Larry King hangs up his suspenders and offers up some interesting lessons on how succession planning works

Posted July 5, 2010 in Career Management, Latest News & Insights

Last week, the self-proclaimed King of talk announced that he was finally retiring after anchoring his CNN interview show since 1985.  Having been an on and off viewer of Larry King over the past 15 years, the 76 year old’s decision to wrap things up is to be applauded.  King’s been past his expiry date for a few years now (sorry, but when you’re interviewing guests and calling them by the wrong names or spending ¼ of your show pedaling your book, it’s time to go).  Now the jockeying begins for his primo seat.

Succession planning has been a hot topic for the past 10 years.  Mostly because of unnecessary hand wringing by people under the false impression that baby boomers are going to swan off into retirement leaving us with a gaping talent gap.  We Xer’s and Y’s could be so lucky.  Anyway, that’s another topic for another post.

Watching the dogfight that’s brewing over King’s seat is an interesting lesson in how people really get chosen to step into top roles.  Having a great track record is only part of the equation.  Succession planning often seems to border somewhere between making the honour role in high school and being selected homecoming king or queen: part skills with a healthy dose of popularity.

In reviewing the list of possible candidates for King’s post in a recent online article, it was amazing what attributes were highlighted.  Ryan Seacrest got great marks for his interviewing skills but lost marks because he’s “too keen”; Joy Behar got trashed because she steamrolls guests on her show; Katie Couric got marks because of her smile (really??) and Piers Morgan got compared to the acid tongued Simon Cowell.

Too keen? Great smile? Acid tongue? Steam rolling guests?  Think that these types of discussions on prospective job candidates only occur when tabloid reporters are involved?  Think again.

Sitting with an executive team ten years ago, I listened as they went through a couple of the potential candidates for promotion.  One woman was being picked apart because of her mannerisms; one man was being sliced down for his speech style; another because they were habitually late for meetings.  All were top performers.  It made me wonder what was said about me when I wasn’t in the room and reinforced that management truism: your skills may get you hired, but your behavior will get you fired (or, in this case, derail your chance for promotion).

Sadly, feedback on your behaviours (positive and negative) is usually highly limited (and seems to get less frequent the higher you climb).  And, ironically, sometimes behavior that’s tolerated when you’re at one level becomes the type of thing that will derail you from moving up to the next level.  All of us have behavioural blindspots.

So, what can you do?  Getting feedback on your behavior and impact on others is crucial if you want to get a fair shot at the next big opportunity.  Don’t be dismissed because you have an annoying habit that nobody’s confronted you about.  To get started, pick up Marshall Goldsmith’s book “What got you here, won’t get you there” and put his feedforward approach into action.  Or, if you’re feeling stuck and want some support, email us at info@theexecutiveroundtable.ca and book your own personal leadership 360 feedback session.  Pretending that your career success only depends on your fancy school degree and your business results is like believing that fairies exist.  A nice fantasy but that’s about it.  Isn’t it time you took control of your career options?

Happy leading!


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