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.)