You’ve spent the last 30, 40 or maybe 50 years trying to be the best you can be. Maybe the best in your space. So how do you give that all up, take a second seat to your successor, and embrace that thing called “retirement”? For many, this transition in leadership can be an incredibly emotional process and perhaps the hardest thing they’ve ever done professionally. When done well though, it could also be the most important and impactful!
As long as you’ve worked in your organization, your colleagues have likely looked up to you for your wisdom and sage advice. They’ve also likely expected you to accept even greater responsibility to lead your business functions or perhaps grow the company through successful business development and customer relationships. There comes a time in everyone’s career though when it’s more appropriate to look to the next generation to step up rather than dig in and push harder to achieve even more.
If you’re starting to consider how much longer you want to work and what you might do next if you retire, you’ve clearly earned the right to step back and prioritize your life differently moving forward. Lord knows you’re not alone as many Baby Boomers are choosing not to work as much after what we’ve all been through this past year. It’s not about making more money or achieving new professional accolades anymore. It’s about prioritizing what matters most in life while also securing your legacy and ensuring the organization continues long after you’re gone.
As you consider your transition from Manager to Mentor, the following are some key steps to facilitate the process –
- Identify your successor(s) and communicate with them not only about your vision for yourself but also your vision for them. NextGens don’t always have the same goals and objectives as Leading Gens, so it’s essential to get aligned on the possibilities early on before you invest too much time or energy in someone who might not want the promotion.
- Determine what management responsibilities you want to transition to your successor(s) and when. Develop a high-level roadmap and timeline for managing the process and completing the transition so that it’s easier to stay on track – and recognize when you may be going astray.
- With this foundation in place and these steps complete, give your successor(s) ample opportunities to assume greater responsibility and demonstrate their own capabilities. Create special projects and shift some of your primary responsibilities to your successor(s) so they can practice and enhance their leadership capabilities while you’re still standing there by their side.
- As your successor(s) do, give them explicit feedback – both positive and constructive – on how they’re doing. What are they doing well? Give them praise and recognition for that. Where are they struggling? Help them understand what you might do differently to address any performance gaps. Just remember your way is probably not the only way, and sometimes our NextGen successors bring fresh perspective and innovation we don’t see ourselves.
- Recognize any additional institutional knowledge or key relationships you may need to transfer to your successor(s). As they continue to step up and accept increased responsibilities, they may need this extra handoff and support from you to be successful long-term.
- Finally, always ask for and be open to receiving feedback from your successor(s) and other key stakeholders on how it’s going. You may need to adjust your approach or schedule more formal transition check-ins with your successor(s) if they aren’t picking things up quickly, or perhaps with other team members if they aren’t embracing the leadership transition.
People still refer to this process of business succession planning as retirement, but it’s really about choosing how you’re going to spend your “third act” in life and securing the future for your business. Our “first act” is our childhood and educational years. Our “second act” is our professional journey. Our third act then becomes what comes next as we transition out of our work persona.
For some that does mean retirement – sleeping in, playing golf, and visiting with family and friends more than ever before. Others may find their passion in volunteering with local not-for-profit organizations or serving on Boards to stay intellectually stimulated. However you structure your time, whatever activities you pursue, it’s critical that you determine your future path and find purpose in your later years so that you do commit to and complete the transition from manager to mentor. If you don’t know what you’re going to do next, you will likely hold on to your past and what’s most comfortable to you as a more active and engaged professional instead of passing the baton.
Need some help establishing a plan for the future? Are you afraid of becoming a “lame duck leader” as your successor steps up? Give us a call at 310.589.4600 or email me directly to discuss your specific situation and chart a path forward. You can also visit the Succession Planning page of our website to learn more about the succession planning process and how we can help you make the transition. Being a mentor takes different presence and skills than being a skilled subject matter expert, so don’t take this process lightly. Don’t underestimate it either as it takes significant patience, persistence, and compassion from everyone involved to get it right!