Innovative Ways to Groom Your Successor(s)

prince william photoYou need to have peace of mind before you are going to turn over your business to someone else. Not every successor will be prepared for the job, and not every owner will do the work needed to prepare their successor. Your successor needs to be able to successfully lead the implementation of your strategic plan and directly or indirectly fill the gaps that arise when you are no longer active in the business. This gap analysis is crucial for every owner to do, even if the ramp down is years away. It will give you good insight as to what development planning your team will need. While your list may not be all encompassing, it will give any business and its successors a good start. Here are some ways to close the gaps.

Provide Powerful Experiences for Your C-Suite team

Experiences such as volunteer leadership positions, participating in roundtable discussions, and being a part of a strategic planning team will expose them to other ways of thinking, push them to step outside of their comfort zone, and expand their influence in the business community. A good friend of mine aspired to be the president of my Rotary club. When she was installed, she confided in me that she was terrified of speaking in public. Week 1 was tough for her. Week 2 was a tiny bit easier. By week 40 she was unscripted and putting everyone at ease.

Provide Learning Opportunities like ‘Reverse’ Training

We often think about getting trained in something we haven’t yet mastered, but instead, ask your leaders to train you, your leadership team, or a subset of your business — on something THEY need to learn and would be beneficial for others to learn too. When you have to train somebody else, you are forced to learn it better yourself. When I first was learning about P&L’s and balance sheets, I forced myself to do a small training event for a group of trusted advisors so I would learn more deeply. I had to be prepared not only to present the material, but I knew they would ask me challenging questions. I had to be ready for those too.

Other Learning Opportunities include being part of a pilot or SWAT team to take on a special, time limited project. Special projects usually provide cross-functional experience, demand fresh ways of problem solving, require relationship building with new team members and force the engagement of different skills.

Be an Intentional Role Model

Employees often thrive when they have an excellent boss and role model who will show them how things should be run, and explain the why behind it. I remember years ago when I worked in the packing department for Procter & Gamble’s Sure/Secret antiperspirant, my boss pulled me aside when he saw that we were dropping an occasional cap on the floor. Each cap only cost a penny and we had to throw them away if they hit the floor. What’s a penny every twenty minutes? Well, he sat down with me, did the math and that penny became thousands of dollars on a 180 cap per minute machine running 24/7/365. What a great learning experience.

Formal Training and Mentoring

Giving the successor a chance to attend specific classes, seminars, workshops and self study programs will give them a sturdy foundation upon which to grow their leadership skills. Encouraging them to find a mentor, will provide them with a guide for their development journey.

There are many other examples of ways to groom your successor that are effective AND get move the business ahead. Most are fairly inexpensive, require little time away from ‘the job’ and deliver broader benefits as other employees learn too. If you want to explore more, download our Growth & Development Planning Tools list. It has additional recommendations.

Leaving a business in the hands of someone you are not confident in is difficult, so investing in your C-Suite and beyond gives you a stronger business today and more choices on potential successors for tomorrow.

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