The same mentor who jokingly told Karin that if you want people to think you’re a rock star “always follow an idiot” also smiled and said, “and always leave an idiot as your successor.” Not the best advice – but leadership transitions are often rocky.
It’s a terrible feeling to watch hard work unravel and progress backslide when the new guy takes over. You can tell a great leader by what happens after they walk away—that’s when the investment in people and processes really pays off.
So how do you ensure your successor’s success?
7 Ways to Help Your Successor Succeed
Start Before It’s Time to Go
It starts early. Once you’ve decided to move on, it’s too late. Lay the foundation for a remarkable transition from your first month in a new role.
1. Build a Strong, Interdependent Team
Your successor will have the greatest chance of success if the team doesn’t immediately need them to survive the day-to-day. Give your team opportunities to work together—without you—so they learn to rely on, and leverage, one another’s strengths.
2. 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. When it comes to succession planning, the big mistake we see consistently is that leaders focus on developing only one protegé. That’s risky. Instead of thinking in terms of “grooming your replacement,” focus on building an entire farm team.
3. Resist the Urge to Develop “Mini Me’s”
It’s like that old Monty Python line, “And now for something completely different.” It is likely that what your team needs most after you leave is not more of you. As you’re doing your succession planning, consider what kind of leader would most challenge the team next and be sure you’re developing diverse talent.
4. 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 explain how you navigate.
And … As You’re Transitioning To Your New Role
5. Finish Strong
It’s easy to get immediately sucked into your next role and lose focus. While you’re bringing your backfill up to speed, be sure you’re not letting any balls drop that will create early fire drills or unnecessary frustration.
6. Help Them Build Their Network
You know who you rely on to get things done, up, down and sideways. It took time to build that. How can you shorten their networking curve, and introduce them to the key players who will be critical to their success? Be sure they know about any landmines you learned about the hard way.
7. Get Out of the Way
Do everything you can to leave your successor anything they may need in an organized and easy to follow-way. And then, get out-of-the-way. Offer to 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.
What would you add? What are the best ways to ensure your successor’s success?