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9 Steps to a Powerful Executive Succession9 Steps to a Powerful Executive Succession

Hiring is a huge challenge for contractors—and it takes on even more importance when a company is looking to replace its departing senior leaders.

Wayne Rivers

November 10, 2021

4 Min Read
Business people in urban conference room meeting

Hiring is a huge challenge for contractors these days and it takes on even more importance when a company is looking to replace its departing senior leaders. 

There are three distinct stages to a powerful executive selection: Preselection, the selection process itself, and implementation. 

Here's how a process designed for maximum impact looks.


1.    Begin with the end in mind. Marshall Goldsmith’s book What Got You Here Won't Get You There says that if, for example, you're a construction company with $10 million of volume now, the skills that helped you get to that level are not the same skills that will grow you to $25 million. The same is true for any size contractor intent on growth and change. You can't just keep doing it as you've always done it. To prosper over time, you must constantly reinvent your company, and that starts with transformational executive leadership.

2.    Think through your entire hiring process and document it. You won't consistently get great talent if you shoot from the hip. Get your best people together and think through your hiring process from stem to stern. If you consider carefully, you’ll probably have 30 to 40 specific action items because hiring people is exceedingly complicated. People decisions are the most important decisions you'll ever make—especially when you're talking about transitioning senior leaders.

3.    Develop a job scorecard. We used to call these job descriptions, but as Geoff Smart advises in his book WHO, "Keep it simple; use a one-page scorecard." If it is important for a laborer or office administration person to have a job scorecard, isn’t even more critical for a senior leader?

The Selection Process:

4.    Form an internal team. Senior leadership is too important for one person to bear the entire hiring burden. Get your best thinkers together, form an internal team, and use team interviewing. It's shocking how few employers use this simple, effective technique. They trust one omniscient executive to make all hiring decisions. If you’re concerned about your company’s chemistry and culture, why wouldn't you get the benefit of other people’s thinking when it comes to hiring? When searching for a CEO, the current CEO should not lead the team. He or she might be on the team, but it wouldn't be appropriate for that senior leader to dominate the selection process for his or her successor. In addition to your internal team, supplement your executive hiring with board members, peers, and/or trusted advisors to build out a robust process.

5.    Utilize psychometric and personality evaluation tools. The more you use, the better. Each instrument will tell you a little something different. If necessary, get professional help to evaluate what the psychometric tools are telling you.

6.    Don't take anybody's word for it. When a candidate says, "I am an expert on strategic planning. I've built tremendous plans at my last two construction companies.” Your response should be: “SHOW ME!” Require your candidates to produce evidence of these purported skills and expertise. If they've genuinely done strategic plans or created business development plans that worked, they should be ready, willing, and able to demonstrate what their plans looked and felt like. Ask candidates for any position to produce samples of their work. Ronald Reagan said, "Trust, but verify," and that's great hiring advice.


7.    Make sure all your key players, including your customers and trade partners, know you're bringing in a new person. True story: One of our members hired a new HR Director. The new person showed up at the office, walked in the door, and said, “Hi! I’m Mary your new HR director!” Other than the CEO, not a single other employee knew that Mary was coming on board! Can you believe that? Make sure everyone knows what you're doing when it comes to bringing on new people—especially senior people.

8.    Have your hiring announcement ready to rock 'n' roll. Such an announcement can generate some local buzz about your new hire, and it's smart to let your trade partners know about the new person before you announce it to the general public.

9.    Onboard the new executive. The typical contractor’s onboarding process is very poorly developed if it exists at all. Think about what you'd like to experience on your first day on the job. Would you like to have a person assigned to you to hold your hand and mentor you through the first days or weeks? Would you like to meet with senior leaders? Would you like to know what the business plan is? Would you like to know what the company’s values are and what the culture is like? There's plenty of HR compliance work a new person must do, but onboarding should go way beyond that. You can send a clear message about your company and how you care for people with a terrific onboarding plan.

People decisions are the most important decisions you make, and when you're bringing on new executives, you must take special care to get the process just right.

About the Author(s)

Wayne Rivers

Co-Founder/President, Family Business Institute, Inc.

Wayne Rivers is the president of The Family Business Institute, Inc. FBI’s mission is to build better contractors! Wayne can be reached at 877-326-2493, [email protected], or on the web at familybusinessinstitute.com.

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