No organization wants to accidentally select as CEO the business equivalent of George Donner, who in 1847 led a group of settlers on a journey to California, only to have them become snowbound, starve, and turn to cannibalism. Yet selecting a new leader is one of the toughest challenges facing organizations today.

Companies searching for new leaders often encounter a lack of promotion-ready internal candidates, so they look elsewhere, pinning their hopes on an outsider to lead through uncharted territory. Even in organizations with an heir-apparent, business realities may suddenly dictate new skills and competencies in order to address challenges presented by advanced technologies, global competition, new channels for selling, diverse employees, and more.

How can organizations get their arms around such an unexpected and amorphous assignment of hiring a new leader? Usually, the hiring guidance exists—it just needs to be assembled. If you’re looking for your next executive leader, here are tools you can look to:

  • The latest strategic plan
  • Input from key stakeholders
  • Executive competencies and core competencies
  • Behavioral interview questions based on the competencies and target experiences
  • Due diligence when checking references

Once the new leader is selected, a careful onboarding process will considerably enhance time to productivity. In addition to learning about products and services, meeting key stakeholders, and spending time meeting all levels of employees in the organization, the new leader may need:

  • Coaching to aid assimilation.
  • A retreat or other leadership development opportunity with his or her new team.

With the pending retirements of Baby Boomers, more organizations must prepare for new leadership. Even if considering internal candidates, it is wise to adopt a comprehensive approach so that the best possible candidate may be selected and succeed. If not, don’t be surprised to find you and your colleagues stuck in deep snow and growing very, very hungry.

Nancy S. Ahlrichs is an author, columnist and national speaker. She is a Business development Consultant for FlashPoint, a global talent development consulting firm.

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