Succession Planning: The ‘self’ is as important as the ‘other’


While grooming their team members to take on newer responsibilities and helping them develop newer competencies, managers should also maintain their individual learning curve to stay relevant. 

Creating a robust succession planning is always a desirable priority for any organisation. And this can only happen when leaders groom their subordinates and help them move up the ladder.

This is an interesting story of one such succession planning programme.

Mohan used to head sales for the northern region at an FMCG company. He had a large team of 20 sales professionals working under him out of which seven were direct reportees.

The team’s performance over period was consistent, because Mohan was a great leader, motivator and efficient sales person. In fact, in the last quarter, they performed significantly well surpassing all previous targets.

However, due to tough market conditions and severe competition, the company realised that it needed to change its behavioural competency framework. So, it included a new one — subordinate development.

The corporate HR team made it clear to all managers that people development will be an integral responsibility for them.

The objective was to have a succession pipeline in place as the managers moved up to more senior roles. The organisation wanted to minimise the dependence on external hires.

Like other managers, Mohan also received the notification from corporate HR.

As a competent employee, he realised the importance of this programme and immediately started acting on it. He had separate discussions with all his direct reportees and created an ‘individual development plan’ for each of them.

As an ideal mentor, he ensured that the team was equipped with the necessary skills and competencies to perform the current tasks better. He readied them for challenges in future roles too.

Throughout the year, Mohan kept close track of the progress of this programme and monitored all the checks and balances, to ensure its success.

On witnessing the efforts put in by their manager for their development, the subordinates were very motivated. Naturally, they tried to do their bit by getting updated themselves. They began reading articles and publications, watching videos, attending training workshops, and visiting seminars and workshops.

By the end of the tenure, all of Mohan’s team members were giving more than their 100 per cent to develop themselves and were eyeing Mohan’s position.

At the time of annual evaluation of the programme, Mohan was elated to note that all his direct reportees had given more than 100 per cent to make this programme a success. His team was better equipped, to perform more efficiently.

However, there was a sudden twist in the tale.

It was time for the performance evaluation of all the employees, including Mohan. He realised that he himself had hardly done anything extra. He had spent most of his time in developing his subordinates and in the process, forgotten that he was also reporting to someone. He overlooked the fact that he had to develop himself too.

It was a lesson learnt! He realised how important it was to keep moving on; to keep learning, even at an individual level, and that his learning and development had to be more than that of his subordinates.

When subordinates’ competencies start matching that of the manager, it is a sign of danger. Such a scenario indicates that the manager has to start counting his days, and may be even plan his exit.

(The author is HR Manager at Godrej and Boyce.)


  1. In this context, where Mohan;s role was to develop his team for future assignments , why he was alinated . I feel some where HR & his bosses are resposiblle in this scenerio. Why he was not given for his indidual development plan. He was responsible for his team development , who was for him….is it succsession planing…

  2. Great article and Story Vivek to illustrate your point. Truly said that the moment we stop learning and upgrading ourselves, there is going to be someone ready to take our place. Upgrading ourselves has to be a continuous process and ‘a road always under construction’ for anyone’s ascent.

  3. Dear Dinesh.
    I disagree with your point to some extent. I think it is not only the responsibility of HR to develop people. Time has come where every individual should be alert about his/her development and seek guidance from HR. HR’s role is now moved from operational execution to strategic execution.
    Correct me if I am wrong.
    let others also share their views on the same.
    Vivek Saha

  4. I have a doubt that whose responsible for Talent Retention? Is it HR or the respective Functional Heads? According to me people tend to say it is HR, but to my view it is the respective Functional Head. Hence, the Functional Head cannot outsource for Talent Retention.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong.

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Prajjal Saha is the editor and publisher of HRKatha, which he founded in 2015. With nearly 25 years of experience in business journalism, writing, and editing, he is a true industry veteran who possesses a deep understanding of all facets of business, from marketing and distribution to technology and human resources. Along with his work at HRKatha, he is also the author of the Marketing White Book. Thanks to his extensive experience and expertise, he has become a trusted source of insight and analysis for professionals across a wide range of industries.