Fast-track Your Career Advancement with the
Aid of Your Company’s Succession Planning Model

Going to the Top

“If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”

~ Abraham Maslow ~

Client Sylvia Asks: I want to get promoted.  I even see the job I’d like to get.  But I don’t know how to position myself so that I’ll be the natural choice for that promotion.

Coach Joel Answers:  Sylvia, almost every company has a succession planning model in place.  They identify the skills needed for each job.  Then they look at potential employees and evaluate them based on those essential skills.

When you understand how the succession planning model works, you can take advantage of that knowledge to help groom yourself for the next level.

1. Understand the demands of the job you want.  You can look at the job and recognize some of the skills and competencies needed.  Write them down.  Look at what the current job holder has to do.

List his duties. What kinds of responsibilities does the job have?  Next list the skills needed to do the job. Will you need great communication skills?  Good decision making skills?  Will you need to build a team, work in customer care, arbitrate, or give directions?

You do not have to create this list all by yourself.  It is likely that the company already has a list in their succession planning materials.  Discuss this with your supervisor or with HR to see what qualities they require for this job.  You might do this at your annual review or you can request a time to talk to your boss about your career advancement aspirations.

2. Evaluate where you are now and where you need to be.  Make a list of your skills and qualifications.  Review your past jobs and look at the qualities you exhibited there.

Now match them to the list of skills needed for your ideal job.  Where do you match up?  Where do you come short?

Again, you will likely want to review this with your boss. You may be surprised to find that she does not see in you all the qualifications you see in yourself.  She may also recognize competencies in you that you have not considered.

As you share with her your goals, see if you can get buy-in from her to support you in your aspirations for this job. It may be that she will add you to the organization’s succession planning model for that next position.

Even if that does not formally happen, you can still take the organization’s succession planning information to plot your own career advancement goals.

3. Obtain the needed competencies and skill sets.  Now that you have the two lists, work to make them match.  Fill in the gaps to make you the ideal candidate for the job.

You’re a step ahead because your boss knows your goals.  You can study, get coaching, and join professional organizations on your own.  But you’ll need assistance from your organization to cross train, find a mentor, or be placed on committees, teams, and task forces that will give you the skills you need.

By following the same plan the company does as they look at succession planning, you model your career advancement on this information as well. When your skills match their own standards for your dream job, you will become the natural choice to step into that position.

To define your personal succession plan and claim your next step up, contact Joel.

Talkback: Have you discussed your next step with your boss?  How has the idea of succession planning helped you focus on the skills you must first acquire?

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5 Tips for Promoting From Within

Promote from Within

“Yesterday I was a dog. Today I’m a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog. Sigh. . . There’s so little hope for advancement.”

~ Snoopy (Charles M. Schulz) ~

Jeremy had a major wake-up call while reviewing his company’s quarterly financials. It seems that his recruiting costs have skyrocketed this year. The company has never had a solid succession plan in place and Jeremy knew he and his senior managers tended to grab the phone and call a recruiting agency every time there was a vacancy. In addition to the bottom line impact, Jeremy had noticed deteriorating morale and productivity among his existing staff as well. He decided it was time to develop a different strategy.

Jeremy began to research best practices used by other companies. Details from a recent study published in the Wall Street Journal provided some startling statistics. Matthew Bidwell, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, found that external hires get paid 18% to 20% more than existing employees for doing the same job. However, external hires score worse on performance reviews during their first two years of employment. In addition, they are 61% more likely to get laid off or fired and 21% more likely to leave the company voluntarily.

When he realized what it’s costing the company not to promote from within, Jeremy brainstormed some ideas with his business coach. Then he called a meeting with his direct reports and together they came up with five action steps for a new promotion policy.

  1. Anticipate
  2. Identify
  3. Train
  4. Publicize
  5. Evaluate

1. Anticipate. Jeremy and his staff conducted a company-wide evaluation designed to show their personnel needs for the next 24 months. They considered possible growth and expansion of the company’s operations as well as existing positions where changes might be needed. With no succession plan in place, they realized that the company was putting itself at substantial risk.

2. Identify. When managers at all levels are programmed to be on the lookout for employees who offer exceptional promise, promoting from within can be seamless and virtually cost-free. Once they had discussed future open positions, the group went through their entire employee talent pool to identify people with potential to move up. They decided that in the future career paths should be discussed with employees even as early as during the hiring process. This would create a systematic path for promotion, alert management to look for promotable employees, and minimize the potential for misplaced jealousy and competition among existing staff.

3. Train. Managers met with employees who were in line for promotions to discuss possibilities. They worked one-on-one with each candidate so that people had the opportunity to give their input regarding increased time commitment that would be required, new responsibilities, and their overall career goals. Employees participated with management in expressing their skill development needs and designing their own cross-training programs. Training and mentoring programs assured existing employees that they were taking positive steps to secure their own futures. Since existing employees already understand company policies and operations, promoting from within represents a substantial cost savings when compared with the learning curve required to bring an outside hire up to speed.

