Succession planning – for royalty, that term means figuring out who would inherit crowns, titles, and estates. The first-born son usually determines the succession, but there’ve been some notable exceptions, too. (If you’re curious, get a quick history lesson on how Henry VII rose to be the King of England. It’s quite a story.)
You and I may not be royalty. But we non-royals also have significant assets that we pass onto others. We, too have successions that’d benefit from intentionality. Our jobs, for example.
I was speaking with my friend Bob* the other day. He’s loved his current role and the team he’s working with. But then, a “dream job” from Acme Corp crossed his desk. One that, as we spoke, he knew he couldn’t pass up. As I’ve shared before, we date jobs, not marry them. Which means we have to face the inevitable “breakup.”
Bob mentioned that one of the other candidates was someone we both knew. Someone we’ll call Jennifer, who’s part of our extended network. In many ways, Bob and Jennifer have very similar backgrounds and experiences.
A short time later, he got the job offer. Yay, Bob!
In light of this, I asked Bob if he’d refer Jennifer for his current role. He’s loved it so much. Wouldn’t he want to suggest someone great to take his place? Jennifer could be the perfect backfill for him.
Not surprisingly, there was a long pause. When I asked why the hesitation, Bob’s reply was:
- Maybe Jennifer wouldn’t want the job.
- Jennifer wasn’t him. How would he know if she had what it takes to replace him at his current company?
I’VE COACHED PEOPLE THROUGH ROLE TRANSITIONS MANY TIMES. THIS KIND OF HESITATION IS PRETTY TYPICAL. I GET IT. EVEN I HESITATED WHEN I WAS IN HIS SHOES.
But here’s the thing. We’re filtering introductions based on what we think—and forgetting that others can decide what’s right for themselves.
To put Bob on the spot a bit here, he was willing to make no succession plan over making a recommendation that he couldn’t be sure about. If I hadn’t nudged him, I’m pretty sure Bob wouldn’t have figured out a way to introduce Jennifer to his current company tactfully.
When we’re in Bob’s position, it’s easy for us to forget that who succeeds us is in our interest but isn’t ultimately our decision to make.
So why filter out someone you know well, and rule out the option of the company and candidate going through the full interview process?
SURE, IT MAY NOT WORK OUT, BUT MAYBE THIS PERSON HAS NEW IDEAS AND CAN BUILD ON THE AWESOME FOUNDATION YOU BUILT.
And shouldn’t all of us, whatever our level, be intentional about succession planning? After all, we’re talking about backfilling a role we’ve worked hard to grow and evolve. Through who we recommend, we have a shot at positively influencing what happens to it in the future. The same way a king does.
Succession planning used to have a default setting. The first boy child. #sorted
Thankfully, the modern-day workplace version of succession planning offers us way better options than that.
SO LET’S DO IT LADYBADASS STYLE, BY OFFERING UP OR BEST SUGGESTIONS AND THEN GRACIOUSLY STEPPING OUT THE WAY.
*I know, the names are ridiculous, but writing this article without breaking confidentiality AND making it readable is complicated. Just call it poetic license.