Succession Planning: Building your Bullpen

Like in the Major Leagues, local chapter leaders begin to assess their “bench strength” in late July – early August while they make their final push for the year and plan for the next.

In the Junior Chamber, leadership development and succession planning go hand in hand — one-year office terms mean that plans for developing the next group of leaders should be a part of your chapter’s to-do list. And like a baseball franchise, succession planning is an ongoing, long term process.

Marshall Goldsmith of the Harvard Business Review offers 4 tips to get more success and impact out of your planning efforts:

1. Change the name of the process to from Succession Planning to Succession Development.

“Plans do not develop anyone — only development experiences develop people,” writes Goldsmith. “We see many companies put more effort and attention into the planning process than they do into the development process.”

Instead of creating an elaborate plan with checkboxes, due dates, charts and graphs, Goldsmith suggests implementing a culture of development, where the process is engaging and focused on building and retaining strong leaders.

2. Measure outcomes, not process

In the Junior Chamber, there is one thing we do well: We Build Leaders. Overall planning should revolve around asking ourselves what projects and programming help provide those experiences for members.

Fortunately for us, we have several tools available to plan projects and develope leadership skills in the process, such as the Project Management Guide and Active Citizenship Framework.

3. Keep it simple.

This goes without saying… The simpler a plan is, the more likely it is to be implemented and be sustained year after year.

4. Stay realistic.

Goldsmith offers the following two examples of how succession plans may lack realism:

The head of engineering is a high performing leader who has the potential to be COO. She has always been in an engineering role. If she had sales experience, she would be even more ready to be the COO so her development plan is written to include a job move to be head of sales. However, this company would never take the risk of putting someone without sales experience in the top sales job — so her development plan perpetually says, “move to a sales job” even though that will never happen.

The CFO is a high performing leader who has passed all the assessment criteria to be a high potential, ready-now candidate for the CEO job. He is told he is the top candidate. However, the CEO can’t stand the guy, and as a result, he will never get the job as long as that CEO has a say in the matter.

Goldman notes that, “While development plans and succession charts aren’t promises, they are often communicated as such and can lead to frustration if they aren’t realistic.”

While it may seem trivial at times, leadership development guarantees a bullpen of eager and excited capable leaders, ready to step in when others age out, move up or move away.

Do you have any suggestions to share regarding succession planning? Your idea could help your fellow Jaycees – so share them! Our Facebook and Twitter pages are always open.


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