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ATD Blog

Succession Planning - Building a Dynasty


Tue Aug 25 2009


There are generally three types of people in the world today - those who live for what was, those who live for what is, and those who live for what will be. If you take a moment to think about it, you can come up with people in your life that fit all three categories. Rarely do you find those who are wise enough to incorporate the lessons of the past, live fully for today, and plan accordingly for the future. As a volunteer leader, it is imperative that you become just that for the sake of your chapter!

As an avid college basketball fan, I look not only at the current state of my team, but also to what the outlook is for next year, the year after, and the year after that. As they say in the sport, "Your program is only as good as next year's recruiting class." This mirrors a question that confronts chapter leaders every year, "How do we ensure that this year's team maintains success next year?" The answer is simple - focus not on the team, but also on the program as a whole.


To begin, take a look at your "starting lineup" - your current board. Who will be staying on next year? Who will be leaving? Who might be a rising star due for a breakout year, and who is burnt out and no longer contributing to the success of the chapter as they once were? Then, look at your membership. Specifically identify the members you will actively recruit to fill holes on the roster and list as "bench players". Ask yourself, "Who is ready to step up and fill a gap immediately? Who needs additional training before they become a key cog on the board?"

Once you have an accurate snapshot of your team, it becomes much easier to identify gaps in the roster and where to focus your recruiting efforts. A basketball team with a lot of returning talent amongst their big post players won't make a pitched effort to recruit more big post players for the coming season. Rather, they focus their recruiting attention on the guards. This is the same strategy an effective chapter should employ. Let me use an example of a chapter that has an energetic V.P. of Membership that plans on remaining on the board for several years, but also has a V.P. of Programming that's moving out of market. The best method to add to the team is to employ a targeted recruiting campaign rather than a "one size fits all" appeal to the membership. In this case, approach a member who has been vocal about programming (and they're in no short supply!) to make the recruiting pitch directly.

The other key distinction between team and program is prestige. How well does the name alone recruit? The University of North Carolina and Duke University are "bluebloods" in the college basketball world. The prestige of their names alone have the best of the best drawn to them on a continual basis. Their name brand sells itself, self-perpetuating the cycle of excellence. When your chapter has reached the point where people approach YOU to become the next generation of volunteer leaders, you'll know that your chapter has arrived.

All in all, your legacy as chapter leaders will be defined not only by the state of the chapter in 2009, but also by the state of the chapter in 2019. If you plan ahead, identify talent, fill vacancies before they become gaps, and keep your name brand strong through great programming, you will become a true program builder yourself by establishing a prestigious name that recruits on its own and becomes a "blueblood" ASTD chapter.

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