Imagine that a key member of your organisation suddenly decides to leave or retire. What happens next?
Would your organisation continue along in the same manner? Have you thought about who would step up and replace the leaders in your organisation if you were suddenly faced with a gap in a key role?
Would those who take the new role be the leaders that you have been grooming for years in preparation for just this moment? Or would those replacements be chosen from afar and parachute in from another organisation, maybe even another industry or country?
If you hold a senior role in your organisation, having some kind of succession plan is critical, particularly if you intend to retire or move on in the next 10 years. If that time frame is shorter, that is five years or less, you should already be training your replacement to step into your shoes.
So how do you select your successor? First, ask yourself what qualities leaders in your organisation need to possess. A few key abilities are:
• The ability to listen;
• The ability to engender trust and share their vision;
• The ability to collaborate with others;
• The ability to coach or mentor others; and
• The ability to take risks.
For your organisation, the characteristics may be the same or they could be different. The important challenge here is to list the qualities.
Don’t fall into the trap of simply cloning the existing leadership team. Be daring and choose potential leaders that will grow into the role in their unique way, bringing their unique skills and talents.
Choosing potential leaders takes guts and also an innate ability to pick the right person. In fact, one of the most important roles of a leader is to identify and then develop his staff with the best potential to move up into positions of responsibility.
However, most leaders get caught up in the day-to-day challenges of running the business and do not plan for the day they will need a replacement leader.
Worse, some organisations create bottlenecks that stymie either development or even identification of potential for higher roles.
If your organisation is serious about grooming future leaders, you must first create an environment where questioning and challenging the status quo is rewarded. This talent must be acknowledged and valued throughout the organisation.
Existing leaders must encourage questions or challenges to the way things are done and promote innovative approaches and creative thinking.
In 2012, Forbes magazine listed the top 10 qualities of a leader as:
• Ability to delegate;
• Sense of humour;
• Positive attitude;
• Ability to inspire; and
It is important that these qualities be encouraged and developed within the organisation, particularly among the emerging leaders.
Once you get the culture right, the next step is to interview potential candidates and establish their intentions within the organisation. Don’t waste time on people who aren’t interested. Sometimes people have to be nudged a little to realise their potential or make the move to step up to leadership.
To help with this process, I favour using the Team Management Profile or the DISC Profile, as both are easy to administer, they use plain English and the participants take the information on board readily.
Each provides the participant with a 5,000-word report, which is easy to read and digest. The ultimate benefit is that the leader or chosen mentor has a clear understanding of how his protégé makes decisions, what motivates him, how he communicates with his staff and how he organises himself and others.
This information is invaluable in terms of developing a productive relationship and enables the mentor to steer the development of his protégé.
Finally, the time will come for the succession plan to be put into action. Will the senior leader be willing to step down, move on and retire?
This transition process can be complicated for the senior leader both personally and professionally. At this stage, it is sometimes useful to bring in an external coach to assist with the transition from the old to the new.
A coach can ease the transition and help the old leader move on and allow the younger protégé to take the reins and get on with the new challenge of leading.
Implementing a succession plan is imperative in organisations both large and small. Having a process to select and develop emerging leaders is critical and senior leaders need to think about the legacy they plan to leave for their organisation.
As a leader today, what is your plan to replace yourself? Choose your replacement now, while you still have a chance to influence the decision.