By Kevin Eikenberry
Succession planning is something typically left to senior leaders and Human Resource professionals. The (very good) idea is to be identifying those who have the potential to be promoted, not just once, but perhaps multiple times up through the organization. This thinking process has been studied and systematized by consultants and experts for good reason – organizations need to be preparing future leaders for roles throughout the leadership ranks.
As important as succession planning is, there are two mistakes that most organizations make, even if they are following a strong process.
- The process doesn’t go deep enough. Typically organizations start with middle management, and work upward. That means that if you are a frontline leader, the process isn’t looking to find your replacement at all.
- The process seldom involves you. As a frontline leader, you might be on the succession planning radar for your promotion, but you are typically shielded from the overall process.
The combination of these two mistakes may leave you thinking you have no role in succession planning, or you may simply have never thought about it.
I want to change both of those thoughts right now.
When I started in corporate America, both of my first two bosses told me that their job was “to prepare me to take their place.” Over 35 years later, I remember those conversations. I remember how they made me feel, I believe they helped me be a more effective team member, and I remember how it impacted my view of what it means to be a leader.
As a frontline leader, even if you are just a few days, weeks, or months, into your role, you should be thinking about your replacement. Perhaps you don’t have to pre-ordain a single person, but you must think about this question:
If I get promoted, who is ready for my spot?
There are selfish reasons to ask this question – it is easier to promote someone if they have a replacement ready to go. But there are organizational reasons for you having prepared one or more folks to be ready to be promoted, whether to your spot or another. When you do that, you are leading at a higher level, and helping your organization be strong both today and far into the future.
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