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  • Writer's pictureTerry Dockery


The two remaining partners waffle from wistful to worse in the woebegone watering hole. One slurs, “Geez, who’d have thought this could really happen? This is like the punch line to a really bad joke. Why only yesterday he was sitting here with us agreeing about how we need an exit plan to fund our retirement. Not only was he the only Managing Partner we’ve ever had, but he brought in 80% of our new business every year. Man, if I could get my hands on that guy who was driving that beer truck so fast on our street!” They grab their guitars from behind a large potted plant, the camera pulls back to a high wide shot, and they spontaneously belt the baleful blues…

“No planning in the morning,’

No planning late at night,

Now I’m gonna lose my shirt

‘Cause I didn’t get it right.

I’ve got the succession planning blues,

Nobody did I choose,

To run things when I’m gone,

So these blues keep playing on…(oh, baby).”

So, have you thought about your future and that of your organization? What is your exit plan for your retirement years? Have you developed the leadership, management, and/or business development skills of the people who will run the business after you’ve left? This applies to you corporate folks as well. Who’s going to lead the business and maintain or grow your competitive advantage when you step down?

It goes like this. Do your planning now and you’ll have lots of positive options when the time comes to move on (willingly or not). Don’t do your planning and you can find yourself without all the choices you’d like to have later on. Even if the long term plan is to sell the organization, it’ll be worth a lot more with strong leaders in place.

Here’s a template for successful succession planning:

Step 1a: Assess your up-and-comers.

  • Do you have the right people in place with the potential to lead your organization into the future?

  • If “yes,” then go directly to Step 2.

  • If “no,” then go to Step 1b.

Step 1b: Recruit “A” players as needed.

  • Don’t waste your training and development dollars on losing causes; i.e. “trying to get blood from a turnip” (family businesses pay special attention to this one).

Step 2: Create developmental plans for your up-and-comers.

  • Include training, mentoring, and developmental assignments as needed.

Step 3: Delegate responsibility and authority early and often.

  • Allow your up-and-comers the latitude to innovate, make mistakes, and learn from them.

  • Do this now while you’re around to advise them and shorten their learning curve.


Technique #1: Plan for your exit from your organization; don’t leave it to chance (resist the temptation to believe you will live and work forever).

Technique #2: Have strong successors in place; recruit “A” players as necessary.

Technique #3: Develop your next generation of leaders through training, mentoring, and developmental assignments.

Technique #4: Give your up-and-comers responsibility and authority to make mistakes and learn while you’re around to advise them (control freaks need not apply for this role).

Copyright Terry "Doc" Dockery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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