The press loves to talk about Succession Planning for CEO’s. You can’t blame them. Countless number of companies have been burned with the wrong CEO selection. Apple’s stock fluctuates daily based on the latest rumors about the health of Steve Jobs and his succession planning. But despite all this talk at the top, little attention seems to be paid to succession planning for the lower-levels of an organization. The thing is:
Training your successor is one of the most important jobs of a Brand Manager
In three weeks, I’ll be moving to my new Brand Manager assignment as P&G’s Digital Brand Strategist. So the topic of succession planning has been on my mind a lot. It is not an easy topic though. After all, once you have a new job/assignment lined up, your mind automatically starts thinking about the new opportunities. It’s simple human nature. And when you pile on the fact that new jobs often come with all the headaches of relocation, it makes it tough to put the right time, effort and thought into planning for the new guy/gal (we call it your “backfill” at P&G) who is going to be taking your place.
5 Steps for Succession Planning
But a good Brand Manager can’t use that as an excuse. Instead, you should try these steps for Succession Planning with your backfill:
- Build in time where you can work together: You would think this would be a common sense one, but I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen people move to new assignments before their backfill is even decided, much less moved into the role. In order to properly train the person who is going to be taking your job, you need to spend time together. This can’t just be a couple of hours on the phone or even a day in person. You need to build in several weeks where you can work side-by-side.
- Set-up a calendar in advance of the people they need to meet: The biggest help you can give the new person is setting up meetings for them with their key business partners (both at your company and at your external partners). It is tough to get on someone’s calendar. It is even tougher when you are new and don’t even know whose calendar you should be getting on. Help your backfill out by starting to plan for them a couple weeks in advance. Send out invitations to all their key counterparts and arrange 30 to 60 minutes with those people during their first 2 weeks on the job.
- Build in time for fun: Moving into a new role is tough…but joining a new team is even tougher. When we get comfortable with a team, we start taking for granted that we have people to head to lunch with or grab a beer after work with. Your backfill does not know the social circles of the workplace so its your job to make it easy for them. Set-up a welcome lunch for them the first day they are in the office. Hell, set-up lunches for them the first week they are there. You can even combine it with point #2 above so they get to know the people they are working with. You should also set-up a Happy Hour for their first week. I for one have always found it easier to get to know your co-workers over a few beers instead of around a conference room table.
- Find ways to ease them into the job: Training your backfill should not just start the first day they arrive in the office. If it does, you will already be starting from behind. Instead, you should try to ease them into the job. Start to copy them on important e-mails. Send them documents that would be good to read in advance (especially those really lengthy ones). But be respectful. Chances are they are finishing up their current job (and probably training their own backfill) so don’t overload them. Just think about the stuff you would have liked to have known before you started the job.
- Don’t make them feel like a replacement: When training your backfill, it is easy to use phrases like “this is what I think” or “this is how I would do it.” And it is just as easy to introduce the person “as the new me.” That is the wrong way to do it. You can’t make the person feel like they are merely filling your shoes. They are the one in the job now, not you. Let them feel like their own person. And make sure your co-workers do the same. Once your backfill is on the job and you are transitioning, don’t let people come to you for answers. If you do, the person is never going to feel like the job is really theirs until you leave. Empower them to shape the job in their vision. This doesn’t mean you just turn over the job and refuse to answer questions. But let them decide what type of questions they need your help on.
Setting up the right plan for training your backfill is no easy thing to do. But it is something that every Brand Manager needs to do in order to help the business run as smoothly as possible.