A good five years in advance of her retirement, Mary Beth, then a prominent Director of a large utility, began to focus on developing her predecessor. Her retirement was imminent, but not immediate, so she had plenty of time to increase the confidence and competence of her direct reports. “While I’m still here I want to be available to my team members as a mentor and a coach, because there will come a time when I’m gone. I want my team members to miss me,” she explained, “but not need me.” From her perspective, her job was to build up a team of capable and confident team players, many of whom would be able to step into her position after she retired. Her goal was to develop her team members – right here and now – not wait and see if they’re capable after she retired. So she made it a point to meet even more regularly with her direct reports to learn about their ambitions and their goals; she made it a point to offer challenge assignments to those interested in moving up the ladder; she made it a point to hand over the more complex tasks and responsibilities to those ready to take them on. In response, her team members began to take on more responsibility and showed an even higher level of commitment to the organization. Productivity hit full throttle.
I’ve always respected and admired this philosophy she taught me. It’s far better to teach and train and grow while you’re present and able to tend to the garden than plant some seeds and just hope they thrive after you’re gone. So go ahead and let them miss you – but not need you – after you’ve left this organization. #Be the kind of boss you want to work for