When I was in my 20s starting my career, my best friend Sara’s dad told me I should always be prepping someone to take over my role.
Huh? I was confused.I was just happy to have landed a job. Why would I prep someone to replace me?!It seemed ludicrous at the time, but now, as an executive, succession planning is one of the most important practices I put into place at my company and teach my clients.
Attrition is inevitable – it happens at every company. The difference between good management and great management is anticipating it and being one step ahead of the process.
There are five key practices you can start doing today to avoid stressful situations where employees unexpectedly transition out and you’re left hanging with no one to fill the role, and today I’m going to walk you through them.
Get to know your team on a deep level. What’s each person passionate about? What do they already have mastery in, and what are they interested in learning?Would they want to take a course in management or some other specific area you may need a leader in down the line?Check in with each of your team members at least once a month for 15 minutes to gauge how much they’re enjoying their projects and what their goals and ideal trajectory are over the next three months, six months, and year.Keep a running document or Excel sheet with each person’s areas of expertise – even those that are outside their current role – and the skills they want to learn.
Find out each employee’s long-term professional goals to ensure you’re on the same page and they’d be ready to step up if the opportunity arose.If someone is working for you but has long-term goals of starting a business or pursuing a different career, it’s important to know that.This can be tricky and nuanced, because not everyone will want to admit that their role at the company is not their ultimate goal.They might be afraid of getting fired because they’re apprehensive about finding another job, or they doubt their ability to start their own business and support themselves.They’re using you to get by – blunt but true.You can discuss long-term goals with each person on your team in as much detail as possible, and you can dig a little deeper by tuning in to outside signs.If someone is blogging and posting on social media about a personal venture – like a coaching business or hot sauce company – this is a sign that their dreams are elsewhere.Especially if they’re dedicating evenings and weekends to this project, you can be sure it’s a long-term goal and passion.If you give someone a free day, what they choose to work on without any outside influence is what they most want to be doing for their career.
Set an education budget. Give each member of your team a budget for continuing education.This is a great tactic because your team gets to evolve their current expertise and master new skills constantly, and you also get to see exactly what they’re interested in based on where they put their allocated dollars.Plus, if someone doesn’t take advantage of their education budget, it’s a good sign they’re not interested in growing at the company.By making room in the long-term plan for continuing education, you weed out people who are just leaning on the company to get by, and nurture those who are in it for the long-term.An education budget is one of the most important keys to succession planning, and every great company should have one.
Challenge traditional hierarchy and give ownership early on. It’s important to give each employee ownership over at least one project or initiative – no matter how small.This means that each person is the go-to expert on a specific area, they manage that project, and they are responsible for it.This could be something as small as managing an email marketing system, or something as large as client acquisition.By giving team members ownership in at least one small way early on, you can see how responsible and successful they are, while allowing them to build confidence and leadership skills.As you give employees ownership over more and bigger projects, you’ll quickly see who emerges as a leader. You’ll also naturally create a team of independent, entrepreneurial thinkers who work great together, respect each other, and don’t lean on management for every little task.Giving ownership is time-efficient and key to succession planning, as it breeds leaders.
Engage your potential leaders with current management. After you’ve gotten to know your team on a deep level, gauged their long-term goals directly and indirectly, set an education budget, and given ownership early on, you should have a clear idea of who has potential to step into a leadership role in the case that a manager or executive resigns or has to be let go.Once you’ve identified these top performers, you should periodically involve them in management discussions and the big-picture company vision.You want to keep them engaged in the department and inspired by the mission of the company. When people feel connected, they thrive, and naturally want to play a larger role.Keep top employees excited and motivated by including them wherever possible and subtly letting them know how valued they are.Then, in the case that a leadership transition happens, they’ll be thrilled to step into the role – and they might even expect it a little bit, and therefore be prepared to take on the challenge.Be careful not to fluff up your potential leaders too much – keep them grounded in their current role yet excited for future possibilities, and you’ll always have an enthusiastic group of employees eager to fill leadership roles.
Want to bulletproof your succession plan even more? Make sure all your managers and executives are grooming the people right below them – like middle managers – to take on their roles. This saves you a lot of stress and benefits them too because it puts them in a place to move up while seamlessly filling their own role. Share these 5 keys with them and get them on board.
Organizations typically do not have the ability to promote executives without a successor in place. So, if you’re ready for the next step in your career, be proactive in preparing a successor for the overall organization to make this transition happen for you.
I hope you’re feeling confident with your succession planning, and more ready than ever to grow your department and company with ease.
What part of succession planning confuses you, if any?
Comment on the blog with your question and we will be sure to answer it.