Coach’s Challenge for 5/24/10

Good day team,

This past week, I’ve had an opportunity to talk with many of  my business client’s about succession planning.  In short, succession planning is the process one goes through to determine who in your organization could take your place and putting a plan together to insure your replacements development. Hopefully, you’ll be able to choose someone who could not only do your job, but perhaps, do it better than you are doing it now.   When you do succession planning, you’ve managed to hire and develop someone who brings lots of commitment and talent, and as they gain competence and confidence, it becomes easier to replace yourself when the time comes.

More often than not, when I ask my clients if they have a clear successor, they often reply, “well, no, I’d have to hire someone from the outside.”  This is a sad tale for the team member who is hoping to take their bosses place. We all know what it’s like to work for many years, trying to do a good job, impress your boss, have a positive impact on the bottom line, develop your team, be reliable, responsible and competent, working nights and weekends to get that big promotion, only to find out that your boss is hiring someone in over you because they don’t think you’re strong enough to do their job.  A life’s work erased in a moment.  Nothing can kill our internal motivation faster than that.

So, if not having a good succession plan causes you to risk losing one of your best team members,  why wait so long to do this?

Years ago, while visiting Germany for the first time, I learned the importance of succession planning.  It was my first trip to Europe and we visited family friends in Munich.  One day, riding in a car on the autobahn,  our host was talking about the surrounding landscape as we looked over well manicured, verdant fields.  In the distance we could see a small forest of perfectly grown trees, all the same height and width, that looked like a bright green patch in a quilt.  As we approached, I marveled at it’s beauty.  How could trees grow with such precision?  When I inquired, our host asked if we could see the small church that stood just a few yards from the small forest. He explained, “when that church was built over 150 years ago, the local people used the trees around the site to build it.  Knowing that eventually, the beetles, or the weather, or fire,  would destroy the wood, they built that stand of trees so that they could replace the wooden beams and sides of the building when it was necessary.  To this day, they plant a new tree every time they harvest an older one to sustain the church.”

This is succession planning at it’s best.  Metaphorically, knowing that you might sooner or later be eaten by beetles, get pummeled by bad weather, or burned by fire, you plant seeds that will grow into healthy trees that can be harvested to replace you.

This week, give some serious thought to who will succeed you and start putting together a plan to do it.  We are often under the illusion that we will live forever and along with that comes the imaginary idea that we can continue to work at our current rate, with our current level of commitment and competency.  This too shall pass, and who will be there to carry on?

As my husband went out the door this morning to continue working on the outdoor fire/pizza oven he’s building, he said, “I’m going outside to continue to work on that which will outlive me.”  It made me think of our grandchildren lifting fresh cooked breads and pizzas out of the oven, feeling gratitude for their G-Pops for having thought about his successors.

Have a good week!

Kathleen

Kathleen Doyle-White
Pathfinders Coaching
(503) 296-9249

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