A Guide to Mentoring and Succession Planning: Planning & Implementation

A Guide to Mentoring and Succession Planning: Planning & Implementation
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Succession planning is the process of ensuring availability of competent personnel to take over a key position with critical responsibilities when the incumbent leaves. Succession planning is also aimed at ensuring that the business operations continue without disruption in the event of a loss of critical personnel for any reason.

Mentoring is the process by which the mentor and protégé work together to discover and develop the protégé’s knowledge, skills, and abilities in a particular area. The mentor offers knowledge, wisdom, insight, and perspective for the protégé’s benefit, and acts as the protégé’s teacher, coach, and advisor.

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Succession planning best practices aim at exposing candidates identified for higher responsibilities to developmental experiences such as job rotations, simulated training, task forces, turnaround projects, and the like. Mentoring forms a critical component of this process.

Mentoring and succession planning helps the candidates identified as successors develop their leadership skills through many ways such as role socialization, reducing feelings of isolation, and the like.

The Process

Mentors are of two types: role model mentors and facilitative mentors. Role model mentors provide the protégé with new information sources and specific learning resources, and tell the person by dint of their experience what will work and what will not work. Facilitative mentors on the other hand, adopt a more focused approach and help protégés explore their own issues, build their own awareness, and develop their own unique way of handling things.

While transferring knowledge from the incumbent to the successor remains a key requirement of the succession planning exercise, effective mentoring for succession planning requires focusing on developing the protégé’s skills to achieve performance goals based on anticipated future challenges facing the industry. This requires the facilitative type of mentors.

Characteristics of a Good Mentor Program

An effective mentoring program for succession planning incorporates the following characteristics:

  • Orientation sessions at the start, to make explicit the goals and learning outcomes of the program, and the administrative processes and procedures such as work-flow, record keeping, etc.
  • Established system for feedback.
  • Period review to assess the extent of development of the protégés, and making necessary changes to the mentoring style and inputs. Use this free job review and performance template to assess the employee.

Critical Success Factors

Mentor Characteristics

The most obvious mentor for a candidate identified as the successor is the incumbent. The incumbent already being in a senior position would have much of the general characteristics expected from a mentor, such as good listening and communication skills, social skills, and people skills. A mentor also needs to possess a strong coaching ability, and needs to have a knack of explaining complex topics simply. The mentor also needs to be approachable and have a genuine interest in committing time and energy to help others. These traits need not necessarily be characteristics of all people in senior positions.

Mentoring has grown out of the traditional one-on-one relationship approach to mentoring networks. If the incumbent does not have the required qualities to become a facilitative mentor, professional external trainers, preferably senior external consultants familiar with the business and the company and commanding respect, can provide valued assistance to the mentorship program.

Protégé Characteristics

Mentoring and succession planning depend on the protégé inculcating certain characteristics that make him or her receptive to the mentoring process. Some of such characteristics include:

  • Commitment toward self-development and a desire to learn.
  • Openness to change and experimentation, and willingness to accept constructive feedback.
  • The ability to set goals and willingness to achieve such goals.
  • Ability to take initiative and be a self-starter.
  • Willingness to commit time and energy for the mentoring program as well as patience while learning.


Research has established that mentoring increases the effectiveness of succession management programs, and several studies on succession planning, most notably Washburn and Crispo’s Strategic Collaboration Model (2006) incorporates mentoring as an essential element of succession management.


  1. UC San Diego Blink. “Succession Planning Overview.” Retrieved from https://blink.ucsd.edu/HR/supervising/succession/index.html# on 08 November 2010
  2. Cultural Human Resources Council. “Coaching, Mentoring, and Succession Planning” [PDF]. Retrieved from www.acsbe.com/download-document/95-coach-mentoring-succession.html on 08 November 2010
  3. New York State. Department of Civil Service, Governors Office of Employee Relations, Work Force, and Succession Planning. “Mentoring. Report of the Mentoring Work Group September 2002.” Retrieved from https://www.cs.state.ny.us/successionplanning/workgroups/Mentoring/mentoring.html#whatismentoring on 08 November 2010
  4. Haynes, Ray K. & Ghosh, Rajashi. “Mentoring and Succession Management: An Evaluative Approach to the Strategic Collaboration Model.” Retrieved fromhttps://www.stjohns.edu/media/3/24f2ca39e1f0490ab22a2fe375d4fcbd.pdf on 08 November 2010.