The same mentor that jokingly told me, “always follow an idiot” also smiled and said, “and always leave an idiot as your successor.”
I’ve seen it go both ways. It’s painful to watch your team’s hard work unravel.
An important piece of his puzzle, is leaving a remarkable successor.
4 Ways to Ensure Your Successor’s Success
This process starts early. Once you are ready to leave, it’s too late to search. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
Build a Deep Bench
Surround yourself with rock stars. Go find them in other areas of the business and recruit them to your team. Invest substantial time each week working on leadership development. Mentor, teach, have them subscribe to Let’s Grow Leaders ;-) The biggest mistake I see here is that leaders focus on developing one protegé. Timing might not work out. If you are doing it right, others will come knocking looking to recruit her before you are ready. Work on building an entire farm team.
Lead with Transparency
The last thing you want your successor to say is, “I had no idea your job was like this.” Share what you can with your team. Help them understand the deeper challenges you face and how you approach them. Expose them to some of the politics and how you navigate.
Consider What’s Needed Most
My favorite Monte Python saying is, “and now for something completely different.” It is likely that what your team needs most after you leave is not more of you. They’ve had that. When choosing a successor consider what the team really needs most. What has changed in the business environment? What kind of leader would most challenge the team at this stage of their development?
Get Out of the Way
Yes, you must transfer knowledge. Do everything you can to leave your successor anything they may need in an organized and easy to follow-way. Keep lists, contacts, and how toos.. in case they want to use them. And then, get out-of-the-way. Offer to always be available, but stop checking in. Whatever you do, don’t hang around offering commentary to your old team. The new leader needs to make her mark in her way. She doesn’t need to worry about what you are thinking or saying.