I started out too many weeks ago addressing the virtues of a senior leader making themselves unnecessary and I ran straight into a wall! My apologies but this is too important to take lightly so I took my time to untangle the issues and turns out it’s really pretty simple. There are three roles each person must assume as they progress in their career in order to orchestrate a successful succession strategy and THEY START FROM DAY ONE!
- LEAD TO DO
- LET DO
You may want to review the first three posts in this series to refresh your memory before you read on:
Sometimes the owner’s children enter employment with the expectation they will eventually own the firm. While often correct, that expectation leads them to assume they are entitled to certain authority and privileges from day one. This not the DONE phase it is the DO phase. It is obvious from day one you will eventually own the firm what is not known is if you can run the firm. So, you must do before you can “lead-to-do”. You must earn the respect of your colleagues. More important, you must LEARN the business. Consider it an apprenticeship. Assuming that you will eventually run the business you should take every opportunity to LEARN it. You should avail yourself of access to mentors (often those in the “Let Do” phase). You should attend industry conferences. If you are wise you will attend some non-industry conferences as well.
Ultimately, if qualified, successors should enter the “Lead-To-Do” phase where their attention now turns to company direction, change, strategy, management and more. Again, they should do this under the tutelage of the generation that preceded them accepting more and more responsibility from those who are entering the “Let Do” phase. They use the experience gained in the “Do” phase to address the issues of today and begin developing that “next generation.”
Finally, and this often seems the hardest, is the “Let-Do” phase. This is where becoming unnecessary finally begins to be a reality. While certainly less rigorous than the previous stages there is an expectation that you actively participate in the leadership of the firm as it applies to the wisdom and experience you have garnered. It also means you graduate to more relationship roles like community activities and, very important, mentoring the “Do” generation. Phrased in the negative this makes you increasingly unnecessary. Phrased in the positive this is about leaving a personal legacy.
For me, this concept is embodied in the stages of development expressed in this wonderful & entertaining video. It’s a little long but I don’t think you will regret the investment of time.
So, I leave you with a question:
When it is time for you to finally retire what do you want?
- A firm crippled by your absence?
- or capable, competent people who can carry on your legacy?
Whether your successor is one of your children or employees the legacy you leave tells so much about whether you loved them or yourself.