Whether you run a family business, a non-profit organization, or a mid-sized company, changes in leadership can set your business back and change corporate culture. Find out what you can do now to train your next executive to improve their work today and prepare them to step into their new role tomorrow.

Proactive executive training is an essential part of the transition strategy for any company or organization. Even if your current CEO and executives are planning to stay with the company for the long haul, your next level managers and team leads need to be prepared to step into the role temporarily or permanently should the need arise. There is no such thing as an easy transition, but here are 5 things you can do to start training your next executive

1.     Identify Your Next Executive Early

The best way to ensure a smooth transition is to identify your next executive from within your existing pool of employees. Even if your organization is required to post executive positions publicly, if your current executive has to step away quickly or is terminated, you will need someone to act as an interim director or executive officer until your transition team can hire or promote a replacement. Start looking at the mid-level employees in your company. Identify the team leads, managers, and supervisors who have potential for advancement and invest in them now. By demonstrating your company’s commitment to their career, you reduce the chances of losing them to talent drain or lateral recruitment by a competitor.

2.     Start with a Skills Assessment

Once you know who to focus on within the organization, you need to know what it will take to train them for their future executive duties. This starts with a skills assessment. This is an individual evaluation by a trained business consultant that identifies your employees’ personality types, skill sets, leadership styles, strengths, and opportunities for growth. It includes interviews with the employee, and feedback from their team members, superiors, and direct reports. By getting an objective, external assessment of your next executive’s strengths and shortcomings, you can create a plan for training them to better suit their future job requirements.

3.     Value Soft Skills as Much as an MBA

It used to be that the key to an executive position was completing your Master of Business Administration (MBA). An MBA still provides training on critical skillsets for your next executive, but it no longer represents the whole picture. Modern companies recognize that soft skills such as communication, conflict resolution, leadership style, and emotional intelligence are as important to an executive as statistical analysis, finance and accounting, and marketing. The good news is that many of these soft skills can be taught by an executive coach, without the expensive price tag of an advanced degree.

4.     Make Space in the Schedule for Training

You cannot expect your future executives to train up their skills on their own time. If you want your employees to be ready to step into executive roles when the time comes, you need to make their training a priority. Attending continuing education seminars, attending workshops by leadership consultants, attending conferences, and developing mentorship relationships with industry thought leaders can’t happen if your future executives are hustling to meet productivity goals. You need to signal the importance of the training by allowing it to take up time on your employees’ schedules.

5.     Provide Access to One-on-One Executive Coaching

The best way to learn something is to do it with the support of someone who has done it before. In business, that often means having access to an executive and leadership coach who can help a new executive address and overcome challenges that arise as they take on new responsibilities in the company. Providing access to one-on-one executive coaching will empower your up-and-coming executives to make decisions without fear of failure, knowing someone is there to guide them along the way.

It is never too soon to start training your next executive. By beginning to invest in your key employees now, you can only improve your workplace and prepare future leaders, so they are ready when it’s time to step up to the executive level.

David Stanislaw is an organizational development specialist with over 25 years’ experience helping companies recruit and train new executives. Through leadership development and executive coaching, David helps small and medium-sized businesses minimize the risk of a leadership transition. Contact us to meet with David to begin training your new executive today.