Getting Here From There, and There From Here.
In my work as an executive coach, career counselor, and business consultant, I often work with clients that are stuck in their business planning. Simply, they are unsure how to move forward.
This is true whether they are looking to advance their career, are considering going back to school or pursue a graduate degree, or identifying opportunities to change direction in leading the organizations they created or work in.
One strategy that I employ when I work with a client is to take a step back and revisit their past.
Call it hitting the “PAUSE” button, if you like.
We revisit how they arrived at the point in time in their careers that they currently find themselves stuck in.
Specifically, we identify the strategies they used in the past that worked for them. We revisit their career/professional goals, or the business plans they created when they launched their business. The driving force behind this effort to revisit the past is to see what goals they still have not achieved, and (equally important) to identify the goals they set in the past that are no longer relevant to their future plans.
Additionally, we look to see if their own personal life goals, ethics and values have changed over time. Changing values lead to changing aspirations, hopes, dreams…and GOALS! It’s akin to re-visiting your life insurance policy, health insurance, or your tax filing status. Your life changes over time. So should your plans.
Once you complete that look back, it’s time to look ahead over the horizon.
This is one part visualization, another strategic planning. Ask yourself where you see yourself in the next 2 or 3 years. Some call this document an action plan, career road map, or visual cue board. No matter the title, the key point in this looking forward exercise is, you MUST write your plan down.
Because…a plan that is NOT written down is NOT a plan at all. It’s a dream.
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself looking down the rabbit hole…
Once you document your short term goals, it’s an empowering process to identify the following:
1.) Measurable Tasks to Achieve: In order to set realistic goals, they have to be quantifiable, so you have to use numbers to tell a story. (ex. in next 3-4 months complete my 2015 marketing plan with associated budget of no more than $15,000 total spend.)
2.) Realistic Time Frames for Completion: Use specific start and end dates, with as many “WHAT-I F” scenarios. You can call this contingency planning but you need to be able to hold yourself accountable to meeting key deadlines. It helps to use the Steven Covey Time Management matrix guide of assigning TWO variables into prioritizing each task.
One factor to assess is the degree of importance/impact for each task, the other is the mount of time you have to complete a task. for example, completing a national advertising plan to launch October 1st has a tremendously high impact and a VERY short lead time. These tasks are all assigned a TOP priority.
3.) Required Resources: what will it take to complete this goal? List any/all certifications, professional Association memberships, a bank loan, hiring contract or full-time staff, etc. In order to achieve your goals you have to set aside the requisite resources in order to see them through to completion.
4.) Contingencies: Identify any and all foreseeable potential barriers, that may prevent you from competing your tasks and achieving your goals.
Once you have your revised forward-facing plan, you can begin implementing. Remember, you MUST be sure to set aside the time needed to revisit these revised goals and future plan on a regular (daily, weekly, monthly) basis.
Have you created a succession plan to ensure your future business continuity and survival?
Does your business have a succession plan in place, in case your leader is unable to lead? What happens if your current President/CEO, owner leaves or is unable to lead your business? Do you have a succession plan (a formal written document) that defines a specific course of action, should your CEO leave, become incapacitated, retire or pass away?
With the increased complexity of running a business due to constant technological advances, rapidly evolving industry trends and technologies, and the global nature of business competition, you need to have a plan in place to guide you in transitioning your leadership, whether its a single owner/CEO, partners, or an entire management team.
Do you have a succession plan in place already? If so, when was the last time you revisited it, to ensure that it’s still relevant and accurately reflects your current business situation? If not, you are playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette by hoping you don’t need one.
If something happened to your leader, you won’t have the time required to develop a succession plan to guide you through identifying the ideal candidates from outside your organization through recruiting, then interviewing and hiring your new leader. the time it takes to develop a plan on the fly will likely prevent you from successfully navigating through the crisis and your business will likely suffer tremendously if not fold outright due to the lack of continuity in leadership.
So, what’s a succession plan, you ask?
Having a succession plan will enable you to identify employees who are capable of taking over upper and senior management positions. Most succession plans begin by creating a list of qualified candidates and narrowing the list down, until the right person (people) has been chosen. According to Marshall Goldsmith, a well-developed succession plan should emphasize/include the following four elements/considerations:
1.Change the name of the process from Succession Planning to Succession Development: Plans do not develop anyone — only development experiences develop people. We see many companies put more effort and attention into the planning process than they do into the development process. Succession planning processes should develop individuals you identify as possessing the requisite background, experience, values and desire to take over.
2. Measures your desired outcomes, not the process: This change of emphasis is important for several reasons. First, executives pay attention to what gets measured and what gets rewarded. If leadership development is not enough of a priority for the company to establish goals and track progress against those goals, it will be difficult to make any succession planning process work. Second, the act of engaging with senior executives to establish these goals will build support for succession planning and ownership for leadership development. Third, these results will help guide future efforts and mid-course corrections.
The metrics a company could establish for Succession Development might include goals like the percent of executive level vacancies that are actually filled with an internal promotion vs. an external hire, or the percent of promotions that actually come from the high-potential pool. Too often, we find companies measure only the percent of managers that had completed succession plans in place.
3. Keep it simple: We sometimes find companies adding excessively complex assessment criteria to the succession planning process in an effort to improve the quality of the assessment. Some of these criteria are challenging even for behavioral scientists to assess, much less the average line manager. Since the planning process is only a precursor to focus the development, it doesn’t need to be perfect. More sophisticated assessments can be built into the development process and administered by a competent coach.
4. Stay realistic: While development plans and succession charts aren’t promises, they are often communicated as such and can lead to frustration if they aren’t realistic. The bottom line is, don’t jerk around high performing leaders with unrealistic development expectations. Only extend the promise of succession IF there is a realistic chance that they will be chosen.
Here’s to your success in starting a new business in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach