Submitted by: Alan J. Kaplan, Founder & CEO, Kaplan & Associates, Inc.

The occasion of the 20th anniversary of the founding of Kaplan & Associates, Inc. this Spring has made me think a great deal about leadership and talent. So, when a longtime client and friend asked the simple question “What have you learned after all this time that would be helpful for my business?,” the answers started flowing. After all, with twenty-seven years in the executive search business, and two decades now leading this firm, I have experienced quite a lot of human dynamics.

Here are Ten Lessons Learned over the past twenty years. I hope you find them useful!

10. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Early impressions occur across both sides of the table and can be overly impactful. While they are not and should not be the ultimate determiners of a hiring decision, it is important to be mindful of the dynamics of early impressions from all angles. Be sure to peer beyond first impressions and singular observations when looking to make a key hire.

9. Succession planning = planning for success.

We never cease to be amazed at the lack of leadership succession in many of our client companies — despite speaking out on this subject since the early days of our firm. The continuity of leadership promotes the continuity of strategy, which is usually beneficial for the business. Moreover, the lack of good succession management can cause issues in unexpected ways, and in the worst case can spell the end of a firm as an independent organization.

8. Good onboarding significantly reduces the risk of executive organ rejection.

Do not underestimate the collateral impact of bringing a new senior executive into your organization. It’s just as important to help the team adjust to its’ new leader, as it is to help the hired executive adapt to the new organization. Such proactive onboarding, ideally in both directions, can make a significant difference in a new leader’s survival and long term success.

7. In an effort to give everyone a fair shot to succeed, clients are often slow to take action on a poor performer.

This may sound self-serving coming from a recruiter, and does not mean that every weak contributor should be fired. However, history has shown that Boards and CEOs almost always know when a situation is not salvageable, and spend valuable time deliberating or delaying the inevitable. And in business, time is never your ally.

6. Coaching is not an indication of weakness.

Few great leaders become great without some outside support. Most top leaders have been coached at some point, many on an ongoing basis, and it can be a huge aid to success. Investing in your new leaders and highest potential players nearly always pays off. Good coaches are a privilege and valuable asset to be fully leveraged for the good of the executive and the company.