John Fulwider is a coach, speaker and consultant for growth-oriented nonprofit leaders, as well as a guest contributor and presenter for the Nonprofit Hub Webinar Series. John’s written two books on how nonprofits can achieve greater mission impact. Read more at John Fulwider’s website.
You’ve heard the question before: What if you were hit by a bus?
To put it into more positive terms: What if a new opportunity arose for you? What would happen to your organization? Would the decision-makers left behind have adequate information to make the best decision on who should take your place? Is the next leader presently on your team?
Succession planning as a topic often elicits a response of “Ugh, do I have to?” However, you can use succession planning to develop rock stars on your team and make more of impact for your organization. You can take succession planning from “Ugh, do I have to?” to “Yay, I get to!” by focusing on three key areas:
1. It’s About the Organization’s Mission
There is a saying that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I’m all about being positive, but let’s be real: We all have difficult days on the job. It is those times when you really have to care about the work that you’re doing; it gives you a reservoir of strength to fall back on.
This becomes even more important when you are thinking about people who will be moving up. It’s lonely at the top, and only those with a deep passion for what your organization does will possess the necessary resilience. If anyone on your team is not all about the mission of your organization, she is not a qualified and credible succession candidate.
2. It’s About Strengths
Everyone has things they are naturally good at. For instance, I love to speak to groups of people and think strategically about nonprofit organizations and businesses. My partner is analytical and driven by turning plans into executable actions. The key isn’t to be good at everything, but understanding your natural gifts and putting together a balanced team whose strengths complement each other.
We’re looking to build on people’s strengths, not correct their deficits. Know what your people do well and base your decisions on strengths.
3. It’s About Leadership
You know one of the top complaints employees give about their organizations? Lack of inspiring leadership. In addition to technical competence, organizational leaders need to be good communicators, influence with impact, and engage and mobilize employees. Don’t be an uninspiring leader, and don’t develop people into that kind of leader.
If you follow these guiding principles, you are well on your way to developing employees and volunteers into rock stars who will at least create more and better results, and at most be qualified and credible succession candidates.