Posts Tagged Succession Planning
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, half of senior outside hires fail within 18 months. This can occur for many reasons, but one of the most prevalent is the newly hired leader not understanding, respecting, or practicing the organization’s procedures. It is critically important for any new manager to begin from a place of acknowledgment before starting a dialogue around change. Otherwise, organizations just reject the person and their outside ideas even though the new ideas could improve agency mission.
So, what will work to ensure the success of a new manager and the continued delivery of services in the interest of public service? Here are some best practices for new managers—and their leaders—to consider.
- Provide Opportunities for Early Wins. This is not specifically about implementing change or achieving a specific outcome. Instead, an early win should address the new manager’s fit with the agency and reinforce that the agency made the right decision. This helps the team settle in.
- Model Effective Meeting Management. Meetings can often amount to lost opportunities if not well managed. On the other hand, with a well crafted agenda and the appropriate attendees, meetings can be the perfect forum in which to dialogue on tough issues, discuss breakthrough ideas, and build team cohesion through active listening and participation.
- Help with Conflict Resolution. Because conflict is inevitable in any workplace, it is important for a new manager to understand the organization’s existing process for conflict resolution. For example, are conflicts openly discussed? Is it common to bring a third party into the process to provide an independent view? Or are conflicts generally ignored? Once the new manager understands the norm, they can deal with conflict appropriately—or, if no real process exists, they could begin laying the groundwork for a new process by preparing an outline that includes change rationale.
- Learn from a Pro. A very useful and often overlooked assimilation technique is for a manager who had previously held the same role to share their insights with the new manager. This individual can offer a perspective that is usually void of personal agenda; therefore, there is a good likelihood they will provide quality feedback.
This list is designed to be a thought starter. What would you add for leaders in public agencies? Share your thoughts in the comments section, and I will include them in my next post.
Transitioning to a new agency, a new branch, or a new role requires some homework to learn, understand, and appreciate rules and workflow. By anticipating the questions and challenges new managers may have around policy and process, you can help them get off to the best start possible.
Succession planning is usually very low on the list of agency priorities until a reminder like Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent bicycle accident occurs. When an influential senior leader is sidelined for even a short time it reminds everyone, “Who is ready to step up and continue the mission?”
A succession planning process is an essential strategy that involves assessment, development, and communication. An agency without a succession plan runs the risk of not being able to fulfill its mission.
So, what does an effective succession planning process look like?
Assessment: Succession planning starts with a determination of positions that should be included in the plan. Plans should also identify talent within—but also outside of internal leadership circles. Specialized skill requirements might make it necessary to identify and recruit talent from outside the agency and/or government.
Development: Identify where skill gaps exist and the degree of knowledge acquisition required to perform a future role. Many agencies are now using phased retirement programs that emphasize and enable knowledge transfer. The phased process allows for incumbents to smoothly prepare for retirement rather than come to an unexpected and sudden exit.
Communication: A final important element of the succession process is to develop a plan for communicating the strategy throughout the agency. In the absence of this information, high-potential candidates could unexpectedly exit the agency to pursue desired career advancement opportunities elsewhere—not knowing that a career path strategy has been defined.
Succession planning plays an important role in ensuring business continuity and the uninterrupted execution of an agency’s mission. Plans are always better when people have the time to think them through. The same is true when it comes to identifying and developing a next generation of leadership. Get started today!
About The Ken Blanchard Companies
The Ken Blanchard Company specializes in helping agencies assess, understand, and address talent and developmental gaps. To learn more visit The Ken Blanchard Companies government solutions homepage.
Young, bright, capable, eager—these words describe many people, but especially individuals with about ten years of government service, aged in the low to mid 30s and likely in a GS 11-13 role. Management and leadership development theorists would identify this group as Millennials.
While this group of future leaders is especially well prepared academically, this does not necessarily ensure readiness to lead others in the mission of public service. Skills such as motivating others, addressing conflict, developing teams, building trust, providing extraordinary service, anticipating policy changes, and assigning tasks are typically not included in undergraduate or graduate degree programs.
Are your leaders ready?
