Bearing in mind the increasing numbers of finance directors moving into
general management, I would hope that I’m not alone in finding it interesting
and important. It’s a pretty good example to everyone in the finance community
of how, if handled badly, it can all go wrong.
Succession planning is sensible. All ambitious people are thinking about
their next promotion. At the same time, their superiors are thinking about the
problems of replacement. If that ambitious person is you, it’s something you can
address very easily. By seeking a ready-made replacement for yourself, you give
your employer a good reason to think about promoting you and not someone else
within the organisation – and sometimes that may be enough to tip the balance.
As you work your way up the finance career ladder, your role should become
increasingly strategic. As a result, the more capable people you surround
yourself with, the better the strategic sounding boards you give yourself. In
building a team with a number of potential successors, you demonstrate what an
effective leader you are, you take away one of the key obstacles to your
promotion, and you make your life easier.
Of course, there are issues that surround this situation. What if the person
underneath you wants your job before you are ready to give it up? What if you
recruit good people, who end up being better than you are? What if you move into
your new role and suddenly realise you are not enjoying it, and want to move
There’s no sense in denying any of these as possibilities. We are all human
beings, and we all suffer from the frailties that ego and confidence create for
However, I would suggest that in today’s marketplace where networks are
growing, there are more positives than negatives on which to focus. The
strongest businesses out there have world-class finance functions with a host of
people competing for the next step up. This natural competition makes all the
players raise their game.
Of course people will challenge you for your job, as you will challenge
someone for your next role. Good. This is exactly what you want. People pushing
for promotion gives you carte blanche to do the same, and a wonderfully virtuous
circle is created.
Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Ray & Berndtson
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