Does your boss’ succession plan include you?

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By Robert Half Technology

If you can see yourself assuming your manager’s role someday, do you know whether he has a similar vision of the future? This isn’t to say you wouldn’t be the next logical choice. But this transition may not be something your manager has even thought about yet.

A recent Robert Half Technology survey found that 79 percent of chief information officers have not identified who their successor would be in the event they had to stop working unexpectedly. In short, these technology leaders don’t even have a contingency plan for today, let alone a succession plan for the future.

Succession planning is a strategy that businesses use to maintain a supply of well-prepared future leaders. Many top employers take a proactive approach to identifying candidates and developing them for management roles. It can be a positive process all around: Potential successors are given the opportunity to build skills and raise their profile at the company. Executives can delegate responsibilities. And the business is assured there’s qualified talent on the bench ready to step into the game when the management lineup changes.

If your boss is among the many technology leaders who have given little or no thought to identifying a successor, don’t be discouraged.  Your manager’s lack of planning actually presents an opportunity for you to bring up the subject — and position yourself as a candidate for leadership training. Here are some ways to prepare for that discussion and to get the most from the professional development process if your manager decides to take you under her wing:

Understand the requirements of the role. Feeling confident that you could handle your boss’s job and actually being qualified to do so are two different things. For insight into what skills, experience and certifications you would need to assume your manager’s responsibilities today, check out the Glossary of Job Descriptions in the “2013 Salary Guide” from Robert Half Technology.

Then, start working to fill in the gaps — keeping in mind that you may need to pay for some professional development yourself. The company may not have the resources to support you in earning certain skills or designations, especially if they aren’t relevant to your current job responsibilities.

Don’t worry if you’re not the obvious choice — yet. Your manager’s second-in-command is technically the logical successor, but if that’s not where you fall on the organizational chart, don’t fret. Succession planning is about looking for candidates who best display the skills necessary to excel in the role, not what job title they currently possess.

Not being second-in-command means you’ll likely need to work harder to raise your profile, however. So, in addition to taking steps to ensure you’re building the right technical skills, hone your leadership abilities. For example, volunteer to spearhead new projects. Be proactive about finding solutions to problems. And pay special attention to strengthening your communication skills, as many employers are specifically looking for these abilities in IT leaders.

Ask to be an observer at meetings your boss attends. Once you’ve spoken with your manager about your desire to be considered a future successor, ask if you can be invited to some of his meetings when appropriate. This will allow you to watch how your boss interacts with other leaders in the organization and hear business objectives discussed.

Attending meetings with key clients can provide valuable insight as well. In fact, both types of meetings also provide an opportunity for you to start building relationships outside of the IT department.

Request ongoing feedback. Feedback is important to the success of any professional; without it, it’s difficult to assess whether you’re making progress and meeting expectations.

The feedback you receive from your manager as part of the annual review process is not enough — especially if you want to evolve into a future leader. You should be meeting with your boss regularly to find out where you excel, where you need to improve and, most important, how you can take your performance to the next level.

Maintaining an ongoing dialogue with your manager also provides the opportunity for you to highlight contributions you’re making to the organization that she may not be aware of.

Keep your expectations realistic. It can take years to go through the leadership training necessary to become a qualified successor to your boss. Also, a lot depends on when, and if, your manager moves out of his current role. Regardless, being treated as a potential successor can help you earn valuable knowledge and experience that can lead to new opportunities at your company — or perhaps, to a new path someplace else when the time is right.

With more than 100 locations worldwide, Robert Half Technology is a leading provider of technology professionals for initiatives ranging from web development and multiplatform systems integration to network security and technical support. Robert Half Technology offers online job search services at Follow Robert Half Technology on Twitter at

One Comment
  1. Succession planning is so important in this current economy, for both Employers and Employees. Unfortunately, if your current manager’s views do not match up with the organization, it will be difficult to get the management and leadership training you want and need.  Although, if you do have an organization and management that encourages promotion from within, and leveraging their internal equity, than it’s a win win situation for both.  
    I like the tip about asking to attend meetings, what better way to see your Manager’s role in a different setting, and through a different perspective.  
    Great read, thanks!

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