19 April 2022 | 2 min read
PASSING THE BATON
As leaders, one of our top priorities should be preparing the next generation of leaders coming up behind us. Even if you plan to stay in your current role for many years, you should emphasize succession planning. Why? You never know what the future holds. Job descriptions shift, teams dismantle, people change companies, family obligations come up – life happens. Plus, as you train others to replace you, you open new opportunities for yourself. You might even free yourself up to take on greater leadership responsibilities.
The phrase “pass the baton” comes from the track relay in which a runner literally hands a baton to the next runner in the race. If you’ve ever watched these track events, you know that the goal is to work as a team, and it is vital that each member passes the baton as smoothly as possible to the next person. If you don’t time it just right, or if one member isn’t prepared for the hand-off, the entire race is lost. The same goes for succession planning.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare to pass the baton.
My dad always says, “I treat every day at work like it’s my first day on the job and my last day.” The idea is that every day you should work hard with enthusiasm like it’s your first day at a job while wrapping up your work with excellence and planning for those coming behind you – like you would on your last day working at a company. Although it can be challenging to prepare for an unknown future, as leaders, we should be thinking several steps ahead. Look forward and try to focus on the ultimate goals in your role. What will be important in 6 months, one year, or five years from now? How can I focus my energy on preparing to meet those objectives? How can I help those coming up after me accomplish those missions?
Raise them up.
Sometimes we have the opportunity to handpick those who continue after us. We get to select future leaders who we think will do the best to carry on the vision. But sometimes we don’t. You might not have the advantage of picking your own replacement, but that doesn’t mean you can’t coach those coming behind you. Our job as leaders is to raise the next generation, regardless of if we choose them or not. Do your best to encourage, equip, and train future leaders. You have the chance to shape your organization’s future, to continue the vision, by how you train upcoming leaders. Invest in that future by spending time with young leaders and showing them the ropes.
At some point, the hand-off happens. The runner places the baton into the hand of the one ahead of him and releases it. Then, they slow their run to a stop and watch as the next runner continues the race. Once you have trained your successor and passed off your responsibilities, you must step back and watch. Don’t hang on to the baton or keep trying to pick it up from the other runner. The best thing you can do for your team is let them run with it.