You might be reading this article because you’re thinking how can I let go of the community I manage, have someone take over and continue the fire burning? I haven’t figured out the magic formula myself but I get asked this question many times.
To give a little background about me, I led a student organization back in college that runs multiple small events and a major annual event with delegates across the region. A couple of months before graduation and very well deep into our thesis, I was no longer in practice leading the org as I passed on the full responsibilities to my “successors”. Similarly, at DEVCON, a volunteer organization for developers by developers, I led the org for 4 years with the personal goal of scaling it across the country and eventually put a structure that make it sustainable and its local chapters to move on its own autonomously. I loved running DEVCON as we did (and still do) inspiring initiatives and so much fun until I reached a point where I wanted to do something else with my spare time. Thus, I turned over DEVCON and moved forward with another but similar organization.
Now, I lead a community with different tech community leaders in the country where we try to contribute to nation-building through collaboration and learn between leaders as we pursue our different community initiatives in tech. Many of these leaders are founders of their own communities. Many of them are also in the phase that they want to move forward and turnover their community management roles. Many are asking me how I did it.
Below are the 3 observations that were consistent in both my so called “successions”:
- Ensure you have a simple process internally in place. I’m a fan of oversimplifying ideas and processes so its easier to explain and delegate. While I still run an organization, I ensure to create documents on the major processes including templates as a guide for me and the team. The benefit of oversimplification and documentation of current processes is that it reduces an overwhelming amount of details and note-taking on both incoming and outgoing parties upon turnover.
- Be generous on giving decision-making powers. At DEVCON, there were officers who run the overall organization committees and there were project leaders who runs and manages a team on a per project/event basis. Anyone who volunteers to be a project leader are authorised to make decisions on how they run things. There are a couple of meetings prior the event to ensure the project leader understands the objectives and the deliverables but during the event itself, the project leader runs the show without any interference from any officer (most of the time). The next officer-leader touchpoint happens after the event where the leader shares the highlights and lessons learned. I learned that giving your team the power to decide freely within their scope of responsibilities makes them better problem solvers. Plus, this is how I identify my potential “successors”.
- Learn to really let go. Just like ended relationships, it’s hard but you gotta do it. Once you’re confident you’ve turned over every important detail there is to turnover and they have a couple or more projects you see they can manage without you, its time to keep your hands off. I understand the org has been your baby (i feel that too!) and you really don’t want it messed up so suddenly after all the hard work you’ve done. The thing is, your successor won’t learn if you’re always there to catch them. Let them make mistakes and learn from them. Also people have different styles of managing challenges, let them discover theirs on their own.
Again, every community and person is different. It so happen that those three worked well for me and the organizations I was with. Nevertheless, I hope you’ll find one or two tips useful in your succession planning. Best of luck!