By Deborah Austin Across the board, executives say grooming their own successors is a valuable part of contingency planning. But not all are following their own advice, suggests a recent survey by consulting services firm RHI Management Resources, Menlo Park, Calif. When asked, "How valuable is it for a manager to identify and groom a successor to his or her position?" 80% of respondents deemed it "very valuable" and 20% "somewhat valuable." The same was true of manufacturing executives, who comprised about one-third of the survey sample. But only 67% of those manufacturing executives -- and 72% of executives across all industries surveyed -- said they were currently grooming their own successors. Adequately preparing a successor can take years at the executive level, says Paul McDonald, RHI executive director. Top candidates should be included early and often in strategy/planning sessions, he says -- receiving plenty of high-level visibility through such activities as leading high-profile meetings -- and should work on soft skills like communication, negotiation and diplomacy.