One of the processes that I followed more closely in the consulting projects that I participated in was the succession of positions. We’ve already gone through successions of presidents (whew!), dozens of commercial directors and hundreds of managers.
Each succession has its peculiarities, but over the years, accumulated experiences and also a lot of studies, I found some points that are common (and fundamental) in successful succession processes.
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Over the years, through mentoring with leaders, I have become more actively involved in the succession processes. And today I want to share some of the main points I notice in these succession management works, always moments of fundamental importance in any organization.
Companies can easily lose their way and pay dearly if they don’t know how to lead them. Executives can tarnish their careers by getting lost, even if they are talented.
My starting point will be when the successor is already chosen, otherwise, I could write an entire magazine just to talk about the selection process and the succession plan.
A warning: if the person who is successful is no longer in the company, follow these same 3 steps with the direct leader:
- Be close to who will succeed
- Disagreements must stay inside the door
- Don’t be afraid of losing your job
3 steps to make the succession of positions in the commercial area work
1. be close to who will succeed
It sounds simple, but it isn’t. It’s amazing how people get lost in this first stage of succession management.
It is common for the new manager, whether due to lack of time, discipline, anxiety or even a certain arrogance, to start moving away from the person who is being succeeded.
Or worse: wait for the other to stay close, giving tips, guiding, etc.
This is a big illusion, as it could be that the person being successful has also been promoted and is full of new tasks and activities to do. She doesn’t have time to be around.
However, remember: if this person remains with the company in a position of greater importance, keep in mind that they will always come back. Whether in a moment of falling sales or a tread on the ball by the new manager, it will come back to show that it still exists. Be ready.
The Prophecy of the Return of the Old Leader: Don’t Make This Mistake!
I’ve seen complicated situations, such as when a new leader took over the role, delivered excellent results, record revenues and profitability. But after a small slip, the former leader came back and made a big speech. He “needed” to fulfill the prophecy that the ancient leader always comes back.
The big mistake made by this new manager was to have distanced himself from the old leader. This is unforgivable.
Imagine yourself in the same situation. He worked for years in that position, created a culture of results, developed people and treated your projects as if they were children, only to later come someone, take over the role, distance himself from you and make everything fall apart.
It’s inevitable to have several thoughts at this point, such as:
- This guy is thinking he knows too much.
- Who does he think he is to do it all by himself without asking me?
- He’s not taking good care of the team I put together.
It may be that the successful one seeks to maintain contact with the team, which will possibly do everything to demonstrate how much he missed him or, worse, show how things were better when he was there.
I don’t need to go too far for you to realize the countless problems that such a scenario can generate, right?
Therefore, the number one rule of effective succession processes is, when possible, to be very close to who you are replacing.
Write down these practical and simple tips for conducting this relationship in a natural way:
- Have breakfast a few times a week together for the first few months.
- Make official meetings at least once a week.
- Spend 15 minutes for a morning alignment conversation for the first 30 days.
- Be humble, ask for an opinion and present a project before putting an idea into practice.
- Anyway, stay close and recognize the importance and legacy of who you are replacing.
2. Disagreements must stay inside the door
Even though you are close to the former leader or your direct superior, you will obviously have disagreements and will not agree on everything. From time to time, they may argue and debate harshly.
Understand and be mature to understand that this is part of the game. Companies and people grow by confronting differences and learning from them. This debate is natural and will happen as soon as the “honeymoon succession” ends, which can last a time that goes from 30 days until the first unfulfilled goal.
At these times, the important thing is that debates or discussions take place from the door of a room inside. Differences cannot reach the team, as this will allow people to start taking sides, which will not do anyone any good. So hold back.
If you are the leader who was succeeded, I make a very important request here: don’t be clumsy measuring the group’s temperature with the new leader.
Organizational weather research
Nothing is more exhausting than that. If you want to know how the team is doing, do a formal organizational climate survey via HR. Otherwise, it will set very complicated precedents within the team.
I have witnessed excellent new leaders who could not resist political movements that were formed by the presence of the old leader on the team. I know this is complicated to ask, after all, many friends stayed there, but it is extremely important.
Often, for example, the new leader travels and the old one gets closer to the group in order to keep everything in order. The intention may even be good, but the result is, most of the time, bad.
I always suggest that the apparitions of the former leader be accompanied by the current one. This reinforces their power and sends a clear signal to the team that there is unity of leadership, which is healthy for everyone.
During succession management, knowing some leadership tips always helps, so check out these from Site ware:
3. Don’t be afraid of losing your job
Whoever is promoted goes through a very big attachment process. It’s usually the opportunity a person has been waiting for, which can end up creating tension that makes them very political.
In tennis, we say that when it comes to important points, weak tennis players emotionally pull back. That’s more or less what happens to the new leader.
Remember that nobody promoted you because you are a “banana” and insecure, but because you take a stand in meetings, present good ideas and projects, perform well and accept to take risks.
I’m going to cite here a case that happened in a consulting project recently. We hired a new commercial manager for a company in which the president was also commercial director.
I already knew that person from my social network. She was never very aggressive, but in that case, it was better to be like that, someone structured, principled, firm and confident to achieve results.
He was going to succeed the president only in the role of commercial director. The challenge was great: if I arrived “with my foot in the door” or had a stronger temper, it would be very complicated.
Hiring done, the new manager came in and began to recognize the structure. Two, three months passed and what was supposed to be a recognition of the structure became a question, as there was a power vacuum.
He had made virtually no major decisions or taken any effective action so far.
I confess that I didn’t know about his more chatty profile, but regardless, too much time had passed. The other managers started to question, the subordinates went back to interacting directly with the old leader, who, of course, kept the doors open – after all, it was his company.
The outcome of this succession management
One day in the fourth month, I left for the client, ready to admit my mistake in the referral, but willing to give it one last try. I held a meeting with the president and the new director and fired off a battery of questions.
At the beginning, I asked how things were going and what the actions would be in the next 30 days.
The new manager began to explain that three people would need to be changed (one of them close to the former leader) because they weren’t hitting targets regularly, didn’t accept feedback, and were compromising the rest of the team.
In addition, he suggested some changes in the discount model, aiming at margin recovery and questioned the president if this would be the time for this or if he preferred to follow a policy of selling more with a smaller margin due to the moment of tension than the market lived.
He also recommended area changes for two managers (there were three “below” him) because he thought the team was comfortable.
I sighed in relief.
The president did not like some considerations, they discussed some points and the meeting was adjourned. Then the president and former commercial director called me and said:
– Caetano, I’m relieved. I had a feeling he was getting ready to hang gliding, but I didn’t have the heart to get off the ground. Now that he has jumped, I know that I will have other challenges and that I will have to watch closely, but at least I will have something to control.
“Me too,” I confessed.
I mention this case because I’ve seen many people fail in the succession of positions in the commercial area more because they don’t want to take risks than because they take risks.
Get your hang glider ready and jump. Flying can be the safest place. As Fernando Pessoa said: “Boats are not made to stay in the port.”
These are the three basic points of the succession process. There are several others, but if you don’t get these three wrong, you’ll have a great chance of getting it right. That is:
- Stay close to who is succeeding.
- Align door issues inward.