Success Without Succession? Not Happenin’

At a Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) event recently, I sat through a wonderful presentation about succession planning on steroids. The company had developed and successfully implemented a Mentoring Program that trained and groomed their future C-Suite. It was mentioned that over 80% of their C-Suite employees came from this wildly successful and competitive program. So competitive that the acceptance to application ratio was 1 to 150. They said that in comparison, Harvard University’s was 1 to 115.

While the session was practical, informative and everyone seemed to enjoy it, everyone in the room had to be thinking, “Man! Our company sucks! We have someone leave and we’re up the creek. And why don’t I have a mentor in my workplace?”


We already know that organizations should clearly map out succession. We already know how the lifeblood of an organization is the development of its people and how training is critical to its sustained organizational success. So why don’t more organizations have these types of systems and programs in place?

You couldn’t show me that if you tried

Everyone can’t teach. Even those that are the best in their industries have issues showing others how to be successful. You know why the best employees don’t always make the best leaders…because their techniques are their techniques and they might not work for the next person. They know how to execute with what they have and how to focus while minimizing outside distractions. You know what the outside distraction is now that they’re a manager? You!

Job security ain’t just the dude in the uniform and fake badge

With the job market as funny as it is, people are doing whatever they can to hold on to their jobs, and they should. But from a business stand point, we need those tenured members of our workforce to share the history and knowledge of our companies if we’re going to carry on. If you’re the only one that knows:

  • how a certain process works
  • who to contact in case of this or that
  • where all of the skeletons are buried

what are we to do when you become the next skeleton. While you’re dying, you’re killin’ us!! Stop being stingy and selfish and show us how to run the frickin’ reports! Being counted on as the only “Go-to” is only cool until you retire and the department has to scramble and start from scratch.

Hot air rises

I can B.S. with the best of ’em, but when it comes to our employees and their professional futures, we cannot afford to simply give them lip service and empty promises when it relates to their development. Because of our smoothness, we coaxed them into to joining our “movement”, jumping on this train to nowhere by selling them on the idea that they’d go with us every step of the way, learning how to wheel, deal and conquer just like us. Unfortunately, because we are so busy making moves, we just do without taking to time to tutor. We assume that they will learn how to be like us through osmosis and from just being in our presence. One of the quickest ways to disengage and loose (mentally and literally) your “stars” is to sell them lofty visions and then leave them to fend for themselves.

Before we can start planning for succession, we have to ensure that our leadership are actually committed to the idea of grooming, mentoring and developing. If there is not going to be any real time invested into our future leaders, the old should just plan on never retiring. The commitment level of those spear-heading the programs will directly effect how engaged the men-tees will be. If they are unengaged and not being challenged, they’ll become impatient thinking that they can take over now before they’re ready or they’ll just leave. Finally, leadership’s buy-in will dictate how relevant the information is that’s being shared and ultimately how sturdy the foundation is of the organization going forward. Now we just need to decide how long we want this place to last and actually do something about it.

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