It could happen to you. You could have an accident or experience a serious illness. It may seem odd to think about this scenario, and yet it is instructive for a number of reasons. First, there are important logistics that need advance planning. How will the organization continue to move forward in your absence?
The second reason to contemplate your unexpected sidelining now is that it is illuminating to think of what might happen if you were permanently or temporarily unable to fulfill your leadership role. Hypothetically removing yourself from the picture presents potential options that you might not have otherwise considered.
Who would take over your responsibilities? This plan will likely include phases, with an immediate response and then longer term solution. Document now what should happen; don’t wait and risk a mad scramble, organizational chaos and a reduction in the value you provide your customers.
What unsung heroes could and would step up and take on new roles? When Susan Stern began experiencing profound hearing loss, she soon realized that she needed to empower the Associates at her marketing firm, Stern + Associates, as she recounts in a recent blog post. She began delegating more responsibility to her team. As a result,she has become a better leader and her people stronger performers. Who on your team is ready to handle more? Do they have to wait for you to be hit by a bus to engage their full potential?
What changes could you foresee without you at the helm? Would any of those changes be for the good? Nobody’s perfect, and there may be aspects of your leadership that people wouldn’t miss. Painful as this may be, think about what you can change now to move yourself and the organization into a stronger position to withstand any crisis. One option may be beefing up your leadership team with people whose skills are both compatible with yours and complementary – people who together could fill the void in your absence.
Accidents can wreak havoc and sometimes result in unexpected, happy discoveries (like penicillin and Post-it® adhesive). Just thinking about an accident can also produce some great learning. Take some time today to think about “what if.”
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