When people grow up they have dreams about what they want to be in life. Some dreams are general whilst others are quite specific. I remember that when I was at Primary School our teacher often asked us: “What do you want to be when you grow up? When we reached Secondary School the same question was asked by our teachers and very often our dreams would have changed to reflect a more mature and realistic appreciation of the world. In general some of responses included the following:
A professional such as a Doctor, Lawyer, Teacher, Nurse etc.
A successful businessperson
Very rich with lots of money to spend
Marry a beautiful wife
Living in my own big house with modern amenities
Running a big Company
In nearly all cases the dream envisioned thatyou would be either a successful professional or at the helm of an organization providing leadership to determine the future success of the Company.
We carry these dreams with us when we start our working career. Most of us dream of a day when we climb up the corporate ladder in an organisation to become the Head of the Department or ultimately the Managing Director of the Company, Parastatal or Government Department. A fundamental assumption which we make as part of the career progression is that the boss will either leave, die or retire sooner rather than later so that I can take over.
I have been motivated to write this article because of the culture which seems to be prevalent in both the Public and Private sectors in Zimbabwe which has the effect of frustrating the normal legitimate expectations of people that they will succeed their boss (Manager or Supervisor) upon the retirement age. Most people would probably agree with the observation that to run a race and not pass the baton is madness.
HR Professionals have coined the term “succession planning” in line with notion that every organization needs to have in place a formal and systematic process for the identification and development of potential successors for key positions in the organization in order to ensure future organisational survival and prosperity.
It has been observed that “success without a successor is failure” This is indeed true of many entrepreneurs who do everything right except grow successors. The day they die is the day that the business dies. How tragic: This phenomenon is not limited to the world of business alone but is also prevalent in politics, religious and social arena.
If it is true that there is one certainty in life: no one will always be around forever then surely this fact of life makes it imperative for leaders to consciously develop people around them who will carry their dreams to the next generations.
If one scans the Public and Private sector leadership arena in Zimbabwe today one is overwhelmed by the number of leaders who are now as good as permanent fixtures in their organisations.
I will go next year (which never comes!)
I have done so much for this organization. I can’t just be pushed out.
One can ask the question; why do people refuse to accept that they have to retire or leave the organization and that someone else will come and probably do a better job?
Some experts (Peter Laslet, Cambridge Historian) have come up with a characterization of life into 3 distinct phases namely, the first age which covers the period when we are growing up and the second age which covers the period when we are either in full time employment or running our business full time. The third age refers to the period when we have to leave our formal occupations and retire which often comes as a shock to the individual.
The reasons why people are disinclined to want to retire are complex and numerous but can be summarized in the following paragraphs.
Firstly, its due to lack of retirement planning. Many people live in a denial frame of mind about retirement. They often entertain the notion that they are still able to carry out their duties and therefore they do not see the need to let go of their jobs.
Secondly,its to do with a mismatch between current employment benefits and retirement benefits. One of the devastating effects of the hyper- inflationary era prior to dollarization in Zimbabwe was to wipe out the retirement benefits which pensioners traditionally enjoyed. In many organisations leaders often have an oversupply of benefits associated with the job. These include an assortment of allowances, a Driver, security at home etc. The prospect of losing these benefits on retirement is devastating.
Thirdly, it is the emotion associated with the loss of power and influence. Most leaders occupy influential positions which extend to the wider community.
What are the practical steps which organisations should take in order to implement an effective succession planning system and manage the “retirement crisis” mentioned above?
To be continued under Part B of this article.
A professional such as a Doctor, Lawyer, Teacher, Nurse etc
I spend most of my time counselling professional people: young and old alike about how they can advance their careers. Some are preparing to start a working career, having recently graduated from University or they have been working for quite some time without getting job satisfaction. Some come to see me because they have decided that they want to leave formal employment and start their own business.
Here is what I often share with people
According to international research the majority of men and women with breakthrough life stories made the change after a personal retreat, a development seminar, a conference or simply after making a conscious decision about the need for change.
We are all aware that great changes only happen after some sort of seclusion. From history we know that great people like Martin Luther King had dreams having been to a mountain top. We also know that great biblical characters like Jesus, Moses, Jonah and Abraham experienced some transformation having been either to the mountain, prison or wilderness.
The first point is to recognize that it is what we practice daily or fail to put into practice, our thoughts, our words, that set and maintain the positive direction in our lives. Our experience in life, where we are today, is a result of our having made some conscious decision to be here.
Life has been equated to a game of football. You won’t go far in life unless you know where the goal posts are. The goals are the road maps that guide us and show us what is possible for our lives. We are therefore supposed to be quite clear what our goals in life are. What do we want and why? In many instances it has been found that just establishing what one wants in life can be a problem to begin with as many will always say: “I don’t really know what I want” The writer Mark Twain says “I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of a life. The problem is that, I can’t find anybody who cantell me what they want” The big question is; are you drifting through life or have you made a conscious choice of what you want. Are you Captain of your own ship in charge of your own life or is someone else like the Supervisor or Manager at work in charge of your life?
