One great way to measure your success as a manager is to look at whether or not the ship will sink without you! It is now Eight months since I was laid off from my previous employer. Yet, I am proud and happy! You see succession planning begins with you. The young man I hired as the deputy is a rock star! I am proud because I was able to see that when I hired him. He did not have the wealth of experience I had when I was hired, but he was smart and resourceful and a hell of a photo editor. He found me when I was hiring. We all know finding the hiring manager is a tough task! He made a simple and clear case for how he wanted to both learn from me and move closer to his family in Minnesota. This was both honest and necessary for taking a job in the tundra.
During my interview with him I asked him an interesting question, “Do you want my job?” He paused, I assume searching for clues about what I wanted his answer to be. Then he said with rising intonation “Yes?” When I smiled, he realized, this was the right answer. You see the staff I led had been through horrible turnover in managers. It was almost a soap opera of poor decision makers and mal-tempered micro-managers of the past. The department had been through nine directors in 15 years. I wanted to be sure I gave them stability and an honest to goodness succession plan. I was not planning to leave them for a while, a commitment I made to myself when I took the job. It actually took 3 years of me being there before their shoulders relaxed.
It is important to be a good shepherd of the flock you are leading, make sure they will be cared for and have their needs met even after you are gone. So, if you are hiring someone to lead with you, make sure you teach that person how to keep the flock safe. This means getting outside yourself, and actually looking to hire that person who both wants your job, and will be able to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I was nervous at taking this approach, as we all think of self-preservation, but I did it anyway.
I shared this story on a recent job interview that is looking for a creative manager that can really come in and both lead and teach the creative staff as well as set them up to succeed. I made it to the next round and I’m convinced this story was the one that put me over the top. If you put the needs of your staff before your own selfish desires, you will know that you are in fact a good leader.
The staff is talented and producing great work! That is in part because they are in good hands. Eight months out the ship is sailing and the staff has an excellent leader, it’s not me and I’m proud!
Are you creating a succession plan? Do you ask the question during your interviews? Do you know who wants your job and will be able to do it? Do you give them the tools to replace you? Do you set people up to succeed? Why or why not?