When I was in a final interview for an executive position, the board completed my interview and shifted the conversation to discuss the succession plan. A wave of anxiety overcame me as I thought, “I am interviewing for this job, and the leader who wants to hire me is already talking about leaving the organization?”
I leaned over to him and asked, “Are you planning on leaving soon?” He smiled and said, “No, we talk about the succession plan every year so we are ready”. I was relieved that he wasn’t leaving and impressed that this organization had the foresight to have a written succession plan which was updated and discussed annually.
If you left your job, how would the organization continue to fulfill its purpose without you?
“Succession planning is not just about finding a replacement for a departing leader; it’s about creating a culture of leadership development throughout your organization.”
– Marshall Goldsmith
Being able to answer the question of “who will take your place?” can bring great clarity to the succession planning process. It is also a powerful question for developing leaders. The organization I mentioned was great at developing leaders.
Turnover of staff in many industries is a constant challenge. Being ready to backfill positions is key to keeping an organization healthy and growing. The proverbial question of “what would happen if you got hit by a bus?” causes us to consider “what will happen when I do leave?” and “who will take my place?”
Succession planning is a critical process for organizations of all sizes and industries. It involves identifying and developing potential leaders within the company to ensure a smooth transition when current leaders retire or leave the organization. While many organizations may view succession planning as an unnecessary expense or a low priority, it offers significant benefits that can help businesses thrive and grow over the long term.
Benefits of Succession Planning by Developing Leaders
Retention of Talent
One of the most significant benefits of succession planning is the ability to retain top talent. By identifying and developing potential leaders, organizations can offer career advancement opportunities to their most promising employees, which can improve employee engagement and retention. When employees feel valued and invested in by their employer, they are more likely to remain committed to the company and its goals.
Reduced Turnover Costs
When organizations fail to plan for succession, they can experience significant costs associated with turnover. Replacing an experienced employee can be a costly process, from recruitment and training to lost productivity during the transition period. Succession planning can help mitigate these costs by ensuring that potential leaders are already trained and ready to step into a leadership role, reducing the time and expense associated with hiring and onboarding new employees.
Improved Business Continuity
Succession planning can also help ensure business continuity in the event of a leadership transition. When organizations have a clear plan in place for transitioning leadership, they can avoid disruptions to daily operations and maintain business momentum. This can be especially important in industries where continuity is critical, such as healthcare or finance.
Better Succession Management
Succession planning can also help organizations improve their overall management processes. By identifying potential leaders and providing them with training and development opportunities, organizations can develop a deeper bench of qualified managers who are ready to step into leadership roles as needed. This can help organizations be more agile and responsive to changing business needs.
Finally, succession planning can help foster innovation within an organization. When potential leaders are identified and developed, they can bring new ideas and perspectives to the organization, which can lead to innovation and growth. By encouraging a culture of innovation and investing in employee development, organizations can position themselves for long-term success.
“Succession planning is about being proactive and intentional. It’s about identifying and developing the next generation of leaders in your organization, so that you’re not caught off guard when key positions become vacant.”
– Beverly Kaye
Steps to Implement Succession Planning
Define Key Roles
The first step in implementing a succession plan is to define the key roles within the organization that are critical to its success. This includes identifying the roles currently held by leaders who will be retiring or leaving the organization in the near future. Having written job descriptions with key results identified is the first step.
Identify Potential Leaders
Once key roles have been identified, the next step is to identify potential leaders who can step into these roles when needed. This can involve a formal process of talent identification, such as assessments, interviews, or performance reviews, or it can be based on informal observations of employee potential. Encourage a culture of “each one teach one”.
Once potential leaders have been identified, the next step is to develop their skills and abilities. This can involve various development opportunities, such as mentoring, coaching, training, or job rotations. The goal is to provide potential leaders with the skills and experience they need to be successful in a leadership role. Design a scorecard of the key skills and abilities. Walk with each employee through the process of direction, equipping, support, and delegation until they are ready to lead.
Implement the Plan
Once potential leaders have been developed, it’s important to implement the succession plan. This involves identifying specific timelines for leadership transitions and ensuring that potential leaders are prepared to step into their new roles when the time comes. It may also involve communicating the plan to employees and stakeholders to ensure buy-in and support.
Monitor and Adjust
Finally, it’s important to monitor and adjust the succession plan as needed. This can involve regularly assessing the performance of potential leaders, adjusting development plans as needed, and revising the overall succession plan as business needs change. By regularly reviewing and adjusting the plan, organizations can ensure that it remains relevant and effective over time. The phrase “inspect don’t expect” can ensure that you are being intentional about developing leaders.
It has been said that all leaders are interim leaders. This mindset can motivate us to have a written succession plan and an intentional plan to develop leaders throughout the organization.
So, who will take your place?
At WinShape we provide Summits which develop leaders and teams. This can be a great way for you or your team to experience time to grow professionally. We also provide executive coaching for organizational leaders who desire to design a succession plan with practical steps for developing leaders.