Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Succession Planning: Finding and Grooming Your Replacement

Whether you’re a clerk or a CEO, the time to leave will arrive. Often that’s not easy, practically or psychologically. I hope this will help.  

The big-picture ideas
First of all, try to ensure you’ll be moving to something better: a better job, a rewarding retirement, etc. That will make it easier to be your best self in recruiting and grooming your replacement. 

But even if you’re about to be dumped without a good future in the offing, remember that an important part of your legacy is to find and mentor a replacement who is even better than you are, at least better for your workplace’s next few years. So beware of the human tendency to pick someone inferior so you look better in comparison. The mature person realizes that such sabotage hurts not only the organization and deprives a more qualified person of the position, but cheapens you. 

After selecting your replacement, try to be the wisest, kindest mentor you can be. That means, yes, sharing what you’ve learned on the job and what you think is most needed moving forward, but also recognizing that you’re not trying to create a clone of yourself. Your successor will bring his or her own talents, desires, and limitations. Part of your job is to facilitate that person’s being their best self. 

A step-by-step plan That’s the macro advice, Here is a step-by-step model for preparing to pass the baton. Of course, you may need to modify this plan to suit your circumstances. 

1. Form a small selection committee: for example, your boss, a key coworker(s,) and key customer. In developing your successor’s job description, rather than listing what you’ve done, have it reflect what's most needed during the next few years. 

Danger: Committees tend to stuff job descriptions with too many requirements. Pare down to what’s really important. That will help you screen applicants based on what really matters. That also avoids your creating a job description so intimidating that even good candidates are deterred from applying. 

2. Using that job description as a screening tool, consider your employees both one and two layers beneath you. Sometimes, a rising star could be the wisest choice even if that person isn’t “next in line.” 

Ask employees to recommend candidates outside your organization. Often the best outside applicants come from referral, not from an ad. 

In screening candidates, give a plus to internal candidates. They are a known commodity, have valuable insider knowledge, and hiring an insider lets employees know that they too have a shot at moving up. But also seriously consider outsiders, especially stars at your competitors. Not all excellence resides within your organization. 

If no standout candidate exists within your organization, consider recruiting an outsider for a lower position and then groom the person so he or she is ready to assume your position by the time you leave. 

Do make your selection process open and transparent. You don’t want to end up with disgruntled applicants, especially those who work for your organization. 

Err on the side of picking a younger person. You don’t want to spend all the effort grooming someone only to have the person retire soon.  I don't know how to follow that rule without violating the government's anti-age discrimination laws.

Usually, the right candidate immediately stands out. The person’s performance has been excellent and temperamentally is right for the job. 

3. The selection process should contain simulations of tough tasks required on the job. Don’t place much stock in candidates’ answers to interview questions. Even if you ask uncoachable questions, the interview is a poor predictor of job performance.

4. When you’ve selected your replacement, make clear that it’s a tentative selection. Start the grooming process and if things aren’t working out well, either of you can back out before the deal is finalized. 

5. Individualize the grooming process. That can consist of some combination of their job-shadowing you, you observing them, inviting them to increasingly take your responsibilities, having weekly mentoring meetings, and inviting ongoing questions. 

6. To keep the person from leaving soon after you’ve invested major time in him or her, consider creating a golden handcuff—for example, deferred compensation that becomes payable a year after s/he assumes your position. 

7. After the person replaces you, decide if it’s wise for you to stay on the job for a few months or even a year after passing the baton. If so, make the case to your boss, if you have one.

8. Now you can leave feeling you’ve left a worthy legacy. And you can move on—perhaps with help from colleagues and friends--to figuring out how to make the next phase of your life your best yet. 

If you want someone to take over the business you own
If you’re looking for someone to take over your business, try to dispassionately weigh the pros and cons of leaving it to a family member. You don’t have to hurt your business just because you love your child. If s/he isn’t the right person to run your business, ultimately you do a disservice both to your child and to the business you worked hard to build. 

Also think twice before selling your business to someone you think is likely to cheapen the product and/or provide worse service just to make a few extra bucks. You’re selling your legacy. Treat it like the treasure it is.

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