The common alternate reference for succession planning is “working myself out of a job”. I’m not a big fan of either of these labels. I think they both give a negative context/perspective on a really good intention.
Let’s start with the really good intention: you want to help someone grow. you want to help someone take on additional challenges. you want to help someone be successful AWESOME!
Here’s where my issue comes in…who’s to say the best place to do all of that is in your current job? Why limit someone to your job?
Now one could argue that’s the only next step; I say maybe that’s true at your company but what if they person decides to go somewhere else. You could argue that the person wants your job; I say great, but I’m going to focus on skills that you need to grow for my job as well as potentially other jobs. I don’t want you to box yourself into a corner. I want you to have skills that now give you additional choices not an additional choice.
Essentially, I don’t focus on helping someone get a job. I focus on helping someone grow. Then they are pulled into opportunities and jobs that they didn’t even know could exist.
Let’s also discuss the other side of this… let’s first take the slightly more positive angle. I can’t move on to other challenges unless I grow someone into doing my job. You should want challenges. However, this mindset often leads to dismissing the job that you currently have as “beneath you”. Who wants to grow into a job that the current owner doesn’t find valuable? It’s self-motivated and will often result in less then stellar coaching. If they make a mistake, then it implies you can’t move on yet.
And despite not wanting to always admit it, there is a fear of “I can’t work myself out of a job”. This hasn’t been my experience at all. The more I demonstrate that I can help people grow, the more value I represent to the company. New opportunities will present and if not, I remain marketable to other companies.
I’m proud that I’ve had numerous direct reports that I believe could do my job. I’m even prouder that they have chosen a variety of paths.
So I say don’t focus on succession planning unless your in a key role of the company where you need to name a specific person in case of certain events. Instead, focus on growing people period. If and when the time comes to name someone in your role, you will want to decide then who would make the best candidate.
Do you have a succession plan that is limiting growth (for them and/or you)?