March 7, 2017

Passing the Baton

The lasting legacy a good leader leaves behind is a solid, dependable successor. Yet most are so focused on the job at hand that they put little forethought into what their transition will look like. This is a common mistake. Transition involves uncertainty, and the temptation is to avoid it and assume all will “work itself out” accordingly when the time comes.

As leaders, our calling is to steward the most precious resource the world has to offer: our people. And what we learn over the years is that relationships don’t wait. At any moment, we are either enriching and building them or losing them.

The largest part of making a good transition from a key leadership role is trust. If you don’t have people’s trust, you don’t have much, and neither will the leader stepping into your shoes. So how do we remedy this problem? With a good process and plan.

Here are five things to consider before finding someone to fill your shoes: 

1. Expect hardship. It is understandably difficult for a leader to pass along a position of power and authority they’ve earned through years of hard work. It is also difficult for the new leader to acclimate to the pressures of fulfilling the success of their predecessor. New leaders typically do not understand the full significance of the mantel of leadership they are undertaking and wonder in the back of their mind if they can “make it happen”.

2. Make a plan. Put an official succession plan into motion ahead of time with specific metrics and timelines to help balance expectations and needs. Inform the team of the plan and begin driving the plan before the leadership transition occurs.

3. Invite feedback. Once the initiating leader is crystal clear on the succession plan, invite feedback through regular discussions with active listening to ensure everyone is being heard. This ensures mutual success and ownership of the plan.

4. Provide training. Never expect a new leader to “catch the vision” via osmosis. Show them how. Include them in the culture of the team and demonstrate how to navigate their new role. Be engaged in actively training and passing on loyalty to the staff and key clients.

5. Grant permission. The leader transitioning from their role has a special responsibility to acclimate the new leader to their roles and responsibilities while granting freedom and permission to make it their own. New and different isn’t always negative! Allow your successor to make key decisions and initiate new policy and procedures while you support them. Essentially this means you are installing them with support and affirmation before you leave to ensure the greatest probability for sustainable success.

To your excellence in finishing well,

Coach Greg