 4. Publicize. Jeremy felt it was important that the whole policy be transparent from start to finish. When someone is promoted from within the ranks, it provides substantial motivation and inspiration to others as employees see that they will be rewarded for dedication and hard work. Rather than just talk about the policy informally, Jeremy and his managers formalized it in writing as part of the new-hire package used by HR. The policy was announced and discussed at an all-hands meeting and later incorporated into the employee handbook.

 5. Evaluate. Jeremy set up milestones at 12 and 24 months following the promotion policy implementation. This evaluation included three components:

  • One-on-one meetings with employees who had been promoted or were on a promotion track to discuss the program’s effectiveness and their future needs.
  • Discussions with HR staff to determine how the policy was playing to new external hires.
  • Year-over-year cost comparisons, including an evaluation of recruiting, training, and turnover expenses.

One year later Jeremy was pleased with his results. Intangibles such as employee morale and productivity had improved, and tangible cost savings were having a positive impact on his bottom line. Most of all, he felt that the increased loyalty of all his employees had created a win-win situation for all concerned.

If you don’t have a formal policy for promoting from within, or if the one you have needs a makeover, contact Joel today to discuss possibilities.

Talkback: Do you promote from within? How do your employees feel about your current career path policies? Share your ideas here.

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Q&A With Joel
Four Questions to Insure the Success of Small Business Succession Planning


“You don’t want to be forced to make leaders in hindsight when there’s a crisis. The moment you become CEO is when you need to start grooming your next CEO.”

~ Bonni DiMatteo, President, Atlantic Consultants ~

Client William asks:  I’ve built up a great business with blood, sweat and tears. Now I want to slow down a little.  I don’t know if I should turn the business over to the kids or promote my best employee.  How do I choose the best succession plan?  I don’t want a family feud.

Coach Joel Answers:  One of the hardest decisions of a small business owner is figuring out the best way for the company to continue to grow and prosper after you are out of the picture.  You are right to be concerned.   Here are some questions to help you make the best decision.

1. What is your vision?  William, what is your vision for the company?  Where to you see it going?  How do you see it getting there?

When thinking of the best leader, you want someone who buys into your vision.  Or you need to be agreeable to someone else’s vision.  Take some time to map out your plan and strategy.

Then discuss it with possible successors.  What is their reaction?  Who is most enthusiastic?

Far too often the second generation does not handle the company as well as the first. You can improve the odds with a clear vision and buy-in.

2. What is their interest?  As you look at family members, who is most interested?  When you consider your employees, who has the most respect, ownership, or concern for the smooth running of the company?

Evaluate prospective successors based on their interest, involvement and commitment. Perhaps one family member shines in execution and another is excellent in sales and marketing.  Which one is best for overall leadership?

It may be hard to be objective. Some may have a strong interest, but their skills are lacking.

However, if your successor is not fully committed to the future of the company, you will be disappointed.

3. Where is their skill level? There’s a tendency to feel that no one can do as good a job as you can.  And that might be true.  But if you’re serious about planning for your succession, you need to evaluate the skill levels and train in the weak areas.

Sometimes there’s a benefit to bringing in a non-family mentor or manager to evaluate and train your successor.  Family dynamics may make it hard to transfer needed skills and knowledge.

The neutral manager can take the emotions out of the training and ensure the correct skill sets are in place for your successor—whether family member or employee.

The coach, mentor, or manager will also be in a position to assess potential candidates in a way you cannot.

4. Are stock shares a good choice? If you determine your children are not interested or qualified for your succession planning, how pass your assets on to them?

Consider issuing stock so they can own the company without having to run the company.  You may determine if the stock will entitle them to a voice in the management or not.  Of course you’ll base this decision on their interests and abilities.

When you asses and ask these questions, it makes planning for your successor a step-by-step process instead of an overwhelming burden.

William, there are many factors in determining succession planning for your small business.   The most important thing is to start now.  Write down your vision.

Evaluate possible successors.  Starting immediately allows you time to train your replacement and ensure conflicts among possible successors are minimized.

Call to Action:

Let Joel help you assess your possible successors and establish the best candidate. Click here to connect with him.


What steps have you taken to choose the successor for your small business?  Have you been happy with the result?

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Five Fast Ways to Implement
Effective Succession Planning Procedures

handing off baton

“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.”

~ Zig Ziglar ~

Hans works for a multi-national company.  He was recently put in charge of a department where 10% of the workforce left in the next two months.  They either retired or moved to another job.  This left Hans scrambling to find appropriate replacements.

After the positions were filled, Hans vowed to never let this happen again. He created a Succession Planning Procedure.  These five steps made it easy for him to be proactive and prepared for any vacancy.

1. Identify Key Leadership Positions.  Hans identified those positions that were most critical. Which positions impacted the company’s core competencies the most?  What were the risks if those positions went vacant?  He drew up a list of vital positions.

Hans didn’t do this alone, he called in supervisors and HR to look at the job descriptions and assess them.  What is the function?  What responsibilities does this job have?  What authority?

Then Hans prioritized the leadership positions from vital to minimal impact.  “I considered the problems that would come if a job became vacant. And the learning curve for the replacement,” Hans said.

