Joyce Welsh.pngSuccession Planning has been a focus for my company’s executive team since the start of the first quarter.  But as we headed into the last weeks of the year, I must admit that mine was still not complete.  

In theory, succession planning is a brilliant way for companies to reduce the risk and interruption of turnover. And in my role as a CFO, I should be the biggest proponent of succession planning within my organization… and yet, I dragged my feet on completing my own plan.

Why was I dragging my feet?

To answer this, I had to manage my misconceptions about succession planning. Succession planning is a process for identifying and developing new leaders who can replace old leaders when they leave, retire or die. Succession planning increases the availability of experienced and capable employees that are prepared to assume these roles as they become available.  (Source: Wikipedia)

joyce welsh baton.jpgMisconception #1 – Job Security 

If I create a plan to replace myself, am I threatening my own job security?  I have been with my company for 20 years and consider myself part of the woodwork and the fabric of the company. If I can replace myself, what does that say about my value?

And as embarrassing as it is to admit, I began to reason that it takes longer to train someone to do something than to do it myself. I sing the tune about teamwork and empowerment, but this statement was not affirming my trust my own team.  Shame on me!

Misconception #2 – Nobody can do things as well as I can….the first time!

I realized my ego was doing the thinking, the talking, and controlling my actions – or lack of them. Again, shame on me!

Misconception #3 – Breaking Up the Band

We have had the same management team for years and we work well together.  The possibility of change within this team was threatening the status quo.  In other words, I didn’t want them to do their succession plans either. However, 2017 had plans of its own and in the course of the year, events of life overtook my plans (and my resistance), encouraging me to reduce my work week and relocate my office.

And all of a sudden, I needed a Succession Plan!!

The necessity of a plan became the catalyst for my action and, ultimately, the lessons learned from the process.

  1. Fresh Approach: When I moved office, one of my team members came up with an excellent idea to move many tasks to a new location – and no longer in my office. We were able to subcontract out some lower level tasks which freed up my time and reduced interruptions.

  2. The Art of Delegation: Now that I was spending more time off-site, I had to delegate to my team. They already had full plates and I didn’t want to overload them.  What actually happened was that they created numerous automated systems. These were implemented, which reduced their workload in other areas to make room for higher level projects that streamlined our processes and benefited our customers.

  3. Increased Morale:  As I delegated some of my role to my team, they were pleased to have the increased authority, leadership and autonomy.  They became responsible for team outcomes and were trusted with higher approval levels.

  4. Seeing the Bigger Picture: As each person took on new roles, I could see clearly where additional training was needed.  And using the old adage of “teach a man to fish”, I spent my time training rather than doing.  In addition, their expanded roles helped them to see the bigger vision of the company goals.

Realizing the Immediate Value of a Succession Plan:  I learned that the value of the succession planning exercise was not just to prevent issues in the future.  It gave me the opportunity to look at my area with fresh eyes.  Seeing my staff in a new light made it easier to delegate tasks I should have delegated years ago.  The team became more empowered and I know they will “knock it out of the park” today, and in the future!  

Ultimately, the value of succession planning is that it opens up new doors. What I have learned about myself and my team as a result of this exercise has been invaluable. Succession planning isn’t about replacing yourself, but about looking at things with a fresh perspective.  The result is that I now spend my days on the items that really move the ball forward. The turnover risk within my team is reduced.  And because I feel more challenged, I get to have more fun!  

Now, I’m off to document my Succession Plan and turn it in…

Joyce Welsh is the CFO of BrightWork, a member of the CFOLC Boston chapter and an active blog contributor.  To read more of her recent thought pieces, visit

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