If a leader has no one to pass the baton to, they’re probably going to fail.
Leaders develop leaders. It’s what they do. If you are in charge of an organization, you’ve got to be forward-looking and visionary. Part of that vision includes succession planning and it’s an evergreen process.
Steps for succession planning.
Define the future – Most organizations have a forward-looking plan. This plan is usually built around internal and external factors that will drive the direction of the organization. Once you know what that looks like, define the leadership of that future organization. Be careful not to define the leaders by who you currently have on staff, but define it by your future need. Then you can move on to the next step.
Identify the future now– People will find it hard to lead effectively, unless they have a desire to lead. Talk with those within your organization who seem to have a passion for leadership and people. Don’t just pick the people with the right “technical skill set”. A lot of leaders make the mistake of promoting subject matter experts who lack the people skills and emotional intelligence to be a servant leader. Bring up the future in a very real way. You will know if people are interested by their responses. You will also be able to discern a disinterest in some, which helps to eliminate candidates. You may find that your future “leader” isn’t on your team yet. You may have to hire someone. In fact, whenever you hire people, you should always hire people with the potential to move up two or three spots.
Don’t lie – If you have that person who thinks they have all the credentials but in reality lack certain essentials, it’s best not to lie to them. Tell them where they lack and give them a path to success. They will either make it or slowly realize they’ve risen as high as they can go.
Provide training through expectation setting – Teach the future leader how to lead. This is a very hands on process for both parties. Take every opportunity to provide growth challenges and stretch goals. Share your knowledge and promote them in front of higher level leadership. Expose them to the intricate details, even if it seems over their head at the time. At the very least, it will give them a glimpse of what it’s like to walk a day in the life. You should always be learning and teaching. Part of this teaching is a constant redefining of the future, which loops you right back to the first step of this succession planning model.
By continuing through this cycle of assessing and defining your needs, identifying the proper people and engaging them in the leadership development process, you will be building your bench. They will be ready to take the baton when it’s time for you to move on. If you don’t constantly develop future leaders, you’ll most likely lose the talented team members who are looking for this challenge.
Remember, people don’t usually leave organizations, they leave people. It’s hard to follow a leader who has no idea where they’re going.