A CEO exit has the potential to sneak up on a board that is unprepared. By creating an environment of active two-way communication, the other c-level staff members will be more ready when it comes time to search for a new candidate.
This is important because a sudden departure can be a setback to your company and leave it in an awkward position. On the same note, when it comes time to replace the CEO, you should choose someone who appreciates the value of honesty and is a strong communicator.
What are some "warning signs" you can keep an eye on? One factor, highlighted in a Wall Street Journal story, is the age of the current executive. According to information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics put into a graph, the older a person is, the longer they are likely to stay in their job.
More than 50 percent of workers 65 years old or older had been in their job for at least ten years. In the 25 to 34 age range, the number of people with that kind of history in one position was smaller than one percent.
Citing the same source, the article notes that the industry a business is in also plays a role. Some businesses are just more likely to experience high turnover rates, like the leisure and hospitality industry.
Finally, the role of an executive's family in their life, coupled with cultural norms and demands, can sway them one way or another. Recently, the head of MongoDB, Max Schireson, quit his job out of an earnest desire to spend time with his children, and he noted that perception of this as a typically "female" occupation is sexist and outdated.
Each case will be different but the important thing is that once you get the sense that your CEO is considering leaving, you need to have a solid plan ready to replace them. Working with a search firm can find the leaders who best match your needs.