My own search for a dream can be traced back to the choices I made of what to study at the University of Rhodesia (which later on became University of Zimbabwe) and graduated with a Joint Honours degree in Psychology and Sociology. Upon graduation I got a job with an International Company and applied myself totally to what was required of meand with good results. A national appointment was soon expanded into a regional assignment packed with global travel and training. I grew in the job and learnt a great deal across borders and cultural divides. Hard work brought in good career progression and by the 1990’s I was purveying the international stature of my career.
After a successful career I decided that I wanted to share many of the challenging professional experiences which I had encountered and this gave rise to the dream leading up to the establishment of PROSERVE Consulting Group which I founded and I lead up to this day.
Before setting up PROSERVE I had to ask myself some tough questions including the following: what makes me really happy and fulfilled? What is important to me? What is my passion? Am I taking steps to get or to create the life that I dream of? What if the business fails? How will I be able to support my family? How easy will it be to re-enter the formal job market if my entrepreneurial adventure fails? At this stage I was horrified to learn that according to international research about 85% of first attempt to start a business end up in failure.
I was also shocked to read a book by Jim Sachel titled “Small Business for Dreamers” who wrote:“Nine out of ten people who consider starting a small business shouldn’t” Being your own boss, he says, has heartaches and heart burns which an Entrepreneur must be able to handle on a daily basis.
Once I had finished the process of defining my dreams and how to get it I decided it was time to execute in order not to suffer from “analysis paralysis” This was 23 years ago. Since then I have learnt some valuable lessons which apply equally to career development in the corporate world and entrepreneurship sectors.
The first lesson is the need for a clear definition of your goals and the need to remain focused. As time goes on, however, one needs to continuously set and revive new goals and work to achieve them.
The other learning point is that at any moment in time there are so many opportunities out there for either career development or business growth. They often require a “can do attitude” even when others see impossibilities. Whether you are already in business or just getting started you need an attitude that expects to find opportunities and exploit them to make money. Taking advantage of opportunities however, does not mean acting impulsively or recklessly. It simply means asking questions such as: Is this as good as it really sounds? Is this something I really want to be doing? Do I have the required skills? What can go wrong? What impact can this have on my family?
The next learning point is that without customers you can’t be successful, whatever venture you want to go into to be successful one needs to spend time understanding and satisfying the needs of customers.
Success requires hard work, hard work and hard work. In order to emphasize this point it is often said that “the only time that success comes before work is in adictionary” Ultimately, you must put the hours to get the job done and make sure that you achieve your potential/ desired results.
More and more businesses today are going international. Operating in a global market place requires that one must understand the relevant economic and legal issues which impact the local situation. I have learnt to “think global but act local.
In this rapidly changing business environment, I have learnt to be sensitive to the challenging market place, competitor strategies and customers preferences and always have to adapt our products and services accordingly.
I have learnt that in business and as part of career development one should never settle for second best. Success requires that one should always set high standards for oneself as well as our products and services. We should be driven by success and never imagine failure. When you realise that you have not done a good job or, haven’t done it right you do it again or take other actions to satisfy the customer.
An important lesson I have also learnt in business is that one never quits. If you fail you must regard it as a temporary setback. Very often, success only comes after many failures. It has been observed that some people give up when they are on the brink of success.
I have learnt that it is not a shame to call for help when necessary. As an entrepreneur I have to wear many hats, I can’t simply call the Legal, Finance or Marketing Department for a solution as in the case in a large Organisation. Very often I have to figure out things on my own in order to set all aspects of the business running single handedly, at least at the beginning. I have also learnt to admit my own limitations at times and know when to get help. Looking for help even as an employee is not a sign of weakness. One realise that I am not an expert in everything and will call for help from other professionals when warranted.
Finally I have also learnt that “Everything is Marketing” Customers or Employers will not come to you unless if they know that you have something which they want. Regardless of who you are or what business you are in, you have to find a way of getting to be known to the rest of the world. As legendary promoter, P.T Barnum said “Without promotion, something terrible happens – NOTHING”
My Counsel always ends up with some pointers to action if one is to realise their dream. The Chinese say that a long journey starts with one step. Here are some possible action steps to following your star:
1. Describe the life you want in detail. Be specific
2. Find and action the smallest step that will lead towards realizing your dream
3. Identify things that are frustrating your efforts towards realizing your dream
4. Take action! Reach out for your star and catch a dream, a big dream. Then, one day at a time honour your dream with action. And that is where the difference comes between the successful, the average and the mediocre in life. Take action, get things done. In life it is the little things that we do everyday, constantly that differentiate us.