Identifying a successor that can be an effective leader is critical to the future of your financial advisory firm. Finding the right candidate with all the qualities you need isn’t easy. Whether your potential successor is already part of your team, a family member with an interest in the business or a candidate you’re interviewing to join the firm – you should utilize a consistent approach for leadership evaluation and development.

If you’re not sure how to begin your employee leadership skills evaluation, here are a couple of proven approaches that can:

  • Help you accurately identify leaders, top performers, loyal staffers and
  • Establish professional developmental opportunities that will drive benefits for all

The 9-box model is a widely-used performance and potential matrix that is a helpful tool for succession planning and development. Although this model has a proven track record, few truly understand the intricacies of the mechanism and its value as a leadership planning and cultivation tool.

9-box grid potential matrix

Using the 9-box grid, your company’s most promising future leaders are identified as individuals in the upper right box — those who have mastered their current role and are ready for (and anticipating) new challenges. Working together, you and other evaluators can slot every high-potential candidate into one of nine types across a vertical and horizontal axis, based on three levels of performance and potential.


The benefits of using this 9-box talent review grid are that it:

  • Allows for measurable leadership skills evaluation based on two key dimensions — performance and potential
  • Provides a catalyst for robust dialog about succession planning
  • Encourages multiple perspectives for a much more accurate assessment (team vs. single opinion)
  • Diagnoses development needs and eases the transition to succession planning for financial advisors

Include both internal and external experts in your evaluation process, including experts in your industry (such as Succession Connection), psychologists, HR testing experts and similar authoritative entities. These professionals may provide some valuable perspective on identifying your candidates’ potential. Be sure to separate potential, past performance and readiness. New and different challenges rely on potential and readiness, more so than past performance.

You should also identify key competencies required for superior performance and success in each area. This will help create a list of learning activities that can evaluate skills and develop aptitude. Organizing these activities into learning paths that gradually develop advanced skill sets is also recommended.

Once you have identified your high-potential leader(s) move ahead to promote and develop natural leadership traits. Provide:

  • Assignments with real responsibility and risk (inside company or outside)
  • Give accurate feedback on performance
  • Create a positive and supportive culture
  • Start early – learning leadership takes time

Finding suitable candidates, evaluating their readiness for leadership and providing experiences that help them further develop their natural traits is a long process. But the end result is well worth the effort – a leader you KNOW will take your financial advisory firm forward. The duties and details of managing the company can be taught and learned in a fairly short time. With a strong supporting cast, you will have a financial advisory company worth far more than when you started this journey. This will provide you the freedom to look at a wide range of options for ownership succession.