If You Were Gone in Twelve Months
I made a decision late in 2014 that I would lead like I’ll be gone in 12 months. I’m not planning on being gone. I didn’t make an announcement. I’m just acting and thinking like I’ll be gone.
Being a short-termer makes me think more about the long-term.
How to replace yourself:
- Talk about shared values all the time. Values guide behaviors.
- Spend more time developing people to do the work than you spend doing the work.
- Eliminate, at least gradually, decisions and behaviors that depend exclusively on you. The more essential you are, the more you’re in the way.
- Make room for others by stepping back. Don’t just drop out. Prepare people. Share the vision. Connect new team members with old. Step back gradually.
- Plan to be away and let others figure out what to do. Tell them you’re going on vaction, but don’t tell them what to do.
- Honor ownership. When you see someone taking ownership, give them authority.
- Release more; control less. Stop being a control freak. One reason you can’t replace yourself is you want control. Great people don’t like being controlled. (Refer to #1)
Bonus: Determine the qualities and behaviors essential for your replacement.
I’m not planning to be gone in 12 months, but I’m thinking and acting like I will. I find the process uncomfortable but transformative.
Two key team members are moving to Colorado. They’re gone. I hate seeing them go.
Their departure is an important crisis in organizational life. No one will fill their shoes. But, two people are already stepping into those empty slots.
It’s likely we’ll stumble a bit, at first. Change creates a dip before things get better. In the end, new talent will ignite organizational evolution.
Someday, you’ll be gone. Start preparing now.
How might leaders replace themselves and stay?
Death or leaving the company (for another job or retirement) can be the meaning of “gone”; in this instance. Therefore, if you’re suggesting that I replace myself because I’m anticipating going to another job, then in addition to the mentoring process, I should also be scouting out this next job, correct? If I work at replacing myself, but I like the job and the company I’m with, then couldn’t my boss come some day and eliminate me, since my replacement is right at hand? How advantageous is that for me?
If you are a leader in an organization, identifying and removing dependencies on you doesnt mean that you dont do anything else with the spare time you have created, instead you fill that tome bu learning and doing things that are much more significant. This is how you grow in your organization!
Thanks Mukesh. Thanks for adding your insights to this important question.
Thanks Ron. You ask an important question.
You might be replaced if you replace yourself and don’t find new ways to add value to your organization. The beauty of replacing yourself is your ability to spend more time building into others and finding new ways to contribute. It’s not an excuse for self-indulgence or laziness.
In addition, replacing yourself has a situational context. It’s harder for front line people to replace themselves. However, one goal of leadership is to create more leaders. Replacing yourself is one way to do that.
I always go somewhere knowing it’s my responsibility to get out. What I create and solve today only generates new and better opportunities tomorrow. People often don’t know what they are capable, don’t ask themselves to do it, aren’t asked to do it and then die wondering why they didn’t get a chance. The question is not “if you were gone in 12 months?…but “what allows this job (you) to be gone in twelve months and am I prepared to it?”. Yes.
Thanks Richard. You took these ideas to a whole new place. 🙂
Thought provoking post! I truly like and agree that the more dependencies are on me, the more i am in the way.
Another quote i like to remind myself is that – “In order to do more, you need to do less” – by doing less of a lot of things, you create the possibilities to do more important things!
Thanks Mukesh. I like the “do less” quote. Some take it as do less work, but that’s not it. Doing less is about focusing your energy on things that matter and being sure that others are taking ownership of some of the things you were doing.
A former manager once told me – “your job is to work yourself out of a job”. I asked him what he meant. He indicated that I should work each day to improve in my skills, so that I could move on, and allow someone else the opportunity to grow.
Hi Michel. “work yourself out of a job.” KaChing.
Good stuff! Thanks for the reminder. I needed this! 🙂
Thanks WheatandTares. Onward and forward!
Thanks Dan. This is a very helpful mental framework to push ourselves as leaders to fulfil our most important purpose: to empower and grow our teams to achieve long-term and sustained growth and results for the organisation.
So often leaders get a kick out of being “needed” or “controlling” or “getting praise for achieving” that we are convinced we are essential, and sometimes work subconsciously to ensure we maintain job security. Doing that may fulfil a job function but is not the mark of a leader… If I truly want to succeed as a leader, I need to follow the path you’ve laid out in this post…
I’m currently teaching my 6year old daughter to ride a bike. At first she was totally dependent on me and I had to be with her with my full focus 100% of the time. She’s been riding with training wheels for a while now, and still often needs me to guide and watch her. The only way to be a good dad and leader is to move her to a place where I can remove the training wheels, help her transition through dependency on me as she wobbles and falls and gets up again, with the foresight that one day she won’t need me at all to ride her bike… and perhaps become the female lance armstrong one day (minus the drug scandals)… so I can have time to teach her other cool things too. Lead, empower, multiply, move on.
Thanks Brad. Kaching. Your illustrations is very helpful.
Very good leadership advice, especially for when you’re planning to stay!
Thanks Pat. Skillfully put!
“For every door that closes another shall open’ you will move on and someone else will step up, been going on for years! The quality and values of ones replacement is unknown till they come forth, at which point someone else will make the decision, not your problem unless no one is over you in the hierarchy of the organization,that is when a true leader will step forward from within, or the headhunters shall seek a leader out for the organization.
Thanks Tim. I thought mostly about staying with the organization. Your addition of moving out is an important addition. Working ourselves out of jobs not only elevates the organization, it elevates us. (Unless we are just lazy.)
This is a great perspective to take. In eduction too many times changes are leader based and lack long term vision. With new administration comes new vision and new leadership, so changes are common. Developing a strong leadership vision establishes a way for things to continue regardless of who is sitting in the chair.
I run an annual event and often told that I make it look very easy and that I need to be careful or someone else will think they can do it. My team of 40 volunteers do the magic. So sometimes I freak out because it is a huge effort- mainly relationship building- and it is hard to quantify or measure. Your posts are great – affirmations from a leader!
You have a great attitude, Jen. At church activities and with the Scouts, I’ve seen well-meaning and overcommitted volunteers have trouble “releasing more and controlling less.” They want help, complain about not having enough of it, and they will recruit for it and act glad that it’s there, but then they won’t allow anyone else to have any real responsibility. There’s nothing more off-putting to a new volunteer than to be told “We’ll try to find something for you to do.”
You’re also paving the way to be easily promoted
Adding to the framework, I am 66 and there will be a time when I am no longer in the business, not just taking 12 months off. THAT also changes one’s thinking a good bit!
How do I position things now so someone else can push things forward? What do I have to do because no one else will be able to do? Interesting questions. Lots of them…
After 50 years and starting with a tool box I have attempted to think the proverbial 12 months ahead to no avail. In the axiomatic stepping to the plate I find an extreme reluctance because it takes effort and most find their happy level and remain in remorse of their own effort. I shall change direction towards your methodology and make it happen…Thanks
Very timely. I would add that if your organization can’t function w/o, then you aren’t doing what you’re supposed to do. As a leader, we need time – to think, to be healthy, to be with our families, etc. Constantly needing the leader suggests that the organization is in crisis.
Dan really like your ideas. I believe as leaders this is more of an obligation considering our millennials coming up. Mentoring or growing our people is critical to any companies success but it does not seem to be as foundational as it should be today. Your idea around ownership and empowerment is right on in my experience.
Thank you Dan.
I appreciate your candid leadership guidance.
Am inspired the way you address most of the day to day leadership issues.
May God bless you abundantly bro.