Normally, before a CEO steps down, there are several signals which weren’t present from HP when Dion Weisler stepped down this week. HP is well run; their financial performance has been very good, and extraordinary if you think about the fact the firm was set up to fail by Meg Whitman, and there was no apparent pressure from the business side for Dion to step down, which he did this month. However, there was personal pressure, and most CEOs would have, to their deep regret, ignored it. Dion didn’t, and both in his decision to step down and in his choice of a successor Dion Weisler demonstrates best practices.
Let’s take each in turn.
Having a Life
As executives move up in a company, they can lose track of why they worked for advancement in the first place. The constant fights for status, budget, and recognition tend to overshadow home life at most executive levels but, at the CEO level, the distractions can be incredibly pronounced.
This excessive work focus can lead to affairs at work, the collapse of their marriage and family unit, kids that are more focused on their inheritance and entitlements than on their future, and an impressive number of regrets when they eventually do retire.
I’ve watched several CEOs over the years make this choice badly and then regret it once they retired because, once the job is gone, that family unit they took for granted often becomes their deepest regret.
And that regret tends to follow them to death where they realize that most of the folks close to them are only there because they want a piece of the estate. A family should always come first, because, at the end of your life, they’ll be who will assure your last years aren’t full of regret.
Dion putting family first but not leaving his company in a lurch is a best practice.
Picking a Strong Successor
On this last I too often see the succession process overlooked until the CEO departs. This foolish behavior is often because the CEO doesn’t want to constantly look over their shoulder at a successor that is hunting their job. And they often don’t want to be overshadowed by their successor either which often leads to someone getting the job that is vastly underqualified to do it.
But, the smart CEO, works on this as a priority so they can leave when they want, and so that the result protects the legacy of what the CEO has built. The smart ones get that doing a good job with succession means they can move on, that the company will continue to stand as a testament to their record, and that they deserve credit for a job well done.
In choosing Enrique Lores Doin followed what should be a best practice and chose the best internal candidate to backfill him as CEO. Enrique has not only been running the largest part of HP, but he has also been impressively successful at turning that unit around and helped it transition from legacy printing into new markets like 3D printing, Dye Sublimation cloth printing, and improved the firm's performance with more traditional printing products.
He has been a star at HP and, as a result, he isn’t just the most qualified to run the firm. He is also the one that earned this promotion.
The use of internal candidates tends to improve employee loyalty and also assures the fastest learning curve for the new CEO. This use of a strong internal candidate, and allowing such a candidate to remain in the firm, is also a best practice.
We often spend a lot of time talking about executives and boards not doing their job and, by so doing, often miss the executives and boards who are stepping up. Well, not this week, this week HP’s board and CEO, Dion Weisler, did step up and both made excellent choices choosing family overwork and the best candidate in HP to take the CEO title. Congratulations to both Dion Weisler and Enrique Lores for their new positions and demonstrating to every other firm how succession should be done.