Succession Planning at FBG

The recent announcement of my promotion to President leaves me more humbled and excited than I’ve ever been in my career. Those who know me realize that’s pretty darn excited.

Over a coffee meeting a month ago to talk about my new role, Steve suggested that I write a post about succession planning for our blog based on my experience. I wanted to express my optimism for what’s to come in a more personal way, and his idea provided a perfect opportunity to reflect in gratitude.

When I started my career with FBG as an HR Consultant, succession planning was a topic of priority for many of our clients. It still is. Formal programs, performance reviews, selection committees, and high potentials are often components of robust succession planning programs. True to our entrepreneurial spirit and culture, FBG didn’t follow this formal route when it came to my promotion. Still, we put some practices in place that led us to where we are today, and I think those tenets are worth sharing. I benefitted from this process greatly, and I see colleagues in our organization growing through it as well.

Above all, respect. The fundamental respect we have for one another guides all of the interactions Steve and I have, and we can both come to the table as our full selves.

Always cheer for your employees to win. Steve and I are competitive, and we love to win. More importantly, Steve genuinely wants me to win. As leaders, we are at our best when we champion our employees and root for them in every situation. That kind of support leads people to achieve goals they never thought possible.

Own your errors; learn and grow from them. If I had a penny for every mistake I’ve made in the 12 years at FBG, I’d fill the Millennium Falcon. Steve doesn’t harp on them or discipline me – I do enough of that on my own. He acknowledges them, asks me what I’ve learned, and offers counsel moving forward. Learning is fundamental to me, and mistakes are fundamental to learning. I’m glad to have the kind of relationship with Steve that allows both.

Make it known that an employee has a future, and get specific when it is time to get specific. A few years ago, Steve started talking with me about my future at FBG in detail. He discussed options from leadership to coaching. To know that I had a place in FBG’s future encouraged me to step up and create the future I wanted. Steve’s confidence in me most certainly furthered my confidence in myself. He saw my ability before I did.

Find ways to say yes. This is one of Steve’s hallmarks. The more you can say yes to your employees’ ideas, great and small, the better. It increases the desire to innovate. Provide employees with an environment where ideas are welcomed and vital to future growth. Suggestions from our employees are the reason FBG has achieved the level of success we have today.

Learn together; both parties have much to offer. Steve and I disagree at times, which is inevitable and necessary. We have different styles, we have different opinions, and we have different backgrounds. Conversely, we have the same goals, we have the same passion for FBG, and we take the same delight in seeing employees realize their dreams. We are unified in the things that matter most, and we are open to how best to achieve them.

Communicate often and be direct. Steve and I have coffee on a regular basis. Whether in a local coffee shop or in his office, our early morning meetings are full of energy, ideas and some healthy back-and-forth discussion – all tied to the passion we feel for the people of FBG. They are succession planning meetings in action. We are, and always have been, a unified team.

Celebrate big. We have a lot of fun at FBG. One of my favorite ways we celebrate is our annual Thanksgiving potluck, a tradition we’ve continued since 2008. I remember early years when everyone brought in more than one side to have enough food to share, and this year we have limits on the number of sides so that we don’t have too much. Through the years, this opportunity to gather, enjoy a meal and be grateful for all we have is one of the most special things about FBG. We celebrate each other, when we achieve personal milestones and team milestones.

As you consider the employees who are most important to shaping the future of your company, find ways to start preparing them for that future. Tell them how critical they are. Offer opportunities for them to grow through taking risks, making mistakes and providing formal and informal learning opportunities. Your best employees will rise to the occasion, build confidence and pass it along to others. Succession planning, done intentionally and with your culture in mind, can be the gift that keeps on giving.

I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season, and I look forward to connecting with you in the new year.