The Seats on the Bus Go…Nov 04, 2022
Did you read the subject line and sing the next phrase in your head? I kinda still am… But unlike the wheels on the bus that go round and round, the seats on our organization’s bus absolutely should not! And if we want to get really serious about the business succession planning we looked at last time, it’s never quite as simple as moving the folks who are the most effective in their current roles to the next step on our org charts.
Assuming we’ve invested the time on the front end to develop and clarify the values that drive our organizational culture, and we’ve worked to ensure that each team member we consider to be critical in our long term succession plan exemplifies those values, we can move to determining where they’ll fit best over the years to come. Without those values deeply embedded though, it would likely serve us well to work on that before even considering who’s in which seats later on!
All too often, a business will promote the best performer in any given department to be a lead, supervisor, or manager of that department when the need arises - whether that’s by simply awarding them with a new title or doing it through a more formal interview process. Quite frankly, most of us have been programmed to believe that’s exactly what our individual career path should look like to consider it even somewhat successful. Sometimes that works just fine, but I can provide plenty of examples of where I’ve seen that proverbial run right into a ditch…
The reality is that promoting someone from one of those roles we typically consider as an “individual contributor”, regardless of how great they are in that role and how well they seem to interact with the team members around them, pulls them away from the tasks they’ve mastered and places a completely different set on responsibilities firmly in their lap. While it’s great to help the folks within our organizations advance, everyone would be best served if we could be sure the move fits their needs. Notice I didn’t say skills though… We’ll circle back to that later one!
In Good to Great, Jim Collins explained the importance of having the right people in the right seats on our bus. I’ve always thought that was a really cool analogy, one I could easily understand. He also suggested that there will be times that some of the folks who are currently on our bus may need to be on a different bus, and that’s OK… When it comes to developing our business succession plans as the leader of our team or entire organization, those values will be key in determining whether or not our folks should indeed be on our bus at all. The next part that’s critical, but rarely considered, is to develop clarity around which seat each team member is best suited for. We need to be sure they can perform in a high level in the roles we hope to see them in down the road, but we also need to know if those respective roles provide them with fulfillment long term if we want to have any hope whatsoever of keeping them in those seats we’re picturing for our succession plan!
As we move forward, we’ll look at some simple steps we can take to identify the best opportunities for each team member to excel as part of our succession plan and we’ll look at how we can be sure to help them find fulfillment in each role they fill along the way, then we’ll look at how we can provide them with the right resources to ensure they have the skills to be great in those roles, but first we’ll look at the importance of sharing a vision with each team member so they can understand the opportunities ahead of them. Stay tuned…