How to Grow Your Company’s Future Leaders

You probably know the standard reason for creating a succession plan: retirement.

(Succession plan collecting dust? Read this first and then come back.)

But I’d argue that another one of the most important pieces of a succession plan is growing your future leaders.

Ask yourself: what are you doing to help grow your people? And what are they doing to grow themselves?

Remember, it’s a two-way street.

Lately, I’ve been really encouraging clients to do their performance reviews differently. I tell them to be sure they ask their employees to set personal goals in addition to business goals.

These personal goals could be to get a specific certification in their field, to attend a specific conference or class, or something else entirely different. The key is to make them personally responsible for some of their own growth.

This comes back to not just growth within their specific job but developing specific skillsets which they may be lacking.

For example, an HR person doesn’t only have to go to HR conferences. Maybe you send them to a leadership seminar, or a finance and accounting seminar, or something else that’s related and critical to their development but outside the scope of their day-to-day job.

When I think about the joint responsibility for development, it comes back to not just whether our organization is ready for change but also whether or not that person is ready for change. If we’re going to develop someone who isn’t ready for change, we must invest time in making them ready for change first (which is a whole other topic!).

Think of the age-old wisdom about delegating: you must delegate to the right person for it to work. Developing people is very much the same. A person needs to be ready for development and willing to commit to it, which can be a bit of a cultural thing within the organization.

But more importantly, how are we going to hold people accountable for their development?

Years ago, I sent my HR team to a conference. At the first department meeting after they came back, they were all fired up talking about the different sessions they’d attended and all the ideas they had.

I said, “Awesome! What are we going to do with these ideas?”

I got blank stares.

I thought, wait a minute! They’re all fired up and they just told me they had all these great ideas— but how do we get them into our organization?

That’s the accountability piece that often gets missed.

When it comes to self-development, we still must be willing to hold people accountable and in fact that must be built into how we develop our people. If we’re expecting them to get a certification, our responsibility doesn’t end with freeing up their time to get it and perhaps paying for it. The accountability on the back end is that they’re actually learning what they need to learn and applying it back on the job for your company.

If we can hold people accountable for their part of their career development, we can ensure the long-term viability of our succession plan.

But if we don’t, we run the risk of the succession plan becoming stale. At the rate business changes today, if I train a person on the skills they need today they’ll likely be outdated in 5 years, just when we need them to assume the role they’ve been training for. That’s why it’s important to make sure their development is a “now and later” type of scenario for long-term viability.

From an organizational standpoint, we must start to create a culture of accountability. Sometimes people see this as a bad thing, like leadership keeping them under their thumb. But it’s not about micro-management. Accountability is a good thing because it’s a tool to help folks set their own goals and stick to the time table for those goals!

The biggest thing when it comes to accountability is not simply measuring whether something is done or completed, but also measuring the effectiveness of it and establishing who is accountable for what within the system.

When it comes down to it, development must be mutually beneficial. That is how you grow your company’s future leaders.

Succession plans in and of themselves are fluid, and so is development. Development must keep up with the needs of the organization, the needs of the individual, and the changing needs of business in general. If you can meet those 3 things, you’ll have a long-term, viable succession plan that will become a living and breathing part of your business strategy.

Need help creating a succession plan that makes a difference and developing your employees? Contact me at to learn how I can help.