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Grooming Your Replacement

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Training your replacement might sound counterintuitive, but the reality is you can’t be promoted if you can’t be replaced. Managers looking to take their careers to the next level recognize the importance of training those candidates most likely to succeed them. Preparing someone to take over for you is in your best interest and it shows that you are a realistic team player capable of seeing the big picture. Here are some tips for managers embarking on the process of grooming a protégé to eventually take over their duties.

Choose Carefully

The adage “Think long when you may decide only once” applies to deciding on the employee best suited to take over for you. Be careful to consider the individual’s ambition as well as talent and ability to adapt to a new role. Even if you have someone pegged who seems ideal, if they don’t have the desire they won’t be successful. “Look for someone with leadership skills and loads of ambition,” advises consultant Rob Whitmore. Avoid showing favoritism and be sure to challenge the employee you select so they can stretch and be prepared for the position.

Expose Them to Your World

Without access to your day-to-day activities, it will be hard for a colleague to learn exactly how you handle situations. Are you offsite a lot? Do you spend a lot of your time negotiating on the phone? Invite someone you are grooming to tag along or to sit in on your phone conversations. Experience is the best teacher, and having your protégé experience your job gives them a glimpse into their possible future. They will need many tools to succeed and it’s up to you to make sure they have access to the proper technology and resources.

Give Them Time to Shine

“Rushing someone to follow in your footsteps can only cause frustration for both parties,” says Whitmore. People learn in different ways and at various speeds and you have to be mindful that their approach may not be like yours. Part of challenging your protégé is to allow them to participate in high profile situations like presentations or major meetings. Give them opportunities to shine and they will respond by giving you their best.

Recognize Individual Needs

You recognize potential in an individual so you take the time to train them on the “hard” skills your position entails. But some people need to be nurtured in other areas before they can reach their peak. “Soft” skills like communicating effectively, managing time and being flexible in situations can be harder to master. “People have personal needs and it’s up to you to zero in on them and develop them,” says Whitmore. For instance, a protégé might excel in one-on-one communications, but have difficulties with larger groups. Spending more time addressing the problem area is a good idea. Determining the best way to manage according to individual styles is something you are used to doing as a manager. When you are developing someone to succeed you, it’s important to recognize that they may have weaknesses that need polishing.

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