As he stepped forward to the center of the make-shift stage, the audience refocused their attention away from the last participant and on to him. I found myself catching my breath wondering what he would say. We were mid-way through the final ceremony, the culmination of a three-month leadership program. The participants developed this portion of the outline, and one-by-one, stepped forward to share with the organization’s senior management and other invited guests the most important thing they would take away from the program.
As he opened his mouth, I knew from experience, and having spent the last three months in two week-long sessions working with him, that anything was possible. He was brilliant and passionate, and carried his belief and conviction like a shield. His ability to impact and move a group of people was palatable. Up to this point, he hadn’t fully realized how much power he possessed.
“What I learned has surprised me,” he said. “In the past, I’ve had a pretty negative view of organizational politics. Now I realize that for me to do what I need to do, I have to create a network of alliances. I have to think about the impact I want to make. I have to put myself in other peoples' shoes and understand what they need to get done. It is about using power for the sake of something important.”
When he spoke he connected with that part of himself that had a story to tell, and at the same time he connected with everyone in the room. It was one of those moments that made me feel tremendously proud; but not in a parental way, rather in a “oh how sweet it is to be a witness to others who are up to great things.”
This program is part of an effort to develop a pool of talent and prepare them for future leadership roles. This organization has savvy senior leadership who values and partners with the learning organization to proactively prepare for the eventual loss of a large percentage of talent in the years to come. As part of these efforts, they have identified emerging leaders, the best and brightest, and the rising stars. They may not know exactly where they fit on the career ladder yet, but they intend to do what they can to keep them around and prepare them to take a key and pivotal role.
Succession planning isn’t necessarily about slotting someone’s name in a box. It is about holding the bigger picture and setting an intention in motion for how the future will unfold.
I think we should call it “success planning."
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Deb Siverson is a seasoned executive coach, certified as a PCC through the International Coach Federation. If you want to schedule time to discuss how you or your organization can increase engagement by having a different conversation at work, contact us now.