Caption: Kelsey, my assistant & our Social Media Manager, also my little sis & mentee!
While at Echoing Green New Fellows Retreat, we learned about the passing of a fellow at-large and groundbreaking Social Entrepreneur Priya Haji (Read more about her here: http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2014/07/17/groundbreaking-social-entrepreneur-priya-haji-dies ). Though I did not have the pleasure of meeting Priya Haji, I was incredibly moved by her presence as so many shared the positive impact that she had on their lives and on our world. I was also balancing this notion of “retirement,” considering the fact that Geoffrey Canada recently announced his retirement from the Harlem Children’s Zone, where he became the President in 1990. And then, to think I just left a profession to focus full-time on this work. Transitions happens and whether forced or created, we all have to encounter them and what better way to prepare than “succession planning?” I can’t help but see the word “success” at the beginning of the phrase, which would suggest that this process is essential to planning for success!
Succession planning is not something that most new leaders think of… after all, thinking about “succession” means confronting some deep fears… fear of change… fear of losing control and perhaps even, fear of death. As I consider long-term planning, at the top of my mind and in the center of the conversation will be succession planning. Succession Planning for me means answering the following questions:
(1) Who can I identify now to replace me?
(2) How can I better prepare that (or those) individual(s) to carry on the work (bonus points if we can think of how to better prepare someone we may never have the chance or opportunity to speak to)?
(3) Under what conditions should I change or alter roles (and/or titles) within my organization?
I don’t believe in people dying in leadership positions, particularly when it may be more useful to either “share” or “transfer” power and influence. I don’t believe in only one person who is qualified or prepared to perform a particular task. I’m of the belief that teams work well, and there should always be a person or group of persons “in the pipeline.” There is one person who I am actively grooming to “replace” me, but based on my new insights thanks to my new fellowship, I am planning to bump that number up to three.
When it comes to carrying on the work, that includes not only the technical side of things – raising money, planning and implementing programming, but also values – integrity, creativity, social justice. While I may not be in a position to work with a multitude of individuals to train them on how to become an Executive Director… I’d like my approach to my work and how I perform my work, to be an example to others. At the basic level, when people have an interaction with me, I’d like for them to feel better, even if the interaction is not under ideal circumstances.
In terms of changing or altering roles, I am still very early in my career, but I believe that if I ever get too physically, mentally, or emotionally ill to continue on with this work – I will move to the side. There may come a time when I am called to do something else, either connected to or to evolve the mission of Donda’s House. Right now I am very much emotionally connected (attached by umbilical cord) to this work, but I have seen situations where the cord just had to be cut – for the health of either the mother or the baby. 10 years ago, you couldn’t have told me that one day I would leave teaching in a traditional classroom setting, let alone, start a new business!
So, no matter what you’re doing, I’d ask you to consider the three questions above, and start implementing a plan for someone else to walk in your shoes…