Got promoted? 7 Tips When Choosing a Successor

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Guest Contribution

As you get promoted, you may be asked to help to select the right person to take over when you leave.

If legacy is important to you, you’ll probably want to have time to train your successor to handle their new role just as expertly as you do now.

Here are seven ways to make the process better for everyone.

1. Make Development the Focus

All too often, leaders make the mistake of scouting out employees with the same traits and skill sets and spend less time on what potentially a successor could do. A smooth transition includes not only figuring out who can do the job as well as you but it’s also about giving them the tools they need far in advance of the time they’ll have to use them.

So, as you begin to think about finding your successor, keep in mind that their confidence and hard work aren’t enough to ready them for your role. Development training should be part of the plan, too. Many companies have made this mistake, promoting someone into a position that they certainly have earned from successes as an individual contributor or even as a manager in another team, but for which they don’t particularly have the right skill set for this next role.

So, make sure development is at the heart of your succession plan. It’s not just workplace mentoring or shadowing, although those are important methods, too. Development is all about learning leadership skills that will make the promotion into a starring role more natural. Conferences or workshops can provide training, also, and reinvigorate leaders-in-training in their current positions.

2. Choose the Right Person

The first step in the process is to find the right candidate to take over for you. You might know exactly who that person is already, and it might be someone who works closely with you or someone who is excelling in a role that’s tied closely to yours. Consider the person’s skill set and make sure they’re already knowledgeable in some of the areas you deal with on a day-to-day basis. For extra padding, you could select more than one potential successor and, through training, see who is the best fit.

3. Consider the Logistics – And Revisit Regularly

When is it a good time to start succession planning? There is not one answer here, and it is depends on how senior you are and what is talent process is. Thomas Collura, partner at Hodgson Russ, says that the biggest mistake is failure to properly plan for succession early and neglecting to revisit those plans. As the business changes, so should your plans. Be open with your successor as well so that any changes can be considered well in advance.

4. Look to the Future

You shouldn’t make your succession plan with just the present taken into consideration. Instead, it’s vital that you have a broader outlook as you sit down to determine who’s right for the role. In the short term, someone just like you could be the solution, but, in the long run, you might make a mistake. Every company’s plans and forecasts are different, but you should know the trajectory of your role before you choose the replacement person.

5. Avoid Any Bias

Whether we like it or not, there are unconscious biases that come with the hiring process. They’re deemed to be unconscious because they’re not something we do purposefully, but these tendencies can stifle workplace diversity.

Taking certain precautions can prevent yourself from falling into this trap. Some hiring managers look at resumes without considering the candidate’s names so that gender bias can’t come into play. This practice could rule out any race-related biases, too.Of course, choosing a successor might mean you’re selecting candidates you already know. In this case, practice staying open to picking a new leader who’s not exactly like you.

6. Be a Mentor

Once you’ve narrowed in on the person or people who have the potential to take over in your absence, you should provide on-the-job training as well as the leadership development mentioned above. A great way to teach someone how to do your job is to show them first-hand, and a mentoring program would allow you to do that with ease. There are more benefits to mentoring than just training a successor. It makes all employees more skilled in their roles, and it makes them feel more satisfied with the workplace because it provides them opportunities to learn and grow. So, offer the program on a broader scale, but ensure your mentees are those who you’ve earmarked as potential leaders. That way, they can learn directly from you.

7. Write It All Down

Finally, as you wind down your role and prepare to hand over the reins to your successor, do one last thing to make it all simpler — provide them with a written set of instructions. Yes, it’s old school, but it’s also extremely helpful. All of your in-person training was great, but there are always going to be critical pieces of information that are worth repeating — write those down.
Not only will this make the succession plan easier for your replacement and your company, but it will make you feel at ease about everything, too. If you’re devising the right strategy for easing the transition, you care — and you can walk away knowing that you handled it well, chose the right person and prepared them as best you could. And there’s no better feeling to have when moving forward than that.

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