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Friday, October 30, 2009

Stepping into your shoes

Succession planning is a hot topic these days. We, as managers, are supposed to develop and groom suitable team members to replace us when we get promoted or move on to other opportunities. It does make sense considering the potential loss of productivity that can occur when your replacement has a long learning curve.

This is not something we typically do very well. A few possible reasons spring to my mind:
  1. The ever excuse of no time, which might be true, but could just as easily translate to not knowing what to do.
  2. General issues with delegation that are present already.
  3. Fear that one of your people might be better than you (shoot, I think it's great to have people smarter than you on your team. When I was lucky enough or smart enough to have that happen, it really helped me stretch and grow).
A great way to start with succession planning is to determine who you think most likely to be your replacement, even if that never comes to pass because this person moves on or your bosses choose to replace you from outside your team. Your candidate could be one or more of your team members.

After you know who you'd like to have to fill your shoes, then you can actively work to delegate some of your traditional tasks as well as allowing the team member to weigh in on decisions, strategies, or programs. When you're away, like on vacation, you can put this person in charge and give them a sense of what being in your position might be like. You could even have the team member head up an initiative with higher-level exposure to give them some face time with the honchos and learn while you're still around as a safety net.

The key for the least impact to your departure is to start thinking now about who could replace you and what you would want them to know in order to do your job. Then execute on the plan.

What other suggestions do you have for successful succession planning?