Is mentoring vital to succession planning?

Succession planning is vital for any organisation to survive. It works as an insurance for human capital ensuring the continuity of the business without interruption, but also helps organisations navigate through a VUCA world by having key young leaders ready to step in when top management ceases to be available.

Organisations never fail to have an annual succession planning in place, but do all succession planning instances deliver results when mentoring is not part of it? Here, we are reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s quote which says that learning only happens when the individual is involved in whatever they want to learn:

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Young leaders have to be involved with top management in order to be ready for leadership positions when the time comes for these young leaders to be the new drivers of the business.

Involving the right young leaders to be mentored by top management is not straightforward. On top of having a successful mentoring programme in the organisation, both the young leader and the leader at the top need to have the right chemistry before they can start working together. Thus it should not be the sole decision of the HR/L&D practitioner to connect staff in an organisation for a mentoring role, instead they should select staff for the mentoring programme and allow themselves to choose their role models and the right mentees to form such a mentoring relationship. This may be so even where the mentee and mentors are from totally different disciplines, but are keen to work together.

The L&D practitioner needs only to identify a pool of young leaders and some of their top leaders who want to get involved in the programme, allowing those involved to connect with whomever they would like. Once these mentoring relationships are forged then making sure that the mentoring is done in line with the business strategy is key to reap the full benefits of successful succession planning.

As Benjamin Franklin said, young leaders have to be involved in order to learn, and we know that in organisations this is best achieved through mentoring. When a leader mentors a younger aspiring leader and shows them the ‘ways’ of the business (by involving their mentees in key meetings and 1-2-1 mentoring), the younger leader becomes truly prepared for key leadership roles in their organisation. Additionally, combining mentoring with coaching and more training can bring the very best in young leaders shaping them to be the best leaders that any organisation would desire to have on standby for when leadership positions need to be filled to achieve the goals of the organisation.

Therefore having the right talent available to step in for key positions can be achieved through mentoring. Any succession planning strategy should take mentoring as their most important tool to develop the next generation of leaders and continue to propel the business forward.

Teodor R. Hlihor
Co-Founder & Partnerships Director at Urbane.
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