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Succession Planning Webinar - Questions & Answers

Lumenii's Succession Planning webinar brought together a panel of experts to discuss how to effectively develop technical talent into high performing leaders. See the most frequently asked questions and answers below. 

Table of Contents for Succession Planning and Technical Talent Webinar

Succession Planning Implementation

Q: How does succession planning and company culture integrate?

Succession planning and company culture are closely intertwined, as both play crucial roles in shaping the long-term sustainability and success of an organisation.  Succession planning should align with the company's values, vision, and strategic goals. A strong company culture reinforces these core elements, providing a framework for identifying and developing future leaders who embody the organisation's ethos and are committed to its mission.

A positive company culture fosters an environment conducive to leadership development. It encourages continuous learning, growth, and mentorship opportunities, which are essential components of effective succession planning. By nurturing a culture that values talent development, organisations can groom high-potential employees for future leadership roles and ensure a pipeline of capable successors.

Q: How do you get the buy-in from a business where succession planning was never implemented formally before?

Succession planning may be doomed to failure if the buy-in of key stakeholders is not secured. These include leadership, line managers, and team members. For the individual, succession planning should not be seen as a standalone process, but rather as an integrated part of their talent journey within the organisation. Ideally Succession Panning should be integrated with recruitment, performance management, career planning, workforce planning, and the EVP.

Succession planning without senior management buy-in and support is particularly susceptible to failure. Senior leaders need to see how the time and effort put into succession relates to sustainability, continued growth and performance. If you are able to demonstrate how succession planning is critical to realisation of the organisation's vision, you may be able to win senior leaders over. To use a cliche, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. There are many examples of such case studies that you could use to drive home this point. You could also look into the case study we wrote about our succession planning journey with SANBS.
Various HR managers and recruiters attending an HR seminar in South Africa
Q: How do you do succession planning for an SME, where the talent pool is much smaller. Do you apply a blanket approach?

Succession planning for SMEs with smaller talent pools requires a tailored approach that accounts for the unique characteristics and constraints of these organisations. While a blanket approach may not be feasible or effective due to the limited resources and smaller scale of SMEs. Encouraging cross-training and skill development among employees in SME's is paramount, facilitating their preparedness for future leadership roles through on-the-job training, mentorship, and involvement in pertinent projects. Cultivating a culture that esteems continuous learning and development further reinforces these efforts, where employees are motivated to expand their capabilities and undertake new challenges, supported by resources such as training programs, workshops, and educational opportunities. 
Q: How can one make succession planning an effective process?

To ensure the effectiveness of succession planning, a comprehensive approach should be undertaken. This involves first identifying critical roles within the organisation and evaluating the existing talent pool for potential successors. Individualised succession plans should then be developed, encompassing targeted developmental opportunities and promoting diversity and inclusion. Transparent communication and active involvement of leadership are paramount to garnering support and fostering employee engagement. Continuous monitoring and evaluation of progress, coupled with regular succession readiness reviews, facilitate adaptability and preparedness for future leadership transitions. Integration with performance management processes further aligns individual performance with leadership development goals, ensuring a robust and sustainable succession planning framework.
Q: How can you include graduates into your succession planning pipeline?

Graduates are often the pipeline of high potential talent that feed into the pool of future leaders. One of the advantages of focusing on the measurement of potential in the graduate selection process is that it provides insight into innate leadership potential as well. I recommend focusing on individuals whose assessment data indicate high management potential and high Learning Agility. To harness this talent, it is important that their managers are equiped to provide coaching and create a psychologically safe environment for the graduates to grow.

Managing Career Paths

Q: What are your views on NOT developing technical talent into leaders? Often, high performers are coerced into leadership roles because they're good at their jobs, rather than because they're promising leaders.

This question raises a very interesting dilemma: should we be promoting our technical specialists into leaders, at the risk of losing our technical knowledge base and creating reluctant managers? There are definitely benefits and also drawbacks to both promoting technical talent internally and bringing in leadership talent from the outside. 

