Succession Planning Does Not Mean a Promise

Succession Planning Does Not Mean a Promise

When we identify our high potential leaders, does that mean we guarantee the promotions for them? Over half of organizations that are surveyed indicate that they are not adequately prepared with succession plans in place for their leadership teams. One reason is the fear that a succession plan gives promises to individuals. In actuality, that is not the case. Here are some thoughts about readying your leadership bench while being honest with the potential leadership candidates.

Be transparent right from the beginning

My earlier blogs described the steps to identify high potential leaders. If done well, the high potential leader has had a career discussion with his or her manager and has expressed the aspiration to be promoted into senior leadership positions. An honest and positive discussion can go something like this: “You have been identified as the successor to Linda. I’d like to work on you by developing a career plan for your growth that prepares you for a more senior role. For each leadership role, our succession plan contains several names of identified successors including yours. We think highly of your abilities and your potential to grow, and I would like to see you be successful. I do want to be clear that when we evaluate an open leadership position, successors such as you are given highest priority for the open position. I cannot guarantee, however, that you will be the chosen candidate. What you and I CAN do together now is work on your development plan so that you can be as prepared as possible for this role as well as other potential leadership roles. And I will support you in any way that I can.”

Succession planning does not mean we promise people promotions into the roles. It is wise for every organization to have a comprehensive succession plan, reviewing it several times throughout the year. Successors may be internal to the company or external candidates that the organization believes are highly qualified candidates. Don’t let the fear of having made a promise stop your organization from building a great succession plan, because you haven’t made a guarantee. What you have done, however, is begun preparing for building leadership strength in your organization, and you have been transparent with those who also aspire. Your work will increase their engagement and strengthen your leadership development agenda.

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