the ceo magazine, succession planning,
Jon Mertz, Author, Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders

Millennials have been raked over with many inaccurate stories and headlines. There is no reason to rehash old stories. Anyone can “Google” and see the past. The good news is we seem to be over the negative hype, and we have settled into other news. One of the big lessons learned from negative Millennial article boom and bust is that it is the CEO’s duty to prepare and care for the next generation.

Calling out a generation just entering the workplace does no one any good. Coddling a generation does no one any good either. No positive, lasting results come from these actions. Instead, a CEO and other corporate leaders need to develop, challenge, guide, and empower the next generation. Eyes may be rolling right now, but there is no greater responsibility than to the next generation.

Of course, profitability matters. Culture matters. Customers matter. Team members matter. There are many matters a CEO must address. The common thread through each is the next generation.

3 Reasons Why a CEO Must Cultivate the Next Generation

Many reasons exist as to why a CEO must cultivate the next generation. Three tangible reasons are unmistakable, and each will set the stage for greater CEO engagement with the future of their business. 

Reason 1 – Generate progression

A few key statistics:

  • 70% of family-owned businesses fail or are sold before the second generation gets a chance to take over. Just 10% remain active for the third generation to lead. 
  • In North America, 55% of outside CEOs who departed in 2003 were forced to resign, compared with 34% of insiders.
  • Large companies that underwent forced successions in recent years would have generated, on average, an estimated $112 billion more in market value in the year before and the year after their turnover if their CEO succession had been the result of planning. 

Succession planning matters. To gain the right progression of people, investing in the next generation is vital. The next generation will be the next vice presidents, chief financial officers, and chief executive officers. Whether they come from the inside is up to you – the current CEO. The statistics prove that cultivating the talent within your organization will generate greater value and less unneeded internal disruption.

The action now is to cultivate Millennials, so you have a more valuable progression and succession for your business.

Reason 2 – Empower innovation

Comparing the Fortune 500 companies in 1955 to the Fortune 500 in 2014, there are only 61 companies that appear in both lists. In other words, only 12.2% of the Fortune 500 companies in 1955 were still on the list 59 years later in 2014….” Without innovation, companies disappear. We know that change is constant, yet we constantly hold on to the comfortable ways of doing things.

Many in the next generation are ready to shake things up and leverage the new market, technology, and process trends. The key question is:  Will you empower this innovation, or will you sidestep it?

Dampening the innovative spirit of Millennials is a waste of talent and future potential. Instead, a CEO should be open-minded and growth-oriented in giving space for the next generation to explore ideas, present new business plans, and learn from successes and failures.

Within the next generation lies the next evolution (or revolution) of your business. Do more than survive. Thrive. In the end, just surviving results in a dead end.

Reason 3 – Be the example

Being the best example is the best way to lead. A CEO is a leader by title. A CEO for the next generation is a leader by example. The example a CEO sets includes:

  • What values are important in making decisions?
  • What principles guide the corporate culture?
  • What actions speak?
  • What words are ignored by contrary actions?
  • What words are reinforced by the right actions?

A leader’s responsibility is to leave the next generation better than the last. More than a responsibility, this is a CEO’s duty. One of the best legacies is “What would our past CEO do?” When the next generation thinks with this question in mind, a CEO has succeeded through the examples set.

Cultivate Progression, Innovation, and Good Examples

Millennials are here to stay. The question now is will you give Millennials the opportunity to deliver staying power to your enterprises. Any answer other than “yes” is shortsighted and limiting. As a CEO, the time is ripe to set the right pace of engaging the next generation in meaningful ways to build a sustainable business and leadership path forward.

About the Author

Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and highlighted as one of the Leaders to Watch in 2015 by the American Management Association. He also is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. Jon serves as vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. On Thin Difference, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders. Follow him on Twitter @ThinDifference or Facebook /ThinDifference.


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