The problem with not promoting is that technical employees may perceive a lack of growth and go elsewhere. Thus, it is important to consider a dual career pathway model in your organisation, with specialist growth paths. This lessens the risk that specialists would seek out management roles purely for the better salary/status. Our approach whenever we work with leadership development is to consider not only objective potential but also, very importantly, their motivations, career goals and willingness to put in the work to become a high-performing leader. 
Q: What are the social and cultural barriers to developing technical talent into high performing leaders?

There may be a prevailing perception that technical skills do not necessarily translate into effective leadership qualities such as communication, strategic thinking, and emotional intelligence. This misconception can hinder the recognition and cultivation of leadership potential among technical professionals.

Cultural resistance to change within organisations can hinder efforts to redefine leadership criteria to be more inclusive of technical talent. Established norms and practices may perpetuate the status quo and prevent the recognition and development of leadership potential among technical professionals

Q: How is technical competence enhanced by effective leadership?

Effective leadership significantly boosts the capabilities of technical talent through a variety of key strategies. By setting a clear vision, leaders align individual and organisational goals, focusing efforts on critical business outcomes. They cultivate a culture that promotes innovation and creativity, encouraging teams to explore new technologies and methodologies. Moreover, leaders play a crucial role in professional development by facilitating access to training and continuous learning opportunities. Good leaders also understand the importance of empowerment, granting their teams autonomy in decision-making, which enhances engagement and accountability.

Additionally, they prioritise communication and collaboration, essential for the seamless execution of complex, cross-functional projects. Finally, effective leaders strategically hire to shape the team's capabilities, ensuring a blend of competence and versatility that drives the organisation's success. 


Developing Leadership Performance

Q: What are some practical tips on how to transform specialised talent into high performing leaders?

The development of technical specialists into high performing leaders is quite an expansive topic. We recommend starting with individuals who are driven and commited to progress and fit the requirements of the successive role. Implementation of multiple development methods best suited to the individuals learning style is recommended and could include coaching, mentoring, on the job training, academic studies, personal mastery etc. Bear in mind that the organisation will need to invest in the process, not just in terms of resources, but also time and commitment by developing and demonstrating a culture of agility and learning.

Q: How can we up skill managers to become fully fledged people and operational managers?

Start with first identifying individuals that have the will and drive to develop in this direction. It would be best to then provide them an opportunity to reflect on their potential, and any previous performance in this area to determine the way forward. 

Development initiatives are dependent on a wide range of factors including budget, time, capacity of current leaders, availability of structured training, cuture of the organisation etc. However, most importantly, any development planning and participation in development initiatives must be largely driven by the individuals themselves. You could consider structured executive/leadership development programmes, mentoring from high performing leaders in your organisation, workshops and rotational work assignments as possible development options. Effective performance management becomes critical when there is ongoing development, to proactively identify development needs, track progress and reflect on impact. 

Q: How do we support our leaders to best enhance their leadership skills and encourage them to transfer their knowledge?

Supporting leaders to enhance their skills and share their knowledge involves a blend of structured development programmes, mentorship, coaching, and promoting a culture of continuous learning. Strategies include implementing leadership development programmes that focus on critical skills like communication and strategic thinking, and pairing emerging leaders with experienced mentors for guidance. Additionally, facilitating peer learning and networking opportunities helps leaders gain valuable insights, while a 360-degree feedback system provides comprehensive personal development feedback. Leaders can also benefit from participating in real-world projects that foster strategic and creative thinking. Recognising and rewarding exemplary leadership encourages positive behaviours and motivates others. Creating a culture where knowledge sharing is routine, through workshops and informal sessions, alongside regular feedback and targeted development plans, further supports leaders in their growth and effectiveness.


Lumenii Talent Partners

Lumenii's team of expert psychologists regularly collaborate to share their ideas and knowledge. The latest case studies, thought leadership, and research.


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