It‘s Always Time to Start Thinking About Succession Planning

Nurturing Leadership, Today and Tomorrow

It always boggles my mind how many people in leadership positions clinch to their roles with no thought into ever leaving the company. Whether you own a company or are employed by one, succession planning is something that you should always be thinking about.

What is the reason for not investing time in succession planning?

I strongly believe that most people are afraid of the thought experiment. Most of the time, the individuals are employed by a company and they have no thought to leave. Convenience is prioritized in all of their actions. For example, let’s say that they’re setting up a new account for GoDaddy. Which email address do you think they’ll use? Most of the time, it’ll be their own. With some thought into the potential of eventually leaving, an email strategy would be implemented that allows for others to take over immediately.

We touched on the convenience factor but there are a couple of more. One that’s closely tied to convenience is time-saving. Who has the time to think about this? After all, I’m here to drive sales or run the accounting department and I don’t have any time to think about who’s going to take over my position.

The last one that I’ve seen is related to incompetence. Everyone knows these individuals. They’re not fit to be leaders and nobody knows how in the world they got the position that they’re in. These are some of the most dangerous individuals since they will clench on to every detail and restrict knowledge sharing. If you see them, get rid of them as soon as you can.

What Happens When They Leave?

What happens when the individual is approached with an offer that’s much higher offer? For one reason or another, individuals will eventually leave the company. And then what? Who takes over their role? How?

This is where succession planning comes into play. Understanding that you’ll eventually leave the company makes every day decisions easier. Like I mentioned earlier, even something as simple as using a specific email address to create an account over your personal one is something that’s on top of mind. Not using personal credit cards to pay for bills. Not building applications that nobody else knows how to maintain. And so on.

The other part of this, and the big part, is identifying within your department who is the next rockstar. In other words, who is the person that’s most likely to be able to take over your job. This frightens most people. It frightens them even more when they need to provide the list to their superior.

Just remember. If you’re unqualified for the job, you’ll be let go eventually. If you’ve bs’d your way into a position, take the time to hone your new skills. You might even appear more of a leader if you provide succession planning documentation to your superior.

If you’re qualified and are excelling at your position, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. You don’t realize how much the company wants to keep you there. Succession planning just shows your maturity.

Simple Succession Planning Matrix

So how do you start? It’s simpler than you think. Below is a matrix with Performance on the X axis and Potential on the Y axis.

Place each of your employees into a square. Can there be more than one individual in a square? Of course. Once you place them in the prospective squares, you actually have achieved three things:

  • You’ve identified which individuals are the most likely to take over your position. Those are the individuals in the top-right corner.
  • You’ve identified which individuals you need to let go. Those are your bottom left. Might as well kill two birds with one stone if you’re doing succession planning.
  • Make that 3 birds with 1 stone. You’ve also identified other employees that don’t fit in either of those two squares. That means that you need to work. How do you increase the potential of someone that is a high performer? How do you increase the performance of someone that has a ton of potential? Those are the questions that you need to ask yourself and work on implementing various strategies.

You can leave it at this. With the matrix, I encourage you to identify what constitutes a high-performer and an individual with a lot of potential. What are the goals that a person should meet to be considered a high performer? What are some concrete examples of an individual’s high-potential? Work on ironing that list out and you’ll be set.

Then, when you move on from the company, you’ll both feel at peace knowing that you’ve left the company on good grounds and also know that you won’t be contacted every 5 minutes because the company is drowning in the mess you might have intentionally or unintentionally made.


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