Friday, August 10, 2007

Let's state the real problem--lack of succession planning

Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend NP2020 conference like I wanted to because I was moving to San Diego right during the conference, however I have been reading notes from the conference wiki and blog posts about the conference here, here, here, here, here and here. Ok, so I know there is a lot of research about the impending leadership gap, however I tend to take the position--I'll believe it when I see it. My opinion is the gap is inferred by some baby boomers in positions of power right now because they haven't conducted succession planning.

I've worked for some amazing Executive Directors, however not one of them has thought about succession planning or how to set the organization up so it can succeed and run without them. I guess that is why I am so adamant about preparing for and training my replacement. Also, it is important to think about succession planning not in terms of finding a replacement exactly like yourself, however finding someone who has different skills than you. This allows them to maintain the components that you built up in the organization, but also build up the areas of the organization that were your "weak" areas. Let's please be honest about who we are as leaders and put our egos aside (myself included) and prevent this leadership gap from turning into a reality.

Consequently, I noticed many notes from the NP2020 conference state they want more mentoring and professional development. This is great however as a note to Gen X and Gen Y, I've said in a previous post--I've had folks want to "mentor" me--but not in the ways that I wanted to be mentored. In other words, they wanted to turn me into them. My suggestions would be approach people you look up to and build an informal mentoring relationship with them. That has worked well for me. Also, many nonprofits don't have the money or put the money aside to offer professional development opportunities, and if they won't budge--my motto is, "forge your own way." I've been known to take vacation time to go to nonprofit conferences so I can get the professional development I want and network with new people.


Ashima Saigal said...

We missed you too Heather! But, the voices at the conference made it clear that mentoring and professional development will help keep the sector vibrant. We look forward to engaging you via the wiki, so please, keep posting your thoughts and comments!

Tidy Sum said...

Succession planning is a management tactic. Pure paper shuffling.

You can plan for succession and still end up with crappy leadership.

Leadership development requires a wholly different vision and mindset.

It is so much bigger than a plan. It has to do with how organizations address participation, skill development, relationships, power, etc. in an organization.

And, I ain't never seen a succesion plan that got that down and dirty.

It is not about money either. I visit many grassroots organizations that barely have two euros to rub together, but they have developed professional development in ways that are far more profound than the usual fare at nonprofit conferences .

Read this month's issue of the ARK published by the National Organizers Alliance for some great examples.