Begin as you mean to continue

May 17, 2021

“Begin as you mean to continue.” ~ Violet Watts ~

These are wise words and can be applied to any relationship or work endeavor. And while leaders may not be thinking of these words specifically as they begin business ventures, strategic initiatives, and/or projects, they usually work to do just that – they strive to begin as they mean for it to continue.

Happily, creating a strong infrastructure at the onset is key in establishing an effective succession plan. Preparing for personnel changes requires using a business’ infrastructure from a different perspective. The organizational structure is established, the key positions have been defined, and performance expectations have been established. The search for new leadership is ongoing and begins from within.

Upper management is continuously considering short- and long-term plans and working to address questions like, where will our company be in three, five or ten years? What markets will we be entering or leaving? Who will be our competitors? What positions do we want to fill from within?

They will turn to their leaders to see which employees could be suitable candidates to fill critical positions and to invest in for future leadership positions.

Middle managers provide insights in identifying employees that could or should be considered to succeed leaders. Their suggestions will help narrow a wide field of candidates. They know the potential candidates and are conversant about their strengths, weaknesses, goals, and abilities because of daily interactions and evaluations. They’ve gathered this information from talent assessment results, and regular performance reviews.

Middle management should already be cross-training employees to stretch their skill sets, by allowing them to lead special projects or teams. These managers should also be directing their staff to professional development opportunities within and outside of the company. All of this provides growth and development of team members already employed and prepares them for promotion.

“You need prepared employees to step into roles as your company grows and expands its offerings and services. Or your lack of developed employees will stymie your growth plans.”

Identified candidates should know their work has been noticed and that they are in consideration for promotion. They should know in what time frame that promotion is anticipated, so they have the opportunity(ies) to meet predetermined qualifications. The qualifications should have already been communicated, but if not, they should be explained at this time. The candidates and their supervisors should create a specific plan to set small goals achievable within six to twelve months and in advance of the time of promotion.

While all this work seems centered on employees, it serves bigger purposes. The first is a chance to realize what gaps might be left when an employee is promoted. This information can be used to drive recruitment efforts. Other benefits are more cultural than related to infrastructure or profits. These include having engaged and motivated employees; retaining superior employees; maintaining a qualified talent pool; and earning greater confidence of stakeholders.

When businesses are started, so are the steps for succession. Succession planning means using existing infrastructure to grow employees. Successful planning will grow employees and profits.

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