Dave Conrad: Grow future leaders for success

Dear Dave:My company does a poor job of preparing people for leadership. People get rushed into jobs they are not prepared for and we often hire outside leaders, who do not know the company and, often, not what they are doing. Any advice? -- M

Dear M:Good question! Let me first say that, just as there are many managers who cannot lead, there are many leaders who cannot manage. Companies must groom managers as leaders -- those who can get things done and also can lead and inspire his or her employees.

Defined, succession planning is a process for identifying and developing internal people with the potential to fill key business leadership positions in the company. Succession planning increases the availability of experienced and capable employees that are prepared to assume these roles as they become available.

The process of grooming new leaders for an organization is one that is done extremely well in some organizations and quite poorly, or not at all, in others. Succession planning should be a natural progression of training and developing for the next generation of leaders in an organization. Often the process is flawed either out of neglect, misunderstanding or poor handling.

Succession planning is mandatory and some companies recruit and hire superior employees, develop their knowledge, skills and abilities, and prepare them for advancement or promotion into ever more challenging roles.


Conversely, many companies believe their next generation talent is right under their roof – these companies probe their current talent pool and create a development plan for the resident stars. I believe you can do both – recruit outside talent and develop internal talent.

Because an organization expands, loses key employees, provides promotional opportunities, and increases sales, succession planning guarantees that the company has capable employees on hand, ready and waiting to fill new roles. The process should be developed and on the forefront of planning, instead of something managers think about only when someone is getting ready to retire or says, "Adios."

It's important to note that a succession planning process will also help a company retain superior employees, because these employees appreciate the time, attention, and development that the company is investing in them. Employees are motivated and engaged when they can see a career path for their continued growth and development.

Finally, I believe the need for effective succession planning increases at the higher, executive levels in any organization. With higher level managers, the skills needed are more critical and selection, as well as preparation, is much more demanding.

Good succession planning takes a lot of time and energy. William Rothwell, of Penn State University, is one of the recognized experts in succession planning. He provides a few key steps that need to be included in any succession planning process:

1.Clarify expectations for succession.

2.Establish competency models and measures.

3.Identify those with the potential to assume greater responsibility in the organization.


4.Conduct individual assessments and assess individual potential.

5.Institute individual development plans.

6.Establish accountability for making the system work.

7.Evaluate the results.

A caution: While development plans and succession methods aren't promises, they are often communicated as such and can lead to frustration if they aren't realistic. Only give the promise of succession if there is a realistic chance of it happening.

I believe succession is a fundamental leadership process, because the highest calling for any leader is to grow the next generation of leaders.

Contact Dave Conrad with questions or comments at . Conrad is a professor at Augsburg College and directs the school's MBA program in Rochester.

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