Succession planning is defined as identification and development of potential successors for key positions in an organization, through a systematic evaluation process and training. Unlike promotion, succession planning is largely predictive in judging an individual for a position he or she might never have been in.
Reflecting on the past 26 years, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for finding work that I love; work that provides a broad view of healthcare in the US that we don’t often find working as an executive in a health system. While working in a health system was rewarding, taking care of business and putting out fires was so demanding it left little time to see the big picture on healthcare across the US and no time to consider my own succession planning.
Working with numerous healthcare executives has revealed some basic facts that get in the way of successful succession planning. Isn’t it interesting that the first seven letters of “succession” are “success”? Many healthcare executives are so focused on their daily work, their budget, their strategic plan, etc., they fail to plan ahead for that day when health, an accident, or simply the desire to slow down occurs. It’s like that old saying, “Life is what happens while we make other plans”. No matter how much we’d like to think so, we’re not invincible.
As the founder of Morgan Consulting Resources, I’ve had the good fortune to work with an amazing team for 26 years. Four years ago, it was time for me to start slowing down. Thankfully our two most senior people agreed to become Co-Managing Partners. What an excellent decision that was, not only for the company, but for me. We experienced the best four years in our history, exceeding goals each year, improving efficiency and expanding our market and services. Rosie Saenz, immediate Past President, added three excellent people to our team. Lisa Coyne, now President, significantly improved our marketing/branding footprint. Together with Donna Hulse, VP for Finance and Operations, we have the dream team in charge.
This change in leadership gave me the opportunity to step back from day-to-day management and become an individual producer, focusing on the things I do best while still being available to the new management WHEN NEEDED. Stepping back isn’t intuitive. If you’re going to stick around, be determined to let your leaders lead. The moral to this story: Yes, you can replace yourself. It’s not only your duty, but essential for the ongoing success of your organization to plan now for the day when you no longer want to be, or are able to be in charge.
My tips on succession planning whether or not you want to stick around like I did:
- Face reality – we are all replaceable, but how will your company function in the short term if something happens to you?
- Determine your own ideal exit strategy, but plan for the unexpected. You’ll sleep better.
- Surround yourself with the smartest people available. They challenge you, but they’re really fun to work with.
- Determine their trustworthiness, their integrity, and their values – identify potential leaders.
- Support them, expand their scope of authority and accountability, trust them and don’t micromanage.
- Mentor, coach and grow your team, focus on their strengths and make them stronger.
- Share critical information with your leaders and prepare them to take over in an emergency.
- A gradual, well thought out succession plan that is communicated clearly will provide peace of mind for everyone and insurance for your company.
Paula Morgan is the Founder of Morgan Consulting Resources, a healthcare executive search firm celebrating over 20 successful years in business.