planning for your successor - two men on blocks - succession planning

Last year, API’s Sheryl Barden published an insightful, 8-step guide on the importance of planning for your successor.

Its aim was to get the ball rolling so you can begin a formative plan to prepare successors for higher-level, “graduated” roles in your aviation organization.

I’d like to turn again to this critical topic, and address some of the issues related to succession planning. This time with a tighter focus on planning a replacement for YOUR OWN POSITION, and why it’s so important both for you and your flight department.

First of all, it should come as no surprise that succession planning helps protect your flight department. Why? Because it ensures a smooth, relatively seamless transition from one leader—yourself or someone else—to the next.

Another NBAA article quoted Sheryl Barden, who emphasized the importance of finding succession candidates from inside your company as a means of, as she said, “investing in your people.”

“It provides continuity of culture, values and institutional knowledge,” she added.

But it’s also a given that, as a manager, planning for your own successor is a big responsibility.


Filling your Shoes

I know what you’re thinking.

It might seem somewhat counter-intuitive to start prepping someone to fill your shoes—especially if you’re content with your current position.

There’s a territory issue at hand.

You might wonder how someone could ever manage to take over what you’ve spent a lot of blood, sweat and tears building. Or you might not really want to think about what it means to leave your job.

Or perhaps you just don’t want to spend the time on something right now that’s not on the immediate horizon.

But trust me, doing the work to develop a succession plan and then executing it can benefit you and your organization in some unlikely ways.

For one thing, it can positively affect your own career movement. If the leaders of your company realize that you have a well-trained and qualified successor ready and waiting in the wings to take your position, it might encourage them to move more quickly to advance you into that meaty new position you’ve been eyeing as your next step.

And another positive: if you’re actively grooming someone to who can readily step into your role, it demonstrates to leadership a high level of confidence and maturity on your part.


6 Preparatory Steps to Planning for your Successor

Here’s a checklist of six items to consider and tick off as you get underway finding and readying the next employee in the chain of succession for your job:


1.  Create a job description

Start with your own job description, but expand on it by adding all the nuances that you’ve observed in the course of performing your job, adding in the soft skills a successor might need and the extra little tips that you think will aid someone functioning in your position.


2.  Train incrementally

Don’t think of successor training as a single “knowledge dump.” Develop a strategy with a timetable and give it the time to work.

For example, give a potential successor broad responsibility on projects but do it piecemeal, in increments, both for more effective training and to test their readiness in stages.

And reach out to tap other resources; if your company happens to have a formal training program, for instance, make use of your training department.


3.  Create milestones

As part of the incremental training mentioned above, create a set of “milestones for readiness” to give everyone a heads up when a likely successor for your job is ready.

And don’t forget to design your succession plan such that it complements your organization’s overall strategic plan.


4.  Don’t clone yourself

It might be natural to gravitate toward someone just like you—but try and resist the impulse! Will having “another you” help your organization reach new heights?

Think about it: organizations need different leadership styles at different times in their business life cycle.


5.  Communicate your intentions

Don’t let an upcoming transition catch your team unawares; let them know—gradually—what’s coming down the pike.

Communicate with your team what you have in mind and help set their expectations. Have your replacement shadow you, and introduce him or her to other managers and team members.


6.  Finally, give your successor some space

Don’t take it personally if he or she doesn’t consult with you as frequently as you expect, or goes about his or her preparation a little differently than you thought. After all, they’re trying to establish themselves in the job. Some people feel the best way to start a new position is to chart their own course.


Your Turn

Regardless if you’re eyeing a new leadership position in your company or not, if you have some ideas about creating a succession plan for yourself, we’d love to hear from you! Please use the comments field below to share your experiences.


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