The Correct Way of Succession Planning

Identifying, harnessing and developing the right mix of employees as future leaders in your company is as much an art as science. However, there are several factors which often negatively impact this exercise.

Intuition Bias

This is perhaps the most disruptive of all politics. More often than not the top management of a company do not bother to assess people objectively; rather, they tend to rely on their intuition – about their personalities, their performance, their potential etc. The subjective opinion of a HoD is deemed pathetically to be the best judge. What’s even more discouraging is even if he assumes objectivity; past performances of an employee simply cannot be sound indicators as to how he/she will perform in a different role. For example, how can an employee in an individual contributor role such as that of an excellent sales rep be guaranteed to perform well as a team manager?

Selfishness Bias

Isn’t it so that the people in charge of spotting potential are more concerned with their own career than the other person’s? Why would you, as an HoD promote someone in your team who is a star performer and on whom you rely hugely to ease your work – if you fear that such a person might easily eclipse you, or, might move on to a different team/role? Also, if you happen to have a soft spot for such a person wouldn’t you rather he/she continue in the present role and continue reporting to you?

That’s what I mean by the politics of self-interest on part of leaders.

Avoidance Bias

At times an ineffective and weak manager may purely nominate someone from his team for a higher position simply because of weak will and to avoid perceived unpleasant conflicts. In such scenarios a typical ‘office bully’ might be recommended for a senior position by his manager who wishes to avoid conflict and is content with the way things are running in his team.

Favoritism Bias

Needless to say, at some point of time or the other we all might have inadvertently favored some employee over the other – simply because of past performances (which are completely out of context with new roles and responsibilities) or due to any other reason.

Age Bias

This can work both ways. For instance, simply because a potentially promising employee is over 40 years of age and has been a good and loyal performer over the years, doesn’t mean he cannot take on newer initiatives or technologies. On the other hand there could be several ageing employees who have stuck to your company simply because of incompetence or not being ambitious enough, who might be shoved into newer and more challenging roles based on their tenure – without taking into ambit that they are nothing better than seat warmers.

Gender Bias

Often women employees tend to quit when they reach managerial or senior managerial roles. This often could happen because of the bias many leaders hold that the top echelon can only be run by men. On the other hand you might see women employees rising rapidly through the ranks while striving and sincere and equally well performing male employees continue to slog it out at same levels for years and years until they quit in frustration.

To put things in perspective, if you as the Chairman / CEO of a company want to ensure you have a dependable and truly deserving succession team in place, better ensure that the people you involve in the process do not get into any of the above discussed political biases.




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