He factored in whether the current job holder was close to retirement. And he evaluated how marketable the employee was.  Did he have family or life events that made it likely he might change jobs?

2. Assess skills and qualities needed for these leadership positions.  Next in Han’s succession planning procedure, he had a Position Profile created.  What kind of education did this job need?  What level of experience?

He listed the core competencies essential to succeed in the job.  Did they need to be a team player? How vital was communication, innovation, or delegating responsibilities?

Within the Position Profile he listed the five essential competencies needed for each job along with other knowledge, skills, and desirable traits.

3. Evaluated current strength of potential leaders.  “I looked to see the depth of my bench,” Hans said. “How many employees on the sidelines are currently prepared to step into these jobs if needed?”

Hans looked over all his employees. Which ones had the skills sets necessary?  Which ones might be groomed to be able to step up to the plate?  How long would that take?  One year?  Two years? More?

Hans created a working list of possible successors for each job and added it to his procedure.

4. Designed Career Development Strategies.  Hans started working on the best prospects.   He first matched potential leaders with the job skills of the positions at greatest risk and with the highest level of company value.

He used the annual review time to discuss gaining the skills and competencies necessary to move up.  And he helped the employees set appropriate career goals.

Hans worked with his team to choose appropriate career development activities for these key employees. These included participation in vital projects, cross training, course work, working with a mentor, self-study or reading assignments, coaching, work related conferences, and leadership development programs.

“I told employees that participation in these activities was part of the company’s succession planning,” Hans said. “But I made sure they understood it did not guarantee they would be promoted.”

5. Monitored and Evaluated Strategies. Hans was determined not ever to be caught with a high priority talent gap again. He continued to monitor his succession planning procedure.  He reviewed the data on promising employees.

He requested feedback on the annual reviews and suggested monthly reviews to make sure the career development activities were producing the desired results.

“Once we made it a priority,” Hans said, “our succession plan came about quite quickly.  Already we’ve seen results.  First, we have a stronger team.”  He also felt the company would benefit with fewer vacancies, reduced time for new employees to get up to speed, and a general higher standard of workforce in his department.

Learn strategies to help you or your employees prepare to move up. Contact Joel for promotion help.

Talkback: What steps have you taken to set succession planning in place for yourself and your employees?

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Who’s Next? How to Use Succession Planning Tools

Who’s Next? How to Use Succession Planning Tools

“Why do I need succession planning? I’m very alert. I’m very vibrant. I have no intention to retire.”

~ Sheldon Adelson ~

Marshall, the CEO of a large IT firm, will turn 65 this year. Lately he’s been hearing some rather pointed comments from several of his C-level managers about “succession planning.” He’s beginning to feel rather sensitive and more than a little defensive about his age. Until one day his HR director, Maria, gives him a wake-up call that shifts his thinking.

“Look, Marshall,” Maria says. “This is not about you. It’s about the company and giving some thought to our future. There’s a book title I love—Hope Is Not a Strategy. The smart farmer hopes for sunshine but he plans for rain. That’s what we need to do—not just for your position but for all of us that our stockholders count on to keep the business running.”

After sleeping on it, Marshall gives Maria the go-ahead to come up with some tools they can use to put a succession plan in place for the company’s top-level executive and management positions. After a few weeks, she reports back to the executive committee with recommendations for a three-step process that could be implemented by almost any company.

• Evaluate your situation
• Create a talent pool
• Asses and train

1. Evaluate your situation. First, of course, the company needs to consider the key positions in its current structure. Ask yourself, “If Joe got struck by a meteor tomorrow, what would we do?” But it doesn’t stop there. You also need to look into the future and brainstorm about new challenges and opportunities that will demand new leadership.

2. Create a talent pool. Once you’ve isolated key present and future positions, see who’s there now and where holes or vacancies may exist. For each of these functions or roles, identify the core competencies, knowledge and skills they require. Then look throughout the company for potential superstars. Look for high performing and high potential employees, people who have the skills you need, or who may be overlooked or underutilized in their present positions.

3. Assess and train. Start by having two-part conversations with your high potentials and high performers. The first conversation should focus on comprehensive self-development. Find out what kinds of training they might need to prepare them for moving up. This could be anything from working with an executive coach to enrolling in an MBA program. Begin a mentoring program designed to expose high potential employees to the positions they might hold in the future.

The second conversation is designed to determine what will motivate employees to stay with you. Find out about their long-range career plans. Get their perspective on the company as it is. Find out where they think it’s headed and if they want to go along for the ride. Make sure they see the big company picture and have a clear vision of their place in it.

It took several months, but Marshall and Maria, along with the company’s other C-level managers, used these tools to develop a workable plan that they could implement in the event of both planned and unplanned vacancies in key positions.

“I think the company is on a much more solid footing now,” Marshall told Maria. “I may live to be a hundred, but just in case I don’t, I’m confident that our future is in good hands.”

If your company needs to create or update its succession plan, contact Joel to find out exactly what steps you should take.

Talkback: Do you have some succession planning strategies that have worked for you? We’d love to hear your ideas, so share your story here.

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