The Most Important Task
In our organization, each person in a leadership role has one main task; the task is to replicate. This is no easy call to action.
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” ― Benjamin Franklin
We perceive, as you may also, one of the greatest exposures to our organization is the loss of key personnel. As all of life remains unpredictable, each leader must have someone they are investing in to ensure continuity.
The hardest task for the leader is to find the right individual to invest. There is a risk in time spent developing a replacement as one cannot know the full intent or plans of the person. The risk for replication must be made nonetheless.
The resistance I've seen from some managers in this task is relate to fear. A fear the person they develop will perform even better in the role than they do. If we have leaders who can develop future candidates better at the role than they are, I consider the leader all the more irreplaceable. In the corporate sphere, as well as public service we should put great value on the leader who shows an incredible ability to teach and impart wisdom. If they develop an excellent replacement, there will be other areas to place the leaders attention.
Those leaders who horde their tasks, are unwilling to replicate, and spend time defending their turf should be terminated quickly. Self preservation is a means to and end.
Mentoring and replicating requires: time, inclusion, delegation, transparency, and training.
Time must be given to the individual. This includes not just someone sitting and listening, but time outside the tyranny of the urgent to discuss and share the realities of the role.
Inclusion is necessary. To replicate a candidate must be included in the sensitive meetings and conversations to fully understand what may be asked of them.
A mentor must begin to let go of certain tasks so the candidate has the opportunity to engage in the real work. Delegation is tough for leaders as it may make them feel they are giving away their work...and this is exactly what a leader should do. There is always something more in need of attention.
Transparency is key. If you hide any portion of the job you may give the individual a skewed understanding of the role. Let them see the good, the bad and the ugly.
Teach. Do not assume watching will bring about a magical osmosis. Show, explain, and let them attempt the tasks.
The number one task of every leader should be the development of their replacement.