A Plan for Succession

3 Minute Read

WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE. We’ve all felt the uncertainty at some point in our careers. What’s next for me? What happens if the company were to close? Who is taking over after our owner retires? There seems to be so much ambiguity and maybe even some assumptions. But it’s all speculation. Because no one is actually talking about it. It’s unclear and it’s frustrating. But you’re not alone. Companies every day struggle to put together a future picture. A plan for succession.

Not because they don’t want to. But because they haven’t thought about it, or maybe it’s an uncomfortable discussion. Or maybe there is a plan, but it hasn’t been communicated. Or worse, maybe there’s an underlying fear of being replaced if they identify a successor.

Here are some symptoms that you might see if your company is lacking a plan for succession.

Do you recognize these?

  • No one is prepared to move up into management or other key positions.
  • People talk about needing to do succession planning, but all they’re doing is talking.
  • External hires are more common than promotions.
  • Your company hires the same kind of talent you had previously to fill a position, and don’t necessarily consider the skills or experience the company may need in the future.
  • Talented employees don’t have a clear career path, or at least they don’t know about it.
  • People don’t know about growth opportunities within the company.
  • Managers spend more time on tasks versus delegating and career development.
  • When a key employee retires, the spot sits empty until someone figures out what to do with it.

“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.” And this is similar to your plan for succession.


But, what if there was another way?

An old proverb said, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago.” And this is similar to your plan for succession. Whether you like it or not, people will retire or leave. Having one or two people ready to fill key positions is a sign of a stable, high performing company. In addition, high performing companies consider where they are going and the talent and experience needed to see the company into the future. Being an employer of choice requires leaders to work purposefully on the current and future talent needs of their company.
You don’t have to be an executive to start a plan for succession. Yes, the best plans start at the top, but there are things you can do at any level in the organization to at least make sure your position or department is covered.

Have the conversation.

Employees need to have conversations with their leaders. Leaders need to have a conversation with their employees. Don’t wait for someone else to come to you. Take charge and show initiative. The more people on board, the more likely the plan will come to fruition.


Managers should start moving people around; not to frustrate them, but to give them experience in different roles. And if employees aren’t seeing action, they need to ASK for new experiences. Not only does this increase the employee’s value, but it gives them an opportunity to discover how to best use their strengths. A plan for succession requires everyone to work toward a common goal.

Write it down.

It’s not a plan if it’s only in your head. Write down what you’ve come up with. Write down what skills or experiences are needed to fill your own position. Then you can work from your plan.

Keep it going.

A plan for succession isn’t a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process, and it trickles down. Do you have someone lined up to fill your role? And what about that person’s role? Things change constantly. And people come and go. Keep your plan current.

There are many approaches to creating a system for succession planning. And sometimes it’s hard to just get started. Download our free guide or contact us to discuss your unique situation. We’re here to help!

For more in-depth information to create a succession plan, download our Step-by-Step Guide for Succession Planning.

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