Succession Planning: A Threat or a Promise?
When the King died the King’s heir would take over and rule. Since the King seldom survived much over 50 in the old days, this was generally a sound plan. The Prince would still be young, strong and, one would hope, clear thinking. If the King had no male issue a right royal barney would break out with the last man standing declaring himself the new King. Just to simplify matters, the immediate relatives of the old king would be beheaded. This was all before Queen Victoria, of course.
Todays monarchies perform ceremonial duties, so directing traffic lies with Presidents, Prime Ministers, CEO’s, MD’s and their boards of Directors. Managers or Team Leaders are entrusted with motivating and enabling the troops. In order for this hierarchy to work effectively, leaders need to prepare for natural attrition. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. When it’s done properly things continue normally. When it is not done properly or not at all, damage can be done, and sometimes it’s quite severe.
As can be seen by my opening example, in his lifetime the King would have regarded any suggestion of succession other than his son to be treasonous – a threat to his position and his son’s blood right. Some leaders still think this way. In real life things have changed somewhat. Any organisation failing to identify its future leaders in time could be caught off guard and pay a costly price – such as appointing the wrong person for the wrong reason to a key position. But there’s lot more to succession than that.
Todays CEO were once young, went to varsity and waited on tables to get by. These young people have aspirations. From early on in their careers they start planning on how they can get ahead. Organisations that employ them would therefore do well to engage these young folk early on and be willing to discuss a career path — since there is healthy competition out there for the best minds of the future. What better people to promote into leadership than those that are known and have built up a sound track record of diligence, hard work and taking on responsibility when needed?
What about head hunting for your leaders? The advantage is that new ideas and a fresh leadership approach can be of tremendous benefit to an organisation. But external appointees are an unknown quantity before they’ve settled in. Although they can work out well, invariably the package that was bought, often at substantial cost is not always what you get.
So mindful succession planning is really an ongoing exercise in a forward thinking organisation. It never stops. It should not be the preserve of one person, but a team that meets regularly — perhaps once a quarter. If productive people with leadership qualities know that there’s a plan for their futures, there is always a better chance of retaining them. Besides, when people are given career direction and see internal promotions happening, it can have the effect of galvanising them to raise their hands when called upon to do so.
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