A great leader influences the future of her team. She has an inherent duty to replace herself within the organization. She sees it as her duty to train and develop her replacement.
Every organization needs to have a succession planning process to remain a going concern. Each leader and manager in an organization will leave eventually. They may leave for another company, another role in the organization or retirement. But, they will leave.
A succession planning process is the process of identifying replacements for roles within the organization. The succession planning process is not solely the responsibility of the CEO and the board of directors. Every employee in an organization can participate.
A major struggle of any succession planning process is determining whether the successor resides within the organization. Most companies would prefer to promote from within because the internal successor will be “one step ahead.” He will know the organization’s culture, history and people.
Can you position yourself to be the candidate identified through this succession planning process?
What you can do
You can be the successor and here are six steps to take to ensure you’re identified in the succession planning process:
1. Be the best in your current role – To even be considered in the succession planning process, you must be a high performer. You must excel in your current role.
If you do not over-achieve with your current responsibilities, why would the succession planning committee consider you as a candidate to replace someone ahead of you?
2. Identify the responsibilities – Too many times, an employee assumes the boss’ job is easy. The boss doesn’t appear to do that much. It would be a great gig to have because he doesn’t do anything of substance.
What an illusion! Your boss, or whatever role to which you want to succeed, has responsibilities. You need to identify those responsibilities and determine whether you would want them.
In many organizations, the succession planning process identifies a top performer to become the next manager or leader. Unfortunately, the succession planning process sometimes includes an analysis/comparison of production rather than skill sets.
For example, the number one salesman might be pegged as the next leader of the group. That person’s strength is in sales, not in managing others. He’s actually being set up to fail by being asked to stop selling and start managing.
You don’t want that to happen to you. Identify what the responsibilities are of the position you desire and you will know whether it’s actually a good fit for your personality and skill set.
3. Perform the responsibilities – Once you determine you can and want to perform those responsibilities, you have to start doing them. This means you will be working “extra” because you must continue performing the responsibilities of your current position as well as the additional responsibilities.
No one will ask you to perform these additional responsibilities. It’s not expected or necessary to excel at your current position. But, if you want to “move up” in the succession planning process, you have to perform the responsibilities to show you’re the only candidate that needs to be considered.
4. Express your desires – One thing I learned from my boss several years ago is to express my desires for promotion. Company leaders appreciate employees who take initiative.
You can’t just want to be promoted. You can’t just assume the leadership team knows you want to be promoted. You have to express your desire to be promoted.
Just a blatant statement of, “I want to be promoted,” won’t do much good. However, if you have followed the previous three steps and then express your desire to be promoted, you have a much better chance.
When you express your desire to be the answer to the succession planning process, keep the following in mind:
a. Egos at play – Every leader has an ego and you must play to that ego. You also have to dance around that ego to not step on toes.
b. Patience – Just because you express your desire to be promoted does not mean it’s going to happen right away. You need to be patient.
c. History – Bring up your history with the company and demonstrate your relevant achievements. Show how you’ve successfully completed projects, identified cost-savings, etc.
d. Humility – Even though you want to demonstrate you’re ready for additional responsibilities, be humble about it. Don’t assume you can step right in without a learning curve. Express your willingness to work with the person currently in the role and learn from her.
5. Outperform – Steps one through four will go a long way towards being identified as the candidate of the succession planning process. If you want to guarantee you’re identified as that candidate, outperform the person currently in the role.
Even though you currently are not in the position to make the large and difficult decisions, demonstrate you can. Identify the issues, discuss them with the leadership team and provide options on how to resolve the issues.
If the role is a sales role, you can always sell without having the responsibility. It’s always a good thing to bring in more revenue for the organization. Do that whenever you can to outperform your current expectations.
6. Keep telling – You’ve told your bosses once that you want to be the answer to the succession planning process. But, once is not enough. You have you continue telling them.
Every couple of months, or at least once a quarter, meet with your leadership team and inquire about the process. Gently bring up the good things you’ve done to make sure they don’t go unnoticed. You need to promote yourself!
Even when you know you’ve been identified as the answer to the succession planning process, it can be a long wait. Great companies never stop the succession planning process. The process happens continually for every vital position.
You may wait several years before being asked to succeed. That can be frustrating and disheartening. Keep working hard and enjoying what you’re doing. As long as your wait may be, time seems to fly by past.
If you get too disheartened, don’t take drastic measures like quitting your job. Instead, talk with the leadership team, express your thoughts and concerns and ask what can be done. If you’re the successor, the organization’s leaders want you to stay. They will work with you to make sure you can be the successor.
Have you been directly involved with a succession planning process? What about indirectly? I guarantee you’ve been involved indirectly because every employee is a candidate to succeed someone else.
If you’ve been directly involved in the process (either as part of the succession planning committee or as the identified successor), what can you add to the six steps above?
The succession planning process can be long and difficult. Add your comments below to help others be identified as the successor candidate.