NBC follows 3-Step Succession Plan In Replacing Jay Leno

As Jimmy Fallon assumes the mantle from Jay Leno as the 6th host in the 60-year history of “The Tonight Show”, we are reminded of how difficult key talent successions really are. Especially for successful top-level executives who have made their impacts on upper echelon organizations, the process of executive recruitment remains an arduous one. Case in point, Microsoft’s 5-month executive recruiting effort to replace CEO Steve Ballmer.

Jimmy Fallon at The Tonight Show

However, NBC made all the right moves including:

  1. Choosing a youthful, 39 year-old who brings a lot of both enthusiasm and new ideas to late night talk. Among them, engaging guests in games, such as Egg Russian Roulette and Water War, to encourage improvisation and more frank answers.
  2. Hiring the very successful Josh Lieb formerly of “The Daily Show” as its producer.
  3. Changing the format back to more of a variety show consistent with the original host, Steve Allen.
  4. Moving The Tonight Show to its former home in New York City, which provides a different and unique vibe for the show.
  5. A months long publicity blitz to promote Mr. Fallon so current viewers of the Tonight Show will be more familiar with him when he takes over.

Microsoft too made all the right moves when it chose insider Satya Nadella. In fact, both Microsoft and NBC seemed to follow my 3-step playbook, outlined in my past article, at http://www.recruitingblogs.com/profiles/blogs/3-steps-to-internally-recruiting-your-next-ceo for replacing a top-level performer. These steps include:

  1. Having your internal management recruiters recruit the best talent possible.
  2. Grooming and quickly advancing star performers.
  3. Mentoring your star performers.


Following all three steps in your executive recruitment practice does not mean that your executive recruiting process will be a success. However, not persuading your internal management recruiters or external executive search recruiters to do so will increase the probably of executive recruitment failure!

Time will tell if either NBC or Microsoft or both are correct in their selections, but I train all my R&D recruiters, engineering recruiters, scientific recruiters, IT recruiters and technical recruiters on this 3-step approach to succession planning. Furthermore, I encourage all my executive recruiters to share this information with our top clients. The caveat is all executive recruitment agencies are only as good as their last advice. That is why we stress this 3-step process. It is time tested having worked repeatedly for our executive recruitment clients.

What are your thoughts?


World renowned technical executive search and recruiting firm helping companies in getting right kind of technical, scientific and engineering talent in Chicago and worldwide. Follow us at Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn .

Posted on February 18, 2014, in Career, executive recruitment, Jobs, News, Recruiter and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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