Author Profile Picture

Antoinette Oglethorpe

Antoinette Oglethorpe Ltd

Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Author specialising in Leadership Development and Career Management

Read more from Antoinette Oglethorpe

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Is This the Biggest Risk to Your Succession Plan?


In my last blog post "Only 14% of Talent Management Programmes Work.  What Can You Do About It?" I talked about why it’s important to have a joined up approach to succession and talent management that creates a fit between the ambitions of an organisation and its leaders.

Let me share a story of why this is important and the impact it had on an organisation I used to work for.

Before I became self-employed I worked as Leadership & OD Director for a global insurance company.  And I was responsible for the talent management and succession planning processes.

After weeks and months of preparation it was time to facilitate the Talent Review meeting where we were going to agree the Succession Plan for the Executive Board.

The majority of names were agreed easily.  A minority generated a lot of discussion.

One of the Business Unit Heads in London was a character.  He was about 55 with greying hair and a ruddy complexion that indicated a life of long lunches in the City.  The name in the frame as his successor was a well-respected employee in the head office in Bermuda and there was little dispute about his ability and potential.

I asked how such a move would be perceived by the employee in question.

His response was “Don’t worry.  He’ll be made up.  He’s a good bloke; ambitious.  His wife doesn’t work and his kids aren’t at school yet so there won’t be any issue with him moving to London”

6 months later the Head of the Business Unit left the company as part of a reorganisation and so his successor got the inevitable tap on the shoulder.

And how do you think he responded?

He said “No thanks.  I’ve never wanted the management responsibility that comes with being a head of department.  I get a better bonus by being a specialist and my wife won’t leave her family in Bermuda.”

The whole succession plan fell over because it hadn’t taken into account the career aspirations of the employee involved.

And he decided that since the company clearly had a different view of his future than he did, he would be better leaving.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a job move that you didn’t want or anticipate, you’ll know how he felt.

So this highly talented employee went to a competitor.

The point is that talented employees have always managed their careers.  If you want to retain them, you need to help them manage their careers within your organisation.

And the way you do that is by taking employee aspirations into account in your Talent Review and Succession Plan processes.

Of course, that relies on talking to employees about their career aspirations.  In my next blog post I’ll talk about the big mistake most organisations take when trying to address this.

In the meantime, If you like this blog post and would like to learn more about how you can retain and develop your future leaders, you can get a free copy of my report “Talent Management – The Missing Link” at

Author Profile Picture
Antoinette Oglethorpe

Consultant, Coach, Speaker and Author specialising in Leadership Development and Career Management

Read more from Antoinette Oglethorpe

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!