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Succession Planning

Like any solid team, it is important to have a full and healthy bench.

The same is true in the workplace.

Not simply across leadership – as is a common misconception – but across all organizations and industries, it is critical to effectively execute succession strategies.

You’ll notice that said execute, not just ‘have’.

The challenge is that, in order to execute, there has to be a plan that is acted upon.

The largest demographic wave in North American history is hurtling towards (and is already reaching) retirement. Not only at the leadership level, but throughout entire organizations. Boomers across the globe are – and will continue to be – working not only to replace themselves in an operational capacity but also to bridge an intangible quantity of experience and historical knowledge.

It is not a surprise, and it is likely something that (even though we haven’t all been experiencing it) we’ve definitely read about.

75 is the new 65. Rightly so. According to The Atlantic, the recession in the United States created so much of a hit that ‘the nation’s 401(k)s and IRA lost about $2.4 trillion in the final two quarters of 2008, and the average loss that year for workers who had been on the job for 20 years was, according to one estimate, about 25 percent.’ Pair that with the ease of working flexibly or remotely, and the ability to be passionate about work makes sense that people are staying in the workforce longer.

But here we are now, not 10 years later and (Baby) Boomers are retiring at alarming rates. Actually, ‘10,000 [people] hit the typical retirement age of 65, every day. This trend is expected to go out until 2030’.

So you might be asking yourself… how do I build a full, healthy bench? And, while we are at it… what does a full healthy bench mean?

Here are a few things to consider:

1) Start early, and scout often.

Empower leaders in your organizations to be scouting the up-and-coming talent. 20% of the team will be top performers by nature. They inherently work hard and have to prove themselves early. This is a great group to choose from.

2) Get in touch with the team’s personal and professional goals

Is growth within the organization a goal of theirs? Do they see the opportunity, and desire the challenges and development associated with movement?

3) Formalize intentions

Enroll the team in all succession planning objectives. Let them know that the intention is to tap high-potentials to join the bench, share why and what that will look like for those who are scouted.

4) Don’t be afraid to trade players or send them back down to the minors

Part of building a strong, healthy bench is evaluation and re-evaluation. Many organizations already have great strategies for continued development and performance reviews through their year. Evaluating to benchmark, and re-evaluating to determine continued fit for the succession plan, is key to maintaining a strong and healthy roster to groom from.

And remember… your bench will change. Your top players may be recruited to a different team.

It is your job to scout out new talent to fill the vacancy – it doesn’t always have to be full, but – if it isn’t – you should be on the lookout for your next star and execute the plan to ensure years of experience don’t just walk out the door in a Banker’s Box at 65 years old. Sorry, I mean 75.

​What True Leadership Development Looks Like

‘People quit managers, they don’t quit jobs.’ Generally speaking, people want to be able to fit in, they want to be able to contribute, and they want to feel valued. Of course there are those that want to sit and be left alone for the day at work, but it is a unique leadership style that will still allow for guidance and mentorship while still letting the individual in whichever position be the best they can be. Leadership development then, isn’t just the classes, information sessions, and seminars that make someone a ‘good leader’; it is the way employees are understood and communicated with that will really help the relationship in the workplace.

Often going into the workplace and helping with leadership and culture we find that leadership is a term that is thrown around as loosely as ‘sustainability’ or ‘culture’, words that could mean something different depending on who it is we talk to. With the scope of leadership being so big though, there has to be deep understanding of not only what people think leadership means, but how they can get most out of the personal and professional development from the senior people in the workplace. And this doesn’t have to just mean training.

Leadership development can, at times, be synonymous with ‘coaching’, ‘mentorship’, and even ‘communication’. Because the word is so broad, any conversation we have, tough situation we are in, or challenge we overcome (assuming other people are involved), we learn to be able to handle these situations better, mitigate future conflict, and become better skilled in the areas that keep the social side of work and personal lives healthy.

Some of the better leaders I’ve seen are those who are on the ground and talking to employees. They understand the pain points and they understand what makes people happy. They know whom work well together and more importantly they know why. These people can spot a sticky situation from a mile away and look to avoid it long before it happens, and they spark happiness in people long before fear or anger. These people build relationships in the workplace and are even viewed as colleagues rather than a boss. After all, some times the best leadership developers are our friends and peers in the workplace.

Too often we try and make things bigger than they need to be. Words like ‘leadership’ become buzzwords that plague every office place and is something that has to be strong, but rarely is well-defined and understood.

To get the most out of relationships in the workplace, conversing more and guessing less is generally a good idea. If conversations are had, especially face-to-face, it is much easier to understand the emotion behind words and build the relationships and understanding that makes cohesion and development in the workplace strong.

Leadership isn’t necessarily top-down, and isn’t bottom-up either. It is a true understanding of the people in the workplace and the ability to enable people to trust and care enough to be the best they can be.

Capacity and the Importance of Understanding Your Audience

Over the past few years I have had the pleasure of being on stages all over the world and talking to people of all industries, companies, ages, sexes, and backgrounds. While the audience changes each time, a lot of the key messaging is the same. With the messaging being the same though, and the audience varying significantly, the delivery has to be catered specifically to those who are receiving the message.

Now, this might seem obvious and intuitive, but what I learned is that after speaking about the future of work and multiple generations in the workplace for so long, that my jargon was difficult to understand and that my message was flying over the heads of the people that are listening.

What this told me is that the capacity of the audience has to be understood and catered to in order for the message to resonate. If we talk in terms and depth that people aren’t familiar with, or in a way people aren’t interested in, not only is the value not transferred to its full potential, it is missed all together. This can’t happen.

To be clear though, when we talk about the capacity of the audience, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of hearing and understanding the information, it just might be that I haven’t introduced the idea properly or educated them enough on what I’m going to talk about.

To fix this, there are two basic, yet essential actions that I did to mitigate lost opportunities moving forward.

  1. Explain what I’m doing to someone that is under the age of 15. Einstein was quoted saying “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself”. Any time I’m out of practice, I simply run my idea by someone who is way younger to see what questions come up.
  2. I look back on the questions I had from my last presentation and answer them before the questions come up. Sometimes I think I have covered something thoroughly only to realize there are a series of questions asked on the same topic. Once the presentation is over, I’ll write down the questions I was asked and be sure to incorporate them into my next talk or article.

If my message is clear and I can anticipate some of the questions that are coming, I can keep an engaged audience and ensure that my message is fully received.

A common analogy is the tech world (specifically computers). If I were to talk about the amount of RAM I have, how many GB of storage, and how many HDMI/USB-C ports there are, I might have lost you. Instead, if I were to define what each of these things were before starting the presentation, and ensuring that we are all on the same page before starting the presentation, I know that I wouldn’t get a room of blank stares looking back at me.

As I now prepare for my next presentation, I’m sure that my message isn’t too complicated, and that any questions that may come up are answered in the content of my article or speech. Give this a try and watch how positively your audience reacts!

Any questions? If I’ve written this well, the answer should be no.

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