4 Ways To Ensure Your Successor’s Success

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.

For the last week, we’ve been talking about Building Results that Last Beyond Your Tenure, including, Building a Strong VisionEstablishing the Right Behaviors  and Encouraging Interdependency.

An important piece of this 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.

Posted in Career & Learning and tagged , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. I read a book, name escapes me, how GE grooms leaders early in their careers. They’re always looking to strengthen their bench. It’s a continuous process. It’s part of GE’s culture. This was pleasantly surprising to read.

  2. In my industry, making sure the brand of the summer camp and conference center isn’t about me as the director takes intentionality. I can’t always be the storyteller at campfire. I can’t always be the guy welcoming groups and speaking at retreats. In most organizations you can’t start using number 4, get out of the way, to early. Building a deep bench without having bench warmers is critical.

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