Who is following in your footsteps? Some thoughts on succession planning

‘Our people are our greatest resource’ say many companies. How can you make sure that you’re making the most of that resource? How do you avoid your investment in that precious resource being lost when your staff decide to move on?

foot step foot print Cumbria Lake District hiking

On a recent holiday, I followed a lot of footsteps – literally following the path that others had trodden before me. One of my clients – let’s call her Julia – came to a recent session wondering who will be following in her metaphorical footsteps. Julia manages a small team and it’s coming up to performance review time. As part of that process, and as she prepares for her own review, she’s taking time to ponder what’s next.

As part of her own personal and professional development, Julia is considering a career change in the medium term. She knows that some of her team would like to progress professionally and she’d like to do all she can to ensure they are equipped to do so. To this end, we spent her recent coaching session discussing succession planning within her current team.


First, we summed up Julia’s perceived barriers to internal succession:

  1. Identifying suitable candidates;
  2. Bridging skills gaps;
  3. Company’s perception that it’s better to recruit externally – the ‘new blood’ theory.


Then we moved to the benefits:

  1. Retention of key members of staff;
  2. Much shorter ‘running in’ period in new roles: internal staff know the culture and the people thus minimising disruption to the business;
  3. Increased productivity in candidates’ current roles as they acquire new skills and experiences;
  4. The ‘feel good’ factor for staff, enabling them to believe they are valued and key to the success of the business.

The plan

Taking these into consideration, Julia has developed a plan of action.

  1. Secure agreement for an internal succession plan from her board.
  2. Identify suitable candidates for progression within the performance review process, taking into account their own ambitions as well as their skills. Take time to ensure that candidates are fully committed to the plan as it will require their time and energy.
  3. Develop performance development plan together – as well as training courses, this may include secondment to another team, membership of a project team or taking on indirect line management.
  4. Identify role models for candidates: those people who have already taken a step up the ladder and can provide advice and guidance.
  5. Identify mentors for candidates: objective people who can help the candidates increase their self-awareness and develop their own solutions.
  6. Develop a forum for feedback: periodic review involving all key stakeholders will be necessary to keep the plan on track and make any necessary course adjustments.

Today’s pebble for your consideration: Who would you like to see follow in your footsteps? How are you helping them prepare to do that?

What do you think?


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to take action and create positive change in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?

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