It's Not Just CEOs Who Need a Succession Plan

Posted on January 25, 2013.

Sometimes you can be too good at your job. Take for example my friend Kelly.  Kelly was a very successful market leader in the south. She was well known and respected by her employees, her peers, her clients and her boss. So why when she kept raising her hand for a promotion, was she overlooked?

Kelly was just too good at what she did.  The “powers that be” were afraid if they moved her out of her current role, they’d lose clients and key talent.  Was it fair to her? No. But I understand the decision, because Kelly had no obvious replacement for her job. Once you move into a management position, unless you’re happy to stay there forever, you need to start building your bench strength. You basically have 3 options:

1.    Start grooming one of your employees.  If you’re lucky, you already have someone who could step into your shoes.  They just need some coaching and exposure. If they aren’t already, ask them to step up and be an informal leader on your team.  When you’re not around, this person should be on point.  Have them lead a meeting every now and then.  After awhile, it will become natural for people to go to this person for help whenever you’re not there.  When you’re recruiting, you should think about making sure you have this person on your team.

2.    Look externally.  Through networking events or industry associations, it’s likely you know other managers in your field.  Build relationships with the ones that impress you the most. Feel them out as to their willingness to meet with your boss or HR folks.  This process can take a long time, as both parties really need to get to know each other, so don’t wait!

3.    Look across silos.  Every company of any size probably has silos.  Maybe these are your internal clients or partners you work with on a regular basis.  Again, seek out the people that impress you and forge relationships.  Make sure your boss and team get to know this person and be vocal about your support of their skill set.

If you’re really lucky, when you’re ready to raise your hand for your next promotion, you can provide a short list of people you feel confident can replace you.  You can counter any objections of “ we really need you where you are”, with “ no you don’t and here’s why….”

By the way, Kelly did finally get the promotion she deserved.  It took way too long and the fear of the company losing her altogether to make it happen.  So try to take the easy way out and find your successor now.