Agencies considering the development of future leaders need to begin with an assessment of competencies that will be required to lead the government over the next five years. This process is not costly; however, the cost of not doing this type of assessment can be detrimental to preparing the next generation of leaders.
Once identified, core skills must be taught, reviewed, reinforced, and mastered. For example:
- Delegation – Multiplying oneself by successfully assigning projects to others in a way that creates commitment, ownership, accountability, and engagement.
- Motivation – Learning various methods for motivating others to maintain energy for and commitment to the mission.
- Conflict – Knowing how to spot and address conflict to ensure continued focus on necessary outcomes.
- Measurement – Developing performance metrics to measure output and productivity.
- Management – Providing encouragement for assignment completion and taking corrective action when the assignment is not on the proper path.
It’s necessary to be mindful that leadership is by definition a dynamic topic. In this context, leadership is situational and future leaders must learn to evaluate the readiness of their teams to engage in tasks and be ready for change. Specifically, a leadership technique that works for one situation cannot necessarily be applied to the next, even if the circumstances appear to be similar. The situational nature of leadership requires a commitment to continuous learning and practice.
Making the Transition
The development of leadership capacity is more important than ever given the dynamic, fast-paced, and unpredictable world we live in.
While ambition, desire, and commitment are necessary ingredients for evolving leadership responsibilities; a range of topics needs to be addressed, learned, and applied. If we are mindful of this, our future will be bright and led by a group of well developed and ready individuals.
Just before my 24th birthday, I landed what I thought would be a great government job. My boss was a long time public servant. She had worked hard for the government for her entire career and was proud of her service. I quickly learned that she believed in traditions, in doing things by the book, and that I should always take notes. I thought she was a dinosaur who would never hear my exciting new ideas.
On my first day, she had me begin printing out the Federal Acquisitions Regulation or FAR. The FAR is a document that spells out the rules for government purchasing and payment. It is more than 2,000 pages long and filled about twenty, four inch binders that I stored in two large file cabinet drawers. My next task was to look up specific regulations that would be important to my work. I quickly logged onto Google, found the correct parts and read all about them. I never cracked open those binders again in the nearly three years I worked there.
As wasteful and time consuming as the exercise was, I did learn a few things from it:
- There are a lot of rules for spending government money.
- Google makes it easy to look up any part, subpart, or subchapter of the FAR, if you know what to look for.
- Printing, hole punching, and filing a 2,000 page document by hand takes a very long time.
- Most importantly, I learned that some bosses are more focused on keeping things from changing than they are on helping their people learn, grow, and succeed but even they have valuable knowledge to share.
I had heard jokes about government employees and the paperwork involved in government work. I expected some of it but was shocked by the deeply ingrained need for adherence to tradition and unwillingness to change that I saw. Though not universal, this reluctance to encourage or even accept growth and change is particularly damaging to the public sector because if the next generation cannot pick out the useful wisdom, it will be discarded with the outdated traditions.
In order for an organization to maintain knowledge gathered over the course of a career, it is necessary to pass it on to the next generation of government leaders. If the current leaders fear the change, new ideas and ways of the next generation, that knowledge will get lost in translation. Likewise, if the new generation of leaders is unable to see past the old and outdated traditions of the outgoing leaders, they will not have the benefit of those lessons already learned.
If you have a boss who seems like a dinosaur, try to ignore the outdated ways and look for the meaning behind them. My boss insisted that I always bring a notebook when I met with her. I knew I could remember the majority of what she told me and figure out the rest. But showing up with that notebook was what she needed to trust that I was listening to her. By playing the game I was able to learn a lot from her in the end. Had I made the choice to dig in my heals and refuse to go along, I would have missed out on wisdom that I still use in my career today.
If you are a boss who struggles with the new generation, be careful to remember that the new ideas and ways of doing things that they are so excited about will be the foundation of your organization’s future. Try to encourage and direct those ideas to give them the best chance for success. The new generation may not have your experience but their enthusiasm is valuable. Along with your accumulated knowledge that enthusiasm might just make a critical difference you could never have seen and the impact of your encouragement could be felt for generations.
What advice do you have for passing down or receiving wisdom and traditions?