Manager's Message - March 2017
As I write this message, it is a beautiful spring day. Perfect blue sky. Bright sunshine. Temperature of 68 degrees. Chamber of Commerce weather.
But just a few days ago, we were experiencing heavy and persistent rain, temperatures in the low 50’s, overcast skies, and high wind.
It is said that if you don’t like Texas weather, wait a minute and it will change. I think Mark Twain must have been thinking about Texas weather when he wrote, "In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours."
Spring speaks of new beginnings, fresh starts, growth, planting in anticipation of a future harvest. B.C. Forbes wrote, "It is only the farmer who plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn." What is true for farmers, is also true for other businesses.
While I would like to think that I have many more productive work years ahead of me, in truth I am actually in the Autumn of my career (ok maybe Indian Summer). The same is true of several STEC employees who are approaching the end of their careers. And that means that in time new people will take our places. Who will they be and will they be ready? What preparations are they making now to be sure they are ready when the time comes? If they are existing STEC employees, what preparations are being made to fill their positions if and when they move up? How is the knowledge that has been accumulated over many years being captured and retained for continuity?
These questions, and many others like them, are addressed through Succession Planning. Succession Planning is defined as "a process for identifying and developing new leaders who can replace old leaders when they leave, retire or die. ... In business, it entails developing internal people with the potential to fill key business leadership positions in the company." Smart companies put succession planning processes in place early enough to ensure that these "new leaders" are prepared to assume positions of leadership when the "old leaders" are gone. Let’s take a closer look at this definition.
- Identifying internal people,
- With potential,
- Matching that potential to key leadership positions, and
- Developing them to be ready to assume those positions,
- By the time the "old leaders" are gone.
You will recall that STEC began the process of succession planning with a Retirement Survey that was conducted well over a year ago. The results of that survey provided some insight into the amount of time available to develop internal candidates for "critical positions", or those positions for which the loss of the incumbent would potentially have a significant negative impact on the cooperative.
The next step in the process was to identify "high potential" candidates who, in the opinion of management and based upon performance, have the potential to one day assume one or more of these critical positions. In addition, subject matter experts (SMEs) and Mentor/Trainers were identified who could assist in developing the high potential candidates. The high potential candidates, SMEs, and Mentor/Trainers were all then interviewed to determine their interest in participating in the succession planning. Those individuals that expressed interest were then asked to complete an online assessment to measure their relative compatibility with one or more critical or noncritical positions within a 3 – 5 year period of time.
This brings us to our current status with regard to succession planning. Almost all of the interested individuals have completed their assessments, and the task of evaluating the results has begun. Once that evaluation has been completed and high potential candidates have been affirmatively matched as potential candidates for one or more positions, specific development plans will be prepared and discussed with each candidate. It will then be up to each candidate to choose whether or not to implement and continue that development plan.
Warren Bennis wrote, "Growing other leaders from the ranks isn’t just the duty of the leader, it’s an obligation." The STEC Board of Directors and I take this quote, and its attendant obligation, very seriously. The current succession planning is evidence of a commitment to develop leaders from within the cooperative. And I ask each of you to carefully consider your role in this process. If you were one of those identified and confirmed as a high potential candidate for a position, take your development plan seriously. Prepare yourself for what lies ahead. If you were identified as an SME or Mentor/Trainer, be prepared to encourage and share your knowledge with the candidate or candidates you may be assigned to help. And if you were not identified in this first round of succession planning and sincerely want to be considered for advancement into a leadership position: work hard, ask questions, never stop learning, ask your supervisor what you need to do to improve in your current position, take advantage of the STEC Employee Education and Tuition Assistance Policy, or ask to serve on one or more of the internal work groups tasked with process improvement. In short, take advantage of the opportunities that are afforded to you for your personal and professional development.
"Leaders aren't born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that's the price we'll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal." - Vince Lombardi