Making Sense of a Succession Plan Shamble

Shawnee Love   •  
March 8, 2013

You have been investing time and imparting your knowledge to a key employee, grooming him to replace you one day.

You thought you had an understanding that he would be promoted into your shoes when you take your next step.

Out of the blue one morning, he walks into your office and resigns.

**IT Happens!

Aside from advising not to take it personally, here are some other suggestions for getting back on track:

Bench Strength

Although it is a bit like closing the barn door after the animals have escaped, my best advice is not to put all your eggs in one basket.  Leaving the barnyard and returning to the business, I mean you want to be building bench strength by having more than one person in your pipeline who you are grooming for progression.  To prevent unhealthy competition between these individuals you may want to have them at different stages in their growth.


There is nothing worse than being ready to play but never getting the call to step up and show what you can do.  If you have taken the time to groom some employees, you need to keep them engaged by giving them chances to practice what they have learned.  For example, give the more senior a chance to groom a more junior employee.  Let these high potential employees practice (and make mistakes) while you are still around rather than getting their first big chance once you are already trying to take a step back from the business.


Once you have people you are grooming, communicate early and often regarding learning objectives, career path, and realistic expectations around timing and money.  Of course, this communication is a two way street, meaning it is important to ask rather than tell and to ensure you are listening very carefully to what is being said and left unsaid so you can prevent future blindsides.


At least once per year, review how the grooming is going and what if anything you need to do better.  Include many people in this conversation to ensure you are tuned in to who else might be ready to enter your succession planning pipeline as well as open to other ways to communicate and delegate.

Any other ideas, we’d love to hear from you.