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Succession Planning: The Game-Winning Goal

by Eric Baker
on 2015-04-02

Sports fans love a “Legendary Performance” story.

Think of the Montreal Canadiens’ Hall-of-Fame goaltender Patrick Roy carrying his entire team to a Stanley Cup championship in 1993. Realistically, Montreal’s roster was mediocre that year and had no business reaching the finals much less taking home the Cup. Earning 10 of his 16 playoff wins in sudden-death overtime that spring, Roy simply refused to yield.

But while those moments make for great sports documentaries full of slow-mo replays and melodramatic voiceover, the reality is that Canadiens team was not built for long-term success. They rode a superstar for as long as they could, and when he moved on, the team struggled.

In recent times, successful teams know they have to continue feeding the system with young talent so that when their superstars fade or move on, the team is positioned for continued success.

The Los Angeles Kings, winners of two Stanley Cups in the past three years, have relied heavily on veterans like Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik, and Justin Williams to log big minutes and generate timely scoring. Yet their defense is led by 25-year-old Drew Doughty, and 22-year-old Tyler Toffoli is developing into a key scorer in his own right. Those two young players happen to be Kings draft picks, as was defenseman Alec Martinez, the player who scored the Cup-winning overtime goal against the New York Rangers last spring.

The L.A. Kings (the team that lost to Patrick Roy and his Montreal Canadiens in the 1993 final, incidentally) have had an up-and-down season, but over time they have shown that attention to succession planning pays off. With the playoffs about to begin, don’t be surprised if the Kings manage to sneak in and, well, surprise everyone.

You may also be surprised by how many businesses neglect succession planning. Perhaps they depend on a couple of veteran salespeople to crank out numbers, or their visionary CEO sees the business landscape the way Wayne Gretzky sees an ice rink. But eventually those salespeople burn out, and one day the CEO may decide she’d rather spend her time steering her yacht around the Mediterranean than steering business strategy.

The World of Work may not have a formal system of “drafting” employees, but our recruiters are a lot like talent scouts, and valid personality assessments can come in handy for identifying high-potential candidates worthy of our leadership-development efforts. Caliper’s clients are using not just the Profile but also taking advantage of our new Caliper Analytics™ platform and working with our Consultants and Advisors to spot those future stars already on staff.

Many successful athletes will say you are only as good as your last game. Last year’s championship was amazing, but it was last year. If you want to build a dynasty in sports or in business, you have to think about today and tomorrow. You must have a plan for success(ion).