create balance

being part of what comes next... 

If we are to survive, succeed and keep moving forward it’s essential to recognise the importance of succession as an integrated part of the way we do things that goes beyond recruitment and retention practices.

What if we saw succession (and succession planning) as exciting and critical for the business and those within it, rather than extra workload, a time-consuming recruitment chore, or something that ‘is done to us’?

The starting point for this, is seeing what we do today as inextricably connected to that which happens in the future. It means seeing roles as caretaking opportunities with the dual responsibility of delivering success and enabling succession - a sort of human compost for what’s happening now and what comes next.

When we look at succession through this lens, it empowers organisations to recruit, develop and retain people for as long as their skills, experience and ideas add value AND it empowers people to stay with a business, for as long as they feel like they fit and are continuing to learn, develop and progress. A balanced approach ensures both the organisation and the leaders within it, retain an open and honest dialogue about what happens next and plan the steps to get there collaboratively.

Often, succession activity is driven by the tension that exists between the eagerness of the next generations leaders to take control and the current generations unwillingness to relinquish it. At a basic level, this can create rivalry, mistrust, and a distraction from what matters most. It can also lead to more fundamental issues like a culture that fears openness, honesty and change or the arrival of new leaders who disregard who we are, what we do and why we do it, in an effort to concrete over the past and demonstrate change.

If all roles are seen as transitionary experiences, the whole idea of succession becomes deeply rooted in leaving a great legacy, laying the groundwork for others to follow, and entering a business or new role with a view to evolving and improving what went before rather than dismantling it. This in no way minimises the need sometimes to make fundamental or difficult changes – it simply serves to connect what went before, with what will follow in ways that help rather than hinder progress.

Organisations might approach this in the following ways:

find balance - by nurturing custodians and champions as successors

* clarifying who you are, what you do and why you do it so leaders can protect what’s at the heart of the business ‘on their watch’ and pass it on to others who can preserve it in the future

*acting and behaving in ways that build and support a positive brand reputation. This will engage and retain loyal customers and attract and retain talent.

maintain balance - by building capability that can stop, start or do things differently

* developing skills and strengths that meet the current and future needs of the business including core expertise and new world capabilities

* nurturing social skills such as self-awareness, the ability to listen and communicate well, and the ability to motivate and empower others

* including development discussions and planning as part of the core ways of working, so the changing needs of the business are continually served and people can use their time with an organisation to progress their own learnings and ambitions 

improve balance - by creating a succession culture

* equipping and enabling people to develop their strengths & achieve their potential, without guilt or fear of sharing their ambitions to move up or move on

* helping outgoing leaders and individuals to take an active and collaborative approach to their departure or job change, so that knowledge and learnings are respected, retained and things left in the best shape for those taking on the responsibilities

*recognising and rewarding the contribution that different skills, experience, and styles bring to the business whilst encouraging openness to new ideas, innovation, and pioneering better ways of working

*developing relationships and networks outside the business that supports the flow of talent and skills across and between different organisations and industries.

Succession should be a collaborative process that takes place formally and informally on a regular basis. This balanced approach that links succession to success, ensures the business remains sustainable for the longer term and the people within it can develop themselves and others along the way.

Succession planning is often a reactive process linked to people moving up, being moved on, or talent shortages.
But if we connect succession with success, we do the groundwork that helps us to be part of what comes next and to progress things with greater agility and strength.

more balanced thinking