Planning for Succession

05.06.2020 |

Episode #8 of the course Managing your manager by Jordan Thibodeau and Joe Ternasky


“It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” —Whitney Young, Jr.


Welcome back, class.

In our last lesson, we talked about how you and your manager fit into your company’s culture. In this lesson, we will explain how you can earn a promotion by helping your manager get promoted.


Your Organization Is Constantly in Motion

In the short term, it might seem like opportunities for advancement at your company are scarce, but over the medium and long term, your company is always changing. This change naturally creates numerous opportunities for advancement for those who are most qualified. So, what you need to do to capitalize on this constant motion is position yourself as the most qualified employee to replace people who get promoted, transfer to a new department, leave for another company, retire, or, unfortunately, get let go. Regardless of the cause, your manager’s eventual departure will lead to a job opening that your company’s executives would prefer to fill with someone promising from within the organization—someone like you.

It’s valid to have a few open roles for which the company hires externally because some positions require nuanced understanding or specialized knowledge that only experience may provide. But for the majority of vacant positions within an organization, the management would prefer to promote internally or transfer a current employee who already knows the company’s processes and fits in with the company culture, as this reduces the amount of training required and allows regular operations to resume as quickly as possible.

The process of filling job openings with existing employees is usually accomplished through a process called succession planning.


Succession Planning Is Proactive

A succession plan can help make sure that open positions are not filled by just anyone off the street, but by employees who already know the company’s culture and dynamics. Succession planning also ensures that your existing workforce is of the highest caliber and is capable of performing all your company’s top-level jobs! If you hope to advance up the ranks of your organization, then you need to consider your succession plan.

Your succession plan should include your answers to the following questions:

How will your manager get promoted? As a member of your manager’s team, you are a powerful player in getting your manager promoted. Your manager’s job is to manage their team members, including you. The best thing to do is to make their job easier by being a strong team player and performing your best while consistently bringing harmony to the team. This will reflect well on both you and your manager.

When will your manager get promoted? Since you can’t read minds or see the future, it’s going to be tough to identify exactly when higher-ups might see your manager as the perfect fit for a more senior position in your company. The processes and criteria will differ from person to person and from organization to organization, so all you can do is assess how long your manager has served in their current role, how good their reputation is within your organization, and what the needs of your organization are likely to be.

Are you the obvious succession candidate? If your company engages in succession planning, then your manager won’t be promoted to a new role until there is someone to take their place. This means that you can help your manager by being an obvious candidate for advancement. If your manager has begun to trust you with bigger and bigger assignments and their manager knows they trust you and respect your abilities, then it’s likely they’ll consider you as a succession candidate.

Who is your successor? If you’re being promoted to replace your manager, your current position will obviously have to be filled. Again, there are high chances of someone from your team being asked to step up. You may be asked to nominate someone, whether a peer or one of your team members. If you have a written succession plan in place, and have been preparing your chosen successor for some time, now is the time your work pays off. By providing a qualified and well-trained person to step into your role you are making it easier for the company to promote you. We advise that you make it as easy as possible for them to do so!


To Do

Use your Managing Your Manager Journal to fill out a basic succession plan.

Now that we have explained the value of succession planning, we are ready for our final lesson: How to improve your career in just 100 days on the job.

Jordan and Joe

Managing Your Manager Teachers


Recommended book

Succession Planning That Works: The Critical Path of Leadership Development by Michael Timms


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