Succession Planning – Are you ready?

Succession PlanningMost people think this only applies to executives and owners.  Not true.  Good managers should have a succession plan for themselves.  They should also work to be part of their leader’s succession plan. The mechanics of succession planning is based on the fact that you need time, often more than a year, to groom a successor.  Let’s break the mechanics down.

The “season” challenge

The successor does not have to be like you; they only have to be capable of doing the job. Sometimes they should not be like you. Business or departmental growth often benefits from seasons of leadership style or capability change. What is difficult about this is for you to find, train, and support someone who is different then you.  If you pull back and think about the big picture and consider the notion of seasons of leadership change it will help. Seasons of change;

  • Drive improvements in new areas
  • Broaden the mix of thinking
  • See barriers to success in a new light
  • Bring balance to departmental or corporate culture

Document the skills required

First you need to identify the role specific skills required.  Then you need to identify the life skills required.  (check out: for a blog on this) This will help clarify your succession plans.  Further this document will help you bench mark potential candidates and define training needs.

Identify the candidate

Now it’s time to review your team and identify a candidate or two.  It is always amazing to me how my perspective changes about team members when I begin to look at them as potential candidates.  Once again, as I think about seasons of leadership, sometimes difficult or different staff become interesting prospects. At this stage you now need to work on developing the successor.  This means loosening your firm grip on the reins of authority.  Delegation will allow you to see how they manage authority and leadership.  Overtime, you should have a trusted lieutenant by your side.  If not, the process of succession planning is broken.

Are you the problem?

The lack of succession planning always lies with the person in charge.  Most problems are;

  • You won’t delegate, or don’t know how to delegate
  • You don’t trust your team
  • You think sharing success diminishes your value to your leaders
  • You have not hired good staff who can grow into your role

If this is you, then you need to sort out these issues.  Start now so you can change your behaviour and enable yourself to build a successor.

What about your promotion?

You should strive to make yourself easily replaceable in your current role.  Why? So you can be readily promoted.  If you do not have a successor you are;

  • Likely hard to replace and therefore not easily promotable
  • May be viewed as “not a team player”
  • May be viewed as “not a good at delegating”
  • May be viewed as a “glory” hog

You should think deeply about what executive skills look like.  Then figure out how to model them.  Good executives are awesome delegators and strong team players. Good executives share success.  Good executives require their managers to have succession plans.  This ensures that the bench of managers have backups.

What do you think about succession planning?  Should you start this work now?  Do you have good replacements for you in your team?

David Reimer

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