"Can you help me with succession planning?" It's a question we are often asked by our baby boomer clients who own or manage businesses and organizations.
This was the topic of a recent coaching session with a CEO. Over our 10-year working relationship, we have taken this client through several visioning sessions for the organization, imagining optimum futuristic states and then putting together plans to realize those futures.
In this session, I asked her to imagine the organization without her. After many years of dedicated service, she was ready for this startling coaching question. In previous sessions, she had articulated a vision for her life after leaving this organization, a vision that really jazzed her, even though there were some unknowns that made her more than a little anxious.
Before planning for your succession, it can be very helpful to develop a clear personal vision of where you want to go or grow next — a picture of what's in your future. The clearer the vision for what's next, the easier it is to let go of your current work life. Then, you can begin to imagine the organization, division, department or volunteer project without you.
We recommend that you identify tasks and responsibilities you have been holding on to for an assortment of reasons:
- You like doing them.
- Everyone else hates doing them.
- Nobody does it better than you or ever could, for that matter.
- Everyone else is overloaded too.
Task by task, responsibility by responsibility, relentlessly ask yourself: "Do I really need to be doing this? Who other than me could do this? Might this represent a professional development opportunity for someone else?"
Identify the most likely candidate for each task, and prepare them to take over. Preparing others to take over tasks and responsibilities involves:
- Helping them to understand how this task fits into the big picture and why it is important.
- Why you chose them.
- Providing them with the tools, information and training to be successful.
- Letting them take the lead while monitoring and mentoring
- Letting go!
Repeat until all tasks and responsibilities that could or should be handled by others are appropriately delegated. The better you become at teaching, mentoring and coaching others, the more tasks and responsibilities you can delegate.
Once you have peeled away this collection of tasks and responsibilities that you have accumulated over a period of time, you should be down to the essentials of your true job, your most value-added role. This is tricky because jobs, like our pets, tend to take on the characteristics of their owners over time.
After the peeling process, you are ready to analyze your own job or role and clearly define it. What are your key accountabilities? What does it take to be successful? What does the job need? What does the organization need to take it to the next level? When you have completed a proper analysis, you are ready to identify potential candidates and begin an appropriate screening process.
Preparing the way for your successor can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your career, or it can be one of the most traumatic. It definitely helps to put a plan in place well ahead of time.Along with that plan, it helps to view the transition as a step-by-step process.
Occasionally life steps in and provides us with a wake up call — a significant health issue, for example. And we are instantly jolted into the reality that our organization will need to run without us sooner or later. For us baby boomers, it is time we play a proactive role in that. It's time to imagine the beyond the boomer workplace and create your personal vision for what's next for you. Your peace of mind will contribute greatly to your best decade yet!