R.I.P. Poor Little Groundhog

Happy Groundhog Day.

…unless you’re in Milltown, New Jersey.

Just one day before the town’s legendary Milltown Mel was going to issue his annual weather prediction, the poor guy… expired.

execunetselect-groundhogOf course, Milltown’s mayor paid homage:

“We Wranglers are sad to report that Milltown Mel recently crossed over the rainbow bridge. Considering the average lifespan of a Groundhog is about 3 years, that is not such a shock. But Mel left us at a tough time of year, when most of his fellow groundhogs are hibernating.”

This was headline news because not much noteworthy happens in Milltown (population: 6,998)

But stuff does happen on your team.

Your people leave. Receive better offers. Retire. Give notice. Win the lottery. Lose their edge. Etc.

And yet, you have a business to run.

That’s why Succession Planning is so vital. (and so simple.)

Here’s how:

  1. Make a list of each person on your team.
  2. Next to each name, write the name of the person who would take their place if they departed. In some cases, it might be on an interim or trial basis, and that’s okay. The goal is an uninterrupted team, meaning that you’re able to name a successor within 24 hours. I know that likely won’t happen immediately but it’s the goal.
  3. Next to each blank spot, you’ve got your work to do. Typically this means (a) Training to develop a successor (b) Recruiting to backfill people with cross-trainable skillsets.

Repeat this simple exercise once a quarter, and keep it in your office drawer or Dropbox folder. When you need it, pull it out, and put it into action.

Great leaders dig their well before they’re thirsty.

Particularly at a time with a record-high Quit Rate. Unfortunately (even if you pay top of market), you’ll need to anticipate turnover. Comes with the territory.

The question is: will you plan ahead? or be messy roadkill like Milltown Mel?

-Jeff “6 more weeks” Hyman

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman launched his recruiting career at Heidrick & Struggles and Spencer Stuart, the preeminent global executive search firms. Today, he’s Chief Talent Officer at Chicago-based Strong Suit Executive Search. Along the way, Jeff created four companies, backed by $50 million in venture capital. He currently teaches the MBA course about recruiting at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and hosts the five-star Strong Suit Podcast. Jeff has been featured by Inc., Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other media outlets. He holds a master’s degree from Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor’s degree from The Wharton School.

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