If you were hit by a bus tomorrow, who would step in and take your place? That’s the question we asked recently during a full day succession planning conversation – it’s a bit morbid, but extremely helpful.

I’ve written before about some of the things we’ve been doing to strengthen our leadership bench at our organization. Today, let’s be a little more specific.

A strong leadership bench is critical for a thriving organization. However, a bench implies a group of talented players ready and willing to be called into action. Having multiple leaders to choose from when you need someone is a great feeling.

Having a bench is outstanding, but we all know at some point you’ve got to decide who are you going to put in the game and when. Our recent succession conversations focused on the question, “Who’s on Deck?”

If you follow the game of baseball, you know the on-deck hitter is the term used to identify who will go to the plate next. Coaches invest a lot of thought in making this decision – leaders should too.

Here are five factors which influence who you may want to send to the plate next.

What’s at stake? Are you in the World Series or a pre-season game? Are you looking for someone to lead your most important project or to shepherd a stagnant brand? Context is huge.

What are your options? Do you have any choice? How many people on your bench can do what needs to be done? Do you have to make a change at all? Can you wait? 

Where are you in the game? Whether it is early in the game or the 9th inning, you may consider different options. Are you looking for someone to start a team? Do you need someone to take over an existing team? Or, will the new leader need to downsize a team?

Who has experience in similar circumstances? In baseball, statistics are kept on each player in countless situations. The coach knows the players’ batting average against the pitcher he’s about to face. They know their on base percentage at night vs. day games. They know how well they perform with men on base. What clues can you find in someone’s past experience?

What does your gut tell you to do? Once you’ve considered all the above, you get to make the call. Sometimes the information is so compelling you have no reason to pause. Other times your instincts will tell you to make a different call than what others might do. You’re the leader, make the call. Sometimes you’ll get it right, sometimes you won’t. That’s baseball, life and leadership.

Enjoy the game… and watch out for that bus![GLS_Shield]

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.