Succession planning is a great conversation.
For the organization, it puts plans in place to be used in case of a sudden departure of a key person. It also identifies talent gaps that can be discussed and dealt with before they become emergencies.
For your best people, it creates a vision of the future for them and identifies ways to challenge/develop them over the coming years.
Then there is you, the executive. Maybe not such a great process. You are putting plans in place for after you are gone. You are sharing the talent you have worked hard to hire and develop with the rest of the organization by allowing them to be considered for key roles in other areas. Do we avoid these conversations? The numbers would say yes. First number – only 35% of the CEO’s in the United States have succession plans. Second number – personally only 45% of us have wills.
Talent management is about great conversations. Here are eight questions to ask a leader before starting a succession planning effort:
- I am excited about this process.
- I think this is an important process to do each year.
- I have talked to all my direct reports about what they want to do in the future.
- I have done this before and I feel comfortable/skilled at the process.
- I will make the time (10-20 hrs) to do this work over the next 2 months.
- I am willing to accept input from other peers on my succession list . . . and I will use it.
- I am willing to allow key players from my team to be on succession plans for other groups.
- I feel good about setting up my groups/the organization to be successful after I move on.
Here is a link to this form with a number scale attached.
By naming our reasons for being reluctant, we can at least talk about them. By letting those reason stay hidden there is very real potential to erode trust on the team and leave great talent(people!) unchallenged and unclear about what opportunities exist for them in the future.
I would opt for the great talent management/succession planning conversation started by these 8 questions.