Succession Planning

In the cut and thrust of succeeding in business, it’s easy to forget Succession Planning, because it is one of those things that we have to find time for.

But that’s just part of the story. It’s so much easier to fire-fight when it’s all coming at us and fail to plan for the future – after all, tomorrow’s another day.

“Planning is an unnatural process; it is much more fun to do something. The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression.”

Sir John Harvey-Jones

“It’s not the plan that is important, it’s the planning. “

Graeme Edwards

And as you might expect, it is often the planning work of any sort that’s at the bottom of the to-do-list. Nevertheless, Succession Planning is very important and with a little planning and focus, blended with your appreciation of your people’s talents and potential, this really is worth spending time on.

What’s more, it’s not that big a deal and you can do it easily!

Top Ten Things About Succession Planning

In many ways this is about aiming at a moving target, but there is great value in gearing up to have your people ready for the future of your business or organisation.

Here’s why…

Having people in place, experienced and prepared, will enhance continuity, build confidence and loyalty and above all, create the level of support you need to get your business growing profitably. Gearing up Succession Planning as a must-do activity, will make your business future much more successful.

The best at Succession Planning

  1. Know Their People 1
    They talk regularly to their people, getting to know them inside out. Not just their skills, but them as people. They build real relationships through listening hard and creating rapport.
  2. Know Their People 2
    And through the natural interactions they have with their people, they notice things, sometimes just little things, hinting that there are other skills there, worth nurturing for the future.
  3. Take Time to Think
    The best at Succession Planning make this an action. They consciously think through the needs of the business for the future and start pencilling in people. Then they test this through delegation, secondments, trials and simply stretching in small ways, to start with.
  4. Spot Potential
    These people are great at hearing and seeing hidden skills. Because of their great relationships, they have an open door into conversation and then they ask their open questions to find out. They hear great people champing at the bit to get their potential out.
  5. Seek Win-Win
    And they realise that success comes from mutual benefit. Both sides have to get something from the growth. So they make sure that this is clear as the challenging and stretching takes place.
  6. Let Go
    They see Succession Planning is not an inert activity, done on the desktop. Used properly it enhances the leader’s own actions. It takes a little of the burden off by Delegation. The great leader gets into the ‘what’, but less the ‘how’. That becomes their people’s development.
  7. Allow Mistakes
    In this environment of new challenges, the culture has to be supportive and blame-free. The very best at Succession Planning enable a very safe place to try out new skills.
  8. Invest
    They see this work as an investment for the future of the business. It may cost a little money; involve more training; take a little time. But it is very worthwhile.
  9. Are Creative
    Whilst it would be easy to take one career path, in cases where individuals are nurtured for a bigger involvement, organisations where Succession Planning is held in high regard ‘shuffle’ people, sometimes out of context to broaden their skills.
  10. Take Risks
    And sometimes it’s worth taking a gamble with people. The best at Succession Planning use their instinct. Whilst being really careful to protect them from feelings of failure, poor performance and exposure, such calculated risk enables all to learn together.

Ten Ways to be Better at Succession Planning

  1. Understand Your Business
    Really get to the bottom of what your business future looks like, through having a vision, business plan and SMART goals.
  2. Build Relationships
    Build relationships by talking to and especially listening to your people regularly.
  3. Create Trust
    Keep promises, deliver what you say you will; be confidential when necessary; deal with people fairly and consistently; have no favourites.
  4. Little Things
    Challenge your people in small ways. Ask for help on a project. Build confidence through showing someone how something is done and then let them have the responsibility.
  5. Ask
    Finding out about what people want is vital. Just the asking starts people thinking. By your doing the asking it shows you care – a lot. Often people hide their career desires well, with great relationships and encouraging openness, you find out much.
  6. Try Out
    Finding safe opportunities where people can have a go is really useful. It may be cover you for a day; it might be a small task you would usually do. By ensuring that they are clear in what is expected of them, you will almost guarantee success. Then test learning and grow their future performance too!
  7. Coaching Culture!
    It’s about a generative experience. So when people take on new challenges, it’s about giving criteria for success, and then coaching them through it. It’s not about just telling them all the nuts and bolts of a situation. Let them explore and find out for themselves too.
  8. Encourage Them
    Praise, thanks and reinforcement goes a long, long way to get people to want to come back for more! Use it in context and sincerely.
  9. Blame-Free
    No-one is ever wrong; at fault; to blame. Things just don’t always work out so well! Nevertheless, there are things to learn. That is the real way forward. Don’t miss the opportunity!
  10. Value It
    But wait, there’s more. This isn’t one way street on cost. There is a value, a great value in getting Succession Planning right. See all the time spent as an investment for your future success and you will recognise time and money well spent.

5 Simple Actions You Can Take Today!

  • Assess where you are right now in terms of meeting the people needs of your business. Look forward and see how that leaves you in the future. What ‘guesses’ have you for what might happen? How can you prepare your people to be ready for that?
  • Make a note of what you need to do. Start noticing potential in your people – be broad minded in that. If someone runs a Girl Guide pack, then they may well have leadership skills you hadn’t noticed in the workplace. Checkout existing business skills – what isn’t being utilised?
  • Create a development plan. Who will be on it? When will things need to happen by? Work backwards and create a development programme for all parties to be skilled up in time.
  • Be honest with yourself. What workload are you personally hanging onto that you don’t need to? Who could benefit from that experience? Sure, it takes a little more time at the start, but then you are freed from that job you shouldn’t be doing anyway!.
  • Be honest with people about what you are doing – ‘promise’ little though, as things don’t always turn out exactly as you might wish.
  • A sixth! – Get this thing going ASAP – the sooner you start, the more ahead you’ll be when you need to be!

Read some great books like:-

“Zapp!! – The Lightening of Empowerment” – Byham & Cox
“Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?” – Lou Gerstner
“Maverick!” – Ricardo Semler