As we near the end of the year, many firms will be starting to think about what 2019 has in store and putting together their financial, marketing, IT, business development and people plans for next year.
We recently had a 2019 planning meeting with a potential client and discussing how we could support them in delivering their ambitious growth strategy through enabling their people to drive growth and performance. As we were about to leave, there was a ‘Columbo moment’…. “one more thing, we have two of our more senior partners retiring at the end of the year, so we really need to start planning their succession seriously. Any tips?”
An interesting challenge indeed. Two experienced partners who own many of the key client relationships, have huge amounts of experience and know-how and twelve months to make sure there is as seamless a transition as possible. While work goes on for everyone!
This is not an unusual situation. We find that succession planning is often a reactive process (we have a flight risk, there will be retirements, we need to do something). Some firms are more proactive, regularly reviewing their people risks and identifying key people and roles where they need to build a ‘bench’ of capable substitutes.
But let’s just pause for a second. What are you trying to achieve through any succession planning? Often the reactive process is focused on enabling somebody to literally ‘step into their shoes’. Taking the retirement scenario, the role is clearly defined, the current incumbent has performed successfully for years and the firm focuses on intense downward mentoring so that the next in line can become a close replica.
The thing is, it is tremendously difficult to create a copy, and we believe that this is good news! Such a change is a chance for fresh perspectives, new ideas and different approaches. Trust the replacement to take on the mentoring lessons but encourage them to tackle the role in their own way.
The above is assuming that the replacement is more than capable. However, we have often seen another issue with being reactive and caught off guard. The replacement could just be the person who has hung around the longest, who has the most experience (operating at levels below the position to be replaced), the one who is ‘available’ to step up, or even the one who is most ‘like’ the current.
Our advice? Look at succession planning another way. We see it as a proactive and dynamic process of investing in your people to help them continually improve and evolve. This means regularly assessing performance and potential, setting out to ‘stretch’ people, and instilling key future focused skills and behaviours such as leadership, collaboration and adaptability.
Instead of focusing on replacing someone in a currently defined role, focus on enabling people to step up to roles that haven’t been defined yet, or roles that they may define themselves. Roles that will be relevant tomorrow and going forward.
Ultimately it’s about creating pools of people who can step up or across to different challenges, which means mitigating the risks and a lack of dependency.
It’s SUCCESSion planning for the business
We would love to talk to you about how we can help develop the mind-set, skills and behaviours of your people and help you to create fluid, dynamic succession plans. You can contact Thelma on 01892 610060
theGrogroup are experts in advising organisations on how best to improve performance by effectively executing and embedding required change. We do this through ourproven framework; clarifying change needs, enabling people through skills, behaviours and mind-set development and creating the systems, processes and infrastructure to lock in change as the new normal.