Susan's Musings

Just Thinking Out Loud

When Potential Comes to Fruition

I listen to American news quite a lot. My favourite news programme is NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.  I like it partly because of what I know about the news reader, Brian Williams who covered New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina long after others had stepped back. More pertinently at the end of each broadcast they have a “Making a Difference” report, which features things that people are doing within the community to resolve problems and make a difference.

I’ve listened to many reports that have inspired me and others that have brought tears to my eyes.  The one that had an indelible impression and stands out most in my mind is one that featured a project run by Usher the singer.  He had set up a project working with young disadvantaged and disengaged young people.  A young man was interviewed. He was asked what made him turn his life around.  He responded, that Usher believed in him until he was forced to believe in himself.

As someone that used to be a youth worker in London, working with young people who came with no sense of purpose and were often transformed like caterpillars to butterflies I can completely identify with this.

Whether engaging on a community level or at an HR level within organisations, my starting point is always that each and every individual has value – of which they can add/apply to their environment.  Sometimes individuals are fully aware of what they have to offer.  The frustration may then arise if they don’t know how to express themselves properly and demonstrate what they have to offer; if they are in the wrong role or if people don’t realise what they have to offer.

Beyond this, there are so many that have capabilities and potential beyond what they are aware of. It’s great when other people recognise this and support individuals to realise their full potential.

I also believe that HR has a key responsibility in this area.  I believe that HR process and systems such as Competency Frameworks, Performance Management processes, Succession Planning programmes and Mentoring schemes are only truly worth while when they help to bring out the best in people and as such enable their employers in return to get the optimal outcomes from them.

Critically, the right systems and processes will never be effective if the individual does the have the wherewithal, the attitude and disciplinary and he/she does not have management that effectively operates the systems and support the individual.  They do say that people do not leave organisations, but rather they leave managers.


Copyright 2012. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

The Importance of Succession Planning

The resignation of Steve Jobs as the CEO of Apple has brought the subject of Succession Planning to the forefront of conversation. The importance of Succession Planning cannot be overemphasis as a key requirement that must be satisfied if organisations are to survive and prosper is that replacement leaders and officials must be available to assume critically important leadership and specialist positions as they become vacant. Many research studies have emphasised the importance of succession planning – primarily at the senior leadership level, but increasing across organisations as the scarcity of crucial skills and ensuring war for talent grows.

Chief Executives and Corporate Boards consistently point to succession as one of their biggest concerns, with a growing recognition that they have the same obligations to protect the human resource asset base for shareholders as they do to protect the balance sheet. This is particularly the case for professional services organisations whose value derives in great measure from the specialist skills and knowledge of their people.

Some of the most compelling reasons for any organisations leadership to seriously considering putting a succession planning process in place are:

  • The continuing survival and prosperity of the organisations depends on having the right professionals and leadership in place
  • Leaving leadership development to chance and hoping that qualified successors can be found either insider or outside of the organisation on short notice when needed may have worked at one time, but the war for talent in the present and future years makes the approach highly risky. There is therefore a need to systematically identify and prepare high-potential candidates for key positions.
  • Middle management is the traditional training ground for leaders. Because of the scarcity and subsequent competition for skills, there is a need for great care to be taken in identifying promising candidates early and to actively cultivate their development. There is otherwise the risk of losing individuals who are high performs in their present job and/or high potentials for future leadership positions.
  • When Succession Planning is left informal and thus unplanned, it can have a number of undesirable consequences. Suspicion about secret lists and shoulder tapping is highly demotivating and at odds with building a high performance culture. There is also the tendency under informal approaches for job incumbents to identify and groom successors in their own image with the potential for limiting the quality of the successor pool.
  • On the other hand, a robust and well understood succession planning program can be very motivating, and a powerful driver of a high performance culture. Such a program will signal to staff that the organisation is an environment where career goals can be mapped out and pursued and where learning and development is encouraged. In short, an environment where people are highly valued.

Copyright 2011. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

About The Author

Susan Popoola

Susan is a Human Resources Capital Optimisation Specialist specialising in areas inclusive of Talent Management with additional interest in a number of other areas inclusive of Education, Community and Social Justice.

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