Parenting, like leadership is all about empowering and equipping people to take the lead.
As a parent, you spend your whole life training your children up to be kind, considerate, fully functional adults. And at some point, you have to step aside and trust that everything you have imparted to them has been received, internalised and that you have done everything to set them up for success. You also have to trust that all your stuff up’s will strengthen them in ways that will be helpful and productive in the future.
On the 24th of March, we had the privilege of marrying off a second son and it was a wonderful mix of celebration, pride and joy as we witnessed him stepping into a new leadership role. Now he is not only responsible for himself, but for this new wife. He went from self-leadership to co-leadership.
This process started many years ago. Succession needs to begin years before you are ready to step aside.
I am so proud to watch another son step up and to take on the role of husband and trust that they would co-lead well. My role as parent has become a willing and available advisor or coach should they need it.
This made me think about succession planning. It is something I have seen done very badly. A wise leader recently told me that succession starts 7 years from when you need it, which means often while the current leader is in their prime. It would be hard for them to stop and think about a future when they were not at the helm.
Over the years I have seen a few transitions that weren’t helpful.
• I’ve seen leaders just step away and leave it to the successor to just figure it out in a sink or swim scenario.
• I’ve seen leaders that refuse to let go and create confusion and frustration in the process.
• I’ve seen leaders pushed aside and had everything they have built smashed and dishonoured.
In all these scenarios not only did the past and future leaders suffer, but all their staff suffered too, which damaged the business as a whole.
So, I am wondering now how do we do succession better? And way before we need it, how do we build leadership in our ranks so that we have many to choose from should the time come. And not just for the lead role, are we building leadership capacity within the whole organisation?
Some things I think are vital, here are my top 3.
Set them up for success.
Think about what they need in order to step into the next role and intentionally make the time for development in it.
Let them feel the stretch.
Give them opportunities that will stretch them but be close at hand to help them figure it out.
Set their hearts and eyes ablaze.
At every opportunity vision cast a future of what could be possible and help them see themselves there. Tell them when you see the greatness in them.
One thing I learned from my mother and I did the same for the boys was to recognise and tell them when I saw greatness in them. I remember my mom’s friend once telling her off for telling me I was brilliant, she warned her that she would give me a big head. My mom turned around and looked her square in the eye and said, “The world is going to knock the snot out of her and there will be plenty of people and situations that will tell her she can’t and she is not enough, I will not be one of them. I will champion her always!” And she did! And I hope my boys (men) have felt that too.
As I looked at them on that wedding day my heart swelled with pride and I leaned into my husband and nodded to the boys, "we did good didn't we?".
Who in your company are you investing in and building capacity?