A few years ago, one of my clients was planning to step down as CEO within a couple of years and wanted to appoint his successor from inside the company. What made this tricky was that there wasn't a single, obvious candidate. Recognizing that whomever he chose would need some time to grow into the role, he wanted to get an early start. The first step was finding out who was interested and how the rest of the team felt about them.
Rather than bury this issue in a series of secretive one-on-one conversations, he asked his team a simple question: “Who among you is interested in becoming our next CEO?” Three hands went up. What happened next was remarkable.