Choosing the RIGHT Successor

We talk a lot about succession on my day job. It’s not about any of us resigning tomorrow, but we realize that we aren’t indispensable either. The organization’s mission must go on whether we’re here to make it happen or not. All of us board members and staff have different jobs, in my case I would need a technology person. My role primarily is centered about web content, electronic communications with members/non-members and vendors as well as overseeing social media efforts.

When I was thinking of what to write about, I came across this article, “Choosing a Technology Partner” in Website Magazine. I’ve been a subscriber for many years and I’ve learned a lot from the issues about the of world technology. Of course I wrote my job description some years ago, but it’s more than just finding the right skills in a person to succeed me, there’s other factors to consider:

  1. How flexible and adaptable are they? Deadlines change. Sometimes, I’m juggling to advertise several events at the same time. Can that person be flexible to handle the demands of all the details and adapt to changes that the committee chair or board make? There are times when I create several versions of flyers to promote a single event as well as send out several eBlasts. I have to keep up with dates to publish and at times change them.
  2. Can they communicate well? This is imperative because I work remotely and most of us do so email is the primary way we communicate. Occasionally, we’ll talk by phone or text if need be. Most of the time our projects are worked on solely so keeping the team up to date is important.
  3. Meeting deadlines and project management. Will they need to be micro-managed? Can they meet deadlines on their own? How much training or holding their hand will they need? Personally, I’m so busy that I don’t have time to mentor a successor. I need the person to be sharp enough to be trained and then take the helm. And, I want him or her to manage projects with all the details, work with the entire board and not need supervision.
  4. Are they detailed-oriented? How hard it is to have someone on the team not pay attention to details like word and grammar usage. Almost everyday, I send written communications to board members, committees, and members so making sure my writing is clear and concise paying close attention ensures I’m taken seriously as a professional. 
  5. How personable are they? We don’t have to be besties to get along, but it’s nice to work with a pleasant person. I am a touchy-feely person and so I like saying ‘hi’ and asking how the day or weekend went. I like to joke and laugh. I understand not everyone is like that, but I know I would have a hard time working with someone who is stoic and unemotional.

Now let’s talk skills.

Having good experience; soft and hard skills is paramount especially for the job I do. I work with computer coding, drag and drop and mobile technology, as well as business writing. In your industry, the skills level will differ but at least you’ll want know the answer to these questions:

  1. Do they have enough years in your industry? Most times, time is really short and so long-term training might not be an option. You might need the person to be quick to learn how to do their job without worrying they don’t know have the necessary skills. For example, if you’re hiring a receptionist, you want that person to know how to answer a business phone, take an accurate message and deliver it timely. As far as training, you should only need to do is show them how to use your phone system (ex., how to transfer calls, page people, etc.)
  2. How much experience have they had in your industry? For me, I look for someone who has at least five years. Depending on the type of succession you’re looking for, you may want them to have more than five years experience. It’s important they have worked successfully in the type of work they will be doing. Knowledge is important, but I would want to know how many websites have they designed, see examples of their work, get a feel for how they handle deadlines and manage projects.
  3. Do they have good communicative skills? Really important especially if they will be responsible for writing and sending correspondence on behalf of the company. Good grammar and command of the English language is important and this applies if the job requires being bilingual. The candidate would have to be comfortable speaking both languages and writing them.

No one is irreplaceable and it just makes good sense to have someone that can step in and do the job if you are on leave, sick, on vacation, resigning, or if you’re retiring.