Preston Kennedy: Don’t be afraid to coach your successor

“Any good coach knows when it’s time to put in new players.”

On May 15, 2018, I celebrated my 40th anniversary as a community banker. It’s a milestone that I hold close to my heart, not just because of its significance in my career, but also because it marked the day that I was able to turn over bank management to the next generation. While I still hold a leadership position at our holding company, the day-to-day workings of the Bank of Zachary are now in the capable hands of my successor, Mark Marionneaux.

This transition started about nine years ago when we brought Mark on board. We didn’t hire him as “the successor,” but we worked toward that end. When it became clear it was the right move, we started talking about timelines and responsibilities, where he felt he needed deeper knowledge and where he really excelled. These communications gave us the opportunity to prioritize the tasks to transition first and those to develop a bit more.

My Top Three

My three key principles of succession planning include:

  1. Identify the right candidate
  2. Communicate your succession plan to your organization
  3. Know your role and that of your successor—and make sure your team does, too

But succession planning must extend beyond that one-on-one dialogue between the current and future leader. This type of preparation requires organizational awareness and input from all parties, including the candidate, bank leadership and staff, and the board. These discussions are critical over the course of the transition. They allow you to find out where there are opportunities to strengthen the candidate’s connections to the bank and its team.

In addition, board-level conversations really can drive the approach an institution takes to succession planning. From a fiduciary responsibility level, it’s critical to put it on the table early. The board needs to understand the landscape and the budgetary impact of the costs of the transition itself and those of attracting top talent.

But how do you know when it’s time to fully hand over the reins? That’s the million-dollar question, yet we can’t lose sight of the fact that we’re here to serve the needs of the whole organization. If our focus is on what’s best for the company, the employees, the shareholders and our customers, when it’s right should be self-evident.

Because any good coach knows when it’s time to put in new players. As leaders of our community banks, we need to apply that same discipline to ourselves. Succession planning is critical to the future of our banks. If we wait until we need our replacements, it’s too late. People want, and need, to be coached up. So let’s not be afraid to coach our successors. It will ensure we have the right leadership in place so our community banks can continue to flourish.

Preston Kennedy, Chairman, ICBA
Preston Kennedy is president and CEO of Zachary Bancshares Inc. in Zachary, La.
Connect with Pres @BankPres