Preparing people for responsibility

From time to time we hear people talk about succession planning. In these days of constant staff turnover, and in the commercial sector even a constant turnover of employers, where loyalty is the highest item on anyone’s agenda, what does succession planning imply?

In the past typical succession planning involved preparing someone for greater responsibility in a higher management role. This can still apply in large hierarcial organisations. More typically today, succession planning refers to preparing someone to maximise their potential through a combination of greater responsibility, engagement in higher decision making processes and management of either projects or people or both.

Whereas past succession planning may have revolved around promoting the longest serving person or the highest performer; today succession planning is about taking the bright people, those that have shown potential and putting place a coordinated and collaborative development pathway.

What do I mean by coordinated and collaborative? Someone with potential does not, and cannot achieve their full potential on their own. They are not an island. Their success and therefore the success of your organisation is dependent upon a network of relationships. Each person in that network is a stakeholder with an interest in the development of our potential high flyer.

Whatever the development pathway and processes, it should be put together through collaborative discussions amongst stakeholders. In this way the development is relevant to the needs of both the individual and the organisation. In this way a two way feedback loop between the person being developed and stakeholders and also between stakeholders themselves is developed. It is the feedback that guides the development process.

In some instances organisations continue to prepare people for succession to higher roles, particularly the CEO role, at the same time and despite such efforts many organisations continue to recruit senior executives from outside the organisation. This can lead to disillusion amongst people with potential. It can also cause organisations to hold back on developing those with potential for fear they may be lost to competitors. Both of these situations can result in the best people leaving on their own accord.

Let’s change how we think. There is talent inside our organisations. There are good people in there with great potential. This potential can only be realised when we create a learning environment where people can establish personalised development pathways, enjoy mentoring relationships, recieve appropriate supervision and coaching, become engaged in projects that stretch them, recieve positive and constructive feedback and be allowed to learn from their mistakes and their experiences.

It’s not much to ask is it? Well actually, evidence suggests its an awful lot to ask, which might go a long way towards explaining why the majority of organisations do not have in place effective succession plans, or effective development pathways for people with potential. The fear of being our best holds us back.

Those are my thoughts for the day.

Let The Journey Continue.

John Coxon


About John Coxon

Principal consultant for John Coxon & Associates, a management consultancy working with boards and management teams in healthcare, aged care and not for profit organisations to develop effective strategic planning processes and social enterprise business plans
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