Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

April 10 2014

3 Tips To Help Plan Your Organization’s Future

By David McMillin


Meeting professionals have many right-here, right-now concerns. When will the education department be finished with the upcoming program? What strategies will increase registration numbers for this year’s annual meeting? Which new technologies will attendees bring on-site?

Unfortunately, these immediate questions can lead to forgetting an equally essential piece of an organization: long-term focus on finding leaders for the future. A recent study at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business revealed that just 46 percent of companies have a formal process for developing successor candidates for key executive positions. Even if they do have defined procedures, it appears they will need to look far and wide for the right talent. Just 25 percent of the executives and directors involved in the research believe they have an adequate pool of CEO successor candidates within their companies.

In the association world, succession planning looks even more problematic.

“Most associations are aware that their future members and attendees are going to be much different than today, but the majority of them don’t have a strategic plan in place to actively engage with that audience,” John Folks, President, Minding Your Business, says. “Many of them are also struggling to identify and groom the future leaders of the organization, too.”

Big Needs On The Horizon

While looking for those leaders may be challenging, the numbers show that it’s time to get serious about the search. In 2006, nonprofits hired approximately 56,000 new senior managers. According to estimates from The Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit advisor, they will need to hire 78,000 in 2016.

“Over the next decade, we will witness a tremendous generational wealth transfer as Baby Boomers transfer assets to their children,” Ray Kopcinski, Senior Director, Million Dollar Round Table, says. “In corporations and associations alike, the leadership transfer is going to feel very similar. We’re handing the reigns over to new directors, managers and CEOs who come from a generation with a new set of beliefs about the way the world works.”

There is clearly plenty of work to be done. While succession planning may seem overwhelming, here are three helpful tips to get started.

1) Empower your emerging leaders.

“The key is trust,” Kopcinski says. “Give the new crop of people as much responsibility as they’re willing to take.”

“The first time you hand over the reigns to an emerging leader can be very difficult,” Kopcinski says. “Perhaps they aren’t as tested as you’d like them to be, but you have to exercise self-discipline. Stay out of their way, and avoid the temptation to micromanage.”

While you may be accustomed to a certain way of getting work done, Kopcinski warns against simply giving younger employees a task list to finish. If you really want to develop a new leader, let them make big decisions.

“Don’t just give them responsibility,” Kopcinski adds. “Give them the authority to develop a solution, too.”

2) Pack the calendar with mentor meetings. 

“Consistency is critical,” Folks says. “A mentor program relies on frequent one-on-one discussions. These regular meetings give emerging leaders the opportunities they need to ask questions and think about how they can make a difference within the organization.”

Kopcinski says that MDRT recently implemented a new coaching program for the organization’s executive staff and middle managers designed around John Whitmore’s most recently updated edition of Coaching for Performance. Each month, executives meet for two one-hour sessions and middle management members hold one one-hour session.

“It’s been very successful,” Kopcinski says. “These sessions are designed to help everyone understand their roles and recognize how to unlock their potential.”

3) Avoid advising.

Remember that being a mentor does not mean delivering step-by-step instructions. The role should be designed to create an ongoing conversation that allows younger employees to explore the growth opportunities that appeal to him or her.

“Listen more, and advise less,” Folks recommends. “Probe with questions to help lead the promising minds in your organization to answers.”

Looking for more insights on how to be a better leader and prepare your organization for success when you retire? Click here to watch “The 10 L’s of Leadership” from PCMA’s 2013 Education Conference.

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