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May 2013

By Liza van Wyk

When Graham Mackay, Chief Executive of SAB Miller stepped down recently after being diagnosed with a brain tumour, his successor, Chief operating officer Alan Clark, stepped into the role immediately.

The speed in which the transition was managed confirmed that SAB Miller has an exceptional mentoring and succession planning programme.

It is a pity that not all companies have their plans as well developed as SAB and other big multinationals.

Mentoring, that intense programme in which someone with experience works with a less experienced person to promote both professional and personal growth and eventual promotion or succession, is very important to avoid upheavals in company performance.

Succession management contributes to the professional development of managers and leaders, by exposing them to different developmental experiences for eventual promotion like it happened at SAB Miller.

There is no doubt that Mackay is a hero who brought a fresh perspective to the process of self-reflection to Clark and the SAB Miller leadership team. After all, trusted mentors like him help open previously uncultivated resources and help convince the mentees of their own great worth, value and dignity. Mentors refocus vision, adjust perspective, and bring to the surface a more profound intelligence, a more urgent passion, a more confident other.

So, what are the successful mentoring guidelines. According to the Journal of Adult Education, mentors and mentees, must:

  • Provide time for a mentoring relationship to develop. Participants should meet frequently and on a regular basis.
  • Establish a clear beginning and ending for at least phase one of the relationship.
  • Identify a shared purpose and specific changes or improvements that are desired.
  • Agree to an advocacy arrangement based on respect, listening, trust, and confidentiality.
  • Identify mutual boundaries and roles (informative, facultative, motivational, developmental, and behavioral).
  • Identify incentives for accomplishing purposes.
  • Identify opportunities to withdraw, reflect upon and assess the mentoring relationship and terminate or realign for the future.
  • Mentoring is indeed, a means of increasing the effectiveness of succession planning designed to provide a smooth leadership transition for the organization like it happened at SAB.

Proper succession planning means being ready to handle the eventualities of senior management retiring like Mackay did or getting fired, resigning or walking under that proverbial bus.

Some of the steps to be taken for effective succession planning, include, defining the position, building the skills through skills development programmes and mentoring; managing the impact and identifying the qualities of the candidates who have technical skills, knowledge and experience. A whole range of leadership skills must be taken into account including personality, temperament, empathy, charisma, decision-making ability and judgment.

It is a well-known fact that some of the succession planning guidelines include, talking about succession planning openly and candidly; committing to a formal CEO succession planning process; identifying future leaders and match skills to organization needs; staying flexible in identifying potential successors; mentoring direct reports to identify key strengths and areas for improvement; and incorporating succession planning into performance appraisals.

Without succession planning, it is doubtful whether any company would have the leadership team in place to manage transitions and ensure high-quality standards, service delivery and ultimate profitability.


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