Successor Grooming In A Brave New Post-Covid World
Career Coffee Break

Successor Grooming In A Brave New Post-Covid World

Salman Hossain
Salman Hossain

Like most of what we've known as normal in our daily life, it will most likely never be the same again, even when we fully recover from this pandemic.

Relationships between managers and team members, among colleagues and other stakeholders, will also be affected due to the changing nature of the world we rebuild as we recover.

Successor grooming is among the many critical pieces of our everyday work life that impacts business continuity through the smoother transition of knowledge, skills, and ownership. But how can we perform the same age-old mentoring and coaching of our team members, preparing them for their next challenge? How can we help develop our successors who will go through the first-hand grooming and molding before they are ready to pick up the baton?

It is critical for managers who genuinely believe in people development and training the next generation of leaders within an organization. So, how can we continue grooming our team members during this remote/semi-remote working condition and still make an impact?

To understand my way forward better, let's first deconstruct what we mean by successor grooming. What elements of successor grooming are crucial that we need to address to succeed in this process?

In my understanding, successor grooming has the following elements.

  1. Create succession planning strategy from hiring
  2. Identify the role(s) for succession
  3. Document the role
  4. Demonstrate what you expect of them
  5. Plan clear training and development map
  6. Assign mentors
  7. Expose candidate to critical decision making and environments
  8. Do a trial run when ready

Using these steps above can set any organization or a manager to prepare for successful succession planning.

Now the question is, which one of these requires a special touch in a post-covid world, and how can we deliver without missing out on the exact desired outcome?

Here's what I would try doing.

For #1, #2, and #3, there's no need for any change. Do it as is. Fix it if you or your HR is not following it now.

Demonstrate what you expect of them

This is straightforward. Demonstrate even more actively, through your daily and weekly interactions with your teams, how you expect them to operate and perform with one another. Establish the cadence from day one. Lead the way to establish the operating model between and among team members during the daily standup, weekly retro, demo days, etc.

Plan clear training and development map

Just because we are working remotely doesn't mean you cannot assign the same training and development map. You can be more creative. Setup weekly coffee catch-up with critical resources. Schedule monthly coffee catch-up with the rest of the team members. Do virtual town halls and all-hands meetings. Be radically transparent and share the journey that everyone is going through.

Ensure the individuals identified for succession are informed about their track and given clear training and development path forward.

I start every weekly meeting by taking the first 10-15 mins to connect personally. We don't talk about our work during this time. We share how our weekend was. We ask about family members. We share what interesting thing we did during the weekend. What are we reading, watching, etc.

To pat someone in the back during this covid time, you can send a hand-written thank-you note when they do well.

Praise them on LinkedIn for their work.

Celebrate team achievement over a quarterly socially distant (safe) physical meetup.

Come up with awards for their monthly performances and celebrate (like the tv series Office)

Assign mentors

This is what we most miss out on most often. And even if we do, we do it half-heartedly. First of all, be a coach to your succeeding candidate or team members from day one. Assign a strategic mentor for each of your team members within the organization. Assign at least one senior management member as a mentor for your future succession candidate. All these mentorship sessions should also be planned, assigned, and creatively executed.

Expose candidate to critical decision making and environments

Please don't assume a future candidate for a crucial role will have what it takes to jump onboard and nail it. Start by bringing them into the critical decision-making process and management meetings. Please give them the observer chair to see and learn. Introduce them to the senior management or essential stakeholders to take notice and build a relationship for a smoother transition.

Do a trial run

Every transition is a transformative process. Not just for the candidate but also for the team members who adopt around them. It's always better to create trial runs, acting role opportunities to see how someone carries themselves under pressure.

It can happen through remote work as well. Assign the future succession candidate as co-mentor/coach to a team member and observe how they perform. Do a peer review to understand their approach and improvement areas better.


If you can follow all the above, with a touch of creativity and your style, I am confident it can go a long way in driving the succession grooming at work.

Let me know if you would add anything to this process. What are you doing differently to develop a meaningful relationship with your team members while working remotely?

No matter what, do forget to have fun while following the process. That's what makes it worthwhile.

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Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash