planning can be an overwhelming and scary experience, but you have to ask yourself: what will happen to your business after you’re moved on to something else?

As you are well aware, succession planning is critical for the long-term success of your business.  A transition in leadership affects the entire organization, from your employees to your clients and/or customers to the culture that you worked so hard to create.  There are a number of things that you should start considering today to help you plan for the day that you eventually hand over the reigns:


  • Identify a successor. You don’t actually have to tell anyone that you have selected them but you need to know who they are.  Talk to people in your organization about their career aspirations. In doing so, you might discover the perfect successor – or find out that the person you think is perfect is not.
  • Make sure you delegate important work.  This will serve as a signal to those you have selected that you are interested in their career development.  Great employees who feel undervalue (even if they are not) may look for better opportunities elsewhere, leaving you to seek out a plan B.
  • You may also want to consider coaching these individuals to help them develop their leadership skills so they are ready for the responsibilities of assuming a more significant role within the company.  You could do this yourself (mentor) or hire someone with more experience in this area.
  • If you have a board of directors, bring them into the conversation.  Members might have their own idea of who would be a good fit – someone, perhaps, you have not thought of.


The added bonus of being proactive in your search for a possible successor is that it allows you the time to further develop your own abilities.  By delegating work to others, you are actually freeing up time to focus on more important matters facing your business.  Plus, the piece of mind that comes with this kind of plan is invaluable… and it these “chaotic” times, who couldn’t use more of that?


Written by RLA Associate Meghan Vincent. Meghan can be contacted at: mvincent@richardlevinassociates.com