Is it Time to Create your own Succession Plan?

If you’re in a senior leadership role in a large
organization, there’s a good chance there is a succession plan for your
position in case you get promoted, win the lottery, get hit by a bus, leave to
take a position at another company, or need to be replaced for poor
performance. In smart companies, an orderly replacement of high level, critical
positions is considered to be strategically important to the continued success
of the company. A failure to proactively plan for succession is the same as
failing to safeguard the financial assets of an organization.

Other than this handful of critical executive positions,
succession planning for the rest of the organizations is usually managed by
identifying “pools” of candidates that are considered to have potential to move
into any number of senior leadership roles. In other words, the typical
mid-senior level leadership position isn’t considered important enough to worry
about if the incumbent leaves. When it happens, the organization reaches into
the pool for a replacement, hires externally, or re-shapes the position in a
way so that it doesn’t look anything like it used to.
Some companies would rather exclude the incumbent manager
from recommending replacement candidates, as it can be seen as threatening, and
when asked, they often come up with blank lists or weak candidates.
However, just because there isn’t a formal, HR-driven
succession plan for your position, that doesn’t mean you can’t create one
Why would any leader want to bother, especially if they
are even not being asked to?
There are at least four compelling reasons:
So that you are not seen as “irreplaceable”.
On the surface, being so important that no one else could
replace you seems like a good deal. That’s job security, right? Well, that’s OK
if you want to do the same job for the rest of your career. But if you have
aspirations to do something different (like get promoted), then being
irreplaceable is painting yourself into a career corner. I have been in the
meetings when those decisions are made – it happens.
So that you can take time off with peace of mind.

Being “replaceable” has immediate, tangible benefits too.
You can actually take a vacation, maternity or disability leave, or time off
for some other reason without worrying about your department falling apart or
being called in to clean up the mess.

3. Failure
to groom a successor is seen as poor leadership.

Talent management is considered a critical competency for
leaders these days. Leaders that do it well have higher performing
organizations and are seen as being strategic and confident leaders. If your
management looks at your position and doesn’t see a viable slate of candidates,
you’ll be labeled a leader that can’t coach, delegate, develop, or let go. The
heck with that promotion, maybe it’ll be time to replace you for not doing your

If self-interest and fear aren’t enough motivation, then think about your

Francis Hesselbein, considered by Peter Drucker to be one
of the greatest leaders of all time, said it best: “Successful transition is the last act of a great leader”.

You’ve worked hard to make a difference, establish a
vision, achieve results, and build your team. Why wouldn’t you want someone
that you handpicked and groomed to step into your role and continue to build on
what you’ve created?

Once you’ve made the decision to plan for your own
succession, here are a few tips on how to do it:

Define the future requirements for your position.

Unless you’re planning on leaving next week, don’t think
about the skills needed to do your job as it exists today – think about what it would take to be successful 3-5 years
in the future. It’s a good exercise in strategic thinking, and it may even
change the way you’re approaching your own development.

Assess your team.

Use a
performance and potential matrix
to assess your own team.
Does anyone have the potential to be considered a candidate for the role as
you’ve envisioned it in the future? If so, put them on your “short list” of

Look outside of your team.

A well rounded, talented, diverse “virtual bench” should
include 1-2 candidates from your own team (if they exist) and a 2-3 from
outside of your immediate team. They could be from within your organization or
external. These external candidates could also be part of your virtual bench
for new hires or replacements on your own team.

4. Coach
and develop your succession candidates.

Coaching and developing will help everyone on your team become better performers – it shouldn’t be
limited to just potential successors. However, if you are preparing someone to
step into your role, either short term (i.e., a vacation or leave), or long
term, development has a different focus. It’s not just about helping them do
their own job better; it’s preparing them to do your job through stretch
assignments, delegation, training, coaching, and feedback.

5. Share
your succession plan with your boss.

If you have enough self-confidence to create your own
succession plan, then share it with your manager. Why? In addition to the
benefits already listed above, it’s a chance to get feedback and another
perspective. Who knows, maybe your manager knows something about your role’s
future requirements that you were not aware of, has opinions about the
performance and potential of your candidates, or has other candidate suggestions.
It’s all good information to share and be aware of.

How about you – are you ready to create your own
succession plan?