Succession Planning

by Martin Haworth

Step 5 – keeping your people informed

Succession planning, once up and running, can be a virtually invisible activity, running on autopilot under the radar. In the beginning, however, as you shift your style to encompass succession planning in the way you do business, you will need to engage with some, if not all, of your people to ensure that they recognise that they may be asked to get involved in some changes.

Imposed change is of concern to most people. If you fail to let your people know what is going on, your team will be vulnerable to disinformation, which can derail your succession planning progress.

If you keep people informed, on the other hand, it’s possible that you may receive some useful input to the succession planning ideas and activities you are developing.

Making the most of those around you is vital because

  • Good communication builds trust
  • You want people to be aware of what is really happening
  • Succession planning is a positive activity, with many or all of your people benefitting
  • Employees like to know what’s going on!

The benefits of good communication

By being very open with your people, you are already showing the way to create valuable relationships with them. A vital trust-builder is to be open and honest with everyone in your team, all the time.

The truth for them is that, with active succession planning in place, they will benefit significantly as individuals, as well as a team. If you make this clear to them with open and honest forms of communication, this will build their awareness and reduce the possibilities of idle (and often incorrect) speculation.

Keeping your people informed is a vital first step towards getting succession planning up and running in your team. As your succession planning activity progresses, there will be times where your communication requires one-to-one discussions with each of your people (for more, see Getting the most from one-to-ones).

For the moment, bear in mind that when you use succession planning as a regular activity, your ability to interact constructively with your people will decide whether you are able to create the most success from the opportunity. Where you have an extended team, even some people who you think might not seem to be involved early on, it is still vital to communicate well. There is nothing that fuels concern like being left in the dark, so the more you can achieve a broad level of communication at the start, the more you will set the scene for engagement and excitement down the track.

Step five activities

In general, you may consider discussing this as a one-off announcement, possibly when you have regular meetings with your team as a group.

  • Start talking about succession planning informally to your key people and get their feedback.
  • Brief everyone in the team with the positives and value from which you and they will benefit as the activity gets under way – leave no-one out, however remote they might seem to be.
  • Generate a ‘way we do things around here’ mentality that everyone buys into, doing this by the way you communicate on every level with your people, in groups and when you are one to one.

To maximise progress, you need to know every one of your people well. So, where you have close relationships already, that will often have given you the clues you need. Otherwise, you’re going to need to find out more formally, through one-to-ones.