[January 24, 2019] As a very young boy I marveled at the Sparrows that nested in a giant oak tree located in our backyard. At only two weeks old these fledglings would have their first try at flight. Upon leaving my first company command, as a U.S. Army Captain, I remembered that time as a young boy, the baby sparrows, and growing up. I also thought of the parallel between those tiny birds being taught to fly and the military’s guidance to train your replacement.
As a leader, the fact is that someday you will no longer be in that position you now hold. Whether you are being promoted to a more senior leader position, retiring, or moving on to another job, the idea of training your replacement can come with trepidation. Leaders are very busy people. Training someone to take on those responsibilities can be resource intensive and difficult effort even in the best of times.
Your replacement may have been someone you have chosen or someone in your organization or, in some cases, a replacement leader is involuntarily imposed upon you. Good leaders are always in the business of training other leaders so the idea of your own replacement should not be so challenging. Right? Perhaps but most of us will have some consternation about both how the process will proceed and whether that person will be successful.
If you have not thought about this issue, then you are already on the wrong fork in the road of your leadership pathway. Training your replacement will be difficult mainly because you are most familiar with the hard work, risks taken, and difficult decisions made that got you here in the first place. It will be difficult to communicate this knowledge in so little time.
With luck, there will be some overlap with you. This allows the implicit responsibility to train your replacement a better chance of success. In many cases there will be an under lap where you will have departed before your replacement arrives. If you have been a good leader and mentored those around you, they will be the key for the future trainers of any incoming leader.
Here is the best advice. Go the extra mile to provide to the new leader all the key information that they must have to succeed in the first few days on the job.1 This includes those pieces of informal information like where everyone likes to go for lunch. While you should be available for that person if they have questions, let them know that they are fully responsible from their first day.